Archive for the ‘ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council’ Category

In a state drowning in consulting contracts, what’s one more?

Bobby Jindal is a lame duck governor who long ago set his sights on bigger and better things. He has abdicated every aspect of his office except the salary, free housing and state police security that go with the title. In reality, he has turned the reins of state government over to subordinates who are equally distracted in exploring their own future employment prospects.

His only concerns in almost eight years in office, besides setting himself up to run for President, have been (a) appointing generous campaign donors to positions on state boards and commissions and (b) privatizing state agencies by handing them over to political supporters.

To that end there has been a proliferation of consulting contracts during the Jindal years. The legislative auditor reported in May that there were 19,000 state contracts totaling more than $21 billion.

So as his term enters its final months and as Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols has less than a month before moving on to do for Ochsner Health System what she’s done for the state, what’s another $500,000?

LouisianaVoice has learned that Nichols signed off on a $497,000 contract with ComPsych Corp. and its affiliate, FMLASource, Inc. of Chicago, to administer the state’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) program. FMLA CONTRACT

It is no small irony that Nichols signed off on the contract on May 19, less than two weeks after the legislative auditor’s report of May 6 which was highly critical of the manner in which contracts are issued with little or no oversight.

The latest contract removes the responsibility for approving FMLA for state employees and hands it over to yet another private contractor.

Apparently FMLA was just one more thing the Jindal administration has determined state employees are incapable of administering—even though they have done so since the act was approved by Congress in 1993.

Because no state employees stand to lose their jobs over this latest move, the contract would seem to simply be another consulting contract doled out by the administration, obligating the state to more unnecessary expenditures.

Whether it’s farming out the Office of Risk Management, Office of Group Benefits, funding voucher and charter schools, or implementing prison or hospital privatization—it’s obvious that Jindal has been following the game plan of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to the letter. That plan calls for privatizing virtually every facet of state government. If you don’t think the repeated cuts to higher education and health care were calculated moves toward ALEC’s goals, think again.

The contract runs from May 17, 2015 through May 16, 2016, and the state agreed to pay FMLAServices $1.45 per state employee per month up to the yearly maximum of $497,222.

Agencies for which FMLAServices will administer FMLA include the:

  • Division of Administration;
  • Department of Economic Development;
  • Department of Corrections;
  • Department of Public Safety;
  • Office of Juvenile Justice;
  • Department of Health and Hospitals;
  • Department of Children and Family Services;
  • Department of Revenue;
  • Department of Transportation and Development.

The legislative auditor’s report noted that there is really no way of accurately tracking the number or amount of state contracts. STATE CONTRACTS AUDIT REPORT

“As of November 2014, Louisiana had at least 14,693 active contracts totaling approximately $21.3 billion in CFMS. However, CFMS, which is used by OCR to track and monitor Executive Branch agency contract information, does not contain every state contract.

“Although CFMS, which is a part of the Integrated Statewide Information System (ISIS), tracks most contracts, primarily Executive Branch agencies use this system. For example, Louisiana State University obtained its own procurement tracking system within the last year, and most state regulatory boards and commissions do not use CFMS (Contract Financial Management System). As a result, there is no centralized database where legislators and other stakeholders can easily determine the actual number and dollar amount of all state contracts. Therefore, the total number and dollar amount of existing state contracts as of November 2014 could be much higher.”

The audit report also said:

  • State law (R.S. 39:1490) requires that OCR (Office of Contractual Review) adopt rules and regulations for the procurement, management, control, and disposition of all professional, personal, consulting, and social services contracts required by state agencies. According to OCR, it reviews these types of contracts for appropriateness of contract terms and language, signature authorities, evidence of funding and compliance with applicable laws, regulations, executive orders, and policies. OCR also reviews agencies’ procurement processes against competitive solicitation requirements of law. The contracting entity is responsible for justifying the need for the contract and conducting a cost-benefit analysis if required.
  • However, state law does not require that a centralized entity approve all state contracts.
  • According to the CFMS User Guide, OCR is only required to approve seven of the 20 possible contract types in CFMS. The remaining 13 types accounted for 8,068 contracts totaling approximately $6.2 billion as of November 2014. Exhibit 2 lists the 20 types of contracts in
  • CFMS and whether or not OCR is required to approve each type, including the total number and dollar amount of these contracts.
  • In fiscal year 2014, 72 agencies approved 4,599 contracts totaling more than $278 million.

The Office of Contractual Review was since been merged with the Office of State Procurement last Jan. 1.


