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Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

Call it coincidence, but the Baton Rouge Advocate today had an interesting lead editorial thanking State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and Gov. Bobby Jindal for assigning 100 state troopers to patrol the city of New Orleans through Labor Day in response to a Bourbon Street shooting spree on June 29 that left one dead and nine others injured. http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/9965586-123/our-views-thanks-to-state

Certainly the timing of the editorial had nothing to do with the controversy swirling around the secretive passage of an obscure Senate bill during the last day of the recent legislative session that proved financially beneficial to Edmonson.

And certainly it had nothing to do with the fact that Advocate publisher John Georges wants to keep Edmonson happy because Georges holds a majority ownership in seven firms which provide video gambling machines and other services to gambling establishments—and because Edmonson oversees gaming through the State Gaming Control Board chaired by Ronnie Jones who served as Edmonson’s confidential assistant prior to his appointment to the Gaming Control Board. He is still listed as Edmonson’s confidential assistant on the State Police web page even though Jones says he resigned from that position last August. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2008/02/john_georges_gets_back_into_ga.html

Jones denies any knowledge of Georges’ video poker interests and says Edmonson is not his boss. “I wouldn’t know John Georges if he walked in the room right now and the fact that he has gaming interests doesn’t impress me,” he said, adding that Edmonson “has no control or influence over my board or its decisions.”

Jones’s denials notwithstanding, it appears we can dismiss any chance that the Advocate might delve into the murky political machinations behind the amendment especially tailored for Edmonson (though it did catch one other state trooper up in its generous net).

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley refused to open an investigation into the infamous Edmonson Amendment because he said the amendment was part of a bill that originated in the Senate. But one would expect no action from Kleckley. Otherwise, Jindal might remove his hand from his butt and Kleckley would then be rendered unable to speak—not that he’s ever said anything profound anyway.

The amendment, of course, tacked on an additional $55,000 per year to Edmonson’s retirement benefits and though Edmonson has since said he will not accept the extra income, he apparently overlooked the fact that the bill is now law, thanks to Executive Counsel Tom Enright’s stamp of approval and Jindal’s signing it as Act 859, which makes it impossible for him to arbitrarily refuse the financial windfall.

And it’s true enough that, Senate Bill 294 by Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) did originate in the upper chamber and we now know that the amendment was added by Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) but Kleckley conveniently overlooked the fact that three members of the Conference Committee which tacked on the amendment were members of the House.

But what about Senate President John Alario, Jr. (R-Westwego)? Certainly the esteemed Senate President would never let such a furtive move stain the stellar reputation of the Louisiana upper chamber. Surely he will launch a thorough investigation of the amendment since the bill and the ensuing amendment were the works of members of the Senate.

Don’t count on it. It’s rare that an elected official will bite the hand that feeds him—or a family member.

In this case, we’re speaking of one Dionne Alario, also of Westwego, who just happens to hold the title of Administrative Program Manager 3 for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety at $56,300 per year. She was hired last November and somehow manages to pull off the unlikely logistics of supervising DPS employees in Baton Rouge while working from her home in Westwego.

Oh, did we mention that she also just happens to be Sen. John Alario’s daughter-in-law?

We attempted to contact her at the Baton Rouge headquarters through the DPS Human Resources Department but we were given a cell phone number with a 504 (New Orleans) area code.

So if you expect Alario to conduct an investigation into the Edmonson Amendment, you can fuggedaboutit. It ain’t happening. His nest has been sufficiently feathered as to guarantee there will be no questions on his part.

It’s beginning to look more and more like the ol’ Louisiana political science professor C.B. Forgotston is correct: This entire Edmonson Amendment affair is quickly being swept under a very big rug.

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hyp·o·crite

noun \ˈhi-pə-ˌkrit\: a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs.

hypocrite

[hip-uh-krit] /ˈhɪp ə krɪt/

noun

1. a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.

2. a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

hyp·o·crite

[ híppə krìt ]

noun

Somebody feigning high principles: somebody who pretends to have admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings but behaves otherwise

No matter whose definition you use, Gov. Bobby Jindal is 100 percent hypocrite.

