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Archive for the ‘Privatization’ Category

The combined revenues of $3.5 billion and net profits of $697 million for 2014, America’s two largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group clearly illustrate the profit potential in the operation of private prisons.

It’s no wonder. With 2.4 million people incarcerated in this country, America easily leads the civilized world with more than 700 of every 100,000 of its citizens kept behind bars. The Russian Federation is a distant second at 474 per 100,000 imprisoned. Canada has 118 per 100,000 of its population incarcerated. The four Scandinavian countries have the fewest number per 100,000 in prison. The numbers for them are, in order: Denmark (73), Norway (72), Sweden (67) and Finland (58).

If Louisiana were a nation, it would double the U.S. ratio. (At least we’re number one in the world at something.) Latest figures show 1,420 of every 100,000 Louisiana citizens (one of every 86 adults) is housed in a cell, giving Louisiana the distinction of having the highest rate in the world. Nearly two-thirds of those are non-violent offenders. We should be so proud. Louisiana’s rate of incarceration is three times that of Russia, nearly 10 times that of the United Kingdom, 12 times Canada’s rate, and 24 times that of Sweden.

But private prisons are not the only ones benefitting from the glut of prisoners in Louisiana. There are the prison telephone systems which charge exorbitant rates to prisoners’ families for collect calls home. The phone companies are protected by state contracts, making their operations a literal monopoly.

And then there are the privately-run prison work release, or “transitional work program” companies and that’s where the waters really get murky.

Most work release programs are supervised by parish sheriffs and some are kept in-house by the sheriffs. The one common thread is that all of them use the profits from inmate labor to underwrite other operations of the sheriffs’ departments. There have been private work release companies to spring up, operate for a while and then disappear, notably Northside Workforce in St. Tammany Parish as well as privately-run programs in Lafayette and Iberia parishes.

One such company isn’t likely to face the operational pitfalls experienced by the others, however. That is because of its connections to the top brass at the Louisiana Department of Corrections and Louisiana State Prison at Angola, connections that likely even extend into the governor’s office.

Louisiana Workforce, LLC (no connection with the Louisiana Workforce Commission) has been around for 10 years since it was founded on Feb. 4, 2005 by Paul Perkins. Both Perkins and Louisiana Workforce have been active in writing campaign checks to sheriffs, key legislators and Jindal since 2009.

It was not until 2014, however that Louisiana Workforce really burst onto the scene in a big way. Following an inmate’s escape from a Northside Workforce jobsite in St. Tammany that same year, Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary James LeBlanc mandated that local sheriffs not be approved for outsourcing work-release programs without first going through a competitive bid process.

The only problem was, the process turned out to be not so competitive.

That’s not unusual if you take the trouble to talk to business owners who find themselves shut out of the state contract bid process. If they are completely candid, they will tell you that if a state agency prefers a given vendor, the specifications can be—and often as not, they are—written in such a manner as to eliminate all but the preferred vendor.

The practice is similar to, though not quite as blatant as, the north Louisiana parish police jury which, way back in the 1970s when I was a young reporter, decided to purchase a used bulldozer. When the advertisement for bids was published in the parish’s official journal (the local newspaper), the specifications included the serial number of the ‘dozer which quite understandably narrowed the field of eligible bidders somewhat.

It turned out that even though six private providers, along with a representative from the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office, attended a pre-bid conference, Louisiana Workforce, LLC, in partnership with the Beauregard sheriff’s office, submitted the only bid.

Perkins is a former assistant warden at Louisiana State Prison at Angola who was earning $75,000 a year until his retirement in 2001. He also is a former business partner of both LeBlanc and Angola Warden Burl Cain. All that may or may not have played a part in the apparent easy manner in which Louisiana Workforce got the contract by default, but one competitor suggested that it may not have hurt.

It also may not have hurt that Perkins and Louisiana Workforce combined to pour nearly $40,000 into the political campaigns of five of the six sheriffs with whom Louisiana Workforce has contracts, or that another $15,000 was contributed to Bobby Jindal, or that thousands more to members of the legislature who sit on key committees like House Appropriations, House Criminal Justice or one of the three Senate judiciary committees.

