Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

Bobby Jindal as a reform governor in favor of transparency, accountability, integrity, honesty, and ethics, is a joke. A cruel joke.

There, we’ve said it. The man is a chameleon. If you threw him into a big box of crayons, he would explode from system overload.

He says he is for transparency but then he hides behind the deliberative process that he pushed through the legislature shortly after taking office.

Apparently, he also is now hiding behind Troy Hebert, director of the Alcohol and Tobacco Control Agency.

Jindal claims he will not tolerate any compromise of ethics.

To put it bluntly, he lies.

Take House Bill 387 by Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington) for example.

It passed the House unanimously, 100-0 with five members not voting.

On Wednesday, the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee unceremoniously deferred the bill without objection and with virtually no discussion.

All HB 387 would have done was protect state whistleblowers from reprisals.

The bill said, in part:

• Any public employee who provides information to a legislator or to a legislative committee upon request of a legislator or legislative committee shall be free from discipline, reprisal or threats of discipline or reprisal by the public employer for providing such information;

• No public employee with authority to hire, fire, or discipline employees, supervisor, agency head, nor any elected official shall subject to reprisal or threaten to subject to reprisal any public employee because of the employee’s disclosure of information to a legislator or legislative committee upon request of a legislator or legislative committee;

• If any public employee is suspended, demoted, dismissed, or threatened with suspension, demotion, or dismissal as an act of reprisal in violation of this Section, such employee shall report such action to the Board (of Governmental Ethics);

• An employee who is wrongfully suspended, demoted, or dismissed shall be entitled to reinstatement of his employment and entitled to receive any lost income and benefits for the period of any suspension, demotion, or dismissal;

The bill also provided for punishment of any supervisor who attempted to discipline, demote or fire a whistleblower.

The Jindal administration had opposed the bill as being “too broad,” claiming it could create “unintended consequences” that would inhibit the ability of agency leaders to manage their departments.

The bill was introduced after some state officials who disagreed with the Jindal administration lost their positions (“teagued”) and lawmakers subsequently experienced difficulty in obtaining information from agencies.

Perhaps it was “unintended consequences” that Jindal feared last year when he vetoed Senate Bill 629 by Sen. Ronnie Johns (R-Lake Charles).

SB 629, for those of you who don’t remember, would have provided “’transparency’ reporting to the legislature by the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) concerning the Louisiana Medicaid Bayou Health program and the Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership and Coordinated System of Care programs.”

SB 629 was approved unanimously in the House, by a 102-0 vote with three absences. Then it went to the Senate where is was again approved unanimously, 38-0 with one absence.

Jindal promptly vetoed the bill.

Fast forward six months and the FBI issues a subpoena for all records in the possession of the Division of Administration relative to the $184 million CNSI contract with DHH.

Bruce Greenstein, who was DHH secretary at the time the contract was awarded, had once worked for CNSI and it was learned that he had tweaked the bid requirements in order that CNSI might qualify as a bidder on the contract.

Embarrassed, Jindal cancelled the CNSI contract and Greenstein resigned.

In an unrelated incident, Greenstein eliminated the position of internal auditor at DHH and some months later, a DHH employee was arrested for embezzling funds from the agency. With no internal auditor, how was it that the employee was discovered?

A private investigator.

That’s right, a private investigator. That’s indictment enough of this administration, but to allow the continued intimidation of state employees who know of illegal or unethical activity is to encourage the continued abuse of power by supervisory personnel even as the state treasury is looted.

But Jindal vetoed SB 629 as being unnecessary, perhaps even burdensome.

So now, the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, at the urging of Hebert, deferred without objection HB 387.

Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe), who sits on the committee, said Hebert had contacted every member of the committee to convey the message that the administration was opposed to the bill.

So why is Hebert carrying the water for Jindal? He has enough troubles running his own agency.

Who knows? Perhaps he fancies himself as Jindal’s heir apparent. He has about as much chance of achieving that objective as Jindal has of becoming president.

