From our anonymous cartoonist…(Click on image to enlarge).
From our anonymous cartoonist…(Click on image to enlarge).
Just when you thought the news coming from this administration couldn’t possibly get any more dysfunctional…it does.
In fact, whatever semblance of logic this administration had remaining is fast circling the drain even as our governor attempts to push his agenda onto a national stage while leaving it to high-priced consultants and amateurs like Kristy Nichols to find solutions to mounting problems at home.
This is the same governor, Bobby Jindal, who recently told the graduating class at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University that the entertainment industry’s intolerance is eroding the very foundation of America’s freedom—even as his Department of Economic Development continues to give away the store in the form of hefty tax incentives to….that very same entertainment industry.
As the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live would say, “Well now, isn’t that special?”
Earl Long might say it another way. He well may have been describing Jindal’s flexibility in spewing his political rhetoric to play to the views of his audience when he told Ruston Daily Leader fledgling reporter Wiley Hilburn in July of 1959 (only a couple of months before Long’s death) that Hilburn’s uncle, former Lt. Gov. C.E. “Cap” Barham, could “talk out of both sides of his mouth and whistle out of the middle at the same time.”
But bizarre as Jindal’s performance has been over the past six-plus years, he would be hard-pressed to surpass the downright preposterous laundry list of proposed cuts in spending rolled out on Monday by Nichols, serving as his proxy while he campaigns to be the Second Coming of Alfred E. Neuman.
All that was missing from Nichols’ theater of the absurd were the orange wig, red nose, big shoes and a seltzer bottle.
To say this administration is delusional is to be overly kind.
To refresh, you will remember that back in January, the administration signed a $4.2 million contract (quickly amended to $5 million in violation of state law requiring legislative concurrence on initial amendments greater than 10 percent) with the consulting firm of Alvarez & Marsal, charging the firm with finding $500 million in savings by April. Well, April has come and gone and now Nichols says the firm’s report will be a month late, now expected at the end of May.
Alvarez & Marsal (A&M), to further refresh the old memory banks, is the same firm that offered up the sage advice to the Orleans Parish School Board in December of 2005, only months after Hurricane Katrina, to fire 7,500 teachers, effective Jan. 31, 2006.
That little bit of economic wisdom may wind up costing the state $1.5 billion following a court decision in favor of the teachers who filed suit after being summarily fired.
A&M also is the same firm that recommended the privatizing of the LSU Medical Center in New Orleans (formerly Big Charity Hospital) in the voluminous Streamlining Commission report initiated during Jindal’s second year in office, thus sowing the seeds of Jindal’s ambitious privatization plan for LSU’s statewide system of hospitals.
And we all know how well that fared, don’t we?
According to friend and fellow blogger C.B. Forgotston, the preliminary report submitted by A&M last Thursday (May 8) was a whopping two and one-half pages in length ($2 million per page—by comparison, this post alone should be worth $10 million) and contained recommendations for only $74 million of the $500 million goal.
And now Nichols has come before the Senate Finance Committee to inform senators that “Every (cabinet) secretary signed off on the savings.”
Well, DUH! Of course they signed off on the proposals. They may be sycophants but they ain’t stupid. We know what happens to anyone in the state employ who might dare adopt a viewpoint at odds with Jindal. Obviously, these people who could never command comparable salaries in the private sector want to cling to their jobs like so many ticks in a hound dog’s ear.
But enough of the ancient history; let’s allow Jindal and A&M to demonstrate in their own words just how inane the future leader of the free world can be. Among the innovative ideas for saving the taxpayers $74 million are these jewels of pure brilliance:
Oh, we get it. Very funny. Kristy, you’re quite the card.
What? You’re serious?!!!?? No way! C’mon, guys; a joke’s a joke but now you’re starting to scare us. We’d rather hear something a little less scary—like finding the hook from the one-armed killer in the car’s door handle or about the water skier falling into a nest of water moccasins.
Okay, now sit back, Kristy, and take a reality check here. Where’s the proposal to prohibit offering six-figure salaries to washed-up politicians so they can occupy a desk for a few year to fatten their state pensions? We mean, even with motion sensor lighting, these guys are so useless that they inhabit darkened offices.
You want to cut the hours of operation of the Cameron Ferry from 24 to 16 or 18 hours and you want to cut the thickness of asphalt overlay in half—from two inches to one-inch? You say the two would save the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) $10.9 million?
Have you ignored the fact that the only detour along Highway 82 in Cameron Parish would require a drive of 120 miles?
