Archive for the ‘Privatization’ Category

Two days before statewide elections, Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, who refused to involve himself in the State Office of Group Benefits controversy because, he insisted, the state employee health insurance was not insurance, has suddenly become a consumer advocate over those delinquent fee letters sent out by the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) on Oct. 13.

Never mind that OGB provides health insurance to about 230,000 state employees, retirees and dependents and never mind that it was taken over by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana (a major contributor to Donelon’s campaigns).

Never mind that the Louisiana Department of Insurance approved the purchase of two insurance companies in 2013 by an individual who had little industry experience and never mind that both companies were seized by regulators within a year when it was learned that Alexander Chatfield Burns allegedly siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars in stocks and bonds off the company’s books, replacing them with worthless assets.

Never mind that in 2012 Donelon put former state legislator Noble Ellington on the payroll as a $150,000 per year as the department’s number-two man despite Ellington’s glaring lack of experience in insurance.

Never mind that Donelon did little to rein in auto insurance companies that were trying to steer auto repairs to favored body shops that were accused of doing unsafe work and providing after-market parts.

Never mind that Donelon has been the beneficiary of more than $4.5 million in campaign contributions from insurance companies and insurance defense attorneys since 2006.

That was then. This is now and now is only two days before Donelon is to face a challenge from three opponents in Saturday’s election. So of course, he wades into the controversy over those 1.2 million delinquent notices sent out to motorists that OMV claims owe fines for various offenses dating as far back as 1986 (29 years if you’re doing the math).

LouisianaVoice first wrote about this back on Sept. 29 when we observed that none of the $11 million earmarked to pay for state police pay raises through the “enhanced debt collection efforts” by OMV has been submitted to the state general fund.

That was first made known in a confidential report prepared for legislators obtained by LouisianaVoice.

House Bill 638 by State Rep. Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge) was enacted and signed into law by Bobby Jindal as Act 414. HB 638 provided that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) collect certain fees “associated with the suspension of an operator’s license” which were related to auto liability insurance requirements. The fees become delinquent after 60 days and are referred to the Office of Debt Recovery.

The bill earmarked $25 million from the Debt Recovery Fund for use by the Office of State Police. But none of that money has yet to go to the general fund, prompting concern by legislators and resulting in the report.

Legislative watchdog and resident curmudgeon C.B. Forgotston way back on Jan. 16 of this year questioned the constitutionality of an earlier bill by Ivey, HB 872, passed during the 2014 regular legislative session which added a $75 fee for the reinstatement of a driver’s lapsed auto liability insurance. HB 872 was to generate about $53 million per year with $42 million earmarked for the general operations of DPS, $7 million to housing parolees and $1 million to district attorneys.

Forgotston said HB 872 was called a “fee,” but in actuality, is an unconstitutionally-passed “tax.” The reason for its being unconstitutional is the Louisiana State Constitution of 1974 which says “No measure levying or authorizing a new tax by the state or by any statewide political subdivision whose boundaries are coterminous with the state; increasing an existing tax by the state or by any statewide political subdivision whose boundaries are coterminous with the state; or legislating with regard to tax exemptions, exclusions, deductions or credits shall be introduced or enacted during a regular session held in an even-numbered year.” http://senate.la.gov/Documents/Constitution/Article3.htm

But in the make-believe world of Jindal politics, the Office of Group Benefits is not insurance and a fee is not a tax. That ranks right up there with Bill Clinton’s “It depends on what your definition of is is.”

But back to HB 638 (ACT 414). Just in case you need a reminder just two days before the election, that bill passed unanimously in the House and with just one dissenting vote in the Senate (State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson voted no). Here are the links to the votes of the two chambers just in case you need a handy guide before casting your ballot on Saturday:



And now on the eve of many of those same legislators’ re-election efforts, the bill is creating pure havoc throughout the state.


