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By Monique Harden (Special to LouisianaVoice)

Before state lawmakers on the Louisiana House of Representatives Education Committee on May 7 unanimously agreed to pass House Bill 180, which would prohibit the building of a new school on a waste site, an official with the LA Department of Environmental Quality gave a full-throated defense of the department’s astounding decision to do just the opposite.

The LDEQ gave the thumbs up to a plan by the Recovery School District to build a new school on the old Clio Street/Silver City Dump in New Orleans. According to Chance McNeely, an Assistant Secretary at the LDEQ who spoke to the Education Committee, the LDEQ uses “the safest, most stringent standard,” but “didn’t find anything that pointed to a toxic landfill or dump site there.” This conclusion is absurd. Governmental records show that this dump received more than 150 tons of waste on a daily basis and operated from the late 1890s to the late 1930s. According to the technical reports prepared by environmental consulting firms working for the RSD, which the LDEQ purportedly reviewed, the site of this former waste dump remains contaminated to this day. These reports show “unacceptable levels” of toxins at the ground surface down to 15 feet below ground that exceed the risk-based standard for residential use and would “pose a risk to children occupying the site.”

It is more than eye-opening that the LDEQ would turn a blind eye to information showing the existence of the Clio Street/Silver City Dump and revealing present-day soil contamination that can harm human health. The LDEQ lacks credibility in concluding that it is safe to build a school on a waste dump.

When McNeely discouraged the idea of avoiding the health risks at the former waste dump by looking at an alternative school site he raised the ire of Representative Wesley Bishop from New Orleans.  McNeely suggested that “probably the same thing” would be found at the alternative site as was found at the former waste dump.  When Rep. Bishop asked McNeely to explain why, McNeely admitted that he was not familiar with the alternative site.  Showing his frustration with McNeely, Rep. Bishop declared, “You’re not making any sense.”

Perhaps the only “sense” driving the LDEQ’s apparent opposition to House Bill 180 is the pressure of approving the RSD’s plan to build the school on the former waste dump in order for the RSD to collect $69 million dollars from FEMA.  According to McNeely, “FEMA requires that, if you’re gonna spend that money, you gotta confirm that there’s not a contamination that would be a danger.”

 Monique Harden is an attorney and co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, a public interest law firm in New Orleans, LA.

…And for the record, we have, courtesy of Ms. Harden, the transcript of the testimony of Chance McNeely, assistant secretary, Office of Environmental Compliance, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

You may remember Chance McNeely, who moved over from the governor’s office (with a big raise) to become the DEQ Environmental Compliance Officer while simultaneously attending law school. Here are links to some of our earlier posts about Chance:

http://louisianavoice.com/2015/01/13/if-you-think-chance-mcneelys-appointment-to-head-deq-compliance-was-an-insult-just-get-a-handle-on-his-salary/

http://louisianavoice.com/2015/01/12/taking-a-chance-on-chance-or-how-i-stopped-worrying-and-learned-to-love-the-proposed-m6-open-burn-at-camp-minden/

http://louisianavoice.com/2015/01/14/environmental-compliance-head-mcneeley-once-worked-for-gop-rep-luetkemeyer-who-leads-the-way-in-science-denial/

TRANSCRIPT OF STATEMENT ON HOUSE BILL No. 180

by

CHANCE McNEELY, ASSISSTANT SECRETARY

OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE

LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY

(We have attempted to edit out numbers that do not belong. If we missed any and you see numbers that look out of place, ignore them; they’re just the line numbers for the official transcript.)

Chance McNeely: “I would just say. If I may just give you a little bit of history that you guys may already be aware of, but I’ll just proceed anyway. Obviously, we had the Industrial Revolution in the last century. And all of that pre-dated any environmental regulations or laws. So in the sixties and seventies, we started environmental regulations. And so, in the time between there, we obviously had contamination that would take place in various locations. This is not unique to Louisiana. This is something that every state deals with. And so, I just, I guess my comment would be that the point of RECAP [Risk Evaluation and Corrective Action Plan] is to put sites back into commerce. And if RECAP says that it’s, if our system shows that it’s safe, we stand by that system. And I think it’s important for y’all to be aware that there are statewide implications for this bill.

