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Even as Gov. Bobby is busy handing out pink slips to state employees (a new round of layoffs is anticipated momentarily), LouisianaVoice has learned of a couple of unusual hiring practices—one involving yet another retire-rehire, this time by the Department of Public Safety, and a possible case of nepotism that has since quietly been resolved in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LADHH) with the timely transfer of the mother of a LADHH administrator to another agency.

DHH Deputy Secretary Courtney Phillips has accepted the position of Secretary of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHH) and will begin her duties there on April 1, according to a press release from LADHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert.

Courtney Phillips has been employed by LADHH since 2003 when she began as a management intern. She was appointed Deputy Secretary on May 10, 2013, at a salary of $145,000, according to information obtained by LouisianaVoice from LADHH.

Her mother, Sheila Phillips was initially hired by LADHH on June 19, 2012, as an Administrative Coordinator at a salary of $37,500.

“At no point in time did Courtney Phillips serve in a supervisory role over Sheila Phillips,” said LADHH spokesperson Olivia Watkins in an email Thursday to LouisianaVoice. “Regarding her time as deputy secretary, Courtney Phillips did not officially begin her tenure as deputy secretary until May 10, 2013. Sheila Phillips ended her employment with DHH on May 9, 2013, and is currently an employee with the Department of Environmental Quality.

Civil Service records reflect that Sheila Phillips actually resigned on May 8, 2013, two days before her daughter’s promotion, and began working on May 9, 2013, for the Department of Environmental Quality as an Administrative Assistant 4 and currently makes $40,560 per year.

And while Courtney Phillips did not begin as deputy secretary until two days after her mother left the agency, her curriculum vitae that she submitted to the State of Nebraska notes that she served as Chief of Staff at LADHH from September of 2011 until her promotion to deputy director—which was during the time when her mother was hired.

State statute, according to Watkins, specifically says that “no member of the immediate family of a member of a governing authority or the chief executive of a governmental entity shall be employed by the governmental entity.”

The statute defines “agency head” as chief executive or administrative officer of an agency or any member of a board or commission who exercises supervision over the agency, Watkins said.

“Based on consultation with Civil Service, agency head would not include the chief of staff position, precluding any violation of the state nepotism law during her tenure in that role. Furthermore, as chief of staff, Courtney Phillips did not have legal appointing authority or supervise any DHH program office, including the Office of Public Health where Sheila Phillips worked from 06/09/2012 through 05/09/2013.

“Given that definition and the facts of the employment of Courtney Phillips and Sheila Phillips, nepotism was not a concern,” Watkins said.

Her resumé, however, says her Chief of Staff duties involved the planning and direction of “all administrative, financial, and operational activities for the department’s Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Undersecretary” and that she acted “as a point of contact between top management and employees, as well as developing, overseeing and maintaining the budget for the executive office. She also said in her resumé that she served as a “key member of the executive management team responsible for the central coordination of activities and ensuring timely flow of information to and from the executive office.”

Moreover, on various LADHH organizational charts obtained by LouisianaVoice, Courtney Phillips served directly under the position of agency undersecretary during the tenures of both Bruce Greenstein, who resigned in March of 2013, and Kliebert.

As a “key member of the executive management team,” she was also a member of and regularly voted on matters coming before the LADHH Statewide Governance Board and signed off on letters to top legislators dealing with LADHH policy.

Meanwhile, an Information Technology (IT) Director 4 who retired from his $140,500 a year job at the Division of Administration (DOA) on Oct. 31, 2014, began working on Dec. 8, just over a month later, for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) as a technology consultant at $70 per hour, Civil Service records show. Jeya Selvaratnam

SELVARATNAM GOHSEP

Prior to his four-month stint with DOA, which began on June 23, 2014, and ran through Oct. 31 (he was retired for little more than a month, from Nov. 1 through Dec. 7), Jeya Selvaratnam worked first as an IT Deputy Director 2 for the Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Office of Management and Finance from Sept. 25, 2006 through Aug. 27, 2008 at which time he was promoted to IT Director 4 for the same office. He remained at that post until June 22, 2014, when he moved over to DOA.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics prohibits former state employees from working for the same agency within two years of their retirements. The statute (R.S. 42:1111-1121) says, “During the two year period following the termination of public service as a public employee, these individuals may not assist another for compensation, in a transaction, or in an appearance in connection with a transaction involving the agency in which the former public employee participated while employed by the agency nor may the former public employee provide on a contractual basis to his former public employer, any service he provided while employed there.”