Kostelka described Schroder as “pissed” at the Senate committee’s deferral of his bill. “I see what’s happening here,” he was quoted by Kostelka as saying as he got up from the witness table to exit the committee room.

So now Jindal has won his version of transparency, accountability, integrity, honesty, and ethics. State employees may now continue to fear leaking information to legislators or the media. Only the bravest will dare come forward now and then only with total confidence that their names will never be divulged—a standing guarantee from LouisianaVoice.

Kostelka said he did not object to the motion by Shreveport Democrat Greg Tarver to defer the bill “because I saw the handwriting on the wall. The governor had gotten to the committee members through Hebert.”

Here are the other Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee members and their email addresses:

• Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales, chairman): amedeej@legis.la.gov

• Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe, vice-chairman): walsworthm@legis.la.gov

• Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville): donahuej@legis.la.gov

• Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans): morrelljp@legis.la.gov

• Ed Murray (D-New Orleans): murraye@legis.la.gov

• Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan): perryj@legis.la.gov

• Neil Riser (R-Columbia): risern@legis.la.gov

• Greg Tarver (D-Shreveport): tarverg@legis.la.gov

If you are predisposed to do so, shoot them an email and ask 1): what they’re trying to hide; 2): why they knuckle under to a lame duck, dishonest, self-absorbed, politically ambitious excuse of a governor, and 3): if they always check their manhood at the door.

The time is long past for the electorate of this state to stand together and call an end to politicians pimping out the state’s resources and contracts to political cronies and campaign contributors.

The only reason to send errand boys like Troy Hebert to massage legislators is to ensure that state government works only for the perpetuation of political corruption and not for the benefit of the governed.

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Our brain-dead legislature just doesn’t get it.

The House earlier this month approved and sent to the Senate HB 650 which calls for reorganization of the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE).

The vote was 57-39 (with nine not voting), with an assortment of oblivious characters who have their collective heads where only their proctologists can find them.

Why, you ask?

Simple. Superintendent of Education John White has been illegally running DOE since he arbitrarily “reorganized” the department nearly a year ago—months before House approval of the reorganization bill.

Apparently it’s not enough that sweeping educational “reforms” were approved last year that sent the entire department spiraling into the depths of scandal (see Course Choice, FastPath, Fast Start, Rod Paige, etc.), botched teacher evaluations (see Value Added Model), failure (see RSD school grades), potential violations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (see InBloom, Agilix, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdock, News Corp., Wireless Generation, etc.), six-figure salaries for out-of-state appointees with little to no educational experience and no willingness to even register their cars in Louisiana or get Louisiana driver’s licenses (see past, present and future John White appointees), and numerous legal setbacks (see voucher funding, public records lawsuits).

White came into office nearly 18 months ago preaching failure and he has certainly illustrated that concept in crystal clear, unmistakable clarity.

Last July 9, White issued a DOE news release in which he announced the appointment of a team of District Support and Network Leaders—a major reorganization implemented a month after adjournment of the legislative session and which put the proverbial cart well ahead of the horse.

And apparently few in the legislature took notice, not even on April 11 of this year when Deputy Superintendent of Policy Erin Bendily told the House Education Committee that the department was still operating under the old structure as approved by previous legislation as Senate bill 80 (Act 302) of 2011.

Among those either blissfully ignorant (as in the case of Ruston Republican Rob Shadoin, who declined to comment on the DOE violation of student and teacher privacy laws or on the fraudulent Course Choice registrations because he did not know enough about the issues) or who simply did not care were 14 members of the House Education Committee.

The only Education Committee members voting against HB 650 were Democrats John Bel Edwards of Amite, Edward Price of Gonzales, Pat Smith and Alfred Williams, both of Baton Rouge.

Among the changes implemented by White sans legislative approval:

• A new organizational chart which has been in place since Sept. 10, 2012;

• Abolishment of the offices of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Literacy, College and Career Readiness, Departmental Support and Innovation;

• Addition of five Network Leaders at salaries of $130,000 and up (not part of the DOE organizational chart approved by the legislature during the administration of former Superintendent Paul Pastorek).