Well, consider this. If you had a vehicle you purchased in 1976, say, and you traded it in in 1987. You would have cancelled your insurance and license plate on that vehicle and transferred everything to your new vehicle. But suppose by some clerical error, OMV did not get the word that you sold or traded that old vehicle and suddenly, on Oct. 13 of this year, a delinquent notice went out to you because you have not had insurance on your 1976 vehicle for 28 years. The onus is on you to prove that you had a legitimate reason for not insuring that vehicle or face a fine of $500—or more.

Donelon said, correctly, that the average citizen most likely does not have documentation to prove he or she had insurance because no one keeps proof of insurance from a decade or more ago.

So now you have your notice and you know it’s in error so naturally, you try to call OMV only to encounter what seems to be a permanent busy signal. And if you happen to get through, your call is dropped.

And let’s not forget that Jindal, in his maniacal obsession to privatize everything in state government, contracted out many of the OMV services and laid off scores of OMV employees, so good luck with trying to reach someone to help you.

Many of the 1.2 million who received the letters (at a cost to taxpayers of about $500,000) are claiming that they are accused of offenses that are nothing more than paperwork errors and State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson is now saying OMV will not pursue any delinquent fines older than 2006 for which OMV does not have proper documentation.

We at LouisianaVoice are of the opinion that any violation allowed to lie dormant by OMV for more than one year with no effort to collect same should be dismissed. Certainly after three years. After all, in Louisiana, if you wait for more than 12 months after being wronged, your case has prescribed and you are unable to file a lawsuit.

That’s 20 years, or 69 percent right off the top of the anticipated $53 million in additional revenue the Jindal administration so desperately needed to patch over holes in the state budget. Edmonson also said the fact that $11 million of that $53 million was to fund pay increases for state troopers had nothing to do with the notices mailed out on Oct. 13.

Donelon, who regulates the insurance industry in Louisiana, OGB notwithstanding, suggested that drivers should not trust OMV records and should call the governor’s office with grievances.

Would that be the governor’s office have an Iowa area code, by any chance?

One reader had a slightly different experience. Here is her account as related to LouisianaVoice in a recent email:

            My husband just recently retired 20 years of service in the Army, and we’ve been under contract to buy a home for the first time, in Sulphur.  I’m a La native, so we’ve decided to settle here.

            Today, we had to switch our insurance companies because the one we’ve had together since married in 2006, and he’s had for many years even before that, has decided in their policy that simply residing in Louisiana means that our insurance must be raised because I suppose something about this State is more risky than Texas, Kentucky, Alabama, or Georgia (all of the states we’ve resided in that our insurance remained unchanged).

            Which brings me around to what I have to say. I’d like to explain how I turned a $200 oops into a $566 OMG today.

            While attempting to change insurance companies, they ran my driver’s license. Standard.

            My license came back as suspended. Later, at the DMV, I was informed not only was my license suspended, but there had been issued a bench warrant for my arrest.

            It was a seat belt ticket I got four years ago, and speeding ticket I received one year ago. I forgot to pay it. Over my driving career (I’m 39 years old and I’ve owned 2 Corvettes), I’ve gotten more than one speeding ticket, and more than once, I’ve forgotten to pay it.

            However, this was my first in the state of Louisiana, as I’ve lived in Texas for the majority of my adulthood, and the rest in the previous states mentioned. I never received a notice in the mail, warning me of an impending suspension of my license, nor did I receive any notice or warning that a warrant was being issued for my arrest. ALL of which I have received from Texas, giving me an opportunity to address it.  I mentioned that fact to the lady at the DA’s office when I arrived to deal with it, and she informed me that “they don’t notify anyone for these things.”  So, my license was suspended, and there was a warrant for my arrest, yet the State makes no effort prior to this result, as Texas does, to notify me?  No.

            They don’t.

            I had a moment of terrible dread and relief at the same time.  I found out because I was changing insurance companies and they told me.

