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Archive for the ‘Civil Service’ Category

State Treasurer John Kennedy on Tuesday told the House Appropriations Committee that the Division of Administration exerts extortion-like tactics against legislators and takes the approach that it should not be questioned about the manner in which it hands out state contracts and that the legislature should, in effect, keep its nose out of the administration’s business.

Kennedy was testifying on behalf of House Bill 30 by State Rep. Jerome Richard (I-Thibodaux) which provides for reporting, review and approval by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB) of all contracts for professional, personal and consulting services totaling $40,000 or more per year which are funded exclusively with state general fund (SGF) or the Overcollections Fund. HB 30

HB 30 FISCAL NOTES

Kennedy, in a matter of only a few minutes’ testimony, attacked figures provided by three representatives of the Division of Administration (DOA) who objected to the bill because of what they termed additional delays that would be incurred in contract approval and because of claimed infringement upon the separation of powers between the legislative and administrative branches of government.

Here is the link to the committee hearing. While Kennedy spoke at length on the bill, the gist of his remarks about DOA begin at about one hour and 13 minutes into his testimony. You can move your cursor to that point and pick up his attacks on DOA. http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Video/VideoArchivePlayer.aspx?v=house/2015/may/0526_15_AP

That argument appeared to be a reach at best considering it is the legislature that appropriates funding for the contracts. It also appeared more of a smokescreen for the real objections: DOA’s, and by extension, Bobby Jindal’s wish that the administration be allowed to continue to operate behind closed doors and without any oversight, unanswerable to anyone.

DOA representatives tried to minimize the effect of the bill by downplaying the number and dollar amount of the contracts affected (which raises the obvious question of why the opposition to the bill if its impact would be so minimal). The administration said only 164 contracts totaling some $29 million would be affected by the bill.

Kennedy, however, was quick to jump on those figures. “The numbers the division provided you are inaccurate,” he said flatly. “The Legislative Auditor, who works for you,” he told committee members, “just released a report that says there are 14,000 consulting contracts, plus another 4600 ‘off the books.’

“The fiscal notes of 2014 by the Legislative Fiscal Office—not the Division (DOA)—said the number of contracts approved in 2013 by the Office of Contractual Review was 2,001—not 160—professional, personal and consulting service contracts with a total value of $3.1 billion,” he said. “I don’t know where DOA is getting its numbers.

“To sum up their objections,” he said, “it appears to me that DOA and more to the point, the bureaucracy, is smarter than you and knows how to spend taxpayer dollars better than you. That’s the bottom line. They don’t want you to know. This bill will not be overly burdensome to you. Thirty days before the JLCB hearing, you will get a list of contracts. If there are no questions, they fly through. If there are questions, you can ask.”

Kennedy tossed a grenade at DOA on the issue of separation of powers when he accused the administration of blackmailing legislators who might be reluctant to go along with its programs.

“Let’s talk about how the division’s advice on contracts has worked out,” he said. “The Division advised you to spend all the $800 million in the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly. Now they have zero in that account. In fact, they pushed you to do that. Some of you were told if you didn’t do that, you’d lose your Capital Outlay projects. How’s that for separation of powers? How’d that work out for you?

“My colleagues from Division who just testified against the bill are the same ones who told you to take $400 million out of the (Office of Group Benefits) savings account set aside to pay retirees’ and state employees’ health claims. How’d that work out?”

Kennedy didn’t stop there. He came prepared with an entire laundry list of accusations against the administration.

“My colleagues from Division are the ones who told you, ‘Look, we need to privatize our health care delivery system,’ which I support in concept. They sat at this table and I heard them say we would only have to spend $600 million per year on our public-private partnership and (that it would be) a great deal ‘because right now we’re spending $900 million.’ I thought we’d be saving $300 million a year. Except we’re not spending $600 million; we’re spending $1.3 billion and we don’t have the slightest idea whether it’s (the partnerships) working. How’d that work out for you?

“I sat right here at this table and I heard my friends from Division say we need to do Bayou Health managed care. You now appropriate $2.8 billion a year for four health insurance companies to treat 900,000 of our people—not their people, our people,” he said. “There’s just one problem: when the Legislative Auditor goes to DHH (the Department of Health and Hospitals) to audit it (the program), they tell him no.”

Kennedy said that pursuant to orders from DOA, “the only way they can audit is if they take the numbers given him (Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera) by the insurance companies.

“This is a good bill,” he said. “It’s not my bill. My preference is to tell Division to cut 10 percent on all contracts and if you can’t do it, you will be unemployed. But this bill allows you to see where the taxpayer money is being spent.

“I have more confidence in you than I do in the people who’re doing things right now,” he said.

Kennedy said he was somewhat reluctant to testify about the bill “but I’m not going to let this go—especially the part about separation of powers.

