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Archive for the ‘Layoffs’ Category

Tomorrow (Aug. 15) is the last day for 24 employees of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) but the bad news doesn’t end there, LouisianaVoice has learned.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols’ glowing guest column about the condition of OGB in Jeremy Alford’s Louisiana Politics notwithstanding, some 230,000 state employees, retirees and their dependents are in for some serious sticker shock.

http://lapolitics.com/2014/08/nichols-ogb-prepared-for-changing-world-of-health-care/

Even as Nichols babbled on about providing “better service and care to its members” while at the same time employing the by now tired and time-worn Jindal tactic of blaming everyone but Jindal for rising health care costs, the Legislative Fiscal Office was dropping a bombshell in announcing dramatic increases in health care insurance premiums for state employees coupled with benefits that will be undergoing deep cuts.

OGB Report_July 2014 FOR JLCB

Blaming the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and an aging population for rising health care costs, Nichols said “financially responsible practices” are necessary to continue providing benefits. She conveniently neglected to mention that it was the Jindal administration’s decision a year ago to lower premiums as a means of lowering the state’s 75 percent match, thereby freeing up money to plug gaping holes in Jindal’s makeshift budget.

That move, of course, help decimate OGB’s reserve fund. What started out as a $540 million surplus a year ago now stands at less than half that.

“At first glance it may seem like having a fund that large is a great thing,” she wrote. “But in reality, keeping hundreds of millions unnecessarily locked up in a reserve fund was not the best use of taxpayer money.

“Considering that the state funds 75 percent of member premiums through taxpayer dollars, letting that large of a balance sit unused meant that those funds weren’t being used for other important projects,” she said.

Nichols, of course, overlooks the fact that successful insurance companies keep health reserve funds in cases of a natural disaster or major epidemic. Companies who only manage to pay claims out of premiums on the other hand, traditionally don’t survive.

Her entire 800-word piece never once mentioned that state employees and retirees would soon be asked to pay significantly higher premiums for equally significantly reduced benefits. Instead, she parsed words, saying, “Plan changes for fiscal year 2015 are estimated to lower expected claims costs by $131.8 million…”

That sounds pretty good until you read the first page of the nine-page report released Monday by Legislative Fiscal Officer John Carpenter and Legislative Fiscal Office Section Director J. Travis McIlwain.

State employee health plan changes, according to the report, include, among other things:

  • An increase in premiums state employees and retirees pay for health coverage;
  • Significantly increase the out-of-pocket maximum for all health plan options;
  • Increasing deductibles for all health plan options;
  • Increasing co-pays 100 percent for those proposed health plans with co-pays;
  • Increasing the out-of-pocket maximum for the prescription drug benefit by $300 from $1,200 to $1,500 per year, a 20 percent increase;
  • Requiring prior authorizations for certain medical procedures;
  • Eliminating the out-of-network benefit for some health plan options;
  • Removing all vision coverage from the health plan options.

The latest premium increase of 6 percent will go into effect on Jan. 1 is on top of a 5 percent increase implemented on July 1 of this year.

Of course, the revamp of OGB premiums and benefits was the result of the infamous Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) study.

The really amazing thing about that is Jindal rushed into the OGB privatization convinced he could do no wrong and that his was the only way and that the state was going to save millions. Yet, when things started going south, he calls in the big A&M guns.

Not only that, he forked over $199,752 to A&M to learn the best way to screw state employees.

Speaking of A&M, the contract with the firm was originally for a little more than $4.2 million but was promptly amended by $794,678, bumping the amount up to a cool $5 million. The problem with that is state law allows only a one-time contract amendment of no more than 10 percent without legislative concurrence. The amendment was for 18.9 percent.

As if that were not egregious enough, the Division of Administration subsequently amended the contract by yet another $2.4 million in May—again without bothering to obtain the legally mandated concurrence from the legislature.

Nothing, it seems, is beneath this administration.

Well, don’t say you weren’t warned. LouisianaVoice said before the OGB privatization ever took place that it would be necessary to raise premiums or lower benefits.

But Jindal, wunderkind that he is, insisted his privatization plan, ripped straight from the pages of the handbook of his only private sector employer, McKinsey & Co., would be more cost efficient than having those lazy state workers process claims and that the state would save money.

And lest you forget, McKinsey advised AT&T in 1980 there was no future in cell phones.

And of course, McKinsey developed the flawless business plan for Enron.

To a degree Jindal is correct; the state will now save money—on the backs of state employees.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite), who is an announced candidate for governor in the 2015 election agrees.

“The OGB fiasco is proof positive that privatization for the sake of privatization is foolish,” he said. “A reserve balance that recently exceeded $500 million is half that now and  bleeding $16M per month due to mismanagement and budget chicanery, and the ultimate price will be paid by state retirees and employees through higher premiums, higher co-pays, higher deductibles, and higher co-insurance in exchange for fewer benefits, more forced generic drugs, and more preclearance of needed treatments and other changes that make crystal clear that the OGB beneficiaries will pay more for less.”

Bingo! And right on cue, Carpenter’s report echoed Edwards:

“The health plan and prescription drug plan policy changes…will shift more of the costs from the state to the OGB plan member,” it said.

That shift will save the state a minimum of $44.7 million for health plan changes and at least $69 million for prescription drug plan changes in fiscal year 2015, the report said.

“Along with premiums, the major costs incurred for medical services by an OGB plan member will be deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance,” it said. “The new health plan offerings will significantly reduce the cost to OGB, while the OGB members pay more for their medical services.”

Of the total OGB population, 75 percent are currently enrolled in the HMO plan which presently has no deductible for the employee but those members will, effective January 1, be subject to both a deductible and coinsurance whereas most are currently subject only to fixed co-pays.

 

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The Jindal administration has announced plans to jettison 24 more positions at the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) as a cost cutting measure for the cash-strapped agency but is retaining the top two positions and an administrator hired only a month ago.

The effective date of the layoffs is Aug. 15.

The latest cuts will leave only 47 employees when the agency is relocated to the Claiborne Building basement to share office space with the Office of Risk Management. The Claiborne Building also houses the Civil Service Department, the Board of Regents, the Department of Education, the State Land Office and the Division of Administration.

The layoff plan submitted to the Department of Civil Service on June 14, said there was insufficient work to justify all 71 positions.

Affected by layoffs are eight Benefits Analyst positions, three Group Benefits Supervisory spots, one Group Benefits Administrator, seven Administrative Coordinators, an Administrative Assist, two Administrative Supervisors, one IT Application Programmer/Analyst and one Training Development Specialist.

OBG Chief Executive Officer Susan West, one of those being retained, will be making a physical move back into her old offices. She previously worked for ORM before that agency was gutted by Jindal’s grand privatization scheme and she moved over to OGB.

