Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

BATON ROUGE (CNS)—The crown jewel of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s privatization drive has taken yet another bizarre turn.

Well, maybe the Office of Risk Management (ORM) is not the crown jewel, but it his first effort at a move toward privatizing any state agency that shows up on his radar.

And if the path that ORM has followed since being taken over by private industry little more than a year ago is a fair example, legislators would do well to take a long hard look at any future moves in that direction—particularly as it might pertain to the Office of Group Benefits (OGB).

The $400 million agency, it was recently learned, will be transferred to its third operating company within 15 months. This time ORM is going to be run for a while by York Claims Service of New York City.

York operates as an independent adjustment company and third party administrator and is a subsidiary of York Insurance Services Group of Parsippany, New Jersey.

On March 15, 2010, ORM Director J.S. “Bud” Thompson, in a gathering of agency employees, broke the news that the agency was to be taken over by F.A. Richard and Associates (FARA) of Mandeville. It was at that same meeting that he laughingly informed his subordinates, “I still have my job.”

It wasn’t his last attempt at inappropriate humor. During a legislative committee hearing held to consider the approval of the transfer, he joked that he deserved a raise. That remark drew a sharp rebuke from State Sen. Ed Murray (D-New Orleans) who reminded Thompson that a serious matter was being considered and that he should treat it as such. Thompson did not return for the afternoon committee session.

Under terms of the contract that went into effect on July 1, 2010, the state was to pay FARA an amount “not to exceed” $68.2 million. FARA was to phase in its takeover over a five-year period.

The actual transfer began in September of 2010 when ORM Loss Prevention and Worker’s Compensation sections went over to FARA.

In May of 2011, less than eight months after the first units were transferred, FARA and Thompson were back before the committee seeking an additional $6.8 million that would bring the new contract to “a maximum amount” of $74.9, according to language in the amendment document.

Committee members were surprised to learn that the amendment was actually already a done deal because under law, the Office of Contractual Review may approve contract amendments of up to 10 percent one time without legislative approval and the amendment was exactly—10 percent.

Both ORM and the Office of Contractual Review are under the supervision of Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater.

Rep. Jim Fannin was somewhat miffed that the House Appropriations Committee, which he chairs, was circumvented by the 10 percent rule. It didn’t help that Patti Gonzales, assistant director of ORM informed Fannin that the full $6.8 million wasn’t really necessary because it was expected that only about $2 million of that would actually be spent.

Left unasked was the question of why it was deemed necessary to ask for the full $6.8 million.

The nearest thing to an explanation was a memorandum to Rainwater dated Feb. 28, 2010, in which Thompson requested Division of Administration (DOA) approval of the contract amendment.

“Since the implementation (of the FARA takeover) began, ORM has begun experiencing difficulty in retaining our experienced adjusters, as many are seeking employment elsewhere in state government,” Thompson said. “We are currently utilizing contract adjusters to supplement our in-house staff for lines not yet transitioned to FARA, at considerable expense to the state and with a significant loss of efficiency.”

Only about a week after Thompson weathered that committee hearing and the $6.8 million amendment was approved (the committee legally had no choice), it was learned that FARA had been sold to Avizent, a national claims and risk management company in Columbus, Ohio, that had an office in Baton Rouge staffed by only one employee.

Considering the complexities involved in such a transaction, it would seem reasonable to think negotiations had been ongoing for some time before the $6.8 million amendment was approved. Yet, not once was the pending sale revealed to committee members.

FARA’s senior management, including CEO Todd Richard “will also assume executive leadership positions in the parent company,” according to an announcement on FARA letterhead dated May 20, 2011.

On Oct. 26, an email from Gonzales to remaining ORM personnel announced that Cherie Pinac, manager of FARA’s Baton Rouge office, had submitted her resignation to accept a position with Hammerman and Gainer Claims Adjusters.

Now, less than month later, it has been learned that FARA has been sold to York and ORM will be handed off to yet another third party administrator.

This could mean one of two things:

• Private firms are finding that they cannot run the agency more cost efficiently than can the state;

• Once privatization takes place, the state loses all control of what happens to the agency down the road.

Or it’s entirely possible that both could—and will—occur.

This should be something for the Jindal administration to ponder carefully and with all due caution before plunging headlong into additional moves at privatization of OGB, prisons, public schools and Medicaid.

But don’t bet on it.

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Perhaps we were a bit hasty in our last blog in which we accused Gov. Bobby Jindal of finding a parade, jumping out in front and yelling, “Follow me!”

That was written after Jindal issued his executive order directing any employee of a public college or university who witnesses child abuse or neglect to report it to law enforcement within 24 hours.

In typical Jindal grandstanding, the governor was attempting to jump aboard the bandwagon of understandable public fury over the sex scandal swirling around former Penn State defensive coach Jerry Sandusky and young boys left in his care.

It must be pointed out, however, that the indignant outrage he apparently felt over the mess at Penn State University did not carry over to the abhorrent behavior of his fellow Republicans in the Michigan State Senate.

In Michigan, Matt Epling was a child who was subjected to constant bullying in middle school in East Lansing. His last day of eighth grade, he was given a “Welcome to high school” beating. When school officials did nothing, his parents went to police. Matt, fearful of retribution from the bullies, committed suicide.

Over the next nine years, another 10 students subjected to regular bullying killed themselves—all while the Michigan legislature did nothing because Republican lawmakers repeatedly blocked attempts to pass an anti-bullying law.

This year another attempt was made and Republican State Sen. Rick Jones tacked on an amendment that said torment is not bullying if “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” is behind the bully’s actions.

That’s right, it’s not bullying if the bully says he has a moral or religious hatred of Jews, Muslims, gays or blacks.

The law as amended by Republicans also specifically addresses cyber bulling—but only if the bully uses “a device owned or under control of a school district”—not a student’s personal cell phone. Finally, Republicans withheld support of the bill until it was agreed that school officials would not be held accountable for failing to act.

Matt’s father, Kevin Epling described the bill as “government-sanctioned bigotry.”

The bill passed with 26 Republicans voting in favor and 11 Democrats voting no.

Democratic State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer called the amendment a “blueprint for bullying.” She told her fellow lawmakers, “Here today, you claim to be protecting kids, and you’re actually putting them in more danger.” Her speech on the senate floor went viral last week and the resulting pressure forced Smith to back off on his amendment, all while Jindal remained strangely quiet.

No bandwagon there.

Nor, apparently has the governor displayed any moral outrage over the failure of the Louisiana Legislature to pass HB 112 earlier this year.

HB 112, by Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans), would have prohibited “harassment, intimidation, and bullying of students by students” and further defined such terms as including “intimidating, threatening, or abusive gestures or written, verbal or physical acts motivated by actual or perceived characteristics including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, physical characteristic, political persuasion, mental disability, and physical disability, as well as attire or association with others identified by such categories.”

Actually, such a law is already on the books in Louisiana. The law, R.S. 17:416.13(B), for some inexplicable reason, however, exempts six parishes: East and West Feliciana, East Baton Rouge, St. Helena, Tangipahoa and Livingston. Badon’s bill would have removed those exemptions.

HB 112 also would have further defined the terms “harassment,” “intimidation,” and “bullying” to include “any intimidating, threatening, or abusive gesture or written, verbal, or physical act by a student directed at another student occurring on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event.”

So, how did the vote come down on HB 112?

It failed by a vote of 43-54—even after the bill was watered down with amendments that deleted references to “race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or physical disability.” In other words, even after the bill was rendered toothless, it still couldn’t pass the smell test of the Louisiana Legislature.