“You want to see a blatant example of separation of powers?” he asked rhetorically, returning to the issue of the administration’s heavy handedness. “How about if I have a bill but you don’t read it. You either vote for it or you lose your Capital Outlay projects. How’s that for separation of powers?”

That evoked memories from November of 2012 when Jindal removed two representatives from their committee assignments one day after they voted against the administration’s proposed contract between the Office of Group Benefits and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana.

“Everything they (legislative committees) do is scripted,” said Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray), speaking to LouisianaVoice about his removal from the House Appropriations Committee. “I’ve seen the scripts. They hand out a list of questions we are allowed to ask and they tell us not to deviate from the list and not to ask questions that are not in the best interest of the administration.” http://louisianavoice.com/2012/11/02/notable-quotables-in-their-own-words-142/

Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington) asked Kennedy what his budget was to which Kennedy responded, “Less than last year and less that year than the year before and probably will be even less after this hearing. But you know what? I don’t care.

“There’s nothing you can say to get Division to support this bill,” he said. “They’re just not going to do it.

“You can’t find these contracts with a search party. But if you require them to come before you, you can get a feel for how money is being spent that people work hard for and you can provide a mechanism to shift some of that spending to higher priorities.

“Next year, you will spend $47 million on consulting contracts for coastal restoration. I’m not against coastal restoration; I’m all for it. But these consultants will not plant a blade of swamp grass. Don’t tell me they can’t do the job for 10 percent less. That $47 million is more than the entire state general fund appropriation for LSU-Shreveport, Southern University-Shreveport, McNeese and Nicholls State combined.

“Under the law, agencies are supposed to go before the Civil Service Board and show that the work being contracted cannot be done by state employees but that is perfunctory at best,” Kennedy said.

To the administration’s arguments of delays in contract approvals and infringements on the separation of powers, Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles) dug in his heels. “This is not a bad thing,” he insisted. “We’re not going to go through every page of every contract unless someone calls it to our attention. It doesn’t matter if it’s 14,000 or 14 million contracts. The number is immaterial. If there’s an issue with a contract, we need to look at it.”

For once, the administration did not have its way with the legislature. The committee approved the bill unanimously and it will now move to the House floor for debate where Jindal’s forces are certain to lobby hard against its passage.

Should the bill ultimately pass both the House and Senate, Jindal will in all likelihood, veto the measure and at that point, we will learn how strong the legislature’s resolve really is.

But for Kennedy, the line has been drawn in the dust.

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My friend Walter Abbott up in Ruston seems to have a problem with any public employee as does, apparently State Rep. John “Jay” Morris, III (R-Monroe).

Abbott, as I, publishes a political blog and that certainly is his—or anyone’s—right. But the thing that he can’t seem to get around is his constant habit of labeling any public employee as a “deadhead.” In fact, he never refers to public employees, be they teachers, law enforcement officers, firemen, or highway construction crews, as anything but “deadheads.”

I’m not certain what Walter does for a living, but I would assume his work is essential and not of the “deadhead” status. But one can never be sure. Sometimes one creates a deliberate smokescreen (such as name-calling) as a tactic to deflect attention from himself. Again, I don’t know that, I’m just sayin’…..

Walter’s post today (March 31) provides a link to a story by Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Elizabeth Crisp which said that Louisiana college and university students plan to demonstrate at the state Capitol on April 15 as a protest to anticipated draconian cuts to higher education appropriations for the coming year.

But Walter, in his classic inimitable parsing of nomenclature, says in the headline to his blog: “Student Mob to Protest on Behalf of Deadheads.”

Student Mob? Seriously, Walter? You know with absolute certainty that these students will be roving bands of vandals, possibly armed, intent on rape and pillage and assorted other forms of crimes against humanity? Hell, Abbott, you’re better than the entire Justice League. Perhaps we need to make you an official state deadhead and bring you to Baton Rouge or New Orleans or Shreveport to fight crime—in advance with your gift of clairvoyance, of course. Which city? No problem; with your obvious skill at predicting the future, you need only tip off the deadhead law enforcement agencies in each city when a crime is about to take place.

And about that “deadhead” term you so love to toss around: I can only assume that you’ve drunk the Ted Cruz/Scott Walker/Rand Paul tea party Kool-Aid which finds all things public to be anathema.

In a previous blog you referred to teachers as “deadheads.” Well, Walt, unless I’m mistaken, a teacher taught you to read and write, which enables you to now turn on those same dedicated people by calling them “deadheads.”