You say Texas has already adopted a new material that allows that state to overlay roadways with one-inch-thick asphalt? Wonderful. Have you taken into account that the soil composition and consistency in Louisiana, particularly South Louisiana, is vastly different than that of Texas? To implement this foolish proposal would place an added onus on already over-burdened DOTD maintenance units when the thinner asphalt produces thousands of potholes that are certain to occur as the base beneath the asphalt deteriorates. If DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas did agree to this idiocy as Nichols claims, she is grossly unqualified to head up the agency responsible for the construction and maintenance of the state’s roads and bridges.
Circling employment ads for prisoners? Gawd. For this, we’re paying A&M $5 million. We could have suggested that for a buck-fifty.
Nichols explained that the state intends to implement the program whereby low-risk prisoners in Orleans and Jefferson parishes would earn their keep by working by serving the latter portions of their sentences in minimum-security facilities such as parish prisons run by sheriffs and giving part of their paychecks to the prison operators to help pay for their room and board. She said that would save the state $9.4 million. How do you propose to keep the sheriffs honest in reporting actual salaries against what they report to the state? Just a thought.
Midwives and doulas for deliveries for pregnant women on Medicaid? Interesting concept. Has anyone thought of bringing back leeches? How about electric shock for mental illness? And willow bark for treating fever? And now, simply because they are on Medicaid, we propose to deny these expectant mothers the same childbirth facilities to which people like Kristy Nichols or Sherri LeBas or Kathy Kliebert might be privy?
And you propose to treat the sexual partners of pregnant women for STDs after the fact?
Beautiful, just bleeping beautiful.
This aberration of an administration, as we (borrowing a line from Three-and-a-Half Men) have said before, has all the emotional stability of a sack full of rats in a burning meth lab.
Even sadder is the fact that the legislature, in allowing this spoiled brat of a child Jindal to get away with his shenanigans, for failing so miserably to hold him accountable, isn’t far behind.
An interesting civil trial is transpiring at the 19th Judicial District Court. Though estimates vary, if the plaintiffs prevail, about one taxpayer in five in the Greater Baton Rouge area may eventually wind up with a surprise check in the mail.
The trial involves a group of taxpayers, now represented as a class, who have sued the Amite River Basin Commission (ARBC) over what they claim are vastly overpaid property taxes covering construction of the Comite River Diversion Canal. The project was originally envisioned after the massive 1983 flood which resulted in significant backwater flooding long after rains had stopped. The concept behind the project involves providing a sort of relief valve (the Canal) to divert water from the Comite River into the Mississippi River. By lowering the water level of the Comite River, water levels would also be lowered in the Amite River basin in flood-prone areas such as Port Vincent and French Settlement.
What is in dispute is the amount of funding for which the ARBC (through local property owners) is responsible. The original estimate of the project’s construction costs was approximately $120 million (the current estimate is $199 million). Of that $120 million, the Army Corps of Engineers (through the Federal government) was to be responsible for 70% of the construction costs, or $84 million. The remaining $36 million cost was originally designated to be $30 million to the State of Louisiana, and $6 million to the ARBC.
A sidebar to the whole affair is how a Baton Rouge lawyer is legally or ethically able to represent ARBC when he also served as the plaintiff attorney in litigation against the state that could ultimately cost the state from $60 million to $70 million.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys have indicated that $6 million was the full extent of the construction costs for which the ARBC was responsible. To date, by way of a 3-mill property tax approved by voters in the District in 2000, combined with a renewal (at 2.65 mills) of that tax in 2010, plaintiff attorneys say about $24.5 million has been collected to date. The suit seeks a refund of the alleged $18.5 million overpayment.
At various stages in the trial, plaintiff attorneys have accused ARBC Executive Director Deitmar Rietschier of financial mismanagement and voter deception in order to “keep a project alive that is on life support.”
The attorneys have argued that Rietschier has an ulterior motive for over-collecting on the tax in order to fund his own $93,000+ annual salary along with his executive secretary’s $38,000 salary. The board’s executive secretary, Toni Guitrau, also happens to be the Mayor of the Livingston Parish Village of French Settlement.
So, basically, the trial boils down to the claim that taxpayers of the district have been tricked into paying around $1.1 million in salaries for Rietschier and Guitrau during a period for which no funding has been appropriated for the project’s continued construction.
Plaintiff attorney Steve Irving argued that it is virtually impossible to accurately estimate the final cost of the project or if, it may even be completed.
Defense attorney Larry Bankston says there never was any intent to cap the ARBC’s contribution to construction costs at $6 million. He argues that the Canal project remains viable and is fully ongoing. He indicated that he has eight more witnesses to call.
Bankston’s roles as both plaintiff and defense attorney in cases involving the state would appear to pose a conflict of interests. Currently, he is:
Employing the doctrine that “the state is the state is the state,” it would appear that Bankston may have a conflict of interests under the code of ethics which governs attorney representation.