An open letter to state senators written “on behalf of concerned DOE employees” said the department “has recently seen an explosion in the number of unclassified staff.”

The letter said a large number of the new hires have “minimal experience” in the education field and bring little practical experience and seem not to be committed to long-term stays in Louisiana.

“At the same time, DOE is systematically eliminating classified personnel with substantially more experienced, more local knowledge, and more local commitment. This strategy costs the state significant money, as new unclassified hires have frequently been paid substantially more than classified staff that have performed largely the same work,” it said.

“The classified staff (who) have been affected are primarily Louisiana citizens who have served the people of this state competently and are actively registered voters in their respective communities.

“They are being replaced by persons, primarily from out-of-state, with lesser experience, fewer credentials, and less dedication, diligence and competence. We do not believe that this personnel strategy will serve the long-term best interests of Louisiana schools and districts and we urge the (Senate Education) Committee to seek further information on the number and responsibilities of unclassified staff before proceeding with this bill,” the letter said.

The letter also expressed “serious concerns” regarding the number of educational functions and initiatives which are being stricken from the previous legislation and not specifically enumerated in HB 650.

“These include dropout prevention, federal programs, nutritional programs, teacher certification, required subject matter content and professional development.

“The only thing being added is the Office of District Support. Yet, its responsibilities are very vaguely worded and do not seem to explicitly include the programs being removed,” it said.

Moreover, it said, the functions of the Office of District Support are defined as serving districts’ lowest-performing schools. “Is DOE saying that services will be cut to all schools that are not the lowest-performing?” the letter asks. “The responsibility for supervising the quality of all programs in every school district is a duty of the Louisiana Department of Education.

“We urge the committee to look very closely at what DOE is hoping to achieve with this reorganization and that the Legislature hold DOE to strict accountability. DOE has not always acted in good faith during reorganization,” the letter said.

House members voting for HB 650, largely regarded as a power grab attempt by White and Gov. Jindal, were:

Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles); Bryan Adams (R-Gretna); John Anders (D-Vidalia); Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans); Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia); John Berthelot (R-Gonzales); Robert Billiot (D-Westwego); Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette); Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans); Chris Broadwater (R-Hammond); Richard Burford (R-Stonewall); Henry Burns (R-Haughton); Timothy Burns (R-Mandeville); Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport); Stephen Carter (R-Baton Rouge); Simone Champagne (R-Erath); Charles Chaney (R-Rayville); Patrick Connick (R-Marrero); Gregory Cromer (R-Slidell); Michael Danahay (D-Sulphur); Gordon Dove (R-Houma); Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro); Franklin Foil (R-Baton Rouge); Raymond Garofalo Jr. (R-Chalmette); Jerry Gisclair (D-Larose); Hunter Greene (R-Baton Rouge); Lance Harris (R-Alexandria); Lowell Hazel (R-Pineville); Cameron Henry (R-Metairie); Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe); Paul Hollis (R-Covington); Mike Huval (R-Breaux Bridge); Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge); Patrick Jefferson (D-homer); Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette, who likes to know if teachers take annual or sick leave to come to Baton Rouge); Christopher Leonard (R-Belle Chasse); Joseph Lopinto III (R-Metairie); Nick Lorusso (R-New Orleans); Jay Morris (R-Monroe); Stephen Ortego (D-Carencro); Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell); Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge); Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula); Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro, who wants to force high school seniors to take at least one Course Choice course as a prerequisite to graduation—30,000 graduating seniors at $700 to $1200 tuition per course; do the math); Eugene Reynolds (D-Minden); Jerome Richard (I-Thibodaux); Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette); Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales); John Schroder (R-Covington); Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport); Rob Shadoin (R-Ruston); Karen St. Germain (D-Plaquemine); Julie Stokes (R-Metairie); Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge); Major Thibaut (D-New Roads); Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier City), and Lenar Whitney (R-Houma).