West, who makes $170,000, and Interim Chief Operating Officer Charles Guerra ($107,000) are not affected by the layoff nor is Elis Williams Cazes ($106,000)) was appointed as Group Benefits Administrator on June 23.

Cazes was previously employed by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana which serves as the third party administrator of the OGB Preferred Provider Operation at a cost to the state of $5.50 per month per enrollee, which computes to an amount a little north of $70 million per year.

Her position was created—and the requirements reportedly written especially to her qualifications—as the Medical/Pharmacy Administrator responsible for benefit plan management and vendor performance with the primary responsibility to “continuously monitor medical and pharmacy benefit plans to seek out modification of plans or implementation of new plans that reduce claims costs and provide efficiencies for the state and plan participants,” according to the justification given for retaining her position.

Well, we can certainly see where her position is as indispensable as West’s and Guerra’s.

All this takes place at a time whe OGB’s reserve fund has dwindled from $500 million at the time of the agency’s privatization in January 2013 to about half that amount today. Even more significant, the reserve fund is expected to dip as low as $5 million by 2016, just about the time Jindal leaves town for good.

Completing the trifecta of good news, we also have learned that health benefits for some 200,000 state employees, retirees and dependents will be slashed this year even as premiums increase.

In June, West broke the news to the OGB employees. She erroneously said the 47 remaining employees would be reassigned other duties and some might see pay reductions and that those with seniority could bump junior employees in desired positions. The Civil Service Department, however, said salaries could not be cut and bumping is no longer allowed.

Isn’t it nice to know your agency director knows the procedures?

Employees were told that letters would go out between July 1 and July 15 to those who were being laid off. On July 7, they were told the letters would be delivered by hand on Friday, July 11. None came. On the following Monday (July 14) confusion of the order of the day as Deputy Commissioner of Administration Ruth Johnson sent emails to those affected and instructed them to attend a noon meeting in the OGB board room. Upon entering the board room, each person was handed a packet that informed them that Civil Service had not approved the layoffs.

During the meeting, according to one who was there, West kept repeating, “I get this. I’ve been where you are. I get this. However, there are worse things. It’s not like losing a child. I get this.”

Way to soften the blow, Susan. You might have reminded them that the fighting between Israel and Palestine isn’t so bad because there’s also an Ebola outbreak in Africa or that while you’re losing your home to a hurricane storm surge, some people are having to endure heavy wind damage. Or better yet, take them all to a showing of The Fault in Our Stars. That’ll cheer them up.

“It was the ‘I get this’ and comparison of losing a job to losing a child that infuriated the OGB state employees,” the employee said. “This is the worst thing in their lives right  now, some are battling cancer and working; some have children and grandchildren to feed; some live paycheck to paycheck; some are taking care of the elderly and family; all have bills, rents/mortgages, school tuition, etc.”

But you really can’t blame Susan. She previously worked for ORM and was among those present when ORM Director Bud Thompson broke the privatization news to his employees by standing before them, grinning, as he said, “I still have my job.”

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Did the Jindal administration get the cart ahead of the horse when it announced the layoff of more than 100 state employees at a state hospital in central Louisiana?

As if Gov. Bobby Jindal did not have enough on his plate with his attempts to gain approval form the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for his hospital privatization plan, now the battle over the closure of one hospital has moved into the courts.

Brad Ott of New Orleans and Ed Parker of East Feliciana Parish have named the Louisiana State Senate, the State of Louisiana and the LSU Board of Supervisors in their lawsuit filed in 19th Judicial Court in Baton Rouge.

Their petition claims that the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare violated the state’s open meetings law in approving the closure of Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville.

Moreover, the petition says that while more than 100 classified employees are due to receive layoff notices effective June 30, the State Civil Service Commission is not scheduled to consider the LSU layoff plan until early July.

Wait. What?

Did the LSU Board of Stuporvisors really notify 100-plus employees that they no longer had jobs—before getting formal approval of the layoff plan from Civil Service?

Surely not.

The Rules of Order of the Senate, Rule 13.73, entitled “Notice of committee meetings during session,” provides in part: “Such notices shall be posted for each meeting as soon as practicable, but not later than 1 p.m. of the day preceding the meeting day.”

Rule 13.75, entitled “Meetings prohibited without notice,” provides in part: “No meeting of a committee, regularly scheduled or otherwise, shall be held unless there is full compliance with the requirements of Louisiana Senate Rule 13.73…”

The lawsuit says the notice for the April 2, 2014, meeting of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare was revised on April 1 at 4:04 p.m. to add the consideration of SCR 48 by Sen. Gerald Long (R-Natchitoches).

SCR 48 was the Senate Concurrent Resolution that called for the closure of Huey P. Long. The resolution passed in the House Health and Welfare Committee by a 10-8 vote after nearly three hours of debate. By contrast, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee took only 10 minutes for unanimous passage.

Both petitioners say they had planned to testify in opposition to the resolution before the committee but that they were not notified that the committee would be taking up SCR 48 on April 2 because of the last minute revision to the notice of the meeting. “Consequently, both of the petitioners were effectively prevented from observing the deliberations…and expressing their concerns,” the petition said.

Wait. What?

Would a Louisiana Senate committee really do an end run around opponents to a controversial resolution in violation of the open meetings law in order to slip the resolution through?

Surely not.

But with the administration desperate to ram its hospital privatization through despite questionable funding methods, anything is possible. Jindal, in fact, has clearly demonstrated that he will go to any length to move his agenda along.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys J. Arthur Smith and Adrienne Rachel are seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief subject to the state’s open meetings law, an injunction prohibiting the state from implementing provision of SCR 48, monetary damages for violations of the state’s open meetings law, and attorney’s fees.

Smith is a relative newcomer in litigation against the state but he has sent out notice that the old ways of doing business may be changing. He has already won one battle with the Department of Education over the department’s reluctance to comply with the state’s public records laws and currently has other suits pending against the Department of Agriculture and the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.

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Looking back on the LSU Hospital privatization fiasco, it becomes easy to point the finger of blame in several directions.

And to a lesser extent, though by no means blameless, is the Louisiana Legislature.

The legislature has been complicit in many of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s other misadventures, most notably the unorthodox—and, it turned out, unconstitutional—method of funding the governor’s school voucher program. Lawmakers fell all over themselves in 2012 in approving that little scheme that eventually blew up in everyone’s faces when the courts rejected the manner in which Act 2 diverted money from local school districts to cover the cost of private or parochial school tuition.

In fact, Jindal’s entire education reform package, passed in such haste in 2012, quickly grew to more resemble a train wreck than legitimate reform.

But the legislature, even though it never drew a line in the dust even as it capitulated to Jindal at every turn, in the final analysis, had little say-so about nor any recourse in preventing the wholesale giveaway—disguised as privatization—of the six hospitals, a maneuver that imploded Friday with the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reject the deals that would have turned over to private operators the LSU medical centers in Shreveport, Monroe, Lafayette, Houma, Lake Charles and New Orleans.

