Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

There was a popular game about 40 years ago called “Whack-a-mole.” (For all I know, it may well still be around.) Anyway, the object of the game was for a player to “whack” a rodent with a rubber mallet each time it appeared out of one of five holes. The problem was each time a mole was “whacked”, it invariably popped up again from one of the remaining four holes.

So it is with certain news stories that just when you think you’ve written about all there is to say on the subject, up pops another angle to pursue.

This time though, two separate—and seemingly unrelated—stories that have been covered extensively in the past by LouisianaVoice have now converged to warrant a fresh look at old news.

Before I go any further, I should acknowledge the ever-sharp eyes of my bronchitis-infected friend and Ruston High School classmate John Sachs (Class of ’61). It is he, after all, that brought an otherwise routine local news story in the Farmerville Gazette to my attention. (I guess I’m going to have acquiesce and give him that honorary Deputy Ace Reporter badge he’s been clamoring for.)

Eagle-Eye John called me about efforts to hire a private prison management company to take over management of the 380-bed Union Parish Detention Center. You may recall that LouisianaVoice had a couple of stories about the facility last year, on MAY 10 and MAY 31 about a convicted rapist who was allowed out of his cell to rape a female prisoner. Twice.

That incident, deplorable as it certainly was, is not what this is about, however.

The Gazette story recounted the reason for the decision by LaSalle Corrections to decline Union Parish’s offer. Those reasons dealt with the potential shortage of prisoners if Gov. John Bel Edwards is successful in reducing the number of state inmates and the financial impact of such a move.

Another factor, said LaSalle Chief of Operations Johnny Creed, was the size of four other facilities in north Louisiana managed by LaSalle: Richwood Correctional Center (1,129 inmates), Jackson Parish Correctional Center (1,285), LaSalle Correctional Center (785) and Catahoula Correctional Center (835).

image-13

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

And then Creed said the thing that caught Sach’s eye, prompting him to call me with his croaking voice and rattling cough: “As small as (Union Parish Detention Center) is, we would need to bring our work release inmate that work for Foster Farms from our Richwood facility.”

Wait. What?

Foster Farms has 100 work release inmates working at its cotton-pickin’ chicken-pluckin’ plant in Farmerville?

Isn’t this the same plant that Bobby Jindal, with the support of State Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), gave $50 million to in order to get Foster Farms to take over the plant from Pilgrim’s Pride back in 2009?

Wasn’t Foster Farms supposed to provide up to 1,100 jobs with that $50 million?

Does Foster Farms get a $2,400 tax credit for each inmate it employs in the work release program?

And aren’t work release programs something of a cash cow for sheriffs and private prisons farming out prisoners to work for just a smidgen more than minimum wage?

Yes,

Uh-huh.

Yep.

Hell, yes.

You mean to tell me Foster Farms gets a $240,000 tax credit (that’s credit, not a deduction, meaning that’s $240,000 income on which Foster Farm pays no taxes) for hiring 100 prisoners at $7.75 per hour (about 60 percent of which goes to the local sheriff), jobs that should be going to local folks?

Very perceptive, Grasshopper.

This, folks, is yet another lingering smell that hits our olfactory like a pair of dirty socks but which we affectionately call the Jindal Legacy.

The work release program is such a golden egg that sheriffs all over the state, reading the tea leaves shaped like dollar signs, rushed to build their own programs, complete with barracks and vans for workers. And to make sure the beds stayed filled, which is the only way they can get the maximum state dollars, the accommodating Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association lobbied (read parties, booze, women and campaign contributions) Louisiana’s law and order legislators to be more law and order-oriented and pass stiffer penalties for even the most insignificant crimes.

To see just how lucrative this could be for a small parish like Union, let’s run the numbers.

State law allows the sheriff or operator of the private prison to take up to 62 percent of a prisoner’s earnings. One hundred prisoners working 40 hours per week for 50 weeks per year at $7.75 per hour. That comes to $1.55 million earned by the prisoner.

The Union Parish Detention Center is unique in that it is the only such facility in the state in which neither the sheriff nor a private company has operational controls. It is operated by committee comprised of a member of the Union Parish Police Jury, the district attorney and parish police chiefs. Lincoln Parish at one time was run in the same manner but it is now run by the sheriff.

If the parish takes “just” 60 percent, that’s $930,000 per year for the sheriff/operator. And that’s over and above the rate the state pays the sheriff/operator to house the prisoners. More than six years ago, LOUISIANA VOICE published a story that examined some of the housing contracts between the state and several Louisiana parishes.