            I looked up the consequences for driving with a suspended license, had I found out by being pulled over, and they are very harsh.  It carries a minimum fine of $300, up to $7500 and seven days jail time.  All because I forgot to pay a speeding ticket.

            After paying the ticket, I returned to the OMV, where I had to pay another $102 to “unsuspend” my license, because paying the ticket + late fine wasn’t enough for the State to teach me a lesson.

            While I waited in line, it occurred to me the terrible impact this could have on so many Louisiana families and college students.  It seems unrealistic that no one would ever forget to pay a ticket, or even that it would be rare. I wondered if something so simple could be common, but with such crazy, harsh financial consequences, especially if jailed. Suddenly, a DMV employee came out and made the announcement that they were severely understaffed—thanks to Bobby Jindal’s cutbacks (I had already been waiting almost 2 hours at this point) and began to group all of us based on our issues.

            Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised that a great many of the people there ended up in the same group as me, dealing with the very same problem. A very expensive problem. A problem that likely could have been prevented for most if not all of us, with a simple notice in the mail.

            For me, the total was over $500 to get my license reinstated and ticket paid. There were at least 20 people in line with me. I estimate the OMV likely collected a minimum of $10,000 in about three hours, just from my line. Nearly $30,000 in an average eight-hour work day in fines just from suspended licenses for the most undeserving of reasons from the most vulnerable class of people, yet still were “understaffed” to ridiculousness and a majority of the people I was in line with would probably love to have a job there.  That’s $150,000 a week! $600,000 a month! $7.2 million a year!

            I have no clue where all of this money goes, or what it pays for, since clearly it isn’t on staffing. The debit card reader wasn’t working so I was forced to an ATM and the clerk I was with struggled endlessly with her computer mouse and what I believed to be serious system lag, so equipment certainly isn’t eating funds.

            Maybe this all seems trivial, but truly, it didn’t seem trivial to anyone I was in line with.  There was sadness, fear, and dread on the faces of all of them.  It was really heartbreaking, and worse, I feel like it likely could have all been prevented with a simple notice in the mail. People are given around 60 days to pay a ticket in Louisiana. It is as though the state counts on many of them being forgotten, and without notice, having their license suspended, and likely many of them discovering this and getting a memory jog by being pulled over for something insignificant, and being put in handcuffs, with a massive fine they can’t pay, and seven days in jail.

            I am fortunate enough to be able to pay it and still eat, but I think the look on all of those people’s faces in line with me at the OMV will keep me up tonight. It’s already nearly 1 am, and I’m still bothered by it.

            I can’t help but wonder how many people in Louisiana, living their lives, taking care of children, going to work, etc., forget to pay a speeding ticket, and it’s the one thing that knocks them into a hole they can’t get out of;  but they check their mail every day.

            I’ve been in a lot of places over the last 20 years. Texas to Wisconsin to Connecticut to Georgia to Louisiana. I see more people struggling here than anywhere else I’ve been in the U.S.

            I can’t help but think this no-notice high penalty cost system is contributing to bleeding the average Louisianan driving to work and back, to death. Maybe it’s nothing. I think it’s something.  Something that must effect the lives of a lot of people.

            If a simple notice in the mail could save Louisiana citizens and families $7.2 million a year, I think a lot of people would like to know why it isn’t done.

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With all that’s going on with the Louisiana State Police, it has become easy to overlook the fact that we will be voting in a little more than two weeks for someone to try to undo the damage done by eight years of the Jindal carnage inflicted upon this state. (Don’t worry, we’ll get back to the State Police in a day or so.)

The governor’s race, unlike those of past years, has failed to generate a lot of interest among voters. That’s probably because the media has convinced us that U.S. Sen. David Vitter is a lock to be our next governor. I mean, who could possibly get excited over an election when we’re being told that it’s inevitable that the pariah of femininity will be our next governor?