Even as Jindal’s rubber stamp LSU Board of Stuporvisers was rubber-stamping a contract containing 50 blank pages in the infamous conflict-of-interest deal handing over University Medical Center of Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center of Monroe to the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana (BRF), legislators were voicing concerns over the warp speed at which the administration was moving to ram the agreement down the throats of an unsuspecting public.

In fact, a resolution passed unanimously in the Louisiana Senate at the urging of Sen. Ed Murray (D-New Orleans) called for the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget to agree on the privatization plans before any details were to be finalized. A similar resolution was also passed in the House.

Resolutions are just that: resolutions, with no power of law. Jindal said—and an attorney general’s opinion supported the position—that legislative approval was not required in order for the LSU Board to agree to lease the hospitals. An attorney general’s opinion, like a legislative resolution, does not carry the weight of law, but does give the governor stronger footing.

Jindal, for his part, made it abundantly clear that he would move the privatization plan forward with or without legislative support. He said the legislature did not have the authority to vote down the proposals—in effect, saying his administration was ready to ram through the proposals without regard for even a pretense of democratic procedure.

Of course he did say that he would agree to take any advice from the legislative committees into consideration. “If they propose changes to the law, we’ll look at that legislation,” he said.

But we all know what happens to those who have the temerity to disagree with Jindal, don’t we? They’re summarily teagued, as in Tommy Teague, erstwhile Director of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB), who was shown the door on April 15, 2011, when he didn’t jump on board the OGB Privatization Express quickly enough. Six months before that, it was his wife Melody was fired from her state job after she testified before the Commission for Streamlining Government. More than a dozen met the same fate, including LSU President John Lombardi and at least four legislators who found themselves suddenly removed from their committee assignments for “wrong-headed” voting.

But easily the most significant, most ill-advised, most flagrant, most unwarranted demotions were those of two respected doctors who didn’t bite when Jindal dropped his privatization bait into the water—doctors any organization would be proud to have on staff (and now, two such organizations indeed have them after in sheer frustration, they finally left Louisiana).

LSU Health Care System head Dr. Fred Cerise and Interim Louisiana Public Hospital CEO Dr. Roxanne Townsend were demoted just days apart in 2012—Cerise in late August and Townsend in early September—following a July 17 meeting at which former Secretary of health and Hospitals (DHH) Alan Levine first pitched a plan to privatize the state’s system of LSU medical centers.

Levine was at the meeting on behalf of his firm, Health Management Associates (HMA).

Also present, besides Cerise, Townsend and Levine were then-LSU President William Jenkins, DHH then-Secretary Bruce Greenstein, LSU Medical Center Shreveport Director Dr. Robert Barish, HMA CFO Kerry Curry, LSU Health Science Center Shreveport Vice Chancellor Hugh Mighty and LSU Board of Supervisors members Rolfe McCollister, Bobby Yarborough, John George (remember that name) and Scott Ballard. LSU Health Science Center New Orleans Chancellor Larry Hollier and Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans Frank Opelka participated by teleconference.

The meeting was held in the LSU president’s conference room.

Both Cerise and Townsend expressed reservations about Levine’s proposal but several members of the LSU Board of Supervisors who were present at the meeting “indicated they want LSU’s management to pursue this strategy,” according to a summary of the meeting prepared for Jenkins by Cerise.

Along with his two-page summation of the meeting, Cerise also submitted a third page containing a list of five concerns he had with the privatization plan pitched by Levine. It was that list of concerns which most likely got Cerise teagued as head of the LSU Health System via an email from Jenkins.

Levine, according to Cerise’s notes, recommended as an initial step that LSU sell its hospital in Shreveport (LSU Medical Center) and use the proceeds to “offset budget cuts for the rest of the LSU system.”

He suggested that the buyers would form a joint venture with LSU, invest capital into the facility and develop a strategy for LSU “to more aggressively compete in the hospital market.”

“The LSU board members present indicated they want LSU’s management to pursue this strategy,” Cerise’s notes said. “Greenstein stated that LSU should look to generate two years of funding to address the state funds shortfall in the system through the sale of Shreveport’s hospital.”

It was at that point that Cerise indicated his concern that such a strategy would take time to develop and that LSU would likely need to go through a competitive public procurement process and “likely legislative approvals.”

It was subsequently determined that legislative approval was not legally required; all that was required was for the legislature to be informed of the administration’s actions.

“There appeared to be agreement that LSU develop a plan that would not result in closure of hospitals,” Cerise’s notes said. “When the question was posed to the group, ‘Will LSU close hospitals,” George responded, ‘We hope not.’ The clear message was that the board members did not want LSU to proceed with any hospital closures at this point.”

Since that meeting, Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge and W.O. Moss Medical Center in Lake Charles have each closed.

“I am asking that you share this memo or at least the substance of it with the full board to ensure they are informed and that their direction to us that we delay definitive budgetary action until the end of August to better assess the likelihood of a Shreveport sale with a statewide distribution of the proceeds is clear and unambiguous,” Cerise said in his memorandum to Jenkins.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Jenkins called for the creation of a task force to include then-Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, Greenstein, George, Yarborough, McCollister, Ballard, Mighty, Barish, Hollier, Cerise and Townsend.

But in a matter of weeks, Cerise and Townsend were removed from their respective positions and reassigned and Opelka was promoted to Cerise’s position.

Last May, only months before he resigned to take a position in Texas, Cerise was invited by Sen. Murray to testify at a meeting of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. What ensued speaks volumes about the administration’s penchant for secrecy and its intolerance for dissenting viewpoints and is illustrative of Jindal’s general arrogance and disdain for the legislative process.

The committee wanted more information about the proposed privatization of the LSU system’s hospitals and the obvious choice as the most knowledgeable witness was Dr. Fred Cerise, whose integrity is the very antithesis of Jindal’s.

So, naturally, Cerise was barred from testifying. Dissenting opinions—even intelligent, reasoned ones—are not welcomed by this governor who simply cannot bring himself to listen to the advice of others. Murray said he was told that Cerise’s request for a personal leave day to testify was denied. Murray was joined by several other senators in complaining that the denial of an information request from a lawmaker was inappropriate.

Board members, Dr. John George and Ann Duplessis, apparently with straight faces, disavowed any knowledge about Cerise’s not being able to attend the meeting and promised to look into the matter and report back to the committee.

Amazingly, lawmakers appeared to ignore that conflict of interest we alluded to earlier even as the LSU Board of Stuporvisors unanimously approved that contract. No one uttered a peep as that same Dr. John George of Shreveport, sitting as a voting member of the LSU Board, cast his vote.

The CEO of BRF, which awarded the contract for the Shreveport and Monroe medical facilities, is (trumpet fanfare) that same Dr. John George but not to worry: Jindal assured us there was no conflict of interest there.

