Democrats showing they still don't get it
by Matt Mackowiak (excerpt)
Last week, by a vote of 143-50, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California was overwhelmingly elected leader of the Democratic minority for the next Congress over token opposition from Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina. Democrats also reelected the rest of their House leadership team, even though they had just suffered their worst electoral defeat since 1938. The vote showed that most Democrats still believe they did nothing to deserve their stunning electoral defeat this month. They blame the economy instead of their policies, and they have apparently convinced themselves that there's no relationship between the two.
While President Obama did inherit a difficult economy, the situation has grown worse in the years since. The recovery has been shallower than expected. We have lost more than seven million jobs since Pelosi became speaker, and more than three million since Obama was sworn in and signed the $787 billion stimulus package. And yet Democrats this year essentially ran on the slogan "It would have been worse." And of course they got shellacked, leaving the Obama coalition broken into a thousand pieces.
Despite the protestations of Democrats, this election was not a mandate for bipartisanship. (Isn't it funny how the losers always want bipartisanship?) The electorate chose divided government not to increase cooperation between the parties, but to increase gridlock. It's not "What is the government doing for me?"; it's "What is the government doing to me?"
Jay Dardenne is sworn in as new lieutenant governor
by Ed Anderson - Times-Picayune (excerpt)
Newly inaugurated Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Monday he will function as the state's chief tourism officer and not hire a new secretary or retain the existing secretary of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Dardenne, the outgoing secretary of state who won a special Nov. 2 election to fill the 14 months remaining in the lieutenant governor's term, told a standing-room-only audience at the Old State Capitol that he will not fill the position now and probably will not for the rest of the term. He said the move will save the $130,000 annual salary that now goes to agency Secretary Pam Breaux. Breaux returns to her old job as head of the department's Office of Cultural Development at a lower salary. "I am not going to eliminate the position, I am just not going to fill it," Dardenne told reporters after his brief inauguration ceremonies.
The majority of likely voters polled in East Baton Rouge Parish disapprove of plans to rebuild the downtown library and approve of Mayor-President Kip Holden’s job performance, according to a poll paid for by the Baton Rouge Tea Party.
Of those polled: 61 percent oppose demolishing and rebuilding the downtown library, 19 percent approve of the project and 20 percent were undecided. 55 percent approved of Holden’s job performance, 24 percent disapproved and 22 percent were undecided. 53 percent supported the “Tea Party’s efforts to increase public awareness of local government,” 29 percent oppose those efforts and 18 percent were undecided.
The Metro Council will vote Dec. 8 on the mayor-president’s proposed budget, which includes funding requested by the Library Board to build a new downtown library. Holden declined comment for this story.
Baton Rouge had the 16th-highest crime rate in 2010 out of 400 cities in the United States, according to a controversial report released over the weekend.
The crime rate ranking for Louisiana’s capital city was also worse this year than it was last year after Baton Rouge rose from 25th place in 2009 to 16th place this year, according to CQ Press. CQ Press is a privately owned publishing company that produced the report, “Crime Rankings 2010-2011: Crime in Metropolitan America.”
Topping the list as having the worst crime rate in the United States was St. Louis, followed by Camden, N.J.; Detroit; Flint, Mich.; and Oakland, Calif. in the top five. New Orleans was ranked 13th, just three slots above Baton Rouge
If city-parish Mayor-President Kip Holden’s administration plans to keep using a network of crime surveillance cameras, then seeking bids to maintain the cameras might be one way to reduce the high maintenance costs for the cameras.
Holden’s acting chief administrative officer, John Carpenter, recently told the Metro Council that Holden’s administration will seek bids to maintain the cameras. Carpenter said the administration also is exploring whether some maintenance can be handled by city-parish employees to save money. Holden’s proposed budget includes $443,000 to maintain the city-parish’s system of crime surveillance cameras and gunshot detectors. In 2007, the Metro Council approved a request from Holden to spend $3.5 million to set up the cameras and gunshot detectors, which are mostly in high-crime areas of the city. The system has been plagued with breakdowns, and evidence of its effectiveness in fighting crime seems far from conclusive. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently pulled the plug on a similar system in his city.
Perhaps the city-parish can save some money on the system by seeking competitive bids from maintenance providers and doing some of the maintenance work in-house.
New Louisiana state flag with bleeding pelican is unfurled
by Ed Anderson - Times-Picayune (excerpt)
A new state flag, featuring a more angular pelican tearing its bleeding breast to feed its young, was unveiled Monday during the swearing-in ceremonies of two state officials. The flag's design is similar to the existing flag but the brown pelican, the state bird, is more sophisticated and has three red drops of blood flowing from its breast, said Jacques Berry, chief spokesman for Secretary of State Tom Schedler's office. The new design was required by a bill passed by Rep. Damon Baldone, D-Houma, during the 2006 legislative session based on the historical research of Joseph Louviere, a Houma student, which indicated the existing pelican seal did not have the bird tearing at its breast. Historical descriptions of the blue flag include the three drops of blood, described as a sign of the state's willingness to sacrifice itself for its citizens. The design goes back to medieval times, when people believed pelicans fed chicks with their blood.
Richmond: Election for House seat to be before redistricting session
by Ed Anderson - Times-Picayune (excerpt)
BATON ROUGE -- Second District U.S. Rep.-elect Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, has submitted his letter of resignation from his legislative seat to state House speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, and called on Tucker to set an early election to fill his vacancy. Richmond's resignation from the state House of Representatives will be effective Jan. 1. House Clerk Alfred "Butch" Speer said that the next regular election dates for state races are April 2 and April 30, with qualifying running Feb. 9-11. Speer said that the law "does not mandate we use those dates." Elections to replace House members are called by the House speaker; elections to fill Senate vacancies are called by the Senate president. Tucker could not be reached for comment on his election date preferences. The election will cost the state about $33,000 to staff 22 precincts in the 101st District, print ballots, haul machines to the polls and other expenses, said Jacques Berry, chief spokesman for the secretary of state's office.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has no plans to meet with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin when she comes to Baton Rouge later this month on a book tour.
Palin is scheduled to sign copies of her book, “America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag,” at 11 a.m. on Nov. 30 at the Books-a-Million, 2380 Towne Center Blvd.
“They currently have no plans for this upcoming trip, but Gov. Jindal would love to meet with her,” said Jindal’s press secretary, Kyle Plotkin.
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Obama administration sets rules requiring minimum health insurer spending
by Bill Barrow - Times-Picayune (excerpt)
The Obama administration today unveiled the details of new requirements for health insurance companies to spend a minimum percentage of premium revenues on direct health care or exercises to improve care. The “medical loss ratio” regulation, which was developed in consultation with the nation’s 50 state insurance commissioners, is among the key components of the federal health care overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law in March. Beginning in 2011, insurers must direct 80 percent of premium revenue on the individual and small group market toward health care and other expenses defined in the new regulation. The threshold for large group policies is 85 percent. There are some exceptions and nuances for the smallest insurers, start-up plans and high-deductible plans, among others.