The candidate who promised us an open and accountable administration promptly gutted the State Ethics Board within weeks after becoming governor in 2008.

The candidate who promised a “gold standard” of transparency has repeatedly relied on the vague term “deliberative process” to shield his office from that very transparency.

The candidate who touted the value of civil service workers turned on those same state employees at the first opportunity and began throwing the rank and file workers to the curb while at the same time protecting the highly-paid appointees.

The candidate who criticized the use of one time revenue for recurring expenditures has become a master of the art.

The governor who constantly told anyone who would listen during his first term that “I have the job I want,” has spent his entire second term running for a presidency that is so far beyond his grasp as to be laughable while barely giving a second thought to the needs of those who elected him.

All those qualify him to be labeled a hypocrite but the most hypocritical came last week when he called Rep. Vance McAllister an “embarrassment” in another of his regular appearances in Iowa. http://atr.rollcall.com/vance-mcallister-bobby-jindal-embarrassment/?dcz=

How the hell can this governor sit in judgment of McAllister, who was caught on video kissing an aide in his Monroe office while at the same time remaining mute on Sen. David Vitter’s consorting with hookers?

Let’s get this out in the open right now. We don’t for one minute condone McAllister’s behavior. But a kiss is just a kiss (does Casablanca come to mind with that phrase?) and so far as anyone knows, that’s all McAllister did.

Also, just to shed a little more light on the McAllister affair, let’s not forget who outed him. Sam Hanna, Jr. is publisher of a West Monroe newspaper, the Ouachita Citizen and it was the Citizen’s web page that first broke the story, complete with the grainy black and white video.

How is that relevant? Well, for openers, Hanna had endorsed State Sen. Neil Riser, McAllister’s opponent in last year’s 5th District congressional race. Riser was Jindal’s candidate in that race, even allowing a couple of his staff members to work in Riser’s ill-fated campaign.

Then there is John King, a West Monroe businessman you probably never heard of who as a teenager set several dumpsters on fire. He has been unable to obtain a pardon for that youthful if foolish indiscretion and consequently cannot obtain a permit for a firearm in order to take his stepson hunting.

Hanna, on the other hand, was granted a pardon by Jindal six years after his fourth DWI conviction. Hanna applied for the pardon in 2010 and it was granted a year later. King is still waiting after 17 years.

Asked why the governor granted his pardon, Hanna said, “I guess because I deserved it.” http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/5136552-148/wiping-the-record-clean

So, as soon as Hanna releases that damning video, Jindal and his attack dog Roger Villere, state GOP chairman, pounce. Villere, apparently reading from the same script employed last week by Hypocrite-in-Chief Jindal, said McAllister had “embarrassed” the GOP and Louisiana. http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/203211-la-gop-chairman-calls-for-mcallisters-resignation

Could it be that that embarrassment stems from McAllister’s refusal to toe the party line and to call for an expansion of Medicaid in Louisiana in order to provide health care to hundreds of thousands of low income families currently not covered? Surely not. Jindal and Villere would never be so crass.

It’s all about morals and family values. But still, there’s that matter of Vitter…Rhymes with bitter, sort of like Jindal rhymes with swindle.

Well, we know a little more about Vitter, don’t we? We know even if Jindal and Villere choose to continue to ignore the elephant in the room.

His name shows up in the D.C. Madam’s list of clients. Another prostitute, this one from New Orleans, also has claimed she also had trysts with the good family values senator.

Yet he remains untouchable to the party hierarchy and as things now stand, is the odds-on favorite to become Louisiana’s next governor?

Could things possibly get any more repulsive than to have that smirking, two-faced fraud as our next governor? Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than Jindal…

At least Edwin Edwards never pretended to be something he wasn’t. The last thing one could call Edwards is a hypocrite.

“Look, he originally made the right decision when he decided not to run for reelection,” Jindal said of McAllister in an interview with Congressional Quarterly’s Roll Call during a visit to his home away from home on Saturday.

“I said he should have stepped down at the time,” Jindal continued to whine. “I think he’s making a mistake, I think he should, I think he should’ve stuck to his original decision and not go back inside and try to run again.

“I think it’s been an embarrassment to him, the district, and the state,” he added.

