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Archive for the ‘State Agencies’ Category

Even as Gov. Bobby is busy handing out pink slips to state employees (a new round of layoffs is anticipated momentarily), LouisianaVoice has learned of a couple of unusual hiring practices—one involving yet another retire-rehire, this time by the Department of Public Safety, and a possible case of nepotism that has since quietly been resolved in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LADHH) with the timely transfer of the mother of a LADHH administrator to another agency.

DHH Deputy Secretary Courtney Phillips has accepted the position of Secretary of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHH) and will begin her duties there on April 1, according to a press release from LADHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert.

Courtney Phillips has been employed by LADHH since 2003 when she began as a management intern. She was appointed Deputy Secretary on May 10, 2013, at a salary of $145,000, according to information obtained by LouisianaVoice from LADHH.

Her mother, Sheila Phillips was initially hired by LADHH on June 19, 2012, as an Administrative Coordinator at a salary of $37,500.

“At no point in time did Courtney Phillips serve in a supervisory role over Sheila Phillips,” said LADHH spokesperson Olivia Watkins in an email Thursday to LouisianaVoice. “Regarding her time as deputy secretary, Courtney Phillips did not officially begin her tenure as deputy secretary until May 10, 2013. Sheila Phillips ended her employment with DHH on May 9, 2013, and is currently an employee with the Department of Environmental Quality.

Civil Service records reflect that Sheila Phillips actually resigned on May 8, 2013, two days before her daughter’s promotion, and began working on May 9, 2013, for the Department of Environmental Quality as an Administrative Assistant 4 and currently makes $40,560 per year.

And while Courtney Phillips did not begin as deputy secretary until two days after her mother left the agency, her curriculum vitae that she submitted to the State of Nebraska notes that she served as Chief of Staff at LADHH from September of 2011 until her promotion to deputy director—which was during the time when her mother was hired.

State statute, according to Watkins, specifically says that “no member of the immediate family of a member of a governing authority or the chief executive of a governmental entity shall be employed by the governmental entity.”

The statute defines “agency head” as chief executive or administrative officer of an agency or any member of a board or commission who exercises supervision over the agency, Watkins said.

“Based on consultation with Civil Service, agency head would not include the chief of staff position, precluding any violation of the state nepotism law during her tenure in that role. Furthermore, as chief of staff, Courtney Phillips did not have legal appointing authority or supervise any DHH program office, including the Office of Public Health where Sheila Phillips worked from 06/09/2012 through 05/09/2013.

“Given that definition and the facts of the employment of Courtney Phillips and Sheila Phillips, nepotism was not a concern,” Watkins said.

Her resumé, however, says her Chief of Staff duties involved the planning and direction of “all administrative, financial, and operational activities for the department’s Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Undersecretary” and that she acted “as a point of contact between top management and employees, as well as developing, overseeing and maintaining the budget for the executive office. She also said in her resumé that she served as a “key member of the executive management team responsible for the central coordination of activities and ensuring timely flow of information to and from the executive office.”

Moreover, on various LADHH organizational charts obtained by LouisianaVoice, Courtney Phillips served directly under the position of agency undersecretary during the tenures of both Bruce Greenstein, who resigned in March of 2013, and Kliebert.

As a “key member of the executive management team,” she was also a member of and regularly voted on matters coming before the LADHH Statewide Governance Board and signed off on letters to top legislators dealing with LADHH policy.

Meanwhile, an Information Technology (IT) Director 4 who retired from his $140,500 a year job at the Division of Administration (DOA) on Oct. 31, 2014, began working on Dec. 8, just over a month later, for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) as a technology consultant at $70 per hour, Civil Service records show. Jeya Selvaratnam

SELVARATNAM GOHSEP

Prior to his four-month stint with DOA, which began on June 23, 2014, and ran through Oct. 31 (he was retired for little more than a month, from Nov. 1 through Dec. 7), Jeya Selvaratnam worked first as an IT Deputy Director 2 for the Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Office of Management and Finance from Sept. 25, 2006 through Aug. 27, 2008 at which time he was promoted to IT Director 4 for the same office. He remained at that post until June 22, 2014, when he moved over to DOA.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics prohibits former state employees from working for the same agency within two years of their retirements. The statute (R.S. 42:1111-1121) says, “During the two year period following the termination of public service as a public employee, these individuals may not assist another for compensation, in a transaction, or in an appearance in connection with a transaction involving the agency in which the former public employee participated while employed by the agency nor may the former public employee provide on a contractual basis to his former public employer, any service he provided while employed there.”

