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Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

The first legislative salvo has been fired but it remains to be seen whether it will become merely an isolated sniper’s round or if it will escalate into an all-out battle between state lawmakers and Gov. Piyush Jindal.

Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux) Wednesday morning sent an email to his fellow legislators in the Louisiana House and Senate asking for their support in calling a special session of the legislature to consider reversing what he describes as “a complete disregard of the Legislative branch’s powers by this administration.”

Richard’s email comes as a result to deep budget cuts to higher education and health care, as well as the announcement of hospital and prison closures—all announced by Jindal since the end of the regular legislative session and without prior notification to legislators in the areas affected by the cutbacks.

The Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma, part of the LSU Health System that is undergoing massive budget cuts, is in his area as is Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. “If they reduce Chabert to a clinic, it will cripple that facility,” he said.

Asked if he was concerned that Jindal might strip him of his committee assignments as he did with Rep. Harold Ritchie (D-Franklinton) and Rep. Jim Morris (R-Oil City) who voted against Jindal-backed bills in the last legislative session, Richard said, “The governor can do what he wants to do; I do what I have to do.”

Richard serves on the House committees on Education, Labor and Industrial Relations, and Transportation, Highways and Public Works.

He said he was not attempting to threaten the governor. “I just want the legislature more involved,” he said.

The procedure for legislators’ calling themselves into special session requires for one-third of each chamber’s membership (35 in the House and 13 in the Senate) to sign a petition which would then be delivered to the clerk of the House and secretary of the Senate.

They, in turn, would be required to send individual petitions within 48 hours to each member of the legislature for his or her signature. Lawmakers would then have 20 days in which to return their individual petitions and once a majority of each chamber concurs, the presiding officers (Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, and House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles) must issue the call for the special session.

Richard, like other members of the House and Senate, is also upset at Jindal’s habit of leaving legislators out of the loop so that they often find out about administrative decisions that affect their legislative districts only after announcements are made by the governor’s office.

Two cases in point are the recently-announced closures of Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville, scheduled for next month, and last Friday’s announced closure of the C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy.

Lawmakers in both areas say they were not notified in advance of Jindal’s plans to close those facilities. One of those legislators is House Speaker Kleckley.

The Phelps closure will mean that some 940 prisoners will have to be moved to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel. But of even greater concern to lawmakers is the fate of more than 250 prison employees who will face layoffs in a rural community that is largely dependent on the facility for employment.

Likewise, the closure of the 174-bed Southeast Louisiana Hospital, slated to begin Oct. 1, will mean the loss of about 300 jobs. The closure of Southeast, along with the earlier closure of state mental health facilities in Orleans Parish, leaves the entire southeastern area of the state without access to state mental health treatment.

Following the 2009 closure of New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, Jindal said those patients would be able to receive treatment at Southeast. Now that Southeast is facing closure, one reader asked, “Where will they go now, to Mississippi?”

Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill (D-Dry Creek) said she learned of the closure of C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center about a half-hour before the announcement was made by Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc.

“I was devastated,” she said, adding that DeQuincy is in the rural northern part of Calcasieu Parish and that a large number of its residents are dependent on the facility. “I don’t understand why they (the administration) don’t realize that rural people need jobs also,” she said. “This is a good place for jobs. We can’t all move to Baton Rouge or New Orleans. They don’t want to live there.”

Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles) called the abrupt announcement without advance notice to legislators “a lack of respect” for area legislators.

Rep. John Smith (R-Leesville) echoed the sentiments of Hill and Geymann when he said the secrecy of the move “perplexes me more than anything.”

Sticking to what has become an increasingly obvious policy of revealing as little as possible, the Department of Corrections did not respond to questions about why southwest Louisiana lawmakers were not included in the decision-making process.

“This is a good deal for Louisiana taxpayers and will result in significant savings while maintaining public safety,” was the only official response from the department. There was no further explanation as to where savings might be realized or how the closure was a good deal for the state—explanations that would seem easy enough to provide if the administration chose to do so.

