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Archive for the ‘Civil Service’ Category

Just when you thought enough had been written about the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA), wouldn’t you know that the organization sent out solicitation letters to three members it had kicked out a couple of years back because they questioned the group’s political activity?

Talk about adding insult to injury.

But that isn’t really the story here. What’s interesting about this solicitation is that the Spring 2018 edition of Trooper Talk actually appears to sending out a not-so-subtle message that if you contribute enough money, you will get a handy little magnetic decal to stick on your vehicle to alert troopers that you gave and probably shouldn’t get a ticket for doing 85 in a 65.

Full disclosure: the story at the top of the page is an LSTA story about the appointment of Col. Kevin Reeves as Superintendent of State Police. Reeves is in no way connected to the LSTA fundraiser. This bulletin is published independent of Louisiana State Police.

And while the LSTA loves to point out how many wonderful projects it supports via its fundraisers, this time the solicitation seems to go out of its way to assure donors that, except for the cost of the newsletter and the decals, 100 percent of the money stays with the LSTA.

Maybe that’s because the LSTA is confident that the State Police Commission, the state police equivalent to the Louisiana Civil Service Commission, won’t lift a finger to investigate the association for its POLITICAL ACTIVITY even though such activity is clearly illegal.

The commission already has hired Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend under a $75,000 contract to conduct a non-investigation investigation of tens of thousands of dollars of LSTA political contributions funneled through the private bank account of its executive director David Young.

So, now there’s this Trooper Talk which informs potential donors that any contribution will get them a couple of window stickers that will, in case you are pulled over for a traffic violation, tell troopers that you are a cheapskate who wouldn’t even pony up $50. But if you give between $50 and $100, you will get a dandy “Silver Distinguished Donors badge.” Those donors will also be entered twice in a drawing for a vacation for two in the Canal Street Inn Bed and Breakfast in New Orleans.

Now this is just any old silver distinguished donors badge. It has a genuine magnetic back “and should be placed on the driver’s side of your vehicle’s trunk or rear door.” (emphasis added.) (Now, why would they suggest placing them there? For better trooper visibility perhaps, hmmm?)

What about those who give $100 or more? Good question. Those generous supporters will get a “Gold Distinguished Donors badge” and four chances at that dream vacation in New Orleans. Those benefactors will also be recognized on the LSTA website. (The site is visited by our troopers and the LSTA personnel,” the solicitation letter said (wink, wink).

And while the letter stresses that the money will remain with the LSTA, it would be unfair not to point out that the organization does do considerable charitable work with children and the families of troopers killed in the line of duty.

On the other hand, however, the LSTA recently announced that it was providing monetary assistance to members who were victims of the 2016 floods in Louisiana. But several retired troopers who also victims of the same floods complained that they received no assistance whatsoever.

Some of those same retirees have filed a complaint with State Police headquarters in Baton Rouge about the latest fundraising solicitation and its indirect suggestion that a large enough donation might help donors avoid a ticket.

 

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State Rep. Dustin Miller (D-Opelousas) has filed HOUSE BILL 724 that would provide an exception to certain provisions of the state ethics code that would allow a Louisiana Department of Health physician to skirt a conflict of interests—in other words, to circumvent the very situation ethics rules were put into place to prevent.

Miller’s bill would allow the physician, Dr. Harold Brandt, to perform in a dual capacity that has already been rejected by the ethics board in a 2016 RULING.

The ruling of July 18, 2016 informed Dr. Sreyram Kuy that he could not accept employment with a healthcare provider that accepted Medicaid payments for medical services because of her position as Medicaid Medical Director, Chief Medical Officer of the Bureau of Health Services Financing (BHSF) within the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), now LDH.

The decision, written by Jennifer T. Land, read, “The Board concluded…that the Code of Governmental Ethics prohibits you from being employed as a surgeon for OLOL (Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center), other Louisiana licensed hospitals and other healthcare providers that accept Medicaid payments for medical services while you serve as Medicaid Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer of BHSF.”

Land cited the specific section which said the code “prohibits a public servant from receiving compensation for services rendered to the following persons: (1) those who have or are seeking to obtain a business, contractual or financial relationship with the public servant’s agency, (2) those who conduct operations or activities that are regulated by the public servant’s agency, and (3) those who have a substantial economic interest that could be affected by the performance or non-performance of the public servant’s official duty. OLOL, other Louisiana licensed hospitals and other healthcare providers that accept Medicaid payments for medical services are regulated by your agency, BHSF. Therefore, as the Medicaid Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer of BHSF, you are prohibited from being employed by or from providing compensated services to these entities.”