Speaking of the media, the questions posed in the televised debates thus far have been nothing short of disgraceful. It’s no wonder that people are turned off by this year’s election. How, after all, does Kim Davis even begin to figure in the issues facing Louisiana’s next governor? That question was just plain stupid and a huge waste of time.

And who put the media in charge of anointing winners even before an election? Do our votes actually count anymore? (We will be addressing those questions shortly.)

First of all, what self-respecting Republican woman in Louisiana would ever cast a vote for someone like Dave Vitter? For that matter, what Republican woman would ever allow her husband to vote for this man who has only contempt for women as exhibited by the fact that:

  • He frequented prostitutes in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans;
  • He kept an aide, Brent Furer, on his payroll for more than a year after Furer held his ex-girlfriend hostage, threatened to kill her and in fact, attacked her with a knife. Vitter denied Furer was assigned to women’s issues. Furer’s title? Legislative Assistant on Women’s Issues.
  • He voted a year ago to block the Paycheck Fairness Act despite the fact that Louisiana ranks second-worst in the nation in gender pay disparity.

We say Republican women only because we feel it’s a foregone conclusion no Democrat woman would ever vote for this man who continues to refuse to address his personal and public issues with women.

But all that aside, let’s look at the real reason that Vitter is considered a favorite to make the runoff against Democrat John Bel Edwards.

Money. Lots of money.

And that brings us to the questions we posed earlier: Who anoints the winners and do our votes really count?

First of all, a super PAC is established for his benefit. Super PACs are the scourge of the democratic process, folks. End of discussion. And his Super PAC, ironically dubbed The Fund for Louisiana’s Future in what must have been someone’s idea of a cruel joke, had more than $3 million on hand at the end of 2014. And that doesn’t even count the money he has raised directly in corporate and special interest contributions.

The very existence of the Super PAC teetered on the edge of legality and was approved only after a court fight. Super PACs are barred from coordinating with candidates’ campaigns but if you believe Vitter has not involved himself in the decision-making process of The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, I’ve got some beautiful beachfront property near that Bayou Corne sinkhole in Assumption Parish for sale really cheap.

If you trust Vitter even for a nano-second, I’ve got a straitjacket in just your size.

His Super PAC aside, Vitter has another $4 million on hand as we head into the final stretch for the first primary on Oct. 24. As anyone not in a coma must surely know, The Fund for Louisiana’s Future has already initiated a media blitz attacking Vitter’s two Republican opponents, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle on the assumption that he must eliminate them to get into the runoff. He apparently is holding off on attacking State Rep. John Bel Edwards until the second primary.

Compare that to $1.6 million for Darden who has yet to crank up his TV ad campaign, $1.4 million for Edwards, and $1 million for Angelle.

Far more telling, however, is an examination of who contributes and where those contributions are coming from.

For that, we pulled only the contributions of those giving the maximum allowable $5,000. To go deeper would have just taken far too much space.

Before we begin our look into the contributions, ask yourself this question: If you give $100 or even $250 to a candidate and he is elected and down the road your interests conflict with a donor who coughed up the $5,000 maximum, who do you think will get the politician’s ear? What chance would you have in such a scenario? We thought so.

This is not a hypothetical, folks. This is real. It’s not Monopoly money. It’s money poured into campaigns by special interests who have a reason for parting with their money—and the reason is not their hunger for good, honest government that motivates them.

Remember that if you remember nothing else when you walk into that voting booth on Oct. 24.

You are a moving part in a very large machine that is being lubricated with cash in order to turn out legislation that benefits any number of special interests, none of whom even knows who you are. When you exit the voting booth, that big money has no more use for your services—until the next election cycle.

Cold? Callused? Jaded? Yes, yes, and yes. But we at LouisianaVoice are pragmatists, not idealists. We as a society do not pledge allegiance to the flag; we pledge allegiance to the oil companies, the banks, Wall Street, and major contractors. Sorry if we burst anyone’s bubble, but facts are facts, unpleasant though they may well be. Here’s another little factoid: the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist. Chew on that for a while, tea partiers.