Let me enlighten you about teachers, Walt, because you obviously do not know the facts or you choose to ignore them. Besides the problem that all teachers face, namely the constant push and pull from politicians who seem to think they have all the answers and rush in with ill-advised education “reform” measures, there are these specifics:

  • Kindergarten and elementary teachers: Not only must they teach, but they also have to do lesson plans, grade papers at night (after cooking for the family and cleaning house and helping their own kids with homework), contend with kids who can’t keep up in class because their lazy or irresponsible, drug-addled parents won’t take the initiative to help the kids at home, then attempt to appease those same parents who want to shift the blame for the kids’ poor grades onto the teacher. They daily see these same children come to school hungry or unbathed—or both. In addition to all these duties is the constant paperwork that must be filled out by teachers and as they perform all these tasks, they often are called upon to wipe snotty noses and wipe soiled behinds. Summer vacation? Fugetaboutit. That three-month vacation you always hear about is a myth. When school is out, classrooms must be cleaned, books put away, furniture stacked against the wall so janitorial crews can move in to do their jobs and by the time all that is done, it’s time to start planning the new school year.
  • Middle school teachers: One might think that middle school is a breeze but this is where kids grow into puberty, where cliques are formed and where little teen-age girls snipe at each other behind their backs. It ain’t pretty. As these children grow from adolescence into teens, attitudes are formed and teachers must deal with that reality on a daily basis. Moreover, remember those kids from elementary school who were lagging behind? Well some of them are older than their classmates because sadly, they had to be held back one or more grades. But they’re falling even further behind and it becomes the middle school teacher’s task to confront angry parents who won’t accept their own role in educating their own children. And that paperwork didn’t go away in elementary school. Neither do the late night paper grading sessions.
  • High school teachers: By now, the slower students have become a real challenge. Not only do they refuse to do their assignments and fall even further behind before eventually dropping out of school (and teachers consider every dropout a personal loss, some might even say a failure). But those who remain have by now developed really nasty attitudes (often encouraged at home by parents who still refuse to accept responsibility) and teacher-student confrontations often occur that sometimes become physical, placing the teacher in danger of bodily harm.

So there you have your teacher “deadheads,” Walt. But you know what? Through it all, they persevere at salaries most likely considerably less than what you make, because teaching is not an occupation, it’s a calling, and these educators are dedicated to that calling—something you obviously do not comprehend or care to.

But Walt insists on attaching that label to all public employees. Well, Walt, I was one of those “deadheads” for 20 years, working as a claims adjuster for the Office of Risk Management.

And being completely candid, I was far from being the best adjuster in the office (even though I was once told that I was by a member of management in his somewhat feeble effort at blowing smoke up my toga—some form of weird motivation, I suppose) but despite my many shortcomings (I love writing more than insurance), I still managed to help save the state several millions of dollars in bogus claims. To that end, despite my habitual failure to keep my diary updated and my distaste for insurance, I still managed to justify my salary many, many times over.

Finally, Walter, I would ask that you consider this in the future when dealing with these “deadheads”:

  • When you find a pothole in your street that tears up your vehicle’s front end, call a tea partier, not the highway department—they’re deadheads;
  • Same thing when you observe litter along the streets and highways;
  • When your sewer line backs up because of a lack of maintenance because the deadheads have been laid off, call a tea partier;
  • When you discover rust and other substances in your water line for that same reason, call a tea partier;
  • When your neighbor knocks down your fence and refuses to pay for it, don’t bother filing suit. Those courtroom employees, including the judge, are deadheads. Call a tea partier.
  • When your house catches fire, don’t call the fire department. They’re just a bunch of deadheads. Call the tea partiers;
  • When you or a family member is being assaulted by some thug, the police department, staffed with deadheads, is obviously the wrong call. The tea party will set things right for you.

Count on it.

As for Rep. Morris, his recent comments constitute a classic example of shooting the messenger.

He, like Jindal’s former chief of staff, now president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), Stephen Waguespack (the same one who leaned on Murphy Painter to ignore Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control regulations in that issue over the Budweiser tent at Jindal contributor Tom Benson’s Champion’s Square), doesn’t feel that Bob Mann retains the right of free speech under the First Amendment simply because he’s on the payroll of LSU.

Rep. Morris, you are an attorney and as such you of all people should be at the front of the line to defend that right. Instead, you choose to jump into the fray based on another blog, that of Scott McKay’s The Hayride. http://thehayride.com/2015/03/twitter-tough-guy-bob-mann-takes-on-labi-over-waguespacks-column/

McKay and Morris wax indignant that Mann has the audacity to write—on his own time—a column for the New Orleans Times-Picayune while teaching (this semester) one class because of the necessity to care for his wife who is ill.

