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State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) Saturday told LouisianaVoice he will ask House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles) on Monday for a full investigation of the 11th hour amendment to an obscure Senate bill that resulted in an additional $30,000 per year income for State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson upon his retirement.

The amendment, which was quickly signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal, allows Edmonson to revoke his decision made years ago to enter into the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) when he was a captain. That decision, which is considered irrevocable, locked in his retirement at a rate based on his captain’s pay while netting him a higher salary but now he will be allowed to compute his retirement based upon his rank as colonel.

At the same time, blogger C.B. Forgotston revealed that the probable source of the amendment may not have been one of the six members of the Legislative Conference Committee, but a Senate staff attorney.

“I am embarrassed by this entire thing,” Edwards said in an interview with LouisianaVoice. “I voted for the bill without reading it with the amendment attached.

So did 89 other House members and 37 senators.

“I know this is not an excuse, and I would never rationalize my vote this way but the truth is in the final hours most members, including myself, probably were not even at their desks. We were all running around trying to take care of conference committee action on our own bills.”

Edwards, who is an announced candidate for governor in 2015, said he will ask Kleckley to initiate an investigation to determine the origin of the amendment. “Somebody asked for this amendment,” he said. “It didn’t just happen.”

His observation echoed State Treasurer John Kennedy who on Wednesday said at a board meeting of the Louisiana State Police Retirement System, “This amendment didn’t just fall from heaven.”

Edwards said the real irony of the overwhelming vote in favor of the amendment is that similar requests have all been rejected in the past. “I know that in my seven years in the legislature, I’ve had at least 20 constituents ask me to help them revoke their DROP decisions and I had to tell every single one of them that there was nothing we could do for them. And now I end up voting for just such a provision because it was hidden away in an obscure bill that we were told had nothing to do with retirement. I’m embarrassed.”

The bill, Senate Bill 294 by Sen. Jean Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans), dealt specifically with disciplinary procedures for law enforcement officers who are under investigation and had nothing to do with retirement in its original form. And conference committee member Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans) did little to shed any light on the true intent of the amendment.

Jindal must share blame

And while much has been said about legislators’ failure to closely examine the last-minute glut of amendments and Conference Committee reports, little has been said about Jindal’s willingness to sign such a fiscally irresponsible bill.

Though legislators may have been pressed for time in the closing hours of the session, Jindal most certainly was not. He and his staff had ample time to examine all bills passed by the legislature and to consider their fiscal impact.

Bottom line is the governor simply does not get a pass on this. He is the same governor who attempted unsuccessfully to gut the retirements of tens of thousands of state rank and file civil service employees two years ago and now he signs a bill sneaked in on the last day of the session to give a raise that exceeds the total annual retirement income for thousands of individual state employees.

Moreover, it was a bill his staff should have informed him, as Pearson, Forgotston and a state attorney told us, is unconstitutional on several levels.

The reality is that Jindal checked out as governor long ago in favor of chasing the presidential brass ring that will never be his—and that makes his signing this bill even more unforgiveable.

It also raises the question of what his role in this debacle may have been.

Senate legal counsel culpable?

Reports surfaced on Saturday that Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee legal counsel Laura Gail Sullivan was the person who tacked on the amendment without bothering to inform either of the six members of the Legislative Conference Committee—if they are to be believed.

The Conference Committee report that includes the amendment, dated June 2, the final day of the 2014 legislative session, contains the name “Sullivan” in the upper left corner of the report’s first page. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=911551&n

The Conference Committee is made up of three members of the Senate and three from the House. For a bill to be reported out of Conference Committee, two senators and two representatives must vote in favor.

Conference Committee members included Sens. Morrell (the bill’s author), Neil Riser (R-Columbia) and Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), and Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans), Walt Leger, III (D-New Orleans) and Bryan Adams (R-Gretna).