Perhaps it is only a coincidence that Burl Cain asked for and received a favorable ruling from the State Board of Ethics in 2012 permitting him to be compensated for providing consulting services on a part-time basis to Louisiana Workforce—and even allowing him to have a “small minority ownership” in the company. It is not known whether or not Burl Cain actually performs any consulting work or receives any monetary recompense because while he, like all administrative personnel, is required to file a financial disclosure form with the state, he is not required to fill out a complete disclosure.

Even LeBlanc in 2006 received Ethics Board approval to offer consulting services or even own an interested in an unspecified work-release program.

Perkins said that while he feels Cain would be a valuable addition to his company and even though the Ethics Board approved such an arrangement, he felt that it would be a mistake for Cain to work for him while also serving as Angola warden.

But that does not by any measure preclude the presence of Cain influence on operations at Louisiana Workforce. The Louisiana prison system over the years has indisputably become a Cain family fiefdom.

DOC has something called Prison Enterprises which, on the surface, is a good thing in that it allows prisoners to learn marketable skills while at the same time providing a source of income to help fund prison operations. But Prison Enterprises is more than simply a means to sell soybeans, corn and cotton grown on the sprawling Angola farm; it is also a means of enrichment for enterprising (forgive the pun) entrepreneurs.

DOC’s own web page touts its Transitional Work Program (formerly work release) which certain eligible offenders may enter from one to three years prior to their release, “depending on the offense of conviction.” Participants “are required to work at an approved job and, when not working, they must return to the structured environment of the assigned facility,” the web page’s description of the program says. The “assigned facility,” of course, refers to the housing provided by private companies like Louisiana Workforce.

“Probation and Parole Officers are assigned monitoring responsibilities for contract transitional work programs,” it said. Claiming that transitional work programs are successful in assisting in the transition from prison back into the work force, the web page claims that 10 to 20 percent of offenders “remain with their employer upon release.”

Additionally, the two-paragraph description says, a second program called the Rehabilitation and Workforce Development Program, allows prisoners who have become skilled craftsmen to be placed in higher paying jobs where they “are able to make wages to maintain self-sufficiency.”

But then a peculiar thing occurs when readers are instructed to “click here” to see a list of transitional work programs throughout the state. Thinking we would find other companies similar to Louisiana Workforce, we clicked and presto! We were returned to DOC’s main page.

So, with Prison Enterprises overseeing the operations of DOC’s Transitional Work Program, who do you suppose presides over Prison Enterprises?

That would be Michael Moore, who earns $128,500 per year as Prison Enterprise Director. But serving right under him is none other than Marshall Cain, one of Burl Cain’s two sons who holds the title of DOC Prison Enterprise Regional Manager at $63,500 per year. Cain’s other sun, Nathan Cain, earns $109,000 per year as Warden of Avoyelles Correctional Center. (The elder Cain pulls down $167,200 as Angola Warden.)

But the key person in all this is Seth Smith, Burl Cain’s son-in-law, who earns $150,000 per year as a DOC Confidential Assistant. That’s more than his boss, LeBlanc, who makes $136,700 as DOC Secretary. So what does a confidential assistant do for that salary? Well, for openers, he assigns which prisoners go into the Transitional Work Program for parish sheriffs and private operators like Louisiana Workforce.

And since Louisiana Workforce gets to keep 62 percent of each prisoner’s earnings, plus $5 per day for each inmate it houses, it certainly would be to the company’s benefit to receive the most skilled workers for placement in the Transitional Work Program. After all, 62 percent of say, $15 per hour for skilled labor is considerable more than 62 percent of a minimum wage job like flipping hamburgers, for example.

One employer who hired an inmate through the program, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate last November that the system was rigged against the inmate. He cited an example of an inmate earning $200 per week. After the 62 percent is held out, he would be left with $76 before taxes and Social Security, leaving him only about $36 for a week’s work.

