Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category

Why would DeSoto Parish Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle abruptly resign less than midway through his fifth consecutive term in office?

Arbuckle, who stepped down, effective today (Friday, March 16), attributed his decision, which he said has been a year in the making, to HEALTH PROBLEMS being encountered by one of his grandchildren.

But could there have other overriding factors that prompted his decision? Possibly. There are several prior and ongoing questions involving the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office which, taken together or separately, could have nudged him out the door prematurely.

The first, going back about four years to an investigative audit REPORT by the Legislative Auditor’s Office in Baton Rouge revealed a major issue involving a former deputy sheriff whose private company ran half-a-million dollars’ worth of private background checks through Arbuckle’s office.

The company, Lagniappe and Castillo Research and Investigations, ran 41,574 background checks through the sheriff’s office during the 11-month period between April 1, 2012, and February 28, 2013, the audit report said. That’s 41,574 background checks in a parish that has a population of only 27,000.

Lagniappe and Castillo charged its customers $12 for each background report but paid the sheriff’s office only $3 per report. That represents a profit of more than $372,000 on income of more than $498,000—and sheriff’s office employees actually ran the checks. Robert Jackson Davidson, who retired as chief investigator for the sheriff’s office in May 2013, is listed as 50 percent owner of the company by the Louisiana Secretary of State’s corporate filings.

And then there is the more recent problem of LACE. That’s an anacronym for Local Agency Compensation Enforcement whereby the district attorney’s office pays the salaries of law enforcement officers to beef up traffic patrol for the parish. LACE has been hit with similar problems in State Police Troops B and D when it was learned that troopers were reporting hours worked on LACE detail that were not actually worked.

In the case for DeSoto Parish, it was sheriff’s deputies who fudged the numbers on their timesheets and three of Arbuckle’s deputies have already left under a cloud.

A new investigative audit by the Legislative Auditor’s Office has been ongoing for some time now and that report is also expected to be highly critical of the LACE program and possibly other areas of operation.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera told LouisianaVoice on Thursday that he did not know just when that report would be released. The auditor’s office traditionally sends the head of the agency being audited a management letter in advance of the public release of the report in order to give management a chance to respond in writing. That response is usually included in the release of the audit report. There was no word from Purpera’s office as to whether or not that management letter had been sent to Arbuckle.

A check by LouisianaVoice of about 600 LACE tickets handed out by sheriff’s deputies revealed that not a single LACE ticket was issued to a resident of DeSoto Parish. Every single recipient checked was from other parishes or even from out of state.

Of course, I-49 cuts through DeSoto Parish which would explain at least a high number of out-of-parish motorists’ receiving tickets—but 100 percent would seem somewhat improbable.

Reports by local critics of Arbuckle cite him for purchasing vehicles for the sheriff’s office without going through the public bid process. But sheriffs offices are on a state vendor list that exempts many such purchases from public bid. But on those not exempt, critics claim there is mischief afoot in the way Arbuckle goes about his purchases.

Then there is Arbuckle’s annual budget which reflects revenues of $12.3 million, which is nearly double the $4.9 million of next-door neighbor Sabine Parish, which has a population of 24,200—only a little fewer than DeSoto.

But it’s the office expenditures that are the real eye-openers. Arbuckle’s office had expenditures of nearly $14.1 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. That is $3.3 million more than the $10.8 million spent by the sheriff’s office in Natchitoches Parish, which has a population of 40,000—and a university. It also is more near three times the $5 million spent by the Sabine Parish Sheriff for the same year.

So, just what did Arbuckle spend all that money on? For starters, the bulk of that $15.2 million, $11.2 million to be exact, went for salaries. It would appear that Arbuckle hired deputies almost indiscriminately. Arbuckle himself was the second-highest-paid sheriff in the state (only the Beauregard Parish sheriff made more).

His department’s salary figures compare with salary expenditures of $3.7 million for Sabine and $7.9 million for Natchitoches.

