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LouisianaVoice has expressed concerns about the industrial tax incentives, aka giveaway programs, for years. It has been our contention that while welfare cheats are an easy target for criticism, the money lost to fraudulent welfare and Medicaid recipients is eclipsed by the billions of dollars stolen from taxpayers in the form of industrial tax exemptions, incentives, and credits.

Of course, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry would never concede that fact. Instead, they use the stage magician’s tactic of misdirection by claiming runaway lawsuits, organized labor, higher wages (they are especially terrified of an increase in the $7.25 minimum wage) and poor public education performance are to blame for Louisiana’s economic and social ills.

Never (not once) will one hear LABI point to poverty as a cause of the state’s low ranking in everything good and high ranking in everything bad. Never (not once) will one hear LABI, the local chambers of commerce, or the Louisiana Office of Economic Development call attention to the billions of dollars in relief given businesses and industry—from Wal Mart to Exxon—in the form of corporate welfare—leaving it to working Louisianans to pick up the check.

And all you have to do to understand how this has occurred is to follow the money in the form of campaign contributions to legislators and governors and visit the State Capitol during a legislative session and try—just try—to count the lobbyists. Better yet, you may do better by counting lobbyists and legislators following adjournment each night as they gather for steaks, lobster and adult beverages at Sullivan’s or Ruth’s Chris—compliments of lobbyists’ expense accounts.

And while LouisianaVoice has attempted to call attention to this piracy, an outfit called Together Louisiana has put together a 15-minute video presentation that brings the picture into sharp, stark focus. The contrast between two separate economies living side by side is stunning.

Stephen Winham, retired director of Louisiana’s Executive Budget Office called the video “a super good presentation of facts our decision-makers choose to ignore as they have for many, many decades.”

Winham went a step further in saying, “Our leaders seem to think we are all too dumb to understand this—and that’s a positive assessment. A more jaundiced view would be that they don’t want us to understand it.

“All we can do is keep on keeping on with our individual attempts to communicate this and let our elected officials know that we do understand and that we hold them responsible and accountable. Unfortunately, when I attempt to talk about this with individuals and groups, their eyes glaze over within minutes. I’m not going to stop trying, though, and neither should anybody else.

“I am happy to have this information in such a tight presentation,” Winham said.

So, with that, here is that video:

 

And if that’s not enough to convince you, THIS STORY was posted late Friday.

 

 

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So, just why did Second Circuit Court of Appeal candidate Judge James “Jimbo” Stephens of Baskin pay a convicted drug dealer to help him get out the vote for his re-election campaign when all across the country there are full-fledged efforts to prevent volunteers from transporting voters to the polls?

Apparently, the answer depends upon whose ox is being gored. Put another way, perhaps there’s a double standard being applied as conditions dictate.

The FRANKLIN SUN recently ran an article in which it cited state campaign finance records as showing that Stephens’ re-election campaign shelled out $500 to Tyrone “K9” Dickens’ company, K-9 Outreach, last May.

Stephens, in an interview with THE OUACHITA CITIZEN, a sister publication to the Winnsboro newspaper, said his campaign paid Dickens to help get out the vote but later tried to walk back that statement. Under further prodding, Stephens admitted his campaign paid Dickens for a “sponsorship” that involved the use of his (Stephens) campaign materials.

Dickens, who vehemently denied that he was paid to help Stephens, has a long STRING OF ARRESTS dating back to 1986 on multiple drug charges, including distribution of cocaine, distribution of methamphetamine, indecent behavior with a juvenile, two charges of forcible rape (both dismissed), domestic abuse battery, and violation of a protective order.

Dickens’ former wife told authorities that a protective order was useless because her former husband often boasted of his political connections with police, judges, and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo

“Judge Stephens never paid me, never, to help him with no campaign or to help get no vote,” Dickens told The Citizen. “I don’t know where that lie came from.”

Tyrone Dickens: “Wen (sic) God on your side don’t tell me you can’t change. It was a (sic) honor to be ask (sic) by governor John Bell (sic) Edward (sic) to help with his campaign again. A (sic) honor to stand beside attorney & State Representative Katrina Jackson, Judge Milton Moore, & Kevin Horn, people who I look up to they never forget where they came from. An’t (sic) God good. Its (sic) change going to come.”