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We received an interesting post from our friend C.B. Forgotston relative to HB 703 by State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite).

The bill was fairly straightforward in that it simply requires unclassified employees with annual salaries of $100,000 or more to register their vehicles in Louisiana and to obtain Louisiana driver’s licenses within 30 days of employment, subject to termination.

The bill was handled in the Senate by Rick Gallot (D-Ruston).

Who could oppose such a bill—unless it might be certain employees of the Louisiana Department of Education who somehow appeared to feel they were above the law, not exactly a precedent in this administration. After all, there already was a law requiring registration of vehicles and the obtaining of a state driver’s license on the part of any citizen moving to Louisiana.

Even Gov. Bobby Jindal said he would sign the bill if it passed—and it did by votes of 70-20 (with 15 not voting) in the House and 20-17 (with two not voting) in the Senate.

But wait. A somewhat indignant Forgotston noted in his blog that the Baton Rouge Sunday Advocate quoted Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) as calling the bill “a political poke in the eye and a waste of our (legislators’) time.”

Like Forgotston, we’re not entirely sure whose eye was being poked other than certain recalcitrant appointees of State Education Superintendent John White.

But a waste of time?

Let’s review some of the legislation introduced in the form of House and Senate resolutions by several of those serious-minded legislators who, having no time for frivolity, would never think of wasting time in Baton Rouge and who had the integrity and dignity to vote against such a colossal waste of precious legislators’ time.

Appropriately enough, we shall begin with Sen. Claitor:

• SCR 11: Requests the International Olympic Committee to reconsider its position on Olympic Wrestling;

• SCR 15: Urges and requests the citizens of Louisiana to recognize the life-saving benefits of routine colorectal screening examinations and to schedule such examinations as deemed appropriate by their physicians;

• SR 31: Commends the Brusly High School Panthers wrestling team on winning its second consecutive Division III state championship title;

• SR 35: Commends Paxton Turner on being named as an Honorable Mention by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in education Program;

• SR 47: Commends the Episcopal High School Knights boys’ soccer team upon their Division III state championship;

• SCR 104: Commends the Louisiana Varsity Sports Women’s Team and Men’s Team for their individual and team achievements in the 2013 Boston Marathon;

• SR 111: Requests the Louisiana State Law Institute to perform a comprehensive study of Louisiana bail laws and procedures and to make recommendations as necessary for modernization of bail procedures (probably to benefit carpetbagger political appointees who refused to comply with HB 703).

We listed all of Claitor’s extremely important resolutions which, of course, did not constitute any waste of time. For the others voting against the bill, we had to narrow our selection lest we would still be writing after the June 6 adjournment of the legislature.

Here are a few choice bits of legislation by other opponents of HB 703:

Sen. A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell):

• SR 23: Designates the week of April 7-13 as Junior Auxiliary Week at the Senate;

• SR 24: Commends Israel on the occasion of its 65th anniversary of the birth of the modern State of Israel;

• SCR 86: Commends Joshua R. Ashley and Ian Frichter for their competition in the Automotive Technology Program at Northshore Technical Community College;

• SCR 88: Memorializes Congress to adopt the Constitution Restoration Act;

Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego):

• SCR 93: Commends Rachel Elizabeth Schultz upon being named the 76th Greater New Orleans Floral Trail Queen;

Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin):

• SR 94: Designates the week of June 17-21 as Louisiana Entrepreneurship Week;

Sen. Page Cortez (R-Lafayette):

• SCR 18: Commends the St. Thomas More High School boys’ basketball team on winning the Class 4A state championship;

Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville):

• SR 37: Recognizes and commends the Boy Scouts of America for the public service the organization performs through its contributions to the lives of the nation’s boys and young men;

Sen. Elbert Guillory (D-Opelousas):

• SR 110: Recognizes Thursday, May 16, 2013, as Pro-Life Day at the Louisiana State Capitol;

• SCR 92: Commends the Westminster Christian Academy Crusaders for Life on being the first student-led pro-life group on campus;