Rep. Carmody: Mr. McNeely, you’re with the Department of Environmental Quality. In these situations where – again, I’m not familiar with the areas in New Orleans were talking about here – but these former sites, impacted sites, the school has then come back over at some point and built on top of them. And the [unintelligible] I was just kind of given was that the remediation plan, I guess presented, has gone through DEQ approval process to say that in order to address the concerns regarding the high standards for some of these chemicals to a depth of – whatever it was – three feet, this has to be removed. And then at that point, encapsulation on top of that should create a barrier to prevent the migration of any of these chemicals. Correct?

Chance McNeely: That’s right. I mean, it’s essentially taking three feet of dirt out, 40 putting six feet of dirt in. Well, before you put the six feet of dirt in, you put a layer – like a fabric –so if you ever dig down and hit that, you know to stop. There’ll be six feet of dirt on top of that that’s clean. And then most of the facility, you know, it’s going to be the school built on top of it. So, there’s not, I assume that there, I think there is going to be some grass area, but a lot of it’s going to be covered with the building.

Rep. Carmody: Do all of these qualify as Brownfields sites?

Chance McNeely: Ummm

Rep. Carmody: And the reason I guess I’m asking you that question is that if it’s a Brownfields site, you don’t go all the way to the bottom of that hole until you finished digging out everything you find, is it?

Chance McNeely: Right. And that’s part of RECAP, where they evaluate all the factors. For schools, it’s treated like residential standards. So this is the safest, most stringent standard for remediation that we have. And we stand by it. So does the EPA. We kind of lead the nation in RECAP. We got a great program. And so it’s, again, we do stand by our standards and say that it is safe.

Rep. Carmody: Just to clarify, you’re here for informational purposes only as a representative of the Department of Environmental Quality.

Chance McNeely: That’s correct.

Rep. Patricia Smith: Question I have for you is when you mitigate a particular site do you inform anyone who’s building there what’s there? Are they aware when they first build 60 of what is actually in the ground?

Chance McNeely: I guess the way to explain that – I’ll use the example that we’re talking about. So the Recovery School District is being funded by the feds, FEMA. FEMA requires that, if you’re gonna spend that money, you gotta confirm that there’s not a contamination that would be a danger. And so, RSD does sampling. We have oversight of that. That’s how we got involved in this is that FEMA requires RSD to make sure that the site is okay. And so that’s how the sampling got done and we got involved. Again, we have oversight. We approved all the sampling plans, everything like that. We run it through our RECAP system to determine, you know, the risks. I’ll also point out and I’ll say that, you know, the sampling that came back was consistent with urbanization throughout the, you know, 1900s. We didn’t find anything that pointed to a toxic landfill or dump site there. So, you know, we’re talking about lead. Lead is the primary thing that we found. And we all know there’s lots of sources of lead, you know, that have existed. And you’re gonna pretty much find that in a lot of urban areas.

Rep. Smith: Well, the question I have though is the school opened in 1942. I’m sure that folks knew it was a dump site at that time. 1942 standards compared to 2015 standards ought to be quite different.

Chance McNeely: They are. There were no standards back then.

Rep. Smith: There probably were no standards. You’re absolutely right. Therefore, there ought to be more stringent standards when we’re looking at something that was already there to be able to determine whether or not anything was emitted from it. You got samples. Did you go all the way down to the 15 foot level for any samples that you know of?

Chance McNeely: I believe we did. I believe we went all the way down. It’s either 12 or 15 feet, I believe.

Rep. Smith: But even if you build and you’re looking at only the three foot level, what’s to say that you cannot disturb what’s under the layer that you put in there? There’s nothing to say that. A bulldozer or something can go farther down – just like folks hit water lines, gas lines, you know, that are underground. So, what’s to say that it doesn’t go beyond that?

Chance McNeely: Again, dig down three feet. Put that fabric in. If you ever get to that point, you see it, and you know you’re supposed to stop. But, during construction, we’re talking about constructing on top of six feet of clean, new soil. And so, the reason you need six feet is out of an abundance of caution. You know, if they had any kind of pipe burst or something that it would be in that six feet of barrier without ever having to down 95 to the area that has any contamination.

Rep. Smith: I guess because of the fact that dump sites and waste sites, Brownfields, and all these are mostly in urban, African American communities. That when we begin to build that’s where we’re building. When we begin to build and looking at trying to replace schools that often times they’re not many places to go unless we look for new 100 sites outside of the urban areas where these have been located and that’s an atrocity in itself. We know that.

