Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

Ron White of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, arguably one of the funniest standup comics in America, once uttered the classic line, “You can’t fix stupid.”

The same might well be said of arrogance.

Case in point: Mitt Romney saying he was “not concerned about the very poor.” Even if true (which it probably is), it is arrogant to say it even privately, much less publicly.

Case in point: Gov. Bobby Jindal’s calling Louisiana Association of Educators Executive Director Michael Walker-Jones “arrogant” for Jones’s saying that some parents in poverty may not have the time or information to make a decision on their child’s education and suggesting that Walker-Jones resign.

That addressing poverty should be the key in seeking a solution to failing schools is a no-brainer to everyone except those who would gain political capital by bashing public education.

Walker-Jones made his comments in response to Jindal’s education reform plans that the governor unveiled before the annual meeting of the Jindal-friendly Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) as opposed to the more appropriate audience of those most affected by the proposed changes: teachers.

And therein, as Willie Shakespeare said, lies the rub.

Unveiling his plan at that particular venue was a touch of arrogance in itself, a breach of protocol. But look here for the real arrogance of this governor: http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=3197.

Here are some excerpts:

“…We are going to give (local school) districts more flexibility over their federal dollars….(and) We are going to reduce federal reporting requirements….”

One has to wonder if he has run this by the feds yet. It was Earl Long who asked civil rights opponent Leander Perez in the heat of the state’s battle over desegregation more than 50 years ago, “What’re you gonna do now, Leander? The feds got the A-bomb!”

Jindal, in attempting to apply the principle of teacher tenure to a hypothetical company in the private sector, said there is no accountability for job performance and “after three years of this, if they have survived, they are given lifetime job protection. Short of selling drugs in the workplace or beating up one of the business’s clients, they can never be fired.”

Implying that teachers can only be fired for selling drugs at school is arrogance in its purest form—and stupid beyond belief. By his standards, it must be fair to say that now that he has been re-elected, he can only be removed if he sells drugs in the House or Senate chambers. Certainly, that is a far-fetched and most unreasonable analogy—but no more so than his own remarks.

Case in point: “We are going to create a system that pays teachers for doing a good job instead of for the length of time they have been breathing.”

Does anyone know of a single instance in the history of mankind where someone has been paid for the length of time he or she has been breathing? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

We’re talking sheer arrogance here.

Perhaps Jindal should resign after making such an ass of himself.

In fairness, he did make one accurate comment to LABI: “Our system today often crushes talented teachers and it makes their jobs harder, not easier.”

At least he’s spot-on with that assessment.

Of course Jindal’s education reform proposals are drawn almost exclusively from the American Legislative Exchange Council’s sweeping agenda but it no doubt also draws heavily on a study done by Raj Chetty and John Friedman of Harvard and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia University.

Without going into too much detail, that study concludes that good teachers cause students to get higher test scores, which in turn lead to higher lifetime earnings.

Well, duh. How much was that grant? Bet we could’ve arrived at that conclusion for less.

But wait. Let’s look a bit more closely at the specifics of that study that has become the mantra of reform-minded governors like our own.

“Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000,” the New York Times quoted the study as saying.

Wow. $266,000? Really?

But let’s break that down a little further. Let’s say for simplicity that the average classroom has 26.6 kids and on average, those kids will become adults who will work, say, from age 25 to age 65. Forty years. So, we have $266,000 divided by 26.6, divided by 40 years. That comes to a whopping….$250 per year per student, about $20 per month or $4.81 per week.

But for all of Jindal’s disdain for teachers—Public Service Commission Chairman Foster Campbell recently opined that someone must have broken Jindal’s pencils when he was in school—and public education, nothing can quite compare to the arrogance, ignorance and convoluted logic of one Alabama state senator.

State Sen. Shadrack McGill (R-Woodville) recently spoke to a prayer breakfast in Fort Payne at which he justified a 62 percent pay raise for legislators while at the same time saying raising teacher pay could lead to less-qualified educators, according to the Fort Payne Times-Journal.

On the face of it, given his Biblical first name and the asinine statement, most readers might reasonably conclude that the story was straight out of the Onion, an on-line parody of news events. But the story is real and the speaker’s remarks were sincere if misinformed, misguided, and laced with idiocy.