Then, he said, the program runs a commissary where inmates are charged “inflated prices” for necessities such as soap, toothpaste, deodorant, etc., leaving them with “virtually nothing to start a new life.” http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/10768344-123/letter-inmates-left-with-pittance#comments

There are two sides of this scenario, of course. There is the argument that they are in prison because they committed a crime and therefore, should not be afforded favorable treatment. The other argument is that by working at below-market wages, they are keeping honest, law-abiding people from jobs they need to support their families.

But lost in both those arguments is the windfall profits reaped by the private vendors who are fortunate enough to have an inside track to the decision-makers at DOC and the sheriffs who run their own prisons.

Perkins and his company, Louisiana Workforce, LLC, have combined to contribute to five of the sheriffs with whom his company has contracts:

  • East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux: $15,000;
  • Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard: $4,500;
  • Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal: $7,000;
  • Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter: $4,340;
  • West Feliciana Parish Sheriff Austin Daniel: $6,850.

But the combined $37,690 to those five sheriffs doesn’t end there; he and his company have also contributed $15,000 to Jindal and thousands more to members of key legislative committees.

Small wonder.

An article in the New Orleans Advocate on Oct. 13, 2014, noted among other things that with Louisiana Workforce’s acquisition of the Phelps Correction Center in DeRidder, the company had about 1,200 inmates working in its work-release program. At an average of say, 62 percent of an average of only $10 per hour, plus another $5 per day for housing each inmate, Louisiana Workforce would receive nearly $17 million a year. At an average of $12 per hour, the paper said, the income would approach $20 million annually. http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/features/music/10477753-171/work-release-operator-with-ties-to

It’s a system open for abuse with only minimal oversight. On Sunday, Associated Press moved a story in which inmates at a privately-run Nashville, TN., jail operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison operation in the U.S., say they worked without pay to build commemorative games, bird houses, dog beds, and plaques which prison officials then sold online and at a flea market. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/inmates-say-they-worked-for-free-for-jail-officials/ar-BBlNdCG?ocid=iehp

To back up their claim, two of the prisoners said they concealed their names and the number of the Tennessee statute that makes it illegal for prison officials to profit off inmate labor beneath pieces of wood nailed to the backs of the items.

In 2010, the Louisiana Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report that said Louisiana Workforce employees forged or altered several dozen employer work-release forms and inmate authorization forms upon learning that DOC was going to make a site visit to its East Baton Rouge Parish facility. One employee, an assistant warden, admitted to forging at least 26 such forms and the OIG report said that higher-ups at Louisiana Workforce knew of the actions.

LeBlanc, in his response to the report, said that DOC had “no jurisdiction” to discipline the Louisiana Workforce staff, in effect saying that Louisiana Workforce is left to discipline itself.

And in 2013, the Legislative Auditor’s Office issued a report that challenged the use of inmate labor by then-Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Vernon Bourgeois to renovate a building used by Louisiana Workforce’s program. The audit said the cost of that labor was about $350,000 and the auditor’s office said the use of free inmate labor for the project may have been in violation of the Louisiana Constitution

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Sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder what the hell our governor and our legislators are thinking when they make laws and stake out political positions on controversial topics like, say, meaningful legislation that would keep the mentally unstable prone to violence from obtaining weapons.

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting in that Lafayette movie theater that left two victims and the gunman dead and seven others wounded, Bobby Jindal opined that it was “not the time” to discuss the “politics” of Louisiana’s gun laws. For Bobby and his ilk (read: right-wing, neo-fascist, stand-your-ground idiots), there is never a right time to discuss such trite matters as Sandy Hook, Columbine, Aurora, Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, or Lafayette’s Grand Theater.

Anything approaching legislation aimed at keeping guns away from the mentally disturbed or hate-consumed racists is anathema to those who cater to the NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their demented, all-encompassing defense of the sacred Second Amendment.