GOHSEP spokesperson Christina Dayries, however, said when retirees are rehired by state agencies, they are allowed to earn half of what they collect in state retirement. He was earning $140,500 per year and with more than 30 years of service, qualifies for at least 75 percent of his base salary in retirement. That computes to more than $105,000 in retirement, plus 50 percent of that amount as a re-hire up to $158,000—nearly $18,000 more than he made full time.

The project on which Selvaratnam now works as a part time capacity is the DPS FirstNet National Public Safety Broadband Network.

The project calls for the expenditure of up to $135 million of a State and Local Implementation Grant (SLIGP) provided by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to provide emergency responders with their first nationwide, high-speed broadband network dedicated to public safety, according to a Power Point presentation given on Jan. 21 and 22 of this year to provide an overview of the program created under the federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.

The $135 million 80-20 federal-state grant is only for the planning of the project. Implementation of the nationwide network is expected to cost $7 billion with funding expected to come from spectrum auction. By law, the network is to be self-sustaining upon expending the $7 billion.

There are 10 regional teams set up to implement the program on a nationwide basis. Louisiana is a member of Team 6, along with New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The program’s staffing chart shows Selvaratnam serving under the supervision of Program Manager Allison McLeary.

While at DPS, he represented the department as a member of the Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) SIEC which is responsible for the ability of emergency service agencies to communicate across disciplines and jurisdictions, particularly during times of emergency. SIEC membership is composed of all appropriate first responder and support organizations and has “full authority to design, construct, administer and maintain a statewide interoperable communications system…in support of full response to any emergency event,” according to GOHSEP’s web page. http://www.gohsep.la.gov/interop.aspx

As the DPS representative on the SIEC, he also served as chairman of the SIEC Broadband Subcommittee. Accordingly, he had duties and responsibilities for the SLIGP program during that time and is again providing those same services.

Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson, for whom Selvaratnam worked at DPS, is the “State Point of Contact” for the FirstNet project, according to the Power Point presentation, with the Office of State Police listed as the SLIGP grant recipient and GOHSEP as the grant administrator.

A law meant to bring retirees back for short-term help was used by almost 200 current, full-time employees in the Department of Corrections. An oversight in the writing of the law even allowed “retired” employees to continue accruing money into their pension plans, according to a story on Governing, a web-based site on state and local government. http://www.governing.com/topics/public-workforce/Double-Dip-Dilemma.html

The issue of retire-rehire sparked considerable debate in 2010 when Higher Education Commissioner Sally Clausen resigned and rehired herself two days later, a move that netted her a $90,000 payout for unused sick leave and vacation time and entitled her to $146,400 in retirement pay. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/06/higher_education_commissioner.html

 

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  • 676,484: the number of votes received by candidate Bobby Jindal in the 2003 runoff with Kathleen Blanco for the office of Governor. I was one of the 676,484. Jindal lost.
  • 699,275: the number of votes received by Congressman Bobby Jindal in the 2007 primary election for Governor of Louisiana. I was one of the 699,275. Jindal won.
  • 673,239: the number of votes received by incumbent Gov. Bobby Jindal in his successful bid for re-election in the 2011 primary election. I was not one of the 673,239. Jindal won.
  • Betray:·trā/ v. to fail or desert especially in time of need; to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to; to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling, as in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to perform the job to which he was elected.
  • Betrayal: be·tray′al n. to abandon or desert; to turn one’s back on another; to delude or take advantage of; One who abandons his convictions or affiliations—as in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s betrayal of the 4.5 million residents of Louisiana.
  • Epitaph: ˈepə·taf/ n. a commemorative inscription on a tomb or mortuary monument about the person buried at that site; a brief statement commemorating or epitomizing a deceased person campaign or something past—as in the political ambitions of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Some may think it’s too early to bury Jindal’s presidential ambitions just yet, but it is our humble opinion that Roy Orbison summed it up more than 50 years ago with his 1964 hit It’s Over.