GOHSEP spokesperson Christina Dayries, however, said when retirees are rehired by state agencies, they are allowed to earn half of what they collect in state retirement. He was earning $140,500 per year and with more than 30 years of service, qualifies for at least 75 percent of his base salary in retirement. That computes to more than $105,000 in retirement, plus 50 percent of that amount as a re-hire up to $158,000—nearly $18,000 more than he made full time.

The project on which Selvaratnam now works as a part time capacity is the DPS FirstNet National Public Safety Broadband Network.

The project calls for the expenditure of up to $135 million of a State and Local Implementation Grant (SLIGP) provided by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to provide emergency responders with their first nationwide, high-speed broadband network dedicated to public safety, according to a Power Point presentation given on Jan. 21 and 22 of this year to provide an overview of the program created under the federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.

The $135 million 80-20 federal-state grant is only for the planning of the project. Implementation of the nationwide network is expected to cost $7 billion with funding expected to come from spectrum auction. By law, the network is to be self-sustaining upon expending the $7 billion.

There are 10 regional teams set up to implement the program on a nationwide basis. Louisiana is a member of Team 6, along with New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The program’s staffing chart shows Selvaratnam serving under the supervision of Program Manager Allison McLeary.

While at DPS, he represented the department as a member of the Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) SIEC which is responsible for the ability of emergency service agencies to communicate across disciplines and jurisdictions, particularly during times of emergency. SIEC membership is composed of all appropriate first responder and support organizations and has “full authority to design, construct, administer and maintain a statewide interoperable communications system…in support of full response to any emergency event,” according to GOHSEP’s web page. http://www.gohsep.la.gov/interop.aspx

As the DPS representative on the SIEC, he also served as chairman of the SIEC Broadband Subcommittee. Accordingly, he had duties and responsibilities for the SLIGP program during that time and is again providing those same services.

Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson, for whom Selvaratnam worked at DPS, is the “State Point of Contact” for the FirstNet project, according to the Power Point presentation, with the Office of State Police listed as the SLIGP grant recipient and GOHSEP as the grant administrator.

A law meant to bring retirees back for short-term help was used by almost 200 current, full-time employees in the Department of Corrections. An oversight in the writing of the law even allowed “retired” employees to continue accruing money into their pension plans, according to a story on Governing, a web-based site on state and local government. http://www.governing.com/topics/public-workforce/Double-Dip-Dilemma.html

The issue of retire-rehire sparked considerable debate in 2010 when Higher Education Commissioner Sally Clausen resigned and rehired herself two days later, a move that netted her a $90,000 payout for unused sick leave and vacation time and entitled her to $146,400 in retirement pay. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/06/higher_education_commissioner.html

 

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Anyone who still wonders why Gov. Bobby Jindal trots around the country uttering his venom-laced attacks on Washington in general and the Obama administration in particular should understand something. It’s all about politics; he is simply pandering to what he perceives as his base which is, at best, an illusion.

His foaming at the mouth courtship with his invisible support group is something like playing with an imaginary friend. In Jindal’s case, we have it on pretty good authority that he had two imaginary friends as a child but they would go to the other end of the playground and never let him join them. You will notice he never shows up in any of the lists of potential major GOP presidential candidates. That’s because the Republican Party just doesn’t want to play with him.

We have to give Jindal credit for one thing, however; he backs his rhetoric with action.