Of all things, Morris chooses to compare Mann’s salary to that of a public school teacher who he says works for a paltry $32,000 a year. Well, isn’t it in the legislature’s power to increase those salaries? Has Rep. Morris ever, even once, made a move to raise the pay for teachers? Or instead, was he one of 53 House members who voted to kill House Bill 645 by Rep. Marcus Hunter (D-Monroe) to raise the state minimum wage? See for yourself: HB 645 VOTE

Rep. Morris, you can’t have it both ways: you can’t use teachers’ salaries against Bob Mann if you’ve never attempted to rectify the gaping disparity yourself. That comes under the heading of hypocrite. Don’t be so smug in jumping on Mann’s case as a means of questioning LSU’s budget while defending NLU perhaps because some of that university’s employees might be your constituents whom you don’t want to offend.

Rep. Morris asks the rhetorical question: “How are we polititians (sic) supposed to raise revenue to save higher ed when there might be a whole lot of waste?” Shouldn’t that be a question for you, as a representative of the people, to sort out? Have you and other legislators been asleep at the wheel so long that waste occurs right under your collective, oblivious noses?

If you are so concerned about waste, don’t you think it might have been a good idea for you to have checked the campaign expenditures of Rep. Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge) before you contributed $1,000 to his campaign, and who in turn contributed $1,000 to the campaign of Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales)? Do you really think their expenditures of $15,405 and $9,660, respectively, to purchase of LSU football and softball tickets from 2010 through 2014 was the most judicious use of their campaign funds? Could that perhaps be included in your sanctimonious, somewhat selective definition of waste?

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS:

Recipient     Contributor Description Date Amount
Ponti, Erich E. JOHN C JAY MORRIS III FOR STATE REP  2705 OAK DR MONROE, LA 71201 CONTRIBUTION 6/28/2012 $1,000.00
Recipient     Contributor Description Date Amount
Schexnayder, Clay FRIENDS OF ERICH PONTI CAMPAIGN Thibodeaux Ave Baton Rouge, LA 70806 CONTRIBUTION 11/14/2011 $1,000.00

CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURES:

Candidate   Recipient Description Date Amount
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS PO BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70894-5905 TICKETS 5/13/2014 $3,310.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC TICKET OFFICE BATON ROUGE, LA 2012 FOOTBALL SEASON TICKETS/PARKING 4/20/2012 $3,130.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ATHLETIC ADMINISTRATION BLDG BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 5/5/2013 $3,110.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS c/o Speakers’ Office LA State Capital Baton Rouge, LA 70801 2010 Legislative Football Tickets 4/21/2010 $2,000.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS P.O. BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 4/26/2011 $2,000.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS P.O. BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 6/6/2011 $950.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC TICKET OFFICE BATON ROUGE, LA LSU FOOTBALL TICKETS 1/4/2012 $905.00
Candidate   Recipient Description Date Amount
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ALTHLETIC BLDG BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 TICKETS 4/11/2014 $3,210.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC OFFICE 110 Thomas Boyd Baton Rouge, LA 70808 TAFT donation and tickets 5/23/2012 $3,135.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC OFFICE 110 Thomas Boyd Baton Rouge, LA 70808 tickets 5/22/2013 $3,115.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSUE SOFTBALL 2048 JOHNSON HWY EUNICE, LA 70535 DONATION 12/3/2014 $200.00

We’re just saying people who live in glass houses…

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Senator Daniel R. Martiny's Picture

STATE SEN. DAN MARTINY

C.B. Forgotston may have opened a can of worms…with the unwitting help of State Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie)—and much to Martiny’s chagrin.

Forgotston, you see, is an independent old cuss who used to work for the legislature and he has been serving for a number of years now as an unofficial overseer of all things state government and few events escape his skeptical critique of the actions and motives of elected officials, particularly legislators, or as he calls them, leges.

Called “King of Subversive Bloggers” by no less an expert on cynicism than Baton Rouge Advocate columnist James Gill, Forgotston is beholden to no one and any leges who crosses swords with him does so at his own peril.

Martiny may have found out the hard way when he sent this email to Forgotston Sunday around 4:16 p.m. informing C.B. that his emails to the good senator were no longer welcomed:

From: “Martiny, Sen. (Chamber Laptop)” <dmartiny@legis.la.gov>

To: “C.B. Forgotston” Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2015 16:16:34 -0600 Subject:

Re: Where’s Buddy?

Take me off your list until u do something positive about anyone.

Martiny was responding to Forgotston’s “Where’s Buddy” post in which he took Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to task for the AG’s reluctance to do his job in telling the Caddo Parish Commissioners they are in violation of the Louisiana State Constitution by virtue of their illegal participation in the Caddo Parish retirement system.

Forgotston noted that Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera has done his job in saying commissioners’ participation in the retirement system is illegal but Caldwell, as has been his M.O. since taking office, has been strangely quiet on public corruption.

