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Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

When the chips are down, you can generally count on your legislators, in the apparent belief that they represent a composite embodiment of a modern day Solomon, to make the absurd proposal to split the baby when it comes to doing the right thing.

While politics is still the art of compromise, they take it to the extreme and then never seem to understand why their action, instead of pleasing constituents, should only serve to generate pervasive anger as the appropriate response.

Case in point: Senate Bill 153 by Sen. Ed Murray of New Orleans. His bill would have helped close the gender pay gap for both public and private workers.

That certainly seems fair. If a computer is repaired, does it matter who fixed it? If a story appears in the paper, does it make any difference if it’s written by a man or woman? If a female bricklayer lays the same number of bricks in an hour as the man beside her, shouldn’t she receive the same pay considerations? The same should apply to truck drivers, sales personnel, engineers, architects, and attorneys. A woman who performs the same job as a man certainly should receive the same pay, after all. Who could argue with that?

Apparently Sen. Patrick “Page” Cortez (R-Lafayette). For some unknown reason, Cortez decided to split the baby by offering an amendment to make Murray’s bill apply only to the public sector and not the private.

Why? What possible reason could there be for the legislature to sanction discrimination against private sector female employees?

Why is such blatant discrimination against women in the private sector allowed by our legislature? All hell should’ve broken loose on behalf of private sector female employees as it almost certainly would have—and justifiably so—if Cortez’s amendment had, for example, made the equal pay bill applicable only to whites to the exclusion of African Americans.

Gov. Bobby Jindal loves to travel across the country with his message of how wonderful things are in Louisiana since he became governor. But you never hear a peep out of him about how Louisiana is tied for the second widest disparity in pay between men and women, according to figures released by the National Women’s Law Center.

Wyoming is the worst in the nation. There, women make 67 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts. Louisiana is not far behind. We are tied with Utah for the second widest disparity, with female employees making 69 cents for every dollar a man makes. If you are Sen. Gomez, you’d say she makes only 31 percent less than the male but if you’re a woman, he makes 44.9 percent more.

Even Mississippi and Alabama, where women are paid 74 cents per dollar made by men, rank ahead of Louisiana. South Carolina? Seventy-six cents. Arkansas and Texas? Eighty-two cents—18.8 percent higher than Louisiana.

Ouch.

While the disparity is worse in Wyoming, Louisiana and Utah, the difference is evident throughout the country. In California, for example, Women are paid roughly 85 percent of a man’s salary for the same job. The difference is the same for Nevada and Arizona.

The District of Columbia has the narrowest gap, with women making 90.4 cents per each dollar made by men in the same job.

Murray’s bill failed to get the necessary 20 votes the first time around on May 15 but it passed on May 22 after five senators—Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), Cortez, A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell), Elbert Guillory (D-turned R, Opelousas), and Neil Riser (R-Columbia)—changed their votes from the previous week after Cortez’s amendment passed, 24-11.

Four of the five voted no on May 15. Guillory, the lone exception, was absent on the first vote.

Understandably, some senators like Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb (D-Baton Rouge), Troy Brown (D-Napoleonville), Norbért Chabert (R-Houma), Eric Lafleur (D-Ville Platte), and Sherri Smith Buffington (R-Keithville) voted in favor of Cortez’s amendment because it was the only way to get even the gutted version of the bill passed. Each of those voted in favor of the original bill, the subsequent amendment and for final passage.

Senators who displayed their disdain for women in general and private sector women in particular by voting against final passage included:

• Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego);

• Robert Adley (R-Benton);

• R.L. “Bret” Allain (R-Franklin);

• Conrad Appel (R-Metairie);

• Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville);

• Dale Erdy (R-Livingston);

• Ronny John (R-Lake Charles);

• Gerald Long (R-Natchitoches);

• Dan Morrish (R-Jennings);

• Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City);

• Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan);

• Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe);

• Mack “Bodi” White (R-Central).

Those who took a hike and did not vote were:

• Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie);

• Gary Smith (D-Norco);

• John Smith (R-Leesville).

House members voting against the bill included:

• Richard Burford (R-Stonewall);

• Gordon Dove (R-Houma);

• Lance Harris (R-Alexandria);

• Joe Harrison (R-Gray);

• Paul Hollis (R-Covington);

• John “Jay” Morris (R-Monroe);

• James “Jim” Morris (R-Oil City);

• Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula);

• Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport);

• Scott Simon (R-Abita Springs);

• Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge);

• Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier City).

