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On Dec. 7, 2010, Discovery Education, a division of Discovery Communications, announced that Louisiana and Indiana had joined Oregon in adopting the Discovery Education Science Techbook as a digital core instructional resource for elementary and middle school science instruction. https://www.discoveryeducation.com/aboutus/newsArticle.cfm?news_id=663

Thanks to a sharp-eyed researcher, Sissy West, who writes a blog opposing the Common Core curriculum, we have learned that on Nov. 30, seven days before the deal between the state and Discovery Education was made public, State Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) purchased Discovery Communications stock, according to financial disclosure records filed with the State Ethics Board. http://nomorecommoncorelouisiana.blogspot.com/2014/03/crisis-of-confidence.html

Appel is a major proponent of education reform in Louisiana, including the controversial Common Core curriculum.

He also is Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and was in a unique position to know not only of the pending deal between Discovery Education and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) as well as the company’s agreement with Indiana and Oregon, as well as Texas and Florida.

The Discovery Education Techbook is touted as a “Core Interactive Text” (CIT) that “separates static text from a fully digital resource.” http://www.discoveryeducation.com/administrators/curricular-resources/techbook/K-8-Science-digital-textbook/index.cfm

Appel’s financial disclosure form indicates his Discovery Communications stock purchase was between $5,000 and $24,999. APPEL REPORT PDF

Discovery Communications is traded on NASDAQ and on the date of Appel’s purchase, the company’s shares opened at $40.96 and closed at $40.78.

And while there was no significant movement in the stock’s prices on the date of and the days following Discovery’s announcement of the agreement with BESE, the stock hit a high of $90.21 per share on Jan. 2 of this year, meaning Appel’s profit over a little more than three years, on paper, was in excess of 100 percent. Put another way, he doubled his investment in three years. The stock closed on Thursday (March 27) at $75.72, still an overall gain of 85 percent Appel.

The most significant thing about Appel’s Nov. 30, 2010, purchase of the Discovery Communications stock is the volume of shares traded on that date. More than 7.5 million shares of Discovery Communications stock were traded that day, more than double the next highest single day volume of 3.1 million shares on Aug. 1, 2011. Daily trading volume generally ran between 1.1 million and 1.9 million shares in a monthly review from December 2010 through March of this year. http://finance.yahoo.com/q/hp?s=DISCA&a=10&b=30&c=2010&d=02&e=28&f=2014&g=m

While there is no way to know with any certainty, it is possible that the Discovery Education’s Techbook deals contributed to the surge of trading activity on Nov. 30.

Appel’s 2012 financial report reveals that he also purchased between $5,000 and $24,999 of Microsoft stock on June 4, 2012, the same date that the Louisiana Legislature adjourned its 85-day session. MICROSOFT

Ten days earlier, on May 25, the Louisiana Legislature approved the implementation of Common Core in Louisiana after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation poured more than $200 million to develop, review, evaluate, promote and implement Common Core.

www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database

And while no one is suggesting that Appel is involved in any type of illicit behavior or insider trading, the timing of his stock purchases might raise a few eyebrows. It could appear to some as more than coincidental—and ill-advised—that such transactions and official state actions would occur in so close a timeframe not once, but twice, and would involve a single individual who promoted Common Core legislation and who served as chairman of a key legislative committee that dealt with education issues.

Perception, as they say, is everything.

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They’re baaaack!

It’s been a scant seven months since State Treasurer John Kennedy fired off that news release claiming that 36 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) owed the state either an audit their expenditure of state funds or a combined refund of up to $4.5 million.

The resulting furor resulted in political watchdog C.B. Forgotston’s publicizing the corporate structure and frequent lack of corporate standing of many of those 36 NGOs which in turn prompted a flurry of hostile communications and threats of lawsuits on behalf of  State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey Colomb (D-Baton Rouge), whose husband, Sterling Colomb was the recipient of a $300,000 state grant in 2007.

Without rehashing the details of that little political firestorm, suffice it to say that none of those 36 NGOs are back this year asking for state handouts but it certainly did not deter others from seeking legislative largesse at a time when Louisiana continues to be strapped for cash to improve highways, fund higher education, or to provide basic services for the physically, mentally and economically disadvantaged citizens of Louisiana.

In all, 87 NGOs, including one identifying itself with the attention-grabbing name of Diaper Bank (at least it’s not a diaper exchange), have submitted requests for funding from the state totaling more than $109 million and some of the applicants may surprise you—and maybe not.

While most requests are of modest amounts from local councils on aging, community centers, local economic development corporations and other non-profit social services, a mere 34—less than half the total number of applicants—account for requests of $100,000 or more but those 34 combined for more than $108.4 million in requested funding, according to figures obtained from the state.

Topping the list are the Audubon Nature Institute (ANI) ($32.4 million), The Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana (BRF) ($11.48 million), and the State Fair of Louisiana in Shreveport (two requests of $10.165 million and $2.5 million).

Their requests combined for $56.545 million, or nearly 52 percent of the total dollar amount requested for all 87 applicants.

ANI, which operates the Audubon Zoo, the Audubon Aquarium, and a golf course, is requesting $12 million in Priority One, or first-year funding to finance ongoing construction projects which total more than $300 million since 1977, its application says. The $12 million was approved by the legislature in 2013 and was subsequently approved by the State Bond Commission as a noncash line of credit. The remainder of its $12 million request is broken out in subsequent year priorities, the application indicated.

Perhaps the most controversial of all the requests is that of BRF.

The $11.48 million it is seeking is in addition to more than $120 million in hospital improvements and expansions the state is expected to bankroll after BRF assumed operations last October at the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Shreveport—a move that the Jindal administration insists will ultimately save the state money—even though the transaction has yet to be approved by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The request is a two-part application for BRF itself and not for either of the hospitals. The first is for $6.53 million for upgraded and expanded equipment for the PET Imaging Center, which was approved by the legislature in 2013 as a Priority Two project.

The second part is for $4.95 million for Micro-Imaging Equipment for the Molecular Imaging Center.

BRF is headed by CEO John George who also sits on the LSU Board of Stuporvisors which last year approved the transfer of the two hospitals to BRF, apparently circumventing conflict of interest laws with some fancy sleight of hand.

The State Fair Association is seeking $10.165 for repairs to Hirsch Memorial Coliseum, the venue where Elvis gave his final performance as a member of the Louisiana Hayride on Dec. 16, 1956, just two years after the facility was constructed.

A second request of $2.5 million is for the construction of an exhibit building on the fairgrounds to replace the one that was previously demolished. It will house the LSU AgCenter exhibits during the annual State Fair and will be leased as a multipurpose venue during the remainder of the year, the application said.