Having provided the backdrop for the simmering resentment of Jindal that apparently has been building in the legislature, here is the content of Richard’s letter to his colleagues:

I respectfully ask that each of you read this email in its entirety and then ask yourself if you agree that we should immediately call ourselves in to special session. If you agree I ask that you respond to my legislative email address in order to begin the process of petitioning the body in order to reach a majority. While I acknowledge that this is not easy for each of us to decide I feel that it is time for us to get back into the process and our Constitution provides for that to happen.

Like many of you, I am passionate about the well-being of this state and its people and will continue to stand for the things that I believe in whether it be during session or while we are not in session. I believe that we are witnessing a complete disregard of the Legislative branch’s powers by this administration and must address this immediately or we shall find ourselves completely left out of the budget process. When we as a body are not convened in regular session, but have important matters to address, we do not have to wait until next year’s annual session. Our state Constitution provides a mechanism for us to meet in other times in order to enable the Legislature to continue the checks and balances of state government.

Extraordinary Sessions and the Need to Convene

As per Article III, Section 2(B) of the Constitution, the state “legislature may be convened at other times” in “Extraordinary Sessions,” (informally known as special sessions). It is during special sessions that legislators may address important items or “objects” as they are referred to in Article III.

Since our adjournment in June, there has been almost a billion dollars in reductions to the state budget without any input from the Legislature. And thanks to some media outlets we are now learning of still more cuts to healthcare without any input from the Legislature. And we know that mid-year cuts are approaching and these will be made with no input from the Legislature. We spent many hours during the past session debating the budget and trying to protect health care and higher ed and then after adjournment cuts were made with no input from legislators.

I believe it is time for us, as Legislators, to aggressively reinsert ourselves into the budget process by using the Constitutional rights given to us. We should not have to relinquish our legislative duties to the administration once we pass the budget at the end of regular session in times like this. I am tired of explaining to constituents and at civic gatherings that there is nothing we can do once the budget is passed.

There IS a PROCESS:

As stated earlier, Article III, Section (B) of the Constitution authorizes the Legislature to call itself into session for up to a maximum of 30 days. A majority of House members (53) and a majority of Senate members (20) must be in favor of convening and, if so, its members choose the time and the Call.

I would like to see the Call include the discussion of health care and higher ed and how we can determine just how reductions are made. The Constitution allows for us to set the agenda and each of you may have other interests to bring before the body.

Please understand that Louisiana Revised Statutes 24:11 sets forth the procedure for calling ourselves into special session. First, we will need a petition signed by 35 members of the House and by 13 members of the Senate, which would be delivered to the presiding officer in each. Within 48 hours of receipt of petition, the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House are then required to send individual petitions to each member for their signature. We, as Legislators, then have 20 days to return our individual petitions and once a majority of each house is reached, the presiding officers must call the Legislature into special session.

It is OUR CHOICE.

This is how I look at the situation: we can either continue to stand by and allow the administration (to) amend the budget; or we can do what we were elected to do; to represent our constituents. The Constitution gives us that right. The choice is up to each one of us.

In closing, I fully understand that convening and conducting a special session will not be easy but think about the cuts that our hospitals and universities are having to make and will continue to be forced to make while we, as local elected representatives, sit back and try to defend those cuts that we know nothing about. Please know that I respect each and every one of you, regardless of your decision to support or not to support a special session. I simply ask that you take the time to respond to this email to: richardj@legis.la.gov.
Respectfully,

Jerome “Dee” Richard
La. State House of Representatives
District 55, Lafourche Parish
Thibodaux, La. 70301

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“Thank you for your correspondence to Senator Riser regarding state cuts. Please know that Senator Riser appreciates hearing from you and will keep your thoughts and concerns in mind as they go thru the legislative process.”

–Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), in his response to several specific questions from a constituent regarding efforts by Gov. Piyush Jindal to gut higher education, help private entities profit from charter schools and online courses, to take absolute control of LSU and to dismantle the state’s system of health care for the state’s indigent population. By this canned response, obviously not written by Riser but by a legislative assistant, Riser has demonstrated that the concerns of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), of which he is a member, are given more attention than those of his constituents.

