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State Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) has been kind enough to offer LouisianaVoice a clarification of Monday’s STORY about House Bill 346 which would have given civil service fire and police personnel the right to actively participate in and contribute to political campaigns to the exclusion of all other civil service personnel.

While Seabaugh was in agreement to our assessment that HB 346 was a bad bill, he pointed out that it was in fact the House and Governmental Affairs Committee that actually debated the merits of the bill and passed it unanimously to send it to the House floor.

LouisianaVoice said it was sent to the floor by the unanimous vote of the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee.

In fact, the Civil Law and Procedure Committee was only voting on the ballot language as all constitutional amendments are required to go to that committee for approval of ballot language.

The gist of our story was that seven of the nine Civil Law and Procedure Committee members either changed their votes to vote against the bill or did not vote when it got to the House floor.

That point didn’t change appreciably, however, confirming our initial position that approving the bill in committee and then changing votes on the House floor sends the wrong signals about legislators’ real motives and the courage of their convictions.

While all 13 members of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to send the bill to the full House, six of those still changed their votes to no when it came to a full House vote, which failed, 29-84.

Representatives voting for the bill in committee but switching to no in the full House vote were committee Chairman Gregory Miller (R-Norco), Vice Chair Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula), Ryan Bourriaque (R-Abbeville), Jimmy Harris (D-New Orleans), Dorothy Hill (D-Dry Creek), and Ed Larvadain, III (D-Alexandria).

Voting yes in both committee and on the full House vote were Reps. Roy Daryl Adams (I-Jackson), Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), Dodie Horton (R-Haughton), Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge), Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport), John “Jay” Morris (R-Monroe), and Mark Wright (R-Covington).

Here is the full text of Rep. Seabaugh’s email:

From: Seabaugh, Rep. (Chamber Laptop) <aseabaugh@legis.la.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2019 6:35 AM
To: louisianavoice@outlook.com
Subject: Dodie Horton’s HB 346

I would like to start by telling you that I completely agree with your analysis of the bill. However, the portion of your article that references the actions of the Civil Law and Procedure committee is slightly inaccurate. The bill was originally referred to the House and Governmental Affairs committee who were the ones that the debated the substance of the bill and decided whether to send it on to the House floor for a full vote. It came out of that committee unanimously. I’m sure some of those members also voted against the bill on the floor so you could make the same point with respect to the Members of that committee. However, the House Civil Law committee was only voting on the ballot language. All constitutional amendments must to go to the Civil Law committee for approval of the ballot language. The committee does not have the authority to amend the bill or to kill the bill. All the committee can do is change or approve the language which will appear on the ballot when the measure is placed before the voters in the fall.

If you will go watch the video of the committee hearing, you will see that I handled the bill for representative Horton and explained that I was not for the bill and that I did not support the measure but that I was merely handling it for her to get the ballot language approved. Therefore, the unanimous vote by the Civil Law committee was not an approval of the substance of the bill. It was only a vote affirming that the ballot language fairly and accurately explained the substance of the bill.

 

Alan Seabaugh

Louisiana State Representative, District 5

401 Market Street, Suite 1120

Shreveport, LA  71101

Office (318) 676-7990

Fax (318) 221-0656

Aseabaugh@legis.la.gov

 

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Prussian Prime Minister and German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck once said that the man who wished to keep his respect for sausages and laws should not see how either is made.

HOUSE BILL 346 Rep. Dotie Horton (R-Haughton) is a perfect example.

First, the bill would have given municipal civil service firefighters and policemen the right no other civil servant in Louisiana currently enjoys, namely:

  • To assist in voter registration drives when off-duty;
  • To make political contributions;
  • To attend political rallies, meetings and fundraisers while off-duty;
  • To join political groups (other than just political parties);
  • To sign nominating petitions;
  • To participate in political campaigns when off-duty.

The reason this was a bad bill, besides that it specifically excludes all civil service employees other than firefighters and police, is that it opens the door for incumbent office-holders to exert pressure on employees under his or her supervision to participate in fund-raising and voter drives on his or her behalf against the employee’s will.

The fact that Horton’s bill contained language that strictly forbade such action or reprisals against employees who supported the wrong candidate, there are obviously ways to retaliate against an employee considered politically disloyal:

  • Assignment to menial work;
  • Unfavorable employee performance reviews, adversely affecting merit pay raises;
  • Refusals to promote employees.

Anyone who truly believes Horton’s proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting disciplinary action or coercion of a public employee would actually work has his head in the sand. There are just too many subtle ways to make an employee’s life miserable without adding political patronage to the list.

And the real story here isn’t that the bill garnered only an anemic 29 VOTES on the floor of the House on Monday against 64 nay votes and 12 absences. That’s actually 29 more than it deserved.