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Sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder what the hell our governor and our legislators are thinking when they make laws and stake out political positions on controversial topics like, say, meaningful legislation that would keep the mentally unstable prone to violence from obtaining weapons.

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting in that Lafayette movie theater that left two victims and the gunman dead and seven others wounded, Bobby Jindal opined that it was “not the time” to discuss the “politics” of Louisiana’s gun laws. For Bobby and his ilk (read: right-wing, neo-fascist, stand-your-ground idiots), there is never a right time to discuss such trite matters as Sandy Hook, Columbine, Aurora, Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, or Lafayette’s Grand Theater.

Anything approaching legislation aimed at keeping guns away from the mentally disturbed or hate-consumed racists is anathema to those who cater to the NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their demented, all-encompassing defense of the sacred Second Amendment.



A florist is required to obtain a license to sell flowers in Louisiana—even as the Brady Campaign’s “scorecard” on gun control ranked Louisiana the second-worst state in the U.S. in terms of laws designed to prevent gun violence. And that was in 2013, long before the Lafayette assault.

The Louisiana State Board of Dentistry has carte blanche to harass dentists for such infractions of publishing advertising of prohibited size or font, “violations” that in several cases have resulted in fines of six figures and which have literally put some dentists out of business. Meanwhile, Louisiana has the second highest firearm death rate and the highest gun-related homicide rate in America—even before the Lafayette shootings by John Houser.

Inspectors for the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology are allowed to barge into Vietnamese-owned nail salons, order everyone to freeze and proceed to pull out drawers and open cabinets searching for God knows what and to impose steep fines for vague infractions in much the same manner as the Board of Dentistry, all the while informing the Vietnamese operators that they are subject to “different rules for you guys.” But for some strange reason known only to the NRA and ALEC lapdogs like Jindal, Louisiana does not require private gun sellers (who, by the way, are not licensed dealers) to initiate background checks when transferring a firearm.



Police officers from Shreveport to New Orleans, from Lake Providence to Lake Charles, may (and often do) pull you over for the life endangering violation of not having an illuminated license plate (yep, gotta have a working light bulb over your license plate or you could get a ticket). But if you happen to have a gun in your vehicle when you’re pulled over….well, that’s okay provided you have a concealed carry permit.

Bobby Jindal and his NRA buddies in the Louisiana Legislature are all about the freedom to own and carry weapons and in 2010, Jindal even signed into law a bill (HB 1272) by Rep. Henry Burns (R-Haughton) that allows you to pack heat in a church, mosque, synagogue or any other house of worship. At the same time, Jindal has consistently cut funding for mental health care in Louisiana and even closed one mental health facility in New Orleans and privatized Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville. The Florida company chosen to run the facility, Meridian Behavioral Health Systems, was found to have deficiencies serious enough to threaten its eligibility to continue participation in Medicare.



Jindal sent out a Christmas card last December that featured a photo of the entire family clad in cammo and he has attached himself to the gun-totin’ Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame in a way that is almost creepy. State Sen. Neil Riser even authored a bill (SB 178) that would give firearms dealers permission to offer voter registration forms at the point of sale, sending the clear message that voting (Republican, we assume) and the right to own a gun are somehow related and more important than curbing the homicide rate of say, Baton Rouge, which recently had a murder rate higher than that of Chicago. Yet, the Jindal administration rammed through its “deliberative process” catch-all bill in its 2008 “transparency” legislation that makes records of his office off limits to public scrutiny. Moreover, his Division of Administration, as well as other statewide agencies like the LSU Board of Supervisors, continue to throw up barriers to media access of public records.CHRISTMAS CARD


But, Jindal continues to call for prayers and hugs in response to mass killings and to resist any dialogue on such divisive matters as curbing one’s right to defend life and property—no matter that the nation’s murder rate far outpaces the rate of self-defense shootings.

You see, now is just “not the time” to make political points.

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On the eve of Bobby Jindal’s anticipated earth shaking announcement that he is squeezing himself into the clown car of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, I thought we should let our readers know that I am still on the job, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

As we wait with collective bated breath for word that Bobby is not only available but more than willing to do for the nation what he has done for Louisiana (God help us all, Tiny Tim), I remain cloistered in my cluttered home office, working diligently on my book, as yet untitled, in which I intend to fully document precisely what he has done for to Louisiana.