Well, we believe we could cite a few embarrassments Jindal has brought upon himself and the State of Louisiana.

His telling the 2012 annual meeting of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry that teachers in Louisiana have their jobs by virtue of their being able to breathe is not only an embarrassment, but an affront to every school teacher in Louisiana, including the ones with the unenviable job of having taught him as a child.

His firing of anyone holding a different opinion than his is an embarrassment.

His signing of the Edmonson Amendment, an unconstitutional bill giving State Police Superintendent a $55,000 a year increase in retirement only a year removed from his effort to gut the retirements of state civil service employees is an embarrassment.

His constant legal setbacks in the Louisiana courts are an embarrassment.

His shameless abandonment of his duties as governor in favor of chasing the ludicrous dream of become President is an embarrassment.

The comedy of errors in hiring Bruce Greenstein as Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals only to see Greenstein become embroiled in the CNSI controversy is an embarrassment.

And the ongoing dispute with BESE and Superintendent of Education John White, which more resembles a name-calling schoolyard fight than a serious discussion of issues, is a true embarrassment.

Trouble is, all those are apparently only embarrassing to the state. Because Jindal has no moral compass, no real code of ethics and no sense of values, he continues on his merry way oblivious to reality and without a shred of self-awareness—or embarrassment.

Hypocrite.

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When the Department of Health and Hospitals released its “Public-Private Partnership” financial report on nine state hospitals last month, it was pretty much assumed that the state media would accept the glowing report at face value and trumpet the Jindal administration’s brilliance in the privatization plan.

To no one’s surprise, Jindal cheerleader Scott McKay, curiously writing under the pseudonym “MacAoidh,” which he explained was the Gaelic spelling of his name, jumped out in front of the parade. Close behind were Lauren Guillot of the LSU Reveille and Chris LeBlanc of the Thibodaux Daily Comet.

http://www.lsureveille.com/news/hospital-privatization-cost-million-less-than-budget/article_aba78c98-12c6-11e4-9da3-0017a43b2370.html

http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20140724/ARTICLES/140729784

The latest to chime in is Quin Hillyer, an unsuccessful Alabama-congressional-candidate (he finished fourth in the Republican primary)-turned-columnist for the Baton Rouge Advocate who somehow purports to be an expert on Louisiana politics but who continues to live in Mobile.

The DHH report attempted to show that Jindal’s privatization plan—a plan, by the way, that has yet to be approved by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services(CMS)—has cost the state $51.8 million less than expected during the fiscal year ended June 30.

STATE HOSPITAL FINANCIAL REPORT

But those numbers are disingenuous at best.

The first column of the DHH spreadsheet contains the amounts budgeted for each of the nine hospitals for the fiscal year that ended on June 30.

That’s simple enough to comprehend but the second column is the key. That column lists the amounts actually spent as of June 30 while the third column reports the difference between the amounts appropriated and the amounts spent. That’s where DHH came up with the aggregate savings of $51.8 million.

But what the report neglects to say is that the books on those fiscal year 2013-2014 expenditures will not be closed until later this month, so any reported costs (Column 2) will necessarily increase, thereby negatively impacting Column 3. (Column 4 simply gives the appropriations for each hospital for the current (2014-2015) fiscal year.)

By way of explanation, “Public Claims” is the traditional Medicaid payments the state made to the public hospitals. “Public UCC” is the uncompensated care, or DSH payments the state made to the LSU hospitals. “Private Claims” are the Medicaid payments made to the new private hospital partners. These are the same payments as the “Public UCC” payments, only larger and fueled by the lease payments used by the state for match, thereby cutting state funds and giving the illusion of shrinking government.

“Private UPL” stands for “upper payment limit,” which is a supplemental Medicaid payment which the state must match—which is now done from the lease payments that CMS has yet to approve. “Private UCC” is DSH payments the state is also allowed to make to private hospitals.

It is not unusual for individual hospitals to vary from their original budgets because they have the flexibility to move money around, using savings in one area to cover expenditures in others. The bottom line is what is significant.