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Remember when we recently suggested that you contact your legislator with a specific list of questions relative to Gov. Piyush Jindal’s efforts to:

Destroy public education by allowing private concerns to open charter schools and offer online courses with no accountability;

Destroy higher education in general with massive budgetary cutbacks and LSU in particular by loading the state’s flagship university board of supervisors with political hacks and campaign contributors;

Dismantle the state’s public health system through closures, cutbacks and by, as in the case of the LSU Board of Supervisors, packing the University Medical Center Management Corp. Board with political cronies, and

Usurping the powers and responsibilities that rightfully belong to the legislature?

We provided the internet web page addresses for both the House and Senate and suggested that you contact your legislators with these specific questions with specific answers and promised that as the results came in, we would publicize them.
Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport), knowing that state employees might be reluctant to divulge their names for fear of being teagued and thus might feel the need to use a pseudonym, issued the following snarky reply to one such person:

“You make some substantive and good points. However, I do not send substantive responses to people who hide behind fake names.”

Rep. Stephen Carter (R-Baton Rouge) fell back on the standard tactic of “baffle ‘em with B.S. with his non-response to a constituent:

Thank you for your email. I understand your concerns and appreciate you taking the time to contact me. Upon review, most of the items you listed are proposals and have not been implemented yet. When the time comes, I will be charged with giving the up or down approval through legislation. I will carefully consider each item individually that is up for a vote. The Governor’s job is to propose initiatives, try to get the approval of the legislature, and then implement. The a governor has not sought my advice on the items you listed, but I will consider his proposals when and if they become proposed legislation. I cannot usurp his authority including his appointive power to various boards and commissions.

I do want to be sure I make decisions in the best interest of the state, whether privatization is the answer or not. Until we have the opportunity to see proposals to privatize, it is difficult to evaluate the pros and cons. I can’t make a blanket judgement about privatization because I believe it is an issue that warrants case-by-case evaluation.

To provide information on some of your specific concerns, William Jenkins is the interem President of the University. He has appointed, and the Board of Supervisors has approved, Dr. Frank Opelka to serve as the Executive Vice President for Health Care and Medical Education Redesign. The Board has approved Dr. Opelka issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to seek the interest of private partners who are interested in a collaboration with LSU to run the hospitals. Again, thank you for your interest and rest assured that all of us in the legislature are trying to make decisions that will improve the quality of life of all of our citizens. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any more questions or if we can be of any assistance to you.

Best regards,
Steve Carter

Our favorite, however, came from Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia):

“Thank you for your correspondence to Senator Riser regarding state cuts. Please know that Senator Riser appreciates hearing from you and will keep your thoughts and concerns in mind as they go thru the legislative process.”

There you have it. A canned response and not even from Riser himself, but from a legislative assistant. The man could not even take the five minutes out of his busy schedule to write specific responses to specific questions. Apparently the affairs of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), of which Riser is a member, are of greater precedence that those of a lowly constituent.

For those of you who may have missed it, here are the questions and the web addresses again;

I want to know where you stand on of allowing the governor to ignore the medical needs of the state’s indigent population as well as to ignore the need to maintain teaching hospitals for medical students at the LSU and Tulane schools of medicine;
Moreover:

When are you, as my (representative/senator) going to stand up to Gov. Jindal and his runaway efforts to:

• Disembowel higher education;

• Destroy public education to the financial benefit of private contractors/campaign supporters;

• Dismantle the state’s flagship university by appointing political hacks to the LSU Board of Supervisors, firing capable administrators and closing/privatizing state hospitals;

• Allow voucher and online courses to take the place of public education without even a smidgen of accountability or standards to which public education is held;

• Continually allow our governor to usurp the powers and responsibilities that rightfully belong to the legislative branch, including the choosing of House Speaker and Senate President?

I want and expect a public and publicized answer by you on the entirety of this subject. You’ve been silent long enough.

Click here for a list of House members: http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Reps/H_Reps_ByName.asp

Click here for a list of Senate members: http://senate.legis.louisiana.gov/Senators/
Scroll down the list until you find your representative/senator and click on the name. The legislator’s email address will on the page that will appear. For representatives, you need only click on the email address but you will have to type the senators’ email addresses.

