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Posts from the ‘Party Communications’ Category

True Blue Gala – October 6th – NOLA

NEW DATE:  OCTOBER 6th, 2017 at 7:30pm

Today, the Louisiana Democratic Party announced that popular national figure Jason Kander will be the headliner at this year’s big annual dinner, now called the True Blue Gala. Kander, president of Let America Vote, is an Afghanistan veteran, and was the first millennial elected to statewide office in the U.S. His rise as a leader in the party catalyzed when he came within three points of winning a highly competitive federal senate race in a deep red state last cycle- in part fueled by a daring gun background check ad that went viral.

“We’re thrilled to have Jason at our dinner this year because we believe he speaks to the next generation of leadership in our country. Jason is exactly the sort of leader we need to progress the party in the South. He’s a young veteran who continues to put his country before himself,” said Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Karen Carter Peterson. “I’ve been inspired more than a few times hearing Jason speak at events. I also have the privilege of serving on The Democratic National Committee Commission to Protect American Democracy with him, where we fight against Republican efforts to make it harder to vote for eligible Americans across the country.”

The dinner will be held at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans on Friday, October 6th at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are available here.   Hotel reservations can be made here.

Previous year’s speakers include Senator Cory Booker, Representative Joaquin Castro, former Governors Martin O’Malley, Ed Rendell Jennifer Granholm and Charlie Crist, and great friend to Louisiana, Senator Amy Klobuchar.

 

Read more about Jason here.

Tickets are available at: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/tbjasonkander

2017 Power UP Trainings

HUGE NEWS

Everyone’s been asking what LDP is doing next for our SUMMER OF RESISTANCE and we’re excited to give you an advance look at our big events! We’re holding day-long training sessions across the state to recruit and train activists, staff, and new candidates who represent our progressive values! 
 
Power Up Trainings!
 
These events are designed to teach democrats the secrets of the trade so that they can be more effective than ever. The day will include talks from some of the best in the state on digital strategy, messaging and civic engagement, among other topics!
 
Join us in a city near you. Space is extremely limited and will fill up fast once we start advertising more widely so sign up today!  
 
 
 
 
 
Attendees to these trainings will learn the latest tools, how to run meetings, how to grow our base, how to hold protests and so much more!  Get your tickets NOW and you will help us plan the agenda for each city’s customised trainings!
 
Looking forward to seeing you there!
 
Questions about these trainings reach out to our Public Affairs Director, D’Seante Parks at dparks@lademo.org  
 

Results from May 28th PLEO and At-Large Delegate Elections

Clinton PLEO  (3 women, 2 Male)

Sibal Suarez Holt

Mary Landrieu

Jennifer Vidrine

Wesley Bishop

Mitch Landrieu

 

Clinton At Large  (5 women, 3 men)

Lynda Woolard

Carol R. Leblanc

Nita Steele

Lisa Diggs

C. Denise Marcelle

Jay H. Banks

Sean Bruno

James K. “Jim” Harlan

 

Clinton At Large Alternates  (1 woman, 2 men)

Darlene Fields

Frederick D’Wayne Bell, II

Edward “Ted” James

 

Sanders PLEO (1 woman, 1 man)

Kyle Mark Green, Jr.

Caina Munson Green

 

Sanders At Large (2 women, 1 man)

Elizabeth B. Scott

Mozella Bell

Davante Lewis

 

Sanders At Large Alternate (1 woman)

Gretchen S. Shotwell

 

Standing Committee Appointments:

Platform:

Sanders Male:  Robert Johnson

Clinton Female:  Jackie Lansdale

 

 

Credentials:

Clinton Male:  Jolan Jolivette

Clinton Female:  Dr. Eileen Velez

 

Rules:

Clinton Male:  Cleo Fields

Clinton Female:  Vivian Hiner

 

 

 

Qualified At-large and PLEO Delegate Candidates

In an effort to provide the most access possible, below you will find a list of candidates who as of the date listed, have qualified to be on the ballot for Delegate.  For additional information about qualifying and running to be a Delegate to the 2016 DNCC please click here.

Last Updated: 6:00PM 5/23/2016 (Post Presidential Candidate Review). These are our At-Large and PLEO delegate Candidates.  

Qualified At-Large Delegate Candidates

Clinton At-Large Delegate Candidates
(3 Men and 5 Women to be elected)
Sanders At-Large Delegate Candidates
(1 Man and 2 Women to be elected)
Jennifer Andrews
Torris Armstead
Stiel Aubrey
Souvana Auzenne
Brenda Leroux Babin
Austin J. Badon, Jr.
Matt Bailey
Andrea Wardsworth Baker
Melba Walker Baker
Jay H. Banks
Frederick D’Wayne Bell, II
Katherine “Katie” Bernhardt
Aprill Springfield Blanco
Mary Bonier
Alicia Walker Breaux
Dacia Briley
Joseph Berton Briscoe, II
Nina S. Broyles
Sean Bruno
Billye Joyce Burns
Alicia “Cocoa” Calvin
Antonio Carriere
Alicia Plummer Clivens
Shelia Collins-Stallworth
Justin Lashan Conner
Kenton Cooper
Deborah A. Corrao
Kenneth Cutno
Joseph Dantin
Elbert S. Dawson
Brian Lee Dickinson
Lisa Ray Diggs
Rosa H. Edwards
Dina M. Esquinance
Darlene Fields
Nancy Grandquist Fields
Lea Sinclair Filson
Nicholas A. Fisher
Marcus Fontenot
Randy Franks
Richard Fuller
Rev. Willie Gable, Jr.
Ludwig Gelobter
Rodney J. Glover
Angelina Going
Deborah J. Green
Martha Christian Green
Lynda T. Guidry
Mark J. Guillory
Anne D. Guste
Alice Hammond
James K. “Jim” Harlan
Julie Harris
Janis Mickles Hernandez
Matthew Benoit “Benny” Hernandez
Leona Anne Hillman
Tracette Hillman
Vivian Hiner
Donald Hodge
Sibal Suarez Holt
Kenneth H. Hooks, III
Eric Jared Iglesias
Edward “Ted” James
Patrick O’Neal Jefferson
Linda M. Johnson
Allison Anne Jones
Gayle Joseph
Carolyn G. Kolb
Rose Aimee LaLanne
Mitch Landrieu
Jackie Lansdale
Carol R. Leblanc
Darren Lombard
Adele Granderson London
Cade J. London
Salvador Gonzalez Longoria
Robert Manard, III
C. Denise Marcelle
Dr. Jonathan May
Jacob Allen McCon
Charlotte C. McDaniel McGehee
Deborah Jean Meaux
Maria Isabel Medina
Mary J. Menutis
Patrick Miller
Janet Cecile Moulder
Richard Barry Nettles
Dennis O’Brien
Lester Perryman
Samuel Pierre
Kindrell L. Plains
Erin Powell
Patricia Ellen Powell
Winter Claire Randall
Julie Ellen Ray
Sebastian Rey
Cheredith Rhone
Shane Riddle
Doris A. Royce
Mary J. Ruffins
Nicholas S. Russell
Adam Salup
SL Simpson
Emily Yonts Sparks
Linda Spruel-Joseph
Remy Voisin Starns
Doniele Nicole Staten
Nita Steele
Ernest C. Stephens
Tenisha Terez Stevens
A. Wayne Stewart
Timothy Tennant
Jordan Thomas
Sandra Green Thomas
Robin Triche-Fields
Jenny Tripkovich
Eileen Velez, M.D.
Mayor Jennifer Vidrine
Glenn R. Vinson
Nelson W. “Chip” Wagar
Christopher Jermaine Walker, Sr.
Daryl Joy Walters
John Ward
Mary Louise Wardsworth
Kathleen Rhorer Wascom
Christopher James Wheelahan
Kerrel Wilson
W.T. Winfield
Lynda Woolard
Elizabeth Davis Wren
Heather Ann Ames
Westley Bayas, III
Bruce D. Beach
Mozella Bell
Joshua R. Bertalotto
Nicholas A. Champion
Hunter C. Christopher
Quyen D. Chu, MD
Jay J. Colar
Harvey Lytle Dillahunty
Daniel James Druilhet
Lee Ann Dugas
Jim Dunphy
Tiffany L. Foxworth
Myles Giardina
Caina Munson Green
Kyle Mark Green, Jr.
Cheryl G. Hensley
Ralph “R.J.” Johnson
Robert Johnson
Victor M. Jones
Susan M. Kaufman
Davante Lewis
Armand Link
Donald Lirette
Lance Mallia
Claudia Natali Martinez
Kimberly Melton
Adrian Perkins
Ryan M. Preatto
Megan Ramsey
George Greg Richardson
Claire Roy
Ardith R. Sanders
Elizabeth B. Scott
Gretchen S. Shotwell
James E. Slaughter
Fabien Strauss
Emanuel LoLuda Wani
Judyth A. Wier
Hugh F. Wilson
Clinton PLEO Delegate Candidates
(2 Men and 3 Women to be elected)
Sanders PLEO Delegate Candidates
(1 Man and 1 Woman to be elected)
Jennifer Andrews
Brenda Leroux Babin
Austin J. Badon, Jr.
Melba Walker Baker
Wesley Bishop
Mary Bonier
Alicia Walker Breaux
Joseph Berton Briscoe, II
Alicia Plummer Clivens
Nancy Grandquist Fields
Richard Fuller
Mark J. Guillory
James K. “Jim” Harlan
Vivian Hiner
Sibal Suarez Holt
Edward “Ted” James
Allison Anne Jones
Mary Loretta Landrieu
Mitch Landrieu
C. Denise Marcelle
Patrick Miller
Dennis O’Brien
Kindrell L. Plains
Erin Powell
Remy Voisin Starns
Reginald Tatum
Jenny Tripkovich
Mayor Jennifer Vidrine
Mary Louise Wardsworth
Belinda Parker Brown
Caina Munson Green
Kyle Mark Green, Jr.
Ralph Johnson