Other requests in order of amounts from most to least include:

  • Louisiana Children’s Museum, New Orleans—$10 million;
  • Teach for America, New Orleans—$5 million;
  • Food Bank Association, Baton Rouge—$5 million;
  • Louisiana Association for the Blind, Shreveport—$4.926 million;
  • Lighthouse for the Blind, New Orleans—$4.8 million;
  • Kingsley House, New Orleans—$4.415 million;
  • Daughters of Charity Services, New Orleans—$$3.737 million;
  • Capitol City Family Health Center, Baton Rouge—$2.349 million;
  • New Orleans Jazz Orchestra—$1.45 million;
  • The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans—$1.124 million;
  • WYES-TV (public television), New Orleans—$1 million;
  • Sci-Port: Louisiana Science Center, Shreveport—$1.3 million (two requests, $1 million and $300,000);
  • Louisiana Assistive Technology Access Network (LATAN), Baton Rouge—$750,000;
  • The Developmental Institute for Rural & Urban Excellence, Monroe—$750,000;
  • Bayou Civic Club, Larose—$646,491;
  • Jefferson Performing Arts Society, Metairie—$600,000;
  • Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation—$544,020;
  • District 2 Community Enhancement Corp., New Orleans—$500,000;
  • South Louisiana Economic Council, Thibodaux—$467,995;
  • Washington Parish Fair Association, Franklinton—$403,100 (two requests of $353,100 and $50,000 for replacement and repairs to building and roofs);
  • Tangipahoa Diaper Bank, Hammond—$316,000;
  • New Orleans Bowl—$280,577 (to pay a share of the financial guarantee of $500,000 each to the Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA whose conference champions pay in the New Orleans Bowl);
  • Opportunities Industrialization Center of Ouachita, Monroe—$250,000;
  • Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Baton Rouge—$250,000;
  • Special Olympics Louisiana, Hammond—$250,000;
  • Woods Products Development Foundation, Pineville—$214,000;
  • Teaching Responsible Earth Education, New Orleans—$200,000;
  • Healing Hearts for Community Development, Metairie—$151,388;
  • Helping Assist Multi-Purpose Community Organization (HAMPCO), Monroe—$105,104;
  • Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation, Metairie—$100,000;
  • Nicholson Redskins Booster Club, Marrero—$100,000.

Teach for America (TFA) submitted another of the more controversial requests.

The billion-dollar organization pays its founder more than $390 million a year to train non-teaching college graduates for about five weeks during the summer months and then installing them in classroom settings with no experience. For that, local school boards are obligated to pay TFA teachers’ salaries and to pay TFA $3,000 per teacher recruited—even as long-time teachers are being laid off because of budget cuts.

So, if TFA receives $3,000 per teacher placed in local school systems and the systems must then pay TFA teachers’ salaries, what is the $5 million from the state used for?

No one really knows because the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) is complicit in the cover-up. In fact, one BESE member, Kira Orange Jones, also serves as executive director of Teach for America—Greater New Orleans-Louisiana Delta.

The Louisiana Food Bank Association provides food for more than 609,000 persons each year through some 700 community and faith-based organizations in every parish in the state.

The Louisiana Association for the Blind provides vocational training and rehabilitation services visually impaired Louisiana citizens in much the same manner as the Lighthouse for the Blind.

Kingsley House’s application described the organization’s purpose as “to help maintain required infrastructure that underlies essential service delivery by the agency to nearly 6,000 people that meets the need for services of at-risk children, families, medically fragile/disabled adults and seniors in 12 parishes across southeast Louisiana.”

Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans attempts to “restore medical services to the New Orleans East community,” an area it claims is “underserved.”

Capitol City Family Health Center performs many of those same functions for a seven-parish area surrounding Baton Rouge.

The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra will use its grant money, if approved, to expand existing programs, according to its application.

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art would use its $1.1 million to renovate the Patrick Taylor Library for use by the museum.

Sci-Port is part of the Louisiana Science Center which in turn is affiliated with the Louisiana Children’s Museum and will use its funding to bring a children’s museum with IMAX technology to Shreveport.

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With the 2014 regular session of the legislature less than two weeks away, there have already been a couple of interesting developments that could prevent lawmakers from learning how a federal investigation of a major contract came about in the first place.

There already is speculation that two recent resignations in the Jindal administration may have something to do with avoiding testimony before legislative committees that may wish to look into the controversial $284 million contract between the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and CNSI.

Subpoenas could be issued for Paul Rainwater, Jerry Phillips, and Bruce Greenstein but if they choose to ignore subpoenas, the legislature has options in that legislative subpoenas carry the same weight as a court subpoena provided a legislative subpoena meets certain criteria.

It is, to say the least, curious that former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater (more recently, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Chief of Staff), and DHH Undersecretary Jerry Phillips resigned only a few days apart and less than a month before the legislature convenes at noon on March 10.

Apparently timing in politics, like in comedy, is everything. Phillips, while giving no specific date for his retirement, did say he would retire “before the start of the session.”

DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said Phillips, who has worked for DHH for 25 years, will pursue “other employment options with the state following his retirement.” She said he would be replaced by DHH Deputy Director Jeff Reynolds on (drum roll, please…) March 10.

That, or course, raises the obvious question of whether Phillips will remain conveniently retired until the session adjourns on June 2 before becoming the latest retire-rehire, a popular trend among executive level state employees these days.

Phillips, you may recall was seated next to Greenstein back in June of 2011 when the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee was considering the confirmation of Greenstein as Jindal’s choice for DHH Secretary.

It was Phillips who repeatedly advised Greenstein and defended his boss’s refusal to identify to the committee CNSI as the winner of the 10-year, $30 million-a-year contract to replace DHH’s 23-year-old computer system that adjudicates health care claims and case providers.

Greenstein has previously worked for CNSI and when he refused to identify the contract winner, then-Sen. Rob Marionneaux (D-Livonia) asked, “Are you telling me right now, today, that you’re refusing to tell this committee who’s going to receive that…contract?”

After several more exchanges between Greenstein and Marionneaux, Green said, “I’m not going to be able to say today.”

Sen. Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales) then asked Greenstein, “Who made the decision not to tell us this information under oath?”

“This was from my department…”

“You are the department,” Amedee interrupted. “Who is the person above you? Who is your boss?”

“The governor,” said Greenstein.

“Can you tell me if this company you used to work for—whether or not they got the contract?”

“I can’t discuss the matter.”

“You can, you just choose not to,” Amedee said.

At one point after Greenstein and Phillips repeatedly alluded to the “process and procedure” employed by DHH in awarding contracts, Amedee, in apparent frustration, tossed his pencil over his shoulder and turned away from the witnesses.

Committee Vice-Chair Karen Carter Peterson said, “You don’t want me to know, but you know. Is this what we call transparency?”

Phillips said once the contractor’s name is made public, “it’s the equivalent of an announcement.”

“Do you make the law?” Peterson shot back.

“I interpret the law,” said Phillips, who is an attorney.