More importantly, how did the vote fall in the six affected parishes, which are still exempted from R.S. 17:416.13(B)?

As might be expected, the vote was split right down party lines with six Democrats voting in favor of bringing their parishes into compliance and seven Republicans voting against the measure.

The Democrats voting in favor of HB 112 included Reps. Regina Barrow, Stephen Carter, Dalton Honore, Michael Jackson and Patricia Smith, all of Baton Rouge, and John Bel Edwards of Amite.

Republicans voting against the bill were Reps. Franklin Foil, Hunter Greene, Erich Ponti and Clifton Richardson of Baton Rouge, Mack “Bodi” White and Rogers Pope of Denham Springs, and Tom McVea of Jackson.

Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) said, “This bill was intended to promote an agenda and force teaching alternative lifestyles to our children.”

Excuse me? At precisely what point did protecting children become a teaching tool for alternative lifestyles? How did someone this delusional ever get elected?

Incredibly, Seabaugh didn’t know when to shut up. He continued: “Every person who testified (on behalf of the bill) was either gay or testifying on behalf of someone who is gay, so let’s not delude ourselves about the intent of this bill. This language (in the bill) is straight out of the lesbian, gay, transgender playbook.” So just how was it that he came to be such an authority on that particular playbook?

And is this really where the governor wishes to align himself politically? Where was Bobby Jindal’s outrage, his moral indignation, his concern for the “health, safety and best interests of our children” that he trumpeted in issuing his executive order in reaction to the higher-profile Penn State scandal when this bill came up for consideration?

You would find those emotions hiding behind the Louisiana Family Forum, which called HB 112 part of the “homosexual agenda.”

Where was Jindal’s apprehension for the children of Michigan?

Apparently it could be found cowering in the same dark shadows as those 26 Michigan Republicans.

No parade for Piyush to lead there.

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Follow the money.

It’s an axiom as old as politics itself and it is clearly evident in the examination of efforts to privatize various segments of state government in Louisiana.

Take state prisons and public education as two cases in point. The Jindal administration is pushing for both against stiff opposition. But outside influence is being brought to bear that would seem to tilt the scales heavily in the favor of the administration.

Take the organization once known as All Children Matter, headed up by one Elizabeth DeVos. The organization changed its name to the American Federation for Children after All Children Matter was fined $5.2 million for campaign money violations in 2006.

All Children Matter made 56 campaign contributions totaling more than $67,000 between November 2003 and January 2010. Those 56 contributions ranged from as little as $500 to as much as $2,000 to a host of Louisiana candidates, including $1,000 in 2007 to Lt. Gov. Jay Darden, then running for secretary of state; five donations totaling $6,500 to State Sen. Ann Duplessis. Duplessis was rejected in June of this year by the Louisiana Senate as Jindal’s nominee to serve on the LSU System Board of Supervisors.

While All Children Matter did not contribute directly to Jindal’s three gubernatorial campaigns, Elizabeth DeVos and husband Richard made six individual contributions to Jindal totaling $16,000 between June of 2003 and August of 2008.

Elizabeth DeVos’s brother Erik Prince heads up Xe Corp., formerly Blackwater, a firm that gained considerable notoriety for privatizing warfare as the largest supplier of mercenary soldiers in the world.

The Walton family, long a proponent of charter schools, also contributed $13,500 to Jindal from June of 2003 to September of 2007.

K12 contributed $5,000 to the Jindal campaign in September of 2007 and in October of 2011, gave $1,000 to the campaign of State Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) and $500 to Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) candidate Holly Boffy (R-Lafayette).

K12, Inc., based in Reston, VA., is funded by the Milken Family Foundation and is run by Lowell Milken. It is the brainchild of Lowell Milken’s brother Michael Milken, the Wall Street “junk bond king,” who was jailed for violation of U.S. securities laws.

Students First of Baton Rouge contributed $5,000 to the campaign of BESE member Chas Roemer in September of this year. The founder and national CEO of Students First is Michelle Rhee, better known as the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public school system where suspiciously high test-score gains in 41 Washington schools while she was chancellor led to revelations of a high rate of erasures by teachers. In one class, 97 percent of erasures were from wrong answers to correct ones.

With prison privatization, things are pretty much the same.

A private operation of prisons is a high-dollar enterprise worth millions to the private owners. States and the federal government each pay private operators to house prisoners and private prison owners are clamoring for the business, thanks to legislation successfully pushed by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

In addition to charging the state and federal governments on a per diem basis, private-run prisons also make money in other ways.

In Florida, minimum security inmates produce tons of beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE) at 20 cents per hour for re-sale to schools to feed students–at considerable mark-ups.

ALEC has worked diligently to pass state laws to benefit two of its major corporate sponsors, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group. One of those laws was SB 1070, Arizona’s notorious immigration law that helps keep CCA prisons filled to capacity with immigrant detainees.

The Prison Industries Enhancement (PIE) Certification Program has allowed the State of Florida to pay minimum wage to prisoners for PIE-certified work. But 40 percent is taken out of their accounts for room and board—the rent of cell space to offset the costs of incarceration, a requirement not too many would object to. They are, after, all prisoners serving time for crimes.

But the regulations specifically forbade the shipment of prisoner-made goods such as furniture, solar panels, and even guided missile parts across state lines.

The Prison Industries Act changed that by allowing a third-party company to set up a local address in a state that makes prison goods, buy the products from a prison factor, sell them locally or surreptitiously ship them across state lines.

Texas State Rep. and ALEC member Ray Allen drafted the Prison Industries Act in that state. Soon after, the PIE program was transferred from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to the National Correctional Industries Association (NICA).

NICA is a private trade organization that just happened to be represented by Ray Allen’s lobbying firm, Service House, Inc. In 2003, Allen was appointed Chairman of the Texas House Corrections Committee and began pushing the Prison Industries Act and other legislation beneficial to CCA and GEO Group, such as the Private Correctional Facilities Act, nationally. Soon after that, Allen became Chairman of ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force (now ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force). In 2006, Allen resigned from the state legislature while still under investigation for unethical lobbying practices.

He was hired soon after that as a lobbyist for the GEO Group.

Jindal tried this year and will likely repeat efforts to privatize at least three state prisons to placate campaign contributors.

Two of those prisons, in Allen and Winn parishes are already leased to private operations—GEO Group of Boca Raton, Florida (Allen) and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) of Nashville, Tennessee (Winn).

Another local company, LaSalle Southwest Corrections of Ruston, would like a piece of that action. LaSalle already operates 12 facilities in Louisiana and Texas.

LaSalle contributed $12,000 to Jindal in four separate transactions between December of 2005 and November of 2008 and also contributed $1,500 to former Gov. Kathleen Blanco in November of 2004. LaSalle also contributed $500 to state senate candidate Rep. Richard Gallot of Ruston in July of this year.

In all, LaSalle gave $20,500 in 11 separate campaign contributions between December of 2006 and July of 2011. Others included:

• State Rep. Charles Chaney (R-Rayville), $1,000 in July of 2011;

• Jason Bullock (R-Ruston), who is in a runoff in House District 12;

• Ken Bailey, a Democrat who won the race for Claiborne Parish sheriff;

• James Paxton, district attorney for the Sixth Judicial District, $1,000 in June of 2008;

• Leah Sumrall, candidate for Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court who finished fourth, $2,500 in July of 2011.

Those contributions were dwarfed, however, by the political contributions of GEO and CCA.