Even with that Enron-esque method of bookkeeping, several hospitals have already overspent their budgets even before the final numbers are in, the report shows. Those include Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge ($12.2 million over budget), Interim LSU Hospital in New Orleans ($5.9 million), University Medical Center in Lafayette ($8.8 million) and W.O. Moss in Lake Charles ($1.2 million).

Others that were close to spending all of their appropriations included Chabert Medical Center in Houma and E.A. Conway in Monroe.

The total appropriations for all nine hospitals for the 2013-2014 fiscal year is $1.111 billion against $1.058 billion spent, a difference of $51.8 million, according to the report which again, does not reflect the final numbers.

The 2014-2015 appropriation for the nine facilities is $1.15 billion which means if nothing changes in expenditures for the current budget (a highly unlikely, almost impossible scenario), the state will still spend $91.5 million more on the hospitals in 2014-2015 than in the previous fiscal year.

And should the final numbers for 2013-2014 show that the hospitals spent the entire $1.111 billion appropriated, the state still will spend $39.7 million more this year than last.

Somehow, that just doesn’t support the $51.8 million “savings.”

Moreover, the report conveniently does not provide us with the means of finance so we have no concept of how much is state funding and how much is federal. No matter; the cold hard facts are that the partnerships between the state and private hospitals were supposed to save money and they clearly have not.

The 2013-2014 fiscal year was a hybrid between the old public model and the new private model in which the private hospitals lease the state hospitals and use those lease payments for matching funds that the state puts up to receive federal dollars to make “private” payments.

It is that arrangement that CMS has yet to approve because they involve largely inflated lease payments. While the arrangement may be counterintuitive, the private hospitals are more than happy to agree to the inflated lease payments because the state plans to use those payments as match and promptly draw down big federal matching dollars to then pay back to the private hospitals—if, that is, CMS approval is forthcoming.

None of this matters to Hillyer and McKay, though. Eager to thumb their noses at the skeptics and while taking a deliberate shot at “liberal” gubernatorial candidate State Rep. John Bel Edwards, Hillyer called the hospital privatization plan “good medicine,” adding that early critics “should be pulling out the salt and pepper” in preparation to “eat their earlier words.”

http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/9878018-123/quin-hillyer-jindals-privatization-was

But even more egregious on Hillyer’s part, he claims (erroneously, it should be noted) that CMS “has not sent an official ‘disallowance’ notice” on the advance lease payments when in fact those have already been disallowed outright as being illegal. That, says Edwards, will likely result in future clawbacks of $507 million that the state will owe Medicaid.

He also quoted DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert as saying negotiations with CMS have put the feds “in a position where, fairly shortly, they can approve our State Plan Amendments.”

Perhaps so, but we’ve heard that song and dance before so we’re going to withhold judgment on that optimistic report.

At least McKay (or MacAoidh if you will) had the good sense not to accept the DHH spreadsheet as the final numbers and at acknowledged a “fuller accounting” would be forthcoming. “And we’ll know next year, after the first full year of the implementation of Jindal’s idea to privatize the charity hospitals, exactly how much money is saved,” he added, making an apparent assumption there would be a savings despite the increased budget for the current fiscal year. http://thehayride.com/2014/07/surprise-the-privatized-charity-hospitals-come-in-52-million-under-budget/

But then McKay, as is his wont, became a bit melodramatic by pointing out observers “might be at a loss to summon up memories of dead bodies due to neglect as a result of the privatization. If there are oodles of corpses littering the roadsides outside of hospitals throughout Louisiana for lack of admittance, they’ve gone strangely unreported.”

We honestly don’t know where he came up with that wild scenario that he somehow implies was the claim of privatization opponents. “Nobody suffered from the leases of those hospitals,” he continued. “And the state is going to save a lot of money as a result, while likely delivering better services to the public.”

That, of course, remains to be seen. If he is right, he’s right. But it’s difficult to arrive at that conclusion when you look at the numbers on the DHH spreadsheet.

If, that is, you bothered to study the numbers closely which some obviously did not—just as the administration counted on.

(With appreciation to two regular readers who helped us interpret the numbers and their meaning.)

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To probably no one’s surprise except a clueless Gov. Bobby Jindal, the takeover of the Louisiana Office of Group Benefits (OGB) by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana 18 months ago has failed to produce the $20 million per year in savings to the state.