Despite the money generated by the work release program, the Union Parish Detention Center has continued to lose money. That is the reason for the unsuccessful attempt to lure LaSalle into managing the center.

We followed our December 2010 post with a story in AUGUST 2015 that illustrated the abuses that can occur when someone with the right connections can use that advantage to manipulate a system like work release for his own monetary gain.

Jail operators, be they sheriffs or private corporations, love the money the work release program brings in to augment that paid by the state for housing the prisoners.

And businesses like Foster Farms love being able to hire 100 prisoners at near-minimum wage and receive a $240,000 tax credit in the process.

It’s a win-win for everyone but the taxpayers.

So, bottom line: Thar’s gold in them thar jails.

Read Full Post »

Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based national policy resource center, has released an extensive study entitled Megadeals: The Largest Economic Development Subsidy Packages Ever Awarded by State and Local Governments in the United States.

Louisiana, with giveaways totaling $3,169,600,328, ranked sixth behind New York, Michigan, Oregon, New Mexico and Washington in the total dollar amount of so-called megadeals, the report shows, $65 million more than much-larger Texas, which had $3,104,800,000.

Louisiana, with 11, tied with Tennessee for fifth place in the number of such budget-busting deals behind Michigan’s 29, New York’s 23 and 12 each for Texas and Ohio.

The report, authored by Philip Mattera and Kasia Tarczynska, is somewhat dated in that it was published in 2013 but it still offers some valuable insights into how states, Louisiana in particular, was more than willing to give subsidies worth millions upon millions of dollars to corporations in the name of new jobs that rarely, if ever, materialized.

The subsidies included in the report, it should be noted, do not include tax incentives, which is another type of inducement. Accordingly, Wal-Mart, which has received more than $1.2 billion in total taxpayer assistance, is not included because its deals were worth less than $75 million each. Good Jobs First has documented giveaways to Wal-Mart in a separate report.

The single biggest example of corporate socialism contained in the report is the 30-year discounted-electricity deal worth an estimated $5.6 billion given by the New York Power Authority to Alcoa. In all, 16 of the Fortune 50 corporations (excluding Wal-Mart) were included as recipients of the report’s megadeals.

The biggest single deal for Louisiana—and the fifth-biggest overall—was the $1.69 billion subsidy in 2010 for Cheniere Energy in the form of property tax abatements and other subsidies for the Sabine Pass natural gas liquefaction plant. That project, the report said, created 225 new jobs—a cost to the state of more than $7,500 per job, the largest single cost-per-job project contained in the report.

Shintech, received a 2012 deal worth $187.2 million in subsidies to the company. That project was said to have created 50 new Louisiana jobs at a cost of $3,744 per job.

One of the biggest recipients of governmental largesse since the year 2000 has been General Motors with more than $529 in subsidies nationwide. Yet, it was General Motors who pulled up stakes pulled up stakes in 2012, leaving upwards of 3,000 former employees without jobs.

The megadeals cited by Good Jobs First in its report were dwarfed, however, by the seemingly insane subsidies given to banks and investment firms since 2000.

Of the top 21 recipients of bailouts by the federal government, the smallest was that of a company most probably never heard of: Norinchukin Bank, a Japanese cooperative bank serving more than 5,600 agricultural, fishing and forestry cooperatives from its headquarters in Tokyo—and it received $105 billion (with a “B”).

That’s nothing when compared with the heavy hitters. In all, 12 foreign corporations received loans, loan guarantees or bailout assistance from a generous federal U.S. government, led by the $942.7 billion received by the United Kingdom’s Barclays.

But Barclays ranked only fifth in terms of subsidies received in the form of federal bailouts:

Consider, if you will, the top four:

  • Bank of America $3.5 trillion;
  • Citigroup $2.6 trillion;
  • Morgan Stanley $2.1 trillion;
  • JPMorgan Chase $1.3 trillion.

All of this, of course, was the direct result of deregulation pushed by a congress whose members were supported by generous campaign contributions from CEOs, officers and stockholders of those very firms.

And yet we have elected officials—and citizens—who dare to rail against so-called welfare cheats, the costs of illegal immigrants, and the costs of health care for the poor.

These are the same people who wring their hands at the cost of social programs yet justify the expenditure of billions of dollars per day in military contracts to campaign contributors to support wars with no apparent objective (other than political payback) and with no end in sight.

These are the same ones who look us in the eye and tell us they support free market capitalism.