Can’t you see the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association, if the bill had passed and been approved by voters, cranking up its legal team for the discrimination lawsuit that would almost certainly have followed to have state police included?

Again, that’s not the story.

The story would be how the House CIVIL LAW AND PROCEDURE COMMITTEE voted on the bill to get it to the House floor and how its nine members voted afterward.

The committee voted unanimously to move the bill forward. That’s 9-0 in favor. That’s Reps. Raymond Garofalo (R-Chalmette), Randal Gaines (D-LaPlace), Robby Carter (D-Amite), Raymond Crews (R-Bossier City), Mary DuBuisson (R-Slidell), Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport), Mike Johnson (R-Pineville), Tanner Magee (R-Houma) and Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) all voting yes.

Yet, when it came to the floor vote, there were six defections and another just took a powder.

Only Jenkins and Magee voted yes. Crews, DuBuisson, Gaines, Garofalo, Mike Johnson, and Seabaugh all voted thumbs down. Robbie Carter was no where to be found when the vote was taken.

Obviously, the committee members didn’t want the onus on them, so they passed the buck to get the bill to the full House, knowing, perhaps, it never stood a chance.

So, because the committee members couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do their jobs (or at least vote their true convictions), they punted to the full House so it could waste time on the bill.

Maybe that’s what old Otto was talking about.

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Remember THIS STORY as Bobby Jindal moved into the governor’s office in 2008?

That was in 2008. Fast forward to May 16, 2019 and we have a thoroughly-researched and informative story by Baton Rouge Advocate reporter ANDREA GALLO in partnership with ProPublica, a leading investigative journalism website that details just how impotent, inept, and dysfunctional the Louisiana State Board of Ethics has become, thanks to Jindal’s “Gold Standard of Ethics,” passed in 2009, immediately after he assumed the office of governor.

In the 10 years since Jindal literally gutted the State Ethics Board of any enforcement powers, the board has become the antithesis of bodies like the State Board of Dentistry and the State Board of Medical Examiners which have the unbridled power to impose draconian penalties against dentists and doctors in order to support their exorbitant budgets.

Both extremes are classic examples of how political considerations trump due process and fairness in state government.

One bankrupts professionals who must accept coercion and extortion or face financial ruin while the other currently has more than $1 million in uncollected campaign violation fines dating back to (ahem) 2008, the year Jindal was elected.

Campaign finance report enforcement is all but non-existent, if the Louisiana Ethics Administration’s list of delinquent fines is any indication.

The administration’s WEBSITE lists 62 pages totaling about 700 uncollected fines dating back 11 years and totaling nearly $1.1 million, a testament to inefficiency and waste.

Moreover, the dental and medical boards, as well as other regulatory boards, have broad power to initiate their own investigations, something the ethics commission lacks. It can only investigate alleged ethics violations if it receives an official complaint.

But wait. Only elected or appointed officials may file a complaint; your average Louisiana citizen “has no standing” to file a complaint.

In other words, those not subject to an ethics complaint unless said complaint is made by a state or local official include:

  • A legislator who contracts with the state for hurricane debris removal (a real, not hypothetical case) is not subject to an ethics complaint unless said complaint is made by a state or local official.
  • A legislator uses campaign funds to pay his federal income taxes (again, an actual case), there is no ethics violation without an official complaint.
  • Another legislator using campaign funds to lease luxury vehicles for himself and members of his family and to purchase season tickets to Saints, Pelicans and LSU games.
  • Or a former governor publishing a book and then using funds from his tax-exempt foundation to purchase thousands of copies of the book at a nice profit to himself.

Convenient, no?

Jindal’s good-government charade began as soon as he took office and as a result, ethics board members resigned en masse in protest.

But could Jindal have harbored ulterior motives in pushing for his “reforms”?

On January 25, 2008, right after he took office, he was hit with his own $2,500 FINE for failure to timely disclose more than $100,000 spent on his behalf by the state Republican Party. A month later, he opened his first SPECIAL SESSION of the legislature dedicated solely to ethics reform.

At the same time, the Jindal reform package, when passed, allowed pending ethics fines against political allies, including then-state representative but current Grambling State University President RICK GALLOT, disappear.

The same couldn’t be said for two CALCASIEU PARISH PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS who led unsuccessful recall efforts against Jindal and then-House Speaker Chuck Kleckley. The teachers found themselves facing fines of $1,000 each for failing to file timely campaign finance reports. You can bet that little transgression wasn’t overlooked by Jindal and his “Gold Standard” of ethics.

But it’s impossible to place all the blame on Jindal.

In July 2007, more than a year before Jindal’s election, the ethics board allowed its chief administrator, Gray Sexton, resign and then rehired him in a different capacity—all to AVOID A REQUIREMENT under a new ethics law that he disclose clients in his private law practice, a move that on its face, might appear unethical to many.