 

The United States: Where Dreams Come True

Dreams really do come true in the United States.

Dreams really do come true in the United States.

Half a century ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and challenged this country to live up to the promise it made in its founding documents, that the country had been renewed through the Civil War, but which remained unfilled in that summer of 1963. In the speech remembered today primarily because of the vision he laid out for this country, Dr. King also made a stark declaration:

“In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The country, led by a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress took up Dr. King’s challenge to make good on America’s promise with the passage of legislation that wiped away the last vestiges of legal segregation and discrimination in the United States.

Dr. King’s life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet because he would not settle for anything less than full payment on the promise, or for anything less than the full realization of his dream.

Today, when President Barack Obama will take the oath to begin his second term in office, he stands as living testimony to how far the United States has traveled in the fifty years since Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington. As we have seen throughout President Obama’s first term, the dream is not yet fully realized. Hatred is still alive in the country.

But, as then-Senator Barack Obama noted in 2008, continuing the work of making Dr. King’s dream come true falls to each of us:

“Dr. King once said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice….”

Today, when President Obama renews his oath to the country, let every American renew our pledge to each other to be the bearers of Dr. King’s dream. Because, his dream is the American Dream.

Lost in the Bayou: You’re On Your Own

In July of this year, the home-based care Angelina Iles had worked to put in place for her brother Anthony Batiste began to unravel. Home care, which the Jindal administration was forced to provide to Anthony and other disabled, came as the result of a court challenge brought by patient advocates and home care advocates against the administration in the face of continuing cuts to the program.

Anthony Batiste, who suffered a major stroke in 2010, began suffering seizures and was hospitalized on July 12. By this time, the Jindal administration had rolled out Bayou Health, essentially a privatization plan that turns Medicaid dollars into funding streams for private insurance companies that then pay for the care of people who enroll with one of the five companies offering services under the program.

Angelina Iles spent the next few months fighting new battles to ensure that her brother received the care he needed in a setting close enough to her home to ensure that the care could be properly monitored. She’d learned from her earlier experience with nursing home care that this level of personal oversight was essential to keeping her brother (or any institutionalized person) alive.

She ultimately decided that caring for Anthony at home was the best option for him, despite the burden it placed on her. So, she set out to get Bayou Health to enable her to reach that goal.

What she discovered in this new system is that there is no help available for patients or their family members who attempt to navigate the system. DHH calls this “a message of empowerment.” What it really means is that if you or your family member is enrolled in Bayou Health, you are on your own.

Angelina worked the phones, pursued every option, explored every avenue, talked to anyone who would listen. She found the new system to be full of problems that had apparently not been thought through by its designers.

At one point, she had to change insurance plans so that Anthony could be eligible for home care. That plan, it turned out, would not provide the anti-seizure medicine Anthony needed to enable him to live at home. Finally, she turned to State Representative Herbert Dixon and others to get the prescription covered.

On November 28 — 140 days after he was hospitalized — Anthony Batiste returned to his sister’s home. His health is extremely fragile. When Angelina was interviewed on December 4, there was no assurance that the necessary medicines would be available beyond early January.

Angelina Iles refused to let her brother be sent away from her because she believed he would have died in a nursing home. That victory now requires her to be his primary care provider, with an allotment of nursing visits to use over the next year.

In August, Anthony will become eligible for Medicare. That federal program will offer him rehabilitative services that Louisiana Medicaid does not provide. Angelina’s battle over the next nine months will be to continue caring for her brother while battling Louisiana Medicaid and Bayou Health to ensure her brother has the medicine and care he needs to make it to Medicare.

• • • • •

Originally published: Dec 14, 2012

Lost in the Bayou: Angelina Iles’ Struggle to Save Her Brother

Angelina Iles is a retired Rapides Parish School System employee, a widow, a mother of four, and a Democrat. But, for the past few years, Angelina has been Anthony Batiste’s big sister who has fought tenaciously to get him the life saving care he has needed.

In the two years since a 2010 stroke paralyzed Anthony’s left side, Angelina has engaged Louisiana Medicaid as her brother’s advocate during the transition to Bayou Health. She has fought to keep him out of nursing homes after a horrific experience with one. She has fought to get him the medicines he needs. She has fought to get the in-home care support she will need in order to continue caring for Anthony.