Quite the contrary, in fact. The OGB fund balance, which was a robust $500 million when BCBS took over as third party administrators (TPA) of the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) in January of 2013, only 18 months later stands at slightly less than half that amount and could plummet as low as an anemic $5 million a year from now, according to figures provided by the Legislative Fiscal Office.

OGB is one of the main topics to be taken up at today’s meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB) when it convenes at 9 a.m. at the State Capitol.

OGB is currently spending about $16 million per month more than it is collecting in revenue, said Legislative Fiscal Officer John Carpenter.

The drastic turnaround is predicated on two factors which LouisianaVoice warned about two years ago when the privatization plan was being considered by the administration:

  • Jindal lowered premiums for state employees and retirees. That move was nothing more than a smokescreen, we said at the time, to ease the state’s share of the premium burden as a method to help Jindal balance the state budget. Because the state pays a percentage of the employee/retiree premiums, a rate reduction would also reduce the amount owed by the state, thus freeing up the savings to patch gaping holes in the budget.
  • Because BCBS is a private company, it must return a profit whereas when OGB claims were processed by state employees, profits were not a factor. To realize that profit, premiums must increase or benefits decrease. Since Jindal had already decreased premiums, BCBS necessarily found it necessary to reduce benefits.

That, however, still was not enough and the negative income eroded the fund balance to its present level and now legislators are facing a severe fiscal crisis at OGB.

And make no mistake: this is a man-made crisis and the man is Bobby Jindal.

In a span of only 18 months we have watched his grandiose plans for OGB and the agency’s fund balance dissolve into a sea of red ink like those $250 million sand berms washing away in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the disastrous BP spill.

There is no tactful way to say it. This Jindal’s baby; he’s married to it. He was hell bent on privatizing OGB and putting 144 employees on the street for the sake of some hair-brained scheme that managed to go south before he could leave town for whatever future he has planned for himself that almost surely does not, thank goodness, include Louisiana.

So ill-advised and so uninformed was Jindal that he rushed into his privatization plan and now has found it necessary to have the consulting firm Alvarez and Marcel, as part of their $5 million contract to find state savings, to poke around OGB to try and pull the governor’s hand out of the fiscal fire. We can only speculate as to why that was necessary; Jindal, after all, had assured us up front that the privatization would save $20 million a year but now cannot make good on that promise.

In the real world, the elected officials are supposed to be the pros who know that they’re talking about while those of us on the sidelines are mere amateurs who can only complain and criticize. Well, we may be the political novices here, but the results at OGB pretty much speak for themselves and we can rightfully say, “We told you so.”

Are we happy or smug? Hell, no. We have to continue to live here and raise our children here while Jindal will be taking a job with some conservative think tank somewhere inside the D.C. Beltway (he certainly will not be the Republican candidate for president; he isn’t even a blip on the radar and one former state official now residing in Colorado recently said, “No one out here has ever even heard of him.”)

In a five-page letter to JLCB Chairman Rep. Jim Fannin (R-Jonesboro), Carpenter illustrated the rate history of OGB going back to Fiscal Year 2008 when premiums were increased by 6 percent. The increase the following year was 3.7 percent and the remained flat in FY-10. In FY-11, premiums increased 5.6 percent, then 8.1 percent in FY-12 when the system switched from a fiscal year to calendar year. but in FY-13, the year BCBS assumed administrative duties, premiums dropped 7 percent as Jindal attempted to save money from the state’s contributions to plug budget holes. For the current year, premiums decreased 1.8 percent and in FY-15 are scheduled to increase by 5 percent.

OGB Report_July 2014 FOR JLCB

Carpenter said that since FY 13, when BCBS took over the administration of OGB PPO claims, OGB’s administrative costs began to shift to more third party administrator (TPA) costs as the state began paying BCBS $23.50 per OGB member per month. That rate today is $24.50 and will increase to $25.50 in January of 2015, the last year of the BCBS contract.

That computes to more than $60 million per year that the state is paying BCBS to run the agency more efficiently than state employees who were largely responsible for the half-billion-dollar fund balance.

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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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