“Then you’re not doing a good job. Mr. Secretary (Greenstein), I hope you’re paying attention. How many lawyers do we have on this committee? We make law and yet you choose to follow this gentleman (Phillips).”

“It’s all part of the process,” Phillips said. “It’s (the selection process) done in conjunction with consultation and direction from the procurement folks.”

“In conjunction with whom?” asked Peterson.

“They’re part of the Division of Administration,” he said for the first time, implicating DOA—and Rainwater—in the controversy.

Committee Chairman Robert “Bob” Kostelka (R-Monroe) finally broke in to say, “I don’t know the difference between firewalling and stonewalling but this committee’s concern is whether or not to recommend to the full Senate that these people should be confirmed for the jobs for which they’ve been nominated.

“The much larger issue here is the integrity of the entire DHH. We don’t care about your procedures. We’ve got to determine if we trust the integrity of the people before us. We’re asking you to put aside your procedures and protocol and answer our questions. Knowing that, I don’t see why
you cannot make this committee aware if a former employer of this man is going to win a multi-million dollar contract from the state.”

When Phillips again attempted to invoke “respect for the statute,” Kostelka interrupted. “Again, sir, this has nothing to do with making the award. We’re asking who got the contract. It’s pretty obvious to us that they’re (CNSI) the one getting the contract.”

At that point, Phillips asked if he could confer with Greenstein. The two left the room for 16 minutes and upon their return, Greenstein, after a few more questions, said, “It is CNSI.”

Rainwater, who on Feb. 17, unexpectedly announced his resignation as Jindal’s Chief of Staff, effective Mar. 3, a week before the legislature convenes. He served as Commissioner of Administration from Aug. 9, 2010, until October 15, 2012, when he moved across the street to the governor’s office.

As chief of staff, Rainwater has been in charge of the policy advisors and strategists and supposedly enjoys a close day-to-day working relationship with Jindal—though probably not nearly as close as Timmy Teepell through whom Jindal has funneled nearly $3 million from his campaign ($1.27 million), and his non-profit organizations Believe in Louisiana ($1.22 million) and America Next. (No payments have been listed for America Next, Jindal apparently having learned his lesson when he listed contributions and payments to Believe in Louisiana.)

It’s difficult to believe that Rainwater, in overseeing Jindal’s advisors and strategists, would have been unwise enough to advise his boss to go off the way he did at the National Governor’s Conference on Monday. He is far too intelligent for such foolishness.

Even the Baton Rouge Advocate saw Jindal for what he really is—a spoiled brat who, if he can’t have his way, pouts or throws a tantrum—as depicted in one of the best editorial cartoons we’ve seen in a long time:

http://theadvocate.com/multimedia/walthandelsman/8477684-123/walt-handelsman-for-feb-26

That was plain idiotic and inappropriate and in the world of political faux pas, ranks right up there with his college exorcism and his Republican response to President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address.

The suggestion of a tactic to make Jindal look that silly in front of a national television audience could only have come from someone like Teepell. Unless, of course, Jindal simply ad-libbed it which is certainly not out of the question, given his propensity of letting his alligator mouth overload his jaybird backside.

But back to the resignations of Greenstein, Phillips and Rainwater.

Greenstein announced his resignation on Mar. 29, 2013 immediately after word of a federal investigation into the CNSI contract was announced. Even then, for reasons no one has yet explained, he was allowed to remain until May. At about the same time as Greenstein’s resignation announcement was made, it was learned that a federal grand jury in Baton Rouge had subpoenaed all records dealing with the CNSI contract from the Division of Administration (DOA) as early as January of 2013.

That would mean that Jindal had to know about the investigation as much as three months before Greenstein’s resignation but said nothing about the probe and only cancelled the CNSI contract after the Baton Rouge Advocate broke the story of the four-page subpoena.

And now, only days—and in one case, only hours—before the opening of the 2014 legislative session, two other prominent figures in the CNSI story will be gone, out of reach of any curious legislative committee which might wish to question them about their knowledge of events surrounding the awarding of the contract.

Legislative committees and subcommittees have the authority under legislative rule to conduct studies, administer oaths to witnesses and to seek subpoenas and punishment for contempt although subpoenas require the approval of the Speaker of the House or President of the Senate upon the request of the committee chairman or by a majority of the standing committee members.

Louisiana Revised Statute 24:4 through 24:6 provides that a person is guilty of contempt of the legislature “if he willfully fails after subpoena to appear or produce materials.” Initiation of prosecution for criminal contempt is by certification to the district in the proper venue, in this case East Baton Rouge Parish.

The legislative subpoena and contempt provisions have been upheld in a number of court cases, most notably a 1972 case involving a state legislator who claimed to have tape recordings of an attempt to bribe him and a 1979 case against then-Insurance Commissioner Sherman Bernard and his deputy commissioner.

The two men, who appeared subject to subpoenas, interrupted committee hearings on insurance regulations and left the meeting room despite warning that their actions subjected them to being held in contempt. The two were subsequently held in contempt and fined $500 each.

 

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By general consensus, State Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) is regarded as one of the most principled, most respected members of the Louisiana Legislature.

Over the past several legislative sessions, he has annually introduced bills to force more transparency in the governor’s office by requiring greater accessibility to records kept under protective wraps by a governor already vested with more power than virtually all of his 49 contemporaries.

It has been a lonely fight with his fellow lawmakers mysteriously reluctant to stand up to Gov. Bobby Jindal. Still, he has soldiered on, willing to strive in near solitude for more openness in the executive branch.

So why, then, has he suddenly pre-filed Senate Bill 79 which would only give Jindal even more power by giving him greater freedom in appointing members of a levee board, specifically the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authorities of both the east and west banks?

Adley, in reflecting on experiences with four previous governors—Edwin Edwards, Buddy Roemer, Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco—said he had “never seen the kind of things I’ve seen in this administration.”

He cited the Louisiana Transparency and Accountability Web site on which Jindal is quoted as saying, “I have advocated for transparent government, as I believe that the bright light of transparency and public access should extend to every corner of the state budget. An honest government has nothing to fear from openness.”

That being case, Adley said, “Why does the governor fight attempts to open his office’s records? You’re either for transparency or you’re not.”

Adley’s bill would do two things: give Jindal the authority to reject nominees to the two boards and require the committee that chooses nominees to present him a longer list of candidates from which to select members.

The bill, as written, would all but abolish restrictions that prohibit politicians from determining who is appointed to the two boards. It would serve as a major boost to Jindal who has sought to replace members of the east bank authority to support litigation against more than 90 oil and gas companies.

The bill also provides that rejected candidates would be ineligible for re-nomination and if new names were not submitted by the nominating committee, the governor would then be enabled to make the selections himself.

On the surface, given Adley’s penchant for openness and accountability, the bill defies logic since it is obviously a counteroffensive to attempts by The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East (SLFPAE) to push for a historic lawsuit that would hold oil and gas companies responsible for damages to coastal wetlands.