The legislative increase, to be fair to McGill, was passed in 2007, before his election. It was approved by voice vote and later in an override of then-Gov. Bob Riley’s veto.

McGill said the pay raise—from $30,710 to $49,500 for legislators’ part time positions—better rewards lawmakers and makes them less susceptible to lobbyist influence.

“That (the old salary) played into the corruption, guys, big time,” he said. “You had your higher-ranking legislators that were connected with the lobbyists making up in the millions of dollars. They weren’t worried about that $30,000 salary they were getting,” he said, adding that legislators have to pay for their expenses out of pocket.

Legislators need “to make enough that (they) can say no, in regards to temptation,” he said.

Well, Mr. McGill, it may come as a surprise to you to know that members of Congress pull in about $180,000 per year and they are still very much susceptible to being swayed by lobbyists. Only a fool would argue that a salary of $49,500 would keep lobbyists at bay.

It may also come as a shock to you to know that we all pay expenses out of pocket—especially teachers, who regularly spend their own money for classroom resources.

For pure audacity, McGill, who home-schools his children, went on to say, “If you double what you’re paying (teachers), you know what’s going to happen? It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach.

“And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn’t matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity.

“If you don’t keep that in balance, you’re going to attract people who are not called, who don’t need to be teaching our children. So, everything has a balance.”

First, of all, Mr. McGill, please direct us to the scripture in the Bible that admonishes us not to increase teacher pay. Please provide us with the specific chapter and verse.

And taking your logic to its ultimate conclusion, preachers should not be paid; it’s a calling. Instead of paying attorneys $250 per hour, they should accept $25 per hour since it’s a calling. And why pay firemen at all? Let ‘em volunteer. Same thing for police officers, judges and social workers.

Oh, and let’s not overlook legislators. It’s a calling, so let them forfeit all pay in exchange for the privilege of serving.

There you have it, folks. The contempt for teachers and public education, simply because they’re easy targets, is the most current and most popular trend in America. So, c’mon, jump on the bandwagon. The kids? They’re just an afterthought. It’s political hay and the harvest is ripe.

But one last thought: if you can read this, don’t forget to thank a teacher.

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“We have significant concerns that premature disclosure of the report will prejudice the (solicitation for offers) and negotiations process. This is not a matter of secrecy, but a basic component of our ability to make decisions that are within our purview, to direct the integrity of a successful procurement.”

–Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, in a letter to Senate President Joel Chaisson last June 8 in which he attempted to justify the admininstration’s refusal to provide a copy of the Chaffe & Associates report on the Office of Group Benefits to legislators. Likewise, Rainwater is now withholding the contents of the state’s contract with Morgan Keegan from the OGB Policy and Planning Board.

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State employees who were blindsided by Gov. Jindal’s announcement last week of proposed sweeping changes to the state’s retirement system have only themselves to blame; they simply haven’t been paying attention.

It’s been a long time coming and while the jury is still out on what will and what won’t be approved in the upcoming legislative session or what is or is not fair to longtime state employees is irrelevant at this point. There is a much larger problem to be addressed: a problem of nearly $6.5 billion in unfunded liabilities for the state employee retirement system, to be precise.

This is an issue that has been punted repeatedly by legislators past and present who were unwilling to make a hard decision and now change is no longer on the far horizon: it is upon us and it is inevitable.

As far back as 1989 a constitutional amendment was passed by the legislature and approved by voters to amortize the state’s unfunded accrued liability (UAL) payoff over 40 years on a level payment plan (adjusted for inflation and payroll growth projections).

That amendment, however, had one fatal flaw: it allowed the legislature to change the payment schedule by statute. One may as well have turned a fox loose in the henhouse or a child in a candy store.

The latter may be more appropriate since the legislature has a greater propensity to act like the adolescent when the state coffers are rife with revenue. Lawmakers wasted no time in tinkering with the schedule in order that they might fund local projects in the annual budget. The folks back home, after all, don’t care about what’s going in Baton Rouge as long as they get their community centers and golf courses funded.

Now, as we approach the 2029 deadline imposed by that amendment, the state is staring down the barrel of huge balloon payments.

Whether one likes Jindal or not, the problem with the state’s UAL for the various pensions for employees, teachers, school employees and police is no more his doing than the state’s next governor, whoever that may be.