CCA gave $5,000 in two separate contributions to Jindal in November of 2008 and in November of 2009. CCA also contributed $1,000 to Blanco in November of 2003.

Other CCA contributions included:

• Sen. Robert Kostelka (R-Monroe) in December 2009;

• State Sen. Lydia Jackson (D-Shreveport), $500 in November of 2010;

• State Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton), $500 in January of 2010;

• State Rep. James Armes, III (D-Leesville), two contributions of $500 each in September 2010;

• State Rep. Billy R. Chandler (R-Dry Prong), three contributions of $500 each in January and September of 2010 and October of 2011;

• State Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville), $500 in January 2010;

• State Rep. Eddie Lambert (R-Gonzales), two contributions of $500 each in December 2009 and September 2010;

• Former State Sen. Kenneth M. (Mike) Smith (D-Winnfield), three separate contributions of $500 each in October of 2003, November of 2004, and April of 2005);

• House Speaker James W. “Jim” Tucker (R-Terrytown), $500 in December 2010.

GEO gave $10,000 in two separate $5,000 contributions to Jindal in June of 2007 and August of 2008 and $5,000 in September of 2004 and $1,000 in February 2007 to Blanco.

GEO, looking further into the political structure, also gave $1,000 to State Treasurer John Kennedy in November of 2005. Kennedy, as state treasurer, oversees the State Bond Commission which approves bonds to finance state construction projects, including prisons. The bond commission also could issue bonds to finance private construction as well.

GEO also made the following contributions:

• House Appropriations Committee Chairman James Fannin (D-Jonesboro), two separate contributions of $500 each in March of 2010 and March of 2011;

• Former Sen. James David Cain (R-Dry Creek), three separate contributions of $2,500 each in June of 2006 and November of 2007 (Cain was a candidate to return to his Senate seat this year and is in a runoff);

• Rep. Patrick Cortez (R-Lafayette), $500 in March of 2008;

• Sen. A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell), two contributions of $1,000 each, both in October of 2007;

• Former Sen. Ann D. Duplessis (D-New Orleans), $1,000 in October 2007;

• State Rep. and ALEC President Noble Ellington (R-Winnsboro), $500 in March of 2010;

• Sen Francis Heitmeier (D-New Orleans), $1,000 in August 2006;

• Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill (D-Dry Creek), four separate contributions of $1,000, all on October 21, 2011, and two separate contributions of $500, both on Feb. 16, 2009;

• Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte), $1,000 in April of 2009;

• Sen. Gerald Long (R-Winnfield), two contributions of $1,000 each, both in October 2007;

• Sen. Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie), five contributions of $1,000 each, two on Oct. 19, 2007 and one each in April 2008, April 2009, and February of 2011, and one $500 contribution in March 2010;

• Sen. Mike Michot (R-Lafayette), $1,000 in November of 2007;

• Sen. Ed Murray (D-New Orleans), nine separate contributions, including two of $1,000 each on Oct. 20, 2007, and seven of $1,000 each on Nov. 5, 2007. (The cumulative $9,000 contributed to Murray over a 16-day period would appear to violate the $5,000 contribution limitation.);

• Rep. Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette), $500 in March 2008;

• Rep. Ernest Wooton (I-Belle Chase), two contributions of $500 in March 2008 and March 2010;

• Congressman Steve Scalise (R-Jefferson Parish), two $1,000 contributions, both on Oct. 18, 2007;

• V.J. St. Pierre, parish present of St. Charles Parish, $500 in March 2010.

GEO hedged its bets by two contributions of $5,000 each to the Republican Party of Louisiana in March and May of 2009, another $1,000 in September 2009 and $2,500 in December 2010 ($13,500 total), and then had one contribution of $2,500 in May 2006 to the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee of Louisiana and three more of $3,000 each in May 2009, June 2010, and May 2011. In addition, Geo contributed $3,000 in June 2011 to the House Democratic Campaign Committee of Louisiana, bringing the total contributed to the Democratic Party to $14,500.

Interestingly, 13 of the legislators receiving contributions from LaSalle, GEO and CCA are members of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget–the body which must approve any contracts between the Department of Corrections and these companies.

Those committee members include Chairman Fannin, Vice Chairman Michot, Chaney, Lydia Jackson, Armes, Donahue, Lambert, Tucker, Cortez, Ellington, LaFleur, Long and Murray.

Follow the money.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—While the media was busy gushing over the “overwhelming,” “record-setting” landslide re-election victory by Gov. Bobby Jindal Saturday night and on into Sunday, they overlooked a couple of pretty important points.

Someone once said statistics are for losers. Okay, so let’s look at the statistics while we lick our wounds.

Sure, Jindal pulled down a whopping 65.8 percent of the vote. But he had a $9 million campaign budget. If you lived in Louisiana and you have a phone, you received no less than a dozen pre-recorded messages from him. Those cost money, but he had plenty.

His opponent? Well, Haynesville school teacher Tara Hollis had a campaign budget in the neighborhood of $50,000. Most of that was in the form of in-kind contributions. In actual monetary expenditures, the total was more like $18,000, so give Jindal a 500-1 advantage in available bucks. Still, she managed to account for 17.8 percent of the vote.

The official numbers show that Jindal, with a four-year track record and that $10 million war chest, tallied 673,155 votes to Hollis’s 182,808. In all, 1,022,770 people cast votes.

But let’s look back at the last two gubernatorial elections.

Four years ago, when nearly 1.3 million people voted, Jindal got 699,275 votes. But in 2003, when 1.4 million voted, he got only 676,484. That means that Jindal has basically been a standstill candidate at best, incapable of drawing more than 700,000 votes from some three million registered voters.

That’s hardly a mandate by any measure. A mandate would have been reflected in a much larger turnout than the dismal 33 percent of registered voters who cast ballots last Saturday.

A mandate would seem to dictate that he would have received more votes in this election than he did in 2003—when he lost. But he didn’t.

If he were as great as the media makes him out to be it seems he would have gained substantial strength over the past eight years. Instead, he is held to 65.8 percent of the vote against an opponent with a mere fraction of his financial resources.

In 2003, in a head-to-head contest with Kathleen Blanco, those 1.4 million voters gave Blanco 52 percent to Jindal’s 48 percent. And Blanco was no Edwin Edwards.

Let’s look at 2007 a little more closely.

Four years ago he had two candidates who poured money into their campaigns. John Georges spent $9 million (roughly the same amount as Jindal spent this year) and got 14.4 percent of the vote. Walter Boasso spent $5 million and received 17.4 percent.

Did we mention that Tara Hollis spent $18,000 this year and got 17.8 percent?

That begs the question of what might the numbers have looked like had the Democratic Party run a candidate with greater name recognition—and a larger campaign war chest.

Jindal, knowing he was a lock for re-election, was not content to merely run for governor; he threw his support—and campaign money—behind 86 legislative candidates and five candidates for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

But, it turned out much of that support—and money—was more style than substance, designed to make Jindal appear to be a wizard at handicapping elections. All one has to do is look at the track record of candidates endorsed by him in the past. A hint: he has a worse winning percentage in backing candidates than David Vitter. Ouch.

Of the 86 legislative candidates whom he endorsed, 54, or 63 percent, were unopposed. It’s pretty easy to back a winner that way. Of the remaining 32, He picked 18 winners outright (56 percent) and lost six. The remaining eight are headed for Nov. 19 runoffs.

Even more significantly, none of the incumbents targeted for defeat by Jindal lost. Repeat, none. These include Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa), Rep. Bernard LeBas (D-Ville Platte), Rep. Robert Johnson (D-Marksville) and about a half-dozen others.