JINDAL RECEIVING RIFLE FROM NRA

JINDAL RECEIVING GIFT RIFLE FROM NRA

A florist is required to obtain a license to sell flowers in Louisiana—even as the Brady Campaign’s “scorecard” on gun control ranked Louisiana the second-worst state in the U.S. in terms of laws designed to prevent gun violence. And that was in 2013, long before the Lafayette assault.

The Louisiana State Board of Dentistry has carte blanche to harass dentists for such infractions of publishing advertising of prohibited size or font, “violations” that in several cases have resulted in fines of six figures and which have literally put some dentists out of business. Meanwhile, Louisiana has the second highest firearm death rate and the highest gun-related homicide rate in America—even before the Lafayette shootings by John Houser.

Inspectors for the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology are allowed to barge into Vietnamese-owned nail salons, order everyone to freeze and proceed to pull out drawers and open cabinets searching for God knows what and to impose steep fines for vague infractions in much the same manner as the Board of Dentistry, all the while informing the Vietnamese operators that they are subject to “different rules for you guys.” But for some strange reason known only to the NRA and ALEC lapdogs like Jindal, Louisiana does not require private gun sellers (who, by the way, are not licensed dealers) to initiate background checks when transferring a firearm.

JINDAL RECEIVING GUN

JINDAL EXAMINING WEAPON DURING IOWA CAMPAIGN STOP

Police officers from Shreveport to New Orleans, from Lake Providence to Lake Charles, may (and often do) pull you over for the life endangering violation of not having an illuminated license plate (yep, gotta have a working light bulb over your license plate or you could get a ticket). But if you happen to have a gun in your vehicle when you’re pulled over….well, that’s okay provided you have a concealed carry permit.

Bobby Jindal and his NRA buddies in the Louisiana Legislature are all about the freedom to own and carry weapons and in 2010, Jindal even signed into law a bill (HB 1272) by Rep. Henry Burns (R-Haughton) that allows you to pack heat in a church, mosque, synagogue or any other house of worship. At the same time, Jindal has consistently cut funding for mental health care in Louisiana and even closed one mental health facility in New Orleans and privatized Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville. The Florida company chosen to run the facility, Meridian Behavioral Health Systems, was found to have deficiencies serious enough to threaten its eligibility to continue participation in Medicare.

JINDAL AND WIFE WITH GUNS

A FAMILY THAT SHOOTS TOGETHER….

Jindal sent out a Christmas card last December that featured a photo of the entire family clad in cammo and he has attached himself to the gun-totin’ Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame in a way that is almost creepy. State Sen. Neil Riser even authored a bill (SB 178) that would give firearms dealers permission to offer voter registration forms at the point of sale, sending the clear message that voting (Republican, we assume) and the right to own a gun are somehow related and more important than curbing the homicide rate of say, Baton Rouge, which recently had a murder rate higher than that of Chicago. Yet, the Jindal administration rammed through its “deliberative process” catch-all bill in its 2008 “transparency” legislation that makes records of his office off limits to public scrutiny. Moreover, his Division of Administration, as well as other statewide agencies like the LSU Board of Supervisors, continue to throw up barriers to media access of public records.CHRISTMAS CARD

JINDAL FAMILY’S 2014 CHRISTMAS CARD (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

But, Jindal continues to call for prayers and hugs in response to mass killings and to resist any dialogue on such divisive matters as curbing one’s right to defend life and property—no matter that the nation’s murder rate far outpaces the rate of self-defense shootings.

You see, now is just “not the time” to make political points.

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PLEASE MOVE TO THE END OF THE LINE(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

On the eve of Bobby Jindal’s anticipated earth shaking announcement that he is squeezing himself into the clown car of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, I thought we should let our readers know that I am still on the job, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

As we wait with collective bated breath for word that Bobby is not only available but more than willing to do for the nation what he has done for Louisiana (God help us all, Tiny Tim), I remain cloistered in my cluttered home office, working diligently on my book, as yet untitled, in which I intend to fully document precisely what he has done for to Louisiana.