In his steadfast resistance to anything Washington, we have seen him:

  • Reject $300 million in federal funding for a Baton Rouge to New Orleans high speed passenger rail connection because he doesn’t want federal control;
  • Pretend to reject $98 million in federal stimulus funds for recovery from the 2008 recession while quietly taking the funds and handing out checks to municipalities during his highly-publicized visits to Protestant churches in north Louisiana;
  • Reject $80 million in federal funding to expand broadband internet service into rural areas of the state, primarily in north Louisiana;
  • Reject $15.7 billion in federal Medicaid expansion funds because he incorrectly claimed it would cost Louisiana taxpayers up to $1.7 billion over 10 years. He provided no figures to back that claim but did defiantly say Obama “won’t bully Louisiana.” Meanwhile, more than 200,000 low-income Louisiana residents are still without medical insurance.
  • Reject the Common Core State Standards Initiative after previously voicing his wholehearted support for the standards, again saying, “We won’t let the federal government take over Louisiana’s education standards.”
  • Prevail upon the legislature to reject an increase in the minimum wage, to reject tightening regulation of payday loan companies, to ban discrimination against gays, and to reject support of equal pay for women—most probably because all such proposals have the ugly thumbprints of Washington all over them.

So, taking into account his polarizing negativity against Washington, it’s pretty easy to see that things might have been different if we’d never had this little demagogue as governor.

But then we got to wondering how Louisiana might have fared down through the years if we had always been saddled with a Jindal on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. We would probably have beaten South Carolina in being the first state to secede from the Union.

But for the sake of simplicity, let’s just go back to Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. That’s pretty fair because U.S. Sen. Huey Long (whom Jindal often seems to be trying to emulate) was about as anti-New Deal then as Jindal is anti-everything federal is today. Moreover, the nation was reeling from the Great Depression, thanks to Wall Street’s greed, just as America was suffering from the Recession of 2008, thanks in large part to Wall Street again gone amok.

Works Progress Administration projects:

  • Big Charity Hospital in New Orleans where many Louisiana physicians received their training for decades (including Congressmen Bill Cassidy and Charles Boustany, Jr.);
  • Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which brought electric power to Louisiana’s most rural farm communities (and without which, to paraphrase the late comic Brother Dave Gardner, they’d all be watching TV by candlelight);
  • State Capitol Annex across Third Street from the State Capitol;
  • More courthouses were constructed under the program from 1936 to 1940 than in any other period in state history. They include courthouses in the parishes of St. Bernard, Natchitoches, Iberia Parish, Caldwell, Cameron, East Carroll, Jackson, Madison, Rapides, St. Landry and Terrebonne.
  • Mumford Stadium, Bradford Hall and Grandison Hall at Southern University;
  • Himes Hall, the faculty club, and the geology building at LSU;
  • Two buildings at what is now the University of Louisiana Monroe, three on the McNeese campus, seven each at Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana Tech, a water tower at Grambling State University, eight additions at Northwestern State University and 12 at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, all of which significantly extended the reach of higher education in the state.
  • Scores of new elementary and high schools (including this writer’s Alma Mater, Ruston High School), as well as high school science labs, gymnasium-auditoriums, home economics cottages, athletic fields, music rooms and vocational education shops;
  • New buildings for the Hansen’s Disease Center at Carville;
  • The Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans;
  • Extensive improvements and updates to the French Market in New Orleans;
  • Expansion of the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans;
  • Paving of 40 miles of roadway on Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City as well as the clearing of 15 miles of bayous and drainage canals and the rehabilitation of 43 wooden bridges on the base;
  • Improvements to the 1,300-acre City Park in New Orleans;
  • The Louisiana State Museum in Shreveport;
  • Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans;
  • The old City Hall in Denham Springs;
  • Construction of the Louisiana State School for the Deaf (now housing an administration building for the Baton Rouge Police Department);
  • Post offices in Hammond, Plaquemine, Arabi; Arcadia, Bunkie, Donaldsonville, Eunice, Haynesville, Jeanerette, Leesville, Oakdale, Rayville, and Monroe;
  • Conversion of a Baton Rouge swamp into the University Lakes around which many LSU professors, former U.S. Congressman Henson Moore and current Congressman Bill Cassidy now reside;
  • Eradication program to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes near the New Orleans lakefront.