In this first installment of this story, Angelina talks about her brother and the challenges she’s faced in getting him care. Initially, the problem was that he was uninsured. Then, as his condition declined in part due to restrictions on physical therapy, she discusses learning about the limitations of Medicaid and the personnel matters that result from paying care givers minimum wage-level pay.

Angelina also describes her brother’s experience in a nursing home a couple of years back that gave her a steely resolve not to allow Anthony to be forced into living in a nursing home.

Bruce Blaney ran the State of Louisiana’s Office of Citizens With Developmental Disabilities between 1996 and 2001. That was during the Mike Foster administration. He was at DHH when Foster appointed Bobby Jindal to run the department.

Blaney now works as coordinator of the Louisiana Supported Living Network, a group of home care providers. He says that the problems Angelina Iles has experience in the past two years of fending for Anthony are the direct result of an attack on home care providers by nursing home interests and their allies.

• • • • •

Originally published: Dec 12, 2012

Judges to Jindal: “L’état, c’est pas toi” (‘You are not the state, Bobby’)

Bobby14If Bobby Jindal was capable of empathy, last week he would have known what Mitt Romney has been going through since the November 6th election. Losing is never easy for those who feel entitled to winning.

A federal judge and a state court judge each struck down his voucher program, putting his signal legislative achievement on the brink of extinction.

On Tuesday, Federal Judge Ivan Lemelle exempted the Tangipahoa Public School System from Act 2 (the official name of the Jindal voucher program) because the new law strips the Tangipahoa system of the resources needed to comply with a federal desegregation order. Tangipahoa was brought the challenge but more than 30 Louisiana public school districts operate under desegregation orders today.

Judge Lemelle ordered the Jindal administration to stop implementing the taxpayer funded voucher program in Tangipahoa Parish. Presumably other districts in similar circumstances would have to go to a federal court to obtain similar relief.

Ominously for Jindal and his plan, Judge Lemelle also suspended the state’s new teacher hiring, evaluation and promotion practices in Tangipahoa Parish, which also faces a constitutional challenge in state court which will be heard later this month in Baton Rouge.

On Thursday, the state Department of Education sought to stay Lemelle’s ruling so that another round of MFP funding could reach schools that are participating in the voucher program. The money is paid out quarterly. Disbursements to public school systems and voucher schools were due to be made on Monday, December 3.

On Friday, Judge Tim Kelley of Baton Rouge declared Act 2 unconstitutional because it violates the provision in the Louisiana Constitution that reserves minimum foundation formula program (MFP) dollars for support of public education in Louisiana. Unlike the post-Katrina voucher program in New Orleans which was funded through state General Fund appropriations, Act 2 raids the MFP to send state and local education tax dollars into the coffers of private school operators.

The suit was brought by the Louisiana Association of Educators, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, and the Louisiana School Boards Association.

All Vouchers at Risk

Those Orleans Parish schools accepting vouchers are also now in jeopardy. That’s because Jindal  – in the heady, early days of the 2012 Regular session when he was a Governor in full, at the peak of its powers – rolled the funding for the Orleans voucher schools out of the General Fund and into the MFP.

Judge Kelley’s ruling struck down Act 2 because of the use of MFP dollars for private education, but also because, in Jindal’s effort to fund voucher schools, the Governor’s bill authorized the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Education to commandeer local tax dollars that were dedicated to public education.

If Judge Kelley’s ruling stands and Jindal has his heart set on creating a voucher program in Louisiana, he’s going to be forced to do that without de-funding public schools in Louisiana. Judge Kelley wrote: “The public school systems of the State of Louisiana will lose funding they would have received from the Defendants for the operation of their schools and for the benefit of their students. Neither the constitutional nor statutory provisions outlined hereinabove permit such reduction in funding.”

The Court’s Got Talent

The next constitutional challenge against Jindal’s so-called reform package comes in another Baton Rouge state court where the LFT is challenging Act 1 (also known as the TALENT Act), which changed teacher hiring, evaluation and promotion practices. That case is scheduled to be heard on December 17.

The rule of law has been a rude awakening for the Governor who dismissed any and all concerns regarding the constitutionality of the education reforms. It will be interesting to see if these rulings cause Jindal to slow down or speed up his attempt to implement the program that a federal judge and a state court judge have ruled against.

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the matter that Jindal, how avows to be a small government conservative for national consumption, executed a massive state power grab of Louisiana public education through Act 1 and Act 2. The laws shift large chunks of control of local school systems from the local level to Baton Rouge, including taking control of local public education tax dollars.

The Rule of Law Vs. Jindal

The rule of law now presents the biggest obstacle to Jindal’s political prospects. He still has control of the Louisiana Senate, while a majority of the House appears to be in open rebellion against the Governor.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has become a thorn in his side with a series of Attorney General’s Opinions that have forced Jindal to at least have to work to obtain his objectives. The Office of Group Benefits (OGB) privatization took two tries and the firing of key Republicans from the House Appropriations Committee to get done. The LSU Board of Supervisors will have to redo their decision to consolidate the positions at the top of that system after Caldwell ruled that the board had violated the open meetings law by voting on a matter that was not listed on the agenda for action.

A group of conservative lawmakers have asked Caldwell to rule on whether  Jindal’s budgets pass constitutional muster with their reliance on one-time money and other smoke and mirror tricks. And Democratic Representative Stephen Ortego has filed a request for an expedited opinion from Caldwell on whether Jindal’s cuts at the LSU Hospitals have exceeded his legal authority to act without legislative approval.

Jindal’s apparent desire to use Louisiana as a staging ground for radical governmental experiments to advance his national political ambitions have begun to encounter its legal, if not the political, limits. The Governor’s and John White’s petulant responses to the Kelley voucher decision show that these are two young men accustomed to getting their way.

The law does not respond well to foot stomping. Welcome to the Republic, gentlemen.

• • • • •

Originally published: Dec 6, 2012

Calcasieu DPEC Celebrates Campaign Volunteers With Dinner

The Calcasieu Democratic Parish Executive Committee celebrated the end of the 2012 campaign season with a ‘thank you’ dinner for volunteers at the local party headquarters.

The November 26 event drew about 75 people, all of whom worked on phone banking and canvassing for the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Third District Congressional Democratic candidate Ron Richard.

Calcasieu DPEC Chairwoman Diana Hamilton led the event and told attendees that they were the unsung heroes of the 2012 Presidential campaign. She talked about the many hours of phone banking done through the Calcasieu DPEC headquarters which was still decorated with campaign paraphernalia and signs from the recently concluded campaign.

Chef Merrick Thomas donated the food for the event.

Plans were discussed for buses to carry local Obama supporters to Washington, D.C., for the President’s inauguration in January.

Ms. Hamilton also discussed plans to keep the Calcasieu DPEC headquarters open throughout 2013, when local elections will be the focus of political attention in the southwestern part of the state.

The Calcasieu DPEC operates the only DPEC storefront campaign office in Louisiana. It is funded through DPEC support and the donations and contributions of volunteers like those who were honored at the November 26th event.

• • • • •

Originally published: Dec 5, 2012

LSU Wobbles as Jindal Meddles

JindalWreckingBallThe destabilizing impact of Bobby Jindal’s meddling in the day-to-day operations of LSU continue to appear even as the Governor’s micromanaging of the state’s flagship university system intensifies.

