BEAM: ‘On The Road Again’ For Louisiana’s Gallivanting Governor

Gov. Bobby Jindal has come under fire from some of the state’s newspapers and others for being an absentee governor. He obviously rejects that view, because, as the famous Willie Nelson song says, Jindal is “On the Road Again.”

The governor hasn’t been around long enough to specifically address the criticism. He’s back on the campaign trail, lambasting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for failing to conduct a more effective campaign.

We also haven’t heard any explanation from Jindal about why he spent so much time before the election promoting Romney if he thought the former Massachusetts governor wasn’t doing a good job. Apparently it’s what other presidential hopefuls do to keep their future options open.

The Times-Picayune opened a Friday editorial with some tough words.

“With every decision Gov. Bobby Jindal makes, the message becomes clearer to hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents who are uninsured: The state has no interest in helping you,” the newspaper said.

Now that President Obama has been re-elected, many assumed his Affordable Health Care Act that is feared and despised in many quarters would no longer face extinction. However, Jindal continues to reject two of its major features — Medicaid for more of the state’s low-income residents and health insurance exchanges where individuals and small businesses could purchase affordable insurance.

The Medicaid feature of Obamacare would add as many as 400,000 Louisiana residents to its rolls. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the costs for three years (2014-2016) and 90 percent thereafter. Jindal insists the other 10 percent would be too expensive for the state to handle.

Families of four making about $88,000 a year could get federal subsidies to help them purchase insurance on those exchanges. Fifteen other states have also said they won’t set up the exchanges. However, the federal government will do the job, but its plan may not be best for some of the states rejecting the concept.

Some other health care issues on the state scene are also troubling. A former LSU official has left the state, saying she was concerned over the direction of health care delivery. Legislators are worried that the downsizing of LSU hospitals could drive medical students to other states for their training. Others believe the charity hospital system is being dismantled and private hospitals aren’t prepared to take up the slack.

The Advocate in a Friday report said, “The constituents in his (Jindal’s) home state now need to Google their governor to catch the latest news about him, whether it’s for his recap of the election or for an important decision that could impact their health care.”

Then, there are some higher education issues. LSU supporters, for example, are apprehensive about plans to restructure the university system. They also realize Jindal has appointed a majority of the members of the LSU Board of Supervisors, and they are afraid it will go along with the governor’s wishes with few questions asked.

William Jenkins, interim president and chancellor, tried to calm some of those fears in a letter to the university’s friends and supporters. The positions of president and chancellor will be consolidated and work will begin on realignment and reorganization of LSU, Jenkins said.

The LSU Board of Supervisors voted to merge the top jobs, but has to do it again because it might have violated the state’s open meetings law the first time around.

Kevin Cope, LSU Faculty Senate president, expressed concerns that have become a disturbing Jindal method of operation in many areas of state government.

“The board’s actions show contempt for the public in that they illegally tried to stifle input from the public,” Cope said. “If the merger was such a good thing, why was the board afraid of public debate?”

The possibility of more higher education budget cuts is also troubling. McNeese State University got State Bond Commission approval this week for a number of its capital construction projects, but the university’s operating budget is razor thin. That poses future problems in attracting academic talent and retaining present faculty.

Jindal’s relations with the Legislature are also strained because of his retaliatory action against lawmakers who refuse to “toe the line.” The legislative leadership insists the governor doesn’t interfere, but most citizens know better.

Legislators are often their own worst enemy, of course, because they kowtow to almost every governor’s wishes. Two lawmakers removed from a key committee recently said the governor won’t stand for an independent Legislature. They said it was the sign of a broken political system.

Yes, the system is broken because a majority of legislators doesn’t have the guts to stand its ground. They have given all governors a free hand at deciding who gets the funding, the pet projects, the committee assignments, the leadership jobs — the whole ball of wax.

Two current situations are extremely frustrating: Criticism seems to simply roll off Jindal’s back, and the Legislature appears to be content to play second fiddle.

None of that may ever change, but the governor still needs to take some time away from his presidential pursuits to take care of a lot of pressing business on the homefront.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-494-4025 or [email protected].

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