We’ve got three developments from today and earlier this week, two of them personnel moves within the administration of Gov. John Bel Edwards and one having to do with a lawsuit which is inconvenient for virtually everybody in state politics.
The two personnel moves you’ve probably heard about. First, there was the news that Rebekah Gee, the head of the Louisiana Department of Health during Edwards’ first term, is stepping down. Gee, a doctor and a former Planned Parenthood activist, has been nothing short of a disaster in her role running the department which soaks up about half the state’s budget, and it’s great to see her go.
She’s overseen a massive, and massively wasteful, Medicaid expansion driven by Edwards’ Democrat politics in which hundreds of thousands of people were signed up who weren’t eligible for the program, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on them. That Medicaid expansion has consisted far too largely of crowding out private health insurance in Louisiana, leading to higher health insurance rates and, all told, worse access to the health care system. You won’t get any of that listening to her rhetoric, of course, or that of the governor’s office. They’ve put on a great impression of Kevin Bacon’s “All is well!” scene at the finale of Animal House, but of course none of that was successfully exploited in last fall’s election.
Gee also was caught in a controversy over her double-dipping while on the job, and there have been lots of questions about LDH’s supervision of the abortion clinics in the state, including the one in Baton Rouge which was employing an unlicensed doctor and inflicting grievous bodily harm on its patients.
And when she has been questioned about that bloated, wasteful $15 billion budget, Gee came off as a total incompetent completely in order her head.
All told, not a particularly successful tenure. We’re happy she’s gone, though we have absolutely zero faith that Edwards is going to appoint anyone demonstrably better in that job. This will become quite clear, we imagine, when the legislative session begins, because when LDH appears before the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, which we understand will be chaired by Rep. Tony Bacala and Sen. Bodi White, respectively, you can expect some very pointed and not-overly polite questioning about their stewardship of our tax dollars. If Edwards hasn’t hired someone especially competent and forthright, there will be fireworks.
Also leaving is John White, the state’s education secretary. White was a holdover from Bobby Jindal’s time in that job, and Edwards has wanted to get rid of him for practically his whole first term. He couldn’t, because he didn’t have the votes on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to remove White. Now White is leaving on his own terms, and while he’s probably not going to get the credit he deserves for the progress the state has made, it’s clear he’s done as good a job as could have been done in that position.
Especially when you consider that over the past four years Louisiana has lost around 100,000 people in net outmigration to other states, and the general demographics of those who’ve left would be indicative of a brain drain. When you’re losing younger, educated and upwardly mobile people to Texas and Florida, you’re also losing their school-age children who probably are some of the better performers in your schools. It’s difficult for Louisiana to climb up the educational ranks with those kids leaving the schools and worse, given that one piece of net outmigration is that you’re not bringing anybody in from out of state, you aren’t replacing the talent you’re losing.
That Louisiana’s decline in test scores was largely arrested in the past couple of years while public education in America is largely cratering is something White should be able to take some credit for.
But given Edwards’ politics, and his allegiance to all of the people White has battled during his time in office, it’s inconceivable anyone like White will get appointed to replace him. The makeup of the BESE board is still well set to continue reforming the state’s public education, but we can expect poor leadership to follow White’s.
The third item in state politics today has to do with this lawsuit the Louisiana GOP filed attempting to stave off having to change its method of choosing representatives to its state central committee, qualifying for which – these are elected positions voted on, presumably in this April’s elections, by registered Republicans – would have ordinarily begun this week.
The long and short of all this is there’s a law, passed back in the 1980’s, which says that if a political party in Louisiana has more than 30 percent of the registered voters then it has to structure its state central committee by having two representatives from each House district – one man and one woman. It’s only of fairly recent vintage, since the last state central committee elections in fact, that the Louisiana GOP had more than 30 percent of the registered voters in the state.