Even more telling is a comparison of the year-end fund balances for the three sheriffs’ offices. Sabine Parish ended the fiscal year with a fund balance of $7.5 million and Natchitoches Parish had a fund balance of $8.2 million. Arbuckle’s DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office, however, finished the fiscal year with a whopping fund balance of $52.2 million.

Arbuckle apparently need not concern himself with the state law that a sheriff is responsible for any operating deficit at the end of his term of office.

DeSoto’s embarrassment of riches was due in large part to the Haynesville Shale and a couple of major facilities—eight energy companies, International Paper, and SWEPCO—in the parish which accounted for $256.5 in assessments and $3.5 million in property taxes (4.73 percent of total assessed valuation). Both figures would appear to be extremely low.

Arbuckle also is a principal in no fewer than six corporate entities, three of which are for-profit companies. One is a fence construction company and a second is a real estate development firm. The third, and possibly the most significant, is an outfit called Dirt Road Rentals, which rents or leases equipment to oil and gas field companies.

The company was chartered in July 2013, just about the time the Haynesville Shale boom kicked off. With so much activity taking place with the Haynesville Shale, it would seem to be a golden opportunity for a sheriff who, if he chose to do so, could lean on the oil and gas field companies to lease equipment from him lest their trucks get pulled over for traffic offenses.

Which could explain the need for all those extra deputies.

But a sheriff would never stoop to such tactics.

Would he?


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By Stephen Winham

Guest Columnist

In the unfunny joke that was the latest “special” [not] legislative session there were no real surprises.  After much bickering over a small gobble-de-gook of incomplete solutions and ideas with no goal beyond getting 70 House votes for just about anything, the session finally ended with a whimper that anybody should have been able to predict after 15 days of inaction.  We are all left to ask why this debacle ever took place at all.

In the weeks leading up to the session Gov. Edwards threatened to not call it if an agreement on what to do about the “fiscal cliff” was not imminent.  Showing a distinct lack of decisive leadership, he not only went back on this threat, but failed, himself, to present a concrete proposal with a combination of cuts and taxes that would yield a recurring balance.  He never even really tried and seemed to say he was tired of doing so.

The governor presented a list of “cuts” he said he had already made, too many of which were not really cuts and a few of which were apparently duplicated.  Even the unambiguous cuts on the list begged the question of what has really changed as their result?  What pain has been inflicted and on whom? At the very least, what services have been diminished?

What evidence did the governor present that his appointees will be held accountable for making government as efficient as possible in the future, so people can have faith the revenues raised or retained will be spent wisely?  Ask anybody on the street if they believe state government is improving in that regard and the answer will most often be a resounding “No.”  This is particularly true of people who read newspapers and political blogs, listen to talk radio, and watch local television news where negative reports about state government are routine.

It is just plain common sense that people want answers to these questions. If the governor has made meaningful cuts he should be able to provide proof.  In other words, it should be possible to demonstrate the effects (not just dollar amounts) in such a way that people can judge whether the cuts should have been made and whether additional significant cuts should be made and, most importantly, specifically where?

For the coming year, the governor presented a list of cuts, but defended none of them as cuts he believed should be made.  On the revenue side, he presented a package that didn’t even fund these cuts and which he only halfheartedly supported.  About the only hope reflected in the governor’s proposal was that the mediocrity that keeps us on the bottom of practically every list of good things could continue.

The state senate waited the whole session for the house to give them something meaningful to do – Revenue bills had to originate in the house by law.  The Senate returned one bill providing tax relief to flood victims and the House concurred.

Despite having plenty of time because of a temporary two-year bridge, solid research of all pertinent issues, and promises to come forth with a plan to simply balance the budget, the house did nothing of the kind.  Instead of presenting a balanced plan of cuts and revenues, or even cuts alone, the house argued over pieces of the puzzle on the sheer basis of whether enough people would vote for them – what deals could be cut.  And cutting deals to get votes does not necessarily work to the advantage of the state or its citizens.