With the exception of districts in which incumbents were pitted against each other because of reapportionment, not a single statewide official or legislator running re-election was defeated. That says more for voter apathy than it does for Jindal’s ability to influence an election.

When the new legislature convenes next spring, Jindal will have 24 Republicans in the 39 Senate seats and, depending on the outcome of the November runoffs, between 54 and 62 in the House.

That means he will have a majority in both houses—but significantly, not the super (two-thirds) majority needed for him to push through certain of the major proposals he has planned for his new term.

Easy to overlook, however, is the one area in which Jindal did score major victories—BESE.

Education is at the top of Jindal’s to-do list and to that end he contributed $5,000 each to five favored BESE candidates (The legislative candidates he backed got only $2,500 each). Three of those won, another lost, and the fifth, District 6 incumbent Chas Roemer, is in a surprise runoff with Democrat Donald Songy.

Jindal was successful in BESE District 5 where Jay Guillot of Ruston unseated incumbent Keith Guice of Monroe, thanks in part to an influx of Jindal cash and a vicious attack campaign by Guillot. Guillot, it should be noted is a principal in the Ruston engineering firm Hunt Guillot & Assoc. (HGA) that has contracts with the state totaling nearly $17 million. The firm, along with partner Trott Hunt, was a major contributor to Jindal’s campaign.

Guillot has said he will seek a ruling from the State Board of Ethics on whether or not he can serve on BESE and contract with the state. He had ample opportunity to seek such an opinion in the months leading up to the election, but did not avail himself of that opportunity.

Roemer has his own ethics issues because of his repeated votes on matters involving charter schools. His sister, Caroline Roemer Shirley, is executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. She has already been directed by the ethics board not to participate in discussions of charter school matters coming before BESE because of her relationship with Chas Roemer. That, however, has not deterred him from voting on those same matters.

Republican Jim Garvey of Metairie, a Jindal endorsement, won the District 1 BESE seat as did another Jindal endorsement, Holly Boffy, a Republican from Youngsville, who easily won in District 7.

Ironically, Glenny Lee C. Buquet, the only Democrat whom Jindal backed financially for a BESE seat, lost to Republican Lottie Polozola Beebe.

If Roemer wins his runoff with Songy, Jindal will be all but unstoppable in his efforts to establish a statewide system of for-profit charter schools that will in all probability have selective enrollment of only the best and brightest students while at the same time providing a financial windfall for the charter operators.

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Gov. Bobby Jindal over the past year made multiple out-of-state fundraising trips to ensure that his own re-election campaign didn’t suffer the same financial dilemma as the state he was supposed to be running.

To that end, he has to be considered an unqualified success. He amassed some $10 million for his campaign that, barring an upset of monumental proportions, has attracted only token opposition.

Jindal must be given due credit. That he was able to attract so much money for his campaign at the same time the state was drowning in red ink is truly remarkable.

He couldn’t, after all, sell state prisons or the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) to finance his campaign but he could certain attract cash in large chunks from adoring benefactors in such remote reaches as Wisconsin, California, Florida, New Hampshire, New York, and Ohio—places with such an obvious stake in the outcome of a Louisiana gubernatorial election.

But, hey, that’s ancient history, right? All that hard work paid off. He’s a lock for re-election. The loss of a few public school teacher jobs is just collateral damage. The fact that health care premiums are going to cost more for fewer benefits after the privatization of OGB—along with about 150 OGB employees who will lose their jobs—is just one of those unfortunate things. When those three prisons are ultimately sold and the state prison guards who work there are forced to take drastic pay cuts, the election will be long past and no one will even notice, right?

Right? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

But we digress. The point of all this banter is to illustrate how serious Jindal really is taking this election, his own cakewalk notwithstanding.

His campaign has shoveled money into 93 separate legislative races, 49 in which his candidate is unopposed.

That’s right: $2,500 each to 49 hand-picked candidates ($122,500 total) who didn’t even draw opposition.

Even more interestingly, he dumped $2,500 each into the campaigns of nine ($22,500 total) legislative candidates all on the same day—Sept. 19, a full 11 days after it was apparent they would have no opposition. The others got their blood money well in advance of the qualifying deadline of Sept. 8.

Most of those 49, of course, were incumbents but some were somewhat surprising at first but on reflection, probably made perfect sense to the governor.

But the most significant contributions from the Jindal campaign coffers went to candidates for five of the eight seats on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Those five candidates, including one currently holding a $16 million contract with the state, received $5,000 each—double what the individual legislative candidates received.

That should illustrate just how much importance Jindal places on those races. It is the current BESE membership, after all, that has blocked his attempts to appoint John White as State Superintendent of Education. White was brought in (from New York) to replace Paul Vallas of Chicago as Superintendent of the Recovery School District (RSD). Only a few weeks after White’s appointment to head RSD, Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek resigned (some say he was forced out) and Jindal immediately moved to place White in that position, only to be thwarted by BESE. Now he wants revenge and he wants his way.

Of the three races in which he did not place bets, one candidate, DeSoto Parish Superintendent of Schools Walter Lee, is unopposed in District 4 which includes the parishes of Caddo, Bossier, Webster, Bienville, DeSoto, Red River, Winn, Natchitoches, Sabine and Vernon. The remaining two apparently are considered as lost causes. They are District 2 (all or parts of the parishes of Assumption, St. James, St. John, St. Charles, Jefferson, and Orleans), and District 8 (all of the parishes of East and West Baton Rouge Parish, Avoyelles, East and West Feliciana, St. Landry, Pointe Coupee, Lafayette, St. Martin, Iberville, and Ascension), in which no incumbent is running but three of the candidates are Democrat and a fourth is No Party.

In District 1, comprised of St. Tammany and parts of Jefferson and Orleans parishes, Jindal has tossed $5,000 to incumbent Jim Garvey of Metairie who is opposed by fellow Republican Sharon Hewitt of Slidell.

In District 3, Jindal is supporting another incumbent, Glenny Lee C. Buquet of Houma. She is opposed by Lottie Polozola Beebe of Breaux Bridge. Both candidates are women but what makes Jindal’s endorsement unusual here is that his candidate, Buquet, is a Democrat while her opponent is Republican.

Keith Guice, a Monroe Democrat, is the incumbent in BESE District 5 and Jindal is going after that seat. He kicked in $5,000 for his Republican challenger, Jay Guillot of Ruston.

Guillot is a partner in the multi-disciplined engineering firm of Hunt, Guillot and Associates (HGA) that has contracts with the state totaling nearly $17 million. A single contract in the amount of $16 million calls for the firm to manage grants for infrastructure “and other projects undertaken as a result of damages incurred as a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and to a lesser extent as a result of hurricanes Gustav and Ike,” according to the contract description provided by the Division of Administration.

Guillot has said if elected, he will request an opinion from the State Ethics Board on the propriety of his serving on the board while contracting with the state. The question of why he would wait until after the election remains puzzling since that avenue has always been available without having to wait for the results of an election.

The most high-profile and perhaps most controversial BESE candidate is incumbent Chas Roemer, a Baton Rouge Republican in District 6. He is being opposed by fellow Republican Elizabeth Meyers of Denham Springs and Democrat Donald Songy of Prairieville and Jindal has cast his lot—and another $5,000—with Roemer.

What makes this particular race controversial is Roemer’s sister, Caroline Roemer Shirley. Ms. Shirley is executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools and Chas Roemer has consistently voted on matters concerning charter schools and which directly benefit his sister’s organization. In some instances, Chas Roemer has even made or seconded motions on actions involving charter schools in which his sister has a vested interest.