Among the topics to be covered are public education, higher education, health care, the state budget, campaign contributions, political appointments, ethics, privatization, his ALEC connections, the explosion in corporate tax breaks during his two terms, the lack of progress as reflected in myriad state rankings and surveys throughout his eight years as our largely absentee governor, the lack of transparency, his thinly veiled use of foundations and non-profit organizations to advance his political career, his intolerance for dissent (teaguing), his actual performance as compared to campaign promises as candidate Bobby, and his general incompetence.

I was asked on a local radio show if I could be fair to Jindal, given my personal feelings about his abilities as reflected in more than a thousand posts on this site. The short answer is: probably not. The long answer is I can—and will—be as fair to him as he has been to the state I love and call home. Because I do not claim to be objective (as opposed to the paid media who cling to that word as if it were some kind of Holy Grail), I am not bound by any rules that place limits on the expression of my opinions. I see what he has done, I understand the adverse effect his actions have had on this state, and I will offer my take on them for the reader to either accept or reject. If that is not fair, then so be it.

I have written about 60,000 words of an anticipated 100,000-word manuscript thus far. A couple of other writers have volunteered to contribute chapters, which should add another 20,000 words. I have a self-imposed deadline of July 1—give or take a few days—in which to have the rough draft completed. I also have several very capable editors poring over the chapters as they are completed. Their corrections, deletions, additions and suggestions will be incorporated into the final manuscript which is to be submitted to the publisher by late August.

The publisher originally gave me a publication target date of next Spring but recently moved the anticipated publication date up to January, with an e-book to be released possibly as early as this Fall.

That would coincide nicely with Jindal’s second ghost-written book, scheduled out in September.

There will be one major difference in our books: Mine will be based on his record while the source of his claims of balanced budgets and other wild, unsubstantiated assertions are certain to remain a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma (with apologies to Winston Churchill).

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State Treasurer John Kennedy on Tuesday told the House Appropriations Committee that the Division of Administration exerts extortion-like tactics against legislators and takes the approach that it should not be questioned about the manner in which it hands out state contracts and that the legislature should, in effect, keep its nose out of the administration’s business.

Kennedy was testifying on behalf of House Bill 30 by State Rep. Jerome Richard (I-Thibodaux) which provides for reporting, review and approval by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB) of all contracts for professional, personal and consulting services totaling $40,000 or more per year which are funded exclusively with state general fund (SGF) or the Overcollections Fund. HB 30

HB 30 FISCAL NOTES

Kennedy, in a matter of only a few minutes’ testimony, attacked figures provided by three representatives of the Division of Administration (DOA) who objected to the bill because of what they termed additional delays that would be incurred in contract approval and because of claimed infringement upon the separation of powers between the legislative and administrative branches of government.

Here is the link to the committee hearing. While Kennedy spoke at length on the bill, the gist of his remarks about DOA begin at about one hour and 13 minutes into his testimony. You can move your cursor to that point and pick up his attacks on DOA. http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Video/VideoArchivePlayer.aspx?v=house/2015/may/0526_15_AP

That argument appeared to be a reach at best considering it is the legislature that appropriates funding for the contracts. It also appeared more of a smokescreen for the real objections: DOA’s, and by extension, Bobby Jindal’s wish that the administration be allowed to continue to operate behind closed doors and without any oversight, unanswerable to anyone.

DOA representatives tried to minimize the effect of the bill by downplaying the number and dollar amount of the contracts affected (which raises the obvious question of why the opposition to the bill if its impact would be so minimal). The administration said only 164 contracts totaling some $29 million would be affected by the bill.

Kennedy, however, was quick to jump on those figures. “The numbers the division provided you are inaccurate,” he said flatly. “The Legislative Auditor, who works for you,” he told committee members, “just released a report that says there are 14,000 consulting contracts, plus another 4600 ‘off the books.’

“The fiscal notes of 2014 by the Legislative Fiscal Office—not the Division (DOA)—said the number of contracts approved in 2013 by the Office of Contractual Review was 2,001—not 160—professional, personal and consulting service contracts with a total value of $3.1 billion,” he said. “I don’t know where DOA is getting its numbers.