There was never a serious attempt to construct an enduring solution with more than a trace of desperately needed fiscal reform.  If there was a goal, it was to continue what we have had for over a decade – a questionable and temporary balance that makes as few voters and special interests angry as possible.  Thrown in were a handful of feel-good measures including ostensible Medicaid reform, a new spending cap proposal, and a promise of enhanced government transparency – none of which should require legislation.  Accomplishing their goals should be part of responsible governing.  Nobody was made happy -except those who think we should go over the cliff and see what happens.

One measure was anointed the pre-requisite and centerpiece for everything else and every day of deliberation the argument was put forth, “If we can’t renew ¼ of the expiring sales tax, we can’t move forward.”  What was so magical about that quarter of a penny?  Was it important to continue to punish the poor at least a little for being poor as a starting point, or what?  As its author, Rep. Dwight himself pointed out, the prospects for passage of his bill never really improved as the session went on.  Worse, it only took care of about a third of the gap and there was no clear plan for filling the rest of it from anywhere.  In a word, the bill was worthless.

Representatives Barry Ivey and Kenny Havard stood out as sincerely interested in doing something to help the state and its people move forward.  They both repeatedly called out their colleagues for hypocrisy and empty rhetoric. It is unfortunate Ivey did not get his February 28 motion to adjourn sine die on the floor and passed.  At least it would have saved the taxpayers the $60,000+ per day costs of the remaining days.  Sharon Hewitt and a growing number of others at least had sense enough to see the wisdom in that. Always rational, Rep. Julie Stokes attempted to move members in a progressive direction despite her Republican pedigree.  Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger offered progressive income tax measures to lukewarm support.  A few others voiced frustration but did little to steer what they clearly viewed as a doomed session toward success.

Republican Caucus Chair Lance Harris, himself a true expert at it, said he was tired of the blame game. Rob Shadoin agreed and restated the obvious when he said the session accomplished nothing except failing the people.  Speaking of blame, many people were happy to place it on the Black Caucus and their fellow Democrats.  If they were to blame for anything, it was for trying to get at a least a minuscule amount of progressive fiscal reform wedged in somewhere.

And speaking of partisan politics, the T Rex in the House was the desire on the part of Republicans to make the governor look as bad as possible.  Helping with that were the special interests, including that beacon of conservative light, Americans for Prosperity, founded and funded by the Koch brothers and claiming a membership of over 3 million right-minded people. How many of our elected officials pay homage to its agenda?  Its representative at the session wanted the session to go the distance in furtherance of the Louisiana Checkbook, a [non]panacea for the masses that will probably never be satisfactorily implemented regardless of legislation.  How many other budget reform laws languish in the books apparently ignored by our policy makers?  And, even when stumbled across, there is always the easy out of no money to implement them.  Forget about the will to do so.

The special session served one critical function to anybody who paid any attention to what went on.  It showed the utter lack of effective leadership in our state’s government.  It revealed who among our elected officials has the best interests of our state and its people at heart, i. e., who literally supports our form of government – and who doesn’t.

We can’t immediately recall the people who continue to ignore those of us without deep pockets, but we can replace them at election time – assuming people willing to truly represent us offer themselves for election – a daunting proposition at best.  Many current officeholders, with the validation of history, believe they don’t have to represent the bulk of us to be re-elected.  All they must do is get enough money from special interests to generate a flood of propaganda and false promises to fool enough people into voting for them.

Let’s prove them wrong.

(Editor’s note: Stephen Winham is the retired Director of the Louisiana Executive Budget Office, having served in that capacity from 1988 to 2000.)


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Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Legislature could probably learn a thing or two about building budgetary surpluses from the St. Landry Parish Fire Protection District No. 2—except at least one St. Landry Parish citizens thinks the surplus may be the result of smoke and mirrors and a little voodoo tax millage assessment.

On the other hand, the State Ethics Board appears to be taking its cue from the Attorney General’s office in stonewalling tactics.

The district had a bank balance of more than three times its annual budget at the end of 2016, according to a state AUDIT of the its books. The audit showed nearly $8.4 million in the bank as of Dec. 31, 2016, after expenses of $2.6 million.