Riser is Sullivan’s Senate committee boss

Riser, besides serving on the Conference Committee to consider the bill, also is chairman of the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee for whom Sullivan works as legal counsel. As such, she takes her marching orders from him. That being the case, what are the odds that Riser was carrying the water for Jindal? If so, did Edmonson request the favor from the governor? As both Edwards and Kennedy pointed out, the amendment didn’t drop from the sky.

A lot of questions that someone should answer—and soon.

Perhaps we will get some clarification from Edmonson (wink, wink) when he appears on Louisiana Public Radio’s Jim Engster show Monday at 9 a.m. http://wrkf.org/

LouisianaVoice sent separate emails to Riser, Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), chairman of the House Retirement Committee; Sen. Elbert Guillory (R/D/R-Opelousas), chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee, and Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego). Our email posed three questions:

  • Do you plan to conduct/request an investigation into how the amendment giving the $30,000 a year raise to Col. Edmonson got added to SB 294—particularly now that our sources are saying it was done by a Senate counsel for the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee?
  • Do you believe, if true, she was acting on instructions from someone further up the food chain and if so, who?
  • Were you aware the amendment was being added?

Pearson was the only one who responded

“I’m planning to look into this next week, as I have already done somewhat,” he said. “As you know the Senate staff is a different body than the House staff, different bosses that I am not as familiar with. But yes, I plan to find what actually happened.”

To the second question on whether or not he thought the Senate counsel was acting on instructions from higher up, he said he was unable to answer. “I really do not know,” he said. “I guess it is possible. I’ve never seen them go directly to my (retirement) staff without my being aware.”

As to whether or not he was aware of the contents of the amendment, Pearson said, “I had no clue the amendment was being added. I’m also fairly confident my (House) retirement attorney was unaware, especially since it was not a retirement bill. I did not vote (on) the Conference Committee report (he was one of 14 who did not vote) and I didn’t even know this happened until your article came out. I wasn’t avoiding the vote since I was unaware of these actions. I can’t even say where I was, possibly working on another Conference Committee report. I just don’t recall.

“I do appreciate you bringing this to our attention,” he said. “Hopefully the board can—or someone will—challenge the constitutionality of the rogue amendment.”

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“The amendment impedes an existing contract. Col. Edmonson entered into a binding contract when he entered DROP and that is irrevocable. We have had a constant parade of state employees who wanted out of DROP and every single one has been denied.”

—State official, commenting on the 11th hour amendment to SB 294 which would give State Police Commander Mike Edmonson a $30,000 per year increase.

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State Treasurer John Kennedy told fellow members of the State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) Wednesday that he wants answers to a laundry list of questions pertaining to legislative passage of an amendment to an otherwise minor senate bill that increased State Police Commander Mike Edmonson’s retirement benefits by $30,000 per year.

http://www.auctioneer-la.org/Kennedy_LSP.htm

In asking for a thorough investigation of the amendment that was slipped on Senate Bill 294 on the final day of the legislative session, Kennedy said his main concern was with New York bond rating agencies, though he also questioned the fairness of the amendment’s applying only to Edmonson and one other Master Trooper from Houma.

“I was in New York when this story first broke (LouisianaVoice ran the first story about the amendment last Friday) and we had discussions about the $19 billion unfunded accrued liability (UAL) of the state’s four retirement systems,” he said. “These rating agencies read our newspapers and our blogs and they know more about Louisiana than we do.”

As State Treasurer, Kennedy sits on some 30 different state boards, including the State Police Retirement System Board but he said his interest in attending Wednesday’s meeting was in protecting the state’s bond rating. “If our rating goes down, our interest rates go up,” he said. “I spent 12 or 13 hours with them and they are worried about our Medicaid situation, our use of non-recurring revenue and our retirement systems’ UAL.”

Another state official, an attorney, told LouisianaVoice that he had another constitutional violation to add to C.B. Forgotston’s list of five constitutional violations of the amendment: “The amendment impedes an existing contract,” he said. Col. Edmonson entered into a binding contract when he entered DROP and that is irrevocable. We have had a constant parade of state employees who wanted out of DROP and every single one has been denied.”

