Conservatism Is In Full Retreat This Legislative Session

We’re told there will not be a vote as scheduled on HB 418, the Paycheck Protection bill, today – because the votes to pass it simply aren’t there.

Last night, as we understand it, the House GOP delegation polled itself on the bill and there were 14 “no” votes and two others refusing to state a position.

How a Republican could oppose a bill to stop the state from serving as the bill collector for public employee unions is hard to understand is something we have made clear multiple times here at the Hayride, and we know the members of the legislature read this site.

Some of the backers of the bill want to bring it to the floor anyway – if it’s going to fail, then at least let there be a vote so those Republicans who want to continue having the state collect dues for the public employee unions, who created our dysfunctional public education system and our runaway unfunded accrued pension liabilities which have more to do with this year’s huge budget deficit than any other factor, will at least be on the record with a disastrous vote.

And coming after last Thursday’s tax orgy, in context with Tax Orgy, Round Two coming later this week it’s clear there is no positive connection to be made between electing Republicans to office and an output of conservative policy.

We even heard stories that a couple of state representatives were selling the idea that Paycheck Protection is a Trojan Horse to defeat opposition to Common Core. It takes a Brett Geymann to spread that kind of stupidity, but there it is.

Meanwhile, today they’re pushing HCR 75, which is a back-door attempt at Medicaid expansion. Tomorrow, there will be a vote to impose a ten cent increase in the state’s gas tax.

The House budget, which moved yesterday, depends on $400 million in tax increases on top of the $664 million approved – most of it without the legally-required two-thirds vote – last week in order to balance.

You’d struggle to find much of anything moving through this legislature which looks like conservative principles at work. Perhaps the bills by Sen. Jack Donohue, which uncouple university tuition from TOPS and then remove control of public university tuition from the state legislature, come close – the Politburo in the house Huey Long built shouldn’t be in a position to set the price of higher education for the consumer.

But Mike Johnson’s bill guaranteeing the freedom of conscience to business owners who don’t believe in gay marriage against punitive state action is going nowhere. Louisiana will continue to pay Hollywood to make movies in the state. Louisiana will continue to subsidize solar energy, at least for now. Louisiana will continue to have an uncompetitive inventory tax on business.

We’re in this situation because of a lack of leadership. This legislature is proving that if you don’t have a strong, engaged governor riding herd on the legislative process what you’ll get is chaos in which the public sector will circle the wagons and defend itself against taxpayers. And that’s what you have today.

We have a $1.6 billion deficit and this legislature won’t even consider closing SUNO and LSU-Alexandria, not to mention Grambling and Nicholls State. This legislature won’t even consider doing away with duplicative degree programs which could save money spent on higher education. Instead, they’re going to raise taxes a billion dollars to keep higher education “whole,” while at LSU they’re building an $85 million “lazy river” on campus with student fees. The lazy river is great, and it’s not funded directly by taxpayers, but if LSU can get students to pick up the tab for an $85 million luxury project like that out of their fees it’s clear there’s lots of funding available for that campus without demanding a billion dollars in tax increases to make the school “whole.”

Is anybody interested in fighting that battle? No. Nor is anybody interested in re-examining the $3.6 billion spent per year on the state’s Minimum Foundation Program, which funds some of the worst public schools in America.

Louisiana is 48th in the country in public educational outcomes, or 47th or 49th depending on the year in question. And yet Louisiana spends more than most states on a per capita basis on public school funding. Clearly, money is being wasted in K-12 education; when we’re spending $12,200 per student per year in East Baton Rouge Parish and getting a school system in which more students engage in schoolyard brawling on YouTube each afternoon than read or do math above grade level, it’s clear that the state throwing money out of helicopters over the school board buildings isn’t an efficient use of its revenues.

But no one has the courage or capacity to address these issues and pursue structural change to solve problems which have persisted for decades.

There is no interest in any of that hard work. Instead, we have a bunch of legislators who are willing to put an “R” next to their name and run as conservatives, while going to the legislature and voting to preserve a system established by Huey Long and Edwin Edwards instead of remaking it to reflect both the current times and current political climate.

That lack of courage will be their undoing, because by annually failing to change the Democrats’ system they’re taking ownership of it. At this point the failing system in Louisiana is a failing Republican system, and it’s Republicans who will pay the price for it.

There’s a reason people are abandoning the Democrat Party in Louisiana but not joining the GOP. People don’t see a difference between the two parties. The GOP doesn’t have the votes to present one, and the GOP’s governor is out pursuing a presidential campaign which has zero chance of success.

Nobody is minding the store. It’s a wasted legislative session. Conservatism is in full retreat. Here’s hoping for a counteroffensive this fall – and the more casualties, the better.

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