What makes Miller’s bill particularly interesting, however, is that both Dr. Kuy’s predecessor, LDH Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee, and his successor, Dr. Harold Brandt, each worked in that same position without bothering to request an ethics ruling, apparently falling back on the Nike slogan “Just do it.”

In fact, in the case of Dr. Brandt, LouisianaVoice has been informed that he was reappointed to the position with the proviso that Miller’s bill would be introduced in order to change the existing law to accommodate him. This despite the fact that an ethics review was requested of LDH legal to determine if such an arrangement was acceptable, and the answer was no, according to sources.

On Jan. 25, LouisianaVoice published a story in which it was revealed that Dr. Brandt previously served as Medical Vendor Administrator (Medicaid Medical Director) for LDH from April 7, 2016 to Sept. 2, 2017 at a rate of $156.25 per hour while he simultaneously served on the staff of BATON ROUGE CLINIC, which received $83,000 in PAYMENTS from LDH during Dr. Brandt’s tenure at LDH.

the Medical Director serves as chairman of the Medical Quality Review Committee, so LDH legal was asked for a second opinion whether any ethics concerns existed in regards to that capacity.

The response was the following potential issues identified under the Code of Governmental Ethics. The Medicaid Quality Committee (Committee) of the Louisiana Department of Health, Bureau of Health Services Financing, fulfills the role of the Medical Care Advisory Committee required by 42 CFR 431.12.  According to its Bylaws, the Committee provides focus and direction for Medicaid program quality activities that assure access and utilization of quality, evidence-based healthcare that is designed to meet the health needs of all Louisiana Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) recipients through:

  • Establishing and maintaining sound business and clinical practices/benchmarks that ensure a system of internal controls and support optimal performance within established thresholds;
  • Driving meaningful and measurable collaboration between the LDH agencies BHSF, Office of Behavioral Health (OBH), Office of Public Health (OPH), Office of Aging and Adult Services (OAAS), and Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities (OCDD), with a focus on demonstrating improved care and service for Medicaid recipients by using evidence-based guidelines;
  • Creating and sustaining a vibrant evaluation process for Louisiana Medicaid benefits and services and health care delivery systems that is based on integrity, accountability, and transparency;
  • Offering expertise and experience of Committee members to recommend improvements to BHSF that will serve to better meet the healthcare needs of recipients in a cost efficient manner;
  • Sharing Committee recommendations with recipients, providers and policy leaders; and
  • Forming subcommittees to address specific areas of care, as needed.

The Committee’s functions are advisory and shall include:

  • Monitoring ongoing metrics and ensuring findings are reported on a regularly scheduled basis (quarterly or annually);
  • Ensuring key quality initiatives are identified to align with regulatory and business requirements;
  • Overseeing quality improvement projects and ensuring coordination and integration of the quality improvement activities;
  • Reviewing performance results and providing feedback and recommendations to the MCO action plans; and
  • Participating in the evaluation of the Medicaid Quality Program by evaluating the quality, continuity, accessibility, and availability of the medical care rendered within Louisiana.

The Secretary of LDH appoints all non-permanent Committee members, which must include board-certified physicians and other health professionals familiar with the medical needs of low-income population groups and with the resources available and required for their care, in accordance with 42 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 431.12(d).  Additionally, the members of the standing subcommittees are appointed by the Louisiana Medicaid Medical Director, who serves as the permanent Chair of the Committee.

La. R.S. 42:1113B prohibits an appointed member of any board or commission, member of his immediate family, or legal entity in which he has a substantial economic interest from bidding on or entering into or being in any way interested in any contract, subcontract, or other transaction which is under the supervision or jurisdiction of the agency of such appointed member.

As such, La. R.S. 42:1113B would prohibit Medicaid providers from serving, despite 42 CFR 431.12(d) effectively requiring they be appointed to the Committee or subcommittees. LDH should consider proposing an amendment to the Code of Governmental Ethics to provide an exception for Medicaid providers appointed to serve on the Medicaid Quality Committee or any of its subcommittees.

Unconfirmed reports said that Brandt prevailed upon Gov. John Bel Edwards to write Dr. Gee to request that he be allowed to continue serving as Medical Director for LDH.

