Monday, June 10, 2013

No Big Winners, Some Losers As Legislature Wraps Up Session

Well, now that the State House and Senate finally passed a budget at the almost 11th hour and the Legislative Session closed on time without the need for a “Special Session" who exactly were the Winners and Losers?

To be honest, while there were some small winners, nobody won the Powerball. And, you can’t have some winners, even if they are small winners, without also have some losers.
But, what did we accomplish? Not much. In fact, the Council For a Better Louisiana (CABL) said, “at the end of the day, not a lot has changed.”

At least we didn’t get a tax on one-time use plastic bags. Thankfully, the 2 bills authored by State Rep. Regina Barrow (D-Baton Rouge) never made it out of committee.
So, before you get bombarded with emails from your State Rep and State Senator telling you what a great job they did and patting themselves on the back, here is one man’s opinion of who won and lost this session.

Small Winner – Bobby Jindal. Yeah, I know that he didn’t get his grand tax swap and I know he virtually abdicated any political juice that he had and any real opportunity for meaningful reform, but, the Governor got some things he wanted too. The Legislature, despite State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, didn’t sign on to the federal expansion of Medicaid that the Governor was adamantly opposed to. The Legislature also kept education voucher funding in place and actually expanded it, something Jindal has fought for. But, the Governor should have gotten more of a consensus before the session for his tax swap scheme and pushed for more of the state’s 468 tax exemptions and the corporate franchise tax to be eliminated.

Loser – The Fiscal Hawks. At the start of the session, I was genuinely excited by the prospect of the Fiscal Hawks making a difference. In the end, they went out with a whimper. The Hawks formed a coalition with, of all people, the Black Caucus, and, after slamming Jindal for using one-time money to plug budget holes, came up with their own budget loaded with different one-time money. The Senate rejected that budget and attempts by the Hawks to change the budgeting process. The Hawks did make a little bit of progress but, when you’re hungry for major reforms, a few crumbs really don’t cut it.

Winner – State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite). When he announced that he was running for Governor my first two thoughts were: “Who?” followed by “Why?”. After this session, most Louisiana residents now know who Edwards is and that increased profile will certainly serve him well as he traverses the state seeking funding and support for his fledgling campaign. Like I said, not the Powerball yet but, at least we know who he is.

Losers – The People of Jefferson Parish. Anytime the people are taken out of the process, our form of government suffers. The Jefferson Parish Delegation, at the insistence of Sheriff Newell Normand and the JP Council, were able to get a law changed removing Jefferson Parish residents from the right to vote on if the Parish’s two public hospitals are leased to a private company. This never should have happened and the JP elected officials should have instead discussed the possible options with residents and let them make an intelligent decision. By changing the rules, it looks like Normand and the JP Council are hiding something. So, thanks Sheriff Normand. Makes me want to vote for you for Governor. Of course, maybe you'll find a way to take that vote away from me to and just anoint yourself.

Winner – State Senator Elbert Guillory (D now R/Acadiana). I know, I had a little fun with Senator Guillory and the whole “Opelousas is the New Hollywood South” thing but, the guy made history when he switched parties again (he was a Republican before he was a Democrat) and became the first Black Republican State Senator since Reconstruction. Guillory was spot on when he talked about how much the Democratic Party had drifted away from Louisiana and our core values. Calling it “the party of disappointment” just put the icing on the cake.

Losers – People who Facebook and Drive. But, you didn’t need a law to tell you that and, yes, I’m talking about YOU.

Winners – Parish Assessors, Sheriffs and Judges. Thanks to the legislature, local taxpayers are giving each of you a raise for the next 4 or 5 years. Whether you deserve it or not is certainly up for debate but that’s never an issue with legislators when they’re spending other people’s money.

Winner – The People of Louisiana. Because the budget was passed and we don’t have to pay our legislators even more money for a “Special” Session.

Losers – People like me. Because the budget was passed and the session is over, I won’t have the legislature to kick around for another year. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll find some new material. It’s not hard when you live in Louisiana. By the way, when does the Edwin Edwards Reality TV Show start airing?