Looking just at $5,000 contributions, we find that Vitter had 970 donors putting up the maximum, or $4.85 million. That’s a huge—very huge—chunk of his total contributions. Of that 970, there were 164 (17 percent) from out of state. That’s $820,000—more than the total of all the $5,000 contributions to Edwards and only $30,000 less than those of Dardenne.

Angelle barely had a third as many $5,000 contributors (340 for $1.7 million). Of those 340, no fewer than 81 (24 percent) were from out of state. Like Vitter, the $5,000 contributors made up a sizable block of his total campaign contributions. Where does that leave the $5, $10 and $20 contributors in the overall scheme of things?

From those figures, the numbers dropped precipitously for Dardenne and Edwards. Dardenne received 170 contributions of $5,000 each for a total of $850,000, about half of his total contributions, according to records obtained from the State Ethics Commission. Sixteen, or 9.4 percent, were from out of state.

Edwards recently issued a press release touting the low number of out-of-state contributors to his campaign. Records show that he received 114 contributions of $5,000 each for a total of $570,000. Only three of those, or 2.6 percent, were from out-of-state, in his case, all three from Texas.

This is an important election and Louisiana citizens need to get up off the couch, put down that bag of chips and forget about football for the few minutes that it takes to act on this state’s future.

No matter who wins, it is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to get this state back on the course of recovery after eight years of neglect, abuse, and outright corruption. The new governor is going to inherit a massive deficit, all manner of problems from higher education and public education, the state hospital privatization mess, a world-leading incarceration rate, corporate welfare (Stephen Waguespack’s protestations notwithstanding), and one of the highest poverty rates in the country, to name but a few.

So here is one last question to ask yourself before you enter that voting booth:

Do you vote for the candidate who had the most money to saturate the television airwaves with ads containing half-truths and outright lies, a candidate who is bought and paid for by Wall Street, the pharmaceutical firms, big oil, the major banks and similar special interests or do you vote for the candidate who you truly feel will devote his efforts to addressing the state’s problems head-on?

The state’s future dos not belong to The Fund for Louisiana’s Future. That vote-buying Super PAC is not even in Louisiana; it’s in Washington, D.C.

The state’s future instead belongs to you.

The choice is yours.

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In a state drowning in consulting contracts, what’s one more?

Bobby Jindal is a lame duck governor who long ago set his sights on bigger and better things. He has abdicated every aspect of his office except the salary, free housing and state police security that go with the title. In reality, he has turned the reins of state government over to subordinates who are equally distracted in exploring their own future employment prospects.

His only concerns in almost eight years in office, besides setting himself up to run for President, have been (a) appointing generous campaign donors to positions on state boards and commissions and (b) privatizing state agencies by handing them over to political supporters.

To that end there has been a proliferation of consulting contracts during the Jindal years. The legislative auditor reported in May that there were 19,000 state contracts totaling more than $21 billion.

So as his term enters its final months and as Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols has less than a month before moving on to do for Ochsner Health System what she’s done for the state, what’s another $500,000?

LouisianaVoice has learned that Nichols signed off on a $497,000 contract with ComPsych Corp. and its affiliate, FMLASource, Inc. of Chicago, to administer the state’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) program. FMLA CONTRACT

It is no small irony that Nichols signed off on the contract on May 19, less than two weeks after the legislative auditor’s report of May 6 which was highly critical of the manner in which contracts are issued with little or no oversight.

The latest contract removes the responsibility for approving FMLA for state employees and hands it over to yet another private contractor.

Apparently FMLA was just one more thing the Jindal administration has determined state employees are incapable of administering—even though they have done so since the act was approved by Congress in 1993.

Because no state employees stand to lose their jobs over this latest move, the contract would seem to simply be another consulting contract doled out by the administration, obligating the state to more unnecessary expenditures.