Chance McNeely: My response to that would be we’re on the same page. The point of a Brownfields program and RECAP is to put contaminated properties back into commerce. We don’t want to have to build schools for the children of New Orleans way 105 outside of town. We want them to be in town. And there’s contamination in town that we address through RECAP.

Rep. Wesley Bishop: Quick question for you. I am familiar with this area. I am familiar with this district. It’s in my district. And the one thing that stands, I think, as a stark testament as to why we should not be doing this is Moton School. Moton School is in my district. Reason why I know is because my mother-in-law is the principal of Moton Elementary School. And when you look at it right now, you drive in my district, that school has sat there abandoned for years for the very same concerns that we’re talking about. You put that same remediation piece in place. You remediate this particular area, it would actually make it good. The one thing no one has been able to answer for me is why in the world do we have this conversation when we talk about our kids. I can’t figure that one out. My understanding and, Representative Bouie, correct me if I’m wrong, this situation came about based upon the Booker T. Washington High School. I’m also saying also that there is a $40 million budget to erect a new Booker T. Washington High School. I understand that there are some alumni, who have some concerns as to whether or not this will slow down the process. And that’s a valid concern because we’re many years beyond Hurricane Katrina and it’s still not built. But I also understand that there is an alternative site that’s present right now that you could build this very school on right now. Only $4 million has been spent to remediate this process. So, basically you eat the $4 million. As an attorney, it makes sense to eat the $4 million. Because if you don’t and you build this school, the number of lawsuits you’re going to face based upon parents [unintelligible] sent their kids into what most folks consider to be harm’s danger would pale in comparison. Rep. Bouie, can you talk a little bit about the alternative site that’s available for the building of this school?

Rep. Bouie: [Discussion of the Derham School property as an alternative site.] 

Chance McNeely: If I may, if it’s the pleasure, if it’s determined that the site has to move, my understanding would be that, you know, FEMA would still require sampling. And I’ll just tell you they’re probably going to find the same thing they found [stops].

Rep. Bishop: But is there reason to believe that a landfill [unintelligible] at the new site? 

Chance McNeely: I’m not familiar with that site.

Rep. Bishop: You’re not making any sense. How do you get to interject that into the argument when you have no reason to believe that that’s the case?

Chance McNeely: Because what we found through sampling at the current site has nothing to do with a landfill. It has to do with is standard urbanization: lead. It’s not, we 140 didn’t find anything that said, “Oh, there was a hazardous landfill here.”

Rep. Bishop: I disagree with you totally, sir.

Chance McNeely: Ok.

Rep. Bishop: I disagree with you. I know you gotta job to do and gotta come and make this argument, but I totally disagree with what you said.

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Ask a typical Louisiana legislator about his compensation, and you’ll likely get the usual story that the part-time status assigned to lawmakers is a myth. You’re likely to hear all kinds of horror stories about how they have to travel to Baton Rouge, some from as far away as Shreveport, to tend to state business.

But for many legislators, there are conspicuous gaps in those tales of woe.

They will tell you those trips to the state capital are not limited to the legislative sessions (85 days in even-numbered years, 60 days in odd-numbered years), that they attend committee meetings year-round.

All that is true enough but when they do travel to Baton Rouge, they receive per diem that averages around $150 per day (the rate is tied to the federal reimbursement rate and fluctuates accordingly), plus mileage.

But as always when a politician is talking, it’s best to listen carefully to what he doesn’t say.

Bear in mind that they collect the $150 or so per diem for all 85 days in even years even though lawmakers rarely meet on Fridays and never on weekends or Memorial Day, meaning there are as many as 37 days in even years and 24 days in odd years on which they do not meet but are paid.

Still, they will tell you the $16,800 per year in salary is a pittance for the work they do. Never mind the $500 per month in vouchered expenses and $1,500 per month in unvouchered expense they receive, bring their total compensation to something a little north of $50,000 per year.

And granted, that’s not much when you consider the time they are required to take from their regular jobs.

But there’s a dirty little secret they don’t—and won’t—tell you.

And that is 27 of 39 current senators (69 percent) and 52 of 104 representatives (exactly half) access campaign contributions to elevate them to lifestyles the average person can only dream of.

You might think campaign funds would be used exclusively for campaign-related expenses but you would be wrong. Louisiana legislators (and many other office holders as well, including mayors, sheriffs and state officials) regularly spend campaign funds on such things as tickets to big-time athletic events, lavish meals, and extensive travel.