Jindal has made no secret that he would refuse to appoint members to the board who support the lawsuit and he has already kicked three members off the authority who supported the litigation, including former chairman John Barry.

SLFPAE is attempting to force the oil and gas companies to restore the wetlands or pay SLFPAE for damages, with the money going to the state’s coastal restoration efforts.

The lawsuit claims that the companies destroyed the state’s coastal wetlands by dredging canals that contributed to erosion. The marshes heretofore had served as a natural buffer that mitigated storm surge, a reality abundantly clear to residents of New Orleans. The suit, if successful, could cost the companies billions of dollars.

Adley’s SB79 should come as no surprise, given his opposition to the lawsuit but some might question why Adley would oppose the legal action against the companies in the first place.

As that AT&T commercial says, it’s not complicated.

Adley has owned Pelican Gas Management Co. since 1993, was president of ABCO Petroleum from 1972 to 1993, is affiliated with the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, and, more importantly, has been the recipient of more than $150,000 in campaign contributions over the years from companies, political action committees, and individuals affiliated with or controlled by oil and gas interests.

Adley could claim that the contributions had no bearing on his opposition to the litigation or to his filing a bill that flies in the face of his call for more openness on the part of the governor’s office, but such an argument would be disingenuous at best and downright dishonest and self-serving at worst.

Adley’s bill was assigned to the Senate Transportation, Highways & Public Works Committee.

Somehow, it seems to us that a more appropriate committee assignment might have been the Natural Resources Committee. Or perhaps the Environmental Quality Committee or even the Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs Committee.

We are told, however, that the assignment to that committee is appropriate in that Senate rules vest jurisdiction of legislation affecting levee boards with Transportation, Highways & Public Works, though an argument could be made that because the bill deals with appointments subject to confirmation, that it could have been assigned to the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee.

The chairman of Transportation, Highways & Public Works?

Robert Adley. (318) 965-1755, adleyr@legis.la.gov

Oops.

Other members and their oil and gas-related contributions in descending order (and their contact information that we gave you earlier):

  • Troy Brown (D-Napoleonville)—(985) 369-3333, brownte@legis.la.gov, $0 (as in nothing, nada, zilch).

This lawsuit, as District 5 Public Service Commissioner and former gubernatorial candidate Foster Campbell (D-Elm Grove) has said on many occasions, is about holding the oil and gas companies accountable for the damage done to Louisiana’s coastline. “If your neighbor runs his car into your fence and knocks it down, you would expect him to pay for the repairs,” the Bossier Parish native said. “That’s all this litigation is about—holding someone accountable for the damage done to our property.”

Opponents, including the ultra-Tea Party blog The Hayride, have latched onto the claim that the lawsuit has earned Louisiana the designation as a “judicial hellhole.”

By providing the contact information of the committee members who will be considering Adley’s bill, we have given both opponents and proponents an opportunity to pass their sentiments on to their elected officials.

And that, friends and neighbors, is called democracy in action in a representative government.

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The 2014 legislative session is less than a month away (March 10) and as always, we can expect the unexpected, the unusual, the downright bizarre and of course, controversy.

Under the law, sessions during even-number years—this year, for instance—consists of 85 calendar days during which the legislature may meet on no more than 60 days, though lawmakers receive per diem payments for all 85 days.

During odd-number years, the session is 60 calendar days and legislators are restricted to no more than 45 legislative days—again with full pay for all 60 days.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has two more regular sessions in which to push through his full ALEC-sponsored agenda so it is quite likely that we will see more controversial bills from the administration as well as the re-introduction of past bills that failed the first time around.

In the past we’ve been treated to a senator (Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe) asking a high school science teacher during a committee hearing if cultures her students were growing in her classeroom could produce a human being.

We’ve had a House member (Nancy Landry) attempt to change a rule to force teachers in Baton Rouge to testify about controversial education bills to declare if they were on sick leave or otherwise authorized to miss a day of school (her precedent-setting rule failed).

There was even a strange question from then Rep. Mert Smiley (R-Port Vincent) who asked if there was some rule or regulation that could be invoked to prevent employees of the Office of Risk Management from leaving the agency for employment elsewhere (no such rule has existed since Jan. 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation).

And then there was Rep. Valerie Hodges (R-Denham Springs) who voted in favor of state funding for church-affiliated charter schools—until an Islamic school in New Orleans applied for a charter. That’s when the fecal matter hit the Westinghouse oscillating air circulation device. Apparently her vote was restricted to her interpretation of what constitutes a non-secular school.

Despite the far too frequent lapses into idiocy such as exhibited by these three, there are important issues which come before the House and Senate and many times the forgotten citizens back home would like to make their voices heard but don’t always know the best way to get through to their legislators.

Well, we didn’t name this blog LouisianaVoice for nothing.

A regular reader in Lafayette inspired us with the solution.

We have decided to post the names of all 144 legislators (105 representatives and 39 senators) along the corresponding telephone numbers and email addresses.

By doing this, we are not necessarily soliciting a telephone or email campaign because we don’t even know what legislation will be introduced this year. This is simply an informational guide so that readers will have the information if and when it becomes necessary.

We also do this with full knowledge that some legislators simply do not return calls. We’re still waiting for a return call from Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) from more than a year ago—well before his crash-and-burn congressional campaign.

We suggest you print this post and post it somewhere—or save it to a shortcut on your computer. If you do not know the name of your senator and representative, shame on you but here are the links that will help you find them:

House of Representatives

Senate

And here are the alphabetical lists of both the House and Senate:

Members of the House (to reach your representative during the session dial the House clerk at 225-342-7259):

Members of the Senate (to call senators in Baton Rouge, the main switchboard number is 225-342-2040):

You now have the contact information to make your opinion(s) known to your elected officials.

Oh, wait. We almost forgot:

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Two months ago, when the Federal Communications Commission allotted $8 million to expand broadband Internet access in rural Louisiana areas, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was quick to praise, perhaps a bit prematurely, the “investment” while Gov. Bobby Jindal remained uncharacteristically silent.

Despite Landrieu’s laudatory claim that the funds would “upgrade the digital infrastructure in rural communities,” the $8 million represented only 10 percent of an $80 million grant for Louisiana that was rescinded in October of 2011 because of Jindal’s aversion to what then Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater deemed a “top-down, government-heavy approach that would compete with and undermine, rather than partner with the private sector…”

What Rainwater—and through him, his boss, Jindal—did not acknowledge is that the Jindal administration’s obsession with protecting the private sector at the expense of broadband Internet service to customers in the rural areas of the central and northeastern parts of the state was part of the 12-year-old official position staked out by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in August of 2002. http://alecexposed.org/w/images/6/6f/9A15-Municipal_Telecommunications_Private_Industry_Safeguards_Act_Exposed.pdf

Also ignored by the Jindal administration—and ALEC—is that broadband service in the U.S. is woefully inadequate when compared with countries like South Korea, Japan and even Portugal and Italy. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/competition-and-the-internet/

And it’s even worse in the country’s rural areas. http://deltafarmpress.com/blog/broadband-service-rural-areas-promise-still-exceeds-reality

No doubt you’ve seen those cute AT&T commercials featuring the man sitting at a table with children. He asks a question and gets feedback from the kids and the commercial ends with, “It’s not complicated.”