Almost lost in all of this is the fact that more than 5,000 employees were laid off as a result of the privatizations which now have been disallowed. And for that, we look to the Louisiana Civil Service Commission as the third culprit behind Jindal and the LSU Board of Stuporvisors.

After all, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

The Civil Service Commission, which must approve any layoff plan, first rejected the administration’s privatization by a 4-3 vote but agreed to reconsider the proposal when the administration said it would provide additional information.

The next week, the board met again and commission member D. Scott Hughes of Shreveport apparently saw the light and inexplicably switched his vote from no to yes. More importantly, two other members, Dr. Sidney Tobias of LaPlace and commission Chairman David Duplantier of Mandeville, took the easy way out: they simply did not attend the meeting and the final vote that put 5,000 employees on the street was 3-2 in favor of Jindal.

Granted, commission members don’t receive a salary for their service but if Hughes could drive in from some 250 miles away—even with his yes vote—then surely commission Chairman Duplantier and Tobias could have, should have, found a way to drive in from about 75 and 50 miles out, respectively.

On a matter of such import, their no-show was nothing less than gutless and both should resign from the commission. They agreed to serve and their votes on this issue were of extreme importance—to the administration of course, but especially to those 5,000 employees whose livelihoods depended on the whims of seven five people they’d never met.

And then there’s that almost overlooked matter that’s lost in all the frenzy—one of utmost urgency: where will the state’s poor now seek medical care?

And the fingers of blame point directly at Jindal, the LSU Board of Stuporvisors, and the Civil Service Commission.

So now, after the approval of a contract with its 50 blank pages, after the termination of all those employees, after Jindal’s flimflamming his way around the legislative process, after the demotion and eventual loss of two valuable members of the medical profession, after DHH Kathy Kliebert’s assurances (as late as last week) that everything was just peachy, another wing of Jindal’s house of cards has come tumbling down.

If this is indicative of the way he runs a state—and all the evidence says it most assuredly is—imagine how, as president, he would fare in a faceoff with Vladimir Putin—even with the help of Jimmy Faircloth.

 

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It’s small wonder that Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted to get out of town quickly—he departed the state for an extended trip to Asia to recruit business and industry investment in Louisiana—given the flak he is receiving from the legislature and radio talk show hosts over his hiring of a consulting firm at a cost of $4.2 million to somehow magically find $500 million in state government savings. http://theadvocate.com/csp/mediapool/sites/dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls?STREAMOID=sZuDzNJoJK2fudmeRm9FJpM5tm0Zxrvol3sywaAHBAlauzovnqN0Cbyo1UqyDJ6gE0$uXvBjavsllACLNr6VhLEUIm2tympBeeq1Fwi7sIigrCfKm_F3DhYfWov3omce$8CAqP1xDAFoSAgEcS6kSQ–&CONTENTTYPE=application/pdf&CONTENTDISPOSITION=Alvarez%20Marsal%20Government%20Savings%20Contract.pdfhttp://theadvocate.com/news/8045923-123/vitter-super-pac-raises-15

And that contract doesn’t even take into account Pre-Jindal recommendations by the firm that may ultimately end up costing taxpayers $1.5 billion which, of course, would more than offset any $500 million savings it might conjure up that the Legislative Fiscal Officer, the State Treasurer, the administration, the legislature and the Legislative Auditor have been unable to do, largely because of a time honored political tradition affectionately known as turf protection.

One might even ask, for example, why representatives of the consulting firm, Alvarez & Marsal, who somewhat smugly call themselves “efficiency engineers,” were wasting their time Friday at the gutted Office of Risk Management. Isn’t there already a promise of $20 million in savings on the table as a result of Jindal’s privatization of that agency four years ago? For just that one small agency, that’s 4 percent of the entire $500 million in savings Jindal is seeking through the $4 million contract. (The elusive $500 million savings, for the real political junkies, represents only 2 percent of the state budget.)

The Baton Rouge Advocate also got in on the act on Saturday with Michelle Millhollon’s excellent story that  noted that the actual contract contains no mention of a $500 million savings. http://theadvocate.com/home/8131113-125/vaunted-savings-not-included-in

That revelation which is certain to further antagonize legislators, including Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) whom Jindal will now probably try to teague for his criticism of the governor’s penchant for secrecy.

Hey guys, your contract is only for four months, so why waste your time in an agency that supposedly is on the cusp of a $20 million savings? That ain’t very efficient, if you ask us.

Legislators immediately voiced their displeasure at the contract. “There’s a lot of people who don’t like it,” said Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington), a one-time staunch Jindal ally.

Rep. Tim Burns (R-Mandeville), chairman of the House Governmental Affairs Committee (if he hasn’t been teagued by now), said when the dust settles any cost cutting will ultimately be the responsibility of state officials. “Even the best PowerPoint presentation isn’t going to cut government,” he said. “The trick is to make the political choices.”

The contract raises immediate questions how Jindal, now entering his seventh year in office, could justify the move in light of his many boasts of efficiencies his administration has supposedly initiated.

Ruth Johnson, who is overseeing the contract for the Division of Administration, defended the deal with the simplistic and less than satisfactory logic that “Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.”

And while Jindal has indicated he wants a final set of recommendations in April, the contract runs through 2016, meaning the final cost could far exceed the $4.2 million Alvarez & Marsal is scheduled to receive for its review.

Jim Engster, host of a talk show on public radio in Baton Rouge, on Friday predicted during an interview with State Treasurer John Kennedy that Alvarez & Marsal’s final report will most likely bear an uncanny resemblance to the 400-plus-page interim report of Dec. 18, 2009, by the infamous Commission on Streamlining Government.

The hearings by that commission, you may remember, gave birth to the term teaguing, a favorite tactic employed by the Jindal administration when a state employee or legislator refuses to toe the line. A state employee named Melody Teague testified before that commission and was summarily fired the following day. Six months later her husband, Tommy Teague, was fired as head of the Office of Group Benefits when he was slow in getting on board the Jindal Privatization Express. Mrs. Teague appealed and was reinstated but her husband took employment elsewhere in a less volatile environment.

The Alvarez & and Marsal representatives have pleaded ignorant to questions of whether their report will draw heavily from the four-year-old commission report and even professed to not know of its existence.

A curious denial indeed, given that Johnson was also the ramrod over the streamlining commission during Jindal’s second year in office. Does she not share this information with the firm or was all that commission work for naught? Or part of Jindal’s infamous deliberative process? Curious also in that Alvarez & Marsal is specifically cited—by name—no fewer than six times in the report’s first 51 pages, each of which is in the context of privatizing the state’s charity hospital system. The report quoted the firm as recommending that:

  • “The governor and the legislature authorize and direct the LSU Health System to adopt the recommendations of Alvarez and Marsal for the operation of the interim Charity Hospital in New Orleans. The governor and legislature direct every other charity hospital in Louisiana to contract for a similar financial and operational assessment with a third party private sector consulting firm, such as but not necessarily Alvarez and Marsal, that specializes and has a proven track record in turnaround management, corporate restructuring and performance improvement for institutions and their stakeholders.”