Among the topics to be covered are public education, higher education, health care, the state budget, campaign contributions, political appointments, ethics, privatization, his ALEC connections, the explosion in corporate tax breaks during his two terms, the lack of progress as reflected in myriad state rankings and surveys throughout his eight years as our largely absentee governor, the lack of transparency, his thinly veiled use of foundations and non-profit organizations to advance his political career, his intolerance for dissent (teaguing), his actual performance as compared to campaign promises as candidate Bobby, and his general incompetence.

I was asked on a local radio show if I could be fair to Jindal, given my personal feelings about his abilities as reflected in more than a thousand posts on this site. The short answer is: probably not. The long answer is I can—and will—be as fair to him as he has been to the state I love and call home. Because I do not claim to be objective (as opposed to the paid media who cling to that word as if it were some kind of Holy Grail), I am not bound by any rules that place limits on the expression of my opinions. I see what he has done, I understand the adverse effect his actions have had on this state, and I will offer my take on them for the reader to either accept or reject. If that is not fair, then so be it.

I have written about 60,000 words of an anticipated 100,000-word manuscript thus far. A couple of other writers have volunteered to contribute chapters, which should add another 20,000 words. I have a self-imposed deadline of July 1—give or take a few days—in which to have the rough draft completed. I also have several very capable editors poring over the chapters as they are completed. Their corrections, deletions, additions and suggestions will be incorporated into the final manuscript which is to be submitted to the publisher by late August.

The publisher originally gave me a publication target date of next Spring but recently moved the anticipated publication date up to January, with an e-book to be released possibly as early as this Fall.

That would coincide nicely with Jindal’s second ghost-written book, scheduled out in September.

There will be one major difference in our books: Mine will be based on his record while the source of his claims of balanced budgets and other wild, unsubstantiated assertions are certain to remain a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma (with apologies to Winston Churchill).

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Twenty-four hours of reflection and some well-chosen observations from retired State Budget Director Stephen Winham have us now considering the possibility that the letter from those 11 Republican Louisiana House members seeking advice on the controversial SAVE bill may not have been so much a capitulation to Grover Norquist as it was a set up that left Bobby Jindal looking like the fool he is on the eve of his formal entry into the GOP presidential sweepstakes.

And that classic no-response response by Norquist only adds to the speculation that the whole thing was a devilishly clever trap designed to ensnare Jindal in his own web of deceit and rigid demagoguery.

If that indeed was the purpose of the letter, we at LouisianaVoice have more than a little egg on our faces and an apology to the 11 legislators on our lips because, quite frankly (and there is no spin we can put on this) we were taken in as were most of us who read the letter for the first time.

Unlike traditional media, we do not bury our “clarifications” in some obscure part of our publication with a two- or three-sentence acknowledgement of the error; we put it out there for all to see.

We’re still not certain that the letter was written with the intent of putting Jindal in a box from which there was no graceful exit as opposed to the first blush appearance of pathetic groveling, but it’s sure beginning to look that way. And if that is what it was, we can only add, Touché.

The only thing that gives us pause is the fact that four members of the Ways and Means Committee who signed the letter—Cameron Henry of Metairie, Kirk Talbot of River Ridge, Joe Harrison of Gray, and John Schroder of Covington—also signed Norquist’s “no tax” pledge.

Moreover, five of the 11 (Brett Geymann of Lake Charles, Harrison, Henry, Schroder and Talbot are either current or former members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the national non-profit organization funded by some of America’s largest corporations, including Wal-Mart, major oil, pharmaceutical, and insurance companies and Koch Industries.

But perhaps the biggest indication that the letter was an elaborate ruse, and one we did not initially consider, is simply this: Why would the committee release the letter—and Norquist’s response—to the media unless it was just that: a scheme to back Jindal into a corner? It would be too convenient to say the letter was simply leaked; it’s more likely now, considering the meek response by Norquist, that it was spoon-fed to the media with the express purpose of embarrassing Jindal.

“I have read and re-read the letter,” said Winham in an email to LouisianaVoice, “and I still see it as a direct hit on Norquist and Jindal and that it serves as an official record of opposition  to SAVE and to Grover Norquist and to Bobby Jindal.

“I also agree that, in addition to its (SAVE’s) utter stupidity, it would establish a horrible precedent that (says) pure gimmicks suffice to do anything with taxes,” he said. “I am not anti-tax and (I) believe anybody ought to have sense enough to know which services we need and that they have to be paid for. I am not for using totally idiotic loopholes as a means to pass taxes and then pretend you didn’t.”

Winham said that had he been a legislator, “I would have signed that sucker” with the view of telling Grover where he could stick it and with the admonition to “leave us alone.”