What little spark that still burned in his fading presidential hopes has been snuffed out by a fast-paced series of events beginning with his incredibly idiotic rant about the Islamic no-go zones in Europe which then morphed into a tirade by Jindal shill Kyle Plotkin over the tint or lack of, in Jindal’s “official” portrait hanging in the reception area of the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol.

Whether or not blogger Lamar White’s comment about Jindal’s “white-out” of his portrait which (a) makes him appear almost anemic or (b) makes him appear as if the anemic version caught a little too much sun at Gulf Shores (depending on which is the “official” portrait), the entire episode quickly descended to the level of ridiculous political theater.

And when the dialogue is reduced to arguments over the shade of color in a portrait Jindal has run out of issues for serious public debate and can no longer be taken seriously.

As a great singer, the late Roy Orbison, crooned back in 1964, It’s over.

And as our favorite writer, Billy Wayne Shakespeare from Denham on Amite would say (with certain literary license):

Not that I loved Caesar Jindal less, but that I loved Rome Louisiana more. Had you rather Caesar lived Jindal were President and (we) die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead Jindal were forgotten, to live all free men?”

—Brutus Bob, from Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene II.

“I have come here to bury Caesar Jindal, not to praise him. The evil that men do is remembered after their deaths, but the good is often buried with them difficult to find. It might as well be the same with Caesar Jindal. The noble Brutus Bob told you that Caesar Jindal was ambitious. If that’s true, it’s a serious fault, and Caesar Louisiana has paid seriously for it.”

—Marc “T-Boy” Antony, from Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene II

If  there was any lingering doubt, that was erased late Friday (notice the timing) when he released a laundry list of yet another round of budget cuts. As has become his practice, all bad news is announced late on Fridays so the impact will be lessened because people tend not to follow the news on weekends.

Among those cuts:

  • Department of Environmental Quality: $2.5 million;
  • Department of Health and Hospitals: $13 million;
  • Department of Transportation and Development: $16.65 million.

Jindal also some miraculously came up with $42.8 by sweeping several agencies, including $9 million from the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly.

The governor’s office was not spared, of course. Biting the bullet along with everyone else, Jindal’s plan included a reduction of $10,000 in travel expenses for his office.

That’s correct. Health care is taking a $13 million hit while Jindal is sacrificing roughly the cost of one trip to appear on Fox News or to Washington D.C. for something like his recent attack on Common Core at an event sponsored by someone like oh, say the American Principles Project.

He is pulling $9 million from the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly but don’t worry, he will forego a trip to Iowa or New Hampshire.  Yeah, yeah, we know trips to Iowa and New Hampshire are paid out of his campaign fund. But when he takes those political trips, he takes along a detail of state police security personnel whose transportation, lodging, meals and overtime must be borne by the state treasury. It doesn’t take long for just one of those trips to eat through $10,000.

If Jindal is not acutely aware by now that any chance he had to be president has vanished into that $1.6 billion deficit projected for the coming year—a far cry from the $900 million surplus he inherited when he took office seven years ago.

If he does not know by now that his political credentials are shot, he can compare today’s 6.7 percent unemployment rate to the 3.8 percent unemployment when he took office in 2008. That wasn’t supposed to happen after industrial tax incentives increased from a couple hundred million a year to more than $1 billion a year over that same period.

If he is still wondering why his approval rating is lower than President Obama’s, he may want to direct his inquiry to the presidents of Louisiana’s colleges and universities who have seen their budgets cut by $673 million since taking office—and who are now anticipating another $300 million in cuts.