That’s right. That is where the seed was apparently first planted for the planned privatization of the LSU Hospital system, even to the point of directing the LSU Board of Stuporvisors to vote to allow a Shreveport foundation run by one of the LSU stuporvisors to take over the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe. Alvarez & Kelly performed that bit of work under a $1.7 million contract that ran for nine months in 2009, from Jan. 5 to Sept. 30 (almost $200,000 per month).

Alvarez & Marsal also received a $250,000, contract of a much shorter duration (10 days) from Jindal on April 9, 2013, to develop Jindal’s proposal to eliminate the state income taxes in favor of other tax increases. That quickie, ill-conceived plan was dead on arrival during the legislative session and Jindal quickly punted before a single legislative vote could be taken

But Alvarez & Marsal’s cozy if disastrous relationship with state government goes back further than Jindal, even. http://www.alvarezandmarsal.com/case-study-new-orleans-public-schools It’s a relationship that could become one of the most costly in state history—unless of course, the state chooses to ignore a court judgment in the same manner as it has ignored a $100 million-plus award (now in the neighborhood of a quarter-billion dollars—with judicial interest) stemming from a 1983 class-action flood case in Tangipahoa Parish.

In fact, the state probably has no choice but to ignore the judgment as an alternative to bankrupting the state but that does little to remove the stigma attached to a horrendous decision to accept the recommendation of Alvarez and Marsal which subsequently was rewarded with a $29.1 million three-year state contract from April 4, 2006 to April 3, 2009 to “develop and implement a comprehensive and coordinated disaster recovery plan in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”

In December of 2005, the Orleans Parish School Board adopted Resolution 59-05 on the advice of the crack consulting firm that Jindal somehow thinks is going to be the state’s financial salvation.

That resolution, passed in the aftermath of disastrous Hurricane Katrina was specifically cited in the ruling earlier this week by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal that upheld a lower court decision the school board was wrong to fire 7,500 teachers, effective Jan. 31, 2006. The wording contained in the ruling said:

  • “In December 2005, the OPSB passed Resolution No. 59-05 upon the advice and recommendation of its state-selected and controlled financial consultants, the New York-based firm of Alvarez & Marsal. The Resolution called for the termination of all New Orleans Public School employees placed on unpaid “Disaster Leave” after Hurricane Katrina, to take effect on January 31, 2006.1 On the day that the mass terminations were scheduled to take place, Plaintiffs amended their petition to seek a temporary restraining order preventing the OPSB from terminating all of its estimated 7,500 current employees at the close of business on that day. The trial court granted the TRO and this Court and the Louisiana Supreme Court denied writs on the issue. The TRO was later converted into a preliminary injunction that restrained, enjoined and prohibited the OPSB, et al, from “terminating the employment of Plaintiffs and other New Orleans Public School employees until they are afforded the due process safeguards provided in the Orleans Parish School Board’s Reduction in Force Policy 4118.4.” Nevertheless, Plaintiffs and thousands of other employees were terminated on March 24, 2006, after form letters were mailed to the last known address of all employees of record as of August 29, 2005.”

The appellate court upheld the award of more than $1 million to seven lead plaintiffs in the case of Oliver v. Orleans Parish School Board but adjusted the lower court’s damage award, ordering the school board and the Louisiana Department of Education to pay two years of back pay and benefits and an additional year of back pay and benefits to teachers who meet certain unspecified requirements.

Immediately following Katrina, state-appointed Alvarez and Marsal set up a call center to collect post-Katrina addresses for a majority of staff members in time for the anticipated layoffs. But when the state began the hiring process for schools that had been taken over, the terminated employees were never called, prompting plaintiff attorneys to charge that the entire procedure was intentional and part of the state’s plan to take over the Orleans Parish school system.

Plaintiffs said that then-State Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard chose Alvarez & Marsal to prevail upon the school board to replace acting parish Superintendent Ora Watson with an Alvarez & Marsal consultant.

So, Watson was replaced, 7,500 teachers were fired, and the teachers sued and won, leaving the Orleans School Board and the state liable for a billion-five and the firm that started it all is hired by Jindal to find savings of an unspecified amount. What could possibly go wrong?

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Just in time for the college football bowl season, Forbes magazine has rated the LSU football program as the fourth most valuable in the country, prompting an announcement by the Jindal administration to capitalize on the latest data.

With an estimated value of $105 million, the LSU programs ranks behind only the University of Texas ($139 million), Notre Dame ($117 million) and Alabama ($110 million) and ranks ahead of such traditional football powerhouses as Michigan, Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State, Nebraska, Auburn, Arkansas, Southern Cal, Texas A&M, and Penn State—5th through 15th, respectively.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/chrissmith/2013/12/18/college-footballs-most-valuable-teams-2013-texas-longhorns-cant-be-stopped/

Upon learning of the ranking, Gov. Bobby Jindal, always the political opportunist, immediately pressured the LSU Board of Stuporvisors to approve a request for proposals (RFP) aimed at the privatization of the LSU football program in time for the start of the 2014 season.

The board approved the plan without discussion or objection.

“We actually have been considering this opportunity for some time,” Jindal said. “The latest story by Forbes simply provides us with the opportunity to negotiate the most favorable contract for the people of Louisiana.”

Jindal said the timing is such that it will be impossible to issue the RFP before the Feb. 5 LSU Bayou Bash recruiting party but he said he felt logistical problems of dealing with new signees could be overcome with assistance from legal counsel Jimmy Faircloth.

“The fact of the matter is, long story short, at the end of the day, there are two things: the LSU football team is overloaded with unproductive players. Applying my well-known ‘do more with less’ mantra, the new team owners will drastically cut the excess fat from the program. All players who do not make the first team on either offense or defense will be dismissed from the team. The kickers and punters will come from the remaining 22 starters.”

He said that move alone would save the program millions of dollars in housing and meal costs as well as costs for extra uniforms, equipment, game tickets and tutors. Other cost saving measures to be initiated by the privatization move include the termination of medical treatment for injured players and suspension of any athletic department financial contributions to academics. “We have already seen that academics can do more with less; now they will have the opportunity to do even more,” he said.

Jindal said in his prepared statement that the 22 players will each be paid on a sliding scale beginning at $100,000 per year. “That should allow LSU to attract the very best starting players in the nation and prevent the raiding of the top two or three high school players that Louisiana produces each year by other colleges—especially by Nick Saban and Alabama,” he said.

“This move will represent a new gold standard of athletic competition,” he said.