And while there is certainly nothing wrong in going after free-lance pharmaceutical salesmen (drug dealers), child pornographers and the like, Caldwell has displayed an obvious dislike for making waves in the political waters and has steadfastly run from public corruption cases.

And we know that while the 1974 State Constitution took much of the prosecutorial duties from the attorney general, the AG is still the legal adviser for all state agencies and if nothing else, Caldwell should step forward and whisper in officials’ ears when they are seen skirting the edge of the law. (Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols’ open violation of the state’s public records law comes immediately to mind. So does Auctioneer Board attorney Larry Bankston’s advice to the board to actually refuse to release public records.)

But we digress.

If you notice, Martiny’s message for C.B. to delete future mailings to him was written on his Senate chamber laptop, which some might interpret as an unwillingness on his part to hear from citizens on matters that concern them.

“My periodic mailings address issues of concern to me primarily about state and local government,” Forgotston said on Monday.

“The mailings are sent to each lege via a public server owned by taxpayers. The address to which it is sent is also provided by the taxpayers.”

Forgotston said that after a “gentle reminder,” Martiny, an attorney, relented and acknowledged the provisions of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Other leges may not be as familiar with the First Amendment as is Martiny,” he said. “As a public service, here is some background on the First Amendment which leges might find useful in dealing with members of the public.

“The First Amendment states, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’” (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

The right to freedom of speech, he says, “allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

“The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances guarantees people the right to ask the government to provide relief for a wrong through the courts (litigation) or other governmental action. (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

“Not only do we have a right to contact the leges regarding matters of government, they are prohibited from interfering with our exercise of that right,” Forgotston said. “That includes the blocking of emails as some leges have done in the past.

“Any lege not wishing to receive my communications, please forward me a copy of your letter of resignation from the lege and you will be promptly removed from all future mailings.”

Now, just to give you a little background on Sen. Martiny, who:

  • Fought a bill by State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) which would have prevent legislators from leaving the House or Senate and taking six-figure jobs in order to boost their state retirement. It’s worth noting that several legislators had been appointed to cushy state jobs by the Gov. Bobby administration. Noble Ellington of Winnsboro was named second in command at the Louisiana State Department of Insurance at $150,000 per year; Jane Smith of Bossier City was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Department of Revenue ($107,500), though she admitted she knew nothing about taxes or revenue; Troy Hebert of Jeanerette was named Commissioner of the Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control Board ($107,500); Kay Katz of Monroe, named to the Louisiana Tax Commission ($56,000); former St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis named Director of Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness ($165,000), and former St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro was appointed Director of Hazard Mitigation and Recovery ($150,000).
  • Pushed through an amendment that gutted Senate Bill 84 by Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa), a bill originally designed to protect vulnerable borrowers from predatory payday lenders. Nevers sought to cap payday loan annual interest rates at 36 percent which was an effective way to rein in those lenders who were charging annual percentage rates of up to 700 percent. Martiny’s amendment removed the APR cap and instead simply limited borrowers to 10 short-term loans each year.
  • Pushed through a bill that was subsequently signed by Gov. Bobby which prohibited state contractors from entering into agreements with labor unions, prohibited public entities from remaining neutral toward any labor organization, and prohibited the payment of predetermined or prevailing wages.
  • Introduced a bill that was subsequently signed by Gov. Bobby which re-created 17 state boards, offices and commissions. Louisiana already has far more boards and commissions than any other state but apparently no one saw a need for reducing the number.
  • Introduced a bill subsequently signed into law by Gov. Bobby that gave judges on state district courts, courts of appeal and the Louisiana Supreme court pay raises ranging from 3.7 percent to 5.5 percent—even as Louisiana civil service employees were forced to go without a pay raise for the third straight year.
  • Introduced but later withdrew a bill that would have allowed the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (DED) the authority to offer air carriers a rebate of up to $500 annually for each incremental international passenger flying to or from a state airport for a period of up to five years.
  • Introduced a bill allowing DED to offer tax credits refundable against corporate income and corporate franchise taxes for businesses agreeing to undertake activities to increase the number of visitors to the state by at least 100,000 per year. (We’re beginning to see the problem with the state’s economic incentive tax breaks here).
  • Introduced a bill to provide tax credits for solar energy systems of up to 50 percent of all costs.
  • Introduced a bill that would have allowed the Commissioner of Insurance to fire the Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Advocacy without cause.

Let’s examine that very last one again. Louisiana law provides for the appointment of a deputy commissioner of consumer advocacy by the Commissioner of Insurance.

This is important, provided that person is wholly independent of Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon who gets the bulk of his campaign finances from insurance companies he is supposed to regulate.

Donelon, obviously, cannot be expected to ride herd over his benefactors. That’s just not the way politics works in Louisiana. So a consumer advocate in the department is critical—especially after all those stories about Allstate and State Farm denying legitimate claims from Hurricane Katrina and other tactics such as the Delay, Deny, Defend strategy as taught the insurance companies by Gov. Bobby’s former employer, McKinsey & Co.