An attempt was made to reach Dr. Brandt at LDH but his phone line was forwarded to a non-working number. The Department of Civil Service has no record of his employment after last Sept. 2.

LouisianaVoice has made a public records request of LDH for all correspondence between Dr. Brandt and Edwards, between Dr. Brandt and Dr. Gee and between Edwards and Dr. Gee relative to Brandt’s employment.

LDH received an email today (April 3) from LDH to the effect that it would take 30 days to provide such records. It takes only a simple keystroke to retrieve such messages from email files, however. They can be produced in a matter of seconds.

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When an organization like the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) trots out sick children to promote its political agenda, one has to wonder about whether that organization is genuinely interested in helping the unfortunate or more focused on shamelessly exploiting them for the purposes of building and maintaining a political power base.

And when an attorney for that organization, its membership made up entirely of active and (some) retired state troopers, says it is a labor union, you have to wonder what, exactly, constitutes a labor union. State civil service employees are allowed to enter into collective bargaining agreements such as the one recently negotiated between the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Louisiana Department of Health. But state employees are not allowed to strike as would your garden variety labor union. And therein lies an important distinction that attorney Floyd Falcon conveniently neglected to mention.

And when a state commission shirks from its responsibility to enact a RULE CHANGE (See agenda item no. 4) to ensure that state troopers, do not fall into the same trap that KENNER POLICE OFFICERS did a few years back with regard to political contributions, you have to wonder about the qualifications of those commission members to serve—and where their allegiance lies.

And when those same commission members emerge from an executive session with a RULING already neatly typed up (obviously agreed to in executive session) to summarily dismiss its investigation of those contributions—meaning there necessarily had to be a polling of members during the closed session to confirm a predetermined decision, an action blatantly illegal under the state’s open meeting laws—you have to assume a deal had been cut in advance despite the staged and choreographed dog and pony show passed off as a public hearing.

In short, there is little to distinguish this assemblage from the commission makeup of two years ago, when a completely different cast of characters occupied commission seats. The current makeup is comprised of members equally lacking in backbone, scared to death, apparently, to make any decision of consequence. The preferred game plan is to show up for the monthly meetings, occasionally issue a ruling on some trooper’s appeal of disciplinary action, exchange pleasantries and go home.

Some might even call it pontification.

But when it comes down to making hard decisions, the rule of the day is to punt or, in a term attributed to the Louisiana Legislature’s refusal to address real fiscal problems, kick the can down the road.

But on Thursday, things came to a head and it didn’t take long for things to get ugly.

In the end, it was SSDD, with the commission pulling the artful dodge despite months of repeated assurances to retired state trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet that his complaints were “not falling on deaf ears.” By the end of Thursday’s meeting, it was not only deaf ears, but also see no evil, speak no evil.

Millet has been a worrisome pain in the backside for the commission, appearing every month with procedural questions and challenges, only to be repeatedly told his concerns would be addressed at the proper time. Well, on Thursday, he threw the commission a curve. In light of the commission’s consistent stand that it had no jurisdiction over the LSTA’s political contributions, he noted that one LSTA member, a retired state trooper who has been rehired by the Department of Public Safety and who is, therefore, a member of Civil Service, only this week entered into a settlement over political activity whereby he has agreed to two weeks unpaid time off. Millet’s revelation, initially described as a conviction, prompted Falcon into his best lawyerly OUTBURST (pontification) in which he called Millet a flat out liar in much the same manner as he called me a “chronic complainer” a couple of years ago.

One might even be prone to believe that the old guard is still pulling the strings of the puppet commission members. Someone surely was.

Cowed by Falcon, who insisted the commission had no jurisdiction over the LSTA, no action was taken against individual state troopers involved in the decisions to contribute thousands of dollars to political candidates, including Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards among others.

Falcon and the commission were right in the assertion that the commission has no jurisdiction over the LSTA since it is a private organization (and let’s be honest; it’s not a union, it’s a fraternity that operates its own bar—at one time even on State Police property). No one argues that point. But the commission certainly has jurisdiction over the actions of individuals in the LSTA who made the decision to launder money through its executive director’s private checking account—and to reimburse him for “expenses”—in order to facilitate the contributions.

That way of doing it, by the way, begs the obvious question of just why did the LSTA do it in that manner if the contributions were legal and above-board? Huh? Answer that question, Mr. Falcon (Hint: the answer is they were not legal and above-board). Any layman can see right through that little scam of washing the money through Executive Director David Young’s personal bank account.

