Wednesday, March 2, 2011




Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cazayoux wins LA-6; Scalise wins LA-1

Cazayoux (D) pulled out ahead vs. Jenkins (R) in a very close race in LA-6, winning by less than 3,000 (<3%) votes. The seat was formerly held by Richard Baker (R).

Scalise (R) won by over 75% in LA-1. The seat was formerly held by Bobby Jindal (R).

Election results

Regular updates coming soon!


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tuition bill expanded in House, Jindal's bill approved by Senate

In addition to tuition, the House version of the bill that Jindal has been touting will now also include tax breaks for uniforms. At least this will also apply to public school parents, so it does make some sense if you assume that the tax breaks should be made in the first place. (After all, I would argue that public school parents are more in need of some kind of break than those of private school students, since they will tend to be less wealthy than the private school parents, even accounting for the difference caused by tuition.)

The arrogance of this bill is well expressed here:

The tax relief is warranted because the state’s inadequate public schools limit parents’ choices for their children’s education, Rep. Hunter Greene told the House Committee on Ways and Means.

“The (public) schools, at least in my area, haven’t been performing up to par,” said Greene, R-Baton Rouge.
In other words, the public schools aren't working, so let's fund them less and provide incentives for not using them, and therefore not being invested in them as a community. That makes sense. It stinks of the "logic" of NCLB, which rewarded only schools that were doing well or improving, without a way to actually help badly performing schools improve. And I have little sympathy for parents who think their children are too smart for public schools--if that is truly the case, then enroll them in the Gifted & Talented program; as a part of special education, its precise purpose is to ensure that sufficient education is provided for every student.

[Rep. Harold Ritchie] suggested adding a deduction for uniforms and instructional supplies that parents purchase in the public school system.

Greene resisted the change, pointing out that private school parents incur those expenses as well.
So I suppose the parents who can afford private school deserve breaks, but those who can't, don't.
[Greene] said parents with children in private school pay property taxes that keep the public schools running.
...And people who don't use medicare/medicaid pay taxes that keep those programs running, and people whose houses don't get set on fire pay for the fire department, and people who don't drive on every road in their state pay taxes for those roads, and and and.

At least there are some voices (like Ritchie's) to defend public education:
[Steve Monaghan, President of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers] particularly took aim at private school tuition tax deductions, which he argued are a “slippery slope” toward the state subsidizing private and parochial schools at the expense of public schools. [...] “It looks more like a political agenda than it does about sound education policy,” Monaghan said.
Monaghan goes on to make the exact point I mentioned earlier, and he uses a nice analogy for this ridiculous kind of lawmaking:
The legislation will be “more palatable” if tax breaks are kept in for uniforms and other core costs for the parents of public school children, Monaghan said, but that still does not make it good policy.

In reality, Monaghan said, the tuition tax deduction proposals are the same as giving extra tax relief to those who choose to buy books from Barnes & Noble rather than go to a library or to financially assist those who have private gym memberships rather than visit public parks.

Meanwhile, in a Senate committee, they didn't even really bother with something like the uniforms idea, and in fact there was an amendment for an additional tax credit, though that failed. Tom Tate, a lobbyist for the Louisiana Association of Educators, "characterized the tax break as a voucher without accountability standards"--well said. It passed by a huge margin of 9-2.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Some interesting stories

The old legislature has apparently left us overcommitted with projects, and it will be up to the new legislature and Jindal's administration what takes priority.

Meanwhile, Jindal opposes teacher unions' proposals in favor of a voucher system:

The Republican governor's proposals include several that unions have repeatedly opposed over the years, including a "school choice" program, merit pay, and a tax credit of up to $5,000 per student for parents who send children to private schools or teach them at home.
Some may frame this opposition in terms of teachers' desire for more money--pay raises are in the proposal--but I think what is (or should be) really at issue here is vouchers. They're a step backwards, as far as I'm concerned.

While Jindal may tout the success of his ethics reform, one might question the relevance of the $50 meal limit. If these people (lobbyists) are to be believed, tabs didn't often reach $50 anyway. In fact, this law may encourage more spending.

Jindal's upcoming special session is supposed to include a proposal of $300 million for coastal restoration and hurricane protection. I hope a lot of that is for coastal restoration. Not that I'm against hurricane protection by any means, but hurricane protection won't do any good without the wetlands, and I feel like this has been a neglected point in post-Katrina discussions. As for the transportation money that is to be proposed in the session, some think that Jindal might send much of it to the northern part of the state to placate them in their complaints about coastal spending. This would be smart.


Monday, March 3, 2008

No new posts for a while

Well this blog has been dead for the past few weeks, and unfortunately it's going to stay that way for about two more months. This is my last semester at LSU, and I've gotten very busy with that. I've barely been able to keep up with any news/blogs, so naturally I haven't had time to write anything myself.