The law provides that the consumer advocate may be terminated only for cause.

But Martiny wanted to change that and though the bill did not pass, one has to wonder about his motives.

To learn that, you’d probably have to email him at dmartiny@legis.la.gov

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When it comes to making a distinction between the duties of official public servant and campaign worker during the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal, the lines are often blurred as individuals move back and forth between state and campaign payrolls seamlessly and with few apparent changes in their duties.

Jindal deftly juggled the payroll of his closest advisers between his campaign payroll and taxpayer-funded salaries as part of his staff in his two successful runs for the governor’s office in 2007 and 2011, civil service and campaign records show.

At least three of those moved just as easily from the governor’s office in Louisiana to the re-election campaign of Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2014 and Timmy Teepell moved from Jindal’s 2007 campaign manager to his chief of staff once Jindal took office and he later left briefly to work for the national Republican Governors Association as brother Taylor Teepell moved from advisor to former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to first deputy legislative director and later deputy chief of staff for Jindal.

Timmy Teepell left Jindal’s office following the 2011 election to head up the southern office of OnMessage, a political consulting firm out of Maryland to which Jindal has paid more than $5 million from 2007 through the end of 2013.

Jindal’s campaign paid Teepell $110,000 in 2007 and $120,000 for four months during 2010 (Aug. 1 through Nov. 4) and five months during 2011 (July 1 through Nov. 30) but from Jan. 14, 2008 through July 30, 2010 and from Nov. 5, 2010, through July 1, 2011, he worked as Jindal’s chief of staff at a salary of $165,000 per year—paid by Louisiana taxpayers.

Teepell did receive one payment of $3,880 from Jindal’s campaign on Nov. 11, 2010—10 days after he begin his second stint as Jindal’s chief of staff but the overlap was probably a delayed payment for campaign work done before he re-joined the governor’s staff.

Taylor Teepell, worked for six months in Jindal’s 2007 campaign, earning $29,000 before going to work for former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour who was serving as president of the Republican Governors Association.

Taylor Teepell entered Jindal’s office on Nov. 21, 2011, as older brother Timmy was departing. He first came on board as deputy legislative director at $90,000 but in less than a year, on Oct. 16, 2012, was named deputy chief of staff and given a raise to $130,000, the same salary Jindal makes. This was in the middle of a period in which state classified workers have received no pay raises.

Other attempts by Jindal to shuttle supporters back and forth between campaign and public payrolls are almost laughable in their transparent efforts to make everything appear to be above board.

Take the case of Melissa Sellers who received $35,600 from the Jindal campaign between March 30 and Nov. 8, 2007 and another $12,860 in two separate payments of $6,430 on Oct. 14 and Oct. 24, 2011. Jindal won re-election to his second four-year term on Oct. 22, 2011.

Civil Service records show that Sellers began as a state employee in the governor’s office as press secretary on Jan. 15, 2008—the day after Jindal was inaugurated for his first term—at a salary of $85,000. After being promoted to director of communications and given a raise to $90,000, she resigned on Oct. 7, 2011 but returned to the governor’s office in the same role only 18 days later, on Oct. 25. The campaign payments were during her brief hiatus from the governor’s office.

That means she pulled in $12,860 for working 18 days for Jindal’s campaign—a pay scale of more than $300,000 per year. But if the Oct. 24 represented a 10-day pay period (the first paycheck was on Oct. 14), then her first pay period would have extended at least as far back as Oct. 4—three days before her resignation from her state job. In any case, it appears there may well have been some overlap between the time she started working for the campaign and the date she resigned from the governor’s office.

More significant than her salary, however, was the timing of the move. By that time, Jindal and everyone else in the state knew he would win re-election easily over only token opposition, so what was the purpose of her taking an 18-day break from the governor’s office to work in a campaign that was already in coasting mode?

But then, upon returning to the governor’s office on Oct. 25, she remained barely more than a month, leaving again on Dec. 1, ostensibly to enroll in seminary to study for the ministry—a commitment that apparently did not last very long.

Instead, she next turned up in the re-election campaign of Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and now serves as his chief of staff. Along the way, she managed, along with two other Jindal campaign workers, to become involved in a scandal that resulted in Scott’s firing of popular Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

The three—Sellers and husband and wife team Frank and Meghan Collins—managed to acquire the dubious identity of “The Louisiana Mafia” for the heavy-handed manner in which they attempted unsuccessfully to jerk Bailey around.

They first demanded that state police provide transportation for Scott campaign workers but Bailey refused, explaining that he was obligated by law to provide transportation for the governor and his wife, but not campaign aides.