And then to pay $75,000 to John Bel Edwards’s political crony, Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, to “investigate” the contributions only to see him come back to the commission and recommend that “no action be taken.” $75,000. No written report. $75,000. Just a verbal recommendation. $75,000. His contract (did I mention it was for $75,000?) called for a written report but it’s been two years now and the commission still hasn’t found sufficient cojones among its entire collective membership to demand that written report. $75,000.

But the most disgusting, most shameless, most exploitive part of the entire affair Thursday was the LSTA’s parading St. Jude’s patients and Dreams Come True children before the commission to demonstrate the fine, charitable work it does. No one denies that it gives to those organizations. It’s a fine thing to do and there’s not a person anywhere who would not commend the LSTA for that. But to use that as leverage for political gain is worse than reprehensible.

And too, the question remains: what in the name of benevolence does that have to do with the political contributions?

Better yet, why didn’t the LTSA take that money and give it to St. Jude’s or Dreams Come True instead of to politicians if you are so driven by goodwill? That would’ve been a helluva lot better use of the money than secretly funneling it to some politician as if the LSTA was trying to hide something—which it was. And as if LSTA might be trying to buy a little political influence—which it was.

A lot of folks give to St. Jude’s and Dreams Come True who do not make political contributions and if they do, they probably make them openly and legally, not through an employee’s personal bank account like a Russian oligarch laundering money through some shady real estate deal.

Here’s a good idea: do a video presentation of LSTA parties and post a photo of the liquor flask (I’m sorry, “pocket canteen”) sold by LSTA (complete with Louisiana State Police logo) on your Web page.

And be sure to emphasize how you support MADD in its efforts to curtail drunk driving.

And post those letters to the four retirees (including Millet) who you kicked out of the LSTA because they had the unmitigated gall to question those political contributions.

And tell us again how you want to keep civil service protection while at the same time be allowed to continue to make political campaign contributions.

And Mr. Falcon, Mr. Young, and Mr. Jay O’Quinn (LSTA President) please tell us again, the way you testified on Thursday, how, if the new rule prohibiting campaign contributions goes through, the LSTA will “cease to exist,” because truthfully, we’re in agreement with retired state trooper Jerry Patrick who asked: why, when for decades, LSTA made no political campaign contributions, it didn’t collapse then?

And Mr. Falcon, please enlighten us as to why, as you claimed Thursday, the LSTA “is no different than the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.” Because to us, the difference is quite plain. Sheriffs and their deputies are not classified (civil service) employees. State troopers, by contrast, most certainly are.

(Video of Millet-Falcon confrontation and link to dismissal of investigation courtesy of Robert Burns, who covered the commission meeting while I was taking physical therapy for a torn rotator cuff.)

 

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Editor’s note: The following first-person account was submitted to LouisianaVoice for publication. The writer’s name is being withheld because she is still employed at the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal and she fears for her job, her safety and that of her family. Several employees of the fire marshal’s office have already been fired or forced to resign because management suspected them of talking to LouisianaVoice. This post is certain to prompt a new round of interrogations and intimidation tactics to ferret out the new mole. But Fire Marshal Butch Browning may want to be very careful: if he finds and punishes or fires this individual, she will have no compunction about going public and naming names. She’s very angry and this is a bit more serious than decorating your uniform with military medals you never earned.

To her story, we would only add this question of Gov. John Bel Edwards: What are you going to do about this situation that this woman says is even now occurring on your watch?

I want to get right into my discussion, as recent news from around the country and world has allowed me the opportunity to tell my story.

I am a female employee at the Office of State Fire Marshal, Baton Rouge/Headquarters Office.

Over the past several years, upper management and the high-ranking deputies of this agency have sexually harassed me on numerous occasions—making inappropriate comments and sexual advances towards me. I have witnessed first-hand these advances being made towards others, as well.

I started my career with DPS a number of years ago and have been the victim of several comments and suggestions and subject to jokes about homosexuality and bestiality.

Several years ago, I was approached by a top supervisor about a special project to handle. While in his presence, he made it quite known that to “advance” in the agency, I would have to subject myself to him. I did not file a complaint, as I heard this was common amongst his bosses at Louisiana State Police.