The State Ethics Board has even issued a ruling that Ms. Shirley may not appear before BESE on matters involving charter schools because of her brother’s membership on the board. The ethics board also has ruled that she may not even communicate with BESE members on matters involving charter schools for that same reason.

This obvious ethics question apparently causes little or no concern to “the most ethical administration in America,” the administration that is “accountable and transparent.”

In BESE District 7, Jindal has taken aim on another incumbent, Republican Dale Bayard of Lake Charles. Instead, the governor is backing challenger Holly Boffy, a Youngsville Republican.

The nine unopposed legislative (eight House and one Senate) candidates to whom Jindal contributed $2,500 each more than a week after the close of qualifying included:

• Stuart Bishop of Lafayette (House District 43);
• Walt Leger, III of New Orleans (House District 91);
• J. Rogers Pope of Denham Springs (House District 71);
• Hunter Greene of Baton Rouge (House District 66);
• Eddie Lambert of Gonzales (House District 59);
• Jared Brossett of New Orleans (House District 97);
• Mickey Guillory of Eunice (House District 41);
• Helena Moreno of New Orleans (House District 93);
• Sharon Weston Broome of Baton Rouge (Senate District 15).

All but Bishop are incumbents and five of the nine (Leger, Brossett, Guillory, Moreno and Broome) are Democrats.

Why would Jindal sink $12,500 into the campaigns of five unopposed Democrats?

Possibly….no, definitely to build a consensus for his political agenda. Call it quid pro quo. A Democrat indebted to a Republican governor when a key bill comes up for a vote. What could be sweeter?

Other unopposed legislative candidates to whom Jindal contributed $2,500 each but prior to the qualification deadline included Republicans:

• Gordy Dove of Houma (House District 52);
• Page Cortez of Lafayette (Senate District 23);
• Dan Morrish of Lake Charles (Senate District 25);
• Steve Carter of Baton Rouge (House District 68);
• Jody Amadee of Gonzales (Senate District 18);
• Tom Willmott of Kenner (House District 92);
• Tony Ligi of Metairie (House District 79);
• Frank Howard of Many (House District 24);
• John Alario of Westwego (Senate District 8);
• Charles Chaney of Rayville (House District 19));
• Patrick Connick of Marrero (House District 84);
• Norby Chabert of Chauvin (Senate District 20);
• Neil Riser of Columbia (Senate District 32);
• Craig Hensgens of Geydan (House District 47);
• Mike Walsworth of West Monroe (Senate District 33);
• Mike Huval of Breaux Bridge (House District 46);
• Joseph Harrison of Gray (House District 51);
• Eric Ponti of Baton Rouge (House District 69);
• Charles Kleckley of Lake Charles (House District 36);
• Kirk Talbot of River Ridge (House District 78);
• Joseph Lopinto of Metairie (House District 80);
• Clif Richardson of Baton Rouge (House District 65);
• Ronnie Johns of Sulphur (Senate District 27);
• Taylor Barras of New Iberia (House District 48);
• Johnny Guinn of Jennings (House District 37);
• Cameron Henry of New Orleans (House District 82);
• Henry Burns of Haughton (House District 9);
• Scott Simon of Abita Springs (House District 74);
• Fred Mills of St. Martinville (Senate District 22);
• Brett Geymann of Lake Charles (House District 35);
• Daniel Martiny of Metairie (Senate District 10);
• John Schroder of Covington (House District 77);
• Gerald Long of Winnfield (Senate District 31);
• Kevin Pearson of Slidell (House District 86);
• Conrad Appel of Metairie (Senate District 9).
Unopposed Democrats who received $2,500 from Jindal before qualifying:
• Francis Thompson of Delhi (Senate District 34);
• Girod Jackson of Harvey (House District 87);
• David Heitmeir of New Orleans (Senate District 7);
• Major Thibaut of New Roads (House District 18);
• Mike Danahay of Sulphur (House District 33);
• Jim Fannin of Jonesboro (House District 13).

Republican legislative candidates who received $2,500 contributions from Jindal and who have opposition include:

• A.G. Crowe of Pearl River (Senate District 1);
• Joel Robideaux of Lafayette (House District 45);
• Frank Hoffman of West Monroe (House District 15);
• Garrett Monti of Luling (Senate District 19);
• Kirby Roy of Hessemer (House District 28);
• Steve Pylant of Winnsboro (House District 20);
• Sherman Mack of Albany (House District 95);
• Thomas Carmody of Shreveport (House District 53);
• Barrett Byrd of Alexandria (House District 25);
• Billy Chandler of Dry Prong (House District 22);
• John Smith of Leesville (Senate District 30);
• Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge (Senate District 16);
• Simone Champagne of Jeanerette (House District 49);
• Tim Burns of Mandeville (House District 89);
• Jane Smith of Bossier City (Senate District 37);
• Franklin Foil of Baton Rouge (House District 70);
• Don Menard of Carencro (House District 39);
• Greg Cromer of Slidell (House District 90);
• Sam Little of Bastrop (House District 14);
• Bodi White of Watson (Senate District 6);
• Richard Burford of Stonewall (House District 7);
• Steve Pugh of Ponchatoula (House District 73);
• Joseph Harrison of Gray (House District 51);
• Jim Morris of Oil City (House District 1);
• Jack Donahue of Mandeville (Senate District 11);
• Julie Harrington of Krotz Springs (House District 38);
• Paul Miller of Ville Platte (Senate District 28);
• Bob Kostelka of Monroe (Senate District 35);
• Fenn French of New Orleans (House District 98);
• Nancy Landry of Lafayette (Senate District 26);
• Alan Seabaugh of Shreveport (House District 5);

Democratic legislative candidates who received $2,500 contributions from Jindal and who have opposition include:

• Elbert Guillory of Opelousas (Senate District 24);
• Karen St. Germain of Pierre Part (House District 60);
• Andy Anders of Vidalia (House District 21);
• Rick Gallot of Ruston (Senate District 29);
• Rick Ward of Port Allen (Senate District 17);

One thing each of those 93 legislative candidates and five BESE candidates–and every voter–might want to keep in the back of their minds as regards all those contributions:

Bobby Jindal considers those payments as nothing more than an investment–an investment in commodities and the recipients of those donations are the commodities on which he expects high–very high–returns.

So much for the myth of an independent legislature.

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It seems that Gov. Bobby Jindal is not only skilled at raising money for what appears to be a re-election cakewalk but he also appears to be quite generous in doling out some of that campaign cash to other candidates.

Over the past 12 months, Jindal has written checks totaling $285,000 to 102 candidates for the legislature, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and to a sitting legislator who is running for parish tax assessor.

It is one thing for a governor to award supporters in the legislature with key committee assignments through a friendly House speaker and Senate president but quite another to spread cash around in an effort to secure support for his programs.

Some of those candidates are running for BESE and Jindal’s agenda for education is every bit as ambitious as any other area of government. Heading his to-do list for education is his appointment of John White as State Superintendent of Education to succeed the departed John Pastorek. BESE has thus far blocked those efforts.

Some might even say it is a not-so-subtle form of vote buying. It’s a bit more sophisticated than passing out five dollar bills to voters before hauling them to the polls, but still an obvious back-door effort to consolidate his power base.

So, what’s so terribly wrong with a sitting governor who is a virtual lock to be re-elected providing assistance to candidates politically aligned with him?