Indeed it is not. In 2008, Jindal’s very first year as governor, he signed SB-807 into law as Act 433 over the objections of the Louisiana Municipal and State Police Jury associations. The bill, the Consumer Choice for Television Act, was authored by then-Sen. Ann Duplessis (D-New Orleans). It passed the Senate by a 34-1 vote with only Dale Erdy (R-Livingston) voting no. Absent and not voting were Sens. Robert Adley (R-Benton), Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales) and Sheri Smith Buffington (R-Keithville).

AT&T, which contributed $10,000 to Jindal’s campaign since 2007, supported the bill. AT&T also contributed $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children.

It’s not complicated.

It also passed overwhelmingly in the House by a 94-9 vote. The only members casting no-votes were Reps. James Armes (D-Leesville), Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport), Greg Cromer (R-Slidell), Jean Doerge (D-Minden), Ricky Hardy (D-Lafayette), Lowell Hazel (R-Pineville), Robert Johnson (D-Marksville), Sam Jones (D-Franklin), and Chris Roy (D-Alexandria). Rep. James Morris (R-Oil City) was absent and did not vote.

The only ALEC member to go against the official doctrine was Carmody. He attended ALEC’s 2010 annual meeting in San Diego at which the organization’s Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force passed an official resolution in potential opposition to private telephone and cable companies by public bodies such as city councils and parish governments. http://louisianavoice.com/2012/05/09/could-loss-of-that-80-6-million-broadband-internet-federal-grant-last-fall-have-been-deliberately-orchestrated-by-alec/

Other members of the Louisiana Legislature who attended that meeting included Reps. John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie), Robert Johnson (D-Marksville), Tim Burns (R-Mandeville), State Chairman Joe Harrison (R-Gray), Bernard LeBas (D-Ville Platte) and Sen. Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton Rouge).

Act 433 well may even have been written by AT&T, which is a member of ALEC and a member of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force. AT&T chipped in $50,000 to the ALEC cause in 2010 and was a member of the Louisiana Host Committee for ALEC’s 2012 annual meeting in New Orleans. Jindal was the recipient of ALEC’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award at that 2012 meeting. http://www.alec.org/hundreds-of-state-legislators/

It’s not complicated.

And lest one think that Louisiana’s loss of the $80 million broadband grant in 2011 was the exception, consider this:

  • Early this year, the Kansas Legislature undertook Campaign Stop Google Fiber—and any cities that may wish to invest in broadband network technologies. Included in legislation introduced in the legislature were stipulations that except with regard to unserved areas, a municipality may not themselves offer to provide or lease, construct, maintain or operate any facility for the purpose of allowing a private entity to offer, provide, carry or deliver video, telecommunications or broadband service. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/01/30/1273848/-Kansas-moves-to-Stop-Broadband-Internet-to-residents?detail=email
  • In February of 2011, the Minnesota Cable Communications Association (MCCA) initiated a public battle with National Public Broadband (NPB) by inundating Lake County with a flurry of public records request designed to slow NPB’s efforts to bring broadband Internet to rural areas of Lake County.

While MCCA correctly asserts that Lake County should act transparently, the barrage of requests submitted by the association makes its intent to protect its own financial interests over those of rural residents of the county is quite apparent. Its monopoly is, after all, being threatened and those cable services that are overpriced and which provide as little speed as possible are fighting back.

Certainly it’s only coincidental that AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Excel Communications, Fair Point Communications, Sprint Nextel, Verizon, and Cox Communications are members of ALEC. All but Excel and Fair Point serve on ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/ALEC_Corporations.

It’s not complicated.

So, given Jindal’s cozy relationship with ALEC and given ALEC’s opposition to public participation in expanding broadband Internet service to rural areas in competition with ALEC members, it’s perfectly understandable why Jindal eschewed that “top-down” management of the $80 million grant.

It’s not complicated.

And it is equally apparent that the monopolistic advantage enjoyed by private sector providers be protected at all cost—even at the cost of creating some 900 miles of cable over 21 rural parishes that would support several Louisiana universities with expanded optical fiber networking capacity.

It’s not complicated.

Top-down management apparently is good only when it originates from the fourth floor of the State Capitol. Just ask any legislator, former state employee, or board or commission member who has dared to contradict him on any issue.

It’s not complicated.

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Did Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols violate state law when she approved an amendment to the Alvarez & Marsal (A&M)?

In May of 2011, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin (R-Jonesboro) sharply criticized the Division of Administration (DOA) for DOA’s approval of a $6.8 million contract amendment for F.A. Richard and Associates (FARA), the firm that initially took over the operations of the Office of Risk Management.

Fannin and other members of the committee were upset that DOA did not seek approval of the contract amendment from the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB).

Things got tense as Fannin tore into Assistant Commissioner of Administration Steven Procopio. “All I’m seeing here is where FARA had a $68.2 million contract that somehow went to $74.9 without anyone’s coming to the … Committee … for approval,” Fannin said.

The JLCB was the committee that approved the original $68.2 million contract the year before. “Isn’t a contract a contract?” Fannin asked.

“It is until it’s amended,” Procopio said in typical administration double-speak. “Then it’s another contract.”

It was at that point that Patti Gonzales, Assistant Risk Director for ORM stepped up to the plate to rescue Procopio before he could do any further damage.

“We are allowed one amendment up to 10 percent (of the original contract amount) without legislative approval,” she said, adding that the Office of Contractual Review approved the amendment.

Suffice it to say committee members weren’t very happy to learn that under state law, the Office of Contractual Review may approve contract amendments of up to 10 percent one time without legislative concurrence.

Fast forward to January 2014.

Nichols announced last week that the $4.2 million contract with A&M had been amended by $800,000 to a nice round $5 million.

That’s the controversial contract under which A&M is charged with finding $500 million in state savings. If the firm’s initial report is any indication, the contract is going to go pretty much the way everything else this administration has done—that is to say, bad.

But wait. An $800,000 amendment to a $4.2 million contract?

Really?

Excuse us for questioning the validity of the amendment, but according to our math, that’s a 19 percent amendment. Of course we went to public schools in Louisiana, so Jindal may be able to discredit our figures.

But wouldn’t the approval of a 19 percent amendment without concurrence from the JLCB be in violation of that obscure law?

Well, the Office of Contractual Review is required to give its stamp of approval to the amendment.

But wait. The Office of Contractual Review is part of DOA and as such, takes its marching orders from Nichols who takes her marching orders from Jindal who takes his marching orders from…Timmy/Taylor Teepell? ALEC? Bobby Brady? Pick one.