There have certainly been things going on (and not just the intensely interesting Democratic presidential nomination race). Gov. Jindal has run an ethics reform session that he has announced as successful, but which onlookers have criticized as not going nearly far enough. I would link a post or two from Forgotston, but it's hard to pick one--all of his most recent posts focus on the ethics reform session, and in great detail, so I recommend those.

Jindal has also proposed a new budget. I haven't read about this yet, but I'll get to it.

In the meantime, check out the blogs in the sidebar, they're really good. I especially recommend Suspect Device. I might post something, but I can't really commit to anything until my semester is over. Though I haven't really gotten this blog off the ground yet, it feels good to have gotten it started.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Disenfranchisement of Dems in the primaries?

According to Barack Obama's campaign blog, some Democrats reported on election day that they were unable to vote in the Louisiana primary because their party affiliation had been switched, even though they hadn't changed it themselves. This in spite of strong primary turnouts. Interestingly, neither local media nor Hillary Clinton's blog mentioned this, that I can find--this doesn't mean I'm discounting it, though.

I'm already dreading disenfranchisement and voting machine problems in the general election.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rival cities: BR and NOLA

The BR Business Report has published an interesting article about the rivalry between BR and New Orleans, especially since Katrina:

In the two-and-a-half years since Hurricane Katrina forever altered the geographic, demographic and economic landscape of southeast Louisiana, New Orleans and Baton Rouge have become paradoxically closer yet farther apart than ever as squabbles over population, recovery dollars and where the state’s locus of power lies strain what was already a competitive relationship.


It’s silly, in a way, this petty squabble, but it has serious implications for the future of the state because it will color the very heated battles that will ensue when legislative and congressional districts are redrawn at the end of the decade. It will also affect how federal aid dollars are spent. Above all, it will hamper economic development efforts in a region that needs to be working together now more than ever.

“This is arguably one of the most important discussions to be having right now in this state,” Shreveport demographer and political analyst Elliott Stonecipher says. “This kind of regional rivalry is not a luxury Louisiana can afford.”

What bothers me most about the article--or rather, the content of the article, not the article itself per se--is BR's supposed readiness to take advantage of Katrina:
When Katrina hit, many saw the opportunity for which they had long been waiting. New Orleans was perceived as dead, or, maybe, presumed dead before anyone bothered to check for a pulse. Finally, Baton Rouge could make a legitimate claim as the true power center in Louisiana.

“People in Baton Rouge have been waiting on baited [sic] breath for any opportunity to shift the locus of power away from New Orleans,” Stonecipher says. “The moment the storm hit they saw their chance.”

Unfortunately, I'm not qualified (i.e. informed) enough to refute it, but considering that this is a Baton Rouge publication, I doubt that it's far from the mark. Perhaps "the moment the storm hit" is an exaggeration, but people (and fellow Louisianans at that) should be ashamed of such behavior. While I hesitate to strongly identify myself as Baton Rougean (Louisianan, yes, but I'm less proud, if proud at all, of this city in particular), I do feel somewhat ashamed that some here reportedly leaped at this opportunity to gain an upper hand in business, while many in NOLA (and those fleeing it) were suffering so greatly.

It seems to me that BR is desperate to take any development opportunity that comes along. Not that I can blame us, but perhaps we should be more picky. Last weekend, the Pinnacle referendum managed to pass with 56% of the vote, despite the recent finding that casinos are tied with landfills in terms of desirability as a local development, with 76% of Americans saying they would oppose one in their community. As a city we seem to be struggling to get ahead economically (with a D- in workaholism) and become (at least in some ways) more progressive--Rouzan, the first attempt at a TND, is a sign of this, I think. (More on Rouzan later.) But I think we have to temper our eagerness to develop with prudence and thought to existing infrastructure, sustainability, suburban sprawl, and other such issues. Time will tell.

What is either quite foreboding or just nasty rhetoric is the suggestion that New Orleans is currently running on an "artificial economy":
Proponents of the 10-12 Corridor initiative believe New Orleans is currently subsisting on an artificial economy that is sustained almost entirely by federal recovery dollars. When that well runs dry, as it eventually will, the state will need something to make up for what will be lost. Jump-starting the 10-12 Corridor is what that is all about.

In any case, I agree wholeheartedly that we've got to work together:
“At some point, we need to make this a New Orleans-Baton Rouge-Northshore triangle,” Richardson says. “We have to be less competitive and more complementary.”

These intrastate struggles don't help anyone but the fat cats. Working together is ultimately best for the whole state. We've got enough going against us as it is.