But it didn’t end there. Sexton has since retired but now represents defendants before his former employer. Among his clients::

  • Lafayette developer Greg Gachassin;
  • Tammany Assistant District Attorney Harry Pastuszek, Jr.;
  • John the Baptist Parish Engineer C.J. Savoie and his company, C. J. Savoie Engineers;
  • Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph;
  • State Rep. Nancy Landry;
  • John the Baptist Parish President William Hubbard;
  • Former state senate candidate Shawn Barney;
  • Shreveport businessman Bobby Jelks;

And as far back as 1986, a full 17 years before Jindal’s first campaign for governor, it was common for the ethics board to be used selectively to punish politicians or public servants who had fallen from favor.

That was the year that former LSU athletic director Bob Brodhead and Baton Rouge Advocate publisher Doug Manship were FOUND GUILTY by the ethics board in connection with a flight by Brodhead and his wife to Manship’s private club in LaPaz, Mexico, on Manship’s private plane.

Then-LSU President James Wharton used the ethics charges as leverage to oust Brodhead even though Wharton was aware of the trip and even encouraged the Brodheads to take the trip, according to Brodhead’s account in his book Sacked!

Strangely enough, no ethics violations investigations were ever initiated against Wharton and LSU Alumni Association President Charlie Roberts for accepting dove hunting trips from LSU Board of Supervisors member Sam Friedman, nor were ethics violation charges ever pursued against Friedman who owned a Holiday Inn hotel outside Gainesville, Florida, the hotel at which the LSU football team was quartered when it played in Gainesville.

Nor did the ethics board pursue charges against legislators who routinely accepted dove-hunting trips from lobbyists, choosing instead to “take no action.” In fact, a story in The Advocate said, “The Board’s staff attorney refused to say who the lawmakers were, when or why they took the trip.”

The time has long since past when the legislature reinstated the enforcement powers of the ethics board.

The alternative would be to admit the futility of any pretense at enforcement, or even the existence of, governmental ethics and simply shut down the agency as excess baggage.

We would probably never notice the difference.

 

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There is only one word to describe the courts in the 4th judicial District: rancid.

It was bad enough when it was revealed that:

  • ALLISON CAMPBELL, a clerk for 4th JDC judges, had mis-filed, shredded, or otherwise destroyed records (52 different writ applications missing for more than a year turned up as being used as an end table in Campbell’s office.
  • Or that when the Ouachita Citizen sued to obtain public documents from the court, the court’s judges sued the newspaper and its publisher Sam Hanna, Jr. to prevent having to make the documents available.
  • Or that Campbell’s sister is a prominent Monroe attorney, Catherine Creed, her father George Campbell was an executive with Regions Bank and was married to the daughter of attorney Billy Boles.
  • Or that a “duty” or on-call JUDGE (Larry Jefferson) would alter bond instructions, allowing an inmate charged with five counts of aggravated crimes against nature to walk out of jail and disappear.
  • Or that Monroe attorney and former Monroe city council member ARTHUR GILMORE, JR., was sentenced to 24 months in prison and temporarily permanently disbarred by the Supreme Court for violations of the federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The disbarment was handed down as permanent but he petitioned and was approved for readmission in January.

But now, we learn that the Louisiana Supreme Court has suspended the law license of Monroe attorney DANIEL J. HUNTER for one year after an investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Council found that Hunter had mismanaged his client trust account.

(Yawn). So what, you say? Happens every day. Some lawyer dips into the account for a quick trip to the casino with every intention of repaying the money—until he loses it and then loses again in an attempt to win it back. Sometimes it’s for more sinister purposes. Many times it’s just sloppy bookkeeping and funds get co-mingled. Mismanagement could be many things but you get the idea.

But wait. Daniel J. Hunter isn’t just any old attorney.

He is the brother of current 4th JDC court judge and former Louisiana State Rep. Marcus Hunter.

Daniel and Marcus are the sons of former Louisiana State Sen. Willie Hunter.

Daniel Hunter also just happens to be employed by 4th Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew as an assistant prosecutor. He was recently demoted to prosecuting misdemeanor offenses.

So, there you have your state judicial district court in Ouachita and Morehouse parishes.

Be proud.

Remember the adage that you get the government you deserve.

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If Louisiana’s working citizens—particularly those struggling to pay rent, put food on the table, pay for their children’s educational needs, clothe their families, buy gasoline and pay insurance premiums—are paying attention, they will soon know who their legislators represent—the aforementioned working people or the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

State Sen. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans) cartert@legis.la.gov has introduced SB 155, backed by Gov. Edwards, to raise the state’s stagnant minimum wage from an incentive-choking $7.25 to $9.00, effective July 1, 2020. If approved, it would go to voters in the form of a constitutional amendment.