But pure capitalism doesn’t give away the public bank in order to entice some company that was probably coming to your state anyway. After all, if Louisiana truly has all these rich oil and gas deposits (and it does), does anyone really believe the oil and gas companies are going to locate their refining plants and pipelines in Idaho in order to mine for Louisiana’s resources?

You can check that box “no.”

What is the logic behind subsidies to lure an industry just so it can exploit cheap labor? Wouldn’t it be smarter to invest in public education and higher education so that our citizens might be capable of demanding higher wages for their knowledge and skills? Why would we opt to perpetuate the cycle of poverty by sacrificing taxpayer dollars to the advantage of some faceless corporation who cares not one whit for our citizens?

Free market capitalism doesn’t reward corporations with these kinds of subsidies while the recipients are simultaneously sending job oversees, depriving Americans of job opportunities.

Pure capitalism would dictate that each and every business in America succeed or fail on its own merit, without having to depend on governmental handouts.

Anything else has to be considered as something akin to (gasp) ….socialism.

But insisting on capitalism for the poor and socialism for corporations and the wealthy is a formula for disaster if ever such formula existed. The two philosophies are simply not compatible

And you will never get that lesson from the disciples of Ayn Rand.

Read Full Post »

Less than three months ago, on June 24, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order in which he mandated more scrutiny over how significant industrial property tax breaks are doled out to manufacturers. http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2016/06/john_bel_edwards_signs_executi.html

Theoretically, the order gave local governments that would lose out on property taxes a say in approving exemptions for heavy industry, and companies applying for five-year renewals of five-year tax breaks totaling $11 billion would be required to prove the breaks would create and/or retain jobs.

But the Commerce and Industry Board may be trying an end run around Edwards’ order.

The board waited until late Friday afternoon (one of Bobby Jindal’s favorite tactics of making announcements as the week’s news cycle winds down) to give public notice of a Monday board meeting during which it is scheduled to vote on redirecting millions in local property tax revenue from disaster-affected parishes to corporate tax exemptions, without any input from the local bodies losing that revenue.

One of the exemptions to be voted on Monday would “renew” an exemption for Georgia Pacific, a Koch brothers company, costing East Baton Rouge $1.9 million in property taxes.

Exemptions are costing $16.7 billion in lost property tax revenues to local governments, schools and law enforcement, according to the nonprofit Together Louisiana, which will hold a press conference to oppose the proposed exemptions Monday at 9:15 a.m. prior to the 10 a.m. board meeting. http://togetherbr.nationbuilder.com/about

The board meeting will be held in the LaSalle Building at 617 North Third Street in Baton Rouge. The Together Baton Rouge press conference will be held in front of the LaSalle Building.

The exemptions being voted on at Monday’s meeting are being considered in direct violation of Governor John Bel Edwards’ Executive Order issued, and “effective immediately,” on June 24th, 2016, which stated that no future industrial tax exemptions would be approved without the consent of the local governmental bodies — school boards, sheriffs, municipalities and parish governing authorities — whose tax revenue was at stake.

No public hearings, public deliberations or local votes have taken place on any of these proposals, despite the clear requirement of the Edwards executive order. Here is the full agenda for Monday’s board meeting: http://www.opportunitylouisiana.com/docs/default-source/boards-reports/MeetingCategory/louisiana-board-of-commerce-and-industry/9-12-16-c-amp-i-board-agenda.pdf?sfvrsn=0

 

Read Full Post »

CONSEQUENCES OF VOTING

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR:

Melvin L. “Kip” Holden (DEM)             Defeated         506640            45%

“Billy” Nungesser (REP)                     Elected            628876            55%

Turnout: 40.2% 

We’re not yet halfway through the 2016 legislative session in which lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards are struggling to close a $2 billion budget gap for the coming fiscal year but attention has been diverted from that knotty problem by one of the most bizarre political behavior since Earl Long’s mental crash of 1959, accompanied by a whirlwind tour of the Southwest and his fling with stripper Blaze Starr.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser fell for a phishing scam that’s been around at least three years and in doing so, proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that Louisiana’s electoral legacy of a revolving door for scalawags, con men, thieves and clowns is securely intact. And while we’re at it, let’s not leave out outright idiots and demagogues.

You’d think we had at least partially rid ourselves of that ilk with the exit of Bobby Jindal, but you’d be oh, so wrong. There apparently is no shortage of egos or stupidity to go around and sadly, we keep electing them. The legislature is riddled with those who have set themselves apart from reality.