And then there’s the story of Sen. Sherri Buffington (R-Shreveport). In January of 2004, she was Sherri Smith Cheek and she and her then-husband, Jon Cheek, traveled to New Orleans to attend the NCAA national championship football game between LSU and Oklahoma but forgot his tickets.

No problem. Sherri Smith Cheek, a freshman senator, simply called State Police and arranged for a Pony Express-type relay by state troopers from Shreveport to New Orleans to deliver the six tickets. When word of the special deliver leaked out, she expressed her regret (don’t they always feel just awful—after they’re caught?) and said she would repay State Police $448.50, based on her computation of 12 hours of trooper pay. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1060246/posts

A check of her campaign expense records, however, revealed no such payment to State Police. That, however, does not preclude her having paid the money from personal funds.

But those same campaign expense records show that Sherri Smith Cheek Buffington (she has re-married) did spend $20,548 on LSU football tickets between 2009 and 2014.

In fact, 22 senators and 36 members of the House spent $577,839 on LSU tickets from 2003 to 2014, according to campaign expense records. The breakdown was 22 senators ($240,678) and 36 representatives ($337,161). LSU ATHLETICS

Buffington’s $20,548 was not the most spent on LSU tickets by a legislator, however. Not even close.

Nine others outspent her on tickets to Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium. They include the $30,170 by Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco), ($28,745 by Sen. Norby Chabert (R-Houma), $25,414 by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), $23,984 by Rep. Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette), $23,026 by Rep. Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe), $21,924 by Sen. Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan), $21,856 by Sen. Dale Erdey (R-Livingston), $21,680 by Rep. Patrick Connick (R-Marrero), and $20,942 by Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego).

Nor were tickets to athletic events limited to LSU.

Other expenditures will be explored in more depth in subsequent posts. To give you an idea of how legislators develop a sense of entitlement while denying increases in the minimum wage, voting down equal pay for women bills, rejecting Medicaid that would provide expanded healthcare to the state’s lower income citizens and generally falling all over each other in an effort to be front and center in sacrificing higher education and state hospitals at the altar of Bobby Jindal, here’s a teaser on other campaign fund expenditures:

  • Six senators and three House members combined to spend $46,417 on New Orleans Saints tickets since 2003; NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
  • Seven members of the Senate and two representatives combined to shell out $37,093 on tickets to New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans NBA basketball games over the same time span; NEW ORLEANS HORNETS  NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
  • Twenty-two members of the Legislature (11 each from the House and Senate) combined to use $35,494 in campaign funds for Sugar Bowl football and NCAA basketball tournament tickets; SUGAR BOWL  NCAA REGIONALS
  • Twenty-seven members (eight from the Senate and 19 from the House) paid out $61,606 for out-of-state travel (even though none of the members were seeking office outside Louisiana); TRAVEL
  • Members of the two chambers managed to spend some $380,000 on meals—much of that for campaign supporters and workers, which technically, would be campaign-related and permissible, but a sizable chunk of which appears to be for less noble purposes. RESTAURANTS  MEALS

The State Ethics Board has issued several opinions on campaign fund spending limitations over the years and some of those opinions have specifically addressed the expenditure of campaign funds for personal use. Those opinions, which would seem to prohibit use of funds for athletic events, etc., will be discussed in upcoming posts.

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dis·crim·i·na·tion

dəˌskriməˈnāSH(ə)n/

noun:

The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things.

Synonyms: prejudice, bias, bigotry, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, unfairness, inequity, favoritism, one-sidedness, partisanship;

hyp·o·crite

ˈhipəˌkrit/

noun:

A person who indulges in hypocrisy (see: Legislature)

sub·ser·vi·ent

səbˈsərvēənt/

adjective

prepared to obey others unquestioningly.

Synonyms: submissive, deferential, compliant, obedient, dutiful, biddable, docile, passive, unassertiveInformal: under someone’s thumb (see: Legislators, Norquist)

What is it about this time of year that turns a group of men and women into blithering idiots, incapable of comprehending the inconsistencies they perpetuate in the name of good government?

Take House Bill 418 by Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette) and SB 204 by Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie), for two prime examples. HB 418 SB204

Both bills, being pushed hard by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (read: Bobby Jindal), would abolish forbid payroll deductions for public employee unions.