“To sum up their objections,” he said, “it appears to me that DOA and more to the point, the bureaucracy, is smarter than you and knows how to spend taxpayer dollars better than you. That’s the bottom line. They don’t want you to know. This bill will not be overly burdensome to you. Thirty days before the JLCB hearing, you will get a list of contracts. If there are no questions, they fly through. If there are questions, you can ask.”

Kennedy tossed a grenade at DOA on the issue of separation of powers when he accused the administration of blackmailing legislators who might be reluctant to go along with its programs.

“Let’s talk about how the division’s advice on contracts has worked out,” he said. “The Division advised you to spend all the $800 million in the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly. Now they have zero in that account. In fact, they pushed you to do that. Some of you were told if you didn’t do that, you’d lose your Capital Outlay projects. How’s that for separation of powers? How’d that work out for you?

“My colleagues from Division who just testified against the bill are the same ones who told you to take $400 million out of the (Office of Group Benefits) savings account set aside to pay retirees’ and state employees’ health claims. How’d that work out?”

Kennedy didn’t stop there. He came prepared with an entire laundry list of accusations against the administration.

“My colleagues from Division are the ones who told you, ‘Look, we need to privatize our health care delivery system,’ which I support in concept. They sat at this table and I heard them say we would only have to spend $600 million per year on our public-private partnership and (that it would be) a great deal ‘because right now we’re spending $900 million.’ I thought we’d be saving $300 million a year. Except we’re not spending $600 million; we’re spending $1.3 billion and we don’t have the slightest idea whether it’s (the partnerships) working. How’d that work out for you?

“I sat right here at this table and I heard my friends from Division say we need to do Bayou Health managed care. You now appropriate $2.8 billion a year for four health insurance companies to treat 900,000 of our people—not their people, our people,” he said. “There’s just one problem: when the Legislative Auditor goes to DHH (the Department of Health and Hospitals) to audit it (the program), they tell him no.”

Kennedy said that pursuant to orders from DOA, “the only way they can audit is if they take the numbers given him (Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera) by the insurance companies.

“This is a good bill,” he said. “It’s not my bill. My preference is to tell Division to cut 10 percent on all contracts and if you can’t do it, you will be unemployed. But this bill allows you to see where the taxpayer money is being spent.

“I have more confidence in you than I do in the people who’re doing things right now,” he said.

Kennedy said he was somewhat reluctant to testify about the bill “but I’m not going to let this go—especially the part about separation of powers.

“You want to see a blatant example of separation of powers?” he asked rhetorically, returning to the issue of the administration’s heavy handedness. “How about if I have a bill but you don’t read it. You either vote for it or you lose your Capital Outlay projects. How’s that for separation of powers?”

That evoked memories from November of 2012 when Jindal removed two representatives from their committee assignments one day after they voted against the administration’s proposed contract between the Office of Group Benefits and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana.

“Everything they (legislative committees) do is scripted,” said Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray), speaking to LouisianaVoice about his removal from the House Appropriations Committee. “I’ve seen the scripts. They hand out a list of questions we are allowed to ask and they tell us not to deviate from the list and not to ask questions that are not in the best interest of the administration.” http://louisianavoice.com/2012/11/02/notable-quotables-in-their-own-words-142/

Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington) asked Kennedy what his budget was to which Kennedy responded, “Less than last year and less that year than the year before and probably will be even less after this hearing. But you know what? I don’t care.

“There’s nothing you can say to get Division to support this bill,” he said. “They’re just not going to do it.

“You can’t find these contracts with a search party. But if you require them to come before you, you can get a feel for how money is being spent that people work hard for and you can provide a mechanism to shift some of that spending to higher priorities.

“Next year, you will spend $47 million on consulting contracts for coastal restoration. I’m not against coastal restoration; I’m all for it. But these consultants will not plant a blade of swamp grass. Don’t tell me they can’t do the job for 10 percent less. That $47 million is more than the entire state general fund appropriation for LSU-Shreveport, Southern University-Shreveport, McNeese and Nicholls State combined.