Sen. Ronnie Johns (R-Lake Charles):

• SCR 44: Commends Alcoa upon the celebration of its 125th anniversary and designates May 14, 2013, as Alcoa Day at the Legislature;

• SCR 98: Expresses support of and provides authority for actions by the LSU Board of Supervisors for the strategic collaboration with the Division of Administration and the Department of Health and Hospitals in planning for a new model of health care delivery throughout the Lake Charles region;

• SR 33: Commends the 1963 McNeese State College Football Team for its historic season;

• SR 87: Designates May 7, 2013, as Louisiana Chemical Industry Day;

• SR 103: Designates May 15, 2013, as Louisiana Housing Council Day;

• SCR 26: Commends LSU student Bruno Beltran of Sulphur on being a recipient of a Goldwater Scholarship;

Sen. Gerald Long (R-Natchitoches):

• SR 98: Commends the Adai Caddo Indian Tribe for its cultural contributions to the State of Louisiana;

• SR 133: Commends Robert Harper for 42 years of service in state government;

• SCR 22: Urges and requests the Louisiana High School Athletic Association to establish and sanction the competitive sport of tournament bass fishing;

Sen. Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie):

• SCR 57: Requests various state and local departments to take certain actions regarding the commercial construction and operation by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of a facility to provide abortions in Louisiana;
• SR 115: Commends the Louisiana Physical Therapy Association for its outstanding achievements and designates the week of May 13, 2013, as Louisiana Physical Therapy Week;

Sen. Jean-Paul J. Morrell (D-New Orleans):

• SR 117: Commends Tulane University and designates May 21, 2013, as Tulane University Day at the Senate;

Sen. Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City):

• SR 36: Commends the State-Line Fishing and Hunting Club in celebrating its centennial for 100 years of common ownership (what, no designated week? Not even a day?);

Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia):

• SR 77: Designates May 2013 as Breast Cancer Awareness Month (a whole month and not even a day for the fishing and hunting club?);

Sen. Mike Walsworth (who last year asked in committee if humans could be grown from high school science lab petri dish cultures):

• SR 19: Commends Lauren Vizza on her successful reign as Miss Louisiana 2012 (We’re curious as to what would have constituted an unsuccessful reign.);

• SR 56: Commends KNOE TV for proving northeast Louisiana with 60 years of local, state, national and international news (We understand KNOE beat out the Rocky Branch World Guardian Tribune-Shopper House of Prayer, Snake Farm and Bait Stand.);

Sen. Bodi White (R-Central):

• SR 112 and SR 113: Commends the Central Private School boys’ basketball team and boys’ baseball team upon winning the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools basketball and baseball championships (Mississippi? Perhaps some legislator should introduce a resolution requiring Central Private to play in Louisiana.);

We picked on the State Senate because of Claitor’s incredibly naïve comment about the bill’s being a waste of precious time and while we would love to similarly recognize House members who voted against HB 703, there simply is not enough space to do so.

We would like to make a couple of exceptions by pointing out a couple of House resolutions and one House bill that jumped off the page during our review.

Rep. Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro) was actually absent and did not vote on HB 703, but we still want to give him his 15 minutes. HB 648 by Pylant would require the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to require that high school students complete at least one course offered by a BESE-authorized online or virtual course (Course Choice) provider as a prerequisite to graduation.

We can’t help but wonder of Pylant has been paying attention to the growing scandal of fraudulent registration of more than 1100 students to Course Choice courses without the knowledge of consent of either the students or their parents.

His HCR 156 also requests that BESE “and others” study potential funding sources for online courses offered through the Course Choice Program.

Again, we wonder at Pylant’s motives here. We already know from his campaign finance reports that he is beholden to the Jindalistas but his steadfast commitment to Course Choice seems to run much deeper than mere political affiliations.

And then there is Rep. Stephen Carter, chairman of the House Education Committee.

