HITHER AND YON: It’s Becoming Obvious How Badly John Bel Edwards Screwed Up With The House Speaker Election

The Advocate had a story Sunday about Rep. Nancy Landry, the Lafayette Republican and hard-core school choice proponent who chairs the House Education Committee, and how the teachers’ unions are white-hot over her chairmanship…

State Rep. Nancy Landry’s recent selection to lead the powerful House Education Committee triggered criticism from leaders of Louisiana’s two teachers unions.

In addition, Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, who has been on the panel for eight years, said she thought about quitting the committee when Landry was named.

Former Livingston Parish Superintendent J. Rogers Pope, R-Livingston, another panel member, heard so much talk he would resign in protest over Landry’s selection that he brought up the issue.

“He told me he heard those rumors and wanted me to know they are not true,” Landry said. “He might request off the committee but that it was nothing personal.”

Landry, a Lafayette Republican, is the outspoken leader of a committee that has seen some of the most volatile debates in the State Capitol since 2012. That list includes tougher teacher evaluations, the statewide expansion of vouchers and Common Core.

More arguments are certain this year, including over likely bids by Gov. John Bel Edwards to put curbs on charter schools and vouchers as well as proposed revisions in the always controversial Common Coreacademic standards.

Landry, the mother of five, makes no apologies for her views on public schools and the need for students to have school choices.

“Your destiny should not be determined by your ZIP code,” she said.

Asked about criticism from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators teachers unions, she said, “My focus is on the children; their focus is on the adults in the system.”

If you’re a school choice proponent, or even just a critic of the moribund and wasteful Soviet-style system of public education which has so badly failed Louisiana, Nancy Landry as the chair of the House Education Committee is a wonderful, in fact delicious, reality. She is in a position to skewer the right people for their incompetence and hypocrisies, and to go to war with the teachers’ unions’ bought-and-paid-for Democrat governor as he attempts to strip away the nascent reforms to that public education system Landry helped to pass when Bobby Jindal proposed them in 2012.

Landry will be able to beat back all of John Bel Edwards’ bills attempting to kill off the 2012 education reform package, because she has a 10-6 majority on the committee.

And that’s why there is so much screaming over her appointment as the chair of that committee. Nancy Landry is standing in the way of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators being able to realize a return on the investment they made in bankrolling Edwards’ campaign for governor. And because Edwards can’t deliver on his promises to those teachers’ unions, he is highly perturbed over this development.

Edwards, mind you, has no one to blame but himself for this. Edwards had the opportunity to pick a Republican speaker and therefore exercise some control over the selection process as previous governors have done, and instead he blew through political capital attempting to get Walt Leger as the Speaker. And with Leger there would have been the aforementioned Pat Smith in control of the House Education Committee. Pat Smith is the opposite of Nancy Landry and would have made all of the LAE and LFT’s dreams come true on that committee. But this was never going to happen in a Republican majority House, and when Taylor Barras got elected in opposition to Edwards’ efforts the governor had no ability to influence committee assignments.

Nancy Landry isn’t the only worst-case scenario among those House committee assignments (Cameron Henry as the Appropriations chair is probably the worst for Edwards); she’s just the most prominent one this week, as ill-fated efforts are being made by those unions to roll back Jindal’s reforms. There will be more examples of how the governor has lost the ability to drive the legislative agenda because of Barras’ election as Speaker as we go forward.

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More evidence this governor hasn’t a clue comes here

The governor told The Advocate on Friday night that he is open to discussing the House Republicans’ proposals, but complained that they are moving too slowly and have yet to provide specifics.

“They haven’t identified one contract they want to reduce, one statutory dedication that they want to eliminate,” Edwards said. “They haven’t proposed one specific cut. I can’t tell you I oppose anything that they’re proposing to me because they have not proposed anything to me yet.”

Nor have Republicans laid out the structural changes they want, which involve pensions for state employees, state spending on highways and bridges, ways to reduce fraud in the Medicaid program and drug sentencing laws.

