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

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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Dear Legislators:

“Jindal Vows to Bankrupt State to Preserve Conservative Credentials” (Comment on nola.com)

LEGISLATORS:  What are YOU going to do about that?

The state of Louisiana is facing bankruptcy – this was utterly predictable and almost feels deliberate.  Read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Kline and you will shocked all right, to see that jindal has pulled off an economic coup that has made Louisiana no more than a Third World economy.

I am addressing this to legislators, because YOU are to blame for the coming collapse of state government.  YOU, state representative or senator, put political party, out-of-state organizations and misguided individuals ahead of the people of Louisiana in violation of your oath of office.

You legislators are the only people in the state who have the power to fix the mess you have created.  The foolishness we are seeing during this legislative session shows that many of you are still abdicating any semblance of responsibility for the common good for our citizens.

A majority of you have played along with Jindal’s disastrous fiscal policies for your own selfish reasons.  Just a few of you have stood boldly and courageously in opposition from the beginning of this reign of (t)error.  You have allowed an annual fiscal mess that has created a huge corporate welfare state and left us with crippling cuts to government agencies that serve our citizens.  Every one of you should hang your head in shame for what you have done to the people of the state you were elected to represent.

You chose to allow us to truly suffer the consequences of Jindal’s sociopathic, narcissistic, self-serving ambition.  He is finally about to be honest about running for president, and the ever-absent governor will be completely MIA in the state that is paying his salary.  Just as he did when he took his salary as a congressman while running for governor.  Forgot about that, didn’t you?  Jindal is a serial thief via payroll fraud.

Here are things you can and should do to help make Louisiana a decent place to live, work and raise families:

One: Impeach Jindal.  Pay attention to what the public thinks.  People are ready for Jindal to go and they are not content to wait until January 2016.  Everyone knows he’s stealing his salary and rent on the mansion.  Do what the citizens want.  Get rid of him now.  Impeach him for cause.  There is plenty of it.  There is great public will for drastic action on YOUR part.

Get rid of the tyrant NOW.  He does not need to finish the last few months of his term.  Impeach him now and you will save yourself a lot of trouble at the end of the session, because if you are responsible enough to actually pass provisions to raise needed revenue, Jindal has clearly and unequivocably stated that he will veto them all because of his loyalty to Grover Norquist, not the people of Louisiana.  He has stated that he will not let you raise revenue.  “Revenue neutral” is complete bull.  We need more revenue, not the same amount we have now; that IS the problem.

Criminal grounds? Start with blatant payroll fraud, malfeasance and dereliction of duty.  Public payroll fraud is a felony in Louisiana.  Jindal long ago stopped performing the duties that he was elected to do, but continues to draw his handsome salary and his family still lives in the taxpayer-owned governor’s mansion. He has completely shirked his responsibilities to the state, and his slavish loyalty to Grover Norquist and powerful business interests, and his total lack of care and compassion for Louisiana people have driven us to brink of bankruptcy.  Then there’s the theft of state trust and reserve funds, and sale of properties belonging to We the People.  The list goes on and on…

While you’re at it, get rid of Jindal’s hatchet people.  There is probably some jail time in their futures for malfeasance in office, fraud and criminal actions having to do with ignoring state laws on contracts, procurement, employment, etc.


Two: Many of you signed Grover Norquist’s destructive and completely unrealistic no-taxes-ever pledge, and you must now pay the price for your misplaced loyalty.  You might want to google Grover Norquist.  Ultra-conservative Glenn Beck recently revealed that Norquist is widely thought to be a closet Muslim. Norquist’s former business partner is in federal prison for financing Al Queda terrorists.  Norquist is married to a devout Muslim woman thought to have terrorist ties.  Norquist’s real agenda appears to be destruction of our nation from within. You should take time to research him and decide if that is where your loyalties should lie.  You sold us out to a Muslim economic hit man/terrorist.

Renounce your anti-tax pledge to Norquist publically – NOW.


Three:  Accept the fact that government should not be the personal piggy bank for corporate interests.  There should be no profit motive in provision of government services.  Privatization requires profit, which is fine when businesses are truly private interests.   Governments abdicate their responsibility to citizens when services are privatized.

If you think the private sector always provides better services than lesser-paid public employees, take a look at the recent revelation about the Blue Cross Blue Shield takeover of the Office of Group Benefits. BCBS has paid millions in fines for poor performance. You did not hear a lot of complaints when OGB staff operated the plan. Ask the patients at the state’s few remaining mental health hospitals if they are getting enough to eat from the private contractor that now feeds them, after replacing the low-paid state employees who worked in those hospitals. After public complaint after complaint, you have still allowed those patients to go hungry because the contractor does not prepare enough food. Shame on you. SHAME ON YOU.