Stephen Waguespack, who previously worked in Jindal’s 2007 campaign and later served as Jindal’s executive counsel and chief of staff, is president of LABI.

Jindal, looking more and more like Scott Walker with each passing day, apparently wants to emulate the Wisconsin governor who recently said if he were elected president, he would “crush” all unions. http://thinkprogress.org/election/2015/05/04/3654397/scott-walker-says-crush-whats-left-american-unions-elected-president/

“I feel it unethical for taxpayers to pay an individual to deduct union dues when they are not exactly sure what the union dues are for,” sniffed Bishop, apparently oblivious to approved payroll deductions for the Louisiana United Way which may support causes the donor might not wish to endorse. http://theadvocate.com/news/12063375-123/payroll-deduction-for-unions-under

Bishop may also have overlooked the question of ethics involved in his expenditure of $6,240 in campaign funds for LSU football tickets in 2012 and 2013. (Note: one of the entries for April 26, 2013 is a duplicate and should not be counted.)

http://ethics.la.gov/CampaignFinanceSearch/SearchResultsByExpenditures.aspx

Martiny, other than introducing SB 204, has been largely silent on the issue. Perhaps, unlike Bishop, he is hesitant to utter the word “ethical” in light of his own campaign expenditures which eclipse those of his House counterpart.

Campaign finance records show that that Martiny has dipped into $107,475 of his campaign funds to pay for such non-campaign-related expenditures as athletic events, meals, air travel, lodging and casinos.

Here is the breakdown on just the athletic events: Tickets for LSU football ($28,823), New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans ($22,680), New Orleans Saints ($22,670), the 2006 NCAA basketball regionals ($1,480), the 2004 Nokia Sugar Bowl ($600)—altogether, a combined expenditure of $76,252. Additionally, there were unspecified expenditures of $864 for “Augusta” (the Masters Golf Tournament, perhaps?) and $590 for Ticketmaster.

Other “campaign” expenditures for Martiny included $7,300 for furniture, $5926 for hotel and resort accommodations, $4,348 for air fare, $5,705 for nine meals, an average of $634 per lobster (mostly at Ruth’s Chris in Metairie), $1,500 for an apparent membership at Pontchartrain Yacht Club, and $5,000 at two truck stop casinos.

To be fair, he did chip in $4,500 for the Better Government Political Action Committee though it was unclear whose better government he was trying to promote.

In an incredible stretch, supporters of the measures linked union dues to abortion clinics when one supporter said the dues could end up supporting such organizations as Planned Parenthood.

Brigitte Nieland, LABI vice president for workforce development, said Louisiana taxpayers are supporting the automatic collection of dollars to go and fund projects that they say they do not support.”

But opponents say the bills are just measures to gut unions and to silence workers by handing more power to big corporations. “It is a way of getting unions out of the way of these large corporations and state political or legislative agendas that are not education or education-friendly,” said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators.

Voters might be able to conjure up a bit more respect for lawmakers if they would just be honest and say they are trying to destroy public employee unions.

But they just can’t seem to be able to admit that. Instead they create phantom arguments such as preventing members from being forced to spend dues on causes that they oppose and, most implausible, that it eases the burden on the state to collect the dues.

Unless you happen to be LABI member Lane Grigsby. Bob Mann recently had a post on his Something Like the Truth blog in which Grigsby said on video (since removed from LABI’s website—did LABI learn transparency from Bobby Jindal?), “When you cut off the unions’ funding, they lose their stroke.” http://bobmannblog.com/2015/05/06/labi-leader-caught-on-video-paycheck-protection-bill-is-fatal-spear-to-the-heart-of-teacher-unions/

Aha! We may at long last have found that honest man Diogenes went searching for with his lamp (until he hit the halls of the Louisiana Legislature at which point he found it necessary to search for his stolen lamp). Anyone seen Scott Walker lurking around the State Capitol?

Why would legislators single out just one payroll deduction when there are literally dozens that are approved by the state?

Approved plans include payroll deductions for savings programs, life insurance, disability insurance, dental insurance, health insurance, the United Way, Secretary of State employees’ Association, Louisiana Wildlife Agents Association, Louisiana State Police Honor Fund, Louisiana State Police Officers Association, Louisiana State Troopers Association, Louisiana Society of Professional Engineers, Fire Marshal Association of Louisiana, Deferred Compensation plans, Probation and Parole Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 50, and….well, you get the picture.