But neither was the problem caused by state workers who now are being called upon to change their retirement plans in mid-stream to accommodate those legislators who in past years shirked their fiscal responsibilities in order to more easily facilitate their own political careers. It is patently unfair to ask rank and file state employees to pay the penalty for past legislative moral malfeasance.

That’s not to say that Jindal has the right solutions in his proposals; we have no way of knowing that at this point. It’s just that it is now his problem to wrestle with in the upcoming legislative session.

It is not likely that Jindal or his staff conceived of these reforms independently.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative coalition of state legislatures, includes the reform of state pensions as one of its “Tools to Control Costs and Improve Government Efficiency” on its state budget reform web page: http://www.alec.org/publications/state-budget-reform-toolkit/.

Other tools specifically recommended by ALEC include the restructuring of state retiree health care plans, delaying “automatic” pay increases, adopting a state hiring freeze, embracing the expanded use of privatization and competitive contracting, establishing a state privatization and efficiency council and selling state assets.

Any of those sound vaguely familiar?

Several corporate members of ALEC have been identified as major contributors to Jindal’s political campaigns.

Of the 126 bills already pre-filed in the House and Senate as of Tuesday, 84, or fully two-thirds deal in some fashion or another with retirement. The breakdown shows that 36 retirement bills have been filed in the House and 48 in the Senate.

Some of the bills in both chambers are different versions of the same proposals, so some of the duplicate bills will be withdrawn before consideration.

Many of those deal with local clerks of court, assessors, sheriffs and municipal employees but just as many—or more—deal specifically with state employees.

Jindal said for now he is addressing only state employees and not teachers, school employees or state police.

Many of his proposals break long-standing promises made to state employees relative to retirement benefits and eligibility.

HB 53 by Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), for example, stipulates that employees hired prior to June 30, 2006 may retire after 10 years and upon attaining age 67. Those hired after June 30, 2006 may retire after five years and attaining age 67.

The present law allows a state worker to retire after 10 years at age 60.

HB 56, also by Pearson, chairman of the House Retirement Committee, would increase employees’ retirement contributions from 7.5 percent to 10.5 percent for those employed on or before June 30, 2006 and from 8 percent to 11 percent for those employed on or after July 1, 2006.

But perhaps the bill that would sting the worst is SB 17 and SB 26, both by freshman Sen. Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City). Each of those bills would change state pensions from a defined benefit to a defined contribution.

That means that instead of employees being guaranteed a set pension based on the current formula of three-year average salary times 2.5 percent times years of service, employees would contribute a predetermined amount to retirement with no guarantee of benefits. Such a program, which would react to market conditions, is similar to the 401K plan common in the private sector.

One bill, HB 55 by Pearson, would alter the formula for computing retirement from a three-year average salary to a five-year average, thus reducing in theory, at least, the employee’s monthly retirement check.

HB 61, also by Pearson, would require a one-time, lump-sum payment to employees with five or more years’ credit upon retirement. The employee may opt to take the lump sum or leave his account balance with the system and draw an annuity.

Because state employees do not contribute to, nor do they qualify for, social security, their retirement income would hinge solely on the uncertainty of their state retirement.

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So far Gov. Bobby Jindal, flush from his re-election last fall, has chosen two pro-business groups to announce sweeping reform efforts for his second term, unveiling his education reform at the annual meeting of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and proposed state employee pension plan changes to the Baton Rouge Rotary Club.

Selecting friendly venues for major announcements seems to be the preferred method for Jindal who wisely eschewed teachers groups and state employee gatherings to unveil his agenda. Louisiana Public Service Commission (PCS) Chairman Foster Campbell observed that had he revealed his proposed pension program to state employees, “they’d have booed him out of the room.”

And while he has yet to address state corrections, you can be certain he has state prison privatization squarely in his crosshairs. All those private prison companies did not contribute to his election campaign just for the fun of it.

Only last Wednesday, the Florida Senate Budget Committee, at the urging of Jindal’s fellow Republican Gov. Rick Scott, passed a bill to privatize 29 South Florida prisons—to turn them over to for-profit companies that would be required to produce cost cuts of 7 percent below the cost of state-run facilities.

But there’s a more ominous undercurrent to that bill that gives the Florida governor far-reaching powers to expand privatization to other agencies. Under the latest proposals, an agency would not have to report its privatization of a program until after a contract is signed. The bill also will eliminate the legal requirement to perform a cost-benefit analysis before privatizing any governmental function.

Doing away with the cost-benefit analysis reveals in no uncertain terms just how little concern Scott and his allies have about real savings. Don’t for a minute think that Jindal is not in constant contact with Scott on that particular nuance. After all, Jindal did travel to Florida to campaign for Scott’s election. And don’t for one minute think that Jindal is concerned about savings or of the welfare of state employees. It’s all about money—campaign money.

Jindal’s second effort at privatization is a certainty but it is nevertheless worthwhile to take a look at the dollars and cents of privatizing prisons.

Of the 50 states, Louisiana sits alone at the top with the highest prison incarceration rate in the nation at 858 per 100,000. Mississippi is second at 749 per 100,000.

In absolute numbers, Louisiana ranked 11th in the nation in actual prison population in 2007 (37,341) even though the state was 25th in population. Those numbers likely have only increased in the past five years. From 1990 to 2004, Louisiana’s prison population nearly doubled, increasing by 98.6 percent, from 18,600 to 36,900, federal records show.

The U.S., with more than two million prisoners, ranks highest in the world, nearly half-a-million more than number-two China. The U.S. also has the highest per capita number of prisoners with 715 per 100,000. Russia is a distant second with 584 prisoners per 100,000 population.

So, if the U.S. has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S. that gives Louisiana the highest rate of imprisonment in the world.

So, what does all this mean in the terms of costs to house, feed and care for all these prisoners? That, after all, would appear on the surface to be the consideration uppermost in Jindal’s mind: saving the state beaucoup money.

In August of 2011, the Vera Institute of Justice, with offices in Washington, D.C., New Orleans and New York City, conducted a survey to determine the total cost of prisons in fiscal year 2010. Thirty-nine of the 50 states responded to the survey which provided some rather interesting figures. That cost is computed on the basis of what the state spends over and above the amounts budgeted for prisons. The additional costs include, but are not limited to, pension liabilities, medical care, inmate education and training, capital construction, legal and administrative costs.

Louisiana had a per prisoner cost of $17,486 in 2010 ($47.91 per day), fourth lowest of the 39 responding states. By comparison, Kentucky’s annual cost per prisoner was $14,603 and Alabama’s was $17,285.

Louisiana’s annual cost per prisoner paled in comparison to several other states. Florida ($20,553), Georgia ($21,039), Texas ($21,390, Missouri ($22,350), Arkansas ($24,391), Arizona ($24,895), Ohio ($25,814), and North Carolina ($29,965) all had higher annual per-prisoner costs.

But five other states’ annual costs per prisoner really soared. Illinois had an annual per-prisoner cost of $38,268, followed by Pennsylvania ($42,339), California ($47,421), New Jersey ($54,865) and New York ($60,076), nearly three-and-one-half higher than Louisiana’s.

The one statistic that Jindal is almost certain to roll out when he makes his inevitable push to privatize Louisiana’s prisons will be the cost per taxpayer. So, let’s take a look at those numbers as well.

Of the 39 responding states, 21 did in fact have lower costs than Louisiana’s per-taxpayer cost of $698.40 per annum, putting the state almost squarely in the middle of the pack. In North Dakota, for example, the per-taxpayer cost was a paltry $58.10. Others, like Oklahoma ($453.40), Alabama ($462.50) and Missouri ($680.50) were closer to Louisiana’s figures.

But then there are states like Arizona ($1,003.60), Georgia ($1,129.90), North Carolina ($1,204.70), Michigan ($1,268), Ohio ($1,315.50), New Jersey ($1,416.70), Illinois ($1,743.20), Pennsylvania ($2,044.30), Florida ($2,082.50), Texas ($3,306.40), New York ($3,558.70), and California ($7,932.40).

Let those last few numbers sink in: Florida’s annual per-taxpayer cost of housing and caring for prisoners is three times Louisiana’s cost. The yearly per-taxpayer rate for Texas is 4.7 times Louisiana’s rate and New York’s rate is five times Louisiana’s per-taxpayer rate. And then there is California where the per-taxpayer rate of $7,932.40 per year is a whopping 11.3 times that of Louisiana.

So, just how will Jindal sell his economic plan for prisons when so many states have both higher per-prisoner and per-taxpayer costs associated with housing, feeding and caring for prisoners?

That should be the number-one question for anyone to ask of Jindal who by now is so caught up in his own brilliance as to think himself infallible. How do you propose to save money when the state’s costs are already a mere fraction of many other states? It’s a question that demands an answer.

The answer, of course, is for the private companies to cut costs by slashing salaries and benefits, reducing the number of guards and taking a page from the charter school playbook: take only the best of the crop (best being a relative term).

A betting man could make a few bucks by making a wager that sick prisoners requiring expensive medical care and violent prisoners requiring tighter security (read: more guards) will not be taken by the private operators. Those will be left to the state’s care. Bet on it.

Below are the rankings in terms of per-prisoner cost and per-taxpayer cost for the 39 responding states:

Kentucky $14,603
Indiana $14,823
Alabama $17,285
Louisiana $17,486
Kansas $18,207
Oklahoma $18,467
Idaho $19,545
Florida $20,553
Nevada $20,656
Georgia $21,039
Texas $21,390
Missouri $22,350
Arkansas $24,391
Arizona $24,895
Virginia $25,129
Ohio $25,814
West Virginia $26,498
Michigan $28,117
Utah $29,349
North Carolina $29,965
Montana $30,227
Iowa $32,925
Delaware $32,967
New Hampshire $34,080
Nebraska $35,950
Wisconsin $37,994
Illinois $38,268
Maryland $38,383
North Dakota $39,271
Minnesota $41,364
Pennsylvania $42,339
California $47,421
Rhode Island $49,133
Vermont $49,502
Connecticut $50,262
Washington State $51,775
New Jersey $54,865
Maine $56,269
New York $60,076


North Dakota $56.20
Montana $76.00
New Hampshire $80.30
Vermont $111.30
Maine $132.90
Idaho $144.70
Kansas $158.20
Nebraska $163.30
West Virginia $169.20
Rhode Island $172.10
Utah $186.00
Delaware $215.20
Iowa $276.00
Nevada $282.90
Kentucky $311.70
Arkansas $326.10
Minnesota $395.30
Oklahoma $453.40
Alabama $462.50
Indiana $569.50
Missouri $680.50
Louisiana $698.40
Virginia $748.60
Maryland $836.20
Washington State $838.40
Wisconsin $874.40
Connecticut $929.40
Arizona $1,003.60
Georgia $1,129.90
North Carolina $1,204.70
Michigan $1,268.00
Ohio $1,315.50
New Jersey $1,416.70
Illinois $1,743.20
Pennsylvania $2,055.30
Florida $2,082.50
Texas $3,306.40
New York $3,558.70
California $7,932.40

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If one thinks Gov. Bobby Jindal, that paradigm of virtue, is not capable of vindictive reprisals in order to advance his political agenda, one need look no further than the 2009 standoff between Jindal and the State Civil Service Commission.

The short version of this story reveals Jindal to be as capable of no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners dirty fighting as any politician anywhere, at any level.

The story actually begins in 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and about two years before Jindal took office.

That is when the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) was created to deal with emergencies like hurricanes and oil spills, among other things.

Initially, GOHSEP’s staff was assigned to the governor’s office but then the legislature decided that current and future GOHSEP employees would be unclassified civil servants. They previously were unclassified as part of the state’s Military Department (National Guard).

Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL), pointed out that unclassified employees work at the pleasure of the hiring authority, meaning an entire agency of unclassified workers would be subject to a governor’s patronage.

While unclassified employees don’t enjoy the job protection that classified employees do, neither are they bound by the same pay classifications. That means their salaries can—and are—set at considerably higher pay levels.

On average, unclassified employees make about $20,000 per year than their classified counterparts.

Moreover, unclassified employees are not required to meet strict earning guidelines, job qualifications or rules for promotion as do classified workers.

The Civil Service Commission attempted to learn what some of those GOHSEP salaries were and promptly met with claims of executive privilege. The commission, concerned at the proposal to change 425 GOHSEP employees from classified to unclassified and offended at Jindal’s resistance to transparency, filed suit to block the move.

While the lawsuit was pending, Jindal’s forces went into action. Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe) promptly filed SB-209 calling for a constitutional amendment to provide “that the director, deputy director and all employees of (GOHSEP) are included in the unclassified service of the state civil service.”

The Civil Service Commission’s concerns notwithstanding, the bill passed the Senate by a unanimous 39-0 vote. The House likewise approved the measure by a 72-11 vote with 21 members not voting.

Jindal signed the bill as Act 538 and the matter was placed on the ballot for Oct. 2, 2010. Voters subsequently approved the measure by the narrowest of margins: 306,106—283,185 (51.9 percent to 48.1 percent) and the controversy appeared settled in favor of increased power for the governor.

But not so fast.

Not to be trifled with, Jindal went on the offensive against the Civil Service Commission and about 62,000 state classified employees. His attack dog this time was Rep. John Schroder (R-Abita Springs).

Schroder filed five separate bills in the 2010 session each of which had civil service directly in its crosshairs.

The crown jewel of those five bills was HB-753 which would have called for a constitutional amendment to abolish the State Civil Service Commission and the Department of Civil Service, effective Jan. 9, 2012.

The other bills included:

• HB-752, which called for a constitutional amendment to grant the legislature sole authority to provide for pay increases for persons in state service;

• HB-754, which called for a constitutional amendment to prohibit pay increases to persons in state service when there is a budget deficit;

• HB-755, which called for a constitutional amendment to require the legislature to determine prior to each fiscal year if a pay increase may be granted to persons in state service and if so, the manner and amount of the increase;

• HB-757, which would have required reports regarding employees of the Department of Civil Service and that copies of those reports be sent to the Senate President and Speaker of the House.

Neither of the bills made it out of committee but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be back on the legislature’s calendar next spring.

With another major budget deficit looming in the not so distant future, it’s probable that state employees will be denied pay raises for a third consecutive year.

But of more concern should be a resurrection of efforts to abolish Civil Service, a move, if successful, would leave state employees with no job security and subject to political pressure in order to keep their jobs, just like the old days of Huey Long, the spoils system and the deduct box.

And don’t dismiss the possibility; Jindal has a long memory.

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At the risk of great personal embarrassment to myself (as if that would be a precedent), I would like to issue a challenge to Gov. Jindal, each of his cabinet members, every other statewide elected official (including the congressional delegation), each member of the legislature, and especially to each member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, school board members from all 64 parishes, and members of the Louisiana Board of Regents for Higher Education.

I do not make this challenge lightly and the stakes for the participants are quite high.

There is a story making the rounds about Rick Roach, a school board member in Orange County, Florida, and he is the inspiration for this proposal.

Roach holds two master’s degrees—one in education and a second in educational psychology and after learning that only 39 percent of his district’s 10th graders were reading at grade level, he decided to take the Florida standardized test in math and reading for 10th graders.

He bombed, getting 10 of 60 questions correct on the math portion of the test and getting a D in reading.

He took the risk, he said, because thousands of Florida students with grade point averages (GPA) of 3.0 or higher (on a scale of 4.0) are denied high school diplomas because they fail at least one portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Last year, he said, 41,000 kids were denied diplomas across the state, including about 70 in his district.

It wasn’t easy for him to even take the test because Florida law allows the FCAT to be taken only by students—a great way to hold students and teachers accountable while at the same time avoiding any accountability for the contents and effectiveness of the test itself.

Can you say, “level playing field?”

Roach did manage to take the test after first having to overcome the Florida bureaucracy. “I won’t beat around the bush,” he said. “The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess 10 out of the 60.” He got 62 percent on the reading test. “In our system,” he said, “that’s a ‘D,’ and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

“I have a bachelor of science degree, two master’s degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate,” he added with more than a little irony.”

Louisiana is in the process of implementing Act 54 of 2010, a complex grading system for one-third of all teachers, principals and schools districts that incorporates language that does more to confuse the issue of teacher evaluation than clarify it. Here is a sample of the act’s verbiage:

“By the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, fifty percent of such evaluations shall be based on evidence of growth in student achievement using a value-added assessment model (standardized test scores) as determined by (BESE) for grade levels and subjects for which value-added data is (sic) available. For grades levels and subjects for which value-added data is (sic) not available and for personnel for whom value-added data is (for crying out loud, at least I can comprehend that much of the reading test: it should be data are!), the board shall establish measures of student growth. The model shall take into account important student factors, including but not limited to, special education, eligibility for free or reduced price meals, student attendance, and student discipline.”

Act 54 goes on to say, “Any teacher or administrator who fails to meet the standard of performance with regard to effectiveness shall be placed in an intensive assistance program designed to address the complexity of the teacher’s deficiencies and shall be formally re-evaluated.”

There’s more of this same gooney-babble but you get the idea: Teachers in Louisiana’s public schools will be evaluated in large part on the basis of students’ standardized test scores.

Can you say, “Oh come let us teach the test?”

After failing his test, Roach said, “If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th-grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.

“It certainly would be nice to see more policymakers taking the tests that they say are so perfect to assess what students are learning and how well teachers are teaching,” he added.

So, with that in mind, and with apologies to my cousin Jeff Foxworthy (actually, it is his wife who is my cousin), I would like to challenge the aforementioned public officials to prove that they are smarter than an eighth-grader. And to put my money where my mouth is, I will also volunteer to take the Louisiana eighth-grade LEAP test in the same room, at the same time, as any public official who will take my dare. I’m certain we can secure a room of sufficient size in the Claiborne Building that houses the Department of Education.

Before this goes any further, however, let’s consider some sample questions on the eighth-grade LEAP test.

English Language Arts:

• Writing—Students write a composition in response to a writing topic. Each composition is scored in two dimensions that address top development: composing and style/audience awareness. The composing dimension measures the degree to which the composition exhibits focus on a central idea, support and elaboration of the idea, organization and unity of purpose. Features of the style/audience awareness include selection of vocabulary (diction or word choice), stylistic techniques, sentence variety and tone and voice (or personality that shows in writing);

• Reading and Responding—composed of four reading passages: excerpts from novels or stories, articles from textbooks, poems and other materials appropriate for grade eight. Each reading passage is the source for four or six multiple-choice items and two short-answer items;

• Using information resources—this includes tables of contents, indexes, bibliographies, other reference sources, graphic organizers and articles;

• Proofreading.

Mathematics (This is where it gets dicey):

• Darla took a trip to her aunt’s house. Her average speed was approximately 45 miles per hour. The one-way trip took 40 minutes. How many miles did Darla drive to get to her aunt’s house? Be sure to show your work.

• On the return trip, there was heavy traffic and Darla could only drive approximately 20 miles per hour for the first 15 minutes of the trip. How fast did she have to drive, in miles per hour, for the remainder of the return trip for her driving time to be equal to 40 minutes? Be sure to show your work.


• Accompanying an illustration of nine phases of the moon are these questions: How long does it take for all the phases shown to take place? Explain why the moon looks different at different times.

• Accompanying a drawing of a light bulb and a battery are the questions: How does the form of energy change when energy moves from the battery through the wire to the light bulb? What two forms of energy are produced by the light bulb?

Finally, there is the Social Studies section and this could be really embarrassing:

• Write the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States;

• Explain why the delegates felt that it was necessary to write a constitution in 1787;

• Describe one important issue that caused disagreement at the convention;

• Explain in detail how the delegates reached a compromise to resolve this issue;

• A requirement for becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen is: (A) having been born in the U.S. (B) taking an oath of allegiance to the U.S. (C) singing the national anthem, or (D) reciting the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

With that in mind, here is my proposition:

• Any member of BESE or any parish school board who takes and fails to score 75 percent on the eighth-grade LEAP test must resign immediately.

• Any legislator who fails to score 75 percent on the eighth-grade LEAP test will be given a second chance—at the fourth-grade LEAP test. Should they fail to score 75 percent on that, they, too, must resign.

• All statewide elected officials who take and fails to score 75 percent on the eighth-grade LEAP test must appear on statewide television to apologize to Louisiana voters for being as dumb as a can of hair.

• If I take and fail to score 75 percent on the eighth-grade LEAP test, I will buy lunch at a restaurant of my choosing that does not have a drive-through window for every statewide elected official and/or state cabinet head who takes and scores 75 percent or higher on the eighth-grade LEAP test.

Any takers?

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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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