There was fresh evidence over the past week that Jindal has called into question the accreditation of the university through his virtual operation of the entire system through his hand-picked LSU Board of Supervisors.

Squelching Happy Talk

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has questioned whether LSU is in compliance with its accreditation standards due to the apparent consolidation of the jobs of system head and chancellor of the main campus in the person of William Jenkins.

The letter pointed out that the university system has not provided SACS with the required notifications of the departure of former LSU Main Campus Chancellor Michael Martin, nor of Jenkins’ appointment as his interim replacement. It also said that the proposed merger of the two positions – system president and main campus chancellor – cannot take place without SACS’s approval, or the accreditation of the entire system will be in jeopardy.

Bob Mann, of LSU, says that “happy talk” from the administration and LSU system leaders should be ignored. Mann says that Auburn was nearly stripped of its accreditation about a decade ago and maintains that in some ways LSU is in deeper trouble than Auburn was because Jindal’s micromanaging has been so thorough.

Mann says one reason Auburn got into trouble with SACS was that the university violated Alabama’s open meetings law. He points out that the LSU Board of Supervisors vote to consolidate the positions of president and chancellor were overturned due to an attorney general’s ruling that the original vote appeared to have violated the Louisiana open meetings law.

Similar questions regarding accreditation of LSU’s medical schools have been raised by the organizations that supervise graduate medical training in the country as a result of the deep cuts and drastic changes in the LSU hospitals ordered by Jindal in the wake of Medicaid cuts.

Seeking a Second Opinion on Hospital Cuts

The Advocate Politics Column on Sunday reported that Rep. Stephen Ortego of Carencro has asked Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to rule on whether Jindal has exceeded his legal authority to make cuts affecting LSU’s hospitals without legislative approval. Rep. Ortego maintains that the cuts ordered in the wake of the Medicaid clawback have been much deeper than the 35% governors are allowed to make without legislative approval.

Ortego asked for an expedited review, according to the paper, noting that “the reductions will be implemented immediately” and could harm the ability of hospitals to deliver patient care and train the state’s future physicians.

The Advocate reported today one reason why a speedy ruling from Caldwell is needed: LSU is said to be nearing lease deals involving one or more hospitals in the seven-hospital southern system connected to the LSU Medical School in New Orleans. Meanwhile, for the three hospitals operated by the LSU Medical School at Shreveport, similar negotiations are underway, although they are being handled by a private foundation which removes any potential talks further from public scrutiny.

 60 Minutes with Alan Levine

Perhaps the most damning development in connection with LSU’s hospitals began to emerge late last week, when officials with Florida-based Health Management Associates (HMA) announced on Thursday that they would hold a Friday press call to defend themselves (free registration may be needed to read the article) against allegations they were expecting to emerge from a segment in Sunday’s CBS New Magazine 60 Minutes.

In the piece which aired last night, CBS said that HMA is under U.S. Justice Department investigation for Medicare fraud. The spokesperson selected by the company to respond on camera to the allegations was none other than Jindal’s former DHH Secretary Alan Levine.

It is worth noting that while Jindal, Levine’s successor at DHH Bruce Greenstein, and the LSU Board of Supervisors work to keep legislators out of the hospital cut decision making process, Jindal engaged Levine in the discussions early in the process.

Did Levine’s recommendations to Jindal reflected the ‘best practices’ he’s learned while at HMA since leaving state government? Did those include aggressive (if not illegal) admission practices as a way for possible private partners to wring every last cent out of any deals with LSU?

What A Difference A Year Makes

A year ago, Bobby Jindal was fresh off of a whopping re-election win. He headed into the Regular Session of the Legislature with unquestioned power. He rammed his education reform package through both houses of the Legislature in nine days, but it’s been down hill since.

A district court ruled his voucher plan unconstitutional on Friday. LSU, which was not on his agenda last year, is the central item on it now, and teeters on the brink of going out of control.

The LSU System’s accreditation has been jeopardized by his meddling, but Jindal has not yet gotten what he wants, so that meddling is likely to intensify rather than ease.

Even though the hospital cuts are unpopular, Jindal is pushing full steam ahead in his effort to rid the state of the public hospital system now being run by LSU. The Governor apparently feels that this must be completed before the major provisions of Affordable Care Act kick in by 2014 so that no attempt to revive the hospitals is possible. That speed is what has raised the accreditation issues with the graduate medical education program.

The Governor appears to have reached the point where he feels encumbered by laws and rules. His frustration is evident; his national reputation rides on implementing his radical public policy experiments in Louisiana. A path forward for him that does not severely damage the LSU System and LSU’s medical schools is not so apparent.

• • • • •

Originally published: Dec 4, 2012

Big Biz Bob’s Corporate Tax Cuts Hammer Students, Families

TuitionLoadShiftingThe New York Times reported this week that the state of Louisiana paid corporations $1.79 Billion last year in tax exemptions and incentives. If you want to see who’s getting that money, click here.

The Louisiana Department of Revenue explains in their Tax Exemption Budget reports that, “Tax exemptions are tax dollars that are not collected and result in a loss of state tax revenues available for appropriation. In this sense, the fiscal effect of tax exemptions is the same as a direct fund expenditure.” That is, dollars given away on tax exemptions and incentives are state tax dollars that can’t be used for other purposes.

Tuition Hikes Replace State Support

Last week we showed you the big fiscal picture of higher education in Louisiana. Governor Jindal has cut more than $600 Million in state funding for higher education and made up part of that with $390 Million in increases in tuition and fees on state campuses across Louisiana.

Some of those cuts in funding have occurred as a result of mid-year shortfalls in state revenues. Using the Department of Revenue’s explanation about the nature of tax exemptions, there is a connection between the exemptions the state gives corporations and the lack of funding available to meet other state government needs.

Using data from the Louisiana Board of Regents for Higher Education, the impact on students and families of Jindal’s five-year record of reducing state support for higher education while increasing corporate tax exemptions becomes clear.

Board of Regents data show that tuition and fees for Louisiana residents for 12 hours per semester of classes at institutions in Louisiana’s three university systems have increased between 44% and 54% during Jindal’s tenure.

This is not an accident; it is a conscious shifting of the burden of higher education costs onto students and their families in the face of state funding cuts linked to exemptions and incentives given to corporations by the Jindal administration. The higher tuition is being used to keep the institutions open, not improve them.

Overcoming Obstacles to Opportunity

We are a poor state. The median household income in Louisiana averaged $44,086 for the five-year period that ended in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That is nearly $9,000 below the national average. 18.4% of our residents live in poverty, compared to 14.3% across the country.  It stands to reason, then, that rapidly rising college tuition would have an impact on students ability to pursue their higher education dreams.

Venese Morgan is a native of California whose father graduated from Southern University before heading west. Venese was able to attend Southern based on Pell Grants and financial aid.

“The last semester of my junior year in 2010 was the first semester I had to apply for a Parent Plus Loan, which was an extended loan on top of the loans I had already applied for,” Venese said. The tuition increase that Venese felt came before passage of the GRAD ACT in 2010, which gave Louisiana university systems and campuses the ability to raise tuition by 10% per year if they met certain milestones and benchmarks on student achievement.