And a formal complaint made to the Louisiana State Board of Ethics last May against the district and its secretary-treasurer has produced only a letter of acknowledgement but no results after nine months.

Despite annual revenues of nearly $3.7 million for both 2015 and 2016, the district’s board seemingly felt it could not afford to hire a qualified employee to apply generally accepted accounting principles in recording the districts financial transactions or preparing its financial statements, the audit indicated.

“A material weakness is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the entity’s financial statements will not be prevented, or detected and corrected on a timely basis,” the audit said. “we identified certain deficiencies in internal control that we consider to be material weaknesses.”

Nor did the board seem to feel it was in a position to hire additional firefighters in order to cut back on more expensive overtime pay. Board members paid themselves nearly $16,600 in 2016 and paid out $1.2 million in salaries. An additional $329,677 was paid in overtime (listed as “extra shifts and call out time”).

Auditors recommended that the board examine the following options and implement policies and procedures in order to reduce excessive payroll expenditures:

  • Establish set annual/monthly salaries for management-level positions in order to eliminate overtime paid;
  • Hire additional firefighters in order to decrease overtime pay;
  • Better utilize volunteer firefighters in an effort to minimize costs.

While Edwards and the legislature might be scratching their heads if they knew of the district’s fiscal wizardry, a closer look at a curious tax millage might clear things up.

It seems that district voters may have once approved a 17.5 mill property tax but the district somehow managed to collect two identical millages of 17.5 mills each until January 2018, when one of the assessments expired.

St. Landry Parish resident and local taxpayer Charles Jagneaux, who filed the complaint with the state ethics board, which has been basically toothless since it was gutted by Bobby Jindal in one of his first acts as governor in 2008, has a theory about that dual tax millage.

“My understanding is that the second millage was passed by calling it a renewal when in fact, it was a second identical millage,” he said. “The board attempted to put the expiring millage on the ballot (for a renewal) this year but the parish council would not let them since there was a multi-million-dollar surplus.”

The ethics complaint was filed against Johnny Ardoin, secretary-treasurer of the district’s board. Ardoin, it turns out, is also a member of the Port Barre TOWN COUNCIL, which would appear to be a case of dual office-holding, illegal under Louisiana law.

As a point of clarification from a reader who is in a position to know, dual office holding falls under (drum roll, please…) the attorney general’s office, not the ethics board so the ethics board would not address that matter,

A second, more serious ethics violation, however, seems to arise from Ardoin’s membership on the fire district board.

The Port Barre Town Council appoints two members of the fire district’s board of commissioners.

That would seem to constitute a built-in conflict of interest for Ardoin. Given his position as a member of the town council, he is in the unique position to appoint himself to the fire district’s board of commissioners.

That ethics complaint, like most complaints to the state ethics board these days, is in all likelihood, a dead-end street, particularly as it regards dual office-holding. But even in cases when ethics fines are assessed, which is seldom, they often are ignored and never collected, thanks again to Bobby Jindal and his ethics reform agenda.

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By Stephen Winham, guest columnist

Caveat:  I worked closely with Buddy Roemer as state budget director.  I have only the barest of acquaintances with John Bel Edwards. For this reason, I must question how fair my comparison of the two can be.  I admit I am disappointed in John Bel Edwards’ performance as governor to date and have admired Roemer’s efforts even more with the passage of time.

As he assumed office as governor of Louisiana thirty years ago, Buddy Roemer faced a huge budget gap left by his predecessor. The solution was difficult and was complicated by a recalcitrant legislature.  The gap was closed, and a surplus generated within the first year of Roemer’s administration.  In addition, comprehensive budget reforms were enacted to limit the probability of a recurrence of such a gap.

A similar scenario confronted John Bel Edwards 28 years later, yet two years into his administration he has made no real progress on the budget front in terms of balance or reforms.  Roemer and Edwards are very different people and the opposition to their administrations have different roots.

Roemer was, and continues to be a true reformer.  He had little regard, until it was too late, for his gubernatorial re-election chances.  Edwards seems to have been running for re-election from the first day of his administration.  Roemer attempted to buck the system.  Edwards tries to work within it.  They were both elected as Democrats.