Kennedy said there are two sides to every story. “I’d like to talk to Charles Hall (of Hall Actuaries, which did a study for the legislature earlier this year). I’d like Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) who authored the original bill to come speak to us.”

Kennedy said the two men benefitting from the amendment also have a right to address the board. “They have every right to due process,” he said.

Other answers he said he would like include:

  • How many people are impacted by this amendment?
  • Who are they? (The identities of the beneficiaries of the amendment);
  • Who sponsored the amendment in committee? (so they might come before the board and explain their motives);
  • What is the total cost of the amendment? (so he can report back to the rating agencies);
  • What are the remedies, litigation or legislative relief, allege the bill is illegal or simply refuse to comply?
  • What are the legalities of the bill? (Can an amendment be done dealing with retirement issues that is supposed to be advertised?);
  • Has special treatment been given?

“Years ago, we had anywhere from 10 to 15 bills introduced each year to give special treatment to one, two or three individuals without appropriating any money,” he said. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now.

“Gov. (Mike) Foster finally said ‘Enough, we will do this no more.’ And now here we are again. The rating agencies are appalled at that.”

Kennedy, in a private interview after the meeting, said he was concerned with everyone being treated equally. “I don’t believe in special treatment for those who have the political power or (who) know the right people. I think it’s stupid economically and it is what has contributed to the UAL. This amendment has implications far beyond the two men affected. I want to see how much it would cost to give everyone the same treatment.

“We have the sixth worst-funded retirement systems in America and the rating agencies have told us over the past two years to get our business straight or they will downgrade us. If that happens, we’ll be paying higher interest on our bonded indebtedness.”

Kennedy saved his harshest criticism for the legislature when he said, “Someone didn’t read this bill or they’re not being candid. They should be doing these amendments in a more transparent way. These last minute amendments are done and no one know what they’re adding and suddenly, it’s an up or down vote.

Kennedy asked LSPRS Executive Director Irwin Felps, Jr. if the board could meet before the next scheduled meeting on the third Wednesday of September. “It’s important that we address this issue,” he said.

“There’s no excuse for this. This amendment didn’t just fall from heaven. Somebody has a lot of explaining to do and if I find preferential treatment, I will vote to rescind the amendment.”

Kennedy’s claim of a lack of transparency and the sudden “up or down vote” was illustrated when Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans) explained the amendment on the floor of the House during the final hectic hours when lawmakers were hurrying to wrap up business:

“The new language to the bill applies to those paying more into the system since 2009 for benefits they cannot use,” he said. “It makes people whole but does not give them a larger benefit.”

Don’t believe us? Watch and listen for yourself as Arnold explains the new legislation in all of 15 seconds.

Then you can decide for yourself if the amendment’s sponsors were being completely up front with their colleagues—and with Louisiana taxpayers.

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“The legislative process is often compared to watching sausage being made. That is meant to convey the idea that the process is ugly, but the end product is worth it. In this case, even the end product is horrible.”

—King of the Subversive Bloggers C.B. Forgotston, commenting on an amendment to a Senate bill on the final day of the recent legislative session that sneaked in a provision awarding State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson with an additional $30,000 per year on top of his already 100 percent retirement. 

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Apparently our story about the furtive amendment that boosted State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s retirement by a whopping $30,000 a year (note: that’s a $30,000 increase; most state retirees don’t even make $30,000) got the attention of the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS).

Our friend over in Hammond, C.B. Forgotston, the “King of the Subversive Bloggers,” according to Baton Rouge Advocate columnist James Gill (a pretty fair political observer and writer in his own right), sent us a memorandum that went out to LSPRS staff members by Assistant Director Kimberly Gann.

Forgotston also forwarded information listing additional perks enjoyed by Edmonson as well as calculations of what his retirement income will be, thanks to the amendment tacked onto SB 294 on the last day of the recent legislative session.