“By the time I was in my final semester, I had $6,000 left in financial aid but my tuition was well over $10,000,” Venese said. “So, my final Parent Plus Loan was for $4,500. It had jumped from $1,500 to $4,500 in a little over a year.”

Bobbi Alvarado is a sophomore Business Major at LSU. She grew up in Texas but decided she wanted to attend LSU and build her own life in Louisiana. She started out paying out-of-state tuition but had heard that after establishing residency here, students were eligible to qualify as a resident student.

Faced with steadily rising tuition and unable to meet the in-state earned income requirement to be declared a Louisiana resident for university purposes, she was forced to skip this fall’s semester. When Jindal took office in 2008, out-of-state tuition on the LSU Baton Rouge campus was $12,958; this academic year, those fees are $22,218 — a 71% increase!

Bobbi is using her time away from LSU to hit those earned income requirements that will enable her to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Her goal is to become a teacher. Governor Jindal’s tax exemptions and rising tuition makes achieving that goal a little tougher each year. Bobbi Alvarado is determined to overcome the obstacles Bobby Jindal is erecting in her path.

 Tell us your story about how tuition increases are affecting you and your family. Click here!

No Relief In Sight

Governor Jindal has already announced that revenue neutral tax reform is his top priority heading into 2013. If that comes to pass, it will be more bad news for Louisiana students and their families. “Revenue neutral” tax reform would lock in state revenues at current levels. Fearing additional mid-year budget cuts, four-year colleges and universities want the ability raise tuition without going to the Legislature. Essentially they want the ability to tap students and their families as an alternative to dwindling state support.

With tuition costs already growing faster than incomes in Louisiana, the likelihood is that more people like Bobbi Alvarado will have their higher education aspirations priced beyond their reach. If you think TOPS is enough to help, remember that it is funded through the state General Fund. After five years of rapid growth in corporate income tax exemptions, the ‘help’ that students and families get from TOPS comes increasingly from themselves, through the taxes they pay.

No one disputes the value of a college education, but with Jindal’s pedal to the metal on tuition costs in Louisiana, we might hit an inflection point where the upfront cost of the investment deters people from making it. That would send Louisiana into uncharted waters, leaving residents here with no clear route to the American Dream.

• • • • •

Originally published: Dec 7, 2012

Big Biz Bob! Jindal, Corporate Tax Exemptions and Higher Education

FunBudgetNumbersIn his widely noted post-election comments to Politico, Governor Bobby Jindal laid out a litany of things the Republican Party could not be if it wanted to regain success at the national level.

“We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” Jindal told POLITICO in a 45-minute telephone interview. “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”

Good stuff. Well said. We just wish that he meant it.

A look at corporate tax policy in the Jindal era shows that Bobby Jindal is, in fact, the Big Business Republican Governor of Louisiana.

According to the 2011 Department of Revenue “Tax Exemption Budget” report, Louisiana exemptions on corporate income taxes cost the state $1.215 Billion in revenue during the Fiscal Year that ended on June 30, 2008. That was the final budget of Governor Kathleen Blanco’s administration.

During the next five years under Jindal’s watch, exemptions on corporate income taxes exploded. Here are the numbers listed by the end month of each fiscal year, based on the 2012 Department of Revenue “Tax Exemption Budget”:

  • FY      06/09 Corporate Income Tax Exemptions: $1,296,329,738 (up $81,089,948)
  • FY      06/10 Corporate Income Tax Exemptions: $1,314,871,880 (up $99,632,090)
  • FY      06/11 Corporate Income Tax Exemptions: $1,459,098,421 (up $243,858,631)
  • FY      06/12 Corporate Income Tax Exemptions: $1,488,145,000 (up $272,905,210*)
  • FY      06/13 Corporate Income Tax Exemptions: $1,517,908,000 (up $302,668,210*)

* The numbers for the fiscal years ending in 2012 and 2013 are estimates made by the Department of Revenue; the increased amount of exemptions for those years are based on those estimated fiscal year numbers. The figures for the increased in the amount of the exempted taxes are based on the final Blanco year of tax exemptions.

Add it all up, and Louisiana corporate income tax exemptions during the five years of the Jindal era have increased by more than $1 Billion dollars (see graphic above). As the Department of Revenue points out in its Tax Exemption Budget reports, tax exemptions are tax expenditures just as surely as is any line-item in the state budget.

With that thought in mind, where is this generous state taxpayer spending on corporations coming from?

Tax Exemptions and Higher Education Cuts

Governor Jindal and his supporting cast are fond of saying that tough times are at the heart of the state’s budget woes. But, can that really be true when, as Department of Revenue and Louisiana Economic Development admit that the state of Louisiana is giving away $6.9 Billion every year in tax exemptions?

While tax exemptions have exploded during the Jindal years, that loss of revenue has led to cuts in the only parts of the state budget not constitutionally protected — primarily health care and higher education. Health care has gotten a lot of attention recently, but the higher education cuts make clear just how much Jindal’s policies here have been precisely the policies that he says Republicans must abandon in order to be successful; that is, his policies have favored big business at the expense of middle and working class families.

At the same time corporate income tax exemptions were exploding, a series of ‘budget shortfalls’ led Jindal and the Legislature to cut $615,291,008 in state support for higher education funding. Some of those cuts were covered by federal stimulus spending which, of course, Jindal would be loathe to admit since it came from a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress.

Paying for Corporate Welfare With Tuition Increases

But, about $390,000,000 of the money that offset the loss in state funding came by way of higher tuition and fees on students and their families.

Ah, but there’s TOPS to help offset those tuition increases, right? Right, but TOPS is funded out of the General Fund. Who is not paying taxes into the General Fund these days? In the Jindal era, corporations are paying a lot less in taxes than they were five years ago and that loss of revenue is — in higher education — being made up out of the pocketbooks of Louisiana middle and working class families.

The Governor is actually making good political sense with some of his comments about what Republicans need to do to become more popular in the rest of the country. It’s too bad for our state that his new rhetoric does not match up with his record over the past five years.

Jindal’s talk is cheap. But, the price middle and working class families are paying for his policies is steep.

• • • • •

Originally published: Nov 30, 2012

LDP Chair: Immediately Halt Unconstitutional Jindal Voucher Program

KCP-Head-wNameTitle“The Louisiana Democratic Party calls for an immediate halt to Governor Jindal’s unconstitutional voucher program in the face of this ruling, and a return of all funding and students to local public school districts,” Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Karen Carter Peterson said today after the Jindal voucher plan was declared unconstitutional. “We urge the Governor not to appeal this decision and to refrain from inflicting further needless harm on the public school system by pursuing this unconstitutional program.”

“Judge Tim Kelley’s decision to declare Act 2 — Governor Jindal’s voucher plan — an unconstitutional use of Minimum Foundation Formula Program dollars is a victory for all those who believe that public education is an essential pillar of our democracy and of our prosperity,” Chairwoman Peterson said upon learning of the ruling.

