SADOW: Ignore Silly Arguments Against Appointment Bills

Some of the silliest, most alarmist, most partisan-driven dog-whistle debate over legislation this session of the Louisiana Legislature has come over a couple of bills determining appointed officials to state boards.

HB 462 by Republican state Sen. Valarie Hodges would give the governor power to appoint chairmen to the boards where he has at least half the appointments. Out of the 483 boards currently extant, when parsing out gubernatorial apportion proportions, appointment by other elected officials, and other statutory constraints, the bill would affect about 30 percent of these.

Political leftists, some special interests, and their water carriers inside and outside the Legislature have gone apoplectic over this, alleging it’s some sinister plot by GOP Gov. Jeff Landry, who supports it, to run roughshod over that part of state government. They appeared most perturbed by the fact that this bill would extend this new authority to the five boards that oversee and manage higher education, characterizing it as “politicization.”

Take it from a 35-year veteran of Louisiana higher education: anybody who doesn’t think academia is already politicized, and highly so, has no clue as to what goes on in it. And anyone who doesn’t think the boards themselves aren’t reflections of the views of who appointed them – for now every single one by Democrat former Gov. John Bel Edwards although a few Landry appointments soon will receive official confirmation – doesn’t live in the real world. Public higher education is thoroughly politicized already, and this bill does nothing to alter this one way or the other.

This nothingness is due in part to the role of the chairmen of these various panels, which have next to no additional power over any other member and certainly not over the collective. For example, for the Board of Regents, a majority of members can ask for a special meeting from the chairman, and any four members can put an item on a meeting agenda. If enough members want something, they can get it regardless of who the chairman is or how that person got the job. More generally, as the law addresses only those boards where a governor appoints a majority which already given time means like-minded appointees with the governor will assume power, this change hardly alters the dynamic concerning the pursuit of gubernatorial priorities.

Staying with higher education boards, keep in mind that almost every state governor appoints these members, in some cases at individual schools. Others allow their chief executive to go even further that could spark alleged “politicization,” such as governors appointing chief executives of higher education, and a few even have direct election of higher education board members that is thoroughly political. So, this change seems hardly radical and opposition for this specific reason is best understood as making a mountain out of a molehill as an attempt to score political points and spread propaganda.

Objections from largely the same quarter also have come over SB 497 by Republican state Sen. Blake Miguez that would remove the role of heads of the state’s private universities in nominating people to serve on the state’s Board of Ethics. The governor selects seven nominees from among those proffered by these educrats and each legislative leader another couple — input which the bill would cut out of the process.

In evaluating the claim that this removal politicizes matters as well, see the above, but more specifically: the politicized nature of higher education being as it is, any chief executive of a college is a political animal and brings certain political prejudices to their jobs. They do not, in any way, depoliticize the selection process. And, as author Miguez points out, they are unduly concentrated in New Orleans that raises more questions about political bias and regionalism.

Miguez initiated an amendment when the bill reached the House floor that would expand membership that in the process would decrease the proportion of gubernatorial appointees and require that a third come from ex-legislators, another third from ex-judges, and another from none of the above. This would put the board’s composition and selection in a form similar to a majority of states, as at present Louisiana has a format unique among them with this interposing of a very narrow cross-section of private citizens that have vetting privileges. Therefore, pay no attention to framing this change as some kind of weakening of ethics enforcement, as the current system neither provided insulation from politics nor is in its format is a better method than that proposed in the bill that mirrors many other states’.

In both cases, while there is some principled if uninformed opposition to each, the vast majority of that represents an unhinged howl by political forces removed by the electorate far from political power, whose baying attempts only to cast aspersions upon and slow down the political agendas of the winners of those elections. Both bills are in the Senate for concurrence. Senators and Gov. Landry need to tune out the silliness from objectors and give the necessary approvals to turn each into law.



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