“Under the law, agencies are supposed to go before the Civil Service Board and show that the work being contracted cannot be done by state employees but that is perfunctory at best,” Kennedy said.

To the administration’s arguments of delays in contract approvals and infringements on the separation of powers, Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles) dug in his heels. “This is not a bad thing,” he insisted. “We’re not going to go through every page of every contract unless someone calls it to our attention. It doesn’t matter if it’s 14,000 or 14 million contracts. The number is immaterial. If there’s an issue with a contract, we need to look at it.”

For once, the administration did not have its way with the legislature. The committee approved the bill unanimously and it will now move to the House floor for debate where Jindal’s forces are certain to lobby hard against its passage.

Should the bill ultimately pass both the House and Senate, Jindal will in all likelihood, veto the measure and at that point, we will learn how strong the legislature’s resolve really is.

But for Kennedy, the line has been drawn in the dust.

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While others may become bored reading about my grandfather, I never tire of writing about him. He drove from Ruston to Galveston, Texas, back in 1945 to retrieve an abandoned and malnourished infant from a hospital there, brought him home and he and his wife set about giving the baby a home filled with love and not much else.

My grandparents were unlearned in terms of formal education but my grandfather tried to teach me dignity, honesty and respect—respect, most of all. Some of those lessons stuck. Once he bought me a candy bar and as we were riding in his pickup moments later, I tossed the wrapper out the window. Suddenly a resounding POW! exploded in my ears as the palm of his hand found the back of my head and I saw Jesus at the end of a long tunnel waving me to the light. My grandfather never said a word. He didn’t have to and to this day, I refuse to throw anything out my truck window and defy any of my passengers to do so.

But there was another lesson he taught me, one that a man named Winston Churchill also espoused. He drilled into my psyche the importance of defending myself and defending the rights others with equal determination. “If you don’t stand up for yourself, it’s for damned sure nobody else will,” he told me at least a thousand times during my childhood and adolescence. Churchill more eloquently said much the same thing on Oct. 29, 1941, in a speech at Harrow School: “Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVEiskNv1hs

That’s why I call Bobby Jindal out on every occasion that I catch him lying through his teeth. Like, for instance his claim that he has reduced the state work force by 30,000 employees during his administration when the Office of Civil Service, in its latest report, puts that actual number far lower—like 13,604 positions abolished but only 8,420 people laid off since Fiscal Year 2008 which actually started six months before he took office. But don’t take my word for it; see for yourself: MAY 2015 LAYOFF REPORT

The words of both my grandfather and Churchill are lessons we can apply in our efforts to confront the efforts of Jindal and the Louisiana Legislature in their efforts to weaken state employees and teachers.

Remember a few years ago when bills were introduced to abolish civil service? Those bills actually provided the impetus to start LouisianaVoice. Already making preparations to retire from my own civil service job with the Office of Risk Management, I could not stand idly by and watch my fellow employees stripped of their job protection, such as it was. (Of course, when LouisianaVoice was born, it hastened my retirement as Jindal did not—and does not—take kindly to criticism of any form or from anyone.)

I could understand and accept the prohibition against civil service employees’ participation in political campaigns. That ban extended to campaigning, contributing to campaigns and even to signs and bumper stickers. But it was okay. Civil Service was established by Gov. Jimmie Davis for the specific purpose of protecting employees from political patronage and their firing for no cause other than supporting the wrong candidate.

But to place that restriction while at the same time abolishing their job protection? Not for one nano-second, not as long as I owned a computer and a keyboard. Even though it ultimately precipitated my retirement a year or so sooner than I had anticipated, my grandfather’s admonitions to stand up for myself and others was stronger than my concerns for job security.