“The state Constitution is very clear that MFP dollars are reserved for the funding of public education and Judge Kelley’s ruling has confirmed that fundamental fact,” Chair Peterson said. “Governor Jindal chose to ignore the Constitution and strong-armed this bill through the Legislature without affording time to consider the bill and its implications. But, what makes the United States unique among nations is our long history of the rule of law and that rule was reaffirmed today by Judge Kelly.”

“There are ways to amend the Louisiana Constitution, but Governor Jindal deliberately sought to short-circuit that process and essentially privatize public education by directing MFP dollars into the coffers of private school operators,” LDP First Vice Chair Shane Riddle said. “Our children, our communities and our state deserve better than radical social experimentation the likes of which the Governor offered in his unconstitutional bill.”

• • • • •

Originally published: Nov 30, 2012

Forget Farmerville? Jindal rails against Wall Street bailouts; silent on chicken plants

JindalVsJindalBailoutsGovernor Bobby Jindal’s eye-popping interview with the political website Politico continues to reverberate.

In it Jindal, the current head of the Republican Governors Association and all-but-declared candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination for President, rattled of his litany of things the Republican Party cannot be if it is going to regain the (White) House he wants to live in. The Governor was so pleased with his words that he had them scaled back into an op-ed piece for CNN.

In the operative paragraph taken from a 45-minute stream of consciousness interview Jindal now reserves for national media, the Governor said this:

“We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” Jindal told POLITICO in a 45-minute telephone interview. “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”

Bailouts have been a sensitive issue for Republicans ever since the George W. Bush administration bailed out the Wall Street Banks during the panic in the early days of what became the Great Recession. The bailout of the American automobile industry also started at the end of the second Bush’s second term.

Chicken Plant Comes Home to Roost

Jindal’s interview points specifically to the bailout of Wall Street bankers as a sin against conservative dogma. But, the Governor demonstrated the kind of effective leadership he now appears to criticize when he intervened to extract the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant near Farmerville, Louisiana, from being closed in 2009.

For those of you who don’t recall, in late 2008 Pilgrim’s Pride — one of the nation’s largest chicken processors — sought bankruptcy protection. At the time, the company operated a large chicken processing plant not far from the Arkansas border near Farmerville, Louisiana, in Union Parish. That plant was going to be closed, but Jindal (who had received campaign contributions from the company’s CEO) intervened. He helped find a buyer and had Louisiana taxpayers pony up $50 million to see the deal through.

The move — now considered heresy among the economically illiterate right that Jindal now caters to — saved 1,300 direct jobs at the plant and probably averted an economic calamity in northeast Louisiana. The rest of Pilgrim’s Pride bankruptcy did not go so smoothly.

JindalPogoIt is testimony to the economic extremism which infects the Republican Party that Jindal must distance himself from is own economic success story based on his own prescription for what ails the former party of Lincoln. What’s the alternative? Say that President Obama’s bailout of the U.S. auto industry succeeded? Republicans — and Jindal — clearly are not ready to confront that inconvenient truth.

So, until further notice, the highly successful Jindal bailout of the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken plant in Farmerville is not to be discussed. Forget about it. Never happened. After all, this man has a nomination to pursue. Scrub your brains, all ye who enter here!

Governor Jindal has found the GOP’s enemy — and it is he! Just go out to Farmerville to check it out!

• • • • •

Originally published: Nov 27, 2012

Wrecking the Crash Cart: Jindal’s Decisions Destabilize Louisiana Health Care

JindalAttackforblogThere were more warning lights flashing this week signaling that Governor Jindal’s ideologically driven approach to health care reform is careening out of control. The Governor’s decisions put not only the state’s public hospital system, but graduate medical education, the financial viability of community hospitals, and the ability of any Louisiana citizen to have regular access to medical care.

On Monday, The Advocate reported that the administration is trying to cover a $340 million funding hole in the LSU Hospital systems that are anchored by the medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport. The administration is using “The Jindal Way” to resolve the problem — using one-time money, the paper reported.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols also made clear that the Governor will insist on getting his hands on the budget surplus left over from the 2011-2012 fiscal year, despite the fact that the money is dedicated to go into the state’s so-called ‘Rainy Day’ fund. The Governor’s method of persuasion? Hold what’s left of the hospitals and higher education hostage.

“Obviously, our desire is to use the surplus, so that we could mitigate the additional cuts that would have to be made to health care and higher education. We feel very strongly about that decision,” Nichols told The Advocate. “I’m certain there’s going to be some debate about it.”

The process of laying off the 1,500 or so hospital workers that will lose their jobs because of the already announced cuts has begun. Notifications have been sent to Civil Service and the layoffs will begin on January 21.

While the administration remains confident that it will close the budget gap, no public-private partnerships upon which the future of graduate medical education in the state depends have been struck.

Doctor Training at Risk

Concern about the future of graduate medical education spilled into public view on Thursday at a meeting of the Joint Committee on the Budget at the Capitol. Lawmakers specifically asked for assurances that the severe cuts being made to the LSU Hospitals were not jeopardizing the training of future doctors. The head of the LSU Hospitals run by the Shreveport Medical School said he did not think the cuts would disrupt the training of the doctors, which would create a shortage of doctors in Louisiana in future years.

But, the deepest cuts are taking place in the seven LSU Hospitals anchored by the LSU Medical School in New Orleans. The administration did not make Dr. Frank Opelka, the man who runs that system, available to testify at the hearing. Opelka has stated publicly that no public-private partnership deals have yet been reached that would provide continuity for the training of doctors in the state.

The cuts are the result of the Governor’s decision to concentrate cuts resulting from the Medicaid clawback provision in the federal Transportation Bill on the LSU Hospitals.

Community Hospitals at Risk

Community hospitals are worried that the cuts at the LSU Hospitals will send tens of thousands of uninsured residents who currently recieve care at the safety net hospitals to their facilities for care. The administration has done nothing to alleviate those concerns and, in fact, has heightened concerns due to another policy decision made by the Governor.

This week Jindal restated his resolve to not to allow Louisiana to participate in the health insurance exchange portion of the Affordable Care Act. The Governor has also declared that the state will not participate in the Medicaid expansion piece of the law.

With Jindal intent on closing the public hospital system, Louisiana community hospitals have cause for alarm. Jindal’s opposition to Obamacare means that there will be no reduction in the number of Louisiana residents who don’t have health insurance at the same time the federal government will be reducing the funding source that pays for care given to the uninsured.

Jindal’s refusal to allow Louisiana individuals, families, small businesses and health care providers access the resources and benefits of the Affordable Care Act even jeopardize his own projects.

At a meeting of the State Bond Commission on Thursday, state Treasurer John N. Kennedy pointed out that the viability of the new teaching hospital in New Orleans which the state is building depends on income that will attach to patients through the Affordable Care Act. Kennedy said that Jindal’s refusal to allow the state to fully participate in the Act threatens the financial viability of teaching hospital.

Health Care Access is at Risk

The depraved indifference of the Governor’s decision on the Medicaid expansion prompted the normally supportive editorial board of the Times-Picayune to call him out on it on Friday. “Even with the presidential race over and the fight over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act settled by the U.S. Supreme Court, Gov. Jindal is still putting partisan politics over the good of Louisiana’s residents. That is a dereliction of his duty,” the paper said.