His HCR 30 requests that BESE study the feasibility and advisability of pursuing a residential charter school model in Louisiana. Wouldn’t one think that given the abysmal record of many charter schools and the accompanying legal problems of financing vouchers with state funds, he might wish to hold up on rushing into yet another educational fiasco?

Probably not because his HB 650 is a classic study of putting the cart ahead of the horse.

HB 650 calls for the reorganization of the State Department of Education (DOE).

The problem with the bill is it comes almost a year after Superintendent of Education John White already initiated a reorganization of the department that is arguably blatantly illegal.

More on that in a subsequent post.

For now, on behalf of Rep. John Bel Edwards and Rep. Rick Gallot, we humbly apologize to Sen. Claitor for taking up so much of the good Baton Rouge senator’s precious time. After all, he could have missed a free meal from a lobbyist while contemplating this trivial piece of legislation.

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The reports of fraudulent registration of students for courses in the Louisiana Department of Education’s (DOE) Course Choice program continue to filter in with more reported signups and solicitations in East Baton Rouge, Calcasieu and Claiborne parishes.

And while State Superintendent of Education John White is certainly culpable in the whole sordid mess, it is significant that only one of 28 legislators who are members of either the Senate or House Education Committees took the opportunity to address two emerging education issues when asked to do so by LouisianaVoice.

We sent emails to each member of the two committees (along with a select few other legislators). We identified ourselves at the outset and said that we had been writing about the leaking of teacher evaluation data by White, which would seem to be in clear violation of Act 54 of the 2010 Legislature.

We also said we were continuing work on the developing story about 1100 students in Caddo and Webster (a story that has since grown to include the parishes of East Baton Rouge, Calcasieu, Claiborne and Bossier) who were signed up for courses by Course Choice providers without either the knowledge or consent of the students signed up or their parents.

Course Choice providers like Fast Start and FastPath are paid one-half of their tuition, which ranges from $700 to $1250 per course, up front with the remaining one-half being paid upon the student’s completion of the course. Course Choice providers are given wide latitude in deciding whether or not a student completes his or her course.

We posed the question of whether or not an investigation should be conducted into how FastPath and Smart Start received students’ names and other personal information in order to sign them up for the courses.

One member, Rep. Rob Shadoin (R-Ruston), responded to our inquiry, saying, “I do not know enough details on these matters to give you a comment. I have general knowledge of what you speak but no specifics. I’m sorry I ain’t much help to you on the subject.”

Might we suggest, Mr. Shadoin, that as a member of the House Education Committee you might wish to bring yourself up to speed on education issues such as these—or resign from the committee?

But at least Shadoin did respond, such as it was.

That was a little better than the deafening silence from the all but one of the other members of the two committees.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) said of the leaking of evaluation data on three Caddo Parish teachers to State Rep. Alan Seabaugh by White, “It would seem that whoever disclosed the information in the DOE in blatant disregard for the statutory protections affording teachers the right to keep certain specific evaluation information from public view is just the latest indication, among many, that those folks (in DOE) have no respect for the rule of law.”

Edwards also was critical of the Course Choice registrations. “The roll-out of Course Choice is proving to be every bit as scandalous and controversial as the roll-out of vouchers: unfit providers offering inferior educational opportunities while aggressively seeking to profit at taxpayer expense and while mal-educating our children and deceiving their parents.”

Here are the responses of the members of the House Education Committee:

• Stephen Carter (R-Baton Rouge), Chairman: Silence;

• Patrick Jefferson (D-Homer), Vice Chairman: Silence;

• Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans): Silence;

• Christopher Broadwater (R-Hammond): Silence;

• Henry Burns (R-Haughton): Silence—in fact, deleted our email without reading it;

• Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport): Silence;

• Simone Champagne (R-Erath): Silence;

• Cameron Henry (R-Metairie): Silence;

• Paul Hollis (R-Covington): Silence;

• Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge): Silence;

• Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette): Silence (Readers may remember Landry as the member who attempted to ram through a rule that teachers testifying before the committee in 2012 should be compelled to say whether or not they were on annual or sick leave);

• Edward Price (D-Gonzales): Silence;

• Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux): responded he would have a statement, but never sent it;

• Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge): Silence;

• Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier City): Silence);

• Alfred Williams (D-Baton Rouge): Silence;

• Ex Officio member House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles): Silence;

• Ex Officio member Walt Leger (D-New Orleans): Silence.