Huey Long did everything in his power to throw up roadblocks to FDR. His reasons? He planned to run for President in 1936 and he needed to incite opposition to Roosevelt and Washington in order to build a national political base. In fact, before his death in September of 1935, Long was quite effective as fewer than three dozen PWA projects were fully authorized for the state.

Sound familiar?

Following Long’s death and with his obstructionist policy abandoned by his successors, FDR funneled $80 million into Louisiana for roads, bridges, water and sewerage systems, parks, playgrounds, public housing, library and bookmobile programs and literacy drives. That’s $80 million in 1930s dollars. About what it would take to fund that proposed broadband internet expansion for rural north Louisiana today.

So, let’s ask Jindal to hop into our time machine and travel back to September 1935 where he will run and be elected governor just in time to revive the Kingfish’s anti-Roosevelt rhetoric.

Big Charity Hospital? Who needs it? But wait. Jindal wouldn’t have that facility today to give away in his privatization plan yet to be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). And without Big Charity, there probably never would have been similar state hospitals in Houma, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Shreveport or Monroe to close or privatize.

All those courthouses? Shoot, just drop them in the Capital Outlay bill and sell some more state bonds. We can always raise the state’s debt ceiling.

As for all those buildings on the university campuses across the state, hasn’t anyone been paying attention? We’re cutting funding for all that. Who needs public colleges anyway? Let the students get a student loan and go to ITI Technical College.

And Ruston High School? We’ll just turn that into a charter and issue vouchers to the white kids—the smart rich ones.

All those New Deal programs created jobs for Louisianians? Well, so what? There probably wouldn’t have been an unemployment problem in the first place if the workers weren’t so greedy back then and would’ve agreed to work for 15 cents an hour. That’s what happens when you raise the minimum wage.

Fast Forward 30 years

And lest we forget, we probably need to include a couple of programs President Lyndon B. Johnson rammed through Congress.

The Civil Rights Bill opened the door of opportunity for African Americans as nothing since the Emancipation Proclamation had done. And of course there was bitter opposition right down to passage—and beyond. There are those, some in elective office, who would repeal the act today, given the opportunity. The irony is that LBJ had opposed every Civil Rights measure in Congress when he was a senator but when he ascended to the presidency upon JFK’s assassination, he told one supporter, “I’m everybody’s president now.”

And, of course, there is the precursor to the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.

Of course, that would be that radical Social Security Amendment of 1965 which created Medicare and Medicaid.

There was rabid opposition to Medicare by Republicans and the American Medical Association which insisted there was no need for the federal government to intervene in the relationship between patient and physician. Today, if any politician ever tried to terminate Medicare services, he would have a blue-haired riot on his hands and rightly so.

Medicare now provides medical insurance to 50 million elderly Americans and Medicaid does the same for another 51 million low-income or disabled Americans.

Perhaps someone should ask Republican Congressmen Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge (6th District and a candidate for U.S. Senate against incumbent Mary Landrieu) and John Fleming of Minden (4th District), and Charles Boustany, Jr. (3rd District) each of whom is a physician and each of whom opposes Obamacare, what percentage of their income as practicing physicians walked in the door as Medicare or Medicaid patients?

Then check with Jindal to see how that squares with his opposition to the welfare state and such socialistic practices.

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Two months ago, when the Federal Communications Commission allotted $8 million to expand broadband Internet access in rural Louisiana areas, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was quick to praise, perhaps a bit prematurely, the “investment” while Gov. Bobby Jindal remained uncharacteristically silent.