Next, the Florida Republican Party attempt to foist a $90,000 check onto the FDLE as payment for shuttling campaign workers but Bailey again said no, that it would be inappropriate for his department, which is supposed to be independent of partisan politics, to accept money from a political party.

Scott, or those representing him, then attempted to bring Bailey into a conference call to discuss Scott’s platform for the coming four years but again Bailey declined to involve his department in partisan politics.

And when he complained to Scott’s chief legal counsel, that he had received solicitations for campaign contributions to Scott on his state computer, the attorney, Pete Antonacci, advised him to “just delete” the emails—in violation of Florida law prohibiting the destruction of state records.

And then there is Frank Collins, one of the “Louisiana Mafia,” who should still be smarting from his experience in Jindal’s office.

Paid only $7,500 to work four months in Jindal’s 2007 campaign, he eventually succeeded Sellers as press secretary, but at $65,000—which was $20,000 less than Sellers made for the same position three years earlier. He left on Oct. 6, 2012, and like Sellers and wife Meghan, eventually ended up with Scott’s re-election campaign and now works as Scott’s deputy chief of staff while Meghan Collins is a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education.

Jonathan Ringo is a $110,000-a-year director in the governor’s office who once told Robert Burns—but then denied that he ever said it—that the Office of Inspector General “concurred” in Burns’ removal from the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board. Before bellying up to the public trough, however, he was paid more than $18,000 by Jindal’s 2007 campaign.

Matthew Parker has been director of legislative affairs for the governor’s office at $120,000 per year since Oct. 16, 2012. Before that, from Nov. 28, 2011 until being named to his current position, he was director of intergovernmental affairs at $95,000 per year.

But other than Timmy Teepell, Parker was the highest-paid Jindal campaign staffer, knocking down nearly $35,000 in seven months in 2007 and more than $79,400 in the first 11 months of 2011 for a grand total of more than $114,000.

Perhaps it’s only coincidence that Parker is Timmy Teepell’s brother-in-law.

The two lowest-paid employees in the governor’s office who also worked for his campaign at least have the consolation of getting frequent rides in state police helicopters.

Tyler Brey, who received $18,500 for working for seven months in the 2011 campaign, went on the state dime on March 11, 2013 as a $33,000-per-year external affairs liaison, whatever that fancy title entails. Last Oct. 1, even as state classified employees were going without a pay increase for a fifth consecutive year, Brey received a $1,300-per-year raise to $34,300. Brey also made 42 trips on the state police ‘copter, always accompanying Jindal as his sycophant, to such exotic getaways as Monroe, Springhill, Ruston, Jena, Winnfield, Delhi, and Mansfield, among others.

One of those trips Brey made with Jindal and communications director Kyle Plotkin, was to Minden on Feb. 3, 2013, eight days before he officially became a state employee.

The other frequent flyer was Daniel Kirk, who was paid $24,000 by the Jindal 2007 campaign before joining the governor’s office on Jan. 14, 2008, the same day Jindal was inaugurated for his first term.

He started as a $35,000-a-year administrative assistant and four months later was named a program manager at the same salary. But on Feb. 22, 2010, he was named a director in the governor’s office. It wasn’t altogether clear what a director does, but it must be pretty impressive considering he got a $30,000 bump in pay—to $65,000 but still $45,000 less than fellow director Ringo.

Kirk got to visit some of the same locales as Brey and got the added treat of flying to Georgetown in LaSalle Parish and Kinder in southwest Louisiana. He and Jindal also made a hop to Columbia, home of State Sen. Neil Riser, just about the time U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander was getting ready to announce his retirement so that Riser could run for his seat—unsuccessfully, it turned out.

In all, Kirk made 49 trips with Jindal in the state police helicopters, 19 of those during the 2011 election year and the other 30 in 2010, the year leading up to Jindal’s re-election run.

It’s impossible to say with any certainty that Jindal and his campaign-workers-turned-state-employees were using the state helicopters for campaign purposes, but with Jindal making nearly 200 ‘copter trips in 2010 and 2011, often accompanied by Sellers, Kirk or Timmy or Taylor Teepell or Brey, compared to only 86 during the next three years combined, one has to wonder.

And with the controversy sparked by Sellers and Meghan and Frank Collins in Florida in their attempts to commandeer state vehicles for campaign purposes, one also has to wonder if the “Louisiana Mafia” was only trying to repeat in Florida what they may have done with impunity in Louisiana in 2010 and 2011.

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A report by the Pew Research Center earlier this week indicated the wealth gap between middle- and upper-income households in America continues to widen to record levels. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pew-wealth-gap-20141217-story.html

Congress has just acted to ensure that that record gap between rich and poor continues to grow https://www.ifebp.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=72

And if you think we down here in Louisiana are insulated and unaffected, think again.