But it was clearly stated back in 2011 that the law allows a one-time 10 percent amendment to contracts without JLCB concurrence.

To paraphrase Rep. Fannin, isn’t 10 percent 10 percent?

Isn’t the law still the law?

Well, that depends.

Remember that whiteboard sign in one of the DOA offices we alluded to on Jan. 23? That’s the one that says, “Do not ask about the law. Do not research the law.” (If there is a functioning brain cell left in this administration, assuming there ever was one, that message most probably has been erased by now.)

And then there was the consultant a few years back who told DOA officials, according to sources present at the meeting, to not let the law stand in the way of the administration’s objectives.

So, what are a few percentage points among friends?

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Whether driven by paranoia or some other motive, the Division of Administration (DOA) appears to have settled into a circle the wagons mentality in an apparent attempt to stymie two independent agencies from performing their duties in a timely fashion.

It has long been suspected that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s sycophants shielded him from the political realities by whispering in his ear the things he wanted to hear, i.e. that he is viable presidential timber, that he is adored and idolized by the great unwashed. His rigid practice of holding precious few press conferences—and those with his taking no questions—has only reinforced that perception.

But now comes something official, in writing, absent of deniability, which in its unmistakable implications, is as jaw-dropping as it is unprecedented. It also should make one wonder if anything was learned from 40 years of history.

An email memorandum dated Thursday, Jan. 16, was sent out by DOA to agency and department heads to the effect that any documents sought by the Legislative Auditor or the Legislative Fiscal Officer would be required to be in the form of formal requests for public records and routed through DOA.

That message, from the DOA Office of General Counsel, said that if anyone from the Legislative Fiscal Office or Legislative Auditor’s Office calls and requests documents, the requests are to be sent to the DOA legal counsel “and the request will be handled as a Public Records request.”

A second email was sent on Tuesday of this week, this one from the DOA Internal Audit Administrator.

That message noted that a number of audits were being conducted of DOA agencies and that all personnel should notify her of any audits that are initiated. “In addition, when responding to requests for information from auditors, please send the information through me before releasing the information to the auditors. Please make sure your staff is also aware that responses to audit requests for information must be submitted through me,” she said.

While perhaps not a fair comparison to the denial of records to the Judiciary Committee four decades ago—Jindal, after all, has not been accused of breaking any laws—it is nonetheless reminiscent, on a smaller scale, of events that pushed the presidency of Richard Nixon to the brink and, ultimately, over the edge in 1974.

So the Legislative Auditor’s office and the Legislative Fiscal Office will now be required to jump through hoops to obtain public records so they can do the job they are mandated by law to do.

Each member of the Legislative Audit Advisory Council was informed of the Jan. 16 memorandum but as of late Thursday, not one had responded to requests by LouisianaVoice for comments.

Those members include Rep. Hunter Greene (R-Baton Rouge), chairman; Sen. Edwin Murray, (D-New Orleans), vice-chairman; Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton), Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), Rep. Dalton Honoré (D-Baton Rouge), Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa), Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales), Sen. John Smith (R-Leesville), Rep. Ledricka Thierry (D-Opelousas), Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe)

The Legislative Fiscal Office is an independent agency created by statute to provide factual and unbiased information to both the House of Representatives and the State Senate. The office provides assistance to individual legislators, committees of the Legislature and the entire Legislature. Often times, information is needed quickly to respond to requests from lawmakers and to compile fiscal notes on pending bills.

Specific information about the Legislative Fiscal Office can be found in the Louisiana Revised Statutes, RS 24:601 through 24:608.

The Legislative Auditor’s office performs financial audits of state agencies and universities on a routine basis. In addition, information technology (IT) auditors analyze computer systems of government agencies to ensure data integrity and security. http://senate.legis.louisiana.gov/Documents/Constitution/Article3.htm

Performance audits address specific objectives regarding economy, efficiency and effectiveness of programs, functions and activities of state agencies under Louisiana Revised Statutes 24:522 to provide the legislature with evaluation and audit of state agencies. Under R.S. 24:522, the Legislative Auditor’s office is mandated to audit each of the 20 executive branch departments over a seven-year period and, if necessary, to bring audit topics to the Legislative Audit Advisory Council for approval. Additionally, the Legislature may request a performance audit on a particular agency to address given issues or problems.

Investigative audits are conducted for the purpose of gathering evidence regarding fraudulent or abusive activity affecting governmental entities. Investigative audits are designed to detect and deter any misappropriation of public assets and to reduce future fraud risks.

Each of the 20 executive branch departments hopes to receive an unqualified opinion. That means that the Legislative Auditor has no reservations as to the accuracy and authenticity of the information contained in its report.

If DOA, however, is attempting, for whatever reason, to screen data or conceal file document contents requested by the Legislative Auditor, the issuance of a qualified opinion, meaning the auditor conducting the examination is not willing to vouch for the accuracy of the report because of the absence or unavailability of certain records, would likely be issued in its stead. Thus, the Legislature itself would be thwarted in its oversight role of all state agencies, an untenable position in which the Legislature most likely would not like to find itself.

Normally, when state auditors enter an agency, such as the Office of Risk Management (ORM), for example, they compile a list of documents (lawsuits, in the case of ORM) and make specific requests for each file as the auditor moves from one to another. In other agencies, the records auditors may wish to examine could be travel documents, payment receipts, attendance records, equipment inventories, university scholarship and tuition payments or athletic program expenditures, to name but a few.

Full compliance with either email directive could unnecessarily slow the process of either agency’s performance of their mandated duties by forcing their personnel to make formal requests each time they wish to review a file or document and then to wait until DOA decides to comply.

LouisianaVoice typically must wait weeks for even an acknowledgement of our requests even though the Public Records Act of Louisiana (R.S. 44:1 et seq.) clearly says that the custodian of the record requested must comply immediately or, in cases when a file is in use or otherwise unavailable, respond immediately in writing as to when the record will be available within three working days.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, when contacted by LouisianaVoice, said he was unaware of the memorandum from DOA.

“That’s going to keep ‘em pretty busy up there because we’re in every agency in the state conducting our audits,” he said.

He said he has never encountered any major problems with DOA and that his auditors were almost always able to obtain requested documents “except in cases of deliberative process, a phrase they’ve used from time to time.”

Deliberative process comes into play when actions on matters are pending in the governor’s office and the governor wishes to keep details confidential until decisions are made but the Jindal administration has arbitrarily expanded the definition to other agencies as well.

Purpera’s predecessor, Dan Kyle, experienced problems obtaining records from the departments of Insurance and Economic Development because of the sensitivity of certain records claimed by the agencies.

Purpera expressed some bewilderment as to the motives of DOA in issuing the memorandum. “I really don’t know why they would do that,” he said.