It helps if you are able to provide your real name but if you are a state employee, do not use your real name.

Also, send only the questions; do NOT send the entire content of this blog. It’s not that we are concerned about legislators knowing where the questions originate because most of them will; it’s just not necessary to send this entire text.

One final note:

We are getting comments back today that certain legislators were sent the original questions and have not responded.

Our suggestion would be to re-send them each and every day until they do respond. Bombard them and do not let up.

One of Winston Churchill’s greatest speeches included this classic line: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never never.”

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By JOHN SACHS

Periodically I am asked why I’m screaming about what is taking place in our state government. It is suggested that I speak with more deference and respect to and about elected and appointed officials. I am reminded of the adage that one catches more flies with sugar than with salt. I listen to that advice and then I counter with the following explanation for my approach and call to action:

When you as an individual or through your business or when a government entity wants to make a change in service providers such as a pest control service, a janitorial service, or a building maintenance and repair service, it does not involve the lives and livelihood of employees or the ownership of the entity’s physical assets such as buildings. One simply contacts several competing service providers and after evaluating them, makes a decision as to which vendor will provide the specific service for a specific time period.

Now take the case of lease and rentals of buildings and equipment. This is a more complex transaction and generally extends over a longer period of time than a service contract. Except in the case of a rent/lease-to-own transaction, ownership of the assets remains unchanged. Thus, at the end of the lease the parties can agree to terminate the agreement and go their separate ways or to enter into a new contract. Ownership of the asset being rented or leased, however, remains with the original owner.

Finally, there are the types of transactions that are of a permanent nature with lasting consequences, and the ones that the Jindal administration is entering into that will for all intent and purposes change our system of government, alter the delivery of essential services, and transfer ownership of state physical assets forever. What Gov. Bobby Jindal is doing now will be felt for decades to come if not forever. And forever is a mighty long time for the state to suffer after Jindal leaves office for greener pastures (which I find myself occasionally hoping will have a name such as “Serenity Gardens.”)

The first of these “Forever” changes involves privatizing essential government services. When these services are privatized, the state employees almost to a man/woman lose their jobs, their retirement and their benefits. Moreover, their years of experience and expertise are lost to the state almost always forever. The state’s records generally become those of a private company accessible only by the state agency responsible for their administration.

And even that access can become iffy. Take the Office of Risk Management, for example. In less than a year after being privatized at a cost of $75 million to the state, the contract was transferred to a second and then a third company—in open defiance of the state contract requiring written authority for the contract to be transferred. Today, two years after the privatization, nothing has been done about the contract violation.

Records that should be open and public disappear behind a cloak of protection from prying eyes not afforded public agencies. Consequently, monitoring by state and even federal investigators charged with oversight of the function becomes difficult. And to the press, the fourth estate charged with keeping everyone honest and accountable, access to once public records becomes all but impossible. When one adds in the profit motive of a private enterprise and tax liabilities that are not a cost factor to a state operating department, the cost to administer an essential and rightfully state service escalates significantly to the detriment of the state.

The second “Forever” change is the most troublesome and is the one that makes me scream the loudest. That is when physical assets owned by the state and its citizens are sold to private individuals, companies, and corporations. When assets such as hospitals, prisons, schools, etc., are sold, ownership of those assets by the state is lost FOREVER. Let me say that again. When physical assets of the state are sold, ownership of them by the state is lost FOREVER.

We will never again own them. If we need those physical assets to deliver essential state services and programs, we have to enter into negotiations with the new owners to rent or lease those same facilities that we previously owned. And since we in almost every case have no alternative site from which to provide the service, we are held captive by the private owner of the former state facility paid for with taxpayer dollars.

If the new owner knows that he has no competition, is it reasonable to expect him to give us a fair, reasonable, competitive rent/lease term? Chances of that happening are so slight as to be incalculable. The only protection is the initial agreement. After that, it’s every man for himself.