Winham is not alone in concocting his theory, not by a long shot. Sharing his views were superb Baton Rouge Advocate political columnist Stephanie Grace who has recently been taking Jindal to task on his budget proposals and his silly presidential run.

In her Tuesday column, she said the letter makes a lot of sense on a number of levels—mostly because it puts the ball squarely in Norquist’s and Jindal’s corner.


Another is a blogger known only as Skydancer. In her most recent post, she pours the metaphorical gasoline on the fire that is quickly bringing to a boil the hot water that Jindal finds himself in only days before his (yawn) announcement that he is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Skydancer notes that Rep. Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in the letter that the bill, if enacted, “would successfully and irreparably establish the precedent that future legislatures and governors can raise taxes on a nearly unlimited basis and then claim revenue neutrality solely based on the creation of a purely fictional, procedural phantom paper tax credit.” http://skydancingblog.com/2015/06/08/monday-reads-take-our-governor-please/

But the most important endorsement of Winham’s theory comes from none other than Norquist himself. The leader of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), Norquist initiated the infamous “no tax” pledge that a couple of dozen Louisiana lawmakers signed off on, including those four Ways and Means Committee members.

So, what was the response to the letter by Norquist? He punted. “ATR is agnostic as to whether a credit or deduction is good policy. We merely call balls and strikes regarding whether a change in tax law results in a net tax increase,” he wrote back. “ATR does not support or oppose the SAVE Act. While the SAVE Act does include a credit that can be used to offset other tax increases, there are other ways to achieve revenue neutrality, such as by repealing the corporate franchise tax and/or cutting the state income tax. If you don’t like the SAVE Act, why not find other offsetting tax cuts that are more to your liking?” he added.

Obviously, that response is significant.

First, it gives the Ways and Means Committee all the ammunition it needs to kill the SAVE bill and for the Legislature to move forward in the final week of the 2015 session in passing a budget that will almost certainly be vetoed by Jindal.

Second, it sets up a confrontation that could result in just the third override of a governor’s veto in Louisiana history.

That will look great on Jindal’s resumé when he makes his official announcement in New Orleans on June 24.



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By Stephen Winham (Special to LouisianaVoice)

Bob Mann has done an excellent piece on this:  http://bobmannblog.com/2015/06/02/shell-game-shouldnt-higher-education-leaders-have-more-integrity-than-bobby-jindal/#more-5553

Many news stories have been written about it.  I don’t have to tell you what it does – nothing, except appease Grover Norquist and, by association, our governor.

Oh, wait, it does actually do something else – It adds to the plethora of recent stories about our state and governor that keep us the laughingstock of the nation.  If the national media starts playing this up, it really is going to seem like they are reprinting a story from The Onion. The name, itself, is a joke – on many levels:  Student Assessment for a Valuable Education – Think about it.

How this utterly ridiculous bill can be treated as the salvation for higher education makes a mockery of the value we allegedly place on higher education.  It is beyond a shell game.  It is so stupid, in concept and premise, as to make it hard to treat seriously.  I get angry just thinking that such a thing could be introduced, much less actually passed.  It is difficult to give the bill enough credibility to even read it – and reading it doesn’t help much.

Create a fee.  Don’t collect the fee, but give a tax credit for it as if it had been paid.  Send the money that would have been collected had the fee been paid to the Board of Regents to be distributed to colleges and universities.

If there is really no fee, where is the SAVE money coming from?  The fiscal note shows no numbers.  Is the money going to magically appear out of nowhere, be printed by the state treasury, or what?  If there is no money, how can this possibly help higher education?  If there is to actually be money in the fund, where will it come from?

After you create a fund that has no source, you pretend this non-existent tax credit offsets the same amount in unrelated tax increases.

Grover Norquist must be about the most powerful person in the United States.  He gets thousands of politicians to sign a {non- legally binding} pledge to not raise taxes no matter what happens.  No matter how stupid or irresponsible it makes them look, these people, including our governor , treat the pledge as if lightening will strike them dead if they don’t.  And the legislature follows suit.

Or at least John Alario does. The Senate President (R-Westwego) has vowed to overcome defeat of the measure by the House by inserting the SAVE bill in every piece of legislation passed by the House in order to force passage.

How can this be?  In local politics, we would assume anybody with that much power must have a video of the person he controls doing something Bobby Jindal would consider a mortal sin (like subscribing to the theory of climate change, endorsing the metric system or worse, equal pay for women).  So, is it possible Grover has a video vault with thousands of pornos of every politician who has signed his pledge?  That makes almost as much sense as SAVE.

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