Despite Landrieu’s laudatory claim that the funds would “upgrade the digital infrastructure in rural communities,” the $8 million represented only 10 percent of an $80 million grant for Louisiana that was rescinded in October of 2011 because of Jindal’s aversion to what then Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater deemed a “top-down, government-heavy approach that would compete with and undermine, rather than partner with the private sector…”

What Rainwater—and through him, his boss, Jindal—did not acknowledge is that the Jindal administration’s obsession with protecting the private sector at the expense of broadband Internet service to customers in the rural areas of the central and northeastern parts of the state was part of the 12-year-old official position staked out by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in August of 2002. http://alecexposed.org/w/images/6/6f/9A15-Municipal_Telecommunications_Private_Industry_Safeguards_Act_Exposed.pdf

Also ignored by the Jindal administration—and ALEC—is that broadband service in the U.S. is woefully inadequate when compared with countries like South Korea, Japan and even Portugal and Italy. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/competition-and-the-internet/

And it’s even worse in the country’s rural areas. http://deltafarmpress.com/blog/broadband-service-rural-areas-promise-still-exceeds-reality

No doubt you’ve seen those cute AT&T commercials featuring the man sitting at a table with children. He asks a question and gets feedback from the kids and the commercial ends with, “It’s not complicated.”

Indeed it is not. In 2008, Jindal’s very first year as governor, he signed SB-807 into law as Act 433 over the objections of the Louisiana Municipal and State Police Jury associations. The bill, the Consumer Choice for Television Act, was authored by then-Sen. Ann Duplessis (D-New Orleans). It passed the Senate by a 34-1 vote with only Dale Erdy (R-Livingston) voting no. Absent and not voting were Sens. Robert Adley (R-Benton), Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales) and Sheri Smith Buffington (R-Keithville).

AT&T, which contributed $10,000 to Jindal’s campaign since 2007, supported the bill. AT&T also contributed $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children.

It’s not complicated.

It also passed overwhelmingly in the House by a 94-9 vote. The only members casting no-votes were Reps. James Armes (D-Leesville), Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport), Greg Cromer (R-Slidell), Jean Doerge (D-Minden), Ricky Hardy (D-Lafayette), Lowell Hazel (R-Pineville), Robert Johnson (D-Marksville), Sam Jones (D-Franklin), and Chris Roy (D-Alexandria). Rep. James Morris (R-Oil City) was absent and did not vote.

The only ALEC member to go against the official doctrine was Carmody. He attended ALEC’s 2010 annual meeting in San Diego at which the organization’s Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force passed an official resolution in potential opposition to private telephone and cable companies by public bodies such as city councils and parish governments. http://louisianavoice.com/2012/05/09/could-loss-of-that-80-6-million-broadband-internet-federal-grant-last-fall-have-been-deliberately-orchestrated-by-alec/

Other members of the Louisiana Legislature who attended that meeting included Reps. John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie), Robert Johnson (D-Marksville), Tim Burns (R-Mandeville), State Chairman Joe Harrison (R-Gray), Bernard LeBas (D-Ville Platte) and Sen. Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton Rouge).

Act 433 well may even have been written by AT&T, which is a member of ALEC and a member of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force. AT&T chipped in $50,000 to the ALEC cause in 2010 and was a member of the Louisiana Host Committee for ALEC’s 2012 annual meeting in New Orleans. Jindal was the recipient of ALEC’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award at that 2012 meeting. http://www.alec.org/hundreds-of-state-legislators/

It’s not complicated.

And lest one think that Louisiana’s loss of the $80 million broadband grant in 2011 was the exception, consider this:

  • Early this year, the Kansas Legislature undertook Campaign Stop Google Fiber—and any cities that may wish to invest in broadband network technologies. Included in legislation introduced in the legislature were stipulations that except with regard to unserved areas, a municipality may not themselves offer to provide or lease, construct, maintain or operate any facility for the purpose of allowing a private entity to offer, provide, carry or deliver video, telecommunications or broadband service. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/01/30/1273848/-Kansas-moves-to-Stop-Broadband-Internet-to-residents?detail=email
  • In February of 2011, the Minnesota Cable Communications Association (MCCA) initiated a public battle with National Public Broadband (NPB) by inundating Lake County with a flurry of public records request designed to slow NPB’s efforts to bring broadband Internet to rural areas of Lake County.

