A headline in several regional newspapers caught my eye. “Homeowners Insurance Rate Increases Have Slowed,” said one front page banner. I guess that’s supposed to be good news. But in my home state of Louisiana, rates have skyrocketed since 2005 — by an astounding 50%. No other state in the country has experienced such dramatic increases. And we continue to read that it’s all the fault of Katrina. There have been only a few major weather-related losses in recent years, but the rates continue to go up. There must be something rotten in Denmark. Hmmm – make that Louisiana.
by Tom Aswell
Republican members of the Louisiana Legislature are pretty smug about their ability to block any proposed legislation or budget put forward by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Witness the antics of Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) as he danced to puppeteer/House Speaker Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia) in rejecting the findings of the Revenue Estimating Conference, effectively killing any chance Edwards had of implementing badly needed pay raises for Louisiana’s public school teachers.
But do Henry and Barras, members in good standing of the “Caucus of No,” give a damn about teachers or, for that matter, the state as a whole?
It’s been ten years since the financial crisis on Wall Street filtered down through the insurance industry. Many national insurance companies were under siege, and even though Louisiana is a small state in population, policyholders were affected proportionally at a much greater degree than in most other parts of the country.
Good news for the State of Louisiana and politically, for Governor John Bel Edwards and others in the legislature.
One of the remnants from the Jindal administration is now history.
On Tuesday, August 21, the Louisiana High Auto Rates Task Force held its first meeting at the Department of Insurance. The newly appointed task force was formed to look into high auto insurance rates in the State of Louisiana and make recommendations to the legislature for actions to lower rates. The 2018 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature passed a House Concurrent Resolution (HCR 47) and Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR 55) urging and requesting the Louisiana Department of Insurance to assemble a task force to address the high cost of auto insurance during the 2018 Regular Session.
On Tuesday, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) released the 20th edition of its Legislative Scorecard highlighting the leaders who voted for a solid foundation of policies that promote economic growth and job creation across the Pelican State.
For the greater New Orleans region, Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) and Reps. Patrick Connick (R-Marrero), Raymond Garofalo (R-Chalmette), Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge), and Polly Thomas (R-Metairie) were named “Most Valuable Policymaker” (MVP) for earning a perfect score on major legislation that affected the state’s economy. Reps. Stephanie Hilferty (R-Metairie), Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) and Julie Stokes (R-Kenner) were named “LABI All-Stars” for scoring 90 percent or higher on legislation selected for analysis. Rep. Joseph Marino (I-Gretna) was given a “LABI Honorable Mention” for scoring 80 percent or higher on bills selected for the Scorecard analysis.
There seems to be a wealth of fabricators at the state capitol in Baton Rouge. Gov. Edwards is accusing U.S. Senator John Kennedy of making "untruthful comments" on the early release of state prisoners. Kennedy has countered back calling out the Governor for “bending the truth.” Two state senators physically squared off against each other in a local bar. And both Democrat and Republican legislators have accused each other of “hiding the truth” as to just whose at fault over the state’s perilous financial condition.
For years, legislators in Louisiana have maintained a well-deserved reputation of irrelevance when it comes to substantively addressing a host of public issues. The mantra seems to be one of keeping a finger in the financial dike to get through the next fiscal year, and side stepping a host of idiosyncratic concerns that include bestiality, hair braiding and sports betting. But if you think Louisiana has an oddball legislature that leans toward quirky solutions to non- existent problems, check out California that has moved a notch ahead of us here in the Deep South.
Legislators were high fiving this week over the balancing of the state budget by increasing the already highest sales tax in the nation. Fully funding the TOPS tuition program for college students became the centerpiece for much of the discussion. But through all the euphoria of self-congratulation, lost in the shuffle was the failure to address or even discuss early childhood learning and funding the child-care assistance program.
Finally, after three special sessions and a regular one, it's time to relax, do the things that hard-working legislators (and governors) long to do after a long grueling hard-fought battle over the budget--pick up the pieces of one's life and, if at all possible, spend quality time with family, check out those hires burning at the office and hopefully take a moment of leisure.
The fiscal cliff, that seemingly insurmountable object in front of every legislative session since Bobby Jindal took his shot at taming the budget, is fixed. Yes, fixed. At least, on paper and hopefully, in reality, until perhaps, the next mid-decade.
The Louisiana legislators and governor, who have spent almost every day in session since mid-February of this year, have settled upon a budget deal that reduces the sales tax from five cents to 4.45 cents. Today, The Advocate reporter Tyler Bridges, who has been there with the legislators as each tick has tocked on the capitol clock, took a few moments to discuss with me--the session and the budget agreement. The interview occured via Facebook and Twitter Live.
Below is the video transcript of the relevant portions of the interview with Bridges, who will also soon post a "behind the budget deal scene" article for The Advocate.
According to a tweet by Times Picayune capitol bureau reporter Julia O'Donoghue, who knows, there might be some type of compromise in the legislature during the special session. The reporter indicated today that the "Talk is that the new sales tax rate that they will be trying to pass in the House is a 4.45 sales tax rate. That's between the 4.4 sales tax rate the House GOP wanted and the 4.5 sales tax rate".
Is there some way that Louisiana can gets its budgetary house in order? What is the problem? Did it begin under current Governor John Bel Edwards? Is Medicaid the culprit? Can we reform higher ed?
On Tuesday, I discussed the budget with former State Representative Brett Geymann, a budget hawk, who was term-limited and who left the legislature after the 2015 election. Geymann believes that the state budget should be tied to the economy and we will publish his thoughts on this tomorrow, as we went more into detail on that issue in the latter part of the Facebook, Twitter and Youtube Live discussion.
”The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” And according to politicians in both parties, they are out to infiltrate the entire U.S. election process. A special prosecutor is looking under every rock to find out the culprits involved. And down here in Louisiana, the Secretary of State’s office is calling for the immediate replacement of some 10,000 voting machines at a cost of $60 million. Wow! This looks like a really crisis. But is it?