The calamities of Katrina and Rita demanded action from the state, but officials are adding new layers of government at lightning speed during a time when resources are scarce. Lawmakers cut a whopping $630 million from the state budget last year, and it's nowhere near what's needed 'another 20 percent budget cut is predicted this spring.
The administration contends there is little reason for concern. Terry Ryder, executive counsel for Gov. Kathleen Blanco, argues that all levels of government are "just feeling their way around" and trying to balance finances as new services and programs are needed. It's an issue no one has ever dealt with before, he adds, and if there comes a time to hold back, it will happen.
"The governor will do whatever the governor needs to do to get through this," Ryder says.
Meanwhile, the governor's primary opposition ' the GOP ' believes the state could be overreaching and trying to do more with fewer resources. The end result of all these additions might be a state bogged down in a costly, bureaucraticÂ mess, says Rep. Jim Tucker, the Terrytown chairman of the Republican Delegation. "That's a real concern for me," he notes. "We don't have the latest budget figures yet to see if we're really spiraling out of control, but we could end up with a government that is not reflective of the money or resources we actually have."
Then there's the question of effectiveness ' or ineffectiveness, which could translate into wasted money or public outrage.
Creating new bureaucracies to give the appearance of addressing a problem is nothing new, says Dr. Kirby Goidel, director of the Public Policy Research Lab in Baton Rouge. But because such efforts generally address past mistakes, the new bureaucracy often proves ineffective in dealing with new crises ' on the federal level, think FEMA or the Department of Homeland Security.
"If the new bureaucracy doesn't replace an existing bureaucracy, however, or if it doesn't have a clear purpose and time frame to work in, it can add another unnecessary layer," Goidel says.
For instance, the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which has 30 members on its board of directors, was created by the governor to deal with the large amounts of federal money pouring into the state. As an independent panel, in theory, it can assure fiscal accountability and avoid corruption. But no one knows how long the authority will be needed or what roles it will take on in coming months.
The entity is expected to be added into state law during the ongoing special session. That's a necessity because the authority will grow in size over time and will require additional funding and staff, says Jim Brandt, president of the Public Affairs Research Council, a nonprofit organization that monitors state government.
Brandt is dead on the money. Lawmakers predict the LRA will require 15 full-time employees with a budget of $122,000 from the state and $221,000 from the feds.
Yet Brandt is confident the expansion will be balanced against smart cuts. "While we always have to carefully watch to prevent the unnecessary growth of state and local governments, I don't think the actions proposed in this special session are a significant danger on that front," he says.
That's a forward-looking assessment open for debate.
"Whether these new bureaucracies can ultimately solve the problem they were created to address ' or whether they end up reflecting the same problems that affected the system before they were created ' is something only time will tell," Goidel says.
It's easy to argue that local governments will need to shrink and might even be forced to do so. The special session is expected to yield legislation that would consolidate local offices in New Orleans and merge levee boards in the region.
Arguments about growth on the state level can also be easily debunked. Money for new building inspectors, brought about by a statewide code approved in November, could be offset by license and permit fees. Additionally, it's doubtful a new undersecretary of transportation will be approved by the Legislature this year, as proposed by a group of lawmakers.
But there's much more on the horizon to consider.
Tax elections will be needed for all new levee boards. The governor wants the Office of Emergency Preparedness to be an official agency, and she's also pushing the creation of a Disaster Recovery Unit, which would have 27 new jobs at nationally competitive pay scales.
And most recently, state lawmakers discussed adding more structure to the 16-member Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which was created in November to serve as a hub for coastal restoration, hurricane protection and flood control.
All of this comes as the state is expecting a $786 million shortfall in its general fund for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Dr. Robert E. Hogan, associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University, said the state could possibly end up with more bureaucracy than ever before, as eliminating bureaucracy is more difficult than creating it. As for whether the state will be able to afford all the changes, Hogan offers a wry observation.
"I would say that I do not know if Louisiana has ever had a government that reflects the current state of the economy," he says.
Visualize Lafayette’s next great thing from 3,000 feet.
A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.
Gov. Bobby Jindal believes the last-minute passage of a pension hike for his state police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, was improperly handled, according to the governor's office.
As the courts hash out the attempts to preserve and shelve Common Core in Louisiana, a group of six state lawmakers are planning an Aug. 22 trip to Oklahoma to meet with their counterparts and strategize for the 2015 regular session.
While hopes are high for turnout this fall, a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate suggests that Louisiana's midterm face-offs may amount to nothing special in terms of votes cast.
The attorney hired by the Lafayette Parish School Board for a special investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper has submitted his final report, though it may be another week before the findings are made public.
Poachers killing elephants at increasing rates; independent autopsy on Brown; Gaza truce continues and more national and international news for Tuesday, August 19, 2014.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Tea Party of Louisiana is calling Sen. David Vitter a “turncoat” for his newfound embrace of Common Core educational standards.
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.
Lafayette attorney Michelle Meaux-Breaux has announced her plans to seek the Division E seat for judge in the 15th Judicial District.
A card-carrying member of Lafayette’s “tribe,” Milton “Spider” Guidry died over the weekend. IND music writer Nick Pittman remembers the character and the man.
As tensions continue to escalate in Ferguson, Mo., between law enforcement and residents protesting the shooting death of a local teen by police, we’re reminded of the peculiar circumstances surrounding the in-custody death earlier this year of a New Iberia man.
A group of teachers and parents who support Common Core is asking a state judge to invalidate Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the multi-state education standards.
Drew Brees walked up to the line of scrimmage early Sunday, taking a snap during the New Orleans Saints' pre-practice walk-through.
A state judge Friday refused a temporary injunction sought against state education officials in an effort to block implementation of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana.
UL was the consensus pick in a coaches' preseason poll to win the league, and experience has a lot to do with that.
The price tag has nearly doubled for Gov. Bobby Jindal's hiring of an outside consulting firm to recommend new ways to balance the state budget.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is under scrutiny for billing private chartered planes to her Senate office when she used the flights to attend campaign fundraisers.
Many people found not guilty by reason of insanity are being held in Louisiana jails, where they cannot get the treatment they need, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
In a just-released audio recording, City Prosecutor Gary Haynes claims Mike Harson had direct dealings with the alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme in the DA’s office.
C-P councilmen sponsor a resolution in support of the notion that one should subscribe to Tea Party ideas about civics before being allowed to seek public office.
Russel Honoré, the retired U.S. Army general known for his role in restoring order to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and most recently for his involvement in the Green Army movement to stop environmental abuses of Louisiana, has now weighed in on the police response to protestors in Ferguson, Mo.
More than three dozen restaurants, bars, convenience stores and supermarkets in Lafayette Parish are facing fines in connection with the state office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control’s 2014 “Summer Crackdown.”
The grim news, delivered to the joint legislative budget committee, barely raised eyebrows at the committee hearing, after more than six years of such disappointing financial forecasts.