Thanks to the diligence of Baton Rouge Advocate reporters Rebekah Allen and Richard Thompson, we are now assured that Billy Nungesser is heir-apparent to the title of Chief Clown in residence—a worthy successor to Jindal, we might add.

The two reporters on Sunday (April 10) broke an astonishing story that Nungesser, abetted by state Republican Chairman Roger Villere, not only fell for a huge scam involving a supposed agreement between a Delaware-based corporation, a Lake Charles refinery, and the Iraqi government, but he did it without the knowledge or consent of Gov. John Bel Edwards on whose behalf he claimed he was acting. http://theadvocate.com/news/politics/15398751-125/lt-gov-billy-nungesser-gop-chairman-roger-villere-work-to-recruit-unlikely-iraq-to-louisiana-busin

For sheer audacity, it even surpassed Huey Long’s classic “Round Robin” pledge by 15 senators to block his impeachment back in 1929. Huey, after all, was battling for his political life while Nungesser was only feeding his inflated ego like a ravenous wolf devouring a fresh deer carcass. And he fed it with a story that had no basis in fact. And he did it for all the world to see. And then he apologized. Sort of.

While Baton Rouge was metaphorically wiping its eyes and laughing at this buffoon, we did a quick Internet search and found that a former East Baton Rouge parish councilman and failed mayoral candidate fell for a variation of the same scheme involving the same Delaware corporation three years ago. More about that later.

First, here is what has transpired thus far:

  • Villere, the state GOP brain bust…er, trust, apparently approached Nungesser for a new billion-dollar deal that involved a plan by Alexandros, Inc. http://alexandrosinc.com/index.html to partner with Pelican Refinery of Lake Charles http://www.pelican-refinery.com/index.html in signing a 25-year agreement to become the exclusive shipping company for the Iraqi government’s oil marketing arm, interchangeably called the State Organization for Marketing Oil and the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO). The plan called for the transporting of up to 150 million barrels of Iraqi oil each month. http://www.alexandrosinc.com/shipping.html
  • Alexandros, headed by CEO Markos Fuson of California, proposed reopening the former Avondale Shipyard on the Mississippi River near New Orleans. The facility shut down in 2014.
  • Alexandros also proposed building more than 40 new ships, “super-tankers,” capable of hauling 200 million barrels of oil per month.
  • Fuson supposedly committed to investing 100 percent of his profits from the venture in Louisiana’s motion picture industry and to then invest his share of film profits into an as-yet-to-be-created charitable foundation that would provide education, health care and housing assistance to Louisiana’s minorities.
  • Pelican Refining’s role in the scenario was unclear, given the fact the Lake Charles facility only produces asphalt and road oil. It has not processed sweet or heavier crude oil in more than a decade, The Advocate quoted the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources as saying.

If all that sounds implausible enough, consider this: Nungesser, salivating over the prospects of establishing himself as the state’s economic emancipator, then took matters into his own hands. In quick succession, he:

  • Issued a press release in March saying that Iraqi’s export agency had signed off on Alexandros’s request to partner with Pelican Refining to purchase light and heavy crude oil from SOMO.
  • Inexplicably sent the press release only to the Washington Post which, recognizing a con when it saw one, chose not to publish the release.
  • Represented himself in the news release as well as in letters to representatives of the Department of State and to Iraqi officials as Louisiana’s economic development recruiter (he’s not; that duty falls to the Secretary of Economic Development, in this case, Donald Pierson). “The honorable governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, has given me a directive to expedite economic stimulus for the state of Louisiana,” Nungesser lied in his letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, adding, “This request for Your Excellency’s advocacy is part of my office’s effort to fulfill that directive.”
  • Wrote similar letters to Stuart Jones, ambassador to Iraq, and to Secretary of State John Kerry in which he again passed himself off as the state’s key economic development leader. “It is with sincere gratitude that I, Billy Nungesser, as the lieutenant governor of the state of Louisiana, respectfully request the Department of State’s additional advocacy to the Republic of Iraq on behalf of the state of Louisiana,” he wrote to Kerry and Stuart.
  • Said in his letters that he copied Edwards with all correspondence. Not so, said a spokesman for the governor’s office, who said Edwards never received a copy.
  • With egg all over his face, denied reading, let alone writing the letters that he signed. Instead, he officially kicked off the blame game, saying first that Villere, an old friend and political ally, had told him he wanted a letter expressing the state’s interest.
  • In the lowest of lows, blamed his staff, saying the letters should never have made their way to his desk. “We’re changing the way some things flow in my office to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he was quoted as saying by The Advocate.
  • Apologized to Edwards. “I would have never used the governor’s name without his permission,” he added.