If you really want to know why it’s so important, you need only read the endorsement by none other than Grover Norquist of Washington, D.C., head of Americans for Tax Reform, the man and organization who gives the marching orders (read: no-tax pledge) to legislators and governors all across the country, including Louisiana. https://www.atr.org/louisiana-labor-committee-passes-paycheck-protection-bill

“HB 418 saves taxpayer dollars by taking the government out of the dues collection business,” Norquist says. “No more administrative or financial resources will be used by state government to funnel money to unions that, in turn, often use that very money to work against the interests of Louisiana taxpayers. If the unions want the money, they will have to ask for it themselves.”

And oh, such a financial burden it is for a completely automated, computerized and untouched by human hands system to deduct those nasty dues.

That’s selective reasoning at best.

The House Labor & Industrial Relations Committee, by a 9-6 vote, has approved Bishop’s bill which now goes to the full House for debate.

So now we know for certain that nine members of that committee are still taking their marching orders from Norquist and Jindal.

Here are the committee members. Talk about a stacked deck. http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Cmtes/Labor.aspx

We share the sentiments expressed by Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) that the legislature has more important matters on its plate than spending time trying to inflict yet more punishment on the state’s teaching profession.

Like a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

And yes, we are keenly aware that there were and still are abuses of power in the labor movement. But given the conditions of American labor before the birth of the union movement, I will opt for dealing with those abuses. I would rather not see women and children confined in sweat shops for 12 yours a day for starvation wages. I would rather not see those trying to stand up for their rights clubbed by goons hired by the robber barons. I would rather not see consumers sold rotten meat by the meat packing plants depicted in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

Yes, of course there were abuses in the labor movement. There still are. And there’s not in the halls of government and on Wall Street? In case you haven’t been watching the pendulum has swung far back in the other direction—too far. Corporations wield far more power today than labor. Don’t believe it? Look at the campaign contributions. Compare what Labor gives to what corporations give to the PACs. Check out who has bought the most elections over the past 40 years. And don’t even try to play the corruption card.

But Grover’s will must be done for his is the power and the glory forever.

Amen.

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There comes a time when those surround Bobby Jindal must return to earth and come to grips with a realistic fact about their boy.

Pick one:

  1. He cannot seriously consider himself real presidential timber;
  2. His quest for POTUS is simply a cruel joke he’s playing on the rest of us;
  3. He told an unforgivable lie when he said, “I have the job I want”;
  4. He has no clue as to how to govern a state, let along an entire nation;
  5. The little boy should never try on big boy pants;
  6. He may actually be qualified to lead the Stupid Party;
  7. All of the above.

The correct answer is….well, you know.

As Jindal’s numbers continue to shrink to less than single-digits in GOP presidential preference polls, his efforts to garner attention have ramped up accordingly and in the process, have made him a national—if not international—laughingstock.

His handlers should take note and rein him in—for his own sake. While once fun to watch him as he writhes and issues forth preposterous utterances, people are starting to exchange nervous, embarrassed glances. It’s kind of like the drunk uncle you want to keep away from reunions, weddings, funerals and any other social gatherings—at all costs—in order to prevent his bringing further shame on the family.

That’s what happens when you have someone who doesn’t know when to shut up or when he’s had too much to drink—in Jindal’s case, some unknown Kickapoo ego-boosting joy juice that has him convinced he’s democracy’s answer to the rest of the world (Hint: George W. Bush already tried that and it didn’t work).

In recent weeks, we have seen the following:

And even before the recent rash of brashness on his part, Jindal set the tone right after the 2012 presidential election loss by Mitt Romney when he said the Republican Party needed to “stop being the stupid party.” http://thehill.com/video/in-the-news/279243-jindal-republicans-must-stop-being-the-stupid-party

There seems to be no end to his string of banalities—unless one wishes to include his duties as governor of Louisiana. In that case, he appears to have punted, to have taken a powder, abdicated, as it were.

But for the true picture of the depth of his silliness, we need to go all the way back to February 2, 2005, and then-President George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address—a full four years before Jindal’s disastrous Republican response to the Obama State of the Union Address.

The 2005 Jindal was in stark contrast to the January 2015 Jindal.

In 2005, then-U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal drew national attention (what else is new?) when he provided a bowl of purple ink for members of Congress to dip their index fingers in and to hold the fingers aloft during Bush’s address as a show of solidarity with Iraqi citizens who had voted in elections in that country. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1683&dat=20050203&id=GSQqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Q0UEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6546,792517

“We all watched with joy as Iraqis dipped their fingers in ink and held them high, proudly proclaiming to the world that they had voted,” Jindal said rather naively in a letter to fellow congressmen as he somewhat prematurely launched his one-man celebration of the birth of democracy in Iraq.

That was then.

This is now:

That experiment in democracy apparently did not take in Iraq as the country anticipates a bloodbath between the Sunni and Shiite factions, a rift that pre-dates American democracy by some 1100 years and shows no signs of going away. http://www.cfr.org/peace-conflict-and-human-rights/sunni-shia-divide/p33176#!/

As if that were not enough, our friend C.B. Forgotston points out that today’s (Monday) Baton Rouge Advocate quotes Louisiana Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield as saying that he “has already been in talks with Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform to see if the group would consider replacing revenue lost from local inventory taxes with increased collection of remote sales tax revenue neutral.http://theadvocate.com/news/11837337-123/st-james-leaders-brace-for

That’s correct. The administration consults with Norquist before making any decision on the state’s budgetary matters or before even going to the restroom. A governor who is the self-proclaimed expert on all matters dealing with foreign policy apparently cannot make a decision on Louisiana issues without the nod of approval of the most powerful unelected official in America. As Forgotston pointed out this morning, “A group out of D.C. is in talks with Team Jindal on how to tax us.  If the legislators had any courage or self-respect, they’d shut this down NOW!” You simply can’t make this stuff up, he says.

But, hey, our governmental sage has a bowl of purple ink for anyone who’s interested.

To paraphrase our former governor Bobby Jindal, “at the end of the day,” you have “two things:”

  • One, we have a man who, though he repeated ad-nauseam during his first term that he “has the job he wanted” and then proceeded to spend all of his second term chasing the job he really wants to such a degree as to abandon any pretense of being governor.
  • Two, by admitting that the administration has been in talks with Grover Norquist, the tea party guru who doesn’t even live in Louisiana and never has, Barfield has openly acknowledged what we all knew: that Jindal has never—repeat, never—been his own man, and never will be. He is beholden to big business and the no-tax-under-any-condition mantra that the corporate world cherishes.

We can only conclude that he has been snorting too much Koch.

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State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux) has revealed an ambitious set of bills he will be pre-filing preparatory to the 2015 legislative session, a couple or which are almost certain to be vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal should they survive both chambers intact.

The 60-day 2015 session convenes at noon on April 13 and will adjourn at 6 p.m. on June 11.

Vetoes are nothing new to Richard and in fact, one of his bills rejected by Jindal last years in hindsight represents a moral victory for Richard and something of an embarrassment for Jindal.

House Bill 142 (HB-142) passed both the House and Senate unanimously last year and was vetoed by Jindal only to see Jindal find it necessary to implement at least part of the bill through an executive order last month.

Passing 84-0 in the House (with 20 members not voting) and 37-0 in the Senate (with two not voting), HB-142 would have provided for a 10 percent reduction of all state professional, personal and consulting service contracts. The bill further provided that the savings from the cuts be deposited into the Higher Education Financing Fund.

State Treasurer John Kennedy, Richard was quick to point out, has been recommending slashing state contracts for several years and has been all but ignored by the administration but now even Jindal has ordered that state contracts be cut but not so higher education could be funded but instead to attempt to plug the growing chasm that is the state budget deficit.

Jindal, for his part, says he will offer legislators “suggested solutions” to ease the budget crisis which now is projecting a deficit of $1.6 million. http://theadvocate.com/sports/preps/11454861-123/jindal-says-hell-suggest-options

First of all, wasn’t that why he hired Alvarez and Marsal (A&M) Consulting for a cool $7 million? We were under the impression that A&M was going to find all these wonderful ways for the state to save money.

Second, the governor is the state’s CEO and as such, is charged with the leadership of the state. After all, Gov. Kathleen Blanco came under withering criticism for the manner in which she handled the crisis of Katrina. Jindal appears no less befuddled and clueless in his approach to the state’s budgetary crisis and now, after seven years of telling lawmakers what he wanted done, he punts to them.

Of course, it’s difficult to fight Islam in Europe, run for president and hold prayer meetings that fail miserably in filling all the seats in the venue while governing the state.