For one thing, some of those to whom he has contributed are not necessary his political allies. A few are (gasp) Democrats. Granted, some of those may be Democrats on whom he may be able to count in a pinch.

Perhaps that is why certain other Democratic legislators running for re-election are noticeably absent from Jindal’s list of recipients; he can’t count on their support.

But consider this:

Donor John Doe gives Jindal a donation for his gubernatorial campaign. Jindal then gives $2,500 to Candidate A who is running against Candidate B for either the legislature or for a coveted BESE seat. But it turns out that donor John Doe is a personal friend and avid supporter of Candidate B.

If donor John Doe is a major Jindal contributor of say, $1,000, $2,500 or $5,000, it could create what Johnny Carson used to call a sticky wicket–especially if donor John Doe also contributed to Candidate B and now feels that contribution has been negated, perhaps with his own money.

Jindal, of course, is free to spend campaign donations for any political purpose he deems worthy. In theory, at least, donations are supposed to be free of any strings or conditions. But we know how that works.

One of the more high-profile recipients is BESE member Chas Roemer, son of former Gov. Buddy Roemer and brother of Caroline Roemer Shirley, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.

Jindal made identical $2,500 contributions to Chas Roemer about three weeks apart—on Aug. 15 and on September 6.

Chas Roemer consistently votes on matters involving charter schools that come before the board despite an apparent conflict of interest because of his sister’s position. The Louisiana Board of Ethics has, in fact, issued a ruling that Ms. Shirley is not allowed to appear before the board on matters involving charter schools because of her brother’s membership on the board. The ethics board also has ruled that she should not even communicate with BESE members on matters involving charter schools for that same reason.

Jindal also contributed $5,000 to the campaign of Jay Guillot of Ruston.

Guillot, who is seeking a BESE seat, is a partner in the multi-disciplined engineering firm of Hunt, Guillot and Associates (HGA) that has contracts with the state totaling almost $17 million.

The largest of those, for $16 million, calls for the firm to manage grants for infrastructure “and other projects undertaken as a result of damages incurred as a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and to a lesser extent as a result of hurricanes Gustav and Ike,” according to the contract description provided by the Division of Administration.

Jindal also wrote campaign donation checks of $2,500 each to Democrats Jim Fannin of Jonesboro, Rick Gallot of Ruston, Francis Thompson of Delhi, and Sharon Weston Broome of Baton Rouge. Fannin is Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which may explain that contribution. Donations to the others would have to be investments in future key legislative committee and floor votes.

He also wrote a $2,500 check back on July 29 to the campaign of State Rep. John Schroder (R-Abita Springs). Schroder, it may be remembered, authored a number of bills in 2010 that would have abolished the State Civil Service Board, the state civil service system, and would have given the legislature final authority on which classified (civil service) employees–if any–would receive merit pay increases.

Schroder did not make a similar effort this year, possibly because it is an election year, but some observers feel he will renew those efforts in next spring’s legislative session.

The most curious contribution, however, was the $2,500 donation Jindal made to the campaign of State Rep. M.J. “Mert” Smiley (R-St. Amant) on Aug. 2. Smiley is not seeking re-election but instead is running for Ascension Parish tax assessor.

It was Smiley who, during testimony about the mass exodus of employees of the Office of Risk Management in the wake of that agency’s privatization, asked if there was not some regulation in place that would prevent employees from leaving for employment elsewhere. “Isn’t there some way you can make them stay?” he asked.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—With the outcome of this year’s gubernatorial election all but final heading into the last days of the 2011 campaign, it might be good to look ahead at what’s in store as Gov. Bobby Jindal prepares for his second term.

He has already partially unveiled his agenda for the next four years to trusted top staff. And not all staffers—including some cabinet members—are within his circle of trust.

If you think he was a bit ambitious with his agenda to reduce the role of government during his first term, you might want to find something to hold onto during the next four years. It’s going to be quite a ride. That’s provided, of course, he sticks around that long. There’s no guarantee of that because he does harbor national ambitions despite his comforting assurances to the contrary.

Details of Jindal’s plans for the coming four years remain sketchy but there are a few moves that can be predicted with relative ease. Others might be considered improbable if one chooses not to observe what conservative Republican administrations have managed to do in other states.

There is the privatization of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB), of course. That’s a no-brainer. It’s an emotional issue and those emotions are not likely to subside as the administration steps up its efforts to sell off what is arguably the most efficient agency in state government. But Jindal and his Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater have already sent signals that privatization of the agency is high on their bucket list.

Opponents point out that OGB currently has an administrative overhead of about three percent. That is because it is not required that the agency turn a profit nor does OGB pay taxes on premiums. A private concern would require an administrative cost of about 15 percent to allow for profits and tax liabilities. That would translate to a substantial premium increase for state employees and retirees.

OGB currently has a surplus of about $500 million but those funds are for the payment of benefits only and are off-limits to the administration. If OGB is sold for somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 million to $200 million, however, that money would go straight into the state’s general fund and that’s money Jindal wants desperately.

A recent development is more than a little telling on this issue. OGB has proposed a rate increase of about three percent but the administration has insisted on at least a five percent bump. A bigger premium increase would allow the $500 million surplus to remain intact, thus making the agency far more attractive to potential buyers.

Another nagging issue that Jindal is likely to address is the cost of the various state retirement plans, which currently are saddling the state with an unfunded liability of about $18 billion.

State employees presently have a defined benefit plan as opposed to a defined contribution plan. Look for the administration to take a long, hard look at changing that.

Defined benefits mean that employees pay premiums with the knowledge that their benefits are locked in. That benefit is computed by multiplying the average of an employee’s three highest years of earnings by 2.5 percent by the number of years of service. An employee who earned an average of $60,000 in his three best years over a 30-year career would multiply $60,000 by 2.5 percent, which is comes to $1500. That $1500 is then multiplied by the number of years of service (30) which computes to an annual pension of $45,000.

Under a defined contribution plan, contributions would be set and the money would be invested in much the same way as a 401(K) plan works. There would be no guarantee of benefits because that would depend on market fluctuations. That’s not a change desired by state employees after the recent Wall Street crisis.

State employee sentiments aside, one state legislator, Sen. D.A. “Butch” Gautreaux (D-Morgan City), outgoing chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee, pointed out that should the state convert to a defined contribution system, the state would then be required to begin paying Social Security premiums on state employees. State employees do not presently participate in Social Security.

“Going to a defined contribution system would not save the state any money,” Gautreaux said.

Jindal is almost certain to renew his efforts to privatize several state prisons. He tried earlier this year but backed off those efforts in the face of vocal opposition from prison employees, legislators, and local citizens. With no concerns about being elected to a third term, he is likely to make a harder push next year in an effort to pull in a few million more into the general fund.

Remember Rep. John Schroder (R-Abita Springs)? He’s the legislator who, in 2010, introduced four bills designed to abolish Civil Service and the Civil Service Commission and to give the legislator authority to decide which state employees would receive merit raises.

Those efforts failed and he did not renew his efforts this year, probably because it’s an election year. Those efforts are quite likely to resurface in next year’s legislative session as are attempts by Rep. John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie) to force welfare recipients to undergo drug testing. Previous attempts have never made it out of committee.

Though both measures by Schroder and LaBruzzo have gotten nowhere, consider Gov. Scott Walker who has effectively defanged the state employee union in Wisconsin. And in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has signed into a law that requires adult welfare recipients to undergo drug screening.

Since day one, Jindal has worked nearly as hard on education reform as he has on political fundraising.