Roemer and JBE were improbable victors in their races for governor.  Roemer came from last in the polls to the top (albeit by only 3 points) going into the 1987 primary election.  He won the general election with only 33% of the vote.  His closest competitor was fellow Democrat and three-term governor, Edwin Washington Edwards.  EWE conceded the race rather than face Roemer in a run-off – and denied him an electoral mandate.

JBE was considered a dark horse candidate from the beginning. The only major Democrat in his gubernatorial race, John Bel Edwards finished first in the primary election with 39.9% of the vote. He was expected to lose to his Republican opponent, U. S. Senator David Vitter, in the general election. Despite Vitter’s 23% showing in the primary election, and his personal problems, he was considered a sure winner in the run-off.  To the surprise of most political analysts, JBE won with 56.1% of the vote.

Roemer and JBE were each elected because people were looking for something dramatically different.   Roemer promised to “slay the dragon” and end corruption and special interest control over government.  JBE vowed to bring common sense, fiscal responsibility, and compassion for ordinary people to the office.  Roemer was strident, JBE is calm.

Governors are not dictators.  There is little they can do without action by the legislature and consent, when needed, of the judiciary.  Despite his lack of an electoral mandate, Roemer was able to quickly get a lot of good legislation enacted, mainly because the need was abundantly and undeniably clear – and he was a convenient scapegoat if things went wrong later.   A strong contingent of legislators were loyal to Edwin Edwards and bitter that he was not still governor.  While they went along with the emergency measures Roemer proposed to address the fiscal emergency and reforms including the creation of an official revenue forecast by a new Revenue Estimating Conference, opposition intensified over time.

Historically, Louisiana’s governors were powerful enough to anoint legislative leaders – an obvious plus for enacting an agenda.  The most powerful of those leaders are the house speaker and senate president. The senate is, by its size and nature, a more powerful and cohesive body than the house.  In the middle of Roemer’s term, the senate dealt him a severe blow by replacing his chosen president and returning EWE’s powerful senate president, Sammy Nunez, to that office – an office he continued to hold until he left the legislature in 1996.

Roemer proposed several progressive tax increases that failed in the legislature and the electorate, including a decrease in the sacrosanct homestead exemption.  It is no small irony that he eventually agreed with EWE’s earlier push to legalize gambling and supported an even broader entry into that sector –  the lottery, riverboat casinos, and video poker.

Roemer steadily lost political power as his term went on.  Despite pushing for and achieving hundreds of millions in teacher pay raises, he was vilified because he also pushed a teacher accountability program roundly criticized as unfair by teachers. His environmental reforms angered oil and gas, chemical, and other industries.  He was increasingly perceived as arrogant and hard to work with.

Anxious for EWE’s return, his supporters became even harsher in their opposition to Roemer’s administration.  In 1990, on the grounds it violated federal law, he vetoed a bill passed by the legislature that banned abortion even in cases of rape and incest.  The legislature overrode his veto (a very rare event in Louisiana).  The law was struck down by a U. S. District Court in 1991 for the very reason Roemer had vetoed it, but it didn’t matter politically.

In 1991, Roemer switched parties.  While the national Republican Party sent in big guns to help him get re-elected, emphasizing his scandal-free administration and his budgetary, campaign finance and environmental reforms, he never had the support of the state Republican Party, very many legislators, or the special interests he had disdained.  Quite the contrary. The state party endorsed another candidate and legislators and special interests actively attacked Roemer. It didn’t help that Roemer did not really focus on the campaign but rather continued his zeal for reform to the end. He finished 3rd in the primary and endorsed EWE in the runoff with David Duke – an embarrassing race.  He ran again in 1995 as a conservative Republican but ran 4th in the primary.

His high school’s class valedictorian, like Roemer, and a West Point graduate, versus Roemer’s Harvard education, John Bel Edwards was a conventional, but conservative Democrat.  He is the son of a southeast Louisiana sheriff, Roemer the son of a northwest Louisiana plantation owner. Like Roemer, his biggest obstacle has been the legislature, but for somewhat different reasons.