Whether it’s farming out the Office of Risk Management, Office of Group Benefits, funding voucher and charter schools, or implementing prison or hospital privatization—it’s obvious that Jindal has been following the game plan of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to the letter. That plan calls for privatizing virtually every facet of state government. If you don’t think the repeated cuts to higher education and health care were calculated moves toward ALEC’s goals, think again.

The contract runs from May 17, 2015 through May 16, 2016, and the state agreed to pay FMLAServices $1.45 per state employee per month up to the yearly maximum of $497,222.

Agencies for which FMLAServices will administer FMLA include the:

  • Division of Administration;
  • Department of Economic Development;
  • Department of Corrections;
  • Department of Public Safety;
  • Office of Juvenile Justice;
  • Department of Health and Hospitals;
  • Department of Children and Family Services;
  • Department of Revenue;
  • Department of Transportation and Development.

The legislative auditor’s report noted that there is really no way of accurately tracking the number or amount of state contracts. STATE CONTRACTS AUDIT REPORT

“As of November 2014, Louisiana had at least 14,693 active contracts totaling approximately $21.3 billion in CFMS. However, CFMS, which is used by OCR to track and monitor Executive Branch agency contract information, does not contain every state contract.

“Although CFMS, which is a part of the Integrated Statewide Information System (ISIS), tracks most contracts, primarily Executive Branch agencies use this system. For example, Louisiana State University obtained its own procurement tracking system within the last year, and most state regulatory boards and commissions do not use CFMS (Contract Financial Management System). As a result, there is no centralized database where legislators and other stakeholders can easily determine the actual number and dollar amount of all state contracts. Therefore, the total number and dollar amount of existing state contracts as of November 2014 could be much higher.”

The audit report also said:

  • State law (R.S. 39:1490) requires that OCR (Office of Contractual Review) adopt rules and regulations for the procurement, management, control, and disposition of all professional, personal, consulting, and social services contracts required by state agencies. According to OCR, it reviews these types of contracts for appropriateness of contract terms and language, signature authorities, evidence of funding and compliance with applicable laws, regulations, executive orders, and policies. OCR also reviews agencies’ procurement processes against competitive solicitation requirements of law. The contracting entity is responsible for justifying the need for the contract and conducting a cost-benefit analysis if required.
  • However, state law does not require that a centralized entity approve all state contracts.
  • According to the CFMS User Guide, OCR is only required to approve seven of the 20 possible contract types in CFMS. The remaining 13 types accounted for 8,068 contracts totaling approximately $6.2 billion as of November 2014. Exhibit 2 lists the 20 types of contracts in
  • CFMS and whether or not OCR is required to approve each type, including the total number and dollar amount of these contracts.
  • In fiscal year 2014, 72 agencies approved 4,599 contracts totaling more than $278 million.

The Office of Contractual Review was since been merged with the Office of State Procurement last Jan. 1.


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We couldn’t resist this one from our favorite cartoonist. (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

The timing could not have been better—or worse, depending upon your perspective.

But all things considered, Wednesday was a bad day for a certain Louisiana governor flailing away in a doomed quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

If he posed so much as a remote threat against any of his Republican opponents for the Republican presidential nomination, today’s events would surely be used against him in an campaign ad blitz. But he doesn’t and they won’t.

On the one hand, there was the survey released Wednesday (Sept. 24) by 24/7 Wall Street, the service that publishes all sorts of survey results from the best-selling cars to the worst-performing state governments. The latest survey shows Louisiana to be the fifth worst-educated state in the nation.

On the other, there was the story, also on Wednesday, that said Louisiana’s public colleges and universities have been told to “be prudent” with their current budgets—a not-so veiled way of saying get ready for more budget cuts.