Currently, the LAGOP state central committee works on districts which are essentially the state Senate districts cut into thirds, and there’s no bean-counting carveouts which say this seat has to be filled by a man and that seat by a woman. Virtually everybody in the party wants to keep it that way, which is why the state party is suing to not have to comply with this law – which is almost assuredly unconstitutional.
There are a good 30 House districts in which there are practically no registered Republicans at all. Then you have Mark Wright’s district in St. Tammany Parish which has more than 20,000 registered Republicans. The idea that the state GOP has to function based on something so patently unworkable is absurd.
Chances are this will either be worked out between the state GOP, the Secretary of State’s office and the Attorney General, but so far it hasn’t been and there have been a few exchanges which are probably regrettable. But what’s most regrettable is the fact that the Louisiana Democrat Party, whose hacks planted the seeds of this mess when they were in total control of the Legislature and busily running the state into the ground with crooked, dysfunctional politics back in the 1980’s, is now weighing in and trying to score points by attacking the Republicans for fighting the law.
“The LAGOP has already made clear they don’t value equal representation or diversity in their party leadership. Now, they’re going even further and openly fighting it,” Stephen Handwerk, Executive Director of the Louisiana Democratic Party said. “The sole intent of this lawsuit is to prevent women from having an equal voice in their party. This is just the latest event in a disturbing pattern of leadership that prioritizes a boys’ club mentality over progress.
“The LAGOP isn’t just refusing to give equal representation to women, they’re costing taxpayers countless resources with this frivolous lawsuit. They could have filed legislation any time to change this law, but that would have raised eyebrows. Now, because of their failed leadership, there are only two solutions: Cost Louisiana taxpayers even more by continuing this lawsuit and forcing clerks to run a second round of qualifying; or, in a backroom of their old boys’ club, hand pick their party leadership for the next four years. Either way, it’s unacceptable and offensive.
“The Louisiana Democratic Party knows the value of diversity and inclusive representation is paramount to having a vibrant and winning coalition. We will always fight for these core principles. This latest lawsuit makes you wonder what the LAGOP is really afraid of and why they would go to these extremes.”
It’s hilarious that Stephen Handwerk, who, as Boudreaux and Thibodeaux might say “don’t like him some girls,” would accuse the LAGOP of misogyny. Even more hilarious is that Handwerk’s fellow leftist nuts have already moved on from the idea of set-asides for women to now embracing the idea that gender is a social construct and adopting the politics of trans advocacy. Dragging the GOP into a male-female regimentation is sexist in itself, as it excludes those who consider themselves non-binary or genderqueer, and it’s horridly insensitive of Handwerk and the Democrats to insist on such a fascist, gender-rigid discriminatory scheme.
That’s not just us talking. It’s also the sentiment of Rep. Beryl Amedee, who’s the state GOP vice chair. Here’s the statement she put out today…
It is fascinating to watch Mr. Handwerk and the Louisiana Democrats advocate for a plan centered on the existence of only two genders while attacking a Republican plan that embraces a genderless approach to these elections to ensure the most qualified person in the district is allowed to serve. Republican districts are drawn to ensure proportional representation of the growing number of registered Republican voters across Louisiana. Not identity politics and forced quotas.
We should probably point out that since 1987, when the Louisiana Democrats imposed this stupid central committee scheme on themselves, their party has utterly collapsed as a force in Louisiana statewide politics. They’re at a historic low ebb in the Legislature, with only 12 seats of 39 in the Senate and just 35 of 105 in the House, they’ve got fewer registered voter as a percentage of the total than ever, and outside of John Bel Edwards and Cedric Richmond not only aren’t they in control of any federal or statewide elected offices they’re not really even competitive for any of them as recent elections show. Why anyone would want a scheme which has produced such hideous results for the Democrats, now a rump party in state politics, is something Handwerk might ought to explain.
Hopefully this court case will be resolved so we don’t have to listen to much more of Stephen Handwerk, who we’ve heard is on his way out as the Democrats’ executive director, on this issue.