Jindal’s policy decisions are destabilizing virtually every element of the state’s health care delivery system, from the training of doctors to the financial viability of hospitals. Remedies are at hand but he refuses them for political reasons. His eyes are on some prize beyond our borders. Louisiana and its citizens will be left to clean up his mess once he moves on.

The question is whether any of us — rich or poor, rural or urban, insured or uninsured — will have access to anything resembling reliable health care before his time here is done? Barring the Legislature finding a backbone or the Governor having some kind of road to Damascus conversion experience, Louisiana will be left to fix a medical system that Governor Jindal will have wrecked by the time his term has ended.

• • • • •

Originally published: Nov 17, 2012

Anywhere But There: Jindal Steers Clear of Sinkhole

WHERESBOBBYDuring the 2010 BP Gulf Gusher, Governor Bobby Jindal avoided the tedium of dealing with the Louisiana Legislature that spring by hopping onto a Blackhawk helicopter and flying to a spot on the coast where he could be photographed poking crude oil that had washed into Louisiana’s marshes (he never told the task force where the oil was, according to the official report on the incident — Chapter 5, page 139 of Oil Spill Commission Report).

Jindal’s visits with his secret crude oil stash were immediately followed by a flight directly to the largest gathering of national media that day. His frenetic camera hogging and incessant yapping earned him the title of “Governor as action figure” among some bloggers and pundits. He used his performance in that crisis to, among other things, try to sell copies of his book.

Contrast Jindal’s BP disaster engagement with the Governor’s response to the sinkhole that emerged near Bayou Corne in Assumption Parish on the morning of August 3. The sinkhole resulted from the suspected collapse of a storage cavern that had been carved out of a salt dome a few thousand feet beneath the surface near Napoleonville.

In the 105 days since then, families in the vicinity of the growing sinkhole have been forced out of their homes.

It’s also been revealed that the Department of Natural Resources (then headed by LSU Board of Supervisor member and Public Service Commissioner-elect Scott Angelleknew about possible problems with the storage cavern well over a year before residents there even began to suspect problems.

Yet, in the weeks leading up to the appearance of the sinkhole, DNR and Office of Conservation officials downplayed residents concerns about bubbles surfacing in the bayou and ground tremors.

The extent of the problems below the surface of the sinkhole and beneath the ground near LA 70 is still not know. Residents are still being kept out of their houses. Methane, oil continue to be extracted from the area and other chemicals may be involved in the mix around the sinkhole with no end in sight.

The end that is in sight is the ability of the company that owned the failed storage cavern, Texas Brine, to continue to absorb the cost of paying for the disaster that is unfolding with no end in sight.

Yet, for all this, Governor Bobby Jindal has not been able to clear time in his busy schedule for even a single stop in Assumption Parish in the 105 days since the sink hole emerged. In the 15 weeks since then, the Governor has barnstormed the country as a surrogate for Mitt Romney in Colorado, Iowa, Oklahoma, Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire and possibly other places. National news reports indicate he’s in Las Vegas now for his coronation as head of the Republican Governors Association.

But, in all that time, even when he’s been in the state to announce business deals or fire legislators from committees, he has not been able to find a compelling reason to visit the Bayou Corne sinkhole site nor visit the the families that face the very real possibility of having lost their homes permanently as a result of the shoddy work his administration did in looking out for their interests in the years leading up to what for them is an ongoing calamity.

It’s a good thing he has the job he wants. Imagine how he’d ignore the residents of Bayou Corne if he didn’t!

• • • • •

Originally published: Nov 16, 2012

PRISON TELEPHONES: Outrageous Rates Charged to Families of Inmates

Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Foster Campbell

Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Foster Campbell

The Louisiana Public Service Commission is investigating exorbitant telephone rates charged to families of inmates in Louisiana jails and prisons.

What we have found suggests that rates for calls from inmates to their families and fees added to bills are extreme compared to rates for calls on the outside.

These high charges raise legal and moral issues.  The commission is asking whether the rates and add-on fees are authorized under our current regulations.

From a moral and practical standpoint, the issue is whether these high phone fees prevent inmates from communicating with family members on the outside.  Corrections experts agree that family connections are vital to the rehabilitation of inmates and their ability to adjust to life after prison.

Dem-voicesNearly 40,000 people are incarcerated on a long-term basis in Louisiana prisons.  A state Department of Corrections official recently told a legislative committee that Louisiana is “number one in the world” in incarceration.

There are more than 170 state and local prisons in Louisiana — 11 operated by the Louisiana DOC and more than 160 run by parish and city governments.

Prisoners and their families have no choice on the company they use to communicate.  That choice is made by the state DOC, the local sheriff or the jail operator.

Rates are very high.

  • A 10-minute daytime call from Shreveport to Natchitoches is $4.65.
  • A 10-minute daytime call from Baton Rouge to Gonzales is $4.65.
  • A 10-minute daytime call from the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison to a house across the street is $1.81.

The average cost of all calls from prisons in Louisiana exceeds $3 for a 10-minute call.  That is 30 cents a minute — compared to 2 cents on the outside.

Other southern states are lower than Louisiana.  Texas is about $2.68 for the average 10-minute call and Florida is about $1.21. New York is the lowest cost for that average 10-minute call at 48 cents – 4.8 cents a minute.

Jail telephone companies often add questionable charges on top of these high rates.  For example, families are charged for opening a telephone account ($6.95) or getting a refund for unused calling time ($5).

The commission is investigating whether these added charges violate PSC orders.

The vast majority of inmate calls are completed by the provider companies using “Voice Over Internet Protocol” technology.  VOIP is far less costly to operate than earlier telephone “switch” technology.

Some legitimate oversight functions required by jail operators tend to drive up the cost of prison telephone services.  These are mostly designed to prevent fraud and keep prisoners from conducting criminal activity by telephone.

Typically it is the prisoner’s mother, father, children or grandparents who pay for these calls, not the prisoner.  Our investigation suggests that relatives of inmates are paying a dear price to stay in contact with family members in jail.

When the same calls on the outside can be made for as little as two cents a minute, it appears that the inmate telephone providers are taking advantage of their monopoly status.

Investigations of inmate telephone systems in other states have revealed that the firms that provide phone services to jails often pay big commissions to win their monopoly contracts.

These other states have concluded that jail operators often choose the high bidder rather than the low bidder for telephone services.  In other words, the highest commission paid to the jail.

Other states have lowered rates by changing how commissions are paid, or prohibiting them entirely.  New York lawmakers banned commissions in 2008 and rates dropped 69 percent.

If exclusive deals between telephone companies and jails result in mothers not being able to communicate with their sons and daughters in prison, the Louisiana PSC is not doing its job as a regulator.

The LPSC investigated inmate calling services in the early 1990s and found widespread abuses.  Customers had been double-billed, charged exorbitant rates and had time illegally added to their calls.

The commission ordered more than a million dollars in refunds.

The reprimand did not slow down the provider in that case, a company called Global Tel-Link.  It now has state corrections contracts in 19 states.  Until recently it provided exclusive phone services to the 11 prisons operated by the Louisiana DOC.