He said that a player who is injured and unable to continue in a game will be replaced from a pool of about a dozen standby contract players who will be employed in administrative positions within the Department of Education. In some cases, players will be asked to play on both offense and defense as an example of his “do more with less” crusade.

“The fact that the new owners will schedule only home games also should help us move forward with all due speed,” he said.

Jindal said his latest plan represents a “bold new move” for LSU football. “This should allow us to win the BCS championship virtually every year,” he said. “That fact alone should dispel all arguments that privatization doesn’t work.”

Confidential sources confirmed that one unidentified administration official who raised questions about possible NCAA sanctions for paying players was summarily teagued, a claim that was immediately denied. “That person left on his own accord,” an administration spokesman said. “We had nothing to do with his decision to leave.”

“There is a reason the NCAA would take issue with our proposal,” Jindal said. “I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the head of the NCAA is a former president of LSU and that he is envious of LSU’s success since his departure. If you recall, when Dr. Mark Emmert was at LSU he was the one who hired Nick Saban and because of that, he has a vested interest in the continued success of Coach Saban. So it’s understandable that he would be opposed to this move.”

Jindal then proceeded to verbally attack Emmert and the NCAA over the anticipated encroachment. “Dr. Emmert and the NCAA want to deny a voice to the very people who will be harmed by such ridiculous sanctions,” he said. “They are trying to muzzle fans who simply want to express their support for what will be the most successful football program in the history of intercollegiate athletics. The only thing our fans want is for the finest athletes in the nation to have the opportunity to escape failing programs.

“Dr. Emmert is attempting to tell our fans to sit down and shut up. That’s never going to happen. Despite whatever evolving legal argument the NCAA comes up with, the voices of hundreds of thousands of fans will be heard,” he said.

“I have already indicated that the NCAA’s effort to deny these kids the right to equal opportunity in football is both cynical and immoral,” Jindal continued. “They (the NCAA and Emmert) can’t have it both ways. Our fans know the real result of any NCAA action, should it be successful, would be to keep great football players in failing programs like those at Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Florida.”

Key losses to Alabama “have pushed a significant number of players to go out of state,” Jindal said. “Threatened sanctions are another intrusion by the NCAA on players’ personal decisions. Players who wish to play for a premier program should not have to seek approval of Dr. Emmert or the NCAA. It is our moral obligation to ensure that every top player who we recruit has access to the best program available.

“America is a nation of opportunity and a quality football program opens the door to opportunity, no matter the social background of the player.

“We in Louisiana are rejecting the status quo because we believe every player should have the opportunity to succeed.”

He said the Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF) has been contracted to help draft the RFP for the administration.

Insiders have intimated that TAF is likely to be the sole bidder on the project, although Spectacor Management Group (SMG), which operates the Mercedes Benz Superdome, the New Orleans Arena, Zephyr Field in Metairie and the Baton Rouge River Center, has not been ruled out.

Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said whoever wins the contract will receive generous tax incentives and exemptions “for bringing new jobs to Louisiana.”

Jindal said the privatization should save the state “approximately $500 million a year, give or take a few hundred million.”

(We wanted to hold off on this story until April 1, but we just couldn’t wait.)

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—You may recall Gov. Bobby Jindal’s ill-fated retirement “reform” bills of 2012, all written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and introduced individually by Jindal’s lackeys in the House and Senate.

An example of how those “reforms” would have worked if passed can be found in the case of a single state employee whom we know but who is representative of thousands of state civil service workers.

In her case, she was (and still is, given that no civil service pay raises have been approved for five years now) making $52,000 per year and had 20 years’ service in 2012 (21 now). Her plan was to put in 30 years and retire. At her current pay, with no pay raises for the remainder of her career (which appears more likely with each year of the Jindal administration), she would retire at $39,000 per year. With inflation and no raises taken into account, $39,000 a year won’t go very far.

Had Jindal’s “reforms” passed, however, her annual retirement would have been reduced to $6,000 per year—a $33,000 per-year hit. And state employees do not pay into nor do they receive Social Security benefits. Six thousand dollars per year for 30 years’ service. Period.

And she was not an anomaly; stories like this would have been the case throughout state government.

Jindal claimed his retirement package was aimed at restoring the various state retirement systems to some semblance of stability by reducing the unfunded liabilities. But rather than continue to pay the state’s share of contributions to the systems those payments were actually reduced.

The bottom line is Jindal has complete and total disdain for the plight of those in the trenches—the ones who actually make state government work by showing up for work each day (which is certainly more than he does, given his extensive travel itinerary) and listening to the complaints of hostile citizens who don’t understand why they have so much difficulty getting the services they need—from road repairs to college and university infrastructure repair to services for the developmentally disabled where the waiting list is 10,000 persons—and growing. http://theadvocate.com/news/6739937-123/la-officials-try-to-shrink

And he’s made their job much harder by laying off rank and file employees while fattening the unclassified (appointed, non-civil service) payroll.

At the same time, he has been careful to take care of favored legislators with six-figure, do-nothing jobs which serve only to beef up their retirement benefits, some by more than tenfold.

LouisianaVoice, with the information available, did a before and after calculation of retirement benefits for several of those washed up legislators and local politicians. All calculations were based on the assumption they will remain in their new lofty positions at least three years. Here is what we found:

  • Former Rep. Jane Smith, by virtue of her appointment by Jindal to Deputy Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue at a yearly salary of $107,500, saw her retirement benefits climb from a modest $6,700 a year to $56,400 annually.
  • Former Rep. Kay Katz, appointed to the Louisiana Tax Commission at a $56,000 yearly salary will go from $6,700 per year to $29,400 a year in retirement benefits.
  • Troy Hebert who left the House to assume directorship of the State Alcohol and Tobacco Control Board, went from $4,500 to $37,500.
  • Lane Carson, who recently retired as Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Veterans Affairs at $130,000 after five years on the job will retire at nearly $64,000 instead of about $7,500 on the basis of his service in the legislature.
  • Former St. Tammany Parish President and now Director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) at $165,000 and former St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro, now the $150,000 Director of Hazard Mitigation and Recovery are only guesses. Because we are unsure of their previous salaries or their tenure in office, we have arbitrarily given them 15-year tenures (including their current positions) which put their retirement at $85,000 and $75,000, respectively—estimates both.
  • Former State Sen. Robert Barham saw his modest $7,500 legislative retirement balloon to $84,500 on the basis of his $124,000-a-year position as Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Wildlife and Fisheries.
  • We already wrote about Congressman Rodney Alexander who is leaving Congress to accept Lane Carson’s former position as Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Veterans Affairs at $130,000, a comfortable position that will boost his retirement from 15 years in the Louisiana Legislature prior to his election to Congress from $7,500 to $83,500.
  • But the grand prize goes to former State Rep. Noble Ellington. His 16 years in the House earned him a pension of about $8,900 but his hiring by Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon (at the behest of Jindal—his fingerprints are all over this appointment) as Deputy Commissioner of Insurance brought his retirement to almost $100,000 ($99,750).