Falah Alamri, SOMO director general, said the entire deal was a scam, “a hundred percent not real,” The Advocate story says.

But wait. Jeff DeRosia, operations manager for Grand Isle Shipyard in Galliano, says otherwise. “I know they’re real. One hundred percent,” he said. DeRosia, it should be noted also is executive vice president of domestic sales for Alexandros, according to Alexandros documents.

So just where does Villere figure in this entire sordid mess? Who knows? He did, however write his own letter back in February to the Iraqi prime minister and the minister of Oil, Adil Abd al-Mahdi in which he laid out the “urgent next steps that the state of Louisiana and the United States insist upon.” Some of those steps included SOMO’s granting legal authority and the issuing of contracts to Pelican Refining.

It’s still unclear how Villere considered himself in a position to insist on anything on behalf of the United States or Louisiana governments.

The three—Nungesser, Villere and DeRosia—would have been wise to do even the slightest bit of investigation before going off the reservation the way they did.

Our own quick search found a Web site called Ripoff Report in which a Baton Rouge writer in February 2013 warned of a similar scheme by Alexandros. http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Alexandros-Inc/Highland-California-92346/Alexandros-Inc-Attempt-to-Defraud-with-Fake-Documents-Highland-California-1053139

In that report, Terry Easley produced a letter purportedly from the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization attesting to a professional relationship between Alexandros, Inc., Fuson, and the Iraqi government. The letter was signed, supposedly by Sarmad H. Abd, SOMO general manager of contracts, and John Percy de Jongh, Jr., governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Easley pointed out discrepancies in the letterhead of that sham letter, comparing it to one he received on April 29, 2013, from SOMO Director General Alamri. The Alamri letter, he said, was on the correct letterhead, complete with correct logos, addresses and contact information in both English and Arabic. Here are the contents of that letter:

TO: Mr. Terry L. Easley

Email: [REDACTED]

Subj./Fraud Document

Reference to you letter dated 26th April 2013.

Please note the following:

1-The Document attached to your above letter is fraud and has never been issued by SOMO.

2-SOMO has no business relationship whatsoever neither with a company named “Alexandros, Inc.” nor with a person called “Sarmad H. Abd”.

3-Our policy is to deal directly and exclusively with End Users (refining system owners) and not through traders or middlemen.

Best Regards,

Dr. Falah J. Alamri

Director General

/04/2013

Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) Fax: + 964 1 7726 574 / + 964 1 7742 979

PO Box 5118 Email: info@somooil. Gov. Iq

Baghdad – Iraq Web: www.somooil. Gov. Iq

The fake letter that precipitated the above response from Alamri, Easley said, was also copied to one Darrell Glasper of Baton Rouge. Glasper, for those outside the Baton Rouge area, was a member of the Baton Rouge Metro Council and ran for mayor-president against incumbent Kip Holden in 2008. He later admitted to paying for a campaign flier during that election which included doctored photos depicting Holden after being severely beaten by the husband because of an affair between the two.

Ironically, seven years later Nungesser would defeat Holden in an election for the lieutenant governor’s office.

The Baton Rouge media and a prominent blogger lost no time jumping all over the hapless and apparently clueless Nungesser.

Reporter Stephanie Grace, saying on Tuesday (April 12) that Nungesser had gone rogue, pointed out that in a 2011 forum between lieutenant governor candidates, Jay Dardenne pounded Nungesser on the duties of the office while Nungesser countered by saying he was one who followed his gut and “thinks outside the box.” http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/15457076-133/stephanie-grace-nungesser-goes-rogue-on-whacky-economic-deal

Grace said in his first big move after taking office in January, he “proved he’s thinking much further outside the box than anyone could have imagined.”

Saying that Nungesser “has no authority over economic development, no right to speak for the governor, and no place contacting the U.S. government, a national news organization, or a foreign head of state” on behalf of Edwards, she did give him a backhanded compliment in noting that he “basically fessed up to have had no idea what he was doing.”

She suggested that Nungesser make a call to Dardenne, who now serves as Commissioner of Administration. “I’m guessing he’d (Dardenne) would be perfectly happy to, once again, school Nungesser on what the day job entails—and what it doesn’t.”

Political blogger Lamar White wasn’t quite as kind.