Legislative Fiscal Officer John Carpenter was not available for comment.

One possible motive behind the latest dictates from DOA could be that the administration wants sufficient time to review any potentially damaging documents and to take whatever steps necessary to deny unfettered access to records in order to conceal or delay their release under the deliberative process clause. Another possibility, far more unlikely (we hope) would be to give the administration an opportunity to destroy embarrassing documents.

If one thinks that would be an extreme measure even by this administration’s standards, consider this: There is a curious but seemingly unrelated message written on a whiteboard in one DOA office which directs employees: “Do not ask about the law, do not research the law.” But as an apparent disclaimer, the message also cautions that “ignorance of the law is not a defense.”

Curious indeed.

All of which, of course, only echoes the words of an administration consultant who told DOA employees a couple of years back: “Don’t let the law stand in the way” of the administration’s objectives.

History, apparently, really does repeat itself. Richard Nixon once said, when David Frost asked about the legality of the president’s actions, “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

All that’s missing now is a tape with an 18½-minute gap.

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The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have suffered a mass exodus of sorts in the wake of its Stand Your Ground mantra that led to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, but ALEC is far too strong to let a few defections stand in the way of its political agenda in such areas as public education (even to borrowing from John White’s playbook), weakening workers’ rights, diluting environmental protections, healthcare and now even in the way U.S. senators are nominated and elected.

For that reason alone, the upcoming legislative session which begins at noon on March 10—less than two months from now—will bear close watching for any bills that might appear to have originated at ALEC’s States & Nation Policy Summit last month in Washington, D.C.

ALEC, while striving to change laws to meld with its agenda, nevertheless denies that it is a lobbying organization. That way, corporations and individuals who underwrite ALEC financially are able to claim robust tax write-offs for funding ALEC and its companion organization, the State Policy Network (SPN).

ALEC has a strong presence in Louisiana. Former legislator Noble Ellington, now a deputy commissioner in the Louisiana Department of Insurance, is a former national president of the organization and Gov. Bobby Jindal was recipient of its Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award a couple of years ago when ALEC held its national conference in New Orleans.

Current Louisiana legislators who are members of ALEC are:

House of Representatives:

  • Rep. John Anders (D-Vidalia), Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force;
  • Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans),      attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting;
  • Rep. Timothy G. Burns (R-Mandeville), Civil Justice Task Force Alternate;
  • Rep. George “Greg” Cromer (R-Slidell), State Chairman, Civil Justice Task Force (announced he was resigning from ALEC and from his position as Alec state chairman of Louisiana on April 17, 2012);
  • Rep. James R. Fannin (R-Jonesboro), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Franklin J. Foil (R-Baton Rouge), Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Rep. Brett F. Geymann (R-Lake Charles), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Rep. Johnny Guinn (R-Jennings);
  • Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray), State Chairman, member of Education Task Force; (solicited funds for “ALEC Louisiana      Scholarship Fund” on state stationery July 2, 2012);
  • Rep. Cameron Henry, Jr. (R-Metairie), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville);
  • Rep. Frank Hoffmann (R-West Monroe), ALEC Education Task Force;
  • Rep. Girod Jackson (D-Marrero), (resigned last August after being charged with fraud);
  • Rep. Harvey LeBas (D-Ville Platte),  ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force;
  • Rep. Walter Leger, III (D-New Orleans), ALEC Education Task Force;
  • Rep. Joe Lopinto (R-Metairie), (attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting where he spoke on “Saving Dollars and Protecting Communities: State Successes in Corrections Policy”);
  • Rep. Nicholas J. Lorusso (R-New Orleans), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force;
  • Rep. Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge;
  • Rep. John M. Schroder, Sr. (R-Covington), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport);
  • Rep. Scott M. Simon (R-Abita Springs), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force;
  • Rep. Thomas Willmott (R-Kenner), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force;

Senate:

  • Sen. John A. Alario, Jr.(R-Westwego), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force;
  • Sen. Jack L. Donahue, Jr. (R-Mandeville), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member;
  • Sen. Dale Erdey (R-Livingston); Health and Human Services Task Force;
  • Sen. Daniel R. Martiny (R-Metairie); Public Safety and Elections Task Force;
  • Sen. Fred H. Mills, Jr. (R-New Iberia), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member;
  • Sen. Ben Nevers, Sr. (D-Bogalusa), ALEC Education Task Force member;
  • Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Sen. Gary L. Smith, Jr. (R-Norco), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi)
  • Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, Jr. (R-Central), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force.

All ALEC meetings are held under tight security behind closed doors. During one recent conference, a reporter was not only barred from attending the meeting, but was actually not allowed into the hotel where the event was being held.

Apparently, there is good reason for that. It is at these conferences that ALEC members meet with state legislators to draft “model” laws for legislators to take back to their states for introduction and, hopefully, passage. Some of the bills being considered for 2014 are particularly noteworthy.

We won’t know which proposals were ultimately approved at that December meeting in Washington, however, because of the secrecy in which the meetings are held. We will know only if and when they are introduced as bills in the upcoming legislative session. But they should be easy to recognize.

One which will be easy to recognize is ALEC’s push for implementation of Louisiana’s Course Choice Program in other states. Course Choice, overseen by our old friend Lefty Lefkowith, is a “mini-voucher” program which lets high school students take free online classes if their regular schools do not offer it or if their schools have been rated a C, D or F by the state.

Course Choice has been beset by problems in Louisiana since its inception first when companies offering classes under the program began canvassing neighborhoods to recruit students and then signing them up without their knowledge or permission. Vendors offering the courses were to be paid half the tuition up front and the balance upon students’ graduation, making it a win-win for the vendors in that it didn’t really matter if students completed the courses for the companies to be guaranteed half the tuition. Moreover, there was no oversight built into the program that would ensure students actually completed the courses, thus making it easy for companies to ease students through the courses whether or not they actually performed the work necessary to obtain a grade. The Louisiana Supreme Court, however ruled the funding mechanism for Course Choice from the state’s Minimum Foundation Program unconstitutional.

Three other education proposals by ALEC appear to also borrow from the states of Utah. The first, the Early Intervention Program Act, is based on Utah’s 2012 law which has profited ALEC member Imagine Learning by diverting some $2 million in tax money from public schools to private corporations. But Imagine Learning did not offer test scores for the beginning and ending of the use of its software, little is known of what, if any, benefits students might have received. The Student Achievement Backpack Act and the Technology-Based Reading Intervention for English Learners Act also appear to be based on Utah’s education reform laws.

The former provides access to student data in a “cloud-based” electronic portal format and was inspired by Digital Learning Now, a project of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education when he was Florida’s governor.

Not all of ALEC’s proposals address public education.

For example, do you like to know the country of origin of the food you place on your table? More than 90 percent of American consumers want labels telling them where their meat, fruits, vegetables and fish are from, according to polling data. ALEC, though, is resisting implementation of what it calls “additional regulations and requirements for our meat producers and processors,” including those that would label countries of origin.