His penchant for replacing public schools with charter schools has incurred the wrath of public school teachers who are forced to accept all comers, to take the bad students with the good. Jindal’s charter schools, they say, have operated under the guise of open admissions when in reality, practicing selective admissions.

The recent school grades released by the State Department of Education would seem to bear that out. All but one of the top performing schools (24 of 25) were schools with selective admissions while 19 of the lowest 25 were alternative schools—those schools into which the poorest performing students are shunted.

Jindal’s efforts to privatize the state’s Medicaid program are likely to continue unabated. The Department of Health and Hospitals already has approved a $300 million contract to CNSI to implement the state’s Medicaid Management Information System. The contract raised eyebrows in the legislature because DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein once worked for CNSI and Greenstein attempted to conceal from a legislative committee the identity of the contract winner.

With only token opposition in Saturday’s election, the only obstacle for Jindal’s agenda is the legislature itself. But with a solid Republican majority in both the House and Senate, any opposition there is likely to no less token.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—LouisianaVoice has regularly taken the Recovery School District (RSD) to task for its creative data on school performance that puts RSD in a favorable light compared to public school systems. We have consistently offered the opinion that the Jindal administration’s intent is to make sacrificial lambs of public education in favor of wholesale privatization of education, even if it means cooking the statistics a little.

Nothing has occurred to alter that opinion, but a friend and regular reader recently called attention to the action of a Baton Rouge-area school board that would appear to fly in the face of the professed mission of public education. We had to plead ignorance because we had been so focused on the big picture we lost sight of what went on right under our noses.

So we did some checking of our own.

Sadly, it is impossible to defend the decision of the East Feliciana Parish School Board earlier this month to crater to the interest of interscholastic athletics at the cost of academic standards.

Since Moby Dick was a guppy, anywhere one went in this country, the minimum “C” grade standard has always been a 2.0 on a 4.0 scale.

Not in East Feliciana, however.

In the not-too-distant past, athletes in Louisiana high schools were considered academically eligible with a 1.5 or better.

State Rep. Rickey Hardy (D-Lafayette) has been trying for years to increase the minimum requirement for sports eligibility to 2.0. He even managed to get the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) to consider phasing in tougher standards. At last year’s state convention a proposal was introduced to require at least a 1.75 for the 2011-2012 school year and 2.0 next year.

“I’m certainly satisfied with phasing it in,” Hardy said last year. He first introduced the 2.0 legislation as far back as 2008. He noted that Texas and Mississippi have already raised the minimum GPA to 2.0.

But not in East Feliciana.

Before any bouquets are pinned on the LHSAA, which has been content with the 1.5 status quo for three decades, it should be noted that while passing a compromise minimum “C” average requirement, the association failed to define “C,” leaving that determination to individual school boards. In athletic parlance, LHSAA punted.

With apologies to former president Bill Clinton, it depends on what your definition of “C” is.

The East Feliciana Parish School Board saw its opening. Gotta have a “C” average to play? No problem. We’ll just lower the bar. Instead of a 2.0 that even Mississippi recognizes as the minimum standard for a “C” grade, let’s just make it a 1.5.

Give proper credit to board member Rhonda Mathews who attempted to set 2.0 as the minimum requirement. She was supported by fellow board members Melvin Hollins, Mitch Harrell, Debra Spurlock-Haynes and Broderick Brooks.

Blocking the higher standard, however, were Olivia Harris, Henry Howell V, Ben Cupit, Paul Kent, Michael Bradford, Richard Terrell and Rufus Nesbitt.

Cupit, a former Clinton High School coach, said state officials who criticized the move would better serve public school children in Louisiana if they fully funded school systems instead of passing unfunded mandates to the local school systems.

East Feliciana Superintendent Douglas Beauchamp said the board voted in 2002 to gradually raise the requirement from 1.5 to 2.0 by the 2004-2005 school year but the new requirements apparently did not get passed down to the school level during subsequent changes in coaching staffs and central office and school administrators.

Beauchamp was quoted as saying that the lower requirements would have little effect in East Feliciana since most students in the parish were not college material.

Wait. What? Not college material? Is that really his call?

Beauchamp said 30 school superintendents across the state responded to his survey on grade-point requirements. Of those 30, he said 25 districts also allow participation in athletics and other extracurricular activities with a 1.5 average.

So there you have it. The LHSAA punted, the East Feliciana Parish School Board fumbled. And while LHSAA’s dereliction is shameful, the East Feliciana Parish School Board’s actions are shameless. And it has at least 25 other school districts in its corner to provide moral support for the wisdom–or folly– of its actions.

At least 26 of Louisiana’s local school systems, perhaps more, see fit to look the other way in the interest of allowing underachievers to pursue athletics over academics. These kids will be able to explain a pick or a press in basketball. They will know the difference between a 4-5 and a 5-4 defense in football. They will be able to run fast, hit hard and shoot baskets with deadly accuracy.

But will they ever be able to diagram a sentence? Will they know the difference between an adverb and an adjective? Will they be able to identify the three branches of government? Will they be able to even balance a checkbook after the glory days of high school sports are long since forgotten and no one can remember their uniform number or even what sport they played?

Our friend who told us about this travesty has a low opinion of public education in general and an even lower opinion of local school boards in particular. These kinds of decisions only serve to arm him with deadly accurate ammunition.

It is impossible to defend the indefensible or to excuse the inexcusable.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—One of the primary forces behind the systematic elimination of public schools, the privatization of government, and the widespread implementation of the Milton Friedman school of economic principles is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The organization, founded in 1973 by conservative activists, ALEC has drafted a list of radical legislation it plans to propose in Republican-controlled states in an apparent effort to duplicate the so-called “shock doctrine” forced on countries in South and Central America in the 1980s and 1990s with disastrous results.

Louisiana Legislator Rep. Noble Ellington (R-Winnsboro) last December said, “Never has the time been so right” to plan the radical reshaping of policies in the states. His remarks were made at a gathering of conservative legislators in Washington on the heels of the midterm elections that saw Republicans seize majorities in both legislative chambers and governorships in 21 states.

The event was the “States and Nation Policy Summit” and it featured such heavy hitters as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Calling itself “the nation’s largest non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators, ALEC will hold its 2011 annual meeting, “Solutions for the States,” in New Orleans for six days, beginning Monday at the Marriott.

Charter schools are one of the organization’s main showcases, so the timing of the annual meeting couldn’t be worse, given the ongoing investigations of two charter schools in New Orleans and Baton Rouge into allegations of abuse, mistreatment, neglect, and cheating.

The highlight for attendees, of course, will be the appearance of free market wunderkind Gov. Bobby Jindal who will be the featured speaker at the organization’s plenary lunch on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.

ALEC’s proposed legislation must first meet the approval of corporate donors who have veto power over language contained in the legislation which in turn, is developed by secretive task forces out of the view and scrutiny of the public.

The task forces cover every imaginable issue from education to health policy, from union-busting to privatization of schools and government, from global warming to industry deregulation.

ALEC’s agenda tracks the agenda of the late economist Milton Friedman who sent his disciples into Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Poland, Russia, China, Indonesia, and several other countries in the wake of natural or man-made disasters to institute privatization of government programs and industries before the citizens could recoup their senses.

Friedman specialized in earthquakes, revolutions, and tsunamis, moving in and instituting radical change in economic and political policies. That pattern was followed with the public school system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans with many formerly public schools now being operated by corporate-run charters.

Invariably, when Friedman’s economists moved in, the chasm between the super rich and the super poor grew ever wider as unemployment soared when jobs disappeared, people lost their homes, and inflation made local currency worthless. It was then that U.S. corporations moved in and purchased state-owned mines and manufacturing plants for pennies on the dollar.