In his post today (April 12), White suggested that far from being funny, Nungesser’s actions are impeachable. https://cenlamar.com/2016/04/12/lt-gov-nungessers-scam-deal-isnt-funny-its-impeachable/

I disagree. I think to save himself further humiliation, he should take it upon himself to resign.

Even more biting, however, was White’s quote from Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, another political blog: “I always used to wonder what kind of person fell for those Nigerian prince email scams. This says a lot.”

White called Nungesser’s actions “an enormous embarrassment to Louisiana, a blatant usurpation of the statutory power of the Lt. Governor’s office.” He said it also “demonstrates both an enormous disrespect to Gov. John Bel Edwards, for whom Nungesser deliberately misrepresented as working under his authority and blessing, and a fundamental and damaging misunderstanding of the duties of his office.”

He referred to Nungesser’s claim of never having read the letters he signed and his blaming of his staff as “pathetic.”

Not overlooking the role of the state GOP chairman in the fiasco, White said Villere’s “intimate involvement, at the very least, warrants an investigation into criminal conspiracy.”

But then he observed, perhaps correctly that Nungesser need not fear the consequences. “Louisiana is too busy laughing at him to worry about actually holding him accountable.”

There is a lot of stupid to go around in Baton Rouge but with this stunt, Nungesser may have laid claim to franchise rights.

And that is particularly pathetic.

CLOWN IN CHIEF

Read Full Post »

Regular readers of this site know our disdain for the undue influence of lobbyists and special interests over lawmakers to the exclusion of the very voters who elected those same lawmakers to represent them and their best interests.

Our opposition to political decisions made with priority given to campaign contributions over what is best for the state is well-known—and uncompromising. Money should have no place—repeat, no place—in political decisions.

Unfortunately, we know that is not the case. Politicians for the most part, are basically prostitutes for campaign funds and those who choose to remain chaste usually find themselves at a serious disadvantage come election time.

To that end, you can probably look for State Rep. Jay Morris (R-Monroe) to attract strong opposition when he comes up for re-election in 2019. And that opposition, whoever it might be, is likely to have a campaign well-lubricated by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), the Louisiana Chemical Association, and the oil and gas industry.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, we have gone on record on numerous occasions as saying the voters are merely pawns to be moved about at will by big business in general and the banks, pharmaceutical companies, Wall Street and oil companies in particular. It is their money that inundates us with mind-numbing political ads that invade our living rooms every election year telling us why Candidate A is superior to Candidate B because B voted this way or that way and besides, good old Candidate A has always had the welfare of voters uppermost in mind.

The presence of that influence was never more clearly illustrated than in Tyler Bridges’ insightful story in Friday’s Baton Rouge Advocate. http://theadvocate.com/news/15225624-78/la-legislative-staffers-sort-out-changes-added-at-the-last-minute

In the very first paragraph of his story, Bridges wrote that a secret deal between Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego), House Speaker Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia) and lobbyists for LABI and the Louisiana Chemical Association.

We won’t bother to re-hash the details of that meeting and the agreement finally reached just before the closing minutes of the recent special session. You can read the details in the link to the Bridges story that we provided above.

But suffice it to say had it not been for Morris digging his heels in and threatening to kill his own bill when he learned of a manufacturing tax break that had been added to his bill, HB 61 that aimed at eliminating exemptions and exclusions on numerous sales tax breaks. Though a Republican, Morris feels that big business isn’t paying its fair share of taxes.

“I was not aware of the deal,” Bridges quoted Morris as saying. “I was not invited.”

Neither, apparently, were any spokespersons for consumers, organized labor, teachers, or the citizens of Louisiana.

Oh, but you can bet LABI President Steve Waguespack was invited to a meeting in Alario’s office earlier in the day, as was Louisiana Chemical Association chief lobbyist Greg Bowser.

Given that, we would like to ask Sen. Alario and Rep Barras why no one representing the people were invited to that little conclave. And don’t try to tell us that the Senate President and House Speaker were representing the people. You were not. You were representing the vested interests of the chemical industry and big business. Period.

Sen. Alario, Rep. Barras: the people of Louisiana are far more deserving of a place at the table in some furtive backroom meeting than LABI and the chemical association.

Either all factions are invited in or no one is. The playing field should be level.

By not excluding lobbyists or by not inviting those on whose shoulders are placed the greatest burden, the ones who placed you in office, you have not just failed at your job; you have failed miserably.

Our late friend C.B. Forgotston would have said of the meeting which produced that secret deal: “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »