Welcome to Democratic Louisiana!
This is the third edition of Democratic Louisiana, a newsletter that focuses on Louisiana political and policy news from a Democratic perspective. To view the first edition, click here. To read the second edition, click here.
The Healthcare Reform Win story going to run again today and Thursday so that more people get the message.
See you on Thursday!
Mike Stagg, Editor
Jindal & Levine
This is the third installment of our series on how the best interests of Louisiana have taken a back seat to Bobby Jindal's national political ambitions. This was going to be our lead story today, but the Vitter story is today's Big Blue One story.
"Jindal & Levine" (with apologies to Thelma & Louise) focuses on how Jindal's ideologically driven desire to shut down the state's public hospitals has been turned into a disastrous policy direction thanks to passage of the Affordable Care Act. That new law will bring health insurance to at least 800,000 Louisiana workers and their families who don't have it now. Louisiana will need to increase its capacity to provide care, not reduce it as Jindal's policies will do.
Ideology imposes a rigidity on people's thinking that renders them unable to respond to changes in circumstances.
Jindal won't let the facts stand in the way of his ideology and Louisiana residents and the healthcare industry as a whole will suffer because of it.
Jindal is bringing that same inflexibility to higher education with disaster being the most likely outcome.
In this instance, the trouble comes disguised as the GRAD legislation, which will give colleges the freedom to raise tuition in return for raising graduation rates. The problem is that the state's ongoing fiscal crisis (coupled with Jindal's fanatical anti-tax stance) threatens to force the closing of summer classes, which will make improving graduation rates nearly impossible.
Click on the image (or here) to read the story.
Did Vitter Threaten UNO to Block Melancon Appearance?
The Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee (OPDEC) was scheduled to meet last Saturday afternoon at 5:30 on the campus of the University of New Orleans (UNO). The committee had regular business to attend to, including hearing from the six Democratic candidates for the state House District 93 seat that recently became vacant with Karen Carter-Peterson was elected to a state Senate seat.
Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon was scheduled to stop by the meeting to begin the work of introducing himself to Democrats as part of his campaign to defeat disgraced Republican incumbent U.S. Senator David Vitter.
But, the meeting was forced off of the UNO campus, reportedly as a result of threats of retaliation against the university by Vitter if Melancon was allowed to appear.
A member of the Democratic State Central Committee and I drove to New Orleans to attend the meeting, primarily to hear Congressman Melancon explain his vote against the Affordable Care Act. When we arrived at the UNO campus building where the event was supposed to be held, the two entrances to the parking lot were blocked by UNO security vehicles. We were handed a flier (see image) that provided directions to the site where the meeting had been transferred.
When we arrived at the Asia Baptist Church at 1400 Sere Street, we were told by several people that the meeting had to be moved because Vitter had threatened to punish the university if Melancon was allowed to appear at the OPDEC meeting on the UNO campus.
An official with the state Democratic Party provided this account as to what transpired:
"Several local Democratic activists were told by a high ranking UNO official that the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee could hold an event on campus only if Charlie Melancon was not allowed to attend or address the crowd. UNO police were actually dispatched to prevent anyone from entering the building where the event was scheduled or the parking lot that surrounded it."
Vitter's bullying of the university was typical of the kind of behavior his political role model former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Vitter and his wife Wendy (back when they would be seen in public together) formed the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority to bring to our state the kind of manipulation of the reapportionment process that DeLay practiced in Texas.
Vitter's intimidation of the university, if proven, is not the kind of behavior of a confident incumbent with a big campaign war chest and a lead in the polls. It is the behavior of an insecure, fearful candidate who is desperate to prevent his opponent from being heard.
If a Democrat officeholder had threatened any institution or individual with retaliation, is there any doubt that the U.S. Attorney's office in New Orleans would have immediately launched an investigation? But, since Vitter championed Jim Letten's reappointment to that post, this instance of the Senator's pettiness will likely not be investigated. But, an incident of like this, coming as it does this early in the campaign, indicates that Vitter's insecurity runs deep. It will not likely be the last such incident of its kind, particularly once the campaign heats up.
Remember back in the day, when Republican's had a mantra : "Character Matters"? It did then and it does now. Democrats need to remind voters of this between now and November, particularly as it applies to the junior senator from Louisiana.
The Advocate had a story on this today. Read it here.
All that glitters is not ethical
Governor Bobby Jindal has bragged about Louisiana setting the ethical 'Gold Standard' since passage of his Ethics Code revisions shortly after he took office.
Not everyone who has served the governor has lived up to the standard, the latest proof being Jindal's former executive council Jimmy Faircloth. Faircloth, who left Jindal's staff to run for judge in north Louisiana, apparently accepted a no-bid contract for legal work from the Louisiana Tax Commission and the Louisiana Board of Massage Therapy.
Here's the rub: Faircloth worked in the Governor's office and there is a two year ban on people leaving government then returning to do work with the government. Faircloth said he was not restricted because the two panels are not under the control of the Governor's office.
That was news to Jindal, who criticized Faircloth for taking the work, but only after Faircloth had already voluntarily given up the contracts.
The Times-Picayune story is here.
UNO faculty, students prepare to fight budget cuts
Potentially very deep end of the year budget cuts are threatening to disrupt higher education and the plans of students pursuing degrees at Louisiana's public colleges and universities as the state awaits a final estimate on the size of the latest hole in the state budget.
Students at the University of New Orleans are not content to just let the cuts happen. They have been organizing and protesting the potential cuts both on campus and in the streets of New Orleans at the recent Southern Republican Leadership Conference.
All that glitters is not glass: Jindal disappoints on transparency
Bobby Jindal campaigned in 2007 in part on a promise to bring new accountability and transparency to the state government. Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, told the Baton Ruge Press Club on Monday.
Adley has been fighting to remove the broad exception to the state's open records law that exists for the Governor's Office.
Don't get too enthused about Adley. He's also trying to end state funding for university law clinics that take up environmental cases on behalf of those who otherwise could not get legal representation. See SB-549 for details.
Healthcare Reform Big Win for Louisiana and Democrats!
The Affordable Care Act has been signed into law by President Barack Obama, completing a year-long battle for his administration and a decades-long quest by Democrats to extend access to care to all Americans.
Senator Mary Landrieu played a key role in getting the legislation through the Senate, including securing $300 million from the federal government to help Louisiana Medicaid funding.
After a year of lies and distortions about what was in the bill, Louisiana residents will start seeing the benefits of the new law in a matter of months. Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius began working with states last week to form high-risk pools that will offer affordable health insurance to adults who have been denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
Later this summer, children up to age 26 will be able to obtain health insurance coverage under their parents policy a big win for middle class families with health insurance.
Insurance companies are also being banned from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.
Here's a link to a full list of benefits that come to you this year.
Other provisions of the law will kick-in over time, but benefits are coming this year, and Louisiana will be a huge winner as a result. That's the case because we have long had high percentage of adults without health insurance and we have high levels of chronic disease and high levels of early deaths from those diseases. The law will also bring new approaches to preventative care so that people can lead healthier lives.
The Democratic Policy Committee, a branch of the Senate Democratic Caucuse, has compiled a series of reports on what the Affordable Care Act will mean for each state. You can access those reports by clicking here.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has compiled a list of benefits of the Affordable Care Act will mean for each congressional district. You can download the impact on your district by clicking here.
Healthcare reform will be good for Democrats and for Louisiana! Get the facts and get ready to be proud of your President and your Congress!