If he still doesn’t get it, he could ask the 250,000 low-income uninsured adults how they could possibly be upset at his decision not to expand Medicaid to cover their health care—all because of his philosophical criticism of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare. And while he’s at it, he might wish to ask Baton Rouge’s low-income uninsured residents in the northern part of East Baton Rouge Parish how they’re going to make out after he closed Earl K. Long Hospital last year which forced those residents to seek emergency care at Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City which announced this past week that it is closing its emergency room because of the financial losses incurred from that overflow from Earl K. Long.

Michael Hiltzik, writing for the Los Angeles Times on Friday (Feb. 6), to say, “Jindal has promoted his plan with a string of distortions about the ACA and the health insurance marketplace that suggest, at best, that he has no idea what he’s talking about.” http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-the-lesson-of-louisiana-20150206-column.html

And if Jindal is still a bit hazy about why his chances of becoming president could make a possum optimistic about making it across a busy interstate highway, he might wish to review his glowing optimism over the privatization of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) that preceded a drawdown of the agency’s reserve fund from a healthy $500 million built up by former OGB CEO Tommy Teague, whom Jindal fired, to less than half that amount.

After he’s done all that, then maybe he’ll finally understand why Louisiana’s middle income growth was sixth worst in the nation (-4.9 percent, as in a negative growth) in 2013. Maybe, just maybe, it will finally dawn on him that the widening income gap is not good news for the state’s poorest citizens. Perhaps someone will explain to him that the state’s poorest 20 percent of households averaged earning $8,851 in 2013 (that’s household income, not per capita). There may even be a chance that he can explain why the income share of 2.8 percent among the state’s 20 percent poorest was down from 3.2 percent share in 2009 while the wealthiest 20 percent held nearly 52 percent of the state’s income—a figure even higher than the national figure and a dramatic increase from 2009—even as the state’s poverty rate increased.

We’ve been beating this drum steadily for nearly five years now and just when we were beginning to believe no one was listening, no less than three national news organizations (the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Politico) have jumped into the fray with witheringly harsh stories critical of Jindal and his train wreck of an administration in Louisiana.

And to think, it took an incredibly silly diatribe about Islam in London and a prayer meeting in Baton Rouge sponsored by a fundamentalist fringe element to get the attention of the national media that decided, at long last, it might be time to peel back the layers of righteousness and morality and take a long, hard look at the real Jindal and his actual record.

Funny, isn’t it, how often the big picture is overlooked until someone stumbles onto some little something that sets much bigger events into motion?

And now, at long last, we feel we can safely say it’s over. Done. Kaput. We have witnessed, in the incredibly short span of only a couple of weeks, the complete cratering of a political quest.

Cue Roy Orbison. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufgrNRPFJn8&list=RDufgrNRPFJn8#t=0

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Friday traditionally is a slow news day around the State Capitol and observers know that most controversial announcements or bad news releases by the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal will be issued late on Fridays in the hope that most reporters have gone home for the day.

The timing of the mundane and not-so-good news releases also is such that people just don’t follow events as closely over the weekend.

Accordingly, LouisianaVoice has pulled together some of the stories that are not likely to make the local six o’clock news or cause much stir in the state’s daily newspapers. But they are, nevertheless, stories that we feel deserve at least some attention, so here we go:

Mike Edmonson Retirement Redux

Regular readers will remember our story of last July 11 which launched the major controversy coming out of last year’s legislative session. That was the story about Senate Bill 294 (SB 294) by State Sen. Neil Riser that was signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal as Act 859 which gave State Police Superintendent Mike Edmondson that otherwise illegal hefty retirement boost of about $55,000.

The LouisianaVoice story created quite an uproar and culminated with a judicial ruling on a lawsuit by State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) that the requirement increase was unconstitutional, which seemed at the time to end the matter.

But not so fast. Claitor, not altogether trusting the system to prevail, has pre-filed a bill which he hopes will tie up any remaining loose ends.

Senate Bill 2 (SB 2) by Sens. Claitor and Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City) have pre-filed the bill which “repeals provisions for payment to certain DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) participants of a retirement benefit calculated as if the person had not participated in DROP.”

The very title of the bill puts Edmonson—along with one other state trooper who by sheer coincidence qualified for the increase under the Riser bill amendment that was snuck through an unsuspecting legislature on the last day of the 2014 session—squarely in the crosshairs of the Claitor-Peacock bill.

