Why Can’t We Be Independents?

The best therapy for stress is to get the cause of it out of your system. That is easier said than done, but I have found a tremendous sense of relief every time I write about my frustrations.

So here goes!

Some of the 18 vetoes by Gov. Bobby Jindal don’t make sense. First was his veto of the 4-percent tobacco tax. Then he killed a retirement bill that wiped out three similar measures worth saving.

The latest is his veto of legislation that would have allowed candidates for public office who don’t belong to a political party to be called independents. The House approved the bill 89-0, and the Senate vote was 26-9.

Current state law requires that candidates who don’t belong to any organized party have to be listed as “No Party” on election ballots. State Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, the author of the vetoed bill, thinks the law is unfair.

“Nonaffiliated voters are the fastestgrowing segment of registered voters,” Gallot told The Advocate of Baton Rouge. “To ignore the fact that some people are fed up with all the parties, I think is doing them a disservice.”

Politics rule day

All we have to do is look to Washington, D.C., to find out why people don’t like political parties. The nation is at the threshold of monumental debt problems, but our Democratic Party president and Republican congressional leaders are more concerned about their future elections than the welfare of this country.

Neither side wants to take the bold action that is necessary to deal with the nearly $15 trillion national debt for fear of losing support at the next election. Meanwhile, the country is going to hell in a hand basket.

If candidates want to be listed as independents, that should be their right.

Jindal said in his veto message the proposed law is in conflict with current law. Yes, it is, and that is why legislators voted to change the law. Most proposed laws are designed to change current law, so what’s the big deal here?

It appears Jindal and others who agree with his stand don’t want to do anything that might encourage people to desert the ranks of the Republican Party.

American citizens are becoming more and more independent in their political thinking, and nothing Jindal or anyone else can do will stop that trend. Look how fast the Democratic Party has become a toothless tiger in Louisiana.

No. 2 on my list is the way the governor is going about privatizing the employee health insurance plan that serves 61,000 state workers and retirees. It is being done with a minimum of public input.

The state Office of Group Benefits now administers the plan. The controversy has already resulted in the firing of a former OGB administrator and the resignation of his replacement after only weeks on the job.

Retired state employees have asked me about the privatization plan because they are worried premiums will go up or benefits will be reduced. Two of them are widows I see at church on Sunday, and you can’t blame them for being concerned.

Discussions about this privatization plan have occurred behind closed doors. And legislators had to threaten to subpoena the records of the negotiations in order to get them released.

A letter was sent to beneficiaries telling them everything would be OK, but it hasn’t calmed their fears. Why didn’t the administration hold public hearings around the state to talk about this proposal if it’s such a great idea? Don’t the people covered by this program deserve that small consideration?

The only thing standing in the way of privatizing the OGB system is the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. Unfortunately, many of its members have been hand-picked by the governor.

Change can sometimes be a positive thing, and this could be a good move. However, the transition ought to at least be open and above-board. This plan has been anything but that.

Voter ID is OK

Finally, let’s talk about 16 liberal U.S. Senate Democrats who happen to include Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. They want the U.S. Justice Department to look into whether voting rights are being jeopardized in states that require photo identification in order for people to vote.

The concerned senators say the ID has the potential to block millions of eligible people from voting. They said millions of voters like the elderly, racial minorities, low-income citizens and students don’t have a governmentissued ID.

What in the world can be wrong with finding out whether citizens are entitled to vote? A photo ID seems like a reasonable way to do that. And Louisiana has an identification card for those without driver’s licenses.

States that require a photo ID to vote fall into two categories. Some offer an alternative, and some don’t.

Louisiana is in a group of states that allows voters to sign an affidavit in place of a photo ID. The others are Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan and South Dakota.

Other states with a photo ID requirement are Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Arizona has a law that requires people to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote, and that is probably going too far. But a photo ID makes good sense.

You would think those 16 senators would have more important work to do, considering the inability of Congress to deal with the national debt.

OK, those are my gripes for today. And I’m happy to say I’m feeling better already.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or [email protected].

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