Staying home and not voting were:

• Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans);

• Greg Cromer (R-Slidell);

• Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro);

• Kenny Havard (R-Jackson);

• Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville);

• Valerie Hodges (R-Denham Springs);

• Walt Leger (D-New Orleans).

So much for the campaign rhetoric that these good and noble public servants want nothing more than to represent all the people of their districts.

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A week after the Dallas office of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) confirmed to LouisianaVoice that the state still had not answered questions about the proposed privatization of state hospitals, the Washington, D.C. office has weighed in with similar concerns in a letter to two state senators.

On Monday it was announced that Health facilities in Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles and New Orleans had been turned over to private operators as part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s drive to privatize the university-run hospitals and clinics.

A three-page letter from Cindy Mann, Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMCS), to State Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) addressed seven questions posed by Nevers and State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) and the answers were no more encouraging to the Jindal administration than those of the Dallas office on June 12.

“In your letter, you raise questions concerning plans by the state to enter into public-private partnerships with Louisiana State University (LSU) and University Medical Center in Lafayette and LSU and Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, and questions related to the Affordable Care Act,” Mann wrote in her June 19 letter to Nevers.

The entire privatization deal would appear to revolve around the first question posed by Nevers: “Will CMS approve the large up-front lease payment arrangements as proposed in the attached public-private partnership lease agreements in Louisiana?”

“The Centers for (CMS) has concerns over the large up-front lease payments described in the Louisiana public-private partnership agreements,” Mann wrote.

A spokesperson for Mann’s office said nothing had changed since the June 19 letter.

“However, at this time, the state has not submitted state plan amendments (SPA) proposing to fund Medicaid payments through the agreements and CMS cannot offer formal determination as to whether the arrangements would conflict with the requirements described in (the Social Security Act,” Mann said. “Once the state submits the SPAs, CMS will request necessary supporting documentation and explanations from the state to demonstrate compliance with these provisions of the statute and regulations.”

Nearly 4,000 state employees were laid off because of the privatization of the facilities that care for the uninsured and which provide training for the state’s medical students.

Nevers, contacted in California where he was attending a conference, said he had never seen a situation where policies needing federal approval were undertaken and finalized before that approval was forthcoming. “It’s premature, to say the least, to do this without written approval in hand,” he said. “The private partners won’t stay in this deal if there are no payments and if CMS doesn’t approve the state’s plan, the whole thing falls apart.”

Nevers said his primary concern was continued health care delivery for the state’s poor. “In any business venture, you would not jeopardize services based on ‘maybes.’”

He said Jindal may well have more information than he has, “but the people who make the decisions do not have the information. Moving forward is something we should not be doing at this time.

“Neither should the LSU Board of Supervisors have agreed to a major contract for the transfer of the hospitals that contained 50 blank pages,” he said.

Mann, in her letter said that while the lease agreements themselves would not be subject to CMS approval, “to the extent that the lease agreements contain financing arrangements that are involved in the state’s funding of its Medicaid program, CMS will review the lease arrangements to insure compliance with federal Medicaid laws and regulations.”

She said any SPA request by the state to modify its Medicaid service payments will be reviewed by CMS to insure compliance with federal Medicaid laws and regulations. “This includes the source of non-federal funds used to fund the service payments,” she said.

Nevers, in his letter to Mann, asked if Louisiana were to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) “are there any federal provisions that would prohibit Louisiana from withdrawing from such an expanded Medicaid program at any time, including after participating in the 100 percent federal funding available in 2014, 2015 and 2016?”

Mann responded in the affirmative: “A state may choose whether and when to expand, and if a state covers the expansion group, it may later decide to drop the coverage, without any federal penalty.”

The Louisiana Civil Service Commission approved the contracts for the takeover of four hospitals in Houma, Lafayette, New Orleans and Lake Charles on June 10 despite the lack of CMS approval of the state’s privatization plan.

Commission member Scott Hughes of Shreveport said the approval was based on the state budget approved by the legislature which he said assumed the privatization of the hospital. That action, he said, would leave no money available to operate the hospitals through LSU if the deals had been rejected.

While that is not among the criteria that the Civil Service Commission is supposed to consider when layoff plans are submitted by state agencies, it left unanswered the question of what will happen if CMS does not ultimately approve the state’s plan.