“We were told that he (Dickens” was reformed and a community leader,” Stephens said. “I do not know his personal background. I hope Mr. Dickens will support us.”

In something of a surprise, Dickens told The Citizen that he was going through the legal process of getting his criminal record expunged.

A north Louisiana source told LouisianaVoice that State Rep. Katrina Jackson and 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Milton Moore (see photo above) are working behind the scenes to get Dickens a “gold seal” pardon from Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Dickens: “It feels good to be able to stand with State Representative Katrina Jackson (center) & Supreme Court Judge Marcus Clark (right)in the House of Representative (sic) Chambers. Both of which I had the privilege of campaigning for, and ultimately led to them being elected!”

In addition to the local district attorney’s office’s dismissing charges against Dickens, former 4th Judicial District Assistant DA Madeleine Slaughter paid Dickens $900 from her campaign to distributed push cards at the parish fair when she ran unsuccessfully for Ouachita Parish clerk of court. Slaughter is currently employed as an assistant attorney general under AG Jeff Landry.

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Serious consideration should be given by our legislature to changing the official state motto from “Union, Justice, Confidence” to something more realistic representation of our state—like, say… “At Least We Ain’t Mississippi” (or Arkansas or West Virginia).

On the other hand, West Virginia’s motto “Let Us be Grateful to God” seems a little misplaced as regards this story. the Arkansas motto “The People Rule” just has to be some kind of cruel joke and I still don’t know what our neighbors in Mississippi meant when they adopted “By Valor and Arms” as their calling card.

I write all this because 24/7 Wall Street, that online research service that publishes all those state, city and national surveys of the best and worst of just about anything, has just released another one that puts us right near the bottom but for Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia.

The ranking referred to in this case is “America’s Most and Least Educated States” and it has to be embarrassing to have Alabama and Kentucky looking down their noses at us. Yet, there was Alabama ranked as the seventh worst educated state with Kentucky just two notches better at the fifth-least educated.

And then there was Louisiana, sitting at 47th best, or to put it more bluntly, fourth-worst educated state in the country.

We should be so proud.

Yes, college tuition has more than doubled over the past three decades and in Louisiana, thanks to Bobby Jindal, who now plies his trade as an op-ed columnist for the Wall Street Journal (because he has so much good government advice to share based on his stellar job as governor), who slashed funding for higher education by about 70 percent.

Louisiana has TOPS, which was originally set up to help students in need but which now is spread across the landscape for all students who maintain a 2.5 GPA while enrolled. Of course, what has gone virtually unsaid is that TOPS has resulted in an explosion of new housing construction on college campuses, underwritten by the universities but constructed by private investors in an elaborate scheme that allows universities to avoid having to go hat in hand to the State Bond Commission for permission to build the new units.

Some schools even require all unmarried, non-local students (that’s all students, as in freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors) to live on campus so as to fill those new housing units. Unsaid is a requirement that all such students purchase meal tickets.

That’s because, according to a former Aramark food manager at a state university, the schools have contracts with food service companies to provide a predetermined number of meals. If, say, Grambling University has a contract with Aramark to provide three meals per day for 3,000 students, Grambling will do all in its power to fill the housing units (thus committing students to pay for the accompanying meal tickets). Should the school fall short and end up with only 2,000 students living in university housing, the school is still on the hook to Aramark for 9,000 meals per day.

Still, the share of Americans (in other states, apparently, but not here) with college degrees continues to increase. Latest figures show that 32 percent of all U.S. adults 25 and over have at least a bachelor’s degree, nearly double the 17 percent of 1980.

In Louisiana, that figure is 23.8 percent, 4th lowest in the U.S.

“Many of the state-level disparities in educational attainment parallel disparities in income, as well as socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, industry composition, and population growth,” the report said.

Accordingly, in Louisiana, the median household income was 4th lowest at $46,145 and the state’s unemployment rate of 5.1 percent was 4th highest in the nation. If you’re one to play hunches, you might remember the number 4 when you go to the racetrack or fill out your Mega Millions and Power Ball tickets.