In the world outside prison, the cost to make telephone calls is declining thanks to technological improvements and new forms of competition.  On the inside, high prices for calls prevent inmates from remaining in contact with parents, spouses and children, and make it more difficult for them to adjust to life on the outside when they are released from jail.

Foster Campbell is chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission and its North Louisiana representative.  You can reach him at 318-676-7464 or foster.campbell@la.gov.

• • • • •

Originally published: Nov 9, 2012

Attacking the ‘Ole War Skule’: Jindal’s War on LSU

JindalsWarLSUBobby Jindal is putting his personal stamp on Louisiana State University like no governor since Huey Long.

Long moved the campus from downtown Baton Rouge, hired and fired university presidents at will, but also invested large sums of money in his attempt to build the state’s flagship university into an institution that would at least mimic the great universities on the east and west coasts.

Jindal, on the other hand, has slashed higher education funding (shifting a larger tuition burden on students and their families), fired or driven off university presidents and system leaders who demonstrate any hint of protecting the system from his meddling. The cuts have gone so deep that the Tiger Athletic Foundation had to step in to provide some funding for the university to help maintain some semblance of academic funding commitment at the university.

Jindal is actively working to destroy the state’s public hospital system that LSU has operated since 1997. He’s used the Medicaid clawback to implement drastic cuts in the system that are aimed at crippling those hospitals before the 2014 provisions of the Affordable Care Act provide funding streams that would provide a sustainable path forward for them. About 1,500 workers at those hospitals will lose their jobs, in addition to hundreds of behavioral health workers.

The Governor’s decision to concentrate the Medicaid cuts necessitated by the clawback approved by Congress earlier this year has destabilized graduate medical education in the state. LSU’s graduate medical education program is due to have its accreditation reviewed next year and the accrediting agency has already notified the head of LSU’s hospital system that the deep cuts and hastily executed changes in residency programs is causing concern.

LSU’s Health Science Center Hospital in Shreveport recently lost its certification as a Tier One Trauma Center after years of budget cuts degraded the staffing and service levels needed to maintain that standing.

Despite indications that the cuts to the LSU Hospitals are wildly unpopular, the Legislature has proven itself unwilling or unable to intervene to stop the destruction of the public hospital system. There is a statutory threshold of 35% cuts that would enable the Legislature to intervene in the process. One Democratic lawmaker says that threshold has been crossed.

Now, with his hand-picked LSU Board of Supervisors firmly in charge of the system, the Governor has moved to reorganize the entire system with a plan that will concentrate power in Baton Rouge. The board recently moved to consolidate the position of LSU System President and Chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus on orders from the Governor — and apparently in violation of the state public meetings law.

Word in Baton Rouge for months has been that Jindal’s man for that new job is Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret.

The extent of Jindal’s meddling in the operation of the system itself has raised questions about whether the university can retain its accreditation (being free of political influence is a criteria for accreditation of public colleges and universities).

There are indications that community and business leaders across the state are alarmed by the rapid changes that are being designed out of public view and without public input. Like the voucher program approved this spring, like the health care cuts that have unfolded in late summer and early fall, the implications of the LSU reorganization have not been thought through.

Jindal has no ties to LSU. He never attended the school. The only experience he has with higher education in Louisiana was his ill-fated two-year stint as head of the University of Louisiana system during the Mike Foster administration.

These far-reaching changes will have a long-lasting impact on the state. With a subservient Board of Supervisors, Jindal is operating the LSU System like it is his personal playground.Jindal’s secretively conceived and recklessly implemented changes at LSU are going to have long lasting implications that will not be clear for years to come.

The phrase ‘unintended consequences‘ does not appear to be part of the Governor’s vocabulary nor his thought process. As for the LSU Board? They are just taking orders.

• • • • •

Originally published: Nov 9, 2012

Congratulations, President Obama!

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

The Louisiana Democratic Party is thrilled to join in the celebration of President Barack Obama’s election to a second term tonight!

The sweeping victory, called earlier than most pundits expected, confirmed the judgment of the American people that President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their administration have put the country on the road forward. Voters recognized the persistent effort the President has made to, first, pull the country out of the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, and then to do the slow and difficult task of putting our economy back on sound footing that will grow the middle class and open new avenues of opportunity for all Americans.

“The President’s re-election is a victory for all of us who believe that we are all in this together, that we are our best when we advance together, and that we have broader commitments to keep than our own narrow interests,” LDP Chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson said.

“In the wake of this victory, we call on Republicans in the Congress — including those in the Louisiana delegation — to end their obstructionist ways and give President Obama the resources needed for nation-building here at home in this second term. We need to fully implement Obamacare, invest in our nation’s infrastructure, and continuing the work of building an economy that will last,” Peterson said.

“We also call on Governor Jindal to end his opposition to full participation in Obamacare. Louisiana individuals, families and businesses need access to the health insurance exchange and the Medicaid expansion components of that law,” Peterson added. “Our people need access to that care.”

“The Louisiana health care provider community — from private practices to community hospitals to our public hospital system — need access to the resources that this law provides and that other states will receive the benefit of, regardless of whatever political gains Governor Jindal believes his obstruction gains him,” Peterson said.

“The people of this country have spoken and Louisiana needs to join with the rest of the country as President Obama leads us forward over the next four years,” Peterson concluded.

• • • • •

Originally published: Nov 6, 2012

Obama’s efficient Sandy response puts new focus on GOP ‘You’re On Your Own’ approach to Disaster recovery

Two months after Hurricane Isaac’s flooding devastated parts of southeast Louisiana, Americans have been presented with fresh evidence of the essential role the federal government plays in disaster recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s impact in the the northeast.

By all accounts, the federal government’s response to both Isaac and Sandy — delivered primarily through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — has been exemplary, in stark contrast to the shocking ineptitude of FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. President Obama’s selection of Craig Fugate, former disaster recovery head in Florida, has transformed the agency from a hotbed of cronyism into the effective disaster response agency that Americans want and need it to be.

That would all change if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win next Tuesday’s election.

During the Republican presidential primaries, Romney declared that, if elected President, he’d shut down FEMA and transfer disaster recovery responsibilities to the states and the private sector. Here’s the transcript of what Romney told Republican voters.

Romney has no concept of the impact of disasters on the lives of the non-wealthy. As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney vetoed a flood prevention bill that would have affected parts of the commonwealth that later flooded. Romney’s veto made the flooding after a 2004 storm worse – and he turned to the federal government to help with the recovery effort.

Paul Ryan was part of the House Republican leadership effort to deny disaster recovery funding for victims of tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, unless cuts were made in other programs.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Romney has refused to either back or abandon his earlier statements on the federal role in disaster recovery.

Like his approach to disaster recovery, we are on our own to figure out what his true position is on the matter. We only have his words to go by. FEMA’s transformation under President Obama’s leadership shows one clear path forward. Can we risk waiting for Mr. Romney to make up his mind?

Can you commit to volunteer to help Democratic candidates between now and election day (next Tuesday)? If you can’t volunteer your time, please help the Louisiana Democratic Party by donating whatever you can afford hereWe’ve got to be all in to Win!

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Originally published: Nov 1, 2012