“They have yet to give me the list of what they’re trying to accomplish,” Edwards said. “They’ve given me some headings, but nothing underneath it, no specifics.”

House Republicans were supposed to provide those specifics on Friday, “but pulling together all the ideas is harder than I thought,” state Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, said Saturday.

Harris, who heads the Republican House delegation, said he and colleagues were working over the weekend to get their plan to the governor on Monday. “Nobody has stopped working,” he said.

Sounds like the Republicans in the House don’t know what they’re doing, right? Well, there’s this…

House Republicans haven’t presented specific spending cuts yet because they don’t know exactly how much money each of Edwards’ tax proposals would raise, said state Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, who is their point person on spending as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

“The governor’s revenue-raising package still does not have fiscal notes for all the bills,” Henry said Saturday. “You can’t put a plan together without numbers.”

Fiscal notes are prepared by the Legislative Fiscal Office and lay out how much money each bill will generate or cost the state treasury.

Edwards is screaming about the House not having cuts to propose, but when the Appropriations Committee sends the budget to the House floor he’ll know. And when he doesn’t even have fiscal notes attached to his tax bills because he waited too long to draft them – those bills weren’t even ready before the special session began, which is inexcusable – he can’t exactly complain about how fast anybody else is moving.

Besides, how big is the deficit? Does anybody really know? Does anybody actually believe the numbers Edwards and his commissioner of administration Jay Dardenne are pushing?

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If you watched LSU’s basketball team lay an egg in Knoxville on Saturday, you probably would agree that it’s difficult to make the case for Johnny Jones’ future as the team’s head coach. Even before the game, the school’s athletic director Joe Alleva said that as a member of the NCAA Tournament selection committee he would have a tough time arguing for LSU’s inclusion in it because the team’s RPI rating was so low and that the chances of getting in were not good; then Jones went out and got his rear end handed to him by a sub-.500 Tennessee team that didn’t even have its leading scorer available for the game. LSU outsized Tennessee by two inches per man and was outrebounded and stifled inside in a game where the team looked like the last thing they cared about was winning their way into the tournament.

And that goes for Ben Simmons, who down the stretch has been a complete bust as the top recruit in the country. Simmons looks distracted at best on the floor and disgruntled at worst; Jones refused to start him in Knoxville for, he said, “academic reasons,” which beggars the imagination given that Simmons is a one-and-done player and already did what he needed to do to stay academically eligible through the end of the season. What academic progress did he expect Simmons to make this spring?

That was either a lie to cover for some terrible chemistry on this year’s team, or else it’s the real thing and putting Simmons in off the bench five minutes into the game gives the lie to any real message Jones was trying to send about Simmons going to class.

Either way, this team at 16-11 is the biggest bust in college basketball. The 9-5 conference record isn’t bad, but not enough to save a team that went 7-6 against a weak non-conference slate.

It’s like we said here at the site back in December – this was supposed to be Jones’ breakthrough season at LSU and instead it’s the worst team of his four. He’ll never be able to recruit a player like Simmons again, and it’s questionable whether he’ll be able to recruit anyone of any quality now that the word is out he can’t coach at a high level.

Alleva’s public comments essentially trashing the basketball team for blowing its tournament chances even before the Tennessee loss are a good indication he knows Jones was a failed hire. The problem is Jones was Alleva’s failed hire, and he came after another failed hire in Trent Johnson. Will Alleva, who already has a lot of egg on his face over the Les Miles debacle back in November, be allowed a third-time’s-the-charm hire in basketball? That’s an interesting question; perhaps Alleva can justify the failure with Jones by saying he had it foisted on him by Collis Temple and the Dale Brown crowd, and maybe that will work.

One gets the impression that LSU lacks the leadership and momentum it would need for a thorough housecleaning to include both Alleva and Jones – and that’s not to exclude the women’s basketball coach who needs to be sent packing as well – but a change has to be made at least in men’s basketball. Whether anyone should be excited about Alleva as the one making it is a good question.

 

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