Forgotston (don’t let the name fool you; he rarely forgets anything), an attorney who previously worked for the Legislature, also said the amendment by the Legislative Conference Committee to the bill that became Act 859 when it was signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal “violates at least five provisions of the State Constitution.”

“We were notified yesterday than an article was written about a piece of retirement legislation that passed the legislature,” Gann said in her e-mail. “Irwin (LSPRS Executive Director Irwin L. Felps, Jr.) wanted you to know about the article and have an opportunity read it. Please let us know if you have any questions. We will discuss this at the meeting on Wednesday (July 16).”

While the copy of Gann’s e-mail provided by Forgotston did not contain the names of the addressees, the message is presumed to have been sent to retirement system staff members. They include Retirement Benefits Analyst Tausha E. Facundus, Administrative Assistant Shelley S. CPA Stephen M. Griffin, accountant Kristin Leto.

Edmonson, upon his appointment, sold his home and he and his family moved into the “Colonel’s Home” on the Department of Public Safety campus which is also equipped to be the governor’s “Safe House” and command center for disaster relief.

That means he is residing in a four-bedroom, four-bath home completely furnished by the state. And because he has worked more than 30 years at retirement calculated at 3.3 percent per year based on his highest three years of earnings, he would already be eligible for retirement income of 100 percent of his salary. By adding the additional years above 30 (he has worked 34 years) and the three Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) years, he will not only receive the full $134,000 (100 per cent of his salary), but an additional $30,000 per year when he retires.

The amendment allowed Edmonson to revoke an otherwise irrevocable decision to enter DROP, which allows his retirement to be calculated on his higher salary and to add years of service and longevity pay.

Forgotston, in listing the constitutional violations of the bill amendment giving Edmonson the $30,000 retirement increase, cited each section of the State Constitution he said the amendment violated. They are:

  • It was not introduced 45 days prior to the opening day of the 2014 Regular Session. (La. Const. Article III, Section 2, Paragraph (2)(c));
  • It was not advertised prior to being introduced. (La. Const. Article X, Section 29C);
  • It does not contain a recitation that it was advertised. (La. Const. Article X, Section 29C);
  • As amended contains two objects. (La. Const. Article III, Section 15, Paragraph A);
  • Language to provide the extra benefits is not germane to bill as introduced. (La. Const. Article III, Section 15, Paragraph C).

“The legislative process is often compared to watching sausage being made,” Forgotston said. “That is meant to convey the idea that the process is ugly, but the end product is worth it. In this case, even the end product is horrible. This is the type of legislation that is referred to by insiders as ‘snakes’ that crawl out in the last days of a session. For most, snake is much less appetizing than sausage.”

Forgotston said there “are only two ways to prevent these unconstitutional benefits from being paid and (to restore) integrity to the legislative process:

“The head of the State Police (Edmonson) can refuse the benefits or by someone filing a lawsuit,” he said, adding that the six members of the Conference Committee should initiate such litigation.

Forgotston can be quite cantankerous—and clever—when he wants to be, which is most of the time, and this action is no different.

He suggests that if readers who know an active or retired member of the Louisiana State Police, “Please pass this (information) onto them.”

He also listed the names and e-mail addresses of the six members of the Legislative Conference Committee who approved the action which has been denied to many others making similar requests in recent years:

Rep. Bryan Adams: badams@legis.la.gov

Rep. Jeff Arnold: larep102@legis.la.gov

Rep. Walt Leger: wleger@legis.la.gov

Sen. J.P. Morrell: jpmorrell@legis.la.gov

Sen. Neil Riser: nriser@legis.la.gov

Sen. Mike Walsworth: mwalsworth@legis.la.gov

 

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“This was done in Conference Committee and was done on an obscure bill with obscure references to old acts in hopes that the conferees would never have to answer any questions about why this was done.”