I rejected those advances and went about my business. A few weeks later, another individual in my capacity told me about a similar situation she was involved in with another supervisor. The advances were brushed off and I continued to work at SFM. Several months later, a new employee with ties to the DPS compound (relative to higher-ups) was brought in the agency to handle similar clerical type jobs. I witnessed her being subjected to advances from several upper management heads until her abrupt departure shortly after. I was told she was just a temporary assignment anyway, and I moved on.

About two years ago, I was approached by the newest member of the executive staff. I heard from several sources in his previous agency that he was a man who knew what he wanted and just how to get it. It didn’t matter what kind of car he drove or uniform he wore, but he did things his own way. I was told that to move up in this agency, I was to kiss the feet of the new “Prince” himself. He was, in fact, related to a powerful politician. I soon recognized that this wasn’t just a made for TV movie about a corrupt southern town where the boss gets what he wants because he was related to the power brokers; I was actually living in a nightmare in real time.

Sure enough, the “Prince” approached me. It was just the two of us in the room, and he made his move. It began innocently enough about work. Then came the jokes about our personal lives. Then sexually suggestive comments that made me quite uncomfortable. I excused myself and we didn’t speak of it for the rest of the day. Sure enough, it returned. When I was again alone with him in the office, the story repeated itself. As a married mother, I brushed it off and changed the topic. But predictably, he brought the conversation around to just how well my career could/would be advanced had I given him what he wanted—ME. I was a young, dumb clerk who decided my family was important, and more important than me.

I decided to play his games.

When he made comments about my breasts, I joked and flirted back. When he said my rear end looked good, I joked and made suggestive comments again. Surely enough, he was falling for it. That’s when I decided to use this to my advantage and work myself to a better/higher position in this agency.

I asked him for favors and filed training requests to attend certain courses where I would be out of the office more. I asked to be assigned to another division where my work load would be decreased. I asked for a certain vehicle, and sure enough, it was mine—just like everyone said it would be.

It ended there. I made sure that it he knew that after I got what I wanted (and he got what he wanted), that was it. He was told that this would end it, and it did.

I am ashamed of what I did, but it was for my family and my career.

This man sexually harassed me, forcing me in uncomfortable situations to further my career.

Butch Browning knew about this but never did a thing about it.

Several, if not all upper management at SFM know about this, but are afraid to speak of it because of the fear they have for upper management and the highly-placed politicians who protect them.

I remain anonymous because I am still an employee with this agency, but I am very well aware of LouisianaVoice‘s articles about this office.

I am a proud mother and wife and I am truly ashamed for allowing myself to be harassed, but I know this story must be shared—now more than ever. This hasn’t ended. This happens every day, yet claims aren’t filed because of the fear of this man. Complaints can’t be made for fear of having them fall on deaf ears at the top—and for fear of the reprisals that would certainly follow.

To this day, I hear jokes about homosexuality and bestiality being made by upper management—comments about homosexual employees and our SFM K-9 dogs. To this day, I hear a joke about a woman’s vagina or a man’s penis size. To this day, I hear about management’s sexual conquests with deputies’ wives. To this day, I am told stories about affairs being carried on by upper management with clerks and deputies. To this day, I am truly embarrassed for what I put myself through. But I need to tell my story.

This is my story.

And I want it told.

It took incredible courage for this woman to come forward. Any other employee(s) with similar stories of sexual or racial discrimination at the State Fire Marshal’s Office is/are encouraged to come forward. Your identity will be protected above all else.

—Tom Aswell, publisher

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Earl Long, Jimmie Davis, John McKeithen, Edwin Edwards, Dave Treen, Bubby Roemer, Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco, Bobby Jindal, John Bel Edwards.

Each of these governors has left his or her mark on Louisiana. Some have been good, some bad, and some, for lack of a better term, indifferent.

Earl Long, for example, gave Louisiana school children hot lunches. His brother Huey gave them free text books.

Davis gave the state a civil service system that, while not perfect, was designed to protect workers from a political spoils system.

But what none has been able to do is to lift the state out of the quagmire that defines Louisiana as one of the worst places to live in terms of quality of life, income, job growth, education, and overall health.

It’ll be left up to the historians to determine if that is the fault of the governor, the legislature, or the general political climate that has been allowed to permeate the system, leaving the state’s citizens with a mass feeling of resignation to the prospect that that’s just the way it is.