A CMS spokesperson in Dallas said on June 12 that CMS does not play any role in the actual privatization of the hospitals. “However, as part of the privatization, the State of Louisiana is modifying the Medicaid reimbursement to those hospitals. The change in reimbursement requires the submission of State Plan Amendments (SPA). CMS currently has received some of the necessary SPA and they are under review.”

Last Jan. 30, Bill Brooks, associate regional administrator for the CMS Division of Medicaid and Children’s Health Operations in Dallas, sent a six-page letter to Ruth Kennedy, director of the Bureau of Health Services Financing for the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) in which he requested additional clarifying information which he cautioned had the effect of “stopping the 90-day clock” for CMS to take action on the proposed SPA which “proposed to revise the reimbursement methodology for inpatient hospital services to establish supplemental Medicaid payments to non-state-owned hospitals in order to encourage them to take over the operation and management of state-owned and operated hospitals that have terminated or reduced services.”

He said a new 90-day clock would not begin until his office had received satisfactory responses to his requests.

One of the requirements that Brooks cited was one which said CMS “must have copies of all signed standard Cooperative Endeavor Agreements.” He also asked the state to provide all Intergovernmental Transfer (IGT) management agreements and “any other agreements that would present the possibility of a transfer of value between the two entities.”

He said, “CMS has concerns that such financial arrangements meet the definition of non-bona fide provider donations as described in federal statute and regulations.

“Detailed information needs to be provided to determine whether the dollar value of the contracts between private and public entities had any fair market valuation. There can be no transfer of value or a return or reduction of payments reflected in these agreements,” he said.

“Additionally, whether the State is a party to the financial arrangement or not, the State is ultimately responsible to ensure that the funding is appropriate.”

Brooks asked, “How many entities does the State anticipate will participate in this arrangement? Please submit a list of all participating hospitals, all transferring entities doing the IGT, and the dollar amount that the transferring entities will IGT. Please describe how the hospitals are related/affiliated to the transferring entity and provide the names of all owners of the participating hospitals.”

In the case of the Leonard Chabert Medical Center in Houma, the lessee is listed as Terrebonne Medical Center of Houma but in reality, Ochsner Medical Center of New Orleans will be taking over operations of Leonard Chabert.

“What is the source of all funds that will be transferred?” Brooks asked. “Are they from tax assessments, special appropriations from the State to the county (parish)/city or some other source?

“The State plan methodology must be comprehensive enough to determine the required level of payment and the Federal Financial Participation (FFP) to allow interested parties to understand the rate setting process and the items and services that are paid through these rates,” Brooks said. “Claims for federal matching funds cannot be based upon estimates or projections. Please add language that describes the actual historical utilization and trend factors utilized in the calculation,” he said.

Brooks also asked if the private hospitals destined to take over operations of the state facilities are required to provide a specific amount of health care service to low income and needy patients. “Is this health care limited to hospital only or will health care be provided to the general public? What type of health care covered services will be provided?” he asked.

The CMS spokesperson on Wednesday said if CMS disapproved an amendment, “there would be no federal dollars provided for the changes proposed in the State Plan Amendment.”

“No federal dollars” could translate to hundreds of millions of dollars for a state already wrestling with suffocating budgetary constraints.

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It was with more than a little amusement that we read a couple of weeks ago that Gov. Bobby Jindal had called for jail time for any Internal Revenue Service officials found to have unfairly targeted conservative groups to be put in jail.

As usual, Jindal made his indignant, self-righteous proclamation at an out-of-state forum. This time, it was in a speech to Virginia Republicans in yet another stop in his 2016 presidential campaign that would be better suited for a Saturday Night Live parody skit than serious political discourse.

Oh, it’s not that we don’t agree with Jindal on this one point. The IRS certainly is far too powerful and is a force to be feared if one happens to be on the wrong end of a tax audit.

But coming from Jindal, it is simply yet another example of the “reform” governor’s façade of pseudo-transparency—hypocritical at worst, the subject of stinging ridicule at best.

“You do not take the freedoms of law-abiding citizens, whether you disagree with them or not, and keep your own freedom,” the Boy Blunder opined. “When you do that, you go to jail.”

But here’s the thing, Guv: It was only last March 11—not even three months ago—that we learned that one of Bobby’s boys, one Troy Hebert to be precise, director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), had ordered a background investigation on LouisianaVoice editor Tom Aswell (that would be me). Here is the link to that post:

http://louisianavoice.com/2013/03/11/atc-director-troy-hebert-orders-background-investigation-of-louisianavoice-publisher-tom-aswell-but-did-we-pass/

Normally, we would not hold Jindal accountable for the actions of a rogue department head. But now the question must be asked if Hebert’s investigation was truly the action of a rouge department head, of someone who went “off the reservation,” or if the investigation may have been ordered by higher-ups.

Hey, even Henry Kissinger once said paranoid people sometimes have real enemies and recent events and revelations may well justify that paranoia. Read on.

On May 11, we sent a public records request to Superintendent of Education John White and we copied Department of Education (DOE) General Counsel Joan Hunt as is our practice when seeking records.

The request was straightforward enough: we asked for correspondence between White and his old New York boss Joel Klein dating back to July 1, 2011. Specifically, we were attempting to learn what communication the two had conducted relative to InBloom, the company Klein is now affiliated with and which was founded by News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch to serve as a “parking place” (in White’s words—a computer data bank, in more formal terms) for sensitive personal information on Louisiana students and teachers.

Hunt, subsequent to our request, fired off an email that same day to White, DOE attorney Willa LeBlanc and Hebert that said, “Troy, we need to reply and say that.”

But Hunt, most likely inadvertently, copied us into the reply as well.

Curious as to why Hebert would be included in the loop since he is about as far removed from DOE as possible (he’s under the Louisiana Department of Revenue) and equally curious as to what was supposed to have been said, we sent another public records request for all correspondence between DOE officials and Hebert.

The response to that request was even more puzzling:

“No Documents. Attorney-client privilege.”

Okay, first there are no documents but if there were, they would be privileged. That’s like the attorney who responded to a claim that his dog had bitten a passerby: “My dog does not bite. My dog was confined in the yard that day. I don’t own a dog.”

Really puzzled now, we sent another email on May 26 reiterating our request for correspondence between DOE and Hebert: “Inasmuch as you took the liberty to send your email to Troy Hebert, director of ATC and who is not an attorney nor is he a client of you or DOE, there is no client-attorney privilege.”

We also told Hunt that her provision of information about me to a non-involved third party constituted a “serious breach” that I was willing to report to the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Attorney Disciplinary Board.

Two days later we received another letter from the DOE legal office which said:

“As was indicated in the Department’s response dated and emailed to you on May 15, 2013, the Department has no public records responsive to your request. Any communications between the Legal Staff of LDOE and Troy Hebert would be privileged (attorney work product/privilege) and not subject to being released pursuant to a public records request. In addition, the Department is not in possession of any emails between Troy Hebert and John White.” There it is again: My dog doesn’t bite; I don’t own a dog.

We remained perplexed as to why Troy Hebert was brought into the conversation about our initial request. As the director of an agency completely removed from DOE, we knew there was no way possible that Hebert could be a client of either DOE or any of its legal staff and that fact only intensified our determination to learn what was going on.

Then we had occasion to interview Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe) Tuesday night about the Senate and Governmental Affairs deferral of a bill to protect state employee whistleblowers which had passed unanimously in the full House.

In that interview, Kostelka, a remarkably candid public servant, intimated that the committee had killed the bill to protect employees from supervisory reprisals for revealing official wrongdoing because one Troy Hebert had personally contacted each of the committee members to convey the message that the administration, i.e. Jindal, was not in favor of the bill. Kostelka, seeing the proverbial handwriting on the wall, did not object to the motion by Sen. Greg Tarver (D-Shreveport) to defer the bill.

It is not entirely clear why Hebert would be interjecting himself into legislative matters given the somewhat watery thin theory (in the case of Louisiana, at least) of separation of powers under which our state government proclaims to function.

He is, after all, a member of the administration, or executive branch and should not be lobbying the legislative branch. In fact, he is not even a registered lobbyist. And his dog doesn’t bite.

But at least we can now connect the dots as it all comes together. Hebert is one of those hangers-on—kind of like the new kid in town who hangs around the fringes of the playground hoping to make friends with the locals. He will do anything to curry favor with his boss—not exactly a wise career move at this point—including serving as a go-between messenger boy between the governor’s office and legislators.

…And between the governor’s office and DOE.

And Jindal now has the cajones to vilify the IRS for spying.

We bet Jindal doesn’t even own a dog.

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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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