In 2007, ALEC made its most ambitious and strategic push for privatization of education with its publication, School Choice and State Constitutions, which proposed a list of programs tailored to each state.

ALEC’s 2010 Report Card on American Education challenged members to “transform the system, don’t tweak it.”

After what has occurred with the Abramson Science and Technology Charter School in New Orleans earlier this month and now the ongoing revelations at Kenilworth Science and Technology School in Baton Rouge, someone needs to tweak something. The State Department of Education has already pulled Abramson’s charter and now Kenilworth is under investigation.

Both schools are operated by Pelican Educational Foundation which has ties to a Turkish-run, Houston-based firm, Atlas Texas Construction and Trading and Atlas vice president Inci Akpinar.

Louisiana Department of Education investigator Folwell Dunbar, who investigated complaints against Abramson last year, reported that Akpinar attempted to bribe him in an effort to smooth over problems at the school but nothing was done until a year later when the state auditor began an investigation.

Only then did the Department of Education take decisive action by revoking Abramson’s charter—and firing both Dunbar and his supervisor, Jacob Landry.

Apparently ALEC’s 2010 Report Card on American Education has its own definition of transformation: shoot the messenger.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—A few random notes worth sharing in the wake of the most recent legislative session and Gov. Jindal’s ongoing love affair with north Louisiana:

Because Jindal and the legislature have seen fit to play fiscal shell games with education in Louisiana, considerable but unnecessary—and certainly unfair—financial strain has been placed on local school boards around the state.

Even as Jindal, when he was not drumming up campaign contributions in other states by telling Republican supporters in Wisconsin, Illinois and elsewhere what a fine job he has done in Louisiana, was telling actual constituents and state workers they would have to “do more with less.”

Except when it came to golf courses.

Ah, yes, the golf courses, that old bugaboo we talked about last year.

And let’s not forget the other sports venues and pet projects that took priority over education in Priority 1 capital outlay appropriations this year:

• City Park Golf Complex improvements in New Orleans—$6.6 million;

• Junior Golf training facilities for Jerry Tim Brooks Lakeside Golf Course in Caddo Parish—$200,000;

• Golf course development in Calcasieu Parish—$6.1 million;

• Zephyrs baseball facilities in Jefferson Parish—$1.2 million;

• Professional sports facilities and lease hold improvements in Jefferson Parish (provided that $8.5 million is used to improve the New Orleans Hornets’ training center—$17.5 million;

• Recreational complex in Iberia Parish—$1 million;

• Baseball stadium Improvements in Baton Rouge (which has no baseball team)—$1.4 million;

• Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame/Natchitoches State Museum—$7.7 million;

• Bayou Segnette sports complex improvements in Jefferson Parish—$9.2 million;

• West Ouachita Youth Sports Association site renovations—$25,000;

• Poverty Point Reservoir State Park conference center in Richland Parish—$250,000;

• Poverty Point Reservoir (real estate acquisition)—$1.7 million;

• Washington Parish reservoir feasibility study—$2.6 million.

Meanwhile, in Livingston Parish, the local school board has found it necessary to freeze all salaries and to eliminate three work days from the 2011-12 school year in an effort to cut costs.

Three days may not seem like much but why would we want to cheat our kids out of even 10 minutes?

Union Parish schools operated on a four-day week last year and at least one school district, Caldwell Parish, will follow suit this year.

But the state somehow found the money for $50 million in projects for golf courses, reservoirs and recreational facilities.

And we barely scratched the surface. Local projects were down from last year, but they still could be found crammed into this year’s budget.

Jindal, meanwhile, makes use of the tax-supported state web page to post what comes dangerously close to being a political ad for his re-election.

Go to http://www.louisiana.gov and then move your cursor to “Government,” click first on “Executive Branch,” and then on “Governor,” and voila! Up pops a series of photos of Jindal shaking hands with truck drivers, construction workers, National Guardsmen, etc. The accompanying text to the side reads:

“More than 39,500 new direct and indirect jobs will be created from the economic development wins we have announced since taking office in 2008, along with more than $8.5 billion in capital investment in our state. These figures represent thousands of opportunities for generations of Louisianians—Louisianians who will not have to leave our state to secure a great education or find a rewarding career.”

Like plucking chickens in Farmerville, perhaps?

Not that we have anything against chicken pluckers but it seems the really good jobs were handed out by Jindal to folks from out of state—including his Deputy Commissioner of Administration (New Hampshire), his press secretary (New Jersey), the Secretary of Health and Hospitals (Washington State).

Well, you get the picture.

Of course, it’s going to be rather difficult to remain in the state when programs of study at colleges and universities have been cut to the bone, college tuition increased, teacher pay cut, and state agencies privatized, forcing state workers into a virtually non-existent job market.

Our friend Don Whittinghill observed recently that Jindal convinced local school boards that the 2.75 percent growth factor of the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP—the formula used to fund public education in Louisiana)—would not be funded for the third straight year; that the state passed to the local school boards the cost of transporting private and church school students; that the state-promised $5,000 stipend for teachers who achieve the rigorous National Board Certification would have to be absorbed by the already-shrunken MFP, and that local school boards’ state retirement system contributions would jump to 22 percent.

But, hey! We got our golf courses and Baton Rouge has its baseball park improvements, just no team to play on it.

And Jindal continues to commandeer the state helicopter to fly to north Louisiana churches to give testimonials that are really little more than thinly-disguised efforts to raise still more campaign funds.

In something like five months, Whittinghill tells us, Jindal spent more than $45,000 flying to exotic places like Downsville, Dry Prong, and Shongaloo to give witness to adoring Protestant congregations.

As recently as Friday, July 8, he boarded that helicopter and flew north to the First Baptist Church of West Monroe. There, he took the occasion of signing into law HB-636 by Rep. Frank Hoffmann (R-West Monroe).

If something as blatantly political as that single action doesn’t cost the First Baptist Church of West Monroe its IRS tax-exempt status, nothing should.

How the governor could do something so ill-advised as to put the church’s tax-exempt status in jeopardy or why the church officials would allow it is a mystery.

Moreover, it’s another of those mindless laws that is almost certain to be contested in the courts at considerable cost to the taxpayers of Louisiana and it’s just as certain that the state ultimately will lose the case.

What is this bill? It’s a measure that would require women to be informed of their specific legal rights and options before they undergo an abortion procedure.

Whatever your position on this emotional issue, a church is no place to be holding a ceremony signing it—or any other bill, for that matter—into law.

Abortion providers will be required to post signs around their clinics stating that “it is illegal to coerce a woman into getting an abortion, that the child’s father must provide child support, that certain agencies can assist them during and after the pregnancy, and that adoptive parents can pay some of the medical costs.”

The law also creates a Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) website and a mobile platform to deliver information “about public and private pregnancy resources” for avoiding abortions.

The first question that comes to mind is how are fathers going to be forced into providing child support given the current deadbeat dad caseload backlog?

Second, just who is going to be around to enforce the child support laws after Jindal gets through gutting DHH as part of his far-reaching obsession with privatization of state agencies?

The most bizarre statement yet was uttered by Jindal while signing the bill into law when he compared women who receive abortions to criminals:

“Now if we’re giving criminals their basic rights and they have to be informed of those rights, it seems to me only common sense (that) we would have to do the same thing for women before they make the choice about whether to get an abortion,” he said.

Common sense?


That would seem to be the rarest of commodities with this governor.

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