It’s time. In fact, it’s way past time.

The same goes for the long overdue equal pay for women legislation. Louisiana currently pays women about 60 percent of what men earn for the same job. That’s unthinkable.

Equally unfathomable is that similar bills have failed to gain traction in past legislative sessions.

Gov. Edwards is on record as supporting both measures.

Women are not second-class citizens and should not be treated as such.

HB 289 by Rep. Barbara Norton (D-Shreveport) nortonb@legis.la.gov provides equal pay for women and HB 63 by Rep Joseph Bouie, Jr. (D-New Orleans) bouiej@legis.la.gov would require any contractor who enters into a contract with a public entity to comply with the Equal Pay for Women Act. Both bills are pending before the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.

That committee membership is weighted 9-6 in favor of Republicans. Members include Reps. Patrick Jefferson, Chair (D-Homer) jeffersonpo@legis.la.gov, Kenny Cox (D-Natchitoches) coxk@legis.la.gov, Royce Duplessis (D-New Orleans) duplessisr@legis.la.gov, Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) james.ted@legis.la.gov, Ed Larvadain, III (D-Alexandria) hse026@legis.la.gov, Vincent J. Pierre (D-Lafayette)  pierrev@legis.la.gov, Blake Miguez, Vice Chair, (R-Erath) miguezb@legis.la.gov, Beryl Amedee (R-Houma) amedeeb@legis.la.gov, Larry Bagley (R-Stonewall) bagleyl@legis.la.gov, Raymond Crews (R-Bossier City) crewsr@legis.la.gov, Reid Falconer (R-Mandeville) falconerr@legis.la.gov, Dodie Horton (R-Haughton) hortond@legis.la.gov, Jack McFarland (R-Jonesboro)  mcfarlandj@legis.la.gov, Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) seabaugha@legis.la.gov, and Scott Simon (R-Abita Springs)  simons@legis.la.gov.

The federal minimum wage hasn’t been adjusted for a decade and anyone who thinks even a single person with no dependents can survive on $7.25 per hour is woefully out of touch with reality.

Anyone who believes that is spending far too much time on the golf course.

Anyone who believes that, you can bet, has never had to do so.

LABI President Stephen Waguespack, a alumnus of the Bobby Jindal administration, will throw all his organization’s resources into an all-out effort to defeat Carter’s bill just as he has with past efforts to raise the minimum wage.

Waguespack can afford to do so, too, because he’s being paid a comfortable six-figure salary to represent the interests of big business over those of working stiffs.

His condescending comment about a minimum wage being being a “one size fits all” approach is both arrogant and deliberately misleading.

Waguespack will be in the State Capitol corridors every day. Legislators are forbidden from accepting campaign contributions from any of the four LABI political action committees, but they know if they vote the way he wants, those contributions will flow in once the legislative session adjourns.

In the meantime, nothing prevents him from wining and dining key members of the legislature. Key members like, say, certain members (read: Republican) members of the Senate Labor & Industrial Relations Committee, which will decide whether or not Carter’s bill moves forward to the floors of the House and Senate.

That committee is chaired by Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), risern@legis.la.gov

Riser should (but likely won’t) be all-in on raising the minimum wage. After all, it was he who tried to slip that amendment onto a rather benign bill back in 2014 that would’ve given then-State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson a healthy six-figure increase in his yearly retirement.

Carter is vice-chair and he should have allies in Sens. Regina Barrow (D-Baton Rouge) barrowr@legis.la.gov, Wesley T. Bishop (D-New Orleans) bishopw@legis.la.gov and Jean-Paul J. Morrell (D-New Orleans) morrelljp@legis.la.gov.

Republicans on the committee include, besides Riser, include Sens. Ronnie Johns (R-Lake Charles) johnsr@legis.la.gov and Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City) peacockb@legis.la.gov

Other southern states that have held the line at $7.25 include Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Arkansas has already raised its minimum wage to $11. Shoot, even West Virginia has a state minimum wage of $8.75.

Altogether, 26 other states have a minimum wage higher than Louisiana and 19 of those are already at $9 or above.

The U.S. has an income disparity that should be embarrassing—and it’s only getting wider. The haves keep getting richer and the have-nots keep sinking in poverty and the Stephen Waguespacks of the world couldn’t care less as long as they can keep corporate board members fat and happy.

And many legislators couldn’t care less as long as they can keep the campaign contributions coming in.

So, fight back. The average worker can’t take time off to go to the Capitol to lobby legislators. Stephen Waguespack can because that’s precisely what he’s paid to do. It’s an uneven playing field.

But you can contact your legislator—early and often—and let him/her know that this is an election year and you have a lethal weapon—the ballot.

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