But as we discovered years ago, nothing is ever cut and dried in the legal world. And it’s obvious those in charge of attorney ethics or either ignorant of the subject or protective of their peers—or both.
And so it is with this question. We contacted a number of organizations, including the Attorney Disciplinary Board, the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, and the State Bar Ethics Council and each one punted. Eric K. Barefield of the State Bar Association’s Ethics Council did finally respond to our email question about the propriety of working both sides of Litigation Street but his answer did little to shed light on the issue:
“Thank you for your inquiry. The Louisiana State Bar Association’s Ethics Advisory Service is designed to provide eligible Louisiana-licensed lawyers with informal, non-binding advice regarding their own prospective conduct and/or ethical dilemmas under the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct (the “LRPC”). According to limitations set by the Supreme Court of Louisiana, we are not permitted to evaluate contemplated disciplinary complaints, to serve as the catalyst for potential complaints or even to comment on the conduct of lawyers other than that of the requesting lawyer.
“As such, regrettably, we are not permitted to help you evaluate whether the lawyer in your scenario has or may be violating the LRPC nor are we permitted to give you legal advice on matters such as those contained in your e-mail.
“In addition to the foregoing, if you are concerned about protecting and/or asserting your rights and interests in this matter, perhaps you should strongly consider consulting another lawyer as soon as possible with regard to getting an evaluation of your facts and a legal opinion about your rights, interests and options. Regrettably, no one on the staff at the LSBA is permitted to offer legal assistance and/or legal advice.”
That rendition of the Bureaucratic Shuffle would easily get a “10″ rating on Dancing with the Stars.
Bankston, you may remember, is a former staff attorney for the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, was assistant parish attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish and a member of the Baton Rouge City-Parish Commission before his 1987 election to the Louisiana State Senate.
In 1994, while serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bankston met in his law office with Fred Goodson, owner of a Slidell video poker truck stop. The FBI later said Bankston and Goodson discussed a plan to manipulate the legislative process in order to protect the interests of video poker companies in exchange for providing key legislators secret financial interests in video poker truck stops.
Bankston was subsequently indicted and convicted on two racketeering counts, one of which was a scheme whereby Goodson would pay Bankston “rent” of $1,555 per month for “non-use” of Bankston’s beachfront condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama—a bribe, according to prosecutors.
Bankston was sentenced to 41 months in prison in 1997 and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.
Released on Nov. 6, 2000, Bankston was subsequently disbarred by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Mar. 9, 2002, retroactive to Nov. 19, 1997, but was re-admitted to practice law on Feb. 5, 2004.
So, now he represents two state boards and is suing two others and a state agency.
And there apparently is no one who can—or will—call a foul in this game.
The heretofore one-person debate over state funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has been ramped up a notch with Baton Rouge attorney Mary Olive Pierson’s six-page letter to State Treasurer John Kennedy that challenged Kennedy’s contentions that the Colomb Foundation owes a refund in lieu of an additional accounting of how it spent a $300,000 grant awarded the foundation in 2007.
The Colomb Foundation in Lafayette, run by Sterling Colomb, received its “public purpose” grant to “design and build a much needed community center that will house social services activities and programs that will be directed toward improving the quality of life through advocacy in crime prevention, distribution of health information and in an effort to decrease mortality rates among the at-risk population, and enhancing youth education through reading,” Pierson quoted from the foundation’s grant application.
Colomb is the husband of State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton rouge) but Pierson noted the two were not married until 2010, three years after the issuance of the grant.
The Colomb Foundation is one of three dozen NGOs that Kennedy said in July owed the state more than $4.5 million because of non-compliance in reporting how grant money is spent.
Several of the recipient NGOs no longer exist and the whereabouts of many of the NGO officers and representatives are unknown.
The state Capital Outlay Bill (Act 24) is peppered with local NGO projects that consume tens of millions of dollars of state taxpayer funds at a time when the state faces repeated annual budgetary shortfalls and while the number and amounts of NGO funding projects has diminished, their presence is still felt. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=858547&n=HB2 Act
Included in this year’s construction spending bill were such items as:
Also funded were various local court houses, jails, water and sewer systems, local airports, fire districts, parish road improvements, councils on aging, and municipal projects too numerous to list here.
For a list of 2013 NGO funding requests, go here: http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/NGO/NgoSearch.aspx
A spokesperson for Sen. Dorsey has contended all along that the organization is in compliance but Pierson’s letter of Wednesday, Nov. 20, was the first time that an attorney has weighed in on the issue.
An addition to her letter which she said she was sending to news outlets (LouisianaVoice was not among those to whom she sent copies of her letter—and yes, we feel slighted—although she did include a couple of long-retired reporters in her list of 24 media contacts) “because of all the fanfare you (Kennedy) have caused and the press coverage you demanded through your press releases, Pierson attached 10 exhibits—just like a lawyer in a real trial—which contained another 61 pages of receipts, emails and letters.
Among the exhibits were receipts from retail outlets for supplies, emails from the Legislative Auditor’s office indicating that office had found no irregularities, and even emails and letters from Kennedy’s office indicating its satisfaction with documents provided by the foundation.
“I suspect that the compliance by the foundation does not fit into your apparent political agenda for re-election or, even better, a campaign for governor,” Pierson wrote.
“On behalf of the Colomb Foundation, I demand it be deemed in compliance and that this matter be closed…and a letter be sent to Mr. Colomb ‘notifying him of the closure,’” her letter said.
“Failing the closure of the matter by your office on or before noon on Dec. 2, 2013, I have advised Mr. Colomb and the Foundation that a suit for mandamus may be filed, directed to you to compel you to perform the only remaining ministerial duty of closing the file because there is no further accounting to be done for any legitimate purpose,” she said.
And of course, her letter contained the requisite threat to sue for damages: “In addition, your prior actions, performed under the color of state law, have caused substantial damage to the Foundation and Mr. Colomb, if the matter cannot be amicably resolved by that date a claim for said damages will also be filed.”
Twitter apparently is the new eight-party line.
Growing up in Ruston when it truly was a rural community (the two taxi services were the One-Four (green Chevrolets) and the Twelve Hundred (black Fords) taxi companies because their respective telephone numbers were 14 and 1200. (One could go just about anywhere in Ruston for a quarter and the cabbie kept his money in a cigar box—and tipping was unheard of.) The local furniture store was 1. Apparently they had the first telephone ever installed in Ruston.
Much like Barney Fife and Andy in The Andy Griffith Show, we had to pick up the receiver and wait for the operator to come on the line and we would give her the number we wanted to call.
This was, of course, long before the first dial system came to Ruston and our number was changed from first 122-J and then 1190-M (the letters J and M told the switchboard operator which way to move the lever—push forward and pull back were the options—to ring the proper number on a two-party line. Four- and eight-party lines had ring codes like a long, a short and another long, etc.) to Alpine 5-0177, later AL5-0177 and then simply to 255-0177 and still later to 255-5276 because the telephone company didn’t want the last four digits starting with a zero. (And we thought things were simpler back then.)
But even with the dial system, we remained on a two-party line with our neighbor, the Williamsons. To my knowledge, neither of us listened to the others’ conversations because we were friends and respected each other.
Out in the country, it was a different story. The best way to get news back then was to listen in on those eight-party lines—mainly because with eight households sharing a line, it was impossible to know who was eavesdropping.
Ah, nostalgia. It’s not what it used to be.
Twitter, it seems, can be just as fun.
Take the recent exchange between Gov. Bobby Jindal’s alter-ego Timmy Teepell and Robert Mann, political historian, holder of the Manship Chair in Journalism at the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU, and who formerly worked for three U.S. Senators and former Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
The topic of conversation was the recent report by the Louisiana Inspector General which noted that the Jindal administration paid the equivalent of $28 a bag for 10-pound bags of ice following Hurricane Isaac last year only to pay another $312,000 restocking fee to the ice vendor and then allow the ice to melt in an unrefrigerated storage building at a total cost of more than $7.1 million.
Occasionally others listening in on the 21st Century party line would chime in.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the entire string of comments, but we have enough to know that Teepell got a little thin-skinned about the whole matter and attempted to toss the issue back into the lap of Blanco by alluding to events that occurred in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Following are a few of the choice comments:
That certainly beats the local news from the old eight-party lines where the most titillating news item was when it was learned that Mrs. Brewster just got back from Houston where she had a wart removed from her nose only to learn that Mr. Brewster had supper of squash, collard greens and cornbread with the widow Johnson while she was gone.
But I’d still rather hear about the wart on Mrs. Brewster’s nose any day than listen to Timmy Teepell whine.
Somehow, trying to prop this administration up by attacking someone who has been out of office for more than five years just doesn’t seem to be much of a defense for such monumental waste.
I guess as much as anything else, it’s his cavalier attitude that is so reflective of the entire Jindal administration that I find offensive.
BATON ROUGE (CNS)—In anticipation of Hurricane Isaac a year ago, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) purchased 33.9 million pounds of ice at a cost of more than $7.1 million, nearly half of which was allowed to melt in an unrefrigerated warehouse in Lacombe, according to a report just released by the Louisiana Inspector General’s (IG) office.
Lacombe is in St. Tammany Parish.
GOHSEP Director Kevin Davis was St. Tammany Parish President until his appointment by Jindal to head GOHSEP in December of 2011.
In addition to the cost of the ice, the state also paid Pelican Ice, Inc. of Kenner nearly $1.1 million for mileage and $9.2 million in “loitering” fees for Pelican drivers at $75 per hour, bring the total cost of the ice supply project to $17.4 million.
The reported noted that the Louisiana National Guard (LANG) claimed that 1.5 million bags of ice were distributed to the public.
Pelican, however, invoiced GOHSEP for the delivery of only 142 truckloads, or 624,800 bags. Pelican was the sole supplier of ice for the hurricane relief effort.
Based on all associated costs, GOHSEP paid $28 per bag of ice distributed.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursed the state for 75 percent of the costs of the ice with GOHSEP paying the remaining 25 percent.
Certainly, had there been a widespread power outage caused by Isaac and had the administration not been prepared with sufficient supplies of ice, there would have been harsh criticism from those unable to obtain ice.
But at the same time, it would seem reasonable to assume that GOHSEP would have taken the necessary precautions to secure refrigerated storage facilities for the ice that was not distributed to storm victims.
Isaac made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River on Aug. 28, 2012, and GOHSEP place three separate orders with Pelican for ice—on Aug. 29, Aug. 30 and Sept. 2. Each order was for 15,050,000 pounds of ice in 10-pound bags, or 45.15 million pounds total. The amount actually delivered was 33.9 million pounds for which Pelican invoiced the state $17.4 million.
The invoice amount included 268,856 miles at $4 per mile ($1,075,901), $9,207,692 “loitering time,” the time which Pelican’s drivers were required to wait to load or unload their trucks beyond a four-hour delay. The ice itself cost $7,124,000, according to Inspector General Stephen Street, Jr.
Additionally, GOHSEP agreed to pay Pelican a $315,000 “restocking charge” to take back some of the ice but the ice was taken to an unrefrigerated warehouse in Lacombe where it was allowed to melt. The warehouse rental was negotiated by Baron Property Management of Destrehan. The registered agent for Baron Property Management, Paul J. Murray, contributed $1,000 to Jindal in November of 2008.
The cost of the ill-fated Lacombe warehouse project came to more than $7.5 million, the report said. That included $3.2 million for the ice, $416,114 in mileage costs, $315,000 for the “restocking fee,” and $3.6 million in loitering costs.
Another sticking point noted in the IG report was that even though GOHSEP paid Pelican $4 per mile and the $75 per hour loitering fee, it also paid $238,819 to refuel the loitering ice trucks. This meant that taxpayer dollars paid mileage and purchased fuel for the trucks, in effect, a dual payment.
Among the IG’s findings and recommendations:
Davis, in his response to Street’s report, said that all four of the report’s recommendations have since been implemented by GOHSEP.
In September of 2008, Jindal lost no time in making Department of Social Services Secretary Ann Williamson the scapegoat for the confusion that surrounded shelter conditions and the emergency food stamp program following Hurricane Gustav.
Though Williamson officially “resigned,” it is no secret that she was forced out, or “teagued” by Jindal—a tactic that seems to be his preferred method of jettisoning people he doesn’t want in his administration. Williamson had the misfortune of having served under former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, apparently an unpardonable sin in the Jindal administration.
In commenting on Williamson’s departure, Jindal, as is his custom, declined to say whether he leaned on her to resign, choosing to fall back on what would become a familiar line with subsequent departures: “We agreed it was time to go in a different direction.”
No word has been forthcoming from the governor’s office if any disciplinary action might be considered for Davis’s waste of $7.5 million in lost ice and transportation costs or if an agreement to “go in a different direction” might be in the works.
Of course Williamson was not the one who contributed $3,000 to Jindal’s campaigns.
That was Davis.
We received an interesting post from our friend C.B. Forgotston relative to HB 703 by State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite).
The bill was fairly straightforward in that it simply requires unclassified employees with annual salaries of $100,000 or more to register their vehicles in Louisiana and to obtain Louisiana driver’s licenses within 30 days of employment, subject to termination.
The bill was handled in the Senate by Rick Gallot (D-Ruston).
Who could oppose such a bill—unless it might be certain employees of the Louisiana Department of Education who somehow appeared to feel they were above the law, not exactly a precedent in this administration. After all, there already was a law requiring registration of vehicles and the obtaining of a state driver’s license on the part of any citizen moving to Louisiana.
Even Gov. Bobby Jindal said he would sign the bill if it passed—and it did by votes of 70-20 (with 15 not voting) in the House and 20-17 (with two not voting) in the Senate.
But wait. A somewhat indignant Forgotston noted in his blog that the Baton Rouge Sunday Advocate quoted Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) as calling the bill “a political poke in the eye and a waste of our (legislators’) time.”
Like Forgotston, we’re not entirely sure whose eye was being poked other than certain recalcitrant appointees of State Education Superintendent John White.
But a waste of time?
Let’s review some of the legislation introduced in the form of House and Senate resolutions by several of those serious-minded legislators who, having no time for frivolity, would never think of wasting time in Baton Rouge and who had the integrity and dignity to vote against such a colossal waste of precious legislators’ time.
Appropriately enough, we shall begin with Sen. Claitor:
• SCR 11: Requests the International Olympic Committee to reconsider its position on Olympic Wrestling;
• SCR 15: Urges and requests the citizens of Louisiana to recognize the life-saving benefits of routine colorectal screening examinations and to schedule such examinations as deemed appropriate by their physicians;
• SR 31: Commends the Brusly High School Panthers wrestling team on winning its second consecutive Division III state championship title;
• SR 35: Commends Paxton Turner on being named as an Honorable Mention by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in education Program;
• SR 47: Commends the Episcopal High School Knights boys’ soccer team upon their Division III state championship;
• SCR 104: Commends the Louisiana Varsity Sports Women’s Team and Men’s Team for their individual and team achievements in the 2013 Boston Marathon;
• SR 111: Requests the Louisiana State Law Institute to perform a comprehensive study of Louisiana bail laws and procedures and to make recommendations as necessary for modernization of bail procedures (probably to benefit carpetbagger political appointees who refused to comply with HB 703).
We listed all of Claitor’s extremely important resolutions which, of course, did not constitute any waste of time. For the others voting against the bill, we had to narrow our selection lest we would still be writing after the June 6 adjournment of the legislature.
Here are a few choice bits of legislation by other opponents of HB 703:
Sen. A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell):
• SR 23: Designates the week of April 7-13 as Junior Auxiliary Week at the Senate;
• SR 24: Commends Israel on the occasion of its 65th anniversary of the birth of the modern State of Israel;
• SCR 86: Commends Joshua R. Ashley and Ian Frichter for their competition in the Automotive Technology Program at Northshore Technical Community College;
• SCR 88: Memorializes Congress to adopt the Constitution Restoration Act;
Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego):
• SCR 93: Commends Rachel Elizabeth Schultz upon being named the 76th Greater New Orleans Floral Trail Queen;
Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin):
• SR 94: Designates the week of June 17-21 as Louisiana Entrepreneurship Week;
Sen. Page Cortez (R-Lafayette):
• SCR 18: Commends the St. Thomas More High School boys’ basketball team on winning the Class 4A state championship;
Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville):
• SR 37: Recognizes and commends the Boy Scouts of America for the public service the organization performs through its contributions to the lives of the nation’s boys and young men;
Sen. Elbert Guillory (D-Opelousas):
• SR 110: Recognizes Thursday, May 16, 2013, as Pro-Life Day at the Louisiana State Capitol;
• SCR 92: Commends the Westminster Christian Academy Crusaders for Life on being the first student-led pro-life group on campus;
Sen. Ronnie Johns (R-Lake Charles):
• SCR 44: Commends Alcoa upon the celebration of its 125th anniversary and designates May 14, 2013, as Alcoa Day at the Legislature;
• SCR 98: Expresses support of and provides authority for actions by the LSU Board of Supervisors for the strategic collaboration with the Division of Administration and the Department of Health and Hospitals in planning for a new model of health care delivery throughout the Lake Charles region;
• SR 33: Commends the 1963 McNeese State College Football Team for its historic season;
• SR 87: Designates May 7, 2013, as Louisiana Chemical Industry Day;
• SR 103: Designates May 15, 2013, as Louisiana Housing Council Day;
• SCR 26: Commends LSU student Bruno Beltran of Sulphur on being a recipient of a Goldwater Scholarship;
Sen. Gerald Long (R-Natchitoches):
• SR 98: Commends the Adai Caddo Indian Tribe for its cultural contributions to the State of Louisiana;
• SR 133: Commends Robert Harper for 42 years of service in state government;
• SCR 22: Urges and requests the Louisiana High School Athletic Association to establish and sanction the competitive sport of tournament bass fishing;
Sen. Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie):
• SCR 57: Requests various state and local departments to take certain actions regarding the commercial construction and operation by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of a facility to provide abortions in Louisiana;
• SR 115: Commends the Louisiana Physical Therapy Association for its outstanding achievements and designates the week of May 13, 2013, as Louisiana Physical Therapy Week;
Sen. Jean-Paul J. Morrell (D-New Orleans):
• SR 117: Commends Tulane University and designates May 21, 2013, as Tulane University Day at the Senate;
Sen. Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City):
• SR 36: Commends the State-Line Fishing and Hunting Club in celebrating its centennial for 100 years of common ownership (what, no designated week? Not even a day?);
Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia):
• SR 77: Designates May 2013 as Breast Cancer Awareness Month (a whole month and not even a day for the fishing and hunting club?);
Sen. Mike Walsworth (who last year asked in committee if humans could be grown from high school science lab petri dish cultures):
• SR 19: Commends Lauren Vizza on her successful reign as Miss Louisiana 2012 (We’re curious as to what would have constituted an unsuccessful reign.);
• SR 56: Commends KNOE TV for proving northeast Louisiana with 60 years of local, state, national and international news (We understand KNOE beat out the Rocky Branch World Guardian Tribune-Shopper House of Prayer, Snake Farm and Bait Stand.);
Sen. Bodi White (R-Central):
• SR 112 and SR 113: Commends the Central Private School boys’ basketball team and boys’ baseball team upon winning the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools basketball and baseball championships (Mississippi? Perhaps some legislator should introduce a resolution requiring Central Private to play in Louisiana.);
We picked on the State Senate because of Claitor’s incredibly naïve comment about the bill’s being a waste of precious time and while we would love to similarly recognize House members who voted against HB 703, there simply is not enough space to do so.
We would like to make a couple of exceptions by pointing out a couple of House resolutions and one House bill that jumped off the page during our review.
Rep. Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro) was actually absent and did not vote on HB 703, but we still want to give him his 15 minutes. HB 648 by Pylant would require the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to require that high school students complete at least one course offered by a BESE-authorized online or virtual course (Course Choice) provider as a prerequisite to graduation.
We can’t help but wonder of Pylant has been paying attention to the growing scandal of fraudulent registration of more than 1100 students to Course Choice courses without the knowledge of consent of either the students or their parents.
His HCR 156 also requests that BESE “and others” study potential funding sources for online courses offered through the Course Choice Program.
Again, we wonder at Pylant’s motives here. We already know from his campaign finance reports that he is beholden to the Jindalistas but his steadfast commitment to Course Choice seems to run much deeper than mere political affiliations.
And then there is Rep. Stephen Carter, chairman of the House Education Committee.
His HCR 30 requests that BESE study the feasibility and advisability of pursuing a residential charter school model in Louisiana. Wouldn’t one think that given the abysmal record of many charter schools and the accompanying legal problems of financing vouchers with state funds, he might wish to hold up on rushing into yet another educational fiasco?
Probably not because his HB 650 is a classic study of putting the cart ahead of the horse.
HB 650 calls for the reorganization of the State Department of Education (DOE).
The problem with the bill is it comes almost a year after Superintendent of Education John White already initiated a reorganization of the department that is arguably blatantly illegal.
More on that in a subsequent post.
For now, on behalf of Rep. John Bel Edwards and Rep. Rick Gallot, we humbly apologize to Sen. Claitor for taking up so much of the good Baton Rouge senator’s precious time. After all, he could have missed a free meal from a lobbyist while contemplating this trivial piece of legislation.
State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard believes he may have found a way in which to cut into the state budget deficit to the tune of about half-a-billion dollars.
HB-73 by Richard would require a 10 percent reduction in the total dollar amount for professional, personal and consulting service contracts under the jurisdiction of the Office of Contractual Review (OCR) for Fiscal Year 2013-14.
The proposed law also would require the OCR to submit reports on the status of the implementation of the law to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget on Oct. 1, 2013, Jan., April 1 and July 1 of 2014.
It also would require that the OCR director to submit a monthly report to the House Appropriations Committee summarizing all contracts and dollar values awarded the previous month.
The Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO) said the annual report of the OCR released in January of this year showed there were 2,284 professional, personal and consulting contracts with the state with a combined contract value of approximately $5.28 billion.
The LFO said the bill would result in an “indeterminable decrease” in overall state expenditures in FY-14. “To the extent this bill would have been enacted during the 2012 regular legislative session, the projected 10 percent reduction in the value of OCR approved professional, personal and consulting services contracts for FY-13 would have equated to approximately $528 million less,” the LFO’s fiscal notes said.
Richard’s bill would allow exceptions but only if certain conditions were met, namely:
• There were no state employees available or capable of performing the needed work;
• Required services are not available as a product of a prior or existing contract;
• There be a written plan to monitor and evaluate performance of the contract;
• The proposed contract would be determined to be a priority expenditure by the Commissioner of Administration.
Such a reduction, should it be approved and implemented, would help close a gaping budget hole of hundreds of millions of dollars for the state.
Posted in Attorney General, Auditor, BESE, Boards, Civil Service, Commissions, Contract, Contracts, Education, Ethics, Governor's Office, Health Care, Higher Education, House, Senate, Jobs, Legislature, Legislators, Lobbyist, Politicians, Privatization, Public Records, Recovery School District, Regents, Retirement, Revenue, State Agencies, Taxes, Transparency, Veto, Vouchers, Waste on August 10, 2012 | 19 Comments »
LouisianaVoice will soon have a sister publication in the form of an online state newspaper, according to publisher Tom Aswell.
The new feature, which will be published online in newspaper format, will be a weekly publication geared exclusively to Louisiana political news.
“This will be a free-subscription publication because we want everyone in Louisiana—and elsewhere—to have access to what elected and appointed officials are doing that affect the daily lives of Louisiana’s citizens,” Aswell said.
The name of the new publication will be Louisiana Free Press and will be accessible via the link http://www.louisianafreepress.com, Aswell said.
Louisiana Free Press will be supported 100 percent by advertising revenue and our coverage will be broadened from publishing a single story at a time. There will be multiple stories posted each Friday and the coverage will vary greatly.
Several writers will be contributing coverage of many more agencies than have historically been covered by LouisianaVoice.
These writers will be covering the Louisiana Supreme Court proceedings, Louisiana Attorney General opinions, audit reports of all state and local agencies as they are provided by the Legislative Auditor’s office. Moreover, coverage of agencies will be increased—agencies like the Department of Health and Hospitals, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Department of Education, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Board of Regents, University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors and the Public Service Commission, the governor’s office, the lieutenant governor, state treasurer and the legislature, as well as other more obscure state boards and commissions.
“We feel it is important that Louisiana’s citizenry remain informed about what their public officials are doing in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and elsewhere,” Aswell said.
“This is an ambitious endeavor but for too long, too many agencies, board and commissions have operated under the radar of the media,” Aswell said. “We anticipate that is about to change.
“That is not to say that everything we write will be of an investigative nature or that each story will be some major exposé. Most will be of a routine nature but will provide news otherwise not available to the public.”
LouisianaVoice will issue further updates as the schedule for launching Louisiana Free Press develops.
Times are hard, the state budget is in the dumpster with devastating cutbacks to Medicaid, state hospitals and higher education, and layoffs of state employees abound, thanks to the untimely combination of privatization and revenue shortages.
But not to worry: the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA), which recently advertised to fill a $76,000-a-year position—restricted to agency employees only, thank you very much—on the heels of the layoff of 58 employees, is going forward with its annual off-site annual Strategic Planning Session for upper management at a cost of $3,500 to the agency.
LOSFA Executive Director Melanie Amrhein did say that in years past both days of the session have been held off-site (at $6,000 cost for each of the past three years, according to records provided LouisianaVoice subject to its public records request). Those costs include a $1,000 set-up cost and $2,500 per day for the session at the conference facilities of SSA Consultants, Inc. of Baton Rouge, complete with the obligatory “facilitator.”
The session will be held Aug. 30-31.
Amrhein said this year only one day of the session will be held at SSA with the other day of the event to be on-site. “It will be for one day instead of two,” she said of the SSA session, “and the cost will be one-half.”
Actually, assuming SSA will still charge the usual $1,000 set-up fee, the fee would be $3,500, or 70 percent of the usual cost, for about a dozen people expected to attend, she said.
Amrhein said it was considered “important to be away from our building with the facilitator” during the session in order to avoid distractions that would likely occur if held in the LOSFA offices.
During former Gov. Mike Foster’s administration, eight new state office buildings were constructed–each containing meeting rooms of all sizes designed to accommodate meetings, seminars and conferences. State agencies are not charged for use of the state facilities.
LOSFA is located in the Galvez Building at the corner of North and Fifth Streets in downtown Baton Rouge, within two blocks–easy walking distance–of three of those buildings.
Asked why the LOFSA Strategic Planning Session was not scheduled for one of the other seven buildings, Amrhein said, “It’s always been held off-site, or at least since I arrived here in 1999.”
“We need a five-year plan by July 1, 2013. That’s why this session is important,” she said.
“It’s not going to be restricted only to executive staff,” she said. “All directors in the office will be attending. Every division or agency in the state is encouraged to do this.”
She said the cost of the event will not come from state general funds, but from fees collected by the agency.
LouisianaVoice had requested a copy of this year’s contract along with those provided by LOSFA but it was not provided with the rest because, Amrhein said, “It has not been finalized yet.”
The 58 employees were laid off last month when LOFSA ceased guaranteeing student loans after the office’s loan program was ordered outsourced by Gov. Piyush Jindal.