Sunday, March 16, 2014

Watch your Billfold; Legislature in Session

As the Worm Turns in Baton Rouge

Dayne Sherman
March 15, 2014
Column / 850 words
Published in several newspapers & blogs

On Monday, March 10, the Louisiana Legislative session began. Surely it will not be as acrimonious as the 2012 session, a time when school teachers gathering at the State Capitol were treated like animals at the hands of Governor Jindal, Speaker Chuck Kleckly, and some members of the House Education Committee. You will recall this is when the governor pushed his education “reform” agenda in marathon meetings.

Why did the 2012 session kick the teachers in the face? Governor Jindal thought he was going to be Vice President of the United States. He had to show that he could go complete imbecile in order to achieve this goal. With the help of ALEC--who paid off some of our local legislators with campaign cash--they forged ahead with unconstitutional education reform that has mostly failed to meet court muster since.

I have to give props to Mitt Romney: He had the wisdom to keep Louisiana's Boy Wonder off the GOP ticket. I respect Romney's judgment for that much if nothing else.

But all is not love and light this year.

One major battle will be the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Senator Ben Nevers and Representative John Bel Edwards both have common sense bills to implement the federal Medicaid expansion for Louisiana citizens.

On the other hand, Representative Jerome “Dee” Richard, an Independent from Thibodaux, usually a reasonable man, is trying to enforce Tenth Amendment rights regarding the ACA. He calls denying the health law a “States' Rights” issue, and does not want to implement the ACA in Louisiana.

Whenever I see someone calling for "State's Rights," why do I also see images of George Wallace, German shepherds, fire hoses, and billy clubs? The Medicaid expansion is absolutely a part of ACA. Indeed, the ACA brings no caps on medical benefits, children on family insurance plans until 26 years old, free preventative care, 80 percent of premiums going to actual medical care, and on and on. I hardly think Louisiana needs to stand in the hospital door and declare: "Bad healthcare now, bad healthcare tomorrow, bad healthcare forever!" 

Let the States' Rights foolishness fall away into the dustbin of history.

Speaking of tomfoolery and downright idiocy, I wonder if the proposed secession city of St. George in Baton Rouge will spill over into this year's legislative gathering? I and others have dubbed this proposed municipality “St. George Wallace.” The effort is being led by Senator Mack “Bodi” White, my state senator, a true dim bulb if Louisiana has ever had one in public office. Why is it that every time I see a photo of Bodi White I think of the late brute Bull Connor? Maybe it is because they are both good Methodists. Who knows?

Perhaps the most heat and least light will come from the battle over the Common Core, a national curriculum that has been panned from both the left and right as out of touch with real classrooms, real teaching, and real students.

Liberals and conservatives have lined up against it with sharpened pitchforks. In the middle is Governor Jindal. He has backed it 100 percent through his little education troll, State Superintendent of Education John White, but Jindal has been sheepish about the whole thing. I suspect Jindal will sacrifice White over the Common Core before the session is over.

The Common Core is great in theory and bad in practice. It's mostly a cash grab by companies and pushed by vulture capitalists like Bill Gates. Dr. Diane Ravitch, a leading education historian, recently said, “The billionaires will get bored and find a new hobby. Maybe yachting or polo ponies.”

Let's hope so.

When it comes to higher education funding, don't expect much. With 80 percent of state funding cut from college and university budgets, the campuses are heading to insolvency. The state lacks higher education leaders with enough fortitude and political juice to make funding improvements happen. As long as TOPS pays the tuition bill, there won't be much in the way of help coming from the public either.

At the end of the day we have a governor who has left the state a fiscal disaster by cutting taxes, destroying services and infrastructure, and buying politicians through privatization and the funding local pet projects. Over 100 years ago an astute political observer said, “No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” This is certainly true in 2014.

According to reports, during the first week of the session Jindal campaigned in New Hampshire, an early presidential primary state. Hardly a coincidence. We all know his heart is not in Louisiana. So be wary, be awake, and be vigilant. With Bobby Jindal in office and his legislative lapdogs at his feet, Louisiana could be annexed by Vladimir Putin's Russia before we read about it in the morning newspaper.

Dayne Sherman resides in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. He covers the South like kudzu and promises that he never burned Atlanta. He is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website is
Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker
Web & Social Media:
Talk About the South Blog:
Tweet the South - Twitter:
***This message speaks only for the writer, a citizen, not for any present or past employer.***