Government services provide for quality of life and public safety.  Today state services in every area are jeopardized, from police and fire safety, water safety, food inspection and public health to libraries, state parks, and highway safety. Medical services for the less fortunate and accessible higher education may be niceties of the past.

Please read Matthew 25:36-40 – that’s The BIBLE, y’all, the book that some of you wanted to make the Louisiana state book (which, apparently, many of you have not bothered to actually read).

Education is a key component that creates a prosperous middle class.  Public education in Louisiana is in jeopardy, from pre-K, K-12, to higher education.  I am disgusted with hearing about “government monopoly schools.”  Public education was established by the earliest Americans to provide opportunity for all, not just the wealthy.  Now there is talk of privatizing our universities along with the K-12 grab.  Those institutions belong to us – We the People of Louisiana – the same as our state parks and historic sites, museums, libraries and other state properties.   Are you actually going to allow the state of Louisiana to close universities, community and technical colleges, or price them out of reach of all but the wealthy? Do you really choose to let our state sink to the level of a Third World country?  (I spend time in such a country every year, and believe me, Louisiana already looks much the same.)

While you have sort of passed some financial relief for higher education, some of us actually realize that it’s not over til the session is over, and some ploys like the SAVE tax credit insanity provides non-existent funding. Plus, everything is open to jindal’s veto.


Four: be courageous and get our fiscal house in order:

    • Just do it. Roll back the corporate welfare that makes the business community that takes the profits and runs out of state a larger entitlement group than the poor. Jindal is now complaining about corporate welfare, which is laughable. He practically invented the idea.
  • Immediately cancel ridiculously expensive contracts such as Magellan and the five Bayou Health contracts that steal money by providing little or no services, services that were previously provided by mid-pay range state employees who actually got the work done.
  • Un-privatize the public hospitals, Office of Group Benefits operations, food service in the few remaining mental health hospitals, etc., so the money spent will actually pay for services to people, rather than profit for out-of-state companies. Don’t think you can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again? Look carefully at the history of the Office of Group Benefits and you will see that it has been done before.


  • Reinstate reasonable taxes on business and individuals, such as the Stelly tax. The People voted it in, and y’all eliminated Stelly without asking The People if they agreed. We didn’t. Consider that an additional, temporary one-percent income tax on the top one or two percent earners, until our budget house is back in order, may be necessary. (I’m probably in that number, so I have “skin in that game.”) We have to accept the fact that we must pay for the services we need and want. Take a look at the tax bases of the good quality-of–life states, like Minnesota. They levied a small, temporary income tax hike – result: the state is rolling in revenue and business is booming.

Five: re-gain the trust of our citizens by re-defining YOUR loyalties.  Is your loyalty to a delusional sociopath named jindal, to selfish, to self-serving out-of state entities such as ALEC, the greedy Koch Brothers machine and Grover Norquist, or to the people of Louisiana who elected you and whom you are supposed to serve?

A lot hangs in the balance for you personally and for the rest of us.  For you, there is your continued ability to be elected to public office and to maintain the respect of people around you, not to mention the state of your own immortal soul (read The Bible some more and see what the Lord has to say about people to whom much is given, etc.).  You are playing with fire….eternal fire… and I think it is very appropriate to point that out, since so many of you claim to be devout Christians.  Christians who want to legislate your personal religious beliefs into laws affecting everyone of all faiths and no faith, effectively turning our state and nation into a theocracy, in violation of the U.S. Constitution (which you claim to revere).

And now we find that many of you voted in favor of House Concurrent Resolution 2 that would endorse a “Convention of States” seeking to eliminate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that the United States Constitution, federal statutes and treaties are “the supreme law of the land.”  The Supremacy Clause is the bedrock that binds the states together a one nation.  This proposed convention of the states is a far-reaching plan to make radical changes in the federal government that will not benefit ordinary citizens. If that resolution was sold to you as a way to undermine a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, think again.  Pay attention for once, since you have admitted to voting for bills and resolutions because someone told you to, when you have not even read them.  Wake up to what you are doing.  The “convention of states” would begin the descent into anarchy as each state makes its own rules.  No more United States of America.  Welcome to 50 Shades of Pray.

Do the right thing.  Step up to your responsibilities as elected representatives of the people.  Make the right decisions for Louisiana, not a political party, an individual or organization. Get our house in order.

Believe me, we are all watching.



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