Smith, Katz, Hebert, Carson, Barham, Alexander and Ellington qualify or will qualify for a combined retirement of more than $455,000 per year—an increase of $395,700 (667 percent) over their pre-Jindal appointment collective annual legislative retirement incomes of $59,300.

Now we harken back to Jindal’s aborted retirement “reform” which would have reduced our friend’s retirement from $39,000 to $6,000. On contrasting the two scenarios, one must ask, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

What is wrong is we have a governor who is just as slick and oily with the filthy ooze of dirty politics as any governor in the history of this state—while cloaking himself in the mantel of righteousness.

What is wrong is we have a governor who knows how to enrich his friends and stick it to everyone else—while pretending to act in the best interests of the state.

What is wrong is that we have a governor who entered Congress in January of 2005 as a man of modest means but emerged three years later as governor a multi-millionaire—and no one has asked how that happened.

What is wrong is that we have a governor who has demonstrated repeatedly that he has no compassion for the sick, the elderly, the developmentally disadvantaged, the mentally ill, state workers—and certainly not Louisiana citizens in general.

And what is wrong is we have a governor who does all that while hiding behind a façade of honesty, integrity, transparency and a “gold standard” of governmental ethics.

And now that same governor is attempting to call the shots in the election to fill the unexpired term of Rodney Alexander by promoting his puppet State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) for Congress. He did this by manipulating (a) the timing of Alexander’s retirement, (b) his immediate offer of a cushy job to Alexander, (c) turning over former Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell and chief fundraiser Allie Bautsch to work on Riser’s behalf, and (d) sewing up endorsements from State Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe) and a host of Louisiana Republic congressmen, including former Payday Loan magnate John Fleming of Minden.

We in Louisiana are used to being conned by crooked politicians but they did it with so much more class than Jindal and his gaggle of sycophants.

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The best little hurricane response company no one ever heard of has been handed a contract by the Jindal administration to provide physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, licensed social workers and clerical and administrative staff in case a major hurricane strikes Louisiana.

And the company is in Wisconsin.

Response Systems, Inc., a company in Oconomowoc (can I buy a vowel?), Wisc. was named recipient of the $871,000 contract, apparently because it is more qualified in hurricane relief than any other company from Texas to Florida.

Funny thing is, no one in Wisconsin seems to know squat about the firm.

A business reporter for the Milwaukee Journal knew nothing of the company other than a story that ran several years ago naming a new vice president/general manager who is no longer with the firm.

Even stranger, Bob Duffy, Director of Economic Development for Oconomowoc, drew a blank when asked about the company on Monday. “I never heard of them,” he said.

One would reasonably think that the director of economic development in the very town in which Response Systems, Inc. is domiciled would know of the company and whether it was a viable, thriving member of the local business community.

It required a fairly extensive search, but a web page for the company was finally found which offered some information about the company. http://www.disasterpreparation.net/about-news.html

LouisianaVoice attempted to call Response Systems but got the voice mail of the firm’s registered agent, Todd Grainger.

Here’s what we do know:

  • The contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) runs from Feb. 1, 2012 to Jan. 31, 2016 and is for emergency preparedness and readiness training—something we just assumed in our own naïve way was the responsibility of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. After all, what is the function of a state agency with a current budget of $1.3 billion—unless it’s just to be sure the state has a sufficient supply of ice for the next hurricane?
  • The company will get even more money in case it has to do anything—like providing medical teams in the event of a disaster.
  • Response Systems would be called out for a minimum five-day deployment at a cost of $290,714, plus travel and meals—that’s over and above the $871,000 contract amount.
  • The company may provide staffing of more than 150 licensed personnel to ensure operational efficiency and recovery in the event of a mass medical surge or evacuation.
  • The company must have teams in place within 48 hours of call-up.
  • Response Systems, Inc. employs fewer than 10 people and had revenues of less than $500,000 last year, according to an online business profile service.
  • The company was first incorporated in January of 2009, was sent a notice of administrative dissolution for failure file an annual report on Oct. 1, 2010, and was restored to good standing after filing its report on Oct. 28, 2011—barely three months before entering into its contract with DHH.

In perhaps the irony of all ironies with this administration, DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert was quoted as saying, “If the event (a hurricane of some like disaster) goes on for a prolonged period of time, we didn’t have the staff to really staff those shelters appropriately.”

Might this be because Jindal has gutted state agencies with widespread layoffs so that he could contract with these private firms? Could this be another CNSI on a somewhat smaller (like $200 million smaller) scale?

While LSU has provided professional staff in the past, state public health nurses are getting fewer in number with the cutbacks and Kliebert said hospital privatization changes which have occurred recently made the contract necessary. Really?

State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry added that while it was nice to have had support from LSU in the past, “It’s a new day. Business is different. We have to get a little more creative.” Really again.

The company’s website says Response Systems, Inc. has contracts with several other states, including Colorado, Washington and Kansas for similar services.

The web page said it is actively recruiting medical teams to assist with on-demand mass evacuation operations on the Gulf Coast.

“We are respectful of the large responsibility Louisiana DHH has tasked us with,” said Grainger on the website. “Our ability to successfully carry out past response missions in Louisiana is a key building block to insure a now larger statewide construct of support.”

The website described the company’s role in assisting DHH following Hurricane Gustav in 2008.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—Poor Gov. Jindal; he just can’t catch a break.

No sooner does he try to put a positive spin on six straight months of increased unemployment rates in the state than 24/7 Wall St., the financial news and polling firm, publishes a survey showing that Louisiana is second only to Tennessee among the worst states in American in which to be unemployed.

Even Mississippi, at 10th worst, ranks eight notches higher than Louisiana.

Jindal, who loves to cite any survey that puts Louisiana in a favorable light, is likely to overlook the latest 24/7 findings which indicate the following for the state:

  • The 24.6 percent of average weekly wage covered is lowest in the nation (the national average is 33 percent);
  • The average weekly payout of $201 is second lowest;
  • The 30 percent of unemployed who are receiving benefits is tied with Tennessee for fifth lowest (again, the national average was 45 percent);
  • The 1.1 percent one-year job growth is 19th lowest;
  • The state’s unemployment rate of 7 percent puts it in the middle of the pack at 25th lowest—but Louisiana is one of only a handful where the unemployment rate actually rose from the previous year.

Jindal (through Lansing, of course; he never takes tough questions from the media) denies that the increased unemployment rate and the 3,800 state employees who received their pink slips in the last budget year are linked in any way.

Wow. As they say, figures don’t lie but liars figure.

Claiming that many of the state employees found new jobs with the private companies that took over state services, Sean Lansing, who apparently has taken Kyle Plotkin’s place as lead Jindal apologist, said, “Louisiana’s economy is continuing to thrive as we consistently outperform both the national and Southern economies. Suggesting otherwise can only be done by ignoring a slew of statistics and metrics that prove just how well we’re doing.”