Louisiana now has a strong Republican Party that believes we should have a Republican governor.  Partisanship was not a big issue when Roemer was governor, but it certainly is now and has gotten more so since JBE became governor in 2016.  Although he had a solid record as a Democratic state representative, what seems to matter most is that he is a Democrat.  Not only do Republicans now control both houses of the legislature, but all statewide elected officials except the governor are now Republicans.  Regaining the governor’s office is a number one priority of the party and since John Bel Edwards has been running for re-election from day one he presents an easy target.

The state house of representatives openly rejected JBE’s choice for speaker.  Rather than elect one of his harshest critics (Cameron Henry who withdrew from consideration), they chose a compromise candidate, the low-key Taylor Barras – who had not even been mentioned as a contender before he was elected.  Not since Huey Long’s administration had the state house elected a speaker not endorsed by the governor, though as noted above, the state senate did unseat Roemer’s chosen president.

Nobody doubted we had a severe fiscal problem when Roemer was elected, but many would argue that we simply spend too much money today – end of story.  JBE’s Republican opposition relishes reports of waste and abuse in the media and remains unconvinced he has done enough to address them.  The governor has not specifically answered the charge he does not do enough to hold his appointees accountable for fiscal irresponsibility unless the media is relentless in reporting it.  This has not helped his case for more revenue.

JBE has proposed both revenue measures and cuts.  However, his proposals are often open to widespread criticism.  When he recommends cuts, they are dramatic and are not presented in such a way that the legislature or public believes they are the only, or the best, ways to cut the budget.  They do not seem to explicitly address the waste and abuse people read about on LouisianaVoice, in the newspapers, and see reported on television.

On the revenue side, JBE did not initially focus on proposals by the task force specifically created to present options for dealing with the “fiscal Cliff.”  That cliff has been forestalled by two years of temporary taxes. The centerpiece of JBE’s revenue proposal last year was the previously unheard of and dead on arrival Commercial Activity Tax.  The CAT constituted over 60 percent of his original package and was so watered down by the time it was actually introduced, it lost what little value it had and was quickly withdrawn.

Another year has passed, and the governor has proposed revenues more in line with what the task force recommended.  The cuts he has recommended are devastating.  His critics in the legislature don’t really like anything he puts forth and as the next election gets closer the criticism is sure to get harsher.

The governor has asked the legislature to present and enact its own proposals if it doesn’t like his.  The legislature has responded by recommending an accountability system and little else.  The proposed system seems to have been presented as a distraction from the need for immediate, concrete, and sustainable solutions.

Let’s face it.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Our fiscal status and options have been studied dozens of times over dozens of years.   The governor can recommend things all day every day, but only the legislature has the power to enact measures to authorize them.  Whether the governor has made truly responsible proposals or not, it is ultimately the legislature’s responsibility to act.  They can blame the governor ad infinitum, but the final responsibility is theirs and the excuse they don’t know enough to come up with solutions is a patently empty claim.

Roemer was able to get a lot done through the legislature in his first year when he had his best chance to do so.  JBE’s chances of significant accomplishments will apparently continue to diminish with time.  Even with the help of the most powerful and long-serving member of the legislature, Senate President John Alario, he has been unable to succeed.  A bloc of opposition in the house stymies him repeatedly.

I am of the considered opinion that we could all save a lot of time, grief, and money by simply agreeing, right now, to make permanent the temporary sales taxes currently in effect, cut as necessary for the difference, and hope for a better, more responsible future under new leadership.  A fool’s hope, perhaps, but at least everybody would be able to make plans for more than a year or two into the future – individuals and businesses.

LABI and other business interests are hypercritical of JBE and, of course, any business taxation.  In the absence of sustainable solutions how can they possibly expect vigorous business expansion and prosperity?  Future taxes are unpredictable, regardless of temporary incentives. How can they, or we, have hope our mediocre infrastructure, educational system, and other public services will not continue to decline?