Only yesterday (Monday, Feb. 2), Kennedy broke the news that Moody’s Investors Service had issued a warning that reductions in revenue estimates by the Revenue Estimating Conference constituted a “credit negative for the state” and that the ratings service may downgrade the state’s credit outlook from stable to negative.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/7el18uxosj11pi1/Louisiana%20Oil%20Plunge%2002%2002%202015.pdf?dl=0&utm_source=Moody’s+Press+Release++020215&utm_campaign=Moody’s+2-2-15&utm_medium=email

Kennedy said the next procedural step would be a rating downgrade that would make it more difficult for the state borrow money and cost the state higher interest for money it does borrow.

And lest Jindal attempt to blame the latest fiscal woes on the drop in oil prices, Moody’s pointedly noted that the state’s problems pre-date the fall in oil prices—by several years. “As the U.S. economy picked up steam,” the Moody’s analysis said, “Louisiana had muted job growth even before the oil price decline.”

“This is what happens when you spend more than you take in,” Kennedy said. “Moody’s is telling us that we’d better get our fiscal house in order or we are going to be downgraded, which will cost taxpayers dearly in higher interest rates on our bonded indebtedness.”

The Moody’s news comes on top of earlier reports that health care and higher education will probably suffer even deeper cuts than the $180 million in reductions made over the past two months. The state’s colleges and universities have been told to expect at least $300 million in further budget cuts during the next fiscal year even as the Department of Health and Hospitals is expected to have $250 million slashed from its budget.

Jindal has even had to renege on his pledge last year to create a $40 million incentive fund to pay for college programs that provide graduates for high-demand jobs in Louisiana. Once considered one of his highest priorities, he has yanked that money away before the ink was dry on the bill that created the program.

All this has had a cumulative effect leading up to what promises to be a tumultuous legislative session as lawmakers grope for ways to keep from cutting services while at the same time being able to keep the lights on.

One trial balloon, already rejected by Jindal, would be for the state to roll back some of the billions of dollars in corporate and industrial tax breaks but Richard is not ready to accept the governor’s dismissal of that idea just yet.

This year, Richard has an agenda even more ambitious than his across-the-board 10 percent cut in contracts last year. Remember, that bill, HB-142 was passed unanimously in each chamber but vetoed by Jindal because, the governor said, the bill “could hinder the state’s efforts to continue to provide its citizens with timely, high quality services.”

In hindsight, however, it would appear his signing that bill into law would not have hindered the delivery of services nearly so much as not having the funds to pay for the services in the first place. The only thing not hindered by his veto was uninterrupted payments to the contractors.

Among Richard’s bills to “re-establish the legislative branch of government” are bills:

  • For an automatic veto session. Currently, legislators are mailed forms to complete and return indicating whether or not they want to hold a special session to consider overriding the governor’s veto(es). “If a bill passes with a two-thirds vote or better and the governor vetoes it, there would be an automatic veto session convened and legislators wouldn’t have to vote for it,” he said.
  • To eliminate the line item veto. “This will be a hard row to hoe,” Richard admitted. “But the governor has always held the line item veto over legislators’ heads as a means of getting what he wanted. This bill would change that.” Former President Bill Clinton pushed through a bill giving him the line item veto during his administration but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional.
  • To establish a capital outlay oversight committee. “We need to eliminate all NGOs,” he said, referring to the tradition of the legislature appropriating funds for NGOs, or non-government organizations such as baseball parks, golf courses, local court houses, city halls, councils on aging, etc. “These should be financed at the local level. If the local people want these things, they will pass bond issues to pay for them. That should not be the responsibility of the legislature. Before we look at raising more revenue, we need to cut spending,” he said. “John Kennedy has said many times that we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem, and he’s correct.”
  • To change the makeup of the House Appropriations Committee. “Appropriations has 27 members. That’s way too many,” he said. Richard said he would like to see it reduced in size to 15 members with three members from each of the five Public Service Districts in the state. “That would guarantee representation from each area of the state,” he said.
  • To eliminate the Homestead Exemption. “We need to get rid of all tax exemptions,” he said. “We give away $2 billion a year in industrial and corporate tax exemptions.”

Richard said he knows his bills will be fought by special interests and by the governor. “But Jindal has done nothing in seven years,” he said. “It’s time the Legislature re-asserted itself as an equal partner in governing this state.”

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