Archive for the ‘Retirement’ Category

“If I closed my mind when I saw this man in the dust throwing some bones on the ground, semi-clothed, if I had closed him off and just said, ‘That’s not science, I am not going to see this doctor,’ I would have shut off a very good experience for myself and actually would not have discovered some things that he told me that I had to do when I got home to see my doctor.”

—State Sen. Elbert Guillory (R/D/R-Opelousas), defending Louisiana’s Science Education Act, the 2008 law that allows creationism to be taught in public school science classrooms during a Senate Education Committee hearing last May. 

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It looks as though they’re starting to get really thin-skinned on the fourth floor of the State Capitol.

First it was Timmy Teepell, the alter-ego for Gov. Bobby Jindal, who engaged Bob Mann in a Twitter war of words over the ice purchased for Hurricane Isaac. You will remember that the bottom line price for the ice was $28 per 10-pound bag after paying $7.1 million that included “loitering time” for truck drivers, ice purchases and restocking fees—and then allowing the ice to melt in an unrefrigerated storage building in St. Tammany Parish.

Now, Jindal’s assistant chief of staff Kyle Plotkin has weighed in with a few tweets of his own to Mann and his comments smack of juvenile playground retorts—not very dignified for someone who serves as Jindal’s public mouthpiece. Also not very mature for someone who has to know that any elected official, especially a governor, is going to be subjected to close scrutiny and criticism—by bloggers and voters. http://bobmannblog.com/2013/08/08/jindal-aide-to-bloggers-and-tweeters-shut-your-traps/#more-3038

“I knew that Gov. Bobby Jindal and his staff were intolerant of dissent,” Mann wrote in his introductory remarks. “Jindal has fired so many people who disagreed with him that we’ve all lost count.

“But until now, I assumed that the intolerance extended only to people who work for Jindal, not journalists and bloggers who critique Jindal’s leadership or policies. You know, citizens, who speak out in a democracy in a way that the Founders thought was essential for a strong democracy.

“But in Jindal’s world, dissent is not tolerated in any form. But at least they had the good sense to keep their intolerance of citizens’ commentary to themselves.

“Until Thursday night, that is.”

This time the exchange was over Mann’s repeated claim on his blog Something like the Truth that the administration, in its dogged pursuit of education “reform,” fails to take the state’s poverty rate into account when addressing school achievement.

“In every country, ever state, that has tried every possible reform, the achievement gap doesn’t close until poverty addressed,” Mann tweeted, followed by a quick “Oh yeah? So’s your old man” type retort by Plotkin.

“I’ve got an idea,” he fired back at Mann, “run 4 gov. Put ur ideas up 4 debate instead of just tweeting & complaining.”

Ouch. That’ll leave a mark. Did Plotkin somehow forget that Jindal’s approval ratings at the present time are in the 30-something percent range?

Mann, in an apparent effort to keep the exchange on a higher plane, responded, “You really think no one can legitimately criticize you without first running for office? Seriously?”

“If ur ideas are so great. (sic) Go try and change the world,” Plotkin sniffed back.

Referencing one of the worst episodes of any television series, Mann harkened back to the 1977 Happy Days episode in which Fonzie, in an effort to boost the show’s sinking ratings, jumped a shark while on water skis—thus giving birth to a term synonymous with acts of desperation. “You and your administration officially jumped the shark on that one,” he wrote.

At that point, education blogger Crazy Crawfish, who has gained a reputation for his research and documentation with his own blog about public education, chimed in with, “He’s got a point. Jindal and his disciples like Kyle Plotkin are changing the world. Just a shame it’s not for the better.”

Mann got in the last shots on his blog:

“Just contemplate what it means if that’s truly the opinion of (the) governor’s senior staff—that you shouldn’t speak out or criticize the governor unless you become a candidate for public office. Everyone else, keep quiet. The public sphere isn’t for mere citizens!!”

Mann said he feels his 14-year-old son’s tweets would be “more mature and more circumspect than Plotkin’s.

“And, unlike Plotkin, he also knows about the First Amendment,” he wrote.

It would be nice if these were the only examples of Jindal’s people putting their mouths in motion before putting their brains in gear. Or, in the vernacular of my late grandfather: letting one’s alligator mouth overload his jaybird backside.

Unfortunately, they appear not to be the exception, but a trend.

Back in early 2012, I had my own legitimacy called into question by the administration. When Jindal presented his Executive Budget to the legislature, Division of Administration (DOA) spokesman Michael Diresto was handing out copies of the budget to the media. When I stepped up to get one, he informed me they were only for members of the media who had offices in the press corps area of the Capitol.

I motioned to a reporter to whom he had just handed a copy and said, “He doesn’t have an office in the Capitol.”

“They’re for legitimate media only,” he said. “You’re not legitimate.”

Inasmuch as I was a “traditional” reporter for a quarter-century and I now cover state government for about a dozen newspapers statewide in addition to my blog, I was naturally curious as to what equated to legitimacy in his narrow view.

I eventually got a copy of the budget but only after appealing to then Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater.

And then there is retiring Congressman Rodney Alexander.

Alexander, whom Jindal offered the position of Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Veterans Affairs (he served six years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve) at $130,000 per year, apparently feels much the same way about the First Amendment.

Walter Abbott of Ruston has a blog called Lincoln Parish Online and on Thursday he alluded to an interview Alexander did with the Ouachita Citizen of West Monroe. In that interview, Alexander indicated he had a problem with social media and “non-traditional” news outlets such as blogs. http://lincolnparishnewsonline.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/alexander-unhappy-with-people-who-are-not-necessarily-in-the-news-business/

“The Facebook and all of that—people who are not necessarily in the news business—are driving what people do, and at times, that’s had a very negative impact on how the Congress operates.”