ALEC’s “Punitive Damages Standards Act” and the accompanying “Noneconomic Damage Awards Act” would make it more difficult to hold corporations accountable or liable when their products or practices result in serious harm or injury.

The organization’s “Medicaid Block Grant Act” seeks federal authorization to fund state Medicaid programs through a block grant or similar funding, a move that would cut Medicaid funding by as much as 75 percent. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has pushed similar block grant systems for Medicaid in several of his budget proposals.

In what has to qualify as a “WTF” proposal, ALEC for the second straight year is seeking approval of a bill to end licensing, certification and specialty certification for doctors and other medical professionals as requirements to practice medicine in the respective states and to prohibit states from funding the Federation of State Medical Boards.

Then there is the “Equal State’s Enfranchisement Act,” which is considered an assault of sorts on the 17th Amendment. For more than a century, U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures, a practice which often led to deadlocks and stalemates, leaving Senate seats open for months on end. But 101 years ago, in 1913, the 17th Amendment was ratified, changing the method of choosing senators to popular vote by the citizenry.

While ALEC’s proposal doesn’t mean full repeal of the 17th Amendment, it does mean that in addition to other candidates, legislatures would be able to add their own candidates’ names to ballots for senate seats. ALEC, apparently, is oblivious or unconcerned with a national poll that shows 71 percent of voters prefer electing senators by popular vote.

To keep track of these and other ALEC bills introduced in the upcoming session, just keep an eye on the member legislators and the bills they file.

And keep reading LouisianaVoice.

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Between the lies, former supporters separating themselves from him and promises of opposition by appointees, things aren’t looking up for Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Even some legislators who formerly were loyal lapdogs for the governor have learned that they have teeth and they are beginning to growl.

And from our perspective, it’s a beautiful day when Jindal and his misrepresentations are finally be called out for what they are: lies.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols was too busy to address a questioning reporter but her mouthpiece, Greg Dupuis, said she misspoke (a euphemism for lied) when she told legislators that a $500 million minimum savings was included in the verbiage of the 80-page request for proposals (RFP) for a contract was subsequently awarded to the consulting firm of Alvarez & Marsal at a price of $4.2 million. dt.common.streams.StreamServer

Instead, it turns out, the only mention of $500 million was contained only in the firm’s cover letter, which is not legally binding.

Now Nichols, apparently holding the fort down alone while her boss is on an industry-seeking trip to Asia, says the contract will be amended. http://theadvocate.com/home/8138286-125/jindal-administration-promises-to-amend

She said it, however, only after a barrage of criticism from legislators who expressed everything from disappointment to outright doubt to rare criticism—by Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego), no less—of Jindal’s secrecy in awarding the contract without informing lawmakers. http://theadvocate.com/home/8131113-125/much-vaunted-savings-not-included

Sometimes you need a fresh set of eyes,” said Ruth Johnson, assistant commissioner for statewide services.

Chief skeptic in residence C.B. Forgotston, however, dredged up some old Jindal campaign promises which tend to fly in the face of such logic.

Forgotston cited this Jindal utterance taken from his campaign brochure on state finances:

  • “Government spending is not just about writing checks to anyone and everyone. It is about being a responsible steward of the public’s money. It is about holding public officials and recipients accountable for the financial decisions they make on our behalf. It is about making sound fiscal priorities and sticking to them.

And extracted from that same brochure:

  • “RESPONSIBLY MANAGE AND ACCOUNT FOR SPENDING OF HARD-EARNED TAXPAYER DOLLARS:”
  • “Identify and recruit top-caliber cabinet secretaries.”
  • “All appointments must be talented, articulate, experienced managers that can consistently deliver desired outcomes while reducing costs wherever possible.”

The question then becomes, Forgotston said, “If the consulting report finds savings in the state departments under Jindal’s jurisdiction…we will hold Jindal accountable?

C.B. has a refreshing way of cutting through all the bureaucratic gooneybabble and getting right to the heart of an issue. http://forgotston.com/

Carrying his not-so-rhetorical question even further, should we hold Nichols accountable for the supposed oversight and subsequent lying…er, misstatement to the legislature about a mythical $500 million savings?

One former supporter of Jindal—both from a philosophical and financial perspective—seems to think so.

A funeral certainly is an unusual, if not inappropriate, place to discuss politics but with so many current and former elected officials on hand for the services of Wiley Hilburn, the retired former head of the Louisiana Tech journalism department, it was almost inevitable that the subject of Jindal would find its way into the idle conversation. Funerals and weddings are, after all, major social functions at which, if only in passing, acquaintances are renewed, ideas are exchanged and common ground is explored.

After the services Sunday, as guests were milling around in front of the Presbyterian Church of Ruston, one former supporter, in a brief but revealing conversation, was unrestrained in his disgust with Jindal. There was no subtlety or coyness, no mincing of words.

Without identifying the person, let it suffice to say that considerable money made its way from his bank account—and that of his company and family members (all legal, in case anyone wonders) into the campaign coffers of Jindal and now the good governor won’t even take his phone calls.

That will turn an ally into an enemy faster than just about anything else. No benefactor takes being ignored lightly and this man said as much on Sunday. “I thought (Mike) Foster was flaky and (Kathleen) Blanco had her moments,” he said. “But this guy….he forgot why he was elected the moment he walked through those doors. He’s completely turned his back on this state while he pursues something else, whatever that might be.”

This from a one-time staunch supporter.

One doesn’t have to consider long and hard what Jindal’s other options might be as he flits across the breadth and depth of the country in an attempt to line up support for a presidential run—a run that has about as much chance as a one-legged man in a tap dancing contest. Jindal would be far more appealing in a twerking marathon than a presidential campaign. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would have a better chance trying to cut in on commuters en route to Fort Lee during morning rush hour on the George Washington Bridge.

Of course, he is so obsessed with his quixotic quest that he doesn’t have a clue and those sycophants with whom he surrounds himself don’t have the stones to tell him. That or they are even more unrealistic in their rose colored glasses than he.

That arrogance could also prove to be a shocking lead-up to unpleasant surprises during his final two years in office as even some of his appointees—those from whom he demands unconditional loyalty and subservience—are muttering to themselves about a possible coup d’état.

Commenting on State Treasurer John Kennedy’s observation on last Friday’s Jim Engster Show on Baton Rouge’s public radio station that Jindal has gutted the budgets of higher education 67 percent since entering office, another attendee at Sunday’s funeral said, “We’re going to have to stand up against this guy. Higher ed can’t take any more hits.”

Of course, it remains to be seen if there will be follow through on the part of appointees and legislators.

But while they may have once been talking among themselves behind closed doors and never openly, they now are airing their complaints in a more public manner.

Like sharks circling in the waters, they may finally smell blood.

That could make the next two years both turbulent and interesting.

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