Speaking of ignoring “a slew of statistics,” figures released by the Louisiana Workforce Commission indicates there were 146,800 unemployed in June in Louisiana, or 7 percent, up from 6.8 percent in May and the sixth straight month of increased unemployment.

Unemployment rates, it should be noted, count only those unemployed who continue to seek jobs, not those who have given up looking. That said, the fact that only 30 percent of the state’s unemployed (tied with Tennessee for fifth lowest) are receiving unemployment benefits would seem to contradict the administration’s rosy outlook.

Lansing, of course, fell back on certain business surveys which seem to come out every week painting the state as some kind of idyllic garden spot for business climate—all while Louisiana’s college graduates continue to leave the state in droves in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

If Louisiana is such an attractive magnet for business and jobs, someone please explain how this state has managed to go from eight to six congressmen (congressional representation is based on population, remember) and is projected by some experts to drop to five with the next census. (If all those people who have left the state had stayed, we can’t help but wonder what the unemployment rate would be.)

Lansing also pointed to decreases in Medicaid and food stamp enrollment and improved per capita income statistics to bolster the administration’s claim that Jindal is some sort of economic miracle worker.

But wait! Let’s take the food stamp enrollment first. “A state can have a great program, but if they make it really, really hard for people to qualify for benefits, then it’s just a great program sitting there that no one can use,” said Rebecca Dixon, policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

And those decreases in Medicaid were brought about in large part by the administration’s policies that have drastically reduced payments to doctors for treating Medicaid patients. As their own push back, many doctors have simply quit accepting new Medicaid patients. One doctor recently told LouisianaVoice that he can see a Medicaid patient “but if I have to order any procedures on that patient, Medicaid won’t pay, so I just don’t take any more Medicaid patients.”

Likewise, Baton Rouge area hospitals have very quietly begun laying off nurses and other personnel—a move directly attributable to the cutback in Medicaid payments approved by the Department of Health and Hospitals under the Jindal administration.

Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, took issue with Jindal’s claim that the climb in unemployment was not related to state layoffs.

“It can’t be the only factor, but to say they’re unrelated seems to be unrealistic and mathematically it can’t be,” he said. “I don’t think you can say the unemployment rate is not influenced by government employment layoffs.”

Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret, ever the optimist at $320,000 per year (and who wouldn’t optimistic be at that salary?) said he expects the unemployment rate to drop because the state has thousands of jobs “in the pipeline” because of a large number of “just huge” projects in the works across the state. “As I look at the next few years, I see tens of thousands of new jobs,” he said. “I’m quite optimistic about the future.”

Tens of thousands? Wow again. Dude, there are people in this state who can’t hold out for the future, even for a “few years.”

Let’s go back to that 24/7 Wall St. report:

Job growth was relatively slow in the worst states to be employed because new job opportunities were taking longer to materialize. “In most of these states, the number of nonfarm jobs grew slower than the 1.3 percent national rate between June 2012 and June 2013,” it said.

In Louisiana, the nonfarm jobs grew at a whopping 1.1 percent during that time frame. So much for that healthy business climate.

Tens of thousands of new jobs on the horizon?

That’s a lot of guys standing on street corners dancing around like a dog in need of worming while playing air guitar on a cardboard pizza store sign.

That’s a lot of burgers and soft drinks.

You want fries with that?

 

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John White just doesn’t get it. A few months ago he went ballistic over information leaked to LouisianaVoice and sources inside the Department of Education (DOE) told us he launched an in-house investigation, including employee emails, in an effort to learn the source of the leaks.

We responded to that report by sending an email to White informing him that none of his employees were as careless with emails as he (remember the “Dude, you are my recharge” email he sent to Pete Gorman, senior vice president of News Corporation’s education division Amplify when Gorman asked White to dinner?).

We informed White that the information we received had been downloaded on a flash drive and passed along to us. We even offered to supply White with a blank flash drive in case he had any information he would like to provide. He never responded to our offer.

Then there was that mysterious email accidentally copied to us from DOE legal counsel Joan Hunt to Troy Hebert, director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) as a result of one of our many requests for public records that DOE loves to ignore until they’re hauled into court and hit with fines, court costs and attorney fees. The message to Hebert, who apparently has wormed his way into Gov. Jindal’s inner circle, said, “Troy, we need to reply and say that.”

That’s it. Nothing else. And when we tried to obtain a copy of that email, we were informed that it was subject to attorney-client privilege despite the fact that Hebert, as head of ATC, is not affiliated with DOE, is not an attorney, and certainly is not a client of Hunt.

But now, a new twist has surfaced that may be (or maybe not) related to that exchange between Hunt and Hebert.

Were they laying the groundwork to set up a couple of internet bloggers who have been an ongoing nuisance to White and DOE? If current reports are accurate, it could well be.

Word out of DOE is that administrative types (we have their names but we are not prepared to release them at this time) are leaning hard on DOE employees in the Information Technology (IT) section, even to reviewing all their emails and harassing them in attempts to learn who is leaking information to Jason France of the Crazy Crawfish blog and to Tom Aswell of LouisianaVoice.

Also part of the alleged game plan is to plant tantalizing—but bogus—stories in an effort to get our sources to leak the information to us and to get us to publish them so that we can be discredited publicly and revealed as hacks—and so the leakers can be nailed to the wall.

Silly rabbits, you can’t even devise a plan to plug leaks without the plan itself being leaked. You couldn’t plant petunias without growing a crop of ragweed. I’ve known mayonnaise farmers in Missoula, Montana, who were better at planting things.

As we said earlier, we know the identities of three of the administrative types at the center of this little high school stunt but we’ll keep them confidential for now with the option of releasing them down the road.

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not remind White that our sources are not stupid, nor are they careless. Anything they reveal to us will never be through a state computer—unlike the state employee (Department of Public Safety) who used his state email account to log a commit on our blog today (Tuesday)—at the bottom of our June 28 IT consolidation story—asking us if racism was at the root of our criticism of Jindal. (First of all, we’re anything but racist. Secondly, Lord knows we don’t need racism as grounds for offering legitimate criticism of this administration.)

Finally, Mr. White, we have already been investigated by the best (in Gov. Jindal’s eyes, apparently, and of course, in his own mind). Mr. Hebert ordered an investigation of us some months ago and that came up empty.

Seems we’re actually pretty boring but you’d never know it by the amateur sting operation being concocted by DFA (Detectives for America, the investigative arm of TFA— Teach for America).

Wonder if we should submit a public records request for interoffice emails dealing with planting fake news stories with a couple of pesky blogs?

ESSAGEMAY OTAY OURCESSAY: IXNAY NOAY HETAY TATESAY OMPUTERSCAY.

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