Arkansas (23.4 percent of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree), Mississippi (21.9 percent) and West Virginia (20.2 percent), ranked 48th, 49th and 50th, respectively followed the pattern with Arkansas’s $45,869 median household income being the 3rd lowest, Mississippi’s $43,529 the 2nd lowest and West Virginia’s $43,296 the lowest. Do you see a trend here?

By contrast, Massachusetts topped the list with 43.4 percent of its adults holding at least a bachelor’s degree while the state’s median household income of $77,385 was 4th highest.

To review the entire list, state-by-state, GO HERE.

But hey, the news isn’t all bad.

Yet another survey, also by 24/7 Wall Street, that lists the 30 COLLEGES THAT PRODUCE the BEST NFL PLAYERS, actually has LSU ranked higher than Alabama even though the Crimson Tide did have two more all-time NFL players than did the Tigers.

LSU was ranked number 7, four rungs higher than ‘Bama, which came in at number 11. Alabama has 352 all-time NFL players to LSU’s 350. But LSU has 116 Pro Bowl players to 104 for the Tide. ‘Bama, on the other hand, has 8 alumni in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, to 3 for LSU. Notre Dame, as might be expected, ranked first, with 567 former players going on to the NFL and the Fighting Irish also led the pack with 182 Pro Bowl selections and 13 alumni in the Hall of Fame.

But here’s the caveat: “No college has produced more current NFL players than LSU and Florida,” the survey says. “The Tigers and Gators are tied with 56. There were eight Tigers drafted in 2017, including three first-round selections.

So, with all that gridiron success by LSU, who needs college degrees anyway?

If the Tigers can just somehow beat Nick Saban’s bunch, median income figures are for the politicians.

If LSU wins a national championship, nobody will care about unemployment rates.

We have our priorities in Louisiana.

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As a state representative, John Bel Edwards was once a harsh critic of Bobby Jindal.

That was then. Now appears to be quite different.

Edwards the legislator was often a lonely voice in the legislature, speaking out in opposition to Jindal’s destruction of the Office of Group Benefits and the raiding of OGB’s $500 million surplus from which it paid medical claims for state employees. Then.

Edwards opposed Jindal’s attempts to privatize governmental services, including prisons. Then.

Edwards the legislator was the leading critic—sometimes the only critic—of Jindal’s destruction of the state hospital system. Then.

Edwards the legislator openly challenged Jindal’s constant budgetary cuts, often asking pointed questions of Jindal or his lackeys during committee hearings. Then.

Edwards the legislator said that he was fooled into voting in favor of an amendment at the end of the 2014 legislative session that would have given a hefty—but illegal—boost in retirement income for then-State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson. Edwards, in fact, led the call for an investigation into the maneuver by State Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia. Then

But when John Bel Edwards was elected governor he suddenly began to morph into Bobby Jindal 2.0.

The first indication that the more things change the more they remain the same was when he reappointed Mike Edmonson as State Police Superintendent and Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc at the behest of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

The sheriffs’ association is a powerful lobby and anyone who desires to be governor must pass in review before the association and receive its blessing. The local sheriff, after all, is the single most powerful political figure at the parish level. And when you multiply that local power by 64, the number of parishes, you have a formidable political force to overcome if you don’t have their collective endorsement.

Edwards’s brother is a sheriff. So was his father and his grandfather before that. So, it was no surprise when Edwards received the association’s seal of approval.

JINDAL was joined at the hip by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and he showed it by his penchant for tax relief for big business at the expense of public and higher education and health care.

Remember when people could actually afford to send their kids to college?

Remember when there were facilities available to those in need of mental health care?

Remember when the state budget reflected some degree of sanity?

Remember when teachers could count on a pay raise every decade or so?

I can remember when there were real Democrats in Louisiana politics and not pretenders who bend with whichever direction the wind blows (see John Alario, John Kennedy, et al).

Well, thanks to the abetting of compliant legislators beholden to corporate campaign contributors, those are now just fond memories.

But when John Bel was elected, there was hope.

Instead, he has cozied up to business and industry and rather than confronting legislators, he tried to get along with them without offending them. Apparently, he didn’t learn from Dave Treen, a Republican governor who tried unsuccessfully to get along with a Democratic legislature.

And now, today, he is in New Orleans to address, of all people, delegates to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). On a lesser scale, that’s the moral equivalent to Trump colluding with…well, never mind.