While MCCA correctly asserts that Lake County should act transparently, the barrage of requests submitted by the association makes its intent to protect its own financial interests over those of rural residents of the county is quite apparent. Its monopoly is, after all, being threatened and those cable services that are overpriced and which provide as little speed as possible are fighting back.

Certainly it’s only coincidental that AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Excel Communications, Fair Point Communications, Sprint Nextel, Verizon, and Cox Communications are members of ALEC. All but Excel and Fair Point serve on ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/ALEC_Corporations.

It’s not complicated.

So, given Jindal’s cozy relationship with ALEC and given ALEC’s opposition to public participation in expanding broadband Internet service to rural areas in competition with ALEC members, it’s perfectly understandable why Jindal eschewed that “top-down” management of the $80 million grant.

It’s not complicated.

And it is equally apparent that the monopolistic advantage enjoyed by private sector providers be protected at all cost—even at the cost of creating some 900 miles of cable over 21 rural parishes that would support several Louisiana universities with expanded optical fiber networking capacity.

It’s not complicated.

Top-down management apparently is good only when it originates from the fourth floor of the State Capitol. Just ask any legislator, former state employee, or board or commission member who has dared to contradict him on any issue.

It’s not complicated.

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Whenever Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks, be it on Fox News, CNN, to fellow Republican governors or at a rare press conference such as the one held on Thursday, his threefold purpose always seems to be to inflate weak ideology, obscure poor reasoning and inhibit clarity.

His less-than-masterful tax plan for the state, which he admitted to reporters is like so many of his ill-conceived programs in that it actually remains a non-plan, might well be entitled “The Dynamics of Irrational and Mythical Imperatives of Tax Reform: A Study in Psychic Trans-Relational Fiscal Recovery Modes” (with apologies to Calvin and Hobbes, our all-time favorite comic strip).

It’s not certain what drives him to wade off into these issues (see: hospital and prison closures, higher education cutbacks, charter schools, online courses and vouchers, state employee retirement “reform,” and privatization of efficiently-operating state agencies like the Office of Group Benefits) but his actions are probably precipitated by deeply ingrained biological, psychological and sociological imperatives that have triggered a reduced functionality in the cerebral cortex (Pickles).

Or it could be some depraved attempt to inflict vengeance on society because his two imaginary childhood friends teased him and wouldn’t let him play with them.

And though he insists he has the job he wants, we can’t help but wonder if he isn’t even now casting a covetous sidelong look at the advantages of plundering (Frazz) in case his presidential aspirations fail to materialize.

The reason for all this speculation is brought on by his admission in that ever-so-brief (less than 12 minutes or six question, whichever came first) press conference Thursday that the administration does not have a proposal as yet to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes despite his well-publicized announcement that he wants to scrap state income taxes for individuals and corporations (especially corporations) in a “revenue neutral” way that would most likely involve increased sales taxes.

But he doesn’t have a proposal yet.

Are you listening, legislators? He doesn’t have a proposal yet. That means the onus is going to be on you and if he doesn’t have his way with you (as he has for the past five years—and you can take that any way you please), he’s going public with the blame game.

If everything goes south, you don’t really think he’s going to take the blame, do you?

He doesn’t have a proposal yet. Now we see where State Superintendent John White gets his prompts on running the Department of Education. White has not submitted a completed plan for any project begun at DOE since he took over; everything—vouchers, charters, course choice—is in a constant state of flux. He announces rules, retracts, readjusts, re-evaluates only to lose a lawsuit over the way his boss proposed to fund state vouchers.

Jindal doesn’t have a proposal—for anything. His retirement “reform” package for state employees was a disaster from the get go. Even before he lost yet another court decision on that issue in January, the matter of whether or not the proposed plan for new hires was an IRS-qualified plan—meaning a plan the IRS would accept in lieu of social security—remained unresolved.

He didn’t have a proposal: let’s just do it and see later if the IRS will accept it. Throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.

Remember when he vetoed a bill two years ago to renew a five-cent tax on cigarettes because, he said, he was opposed to new taxes (it was a renewal!)? Well, now he’s considering a $1 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes.

“Everything is on the table,” he said. “That’s the way it should be.”

But isn’t he the same governor who closed hospitals and prisons without so much as a heads-up to legislators in the areas affected.

Isn’t he the same governor who rejected a federal grant to make boardband internet available to rural areas of the state but had no alternative plan for broadband?

Isn’t he the same governor who continues to resist ObamaCare at the cost of millions of dollars in Medicaid funding to provide medical care for the state’s poor?

He said he is looking at different ways to protect low- and middle-income citizens.

By increasing the state sales tax by nearly two cents on the dollar? By rejecting another $50 million federal grant for early childhood development? By shuttering battered women’s shelters and attempting to terminate state funding for hospice? By pushing for more and more tax breaks for corporations and wealthy Louisiana citizens? By appointing former legislators to six-figure state jobs for which they’re wholly unqualified while denying raises to the state’s working stiffs? Yeah, that’ll really protect the low income people of the state.

“It’s way too early to make decisions on what’s in and out of the plan,” he said of the soon-to-be proposed (we assume) income tax re-haul.

Well, Governor, it’s your job to make decisions, to come up with a proposal to present to the legislature so House and Senate members may have sufficient time to debate the issues—unlike your sweeping education package of a year ago.

In your response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this week (not your disastrous response in 2009 in which the Republican Party subjected you to national ridicule), you said, “With four more years in office, he (Obama) needs to step up to the plate and do the job he was elected to do.”

That’s right, folks. You can’t make up stuff this good. The response is so easy that it’s embarrassing but here goes:

Pot, meet Kettle.

In retrospect, drawing on comic strip for inspiration when writing about Jindal somehow seems entirely appropriate.

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State Civil Service employees have gone without a 4 percent merit pay raise for three years now because of budgetary restrictions, brought on in large part by a Piyush Jindal administration that refuses to apply for federal grants for needed projects and by Jindal’s insistence on granting more and more tax breaks to corporate entities who take the money and, in at least one case, cease operations within a year or so.

No one is saying that grant money can be used to fund employee pay raises but when federal funds for broadband internet ($80.6 million), early childhood development ($60 million), and $5 billion a year in tax exemptions are taken out of the budgetary mix, the money must be made up from other sources.

Because of constitutionally mandated spending, there are only two areas where cuts may be made: higher education and health care. And of course, there is always the suspension of pay raises.

Accordingly, Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC)–once known by its archaic nom de plume, the Department of Labor–sent an email to all his employees on Sept. 26 which informed them thusly:

Dear Fellow LWC Employees,

As you are aware, the LWC has experienced significant reductions in funding over the last four years as the demand for our services increased. That has put a lot of added pressure on many of you, and you should know that your efforts are greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, the combination of funding reductions and increased services also puts a tremendous strain on our budget, and we continue to struggle to maintain staffing levels in certain areas.

Yesterday afternoon, I submitted a request to Civil Service for the Layoff Avoidance Measure of withholding performance adjustment pay increases (or merit increases) for the upcoming year. I sincerely regret that this is necessary for a third year in a row, but I made this request to minimize the impact of budget pressures on our levels of staffing and on the agency.

I appreciate your dedication and patience as we work through these tough financial times. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Well, wasn’t that special? Eysink, in an effort to avoid layoffs, was willing to allow his employees to bite the bullet on behalf of the greater good by denying them pay raises, even though he “sincerely” regretted the action.

But wait. While he was sacrificing 4 percent increases for virtually his entire agency, Eysink was apparently attempting a backdoor salary bump of some $20,000 per year (40.8 percent), from $47,570 to $67,000, for a single employee.

Jonie Smith, Emerging Workforce Manager (for programs involving community action agencies, veterans and disabled workers), was approved by the state Civil Service Commission for an increase from $47,570 to $67,000 despite restrictions that would have limited her increase to only $53,000.

This is the same Civil Service Commission that rubber stamped the privatization plan for the Office of Group Benefits that will cause about 120 workers in that agency to lose their jobs. (Is it just us, or does anyone else see the Civil Service Commission as becoming just another Jindal dancing monkey in much the same mode as the Ethics Commission and the Louisiana Legislature?)

Not that one member, at least, didn’t try to discourage the big raise.

Briefly, here’s a recap of what went down:

Smith apparently got a job offer from the private sector and Eysink felt she was just too valuable to lose. Civil Service rules allow a state agency to match a private sector offer and in this particular case a match would have boosted her salary by $5,430, or 11.4 percent—nearly three times the 4 percent merit raise for state employees—if such raises still existed, which, of course, they don’t.

Even at that, agency officials lobbied for $67,000, causing commission member Scott Hughes to balk. Hughes observed that a lot of good employees have already been lost to layoffs. Another 1500 or so are slated to lose their jobs (just in time for Christmas, no less) through massive cutbacks in services by the LSU healthcare system.

“I’m not going to cast a vote to set a precedent for one employee,” he said, adding that other agencies might attempt similar moves. “I believe it’s a barn door we are opening that will not get shut.”

Commission Vice Chairman John McLure pooh-poohed Hughes’s concerns. “Given the current economic situation and the downsizing we have approved, we won’t see much of this,” he said somewhat incredulously.

Apparently, McLure has not been paying close attention to the news lately (see Tim Barfield, whom Jindal appointed Revenue Secretary at twice the salary of his predecessor).

It should also be noted that while Eysink pays the obligatory lip service to his employees by telling them how much he values and appreciates their dedication and patience, at least one staff member is valued and appreciated considerably more than the rest. Either that or he’s simply lying about how much he appreciates his workers in the first place. Of course, lying is certainly not new to this administration.

Remember Jindal’s disingenuous State Employee Appreciation proclamations the past three years? Were they not so cynical and such classic examples of sick humor, they’d almost be laughable. Almost.

Hughes did have one ally in Civil Service assistant director Jean Jones.

While Ashley Gautreaux, LWC human resources director described Smith, who has worked for the agency since December of 2010, a “critical” employee, Jones said based on Civil Service records, Smith barely meets minimum job qualifications for the job she is in.

The commission predictably went along with the $19,430 per year pay raise with Hughes casting the only negative vote.

One LWC employee emailed LouisianaVoice expressing an attitude of being quite “p—sed” at the action.

That’s certainly easy to understand. Jindal has completely ignored this state since his re-election (with the exception of opportunities for camera face time during Hurricane Isaac). He is rarely even in the state anymore even as a dangerous sinkhole has caused evacuations in Assumption Parish. He is nowhere to be found even as the state’s economy is tanking, causing cutbacks in medical care, budget cuts to higher education which in turn precipitated tuition increases for already financially-strapped students—all while he pumps up salaries for his appointees (see Tim Barfield), fires doctors and college presidents and attorneys and continues to campaign for president—a goal, by the way, that he will never reach.

The question then is, with more than three years left for him to turn his nose up at the citizens who elected him, how much more of this boorish behavior is the state citizenry—and the legislature—willing to take off this arrogant Alfred E. Newman lookalike?

Perhaps Hammond attorney C.B. Forgotston said it best when he said it is time for us to move on because Bobby has. “It’s time for us to admit the truth: Bobby Jindal is finished with Louisiana,” he said.

“Bobby’s future is beyond the borders of Louisiana and he shows it every day. It’s time for the legislators to determine what type of state in which they want to live, not what Bobby leaves us.”

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