The Pew report, drawing on the latest data from the Federal Reserve, says the median wealth for high-income families was $639,400 last year—up 7 percent from three years earlier on an inflation-adjusted basis—while the median income for Louisiana households was reported at $39,622. The figure for Louisiana represented a drop of 19.7 percent from the state’s 1999 peak year of median earnings of about $48,400. http://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/Household-Incomes-by-State.php

In 1983, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was a shade less than 50:1. Today that difference stands at 331:1 and the CEO-to-minimum-wage-worker pay ratio is even more obscene at 774:1. http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/Paywatch-2014

There also is this: http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0711/5-outrageous-ceo-spending-abuses-and-perks.aspx

And yet, even as corporate CEO pay and perks continue to reach stratospheric figures that the average employee can only imagine, Congress took a step last week that could actually lead to a major financial hit for retirees.

If that mammoth spending bill passed by Congress on Dec. 11 escaped your scrutiny, perhaps you should have been paying closer attention. Included in that bill was an obscure amendment which will permit benefit cuts for retirees in one type of pension plan—multi-employer plans jointly run by unions and employers.

By definition, that would mean members of unions who work for several companies. That could conceivably include Teamsters, building trades, longshoremen and any other workers whose unions have working agreements with multiple companies. http://www.wsj.com/articles/pension-change-seen-as-setting-a-precedent-1418586647

Louis Reine, President of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, acknowledged the amendment was inserted as a means of keeping some pension plans that are on shaky footing afloat. At the same time, however, he warned that the move was a “slippery slope” and should be approved “with all due caution and deliberation.”

That’s because now that management has a foot in the heretofore impenetrable door protecting workers’ pensions, the table has been set for even more far-reaching legislation to strip away benefits in other areas, including the public sector.

Remember, it was on Jan. 25, 2012, just three years ago, that Gov. Bobby Jindal, in a speech to the Baton Rotary Club, outlined his plans to “reform the state pension system to keep the state’s promise to workers, protect critical services and save taxpayer dollars.” http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=3220

Among those plans to “protect the state’s promise to workers” was a revamp of the state pension system that would have gutted benefits for state employees. We have often cited here the example of the worker who, if she never received another pay raise, would be eligible to retire after 30 years with a retirement of $39,000 per year. But under Jindal’s plan to “protect” her, that $39,000 would be reduced to $6,000 per year—a $33,000 per year hit—and the employee was not eligible for Social Security or Medicare.

The courts, fortunately for state employees, declared the state’s pension plan a contract which could not be arbitrarily broken by the state, though the state was left free to offer new hires a defined contribution retirement plan as opposed to the defined benefit to which the employee we cited was entitled.

The Wall Street Journal called the amendment to the federal spending bill as a “model for further cuts,” and therein lies the real threat to workers and retirees alike.

Karen Friedman, Executive Vice President of the Pension Rights Center, said the measure would “set a terrible precedent” in that it could encourage similar cutbacks in troubled state and local pension plans and maybe even Social Security and Medicare.

That is a chilling prediction and in all probability, deadly accurate.

The thumbprints of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are all over the amendment and the Koch brothers-run organization isn’t about to stop with gutting the pensions of a few union retirees.

And before anyone tries to claim that business and industry does not have an organized union to represent their interests, we have three words for you: U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And the U.S. Chamber is not only a member of ALEC, but is a major operative within ALEC. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/U.S._Chamber_of_Commerce

In 1971, an obscure corporate attorney named Lewis Powell authored what has come to be known as the Powell Manifesto. In it, he laid out a blueprint for a corporate legislative agenda to his friend Eugene Sydnor, Director of the U.S. Chamber. That memorandum by Powell, written only two months before President Nixon nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy, among others.

Powell’s memo has also served ALEC’s legislative agenda which includes, among other things, the privatization of Social Security and Medicare. http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/

Is it merely a coincidence that Louisiana’s Right to Work law, supported by ALEC and the U.S. Chamber, was passed only five years after Powell’s memorandum and four years after the founding of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI)?

So now, ALEC, the U.S. Chamber, and Republican leaders alike already have Social Security and Medicare in their crosshairs: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/04/republican-social-security-cuts so can other private pension plans be far behind? Will the individual states like Louisiana renew efforts to slash retirement benefits for state employees?

As Louis Reine said, it is indeed a slippery slope and once the momentum moves in that direction, it will be virtually impossible to reverse.

And it’s important to remember that while public employees’ retirement benefits are at risk, the opening salvo has been aimed at private pension benefits. If they can pull that off, the rest will simply be low-hanging fruit.

Are you willing to take to the streets to defend what is rightfully yours?

How much is your retirement worth to you?

These questions are not hypothetical.

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