The U.S., in case you haven’t been paying attention, has some of the most expensive college educations in the world—and the expenses have risen to record highs, the survey said. In fact, the cost of a college education has increased faster than the rate of inflation—24 percent just since 2012,

Only 22.9 percent of adults in Louisiana hold at least a bachelor’s degree, which ranks 46th in the nation and well below the national average of more than 30 percent. That puts the state two notches behind Alabama’s 23.5 percent and ranked higher than only Kentucky (22.2 percent), Arkansas (21.4 percent), Mississippi (21.1 percent), and West Virginia (19.2 percent). Massachusetts had the highest with 41.2 percent of its adults having attained at least a bachelor’s degree.

In fact, Louisiana ranks just ahead of our next door neighbor in so many surveys that rumor has it there may be a bill introduced in the next legislative session to change the state’s motto from “Union, Justice and Confidence” to “Hey, At Least We Aren’t Mississippi.”

Louisiana had the fourth lowest percentage (83.6 percent) of high school graduates.

Louisiana also ranked seventh lowest with a median household income of $44,555 in 2014 and even those among the 22.9 had the seventh lowest median earnings ($46,903) for bachelor degree holders. Even more depressing is the fact that the median income for holders of bachelor’s degrees managed to pull the overall median average up by less than $2,500 per year.

Nearly one in five Louisianians live below the poverty line, the third highest poverty rate in the nation. This, in a state with three of the 10 busiest ports in the nation (including the busiest, the Port of South Louisiana, and the 4th and 10th busiest, New Orleans and Baton Rouge) and three of the nation’s largest refineries (Marathon in Garyville, Exxon in Baton Rouge, and Citgo in Lake Charles).

Moreover, the state is embarrassingly rich in chemical plants, oil and gas reserves, sulfur, agriculture and seafood. But still we consistently lag behind the rest of the nation in every conceivable measure of progress and prosperity.

And yet, here we are, teetering at the edge of yet another midyear budget shortfall, or as State Treasurer John Kennedy said, “We have hit the trifecta, but not in a good way.” He was talking about the news that we have just learned that we’re going to have to make up for last fiscal year which ended June 30 with a deficit (though Bobby Jindal and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols won’t say how much). Together, Kennedy said, the combined shortfalls for last fiscal year and the current year combine to paint a bleak picture for next year as well, as the combined deficit is expected to approach $1 billion.

(Note to Kristy: Don’t let the door hit you on the backside as you exit next month on the way to grab your golden parachute with Ochsner Health System.)

Though the Jindal administration isn’t saying much about the latest crisis (you have to wonder how Bobby will spin this in his fiscal responsibility message on the GOP presidential campaign trail), Kennedy at least doesn’t duck the issue. He estimates it to be more than $100 million.

This budgetary news comes on top of the Medicaid shortfall of more than $300 million, a TOPS fund which is projected to be $19 million short and word that Jindal’s ill-fated hospital privatization plan has hit yet another major setback.

LSU, citing a breach of the public purpose, terminated its cooperative endeavor agreement with the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana (BRF) barely two years after the foundation took over operation of two north Louisiana hospitals.

Saying all avenues to resolve differences had been exhausted, LSU President F. King Alexander said that Academic Health of North Louisiana Hospital Management Co., Inc., will take over operation of University Health Shreveport and University Health Conway.

It was so bad for Jindal that he missed a golden opportunity when the Pope spoke to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

When President Obama visited New Orleans on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina last month, Jindal sent a message asking that the President not talk about climate change when he came here. But when he had the opportunity to offer that same advice to Pope Francis, Jindal, a Roman Catholic, remained mute.

Perhaps he was just too busy traveling around Iowa telling anyone who would listen (that would be Timmy Teepell and Kyle Plotkin) what a great job he has done as governor of Louisiana and how he is uniquely qualified to run the country.

We are reminded of the Winston Churchill quote about Clement Atlee that could be adapted so easily to our governor: An empty taxi pulled up in front of the Iowa caucus and Bobby Jindal got out.