The efforts to do away with civil service failed but now Jindal and his lackeys in the House and Senate are doing their dead level best to follow the example of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker http://thinkprogress.org/election/2015/05/04/3654397/scott-walker-says-crush-whats-left-american-unions-elected-president/ and to meekly obey the demands of Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in his letter to legislators: https://www.atr.org/louisiana-labor-committee-passes-paycheck-protection-bill

That letter calls on legislators to support House Bill 418 by Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette) and Senate Bill 204 by Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie), both of which call for the cessation of the withholding of union dues for teachers by the state.

Both bills are blatant attempts to weaken teachers unions, namely the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators. The smokescreen thrown up by proponents of the bills is that it is burdensome for the state to process the dues withholding.

That’s simply a lie and a disingenuous one at that. The transactions are done by computer and once set up, never need human input. It’s certainly no more difficult than withholding state employee premiums paid to the Office of Group Benefits or to any one of dozens of premiums withheld for life, dental and disability insurance companies. You’d think these guys would at least give the appearance of trying to be a little more believable.

A story by Education Week explains the predicament faced by teachers in a single headline: “Education is political; can teachers afford not to be?” http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2015/05/01/education-is-political-can-teachers-afford-not.html

The story points out that teachers often refrain from viewing themselves as political even though curriculum, standards, testing and funding are all political.

“If teachers and parents don’t get more political, our public schools will continue to be assaulted by the privatizers, profiteers, pseudo-reformers, voucherizers and other enemies of public education,” one reader wrote in a comment about the story.

Don’t believe that? Let’s review. It was in March of 2012 when teachers demonstrated at the State Capitol over Bobby Jindal’s so-called “education reforms” and when one teacher attempted to testify before the House Education Committee, then-Rep. Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette) attempted to push through a requirement that in addition to the customary practice of witnesses providing their names, where they were from and whom they represent, they also be required to say if they were appearing before the committee in a “professional capacity or if they were on annual or sick leave.”

A furious John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) said he had never in his House tenure seen such a rule imposed on witnesses. “This house (the Capitol) belongs to the people,” added Rep. Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge), “and now we’re going to put them in a compromising position? This is an atrocity!” http://louisianavoice.com/2012/03/page/5/

If teachers still are not convinced that they should unite as one and flex a little muscle, perhaps they should remember Jindal’s infamous speech before the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry in January of 2012 at which he introduced his education reform package. During that speech, he alluded to paying teachers simply by virtue of their ability to breathe. http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?tmp=detail&md=newsroom&articleID=3197

Subsequent to that endearing line, several teachers stopped breathing when they sacrificed their lives defending school children from berserk gunmen but Jindal never once acknowledged those acts of heroism. Not once, though he did pose with his family for his Christmas card last year—with everyone, including children, dressed in camouflage. Touching.

If additional proof is needed of the severity of the situation for educators, in North Carolina, teachers have begun demonstrating their commitment to public schools by wearing red clothing as a symbol of support for their vocation.

So, what’s wrong with that, you ask? Didn’t we in recent years start a tradition of wearing red on Fridays as a salute to our armed forces?

Yes, but with teachers apparently it’s different and offensive enough that Senate Bill 480 was introduced in the Tar Heel State legislature that would make such a brazen act a Class 1 misdemeanor because supporting public education is considered a political view, subjecting teachers participating in such anarchy to dismissal.

http://crooksandliars.com/2015/05/north-carolina-teachers-no-free-speech-you?utm_source=Crooks+and+Liars+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=82e35765a1-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d4904be7bc-82e35765a1-330138269

Never mind that the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall said that the “threat of dismissal is nonetheless a potent means of inhibiting speech” and a violation of First Amendment rights.

So, bottom line, corporations, with their billions in political dark money, are classified as individuals and free to purchase elections and politicians at will but teachers, with an average salary of $40,065, are political activists to be feared and controlled—muzzled, as it were.

But to all teachers who read this: you vote, your family votes, your friends vote and you would be wise to watch to see how your legislators vote on issues that affect you. The election is this October. We will be choosing a governor and 144 legislators.

I harken back to my grandfather’s sage advice: “If you don’t stand up for yourself, it’s for damned sure nobody else will.”

 

 

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