The Riser amendment created one of the uglier moments of the entire legislative session as slowly details leaked out of how Riser, acting on the directions of Gov. Bobby Jindal, attached the amendment to the bill that ostensibly dealt with police disciplinary procedures and once passed, was quickly signed into law by Jindal.

Had the amendment gone undetected, it would have bumped Edmonson’s retirement from $79,000 per year to $134,000 yearly.

Here is the link to the Claitor-Peacock bill by title, followed by a link to the actual bill:

https://www.legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?i=226443

STATE POLICE BILL

Exceptional Jindal profile by Tyler Bridges

And speaking of Jindal, it appears that the national media are beginning to catch on to the Jindal Traveling Road Show, prompted it seems, by his hysterical claim of Islamic enclaves of “no-go” zones in Europe, followed in quick fashion by a silly response to the mention by blogger Lamar White that the governor’s official portrait in his fourth floor office gives the appearance of something like 50 shades of white. It turns out that portrait is a loaner and not the “official” portrait. The “official” portrait gives of a decidedly pinkish hue, making it appear that the white one got a bit too much sun.

Be that as it may, Tyler Bridges, a New Orleans writer, has penned an excellent piece on Jindal’s failed fiscal policies (much more important in the long run than his skin tones) for Politico, a Washington, D.C. news service widely read by political junkies—especially in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where Jindal hopes (almost to the point of desperation, it seems) to make early headway in his clumsy efforts to grab the GOP presidential nomination. Here is the link to that superb piece by Bridges:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/02/bobby-jindal-campaigning-114948.html?ml=m_t1_2h#.VNTyL005Ccy

LR3 Contract with Economic Development

Last February we dissected the events surrounding the awarding of a $717,000 no-bid contract awarded to LR3 Consulting LLC of Baton Rouge by the Louisiana Office of Economic Development (LED).

That contract, which runs through Sept. 30 of this year, calls for the “development, establishment and/or delivery of a database of potential trainees for continued pre-hire training using a customized assessment instrument to determine skills proficiencies based on individual company requirements.”

We are not altogether sure why a $717,000 contract needed to be awarded to a firm to perform the same duties already being done by the Louisiana Workforce Commission but hey, who are we to question good government?

The contract was broken down into three yearly amounts—$169,999 for the first year (Oct. 12, 2012 through Sept. 30, 2013) and $249,999 for each of the ensuing two years. This was done, according to an LED spokesman, so as to avoid the necessity of issuing a request for proposals (RFP) and thus avoid “competitive bidding or competitive negotiation.”

The issuing of service contracts is permissible so long as the “total contract amount is less than $250,000 per twelve-month period,” according to Title 39, Section 1494.1 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes which then goes on to say, “Service requirements shall not be artificially divided so as to exempt contracts from the request for proposal process.” Hmmm. Seems to us a real proponent of good government would want competitive bidding.

Nevertheless, it has come to our attention that LR3 may well not be a viable entity and thus, ineligible to contract with the state.

A check of the Secretary of State’s corporate web page reveals that LR3 Consulting LLC is “not in good standing for failure to file (an) annual report.”

With nearly eight months left on the LR3 contract, the loss of standing with the Secretary of State should be a concern to Lionel Rainey, III, the agent and sole officer of LR3:

The term “not in good standing” means that a limited liability company is delinquent in filing the annual report required by R.S. 12:1308.1.

The statute goes on to say that each limited liability company which is not in good standing “shall be prohibited from engaging in commercial business operations with the state or its boards, agencies, departments, or commissions.  Any contract between the state or its boards, agencies, departments, or commissions and a limited liability company which is not in good standing may be declared null and void by the board, agency, department, commission, or the division of administration.”

Here is the link to the Secretary of State’s corporate records page which shows that LR3 is not in good standing:

https://coraweb.sos.la.gov/CommercialSearch/CommercialSearchDetails.aspx?CharterID=1001456_F5D52

Our favorite news blog, too?

And speaking of corporate records, one of our favorite political web blogs also turns up as “inactive,” according to the Secretary of State.

We particularly enjoy The Hayride, a Jindal support group blog run by Scott McKay for the off the wall advertisements that are featured daily on his blog. Recently, we’ve seen ads for products that feature a cure baldness almost immediately, a cure for cancer through a Biblical verse, a cure for Alzheimer’s, and even tips on how to invest in gold “form the former director of the U.S. mint,” for a military grade “steroid alternative,” and of course, secret weight loss measures.

But alas, the Secretary of State now tells us that Hayride Media, LLC is no longer active as a corporate entity.

That won’t change the flow of wonderful material coming from the blog, but it does remove any legal protection from litigation that might be lurking in the bushes, ready to pounce on any actual error by The Hayride. We’re just sayin’…

Here is The Hayride’s corporate record entry on the Secretary of State’s web page:

https://coraweb.sos.la.gov/CommercialSearch/CommercialSearchDetails.aspx?CharterID=878951_J6D52

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By Dayne Sherman

Special to LouisianaVoice 

Louisiana is Ground Zero for political scandals. From U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson’s “cold cash” saga to U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy’s unanswered allegations of payroll fraud at LSU, the state knows how to lead the country in at least one statistic: corruption.

One writer devised his own method of ranking states by corruption and guess who was number one?

Here’s a hint: http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/ranking-the-states-from-most-to-least-corrupt/

Even our new House Whip, Steve Scalise, who describes himself as “David Duke without the baggage,” has become an international disgrace for speaking to a neo-Nazi group 12 years ago while he was a state representative.

A quote attributed to Pericles 2400 years ago is still true: “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” Indeed, these political scandals are at the expense of Louisiana citizens. They matter. We pay the price for wayward politicians and their blinding ambition. This lust for power is equal only to their lust for “other things,” as Sen. David Vitter seems to be chief among sinners.

On Jan. 9, Louisiana House Speaker Chuck Kleckley came out like Clint Eastwood in a western flick, standing up tall to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest plan to cut $370 million from Louisiana higher education. He says he won’t back the budget plan. But let’s be clear-minded. Kleckley is Jindal’s paramour. He has done and will continue to do whatever the governor tells him to do or he’ll lose his speakership.

This is all political theater, a cruel PR scheme to help Kleckley win election as State Treasurer. Recall, Louisiana higher education has been cut by over $700 million since Jindal took office, the deepest cuts of any state in the country. Other states are investing in colleges and universities post-recession, and we are not.

Kleckley’s recently found courage when the state faces a $300 million deficit this year and 1.4 billion next fiscal year starting July 1, is a fake news story. Jindal’s conservative principles haven’t worked. On the contrary, they’ve been a disaster aided and abetted by lapdogs in the Legislature. Make no mistake, the greatest hypocrite among them is Kleckley.

The bayou budgetary apocalypse is coming. Get ready.

At the same time, President Obama has announced a truly bold new plan to give all Americans two years of free community college. Clearly, the best news of 2015.

Upon hearing this great news, a number of Louisiana’s college and university “leaders” (They’re paid to be leaders but are mostly sycophants in leisure suits.) began to question the details. Why aren’t they excited? Don’t educators want nothing more than to educate? Don’t they need students? Well, their master Jindal is against everything good—or bad—that Obama wants. The “leaders” answer to Jindal. These rascals served as cheerleaders for Jindal’s foolish WISE Fund, a mere pittance, but they became skeptics over the real deal.

How will we fund a community college education for all Americans? I’d say having ended two wars, one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan, will do it. We can save trillions by staying out of endless international conflicts. No need to raise taxes. Let’s just stop blowing up other countries and then rebuilding them on the taxpayers’ dime.

I believe nothing could be better for America and the world than investing in Americans. Jindal has shown through $700 million in cuts to Louisiana higher education, and another $370 million before he’s through, that he doesn’t believe investing in our state is good for his long-term political career.

Obama, on the other hand, believes investing in Americans is good for the country. Fortunately, Jindal will never be able to bring to the nation the disasters he’s brought to Louisiana. He’ll never be President.

[Dayne Sherman’s new novel is Zion. Signed first editions available from the author. His political blog is www.TalkAboutTheSouth.com.]

 

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It’s a good thing Gov. Bobby Jindal doesn’t have Vince Lombardi as a boss.

Whenever one of his players became prone to fumbling, the legendary coach would make the player carry a football everywhere with him—when he was eating or sleeping or even in the bathroom—as a reminder to hold onto the ball.

Jindal would look silly sillier having to carry a copy of the state budget with him everywhere he went.

But it would be an appropriate punishment for the way he has fumbled the state’s finances throughout his administration. To simply blame falling oil prices is the worst cop-out. He is now into his eighth year in office and he has had a budget crisis every year—and this is the first time since he took office that oil prices have experienced a major drop.

The fact is, Bobby Jindal is simply inept and an embarrassment to the state that has had more than its share of embarrassments.

After sell-offs of state property, privatization of state agencies, wholesale layoffs of state employees, raids on Office of Group Benefits reserve funds, devastating cuts to higher education and health care, and cutting state contracts, we now learn that at least one agency—there most likely will be others to follow—is instituting an employee furlough plan that will result in employees losing about a month’s pay projected over a 12-month period. Hopefully, the furloughs will last only through the end of the fiscal year (June 30).

Secretary of State Tom Shedler announced today (Jan. 14) that yet another proposed $3.8 million mid-year budget cut for his agency by the administration will force the implementation of an agency-wide furlough beginning next week. He said he has been advised to prepare an impact statement to the Division of Administration (DOA) by Friday outlining how the reduction would be facilitated.

“This level of reduction this late in the fiscal year is truly daunting,” Shedler said. “After holding the largest election our state has seen in decades just this past fall, my office’s resources are down to the bone. The administration is asking for us to give up bone marrow and it is extremely painful. You can’t cut enough pens, pencils and travel allowances to get to this number.”

Schedler shared the budget numbers with his senior staff Wednesday morning, telling them that if the Secretary of State’s office receives an executive order calling for the cuts, he will immediately seek Civil Service approval of a furlough to begin next Tuesday (Jan. 20), or soon thereafter.

Once approved, all Secretary of State employees, both classified and unclassified (including Schedler), will be required to take one day off per pay period (state pay periods are every two weeks, meaning that over a full year, employees would be required to take off 26 days, or nearly a full month, without pay) through the rest of the fiscal year.

If the furloughs last only through June 30, that would mean about two weeks’ lost pay to employees, still better than the previous Jindal method of wholesale layoffs.

“Furlough days will be staggered throughout the agency so that office hours can be maintained for the public,” Schedler said.

He said the one-day-per-pay-period furlough plan would produce an anticipated savings of $1.1 million through June 30. The administration has requested $2.6 million in state general funds that otherwise would be used for elections, he said. The remaining balance would be achieved from various savings in operational costs. With primary and runoff elections for governor scheduled for this year, $2.6 million would be a lot for the office to absorb.

“I recognize that this kind of reduction is unsustainable in the long run,” he said. “So, as I have my entire career, I plan to be fiscally responsible. As we await an executive order and Civil Service approval, immediate action was necessary to maximize savings while continuing to look for a more permanent solution if the budget picture does not improve.”

Secretary of State Press Secretary Meg Casper added that some state museums may have to close additional days in order to meet the required spending cuts.

Casper said has not heard how other state agencies will handle the pending executive order from Jindal to reduce spending but an official of one other agency, asked if he knew of the pending executive order, replied, “Oh, yeah. It’s coming…and going to be brutal.”

Of course, as the fiscal crisis worsens in Louisiana, Jindal is nowhere to be found. The last we heard, he was planning to bash Hillary Clinton in a speech in London next week—before returning to his home base of Iowa.

We’re as yet unclear on how the London speech relates to Louisiana’s fiscal woes. Maybe it’s just us, but it seems he was elected governor of Louisiana and should be in Baton Rouge minding the store—especially when it seems the store is going bankrupt.

 

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