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“No former elected official, including a legislator, no former member of a board or commission, nor agency head for two years shall assist another person for compensation in connection with a transaction, or render service on a contractual basis for or be employed/ appointed to any position involving the agency by which he or she was formerly employed or in which he/she formerly held office.” (LA Rev Stat § 42:1121)

“…Kristy Nichols is leaving the public sector to become Ochsner Health System’s vice president of government and corporate affairs, the Jindal administration announced today.” (Baton Rouge Business Report, Sept. 15, 2015)

So Nichols will be going to work for Ochsner as a lobbyist. And while state law precludes her lobbying the legislative or executive branches for two years, there appears to be no prohibition to her lobbying local governments (parishes and municipalities) on the part of Ochsner.

Kristy, anticipating the end of her boss’s rocky tenure in January, found her own golden parachute at Ochsner. We don’t know her salary at Ochsner, but we’re guessing it’ll be six figures. Taken at face value, that would normally be the end of the story.

But with this gang, there’s always more than meets the eye. And thanks to our friend C.B. Forgotston who helped us connect the dots, we’re able to shed a little more light into how she parlayed three years of repeated budget crises into such a high-profile private sector job.

Remember the great state hospital privatization fiasco and the contract with 50 blank pages? http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130602/INFO/306029998

The contract obligated the state to long-term spending obligations that will extend decades beyond the Jindal years. Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has yet to approve the deal. Instead, let’s explore the Nichols-Ochsner connection.

It was two years ago that the LSU Board of Supervisors signed off on that contract to hand over operation of state-owned hospitals in Lake Charles, Houma, Shreveport and Monroe. The blank pages were supposed to have contained lease terms. Instead, the LSU board left those minor details to the Jindal administration (read: Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols).

Eventually details about the contracts emerged, including that of the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma. And, thanks to the Louisiana Public Affairs Research Council, that is where we’re able to bring the picture into focus.

Leonard Chabert Medical Center was opened in 1978 as a 96-bed facility with 802 employees but by the time it was privatized, it was down to 63 beds.

In 2008, a hospital-based accredited Internal Medicine residency program was begun. In 2011, the hospital’s revenue was 47 percent uncompensated care for the uninsured, 29.5 percent Medicaid, 13 percent Medicare, 5.5 percent state general fund and 6 percent interagency transfer from other departments with only 1 percent being self-generated.

When the Jindal administration moved to unload state hospitals, Chabert was partnered with Southern Regional Medical Corp., a nonprofit entity whose only member is Terrebonne General Medical Center (TGMC).

TGMC was slated to manage Chabert with assistance with a company affiliated with (drum roll)…..Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest private not-for-profit health system with eight hospitals and 40 health centers statewide.

So what were the terms of the agreement? Five years with an automatic renewal after the first year in one-year increments to create a rolling five-year term.

Though Southern Regional is not required to pay rent under terms of the agreement, the Terrebonne Parish Hospital Service District No. 1 is required to make annual intergovernmental transfers of $17.6 million to the Medicaid program for Southern Regional and its affiliates. Here are the TERMS OF THE OCHSNER DEAL AT LEONARD CHABERT MEDICAL CENTER

Here’s the kicker: the cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) calls for supplemental payments of $31 million to Ochsner. It’s no wonder the Houma Daily Courier described the deal as “a valuable asset to Ochsner’s network of hospitals” and that the deal “expands Ochsner’s business profile.”

Between 2009 and 2013, Ochsner’s revenue doubled from $900 million to $1.8 billion and the deal only means more revenue for Ochsner, the Daily Courier said. http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20140325/articles/140329692?p=3&tc=pg

We’re certain it’s just coincidence that the LSU Board signed off on a blank contract that the Jindal administration would fill in after the fact.

And it’s just by chance that Kristy Nichols, as Commissioner of Administration, was responsible for that task.

And of course it was just happenstance that Ochsner received that $31 million payment and a mere two years later, just as her reign at DOA was ending, saw the need to bring Kristy aboard as vice president of government and corporate affairs.

So there you have it. All you have to do is follow the money.

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