And remember, these new owners will most likely be the contributors to Jindal’s political campaigns, his political slush fund, Believe in Louisiana, or his wife’s “charitable” foundation. They will be the ALEC-supported “One-Percenters” who feel that they are, by divine right, entitled to the spoils of political patronage. It is the finality of the “FOREVER” consequences of the sale of physical assets that makes me scream the loudest and that must be stopped before it ever happens.

Jindal has three years left to do his dastardly deeds. Everyone knows he has higher political aspirations (goals that he will never attain) and that he is a pathological liar who will say anything to portray himself as a caring and responsible keeper of the sacred trust placed in him by the Louisiana electorate. And our generally brain-dead media will drink his poisoned Kool-Aid, ask no intelligent and probing questions, and print verbatim his press releases.

Meanwhile, the Super Pacs will reward him for his unconscionable acts of greed on behalf of the One-Percenters.

So how can Jindal be stopped? There is only one way. Our legislators must muster the required two-thirds (2/3) vote to take back powers to act that in the past have been ceded to the governor and his appointees. That is the only way. And that must happen within the next year and certainly before the end of his term in office. Otherwise, Jindal will have sold ALL of the most marketable physical assets that the state must have in order to deliver essential services mandated by state and federal law and the state will be forced to contract with the new owners for these assets use at exorbitant rates and for terms favorable to the new owners.

That is why I’m screaming and you’d better scream too. Legislators, you’d better muster whatever it takes to act as a body politic united to preserve our state’s assets or your term in office will be forever tainted as a do-nothing, hear, see and speak no evil hand-maiden to the most corrupt governor in our state’s history. That’s a legacy that I would not want to bear.

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LouisianaVoice is going to conduct an experiment, but it will require the cooperation of as many of our readers as possible to make it work.

We are asking each or our readers (who are not state employees: that might constitute immediate Teaguing) to email their state legislators—representatives and senators—to ask them:

As critical as the LSU hospitals are to our LSU and Tulane Medical School Students, our indigent population, our medical research efforts, and much more, why is this being allowed to take place without so much as a peep from you? Are you unconcerned? Do you favor privatizing all primary services and assets of the state such as schools, prisons, hospitals, retirement benefits, medical insurance administration, surface water rights, roads and bridges, financial management, and so much more? What’s next, the sale-leaseback of the Pontchartrain Causeway?

Are you aware that the interim President of the LSU Medical School has been granted the power to sell the entire LSU Medical School program and all of its facilities? Are you? Do you think this is the power that should be vested in an appointed position made by the governor? Do you? What then is your role in state government? Apparently nothing more than to meet annually for 30 days and pass resolutions congratulating couples for being married 50 years, or a football player for being named as an honorable mention all-state, or something equally unrelated to the general welfare of the state that has no business cluttering up the legislative agenda. You might as well just leave your rubber name stamp on your legislative desk and stay home and make luncheon talks to the “Save the Ring-tailed Raccoon Society.”

I want to know where you stand on these issues and what you intend to do. Are you going to continue to allow your authority to be usurped by Jindal and his minions? Worse, are you going to Baton Rouge with hat in hand asking what else you can do to help Jindal legitimately rape the citizens of the state?

Moreover:

When are you, as my (representative/senator) going to stand up to Gov. Jindal and his runaway efforts to:

• Disembowel higher education;

• Destroy public education to the financial benefit of private contractors/campaign supporters;

• Dismantle the state’s flagship university by appointing political hacks to the LSU Board of Supervisors, firing capable administrators and closing/privatizing state hospitals;

• Allow voucher and online courses to take the place of public education without even a smidgen of accountability or standards to which public education is held;

• Continually allow our governor to usurp the powers and responsibilities that rightfully belong to the legislative branch, including the choosing of House Speaker and Senate President?

I want and expect a public and publicized answer by you on the entirety of this subject. You’ve been silent long enough.

Click here for a list of House members: http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Reps/H_Reps_ByName.asp

Click here for a list of Senate members: http://senate.legis.louisiana.gov/Senators/

Scroll down the list until you find your representative/senator and click on the name. The legislator’s email address will on the page that will appear. For representatives, you need only click on the email address but you will have to type the senators’ email addresses.