Senate Education Committee members and their responses:

• Conrad Appel (R-Metairie), Chairman: Silence;

• Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte), Vice Chairman: Silence;

• Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge): Silence;

• Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville): Silence;

• Elbert Guillory (D-Opelousas): Silence;

• Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe—still trying to learn if humans can be grown from high school lab cultures): Silence;

• Mack “Bodi” White (R-Baton Rouge—obviously too busy trying to get his breakaway school zone in South Baton Rouge approved): Silence;

• Interim member Page Cortez (R-Lafayette): Silence.

Nine House Education Committee members—Carter, Ivey, Smith, Alfred Williams, Jefferson, Henry Burns, Carmody, Jeff Thompson and Kleckley— and two Senators—Claitor and White—represent parishes into which these Course Choice providers have already moved to begin registering students and yet they still choose to remain silent on the issue.

Yes, it’s easy to point the finger at the snow cone stand mentality of DOE management by White and Course Choice ramrod Lefty Lefkowith but by their overwhelming silence in this matter, these committee members are every bit as complicit as anyone in the Claiborne Building.

It’s as if these people live in a vacuum. Take the computer-generated response we received from Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia):

“Thank you for contacting Senator Riser regarding your thoughts and concerns. He appreciates hearing from you. He will keep this in mind as they go thru the legislative process.”

Now that’s taking an issue head-on.

Meanwhile, Course Choice peddlers have moved into East Baton Rouge and Calcasieu to sign up students. Two in Calcasieu have been rejected thus far; one was a student signed up for two courses deemed inappropriate for the student’s grade level and another student registered for five courses (at $700 to $1250 each—half up front, remember) was not enrolled at the school the student said he/she was.

Course Choice representatives have begun canvassing neighborhoods in Homer in Claiborne Parish to sign up students and offering them free iPads.

Caddo, Bossier, Webster and Claiborne are all contiguous parishes in northwest Louisiana.

Claiborne Parish school officials have issued public announcements that the local school board has no connection to the Course Choice representatives.

Meanwhile, from the House and Senate Education Committees, to borrow a line from Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence:

Silence Like a Cancer Grows.

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State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard believes he may have found a way in which to cut into the state budget deficit to the tune of about half-a-billion dollars.

HB-73 by Richard would require a 10 percent reduction in the total dollar amount for professional, personal and consulting service contracts under the jurisdiction of the Office of Contractual Review (OCR) for Fiscal Year 2013-14.

The proposed law also would require the OCR to submit reports on the status of the implementation of the law to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget on Oct. 1, 2013, Jan., April 1 and July 1 of 2014.
It also would require that the OCR director to submit a monthly report to the House Appropriations Committee summarizing all contracts and dollar values awarded the previous month.

The Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO) said the annual report of the OCR released in January of this year showed there were 2,284 professional, personal and consulting contracts with the state with a combined contract value of approximately $5.28 billion.

The LFO said the bill would result in an “indeterminable decrease” in overall state expenditures in FY-14. “To the extent this bill would have been enacted during the 2012 regular legislative session, the projected 10 percent reduction in the value of OCR approved professional, personal and consulting services contracts for FY-13 would have equated to approximately $528 million less,” the LFO’s fiscal notes said.

Richard’s bill would allow exceptions but only if certain conditions were met, namely:

• There were no state employees available or capable of performing the needed work;

• Required services are not available as a product of a prior or existing contract;

• There be a written plan to monitor and evaluate performance of the contract;

• The proposed contract would be determined to be a priority expenditure by the Commissioner of Administration.

Such a reduction, should it be approved and implemented, would help close a gaping budget hole of hundreds of millions of dollars for the state.

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