“Many bills are brought before the (House and Senate) retirement committees that (would) allow a revocation of a DROP decision and…all have been voted down.”

—Irate but attentive legislative observer.

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He is on the cover of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s ghost-written book Leadership and Crisis. In case you don’t remember that very forgettable book, it’s the one purportedly written by Jindal but in reality, hastily slapped together by Hoover Institute flak Peter Schweizer.

You’ve seen him standing solemnly (never smiling) in the background at virtually each of those rare Jindal press conferences as well as during the governor’s staccato briefings whenever he pretended to exhibit leadership, usually during a hurricane or oil spill.

One of those events may have even been when the governor pitched his ill-fated state pension reform legislation a couple of years ago that, had it succeeded, would have slashed retirement income for thousands of state employees—by as much as 85 percent for some.

But the next time you see Louisiana State Police Commander Mike Edmonson, you may see a trace of a smile crack that grim veneer.

That’s because a special amendment to an obscure Senate bill, passed on the last day of the recent legislative session, will put an additional $30,000 per year in Edmonson’s pocket upon retirement.

Talk about irony.

SB 294, signed into law by Jindal as Act 859, was authored by Sen. Jean-Paul J. Morrell (D-New Orleans) and appeared to deal with procedures for formal, written complaints made against police officers.

There was nothing in the wording of the original bill that would attract undue attention.

Until, that is, the bill turned up in Conference Committee at the end of the session so that an agreement between the different versions adopted in the House and Senate could be worked out. At least that was the way it appeared.

Conference Committee members included Sens. Morrell, Neil Riser (R-Columbia) and Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), and Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans), Walt Leger, III (D-New Orleans) and Bryan Adams (R-Gretna).

That’s when Amendment No. 4 popped up—for which Edmonson should be eternally grateful:

http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=911551&n=Conference

Basically, in layman’s language, the amendment simply means that Edmonson may revoke his “irrevocable” decision to enter DROP, thus allowing his retirement to be calculated on his higher salary and at the same time allow him to add years of service and longevity pay.

The end result will be an increase in his annual retirement benefit of about $30,000—at the expense of the Louisiana State Police Retirement System and Louisiana taxpayers.

The higher benefit will be paid each month over his lifetime and to any beneficiary that he may name.

Edmonson makes $134,000 per year and has some 34 years of service with the Department of Public Safety.

The Actuarial Services Department of the Office of the Legislative Auditor calculated in its fiscal notes that the amendment would cost the state an additional $300,000 as a result of the increased retirement benefits.

In the Senate, only Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) voted against the bill while Sen. Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales) did not vote.

Over on the House side, there were a few more dissenting votes: Reps. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette), Raymond Garofalo, Jr. (R-Chalmette), Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles), Hunter Greene (R-Baton Rouge), John Guinn (R-Jennings), Dalton Honoré (D-Baton Rouge), Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe), Barbara Norton (D-Shreveport), Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), Eric Ponti (R-Baton Rouge), Jerome Richard (I-Thibodaux), Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette), John Schroder (R-Covington), and Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier City).

The remaining 127 (37 senators and 90 representatives) can probably be forgiven for voting in favor of what, on the surface, appeared to be a completely routine bill, particularly if they did not read Conference Committee amendments carefully—and with the session grinding down to its final hours, there was the usual mad scramble to wrap up all the loose ends.

Here’s what the bill looked like when originally submitted by Morrell and before the Conference Committee members slipped in the special favor for Edmonson:

http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=878045&n=SB294 Original

But while the sneaky manner in which this matter was rammed through at the 11th hour is bad enough, it is especially so given the fact that numerous bills have been brought before the House and Senate retirement committees in the past few years which would have allowed a revocation of a DROP decision and without exception, each request has been rejected.

“This was done in Conference Committee and was done on an obscure bill with obscure references to old acts in hopes that the conferees would never have to answer any questions about why this was done,” said one observer.

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“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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