Trying to ruffle as few feathers as possible in hope of re-election has not worked for JBE.  Ruffling as many feathers as possible may not have worked over time for Roemer, but we are still profiting from major accomplishments in his first few years.  He wasn’t a good politician and maybe that’s why he never got the credit he deserved.

Whether JBE is a good politician remains to be seen.


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So, now Sen. John Kennedy is officially opposed to strengthening firearms BACKGROUND CHECKS.

His newest proclamation (which really isn’t new at all) raises the obvious question of whether there is any level to which he will not stoop to kiss the ring of Donald Trump and the rest of the NRA-purchased Republicans who insist that it is never the time to discuss ways to curb the number of MASS SHOOTINGS that have plagued this country for the past 35 years.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for Sen. John Kennedy to join fellow Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy in voting for the so-called tax “reform” bill that is so heavily weighted in favor of the very rich but now he has underscored that Gawd-awful CAMPAIGN AD in which he said, “…love is the answer but you oughta own a hand gun, just in case.”

He even repeated the phrase during a Senate committee hearing, saying it was an old saying from back in Louisiana though, to be honest, I don’t ever recall anyone but Kennedy uttering such an inane statement.

So, obviously, while it is never the time to discuss a solution, it’s always the time to ensure that the mentally ill will have unfettered access to weapons.

Kennedy clashed with Bobby Jindal—and later with Gov. John Bel Edwards—over the budget, repeating his mantra: “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” That, it turns out, was the most intelligent thing he had to say as State Treasurer. But the fact of the matter was—and is—that it was a combination of the two.

The problem is in the giveaways, as in tax credits, tax exemptions, tax incentives, and all the other breaks given away to industry that promised big jobs in exchange for keeping off the tax rolls but who failed to deliver. That spending problem created a critical revenue problem that was only partially alleviated by a 43 percent increase in college tuition.

Kennedy also proposed an across-the-board cut in state contracts. That was far too simplistic. A better solution would have been—and remains—to take a long, hard look at the multitude of contracts awarded by the sate to determine if they are really necessary.

Just as one example, the various studies of restoration of Louisiana’s coastline, like the bevy of studies awarded by the City of Baton Rouge to study traffic congestion, have brought the state no closer to resolving the problem than before tens of millions of dollars were spent on those studies.

But I digress. Kennedy, in constant search of a TV camera and microphone, has now gone beyond absurdity in opposing more stringent background checks. Does he not remember:

  • Sandy Hook?
  • Columbine?
  • Aurora?
  • Orlando?
  • Las Vegas?
  • San Bernardino?
  • Chattanooga?
  • Charleston?
  • Oakland?
  • Tucson?
  • Blacksburg?

I could go on, but what’s the point? People like Kennedy are imprisoned by their own closed minds and political calculations about how to best play to the emotions of the gun enthusiasts and to how best to go about assuring the continued flow of NRA campaign contributions. The KILLING FIELDS of America are without comparison anywhere else in the civilized world, according to statistics published by the NEW YORK TIMES.

Oops, I forgot. That should be the failing New York Times, according to Donald Trump, on whose coattails Kennedy so shamelessly ran in his senatorial campaign. So, it must be fake news, right?

Well, those figures quoted by the failing New York Times were provided by the FBI, which keeps meticulous records on such things.

Oh, I forgot again. The FBI is no longer credible, according to Grump, who arbitrarily decides who is and who is not trustworthy and who sets such a shining example for the likes of Kennedy, Bill Cassidy and the other Repugnacans in Congress who apparently are unable to make as simple a decision as when to go to the bathroom without a directive from Thumper.

Yes, I know the NRA gun-totin’ flag-waving zealots are going to have me pilloried by sundown but I can live with that and I have this to say to them:

I would rather stand for what is right for all the victims who were so needlessly slaughtered by obviously mentally disturbed people who should never have had access to weapons than to have all the campaign money the NRA dumps into the campaigns of the likes of John Kennedy.

Those are my principles, Mr. Kennedy, what, pray tell, are yours?

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