ALEC is, or should be, everything a real Democrat (as opposed to a DINO) should shun like the plague. A real Democrat truly interested in promoting what is best for Louisiana’s citizens would never set foot inside an ALEC Annual Meeting, much less appear as a speaker at one.

Retired State Budget Director Stephen Winham said as much when was quoted by a Baton Rouge Advocate EDITORIAL yesterday.

ALEC is a conglomerate of BUSINESS INTERESTS that promotes a Republican agenda exclusively. Members converge on a city (like New Orleans) for their Annual Conference, sit down in highly secretive meetings (no press allowed, thank you very much), and draft “model legislation” for member lawmakers in attendance to take back home and introduce as new bills, quite often without bothering to change so much as a comma.

That’s it. Legislative members of ALEC attend these meetings so lobbyists for corporations from other states can tell them what’s best for Louisiana citizens.

In 2011, when then-State Rep. Noble Ellington of Winnsboro was its national president, Jindal was the featured speaker and received the organization’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award.

Now, ALEC is back and so is Jindal 2.0 John Bel Edwards.

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Sean Morrison is fighting a tough battle in one of the reddest of a decidedly red state’s parishes. But he doesn’t make any apologies for his positions and he stands ready to take the fight to the special interests.

Morrison says he is not beholden to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) or any other special interest group in his quest to fill the unexpired term of District 90 State Rep. Greg Cromer who resigned to become mayor of Slidell on July 1.

In fact, Morrison, chairman of the St. Tammany Democratic Parish Executive Committee, took the rather unusual step of releasing a copy of LABI’s candidate QUESTIONNAIRE, the answers to which are virtually certain to keep him from getting the organization’s seal of approval—which is fine with him.

The survey, he said, “asked candidates to oppose policies that are good for working families like workplace fairness, job safety protections, access to justice for all Louisianans in our courts, access to high quality healthcare, promoting wage fairness, and an ongoing review of Louisiana’s billions in corporate tax giveaways.”

He said, “We need leaders in Baton Rouge who aren’t already influenced before they get there. I’m promising this: to fight hard to do what is right under the circumstances every single time,” Morrison said.

Born in Missouri, he grew up in Texas and moved around a lot as a child. From small towns like Egan, Louisiana, to Stillwater, Oklahoma, Sean saw all aspects of American life. His father, Michael, has worked in the oil and gas industry his entire career. His mother, Christy, is a school teacher in Houston.

Morrison studied political science, psychology, and philosophy at Tulane. He graduated with honors from Case Western Reserve Law School with a focus on international law and war crimes. He went to law school with one goal – to prosecute war criminals. Case Western Reserve had just the program, so Sean packed a U-Haul and drove it all the way from New Orleans to Cleveland. The gambit paid off. For six months he worked with the prosecution for the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the aftermath of their brutal civil war.

Following law school, he got a job working with a large Cleveland law firm. One morning he woke up and saw his whole future laid out before him. It was full of billable hours, corporate meetings, and Cleveland winters. So, he hopped on a plane to American Samoa and became a criminal prosecutor there. It was not long until the island was hit with a devastating tsunami. He immediately transferred to the Department of Commerce, where he worked on rebuilding the community, revitalizing its broken economy, and planning to prevent future disasters. “It was there that I learned that serving people through government was the most rewarding work anyone could do,” he says.

When he returned, he began working to conserve the Gulf Coast, it’s beaches, wetlands, and fisheries for future generations. He entered the job in the wake of scandal, as the Executive Director and others were jailed for corruption. As part of the new team, Sean helped reorganize the department, put in place new legal and fiscal systems, and rebuilt the reputation so that today the Department of Marine Resources is considered the gold standard of government in Mississippi (though Louisianans, after eight years of Bobby Jindal, are leery of anything bearing the label “gold standard”).

“I have dedicated my career to helping people through public service,” he says. “I have seen how the government is supposed to operate, and what gets in the way. Too often it is the legislators enacting laws that make it impossible to provide decent service to the people. As more and more politicians claim that there’s nothing to be done (and then set about proving it), I’ve come to know that all we need is public servants willing to roll up their sleeves, stop playing politics, and start doing the hard work of government. I have that experience and I can get the job done.”

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