(Do NOT send this complete post; cut and paste only the part that is in italics. It’s not that we don’t want legislators to know the source of this idea (because we really don’t care if they know) but it’s best if the questions come from you, the reader. So, again, do not send the introductory paragraphs in which we solicit readers to send the emails. Send ONLY the text that is in italics. If you don’t know how to cut and paste, simply re-type the questions and send them as originals from you.)

When you have done this, be sure to keep accurate records as to which legislators, if any, respond and record each response verbatim. Also, keep records of those who do not respond. Set a deadline of Sept. 21 and beginning on Sept. 22, forward all responses to LouisianaVoice at louisianavoice@cox.net

Accordingly, we will publicize each response and we also will out those who ignore your emails.

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Let the dismantling begin.

The LSU Board of Supervisors, packed with 11 of its 15 members who contributed an aggregate of more than $225,900 to Gov. Piyush Jindal’s political campaigns, voted Friday to take the first official step toward what will likely become the complete destruction of the LSU Health System.

The board, which since April has fired, demoted or reassigned LSU President John Lombardi, health system head Dr. Fred Cerise, Interim LSU Public Hospital CEO Roxanne Townsend and LSU System General Counsel Ray Lamonica, voted on Friday to authorize LSU hospitals in Shreveport, Monroe and Alexandria to develop requests for proposals (RFPs) for public-private partnerships for the three hospitals.

Jindal has already slashed $14 million in appropriations for Lallie Kemp Regional Medical Center in Tangipahoa Parish. That represents nearly 35 percent of the facility’s total budget and will mean the loss of surgery, cardiology and ICU services and dramatic cuts to oncology, gynecology and disease management as well as up to 150 staff members who stand to lose their jobs.

Additionally, the LSU Hospital in Bogalusa had its budget cut by $3 million, forcing the facility to close several clinics and to absorb pediatrics into primary care.

In Mandeville, Southeast Louisiana Hospital is slated for closure beginning next month, leaving the Florida parishes, Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes with no state mental health treatment centers.

W.O. Moss Regional Medical Center in Lake Charles also was designated for massive budget cuts and University Medical Center (UMC) in Lafayette was earmarked for $4.2 million in cuts but Jindal said the LSU plan would “protect critical services.

In an apparent effort to head off employee protests, UMC administrator Larry Dorsey notified employees not to attend a public rally—on or off the clock—protesting the cutbacks subject to disciplinary measures. That email was in stark violation of state civil service rules which specifically allow employees to attend such rallies as long as it is on their own time.

The Shreveport Times Friday morning published a story saying that LSU System supervisors would vote later in the day on beginning the process to develop RFPs on public-private hospital partnerships for hospitals in Shreveport, Monroe and Alexandria.

LSU Health spokesperson Sally Croom said the resolution, which was not added to the board’s agenda until Thursday, apparently after Lamonica was forced to resign as general counsel, and after the reassignment of Townsend, would give officials authority to develop an RFP.

Late Friday, as has become the custom of the administration, the announcement was formally made. Robert Barish, chancellor of LSU Health Shreveport, notified “faculty, staff and friends” by memorandum.

“As promised, I wanted to update you on the most recent activity regarding our continuing efforts to ensure a successful future for LSU Health Shreveport in the wake of the federal cuts to Louisiana’s Medicaid budget,” he said. “As you might recall, we were asked to explore several approaches to address the continuing budget challenges or our hospital system.

“Today, the LSU Board of Supervisors authorized us to explore public-private partnerships for our three hospitals. It is important to note that this is being done to see how collaboration with other hospitals might look and whether this may be a workable option.

“We will follow the Board instructions to explore this option, which is among several we are looking at during this fact-finding process. We have been looking at other hospitals which have faced similar situations successfully.

“We are committed to a thorough fact-finding process and exploring possibilities that would ensure continuation of our important missions of education, patient care and research.

“I will keep you updated as more information becomes available.”

It was not immediately known if similar messages were sent to employees of the facilities in Monroe and Alexandria.

The resolution passed by the board said:

BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University that LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport and Health Care Services Division are hereby authorized to develop and seek a Request for Proposal for the purpose of exploring public private partnerships for the LSUHSC-S affiliated hospitals, namely the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport, the E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe and the Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville/Alexandria and each of the hospitals in Health Care Services Division; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this is necessary for identifying potential partners and long-term strategies which may help ensure the organization’s clinical services and financial stability in light of budgetary challenges caused by the recent decrease in federal Medicaid funding; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the authority to seek a Request for Proposal does not mandate the Request for Proposal be released, nor does it mandate a proposal be accepted should one be released. The President shall have the discretion to authorize the release of the Request for Proposal and to accept the proposal that he deems in the best interest of the university.”

So, there you have it. A figurehead president brought out of retirement to replace a president who had a bad habit of being candid and outspoken is given the final authority to release the RFP and to accept the proposal “that he deems in the best interest of the university.”

What are the odds that this interim president and his hand-picked board will take any action, up and including taking a bathroom break without the approval of Piyush Jindal?

We already have more than sufficient evidence that Jindal is rapidly moving toward successfully destroying public health care in Louisiana. The closure of Charity Hospital in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, though nearly three years before he came to power, lay the groundwork for his later actions.

The federal government’s decision to slash Louisiana’s Medicaid appropriation by more than $572 million—along with state cuts of $287 million, bringing the total loss of funding to $859 million—simply gave him a convenient opportunity to accelerate a program he already had in place.

One need only look at what Jindal has done to higher education and public education to see a dangerous trend of cutbacks in crucial public services. His obsession with granting tax exemptions totaling $5 billion a year for corporate donors, transferring funds from parish school boards to private, for-profit schools, and forcing state colleges and universities to increase tuition to cover budgetary cuts has put the state on a dangerous collision course with fiscal reality that will remain long after Jindal has moved on to a cabinet position or in pursuit of higher office.

Jindal won’t be around to answer for his policies…but 144 legislators will be.

And so will Louisiana voters.

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Chester Lee Mallett of Iowa likes to spread his money around but his political involvement is mostly restricted to conservative Republican candidates at both the state and federal levels.

Described as a “well-established businessman” and “a true conservative,” Mallett has served on the board of Louisiana’s Citizen Insurance Company and the State Licensing Board for Contractors—appointed to both boards by Gov. Bobby Jindal. More recently, Jindal appointed him to serve on the LSU Board of Supervisors.

The reasons for Jindal’s continuing to call on Mallett to serve in various capacities are not difficult to understand. Like many of the governor’s appointees, he has proven himself to be a generous donor to Jindal’s campaigns through personal contributions ($10,000) and seven of his companies ($148,500) since Jindal’s first gubernatorial campaign of 2003.

Mallett does not limit his largesse to state political candidates (although he has chipped in another $61,000 to other Louisiana candidates). Since 2004 alone, he contributed an additional $166,400 to national Republican candidates, all but one of whom are from Louisiana, and three separate contributions of $30,800 each to the Republican National Committee and another for $5,000. Additionally, Brad Mallett of one of Lee Mallett’s companies contributed another $30,800 to the RNC.

Republican congressional beneficiaries include U.S. Sen. David Vitter ($6.400), congressmen Jeff Landry ($5,000), Charles Boustany Jr. ($5,000) and Bill Cassidy ($5,000). Other prominent Republicans receiving contributions from Mallett include Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin ($2,500), Newt Gingrich ($1,000), Texas Gov. Rick Perry ($2,500) and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney ($2,500).

Though a Republican loyalist, he did contribute $2,300 to Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in 2007 and $3,700 to the State Senate campaign of Democrat Willie Mount of Lake Charles in 2004.

Described as “an avid social reformer,” Mallett counts as his greatest achievement the creation and operation of The Academy of Training Skills (ATS) in Lacassine. ATS, whose corporate offices are located at the same Iowa address of all of Mallett’s other companies, opened in 2008, and serves as an alternative facility for individuals who are at risk of going to prison. Those with non-violent or non-sexual offenses are given an opportunity to reside at ATS and to enroll in any of several training programs.

ATS, approved by the Louisiana Department of Corrections, takes residents by referral from local court jurisdictions. The facility’s web page says it is seeking accreditation from the American Correction (sic) Association (ACA) and that a trade school was planned for the site. The website also said plans were in place to expand to a 1,000-resident capacity.

The American Correctional Association, located in Alexandria, Virginia, confirmed that ATS received accreditation in 2010, an indication that the ATS website has not been updated for at least two years.

Claims by ATS that residents are trained for jobs and that they receive counseling and medical treatment for addictions, however, are in dispute.

While the ATS web page touts training in pipefitting, welding, electrical, millwright, heavy equipment operator and instrumentation fitter, at least one district attorney who refers offenders to facilities such as ATS said he has experienced numerous complaints about the program and no longer refers offenders to ATS.

A spokesman for the district attorney, who requested that he not be identified because of political implications, said all his referrals now go to Cenikor Foundation, a Houston-based center with facilities in Baton Rouge.

“We just stopped sending people to ATS,” he said. “The jobs they were getting our people were jobs hamburger flipping at fast food restaurants, not technical skills. The claims that they are providing medical treatment don’t seem to be valid, either, because our referrals told us they received no medical treatment.

“Moreover, ATS works these people and pays money into personal accounts for each resident, which is certainly an accepted practice,” he said. “However, without exception, when our referrals completed their programs there, instead of receiving the money in their accounts, they wound up owing ATS money.”

He also said ATS appears to have difficulty in retaining facility directors. “There’s a lot of turnover there,” he said. “No one seems to stay more than a few months. Some of the directors seemed to try to do what the program advertises but they don’t last long before they’re gone.”

Now, it appears that Mallett may be expanding his operations to include online classes as part of the Louisiana Department of Education’s (DOE) Course Choice Program.

The Course Choice Program ostensibly provides students at failing schools the opportunity to take the online courses instead of continuing in their old schools. All the classes are online and providers are allowed to set their own course fees.

One of those approved by DOE is ATS Project Success of Michigan, which claims on its web page to offer courses in 41 states, including Louisiana. Academy of Training Schools (ATS) of 21089 South Frontage Road in Iowa, which is the same corporate address as Mallett’s seven other enterprises (including Academy of Training Skills), appears to be the Louisiana ATS entity through which courses are to be offered.

The Academy of Training Schools also contributed $6,000 to Believe in Louisiana, a 527 tax-exempt political organization founded by Baton Rouge Business Report Publisher Rolf McCollister.

McCollister was Jindal’s campaign chairman in his successful 2007 run for governor and served as chairperson of Jindal’s transition team.
Julio Melara, president of the Baton Rouge Business Report, was appointed by Jindal to the Louisiana Stadium Exposition District (Louisiana Superdome) Board in February 2008, a month after Jindal first took office.

Jindal appointed Mallett, a Republican insider, to the LSU Board in July and all the pieces now appear to be in place for Jindal to do whatever he wants with LSU in general and the LSU Medical System in particular. The recent firing of Dr. Fred Cerise and the reassignment of Dr. Roxanne Townsend would seem to support that theory.

Jindal said as much on July 2 in an interview with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News:

“We’re the only state in the country that runs our own government-owned, government-operated hospitals. I’ll be the first to tell you that’s not the best way to provide health care. And we’re replacing that. We’re transitioning folks on our Medicaid program to privately-run insurance coverage.”

Jindal, of course, neglected to mention that those state hospitals, particularly Charity Hospital in New Orleans served, not only as a medical safety net for indigent citizens of the state and as teaching hospitals for both the LSU and Tulane University schools of medicine.

Charity was never reopened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 even though only the basement of the 21-story facility was flooded and more than 200 military and medical volunteers restored the hospital to conditions that many said were superior to the hospital’s pre-storm state. For whatever reasons, however, electricity, which was working in the hospital, was ordered turned off and the doors were locked.

With all but one of the LSU Board members appointed by Jindal, the governor now has carte blanche to bulldoze ahead with dismantling the state’s Medicaid program—just as he promised he would in his interview with Van Susteren—in favor of privately-run insurance coverage, most likely administered by large campaign contributors.

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