If it’s the latter, then we have allowed our state to move into a downward spiral from which becomes increasingly difficult to recover. Only those with the power and resources which, when combined, produce political influence, may prosper in such a climate.

When we become so complacent and inured to low expectations and even lower achievements, only those who are unscrupulous, devious, and manipulative will see a path to riches—to the detriment of those of us who allow it to happen.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to be satisfied with the status quo where we keep electing the same political opportunists who belly up to the trough to get first shot at the goodies, leaving the scraps for the rest of us.

Those people never seem to go away and whose fault is that?

I’m beginning to have serious doubts, for example, about the state’s Restore Louisiana program created to help victims of the 2016 floods. How many homeowners have actually been helped so far as opposed to those who find endless obstacles created by bureaucratic red tape—all while employees of the program continue to collect paychecks? How much of that recovery money is being eaten away by salaries of those who are supposed to be helping flood victims?

The governor says the hurricanes that struck Texas and Puerto Rico may slow the recovery process in Louisiana.

Why is that? Hasn’t the money already been appropriated for Louisiana? Why should the recovery process be slowed by those events if the money is already in place to help?

Perhaps it’s all just a part of the overall attitude of our politics as usual which has the state ranked as the third worst state in which to live, according to 24/7 Wall Street, the service which produces some 30 news releases per day on such things as state rankings, college rankings, the economy, and other issues.

LSU football has dropped out of the top 25 rankings. Louisiana has never been in it—except perhaps in the rankings of corruption, graft and ineptitude.

It’s latest ranking, released today, shows that Louisiana 10-year population growth of 6.4 percent is the 13th lowest. Could that be because our unemployment rate of 6.3 percent, according to the service, is third highest in the nation, or that our poverty rate of 19.6 percent (that’s about one of every five people in the state) is also third highest, or that our life expectancy at birth of 75.4 years is the fourth lowest?

What have our leaders done to address these issues?

  • They have fought increasing the minimum wage;
  • They have rejected efforts to ensure that women are paid the same as men for performing the same work;
  • They have robbed our colleges and universities of funding, forcing them to raise tuition which, in turn, is putting a college education out of reach for many;
  • They have decimated our medical teaching universities by giving away our state hospitals;

They have consistently looked the other way as the bad news mounts up but have proved themselves to be most diligent in:

  • Protecting the right to bear semi-automatic weapons;
  • Giving away the state treasury to business and industry in the form of general tax breaks that have to be made up by the rest of us;
  • Enacting tougher and tougher penalties for minor crimes that have produced a state with the highest incarceration rate in the civilized world;
  • Allowing our infrastructure (including more than a billion dollars in maintenance backlogs at our colleges and universities) to crumble beneath us with no solution in sight because of a lack of funding;
  • Protecting young girls by dictating a minimum age for exotic dancers while allowing the state to become a feeding ground for predators calling themselves adoption agencies that in reality, are little more than baby brokers;
  • Enacting legislation for faith-based charter schools and then raising holy hell when one of those applicants turns out to be an Islamic school.

Sure, we can stick out our chests and proclaim that at least we aren’t Mississippi which has the fifth-highest unemployment rate at 5.9 percent, the highest poverty rate (22.0 percent), and the lowest life expectancy at birth (74.5 years).

But in the final analysis, that’s really grabbing at straws.

Arkansas and Alabama rank ahead of Louisiana (fourth and fifth worst states in which to live, respectively).

Arkansas’s poverty rate is fourth-highest at 19.1 percent and its life expectancy at birth is seventh-lowest at 75.8 years.

Alabama has an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent (seventh-highest), a poverty rate of 18.5 percent (fifth-highest), and the second-lowest life expectancy at birth (75.2 percent).

Well, who, you might ask, is lodged between Louisiana and Mississippi for second-worst state in which to live?

That would be West Virginia, with the fourth-highest unemployment rate (6.0 percent), the seventh-highest poverty rate (17.9 percent), and the third-lowest life expectancy at birth (75.4 years).

Do you find it interesting that these same five states are always clustered at the bottom of all the rankings?

Know what else is interesting?

They’re all red states.

Isn’t it time we changed the mentality in Louisiana?

Isn’t it long past the time when we should be breaking out of the pack?

Shouldn’t we be asking really hard questions of our elected officials—from governor all the way down to the courthouse?

And the really soul-searching question:

Shouldn’t we turn off Dancing with the Stars and football and become involved in the recovery of a rotting state?

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