(Funny we didn’t hear him complain when Dan Rather was disgraced and forced into retirement by bloggers over that bogus Texas Air National Guard letter about George W. Bush.)

No, Congressman-cum-double dipper, bloggers aren’t the problem. Congress itself is the one dominating factor in the negative impact on how Congress operates. How dare you try to foist the inability of 535 lobbyist-purchased senators and representatives to accomplish squat onto a handful of bloggers. That’s a cop out and you know it.

Apparently, Alexander feels that the First Amendment is applicable only to those who are paid to write in traditional media, says blogger-attorney C.B. Forgotston of Hammond. “He blames the ills of our country on those of us who express our views in non-traditional ways,” C.B. wrote. “We caused Congress to be a do-nothing group. Yeah, right.

“If Alexander can’t take the heat of hearing from citizens of the United States, (it) isn’t going to be any more comfortable working on the state dole for Bobby Jindal. Yes, we have Internet in Louisiana,” Forgotston wrote.

“Rodney, if you are so concerned about the public outcry, perhaps you should refuse Jindal’s job offer and come back to Louisiana as a private citizen. You might find it educational to learn what it’s like to be a mere citizen and why we are upset with people like you who look down your nose at us.

“Meanwhile, get over yourself before you come back to our state.”

In his interview with the Ouachita Citizen, Alexander was less than candid about his future plans when asked. “Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “Something will come up.” http://www.ouachitacitizen.com/news.php?id=12879

That “something” already had come up. Jindal officially extended his offer of a job the day after his announcement that he would not seek re-election in 2014 but anyone who does not believe the fix was already in, has his head in the sand.

Here is the scenario:

Those in the employ of the state, including legislators, are eligible to retire at 2.5 percent of the average of their three highest-earning years times the number of years of service. An employee making an average of $50,000 for a minimum of three years who retires after 20 years, for example, would retire at $25,000 per year. ($50,000 X .025 X 20).

Alexander served in the legislature 15 years, from January 1988 to January 2003, at which time he entered Congress. While he took out his contributions to the state retirement system (LASERS), he would have the option of buying back his time when he begins his new job. The retirement benefits for legislators, based on salaries of less than $20,000 and his years of service would not be that much, but if he remains on the job for the duration of Jindal’s term (three-plus years) at $130,000, the numbers change rather dramatically.

Because of his age, if he chooses to buy back his time, his retirement would be at 3.5 percent of $15,000 (an arbitrary figure; it was probably less back then), times 15 years of service would come to $7,875 per year.

But take an average of $130,000 per year and add three more years to his tenure and his retirement income would take quite a jump. Suddenly, at 3.5 percent of $130,000 times 18 years, that retirement increases more than tenfold, to $81,900 per year—in addition to his federal retirement (based on his 10-year tenure and his final three-year average salary of $174,000), plus his Social Security benefits.

No wonder Alexander and the Jindal administration hold bloggers in such low esteem: we can do the math.

Perhaps those of you reading this would wish to email Plotkin at kyle.plotkin@la.gov

or call the governor’s office at 225-342-7015 to let them know that you can do the math, too—just for fun, of course.

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Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe, wants people to know he’s serious.

He has already pre-filed SB 41, which calls for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot which, if approved, would make the state superintendent of education and elective position as opposed to the current appointive one.

Kostelka also wants it understood that he wants current Superintendent John White to go.

He says he has seen enough of bloated contracts granted to politically-connected firms. He has seen his fill of contracts like the one that teaches kids how to play at recess. He has heard quite enough about contracts awarded to PR hacks to work out of their homes in other states for outlandish figures like $12,000 per month.

Most of all though he has grown weary of trying to obtain information and records from the secretive Louisiana Department of Education—and repeatedly encountering a brick wall of resistance.

And he is more than a little concerned about the approval of vouchers for schools which have no classrooms, no teachers and no desks—like New Living Word in Ruston.

And while he didn’t say so, he seemed to take some bit of pleasure in knowing that his bill has come under fire from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief apologist, Jeff Sadow.

Kostelka claim that the bill would make the superintendent answerable to the people instead of a rubber-stamp Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) was described by Sadow as a “curious mix of ignorance and illogic.”

Sadow chose to fall back on the argument that most of the BESE members are already elected and “answerable to the people,” apparently choosing to ignore the fact that most of the elected members’ seats were bought by out of state contributions from such people as Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, the Walton family and K-12.

Sadow also says Kostelka seems to have forgotten the “policy-making mess” that existed under the elected superintendent structure that existed prior to 1988. In saying that, Sadow appears to be overlooking the ever-evolving “policy-making mess” that is indicative of today’s DOE under a superintendent who doesn’t seem to have a clue where he intends to go or what he intends to do when he gets there.

“People like Mr. Sadow say I want to return to old-time politics,” Kostelka said. “To that, I would have them look at the political contributions to the BESE members and then explain to me what has changed under the present system.”

“They say my bill would cost the state the expense of another election, but it wouldn’t. I’m calling for the election to be held in the fall of 2014 at the same time as the Congressional elections, so there would be no additional costs. If approved, the elected superintendent would take effect with the 2015 gubernatorial election and White could leave with Jindal,” he said.

Kostelka is well aware that he has run afoul of the petulant Jindal and is certain to incur the governor’s wrath. His punishment could range from a loss of committee assignments to vetoes of key projects in Kostelka’s senate district. All one has to do is harken back to last year’s session when Jindal vetoed a major construction project in Livingston Parish after Rep. Rogers Pope and Sen. Dale Erdy had the temerity to buck Jindal on legislative matters important to the governor.

If that isn’t old-time politics, we don’t know what is.

But Jindal has proved beyond any doubt that he is not above such tactics.

But, at long last, those tactics appear to be coming back to bit him in the backside.

He has demoted legislators, fired a BESE member, an LSU president, doctors, various department and agency heads, appointed legislator buddies (Noble Ellington, Troy Hebert, et al) to six-figure deadhead jobs and in at least one case—that of Hebert—that appointment appears to be a major embarrassment to the administration.

But even after all of that, nothing compares to the damage done to his political stock as the recent dust-up with the Board of Regents.

Send in the clowns

As is his M.O., Jindal attempted to distance himself from the action—perhaps as a means of attempting to maintain deniability, a ploy that has consistently served him badly—by dispatching an emissary to do his dirty work. In this case, it was Taylor Teepell, brother of Timmy Teepell who seems to be running his OnMessage political consulting operation from the governor’s fourth-floor offices in the State Capitol.

What was Taylor’s mission? Nothing less than to demand the firing of Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. James Purcell. Purcell, you see, committed the unpardonable sin of criticizing Jindal’s repeated cuts to higher education. There is no run for dissention on Team Jindal.

But Taylor Teepell got a major surprise. Regents Chairman W. Clinton “Bubba” Rasberry, Jr. sent Teepell back to Jindal with a message: “Dr. Purcell works for the Regents.”

Whoa. Herr Jindal is not accustomed to such spunk from his subordinates. The governor does, after all, appoint the Regents members and he expects all appointees to toe the line, not draw a line in the sand.

Of course, Jindal could fire the entire board and replace the recalcitrant members with more compliant sycophants. But his brazen attempt to oust Purcell for the sin of independent thinking probably did more harm to Jindal than anything else he has done in his five-plus years in office. This attempt, coming as it did on the heels of three major court reversals of his education and retirement reforms and the word last week of a federal investigation into a contract with the Department of Health and Human Resources, has left him politically crippled.

And his blatant, quixotic pursuit of the presidency would be laughable were it not such a pathetic sight to behold. It somehow makes him look even smaller, more the little boy, in his ill-fitting suits.

Seeing his presidential aspirations slip away raises yet another spectacle that he would probably rather no one would know about. When he encountered occasional crises during his tenure as head of the University of Louisiana System, rather than facing the problems head-on, his solution of choice was to retreat to his office where he is said to have played video games virtually non-stop.

One must be wondering what video games he prefers these days. League of Legends, perhaps?

As one observer recently said, the Jindal waters appear to be circling the drain.

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Whenever Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks, be it on Fox News, CNN, to fellow Republican governors or at a rare press conference such as the one held on Thursday, his threefold purpose always seems to be to inflate weak ideology, obscure poor reasoning and inhibit clarity.

His less-than-masterful tax plan for the state, which he admitted to reporters is like so many of his ill-conceived programs in that it actually remains a non-plan, might well be entitled “The Dynamics of Irrational and Mythical Imperatives of Tax Reform: A Study in Psychic Trans-Relational Fiscal Recovery Modes” (with apologies to Calvin and Hobbes, our all-time favorite comic strip).

It’s not certain what drives him to wade off into these issues (see: hospital and prison closures, higher education cutbacks, charter schools, online courses and vouchers, state employee retirement “reform,” and privatization of efficiently-operating state agencies like the Office of Group Benefits) but his actions are probably precipitated by deeply ingrained biological, psychological and sociological imperatives that have triggered a reduced functionality in the cerebral cortex (Pickles).

Or it could be some depraved attempt to inflict vengeance on society because his two imaginary childhood friends teased him and wouldn’t let him play with them.

And though he insists he has the job he wants, we can’t help but wonder if he isn’t even now casting a covetous sidelong look at the advantages of plundering (Frazz) in case his presidential aspirations fail to materialize.

The reason for all this speculation is brought on by his admission in that ever-so-brief (less than 12 minutes or six question, whichever came first) press conference Thursday that the administration does not have a proposal as yet to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes despite his well-publicized announcement that he wants to scrap state income taxes for individuals and corporations (especially corporations) in a “revenue neutral” way that would most likely involve increased sales taxes.

But he doesn’t have a proposal yet.

Are you listening, legislators? He doesn’t have a proposal yet. That means the onus is going to be on you and if he doesn’t have his way with you (as he has for the past five years—and you can take that any way you please), he’s going public with the blame game.

If everything goes south, you don’t really think he’s going to take the blame, do you?

He doesn’t have a proposal yet. Now we see where State Superintendent John White gets his prompts on running the Department of Education. White has not submitted a completed plan for any project begun at DOE since he took over; everything—vouchers, charters, course choice—is in a constant state of flux. He announces rules, retracts, readjusts, re-evaluates only to lose a lawsuit over the way his boss proposed to fund state vouchers.

Jindal doesn’t have a proposal—for anything. His retirement “reform” package for state employees was a disaster from the get go. Even before he lost yet another court decision on that issue in January, the matter of whether or not the proposed plan for new hires was an IRS-qualified plan—meaning a plan the IRS would accept in lieu of social security—remained unresolved.

He didn’t have a proposal: let’s just do it and see later if the IRS will accept it. Throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.

Remember when he vetoed a bill two years ago to renew a five-cent tax on cigarettes because, he said, he was opposed to new taxes (it was a renewal!)? Well, now he’s considering a $1 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes.

“Everything is on the table,” he said. “That’s the way it should be.”

But isn’t he the same governor who closed hospitals and prisons without so much as a heads-up to legislators in the areas affected.

Isn’t he the same governor who rejected a federal grant to make boardband internet available to rural areas of the state but had no alternative plan for broadband?

Isn’t he the same governor who continues to resist ObamaCare at the cost of millions of dollars in Medicaid funding to provide medical care for the state’s poor?

He said he is looking at different ways to protect low- and middle-income citizens.

By increasing the state sales tax by nearly two cents on the dollar? By rejecting another $50 million federal grant for early childhood development? By shuttering battered women’s shelters and attempting to terminate state funding for hospice? By pushing for more and more tax breaks for corporations and wealthy Louisiana citizens? By appointing former legislators to six-figure state jobs for which they’re wholly unqualified while denying raises to the state’s working stiffs? Yeah, that’ll really protect the low income people of the state.

“It’s way too early to make decisions on what’s in and out of the plan,” he said of the soon-to-be proposed (we assume) income tax re-haul.

Well, Governor, it’s your job to make decisions, to come up with a proposal to present to the legislature so House and Senate members may have sufficient time to debate the issues—unlike your sweeping education package of a year ago.

In your response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this week (not your disastrous response in 2009 in which the Republican Party subjected you to national ridicule), you said, “With four more years in office, he (Obama) needs to step up to the plate and do the job he was elected to do.”

That’s right, folks. You can’t make up stuff this good. The response is so easy that it’s embarrassing but here goes:

Pot, meet Kettle.

In retrospect, drawing on comic strip for inspiration when writing about Jindal somehow seems entirely appropriate.

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You have to give Gov. Piyush Jindal credit—he has chutzpah.

Jindal, to paraphrase Bill Murray (Dr. Peter Venkman), Harold Ramis (Dr. Egon Spengler) and Dan Aykroyd (Dr. Raymond Stantz) of Ghostbusters fame, ain’t afraid of no state constitution.

And he ain’t afraid of throwing good taxpayer dollars after bad to prove it.

Last November, Baton Rouge District Judge Tim Kelley shot down Jindal’s far-ranging school voucher program when he ruled it was unconstitutional for the state to use funds—about $25 million this year—dedicated for public education to pay private-school tuition.

Then late last month, another Baton Rouge District Judge, William Morvant, ruled the administration’s 401 (k)-type pension plan scheduled to take effect July 1 for future state employees also was unconstitutional because it had passed the legislature by a simple majority vote and not by the necessary two-thirds majority.

Taking his cue from Admiral David Farragut at the Aug. 5, 1864, Battle of Mobile Bay, Jindal shouted to his minions on the fourth floor of the State Capitol something that sounded like, “Damn the Constitution, full speed ahead!”

Or maybe it was, “Damn the legal costs, full speed ahead!”

He said it kinda fast, so it was hard to understand, really.

It might have even been, “Damn those Republican judges, full appeal ahead!”

Kelley’s ruling was “wrong-headed” and “a travesty for parents across Louisiana,” Jindal sniffed after last November’s setback. We’re not sure of “wrong-headed” is an acceptable term in a court of law but hey, he’s the governor so who are we to quibble? After all, legend has it that a Texas cowboy in the old West successfully defended himself on a murder charge with the defense that his late adversary “needed killing.”

“We are optimistic this decision will be reversed,” said State Education Superintendent John White (An attempt by LouisianaVoice to determine from which law school White holds his juris doctorate was unsuccessful.)

“We are disappointed in the court’s ruling and we look forward to a successful appeal,” Piyush said of Morvant’s ruling on the pension plan. “We’re confident that the bill was constitutionally passed,” he added. (As with White, efforts to learn where the governor obtained his degree in constitutional law were fruitless.)

So, having already spent thousands of dollars at the district court level, he now will contract with outside counsel (eschewing the attorney general’s office right across the Lake from the Capitol) to take both cases to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Not only is he tossing good taxpayer money after bad, but he also is forcing the Retired State Employees Association of Louisiana, two teachers unions and dozens of local school boards to spend membership money and local tax dollars to continue the fight to uphold the lower court rulings.

Perhaps the governor should take a look at his latest poll numbers (37 percent approval rating) and try to understand that he can’t always get his way even though he and his $10 million campaign war chest did collect 66 percent of a 20 percent voter turnout in his re-election just over a year ago—against a field that included as his strongest opponent a school teacher with no money. And the teacher, Tara Hollis, still got 18 percent of the vote.

So what if 80 percent of the Louisiana voters stayed home? Sixty-six percent is a mandate!

A former middle school teacher said even as a child his mindset was such that he always had to have his way and that it was simply inconceivable that he might be wrong.

But this isn’t middle school and even by spending thousands more of taxpayer money, he still isn’t likely to get his way.

Ever see a governor throw a tantrum? Stand by. It might even qualify as a hissy fit.

Who you gonna call?

Constitution Busters, aka Bobby Jindal, Timmy Teepell and Jimmy Faircloth!

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Sneaky. Duplicitous. Underhanded. Deceitful. Devious. Dishonest. Fraudulent. Mendacious. Untruthful. Despicable.

Those are just a few words to describe the latest tactic employed by Jindal-Teepell & Co. in the administration’s ongoing almost five-year campaign of deliberate misinformation, distortion and obfuscation in an effort to conceal the state’s business from the public.

We normally attempt to mix in a little humor, sarcasm and snarky comments when we write about Piyush, but his act is beginning to wear a little thin.

Between his flitting about the entire country while ignoring pressing problems at home, lying to the public, making himself inaccessible to state media (while courting Fox Network, CNN, and other national media) and running roughshod over state employees, legislators, and anyone else who appears even slightly hessitant to drink his Kool-Aid, he simply is no longer funny.

His coy response to inquiries about national political aspirations that he “has the job he wants” no longer sells.

His insistence that he has “the most transparent, open and accountable” administration in Louisiana history is nothing more than a blatant lie. And like Joseph Goebbels, he apparently believes that if he tells a lie, makes it big enough and repeats it often enough, people will believe it.

Some do. Many of his adoring followers appear to reside north of Alexandria. But those numbers are growing smaller as more and more the citizens of this state are beginning to peel away the layers of pseudo purity, honesty and sincerity with which he has camouflaged himself so as to hide the real Piyush.

This squeaky clean governor refused to return $55,000 in campaign funds illegally laundered through a bank in St. Tammany Parish. His (or Timmy Teepell’s) explanation was that the money was accepted in good faith, so it is Jindal’s to keep. We suppose if he deposited a campaign check that subsequently bounced, Teepell would also suggest that the bank should not look to the campaign for reimbursement because it was “accepted in good faith.”

The long and short of it is this guy cannot be trusted. He will say or do whatever is politically expedient which makes him no different than any other snake oil salesman. He has, it turns out, no moral compass, no conscience and no soul.

But when a governor—or any of his minions—touting his openness and transparency instructs his staff to use private email accounts when discussing state business so as to avoid disclosure under the state’s public records laws, something is terribly lacking in the overall character makeup of the man with whom we have entrusted the state’s leadership.

That’s the story broken by enterprising AP reporter Melinda Deslatte on Monday.

For those of you who still believe Piyush is straightforward and honest with the voters of this state, let’s recap Deslatte’s story.

The Associated Press, she wrote, received copies of emails not provided in response to public records requests that revealed non-state government email addresses were used literally dozens of times by state officials last summer.

The subject of those emails dealt with a public relations campaign for slashing $523 million from the state Medicaid budget.

Piyush can’t even be original with that practice; former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had initiated the practice during her administration before her 2008 campaign for vice president. So did former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Both got busted.

And now, Mr. Clean is caught with dirty fingers. It is nothing more than a sneaky effort to circumvent state law and Piyush should be held accountable for it.

For 144 state legislators who have shrunk from confronting Piyush, this should serve as a wakeup call; after all, they were also being kept in the dark on this.

One would think closing state prisons without giving area legislators a heads-up would have stirred legislative grumbling.

One would presume that closing hospitals without informing legislators would create some type of legislative backlash.

One would assume that demoting four legislators from committee assignments would bring lawmakers together in a united front.

One would think that firing a university president, agency heads, rank and file employees, and physicians would provoke a public outcry.

One would be wrong on all counts; this, apparently, is a state of sheeple who either have their heads where only their proctologists can find them or just don’t give a damn.

Apparently the only ones who bother to keep informed and who care about what is happening are those directly affected: teachers who are constantly denigrated by an absentee governor who chose as his chief of staff/right-hand man one Timmy Teepell, a man who was home schooled and knows not one whit about what public school teachers go through in dealing with discipline problems, apathetic parents or inadequate classroom resources (that have to be made up out of the teachers’ pockets). Nor do Jindal-Teepell realize—or care—that many teachers remain at school long after the last student has gone home and who work far into the night on lesson plans and grading papers. In short, they don’t have a clue.

There also are college administrators and professors who see their budgets being chopped in half and students who see their tuition costs rising by 40 percent against already prohibitive student loans. And to think, this governor chose as his campaign manager/right-hand man one Timmy Teepell who never set foot in a college classroom and who names to the board of supervisors of the state’s flagship university a man who has one semester of college.

And there are those state employees who have been privatized out of their careers and who faced the very real possibility earlier this year of seeing their retirement benefits slashed by as much as 85 percent (and remember, state employees are not eligible for social security benefits).

And to think, this governor announced that Teepell was leaving his administration in November of 2011 to head up the Baton Rouge office of OnMessage, a Virginia political consulting firm. Only problem is, OnMessage, a year later still has no local address or local telephone number and Teepell’s vehicle is parked on practically a daily basis in the rear parking lot of the State Capitol. Could he be running his private Baton Rouge OnMessage office out of the governor’s office? Hard to say because no one in the governor’s office is talking. But Jindal’s non-profit propaganda organization, Believe in Louisiana, has paid Teepell, through OnMessage, hundreds of thousands of dollars since Teepell supposedly left the governor’s office.

The emails were provided to AP by an administration official who, for obvious reasons, asked not to be identified. That makes us wonder if it could have been the same administration official who once told LouisianaVoice that Jindal was “dysfunctional.”

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, apparently backed into a transparent corner said, “Certainly we believe that conducting public business, even when using personal means of communication, is subject to public records law.”

How disingenuous can one be, given the fact that this administration has hidden behind something called the “deliberative process” since Day One?

The emails obtained by AP, however, were not included in the 3,800 documents and emails provided by the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) in response to a request for information on discussions surrounding the health care cuts. So where was the public records law on that occasion, Kristy?

In one email exchange, Calder Lynch, a health policy adviser to DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein, instructed a communications employee to send certain types of items to Lynch’s personal Gmail account instead of his state government email address.

That should come as no surprise to anyone. It was Greenstein, after all, who at his Senate confirmation hearing in June of 2011 refused to divulge the name of the winner of a 10-year, $300 million state Medicaid contract.

It turned out that the winner was a company called CNSI, a company for whom Greenstein had previously been employed. Once the name of the company was released—and then only after senators all but threatened Greenstein with thumbscrews—Greenstein insisted that he had built a “firewall” between him and the selection process and that he had had no contact with the company during that process.

Emails—state emails, no less—however, revealed that Greenstein had been in constant communication with his former employer prior to and during the selection of the contract winner.

Such is the definition of transparency and accountability in this administration.

The question that remains now is just how much longer will the state’s citizens—and a mostly compliant legislature, complete with a lapdog House Speaker (neutered, of course) and equally ambitious Senate President—continue to let Piyush Jindal make a laughingstock of the state and a cruel joke of the strictly theoretical definition of the separation of powers, checks and balances and three branches of government?

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First it was a federal judge who threw out Piyush Jindal’s voucher plan in Tangipahoa Parish because it posed a major setback to the parish’s current desegregation consent decree.

Then, last Friday, a state district judge, Tim Kelley, whose wife once worked for Piyush, said the method of appropriations to fund the statewide voucher program is unconstitutional.

Fast on the heels of Kelley’s ruling, fellow Baton Rouge District Judge William Morvant refused to throw out a lawsuit challenging the only part of Piyush’s far-reaching retirement reform proposals that survived the legislative session earlier this year.

In case you’re counting, that’s oh-for-three—not a good batting average for the governor who would be president.

Keep in mind that Piyush is the incoming chairman of the National Republican Governors’ Association.

Remember, too, that he thought he would be moving into that position in the hope that it would be the launching pad for his presidential aspirations. To do so, he needed to bring something substantial to the table.

That something was to be sweeping education reform. That was to be the centerpiece of his list of grand accomplishments, the bold-face type on his curriculum vitae.

Now, the status of both education and retirement reform are suddenly in jeopardy.

Suddenly the star of the errand boy of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) doesn’t shine quite so brightly.

What to do?

The obvious answer would be to teague someone. That practice, after all, has served him well in the past. No college president, attorney, doctor, agency head, legislator or rank-and-file state employee will dare rebuke Piyush lest he or she be shown the door.

There was a time when we would have run a recap of those teagued by this peevish little man, but the list has grown so long that it would take up far too much space.

On reflection, however, one must ask just what are Piyush’s alternatives?

Well, normally he could campaign against the re-election of judges Kelley and Morvant—except he already did the anti-judge campaign thingy in Iowa.

He can’t teague the federal judge; he was appointed by the president.

He can’t teague either of the state judges—Kelley or Morvant—because they were elected by voters of the 19th Judicial District.

He can’t teague Jimmy Faircloth, the attorney who so expertly represented the interests of the state in arguing on behalf of the voucher program because Faircloth was working under a contract that ends when all appeals are exhausted—about $100,000 or so down the road.

He can’t teague Angéle Davis, wife of Judge Kelley because she already resigned her position as Commissioner of Administration.

He can’t teague the legislator who introduced the education bills because they were not written by any Louisiana elected official but by the corporate honchos at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

He might consider teaguing Superintendent of Education John White since there are already unconfirmed rumors floating around that he is leaving soon.

But there is a far better option open to Piyush:

He could take a page from the playbook of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

It’s such a simple solution we’re surprised no one has thought of it before.

All he has to do is first invoke that obscure nullification clause which several states unhappy with last month’s presidential election are bantering about—the one that says states can unilaterally ignore a federal law they don’t like. Or even opt out of the union itself. Some in Texas are talking about splitting off and breaking the state into five separate states (pure lunacy, but a philosophy that dovetails nicely with that of the Tea Party).

Then, like Morsi, Jindal can unilaterally decree greater authority for himself, including issuing a declaration that the wrong-headed courts are henceforth barred from challenging his decisions.

(Come to think of it, such a move is not exactly unprecedented. President Andrew Jackson said of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that the state of Georgia could not impose its laws on Cherokee tribal lands, “(Chief Justice) John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”)

After that, he could even take it a step further and, like North Korea’s late Kim Jong-il, bestow upon himself the title of “Dear Leader,” and, again like Kim Jong-il, commission a song of the same name in his honor.

Think about it. If he were to take that action, he could sell prisons, the old insurance building property, hospitals, roads, universities, the Saints and the Zephyrs, not to mention a few state-owned golf courses and state parks.

That water from Toledo Bend Reservoir? Sold. Gone to Texas and a few select political cronies are even richer than before.

And you only think you’ve seen a lot of corporate tax breaks, incentives and exemptions. Once he issues his decree, corporate taxes would disappear into that sink hole in Assumption Parish.

All state employees who aren’t fired outright (to be replaced by telecommuting administrative types from Florida, California, Alabama and elsewhere) would immediately forfeit all health and retirement benefits—except for friendly former legislators who, of course, would be elevated to six-figure salaries with full benefits.

The Department of Civil Service, public schools and the State Ethics Board would become distant memories for the nostalgic among us.

Of course, were he to take such action, he could always say his decision was predicated “by three things: one, to protect needed reform packages; two, to streamline government so at the end of the day, we can do more with less, and three, I have the job I want.”

Opponents could be expected to condemn his decrees as heavy-handed and dictatorial but what else would you expect from those who represent the coalition of the status quo?

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The procedure for laying off up to 121 employees of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) has been initiated by the Jindal administration in the aftermath of the privatization of the OGB Preferred Provider Organization (PPO).

A memorandum dated Aug. 23 has been circulated to OGB employees by Steven Procopio of the Office of Human Resources in the Division of Administration setting the effective date of the staff reductions as Jan. 2, 2013.

The layoffs must be approved by the State Civil Service Board but the board on Aug. 1 approved the awarding of the contract for the PPO to Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BCBS) of Louisiana, so the consideration of the layoff proposal should be little more than a formality by the board which has demonstrated a propensity to roll over and play dead for the administration.

BCBS already is the TPA for the state’s HMO.

Positions affected by the termination notice are in Internal Audit, Administration, Quality Assurance, Fiscal, Flexible Benefits/Imaging Services, Legal and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Compliance, Customer Service, Information Technology, Claims and Provider Services.

Employees of these offices are domiciled in the parishes of East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Lafayette, Ouachita, Caddo, Calcasieu and Rapides.

The BCBS assumption of the third party administrator (TPA) duties for the PPO is scheduled to take effect with the beginning of the new calendar year in January.

Gov. Piyush Jindal and Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater have consistently insisted that the state should not be in the insurance business and that a private entity can administer insurance claims on behalf of state employees more cheaply and more efficiently than the state—despite OGB’s having built reserves of $500 million over the past half-dozen years.

Several independent studies have intimated that premiums are likely to increase after the first year because a private TPA will face the double whammy of the need to show a profit and the requirement to pay taxes on profits—factors the state never had to consider when it administered the claims.

Jindal, who made a point of voicing his concern and respect for state employees when he ran for governor has shown little, if any, of either sentiment since becoming governor. In fact, he has consistently attacked state employees at every turn including the orchestration of failed attempts to dismantle Civil Service and to gut the state employee retirement system—both to the detriment of state workers.

Jindal, after failing to sell state prison facilities, simply closed two of them and then announced the closure of Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville without notifying the legislative delegation in that part of the state—a delegation which until then had been fiercely loyal to him.

The closure of the Mandeville facility will adversely affect more than 500 employees and up to 170 inpatient recipients of mental health care. Moreover, with its closure, there will be no state facility offering mental health care for an entire section of the state that includes the parishes of Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, Washington, Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Jefferson.

Other state medical facilities and LSU teaching hospitals also are threatened by the lost of some $800 million in Medicaid funding and higher education also has taken a major hit with near catastrophic budgetary cutbacks.

Yet, as all this economic train wreck careens out of control down the tracks, Jindal continues to travel the country—initially auditioning for the vice presidential nomination on Mitt Romney’s ticket and when that failed, soldiering on as the dutiful lap dog in support of the Republic Party that has relegated him to a minor speaking role at next week’s GOP convention.

Hardly an appropriate token of appreciation, considering all he has done on behalf of his second choice for the nomination while ignoring a state falling apart back home.

The leadership vacuum experienced by Louisiana during this administration is not what one would expect to read of in Jindal’s book Leadership and Crisis, now is it?

The real of the crisis, after all, is his abysmal lack of leadership.

If, as New Orleans’ Gambit so succinctly pointed out, he truly has the job he loves, he should return to Louisiana to address the myriad of problems facing the state and in so doing, put his money (read: efforts) where only his mouth has been.

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The clock has run out on Gov. Bobby Jindal and like the Honey Badger, he’s now yesterday’s news insofar as any aspirations either one may have had for bigger and better things.

Realistically, time had run out on Louisiana’s wunderkind some time ago even though like a loyal trooper, he keeps soldiering on—perhaps hoping for a prestigious cabinet position like Secretary of Health and Human Services, something he denies aspiring to.

“I would not consider a cabinet post,” he sniffed like the spoiled little boy that he is after being passed over for the vice presidential nomination by Mitt Romney. “I consider being the governor of Louisiana to be more important and the best job there is.” Well, it is the only job he has for the moment and if he doesn’t challenge Mary Landrieu in 2014, we’re stuck with him through 2015.

Break out the champagne.

We can only surmise that Secretary of Education is out of the question since both Romney and Paul Ryan advocate that department’s abolishment in favor of state and local control (read: vouchers), although Romney has tempered his position somewhat.

But Jindal’s real quandary is not that he was passed over for vice president, but that he needs desperately to advance his career quickly—before all his “reforms” as governor come crashing down around him, doing even more damage to his reputation than that disastrous response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address in 2009.

That image as the crusading reformer who gets things done against all odds is already beginning to wear thin in Louisiana and it’s only a matter of time before the national media begin to take a critical look at his administration. The Washington Post and New York Times already have.

Beginning with his repeal of the Stelly Plan only a few months into his first term—the move is costing the state about $300 million a year while benefiting only couples earning more than $150,000 per year or individuals making $90,000 per year—through this year’s veto of a car rental tax renewal for New Orleans, Jindal his consistently found ways to cut taxes while doling out tax breaks to corporate entities.

In 2011, the legislature could not muster the votes to override a Jindal veto of a cigarette tax renewal and the renewal had to go before voters in the form of a constitutional amendment—which easily passed.

While he defiantly categorizes tax renewals as “new taxes,” to which he is adamantly opposed, he has no compunctions about cutbacks to higher education that force colleges and universities to increase tuition. He considers the tuition hikes as “fees,” not taxes.

While turning up his nose at federal grants for early childhood development ($60 million), broadband internet installation in rural parishes ($80.6 million) and for a high-speed rail system between Baton Rouge and New Orleans ($300 million), Jindal, upon slashing funding for parish libraries throughout the state, apparently saw no inconsistency in suggesting that the libraries apply for federal monies in lieu of state funding.

The grumblings began ever-so-slowly but they have been growing steadily. The legislature, albeit the right-wing Tea Party splinter clique of the Republican Party, finally stood up to Jindal toward the end of this year’s legislative session and refused to give in on the governor’s efforts to use one-time revenue to close a gaping hole in the state budget.

Other developments that did not bode well for the governor include:

• A state budget that lay in shambles, resulting in mid-year budget cuts of $500 million because of reductions in revenue—due largely to the roughly $5 billion per year in corporate tax breaks;

• Unexpected cuts to the state’s Medicaid program by the federal government which cost the state $859 million, including $329 million the first year to hospitals and clinics run by Louisiana State University—about a quarter of the health system’s annual budget. Those cuts will mean the loss of medical benefits for about 300,000 indigent citizens in Louisiana;

• Failed efforts to privatize state prisons, even though he did manage to close two prison facilities and a state hospital without bothering to notify legislators in the areas affected—a huge bone of contention for lawmakers who, besides having their own feathers ruffled, had to try and explain the sudden turn of events to constituents;

• Revelation that he had refused to return some $55,000 in laundered campaign funds from a St. Tammany bank president;

• Failed efforts to revamp the state employee retirement system for civil service employees. State police were exempted—perhaps because they form his security detail. And despite questions about the tax or Social Security implications, Jindal plans to plunge ahead with implementation of the part of the plan that did pass without the benefit of a ruling by the IRS—a ruling that could ultimately come back to bite him;

• A failed effort by the Sabine River Authority to sell water to a corporation headed up by two major Jindal campaign contributors—Donald “Boysie” Bollinger of Lockport and Aubrey Temple of DeRidder;

• A school voucher system that is nothing less than a train wreck, a political nightmare. State Education Superintendent John White, after Jindal rushed the voucher program through the legislature, rushed the vetting process for the awarding of vouchers through the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, abetted by members Penny Dastugue, Jay Guillot and Chas Roemer—quickly turning the entire process into a pathetic farce;

• A school in New Orleans run by a man calling himself an “Apostle,” a school in Ruston with no facilities—classrooms, desks, books or teachers—for the 165 vouchers for which the school was approved, tentative approval of vouchers for a school in DeRidder that could not even spell “scholarship” on its sign and for a school in Westlake that teaches that the “Trail of Tears” led many Native Americans to Christianity, that dragons were real, that dinosaurs and humans co-existed at the beginning of time (6,000 years ago, the approximate age of earth, according to its textbooks), that slave owners in America were kind, benevolent masters who treated slaves well, and that the Ku Klux Klan was a helpful reform-minded organization with malice toward none (Don’t laugh, folks; this is what many of these fundamentalist schools who qualified for vouchers are teaching.);

• Then there’s that charter school in Delhi that held girls to a slightly higher standard than boys. Any girl who became pregnant was expelled and any girl even suspected of being pregnant may be ordered to undergo an examination by a doctor of the school’s choice. The boy who gets her pregnant? Nothing. No punishment, no responsibility. Only after being subjected to public exposure, ridicule and criticism did the school alter its policy;

• A state legislator who said she approved of vouchers for Christian schools but not for an Islamic school in New Orleans because this country was founded on the Christian principles of the founding fathers, neglecting for the moment that the founding fathers were for the most part, Deists;

• And to top it all off, White smiles condescendingly and tells us that the criteria applied for approval of vouchers for these schools is part of the “deliberative process,” a catch-all exemption employed by the administration when it doesn’t wish to provide what are clearly public records—an administration, by the way, that touts its so-called “transparency.” Fortunately for the public, the Monroe News-Star is taking White’s pompous behind to court over that decision. (Confidentially, it is the humble opinion of LouisianaVoice that White never had any criteria and that he is creating policy and criteria on the fly because he simply is in way over his inexperienced, unqualified head as the leader of the agency charged with the education of our children. And that perhaps is the most shameful aspect of the entire voucher system and the single biggest act of betrayal on the part of a governor equally overwhelmed by the responsibilities of public office—especially an absentee governor.)

So as the Jindal Express rumbles down the track like a bad motorcycle going 90 miles per hour down a dead-end street (with apologies to Hank Snow) and things begin to unravel on the home front, just where is this absentee governor?

Well, it seems that rather than remain in the state and address the problems that are piling up and growing more complex with each passing day, he seems to prefer to spend his time stumping for Romney—or auditioning for a cabinet position he says he won’t accept—after seeing his chances for the vice presidency fall by the wayside.

A mature governor, a caring governor, a capable governor—one who is truly concerned about the welfare of his state—would defer from flitting all over the country spouting rhetoric on behalf of his presidential candidate in favor of remaining at home and addressing problems that are very real and very important to the people who elected him. Romney, after all, never once voted for Jindal.

There could be only one motive for turning his back on nearly 600,000 voters who first elected him in 2007 and the 673,000 who re-elected him last fall: he doesn’t really care about Louisiana and its people; he cares only about Bobby Jindal and those who can help him in the advancement of his political career.

If Gov. Jindal was truly concerned about the welfare of Louisiana, he certainly would have provided us with an encore of his hurricane and BP spill disaster performances: he would have headed straight to Assumption Parish to grab some TV face time at the Bayou Corne sinkhole and then flown away in a helicopter even as a ghost writer busied himself penning a book sequel: Failed Leadership and Fiscal Crisis: the Crash Landing.

That’s the very least he could do.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—The Retired State Employees Association (RSEA) Board of Directors has authorized the RSEA staff to move forward with the hiring of an attorney to proceed with litigation challenging the constitutionality of recently passed House Bill 61 by Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell) which became Act 483 of the 2012 Louisiana Regular Session, upon the signature of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The act, commonly referred to as the “Cash Balance Plan” (CBP), is future, non-hazardous-duty state employees of the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System (LASERS), post-secondary education members of the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL), and is optional for certain other members of Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System (LSERS) hired on or after July 1, 2013.

The act is being challenged on constitutional grounds with RSEA claiming that it did not receive a two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives as required under Article X, Section 29(F) of the Louisiana Constitution to enact benefit provisions for members of any public retirement system which has an actuarial cost.

The bill passed by a majority of the House (68-36) but lacked the required 70 votes.

The two-thirds vote was required since the legislative actuary determined that the CBP has an actuarial cost. The actuary wrote in his official legislative actuarial note that “the Cash Balance (CB) Plan will cost more than the current Defined Benefit (DB) Plan.”

The constitutional requirement was intended to add an extra level of protection against increasing the costs of the retirement systems, RSEA said.

“It is therefore the conclusion of RSEA and our attorneys that this legislation requires a two-thirds vote for passage, rather than a simple majority,” said Frank Jobert, Jr., executive director of RSEA.

RSEA President Benny G. Harris said members of the RSEA board of directors, representing the interests of current and future state employees and retirees throughout the state, “could not let the defined benefit retirement plan fall by the wayside on their watch by virtue of a ‘defective’ piece of legislation without a property legal challenge in the courts.

Attorneys Robert Tarcza of New Orleans and Robert Klausner of Plantation, Florida, are handling the case for RSEA and plan to file suit in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge next week. To be named as defendants will be the State of Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal, and State Treasurer John Kennedy.

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