Monday, November 07, 2016

Rigging the election guide: Part One

Y'all, I've got soooo much to say about the Senate race that I sincerely hope I get to before tomorrow. But this is Revenge On 2016 Week and, well, I have been watching a lot of sports and drinking a lot of beer and stuff.  Yesterday, I watched the Saints get back to .500 over at Varg's gallery.  After that we hit the GBV show at Republic.


Because we were mushed so close to the stage, a person we made friends with snagged the setlist.

GBV setlist

So there's a lot going on.  All I can do is promise to try.

But there's more than just that Senate race on your ballot. And, even if you live in Jefferson Parish, it turns out you have to wait in line to vote just like everybody else. So it's a good idea to go in prepared. I expect everyone knows what they're going to do about the Presidential race by now. Besides we already know that Trump has a lock on Louisiana and that Clinton has a lock on the election overall so I won't bother with that.

Instead, let's take this time to look at some of the down-ballot questions. In Orleans Parish, this means a charter change affecting the Inspector General's office. And statewide, there is a slate of six constitutional amendments to consider.  Stuff like this is often the least sexy and most time consuming part of the ballot if you haven't been following along.  Luckily there's a wealth of information out there to help you study up real quicklike.  Here are some essential links.

The non-partisan Public Affairs Research Council puts out an excellent guide to the constitutional amendments including detailed arguments for or against each of them.

The Louisiana League of Women Voters guide also provides its own analysis of all the ballot items as well as candidates' answers to a questionnaire.  Not all of the candidates send in responses, unfortunately. But it's still a good look the candidates and issues.

Here is NOLA.com's hub for everything it has run on the candidates and issues this year.

And here is The Advocate's version.

And, of course, not to be missed is Anitgravity's  "NEW ORLEANS HARM REDUCTION NETWORK PRESENTS: ANTI-OPPRESSION/ ANTI-BS VOTING GUIDE" which is certainly a mouthful to say but absolutely essential reading. If you do not like B.S., oppression, or harm, (and who does?) this is the guide for you.

Anyway so here's what you're voting on.

The charter change divorces the Independent Police Monitor from the Inspector General's office. This is a settlement between IPM Susan Hutson and the IG Ed Quatreveaux worked out primarily by City Councilman Jared Brossett last year after Quatreveaux tried to have her fired. The disputes are over budgetary and bureaucratic territory mostly. But there is also, at least, the appearance that Quatreveaux placed his thumb on the scale on behalf of NOPD a few times and thus directly interfered with the IPM's mission.

The gist of this is the IPM can likely operate more freely without Quatreveaux  involving himself. Besides, everyone involved wants this split to happen and there's no compelling reason to vote against it.

As to the constitutional amendments, those are actually easy this time.  Just go ahead and vote against all of them.  You can follow the links above if you want a more in-depth argument, but here's one or two lines on each.

C.A. 1 adds mandatory educational or experiential requirements for parish Registrars of Voters. Its effect, especially in rural parishes, could complicate the process of hiring competent people to fill these offices.  It's also just plain not necessary.

C.A. 2 allows college and universities boards to hike tuition at their discretion without legislative oversight which they quite clearly will do. It will make higher education less affordable and less equitably accessible.  Naturally a whole mess of wealthy conservative donors and PACs are all for it
About $100,000 of the pro-tuition change PAC's contributions came from the Louisiana Flagship Coalition, a nonprofit set up in 2010 to support LSU and push for Louisiana's most prominent university to have autonomy from the state Legislature.

The flagship coalition is run by Reilly and Grigsby and has Flores and Bollinger on the board. Roy O. Martin -- a current member of the state Board of Regents -- is also involved with the group, according to the organization's tax forms filed in 2014.

Flores, head of Freeport-McMoRan, Inc.'s oil and gas division, also put up $100,000 of his personal money to push Amendment 2 on the Louisiana ballot, even though he lives in Texas. Reilly donated $67,550 worth of free advertising on digital billboards his company owns throughout the state. Bollinger Shipyards contributed an additional $5,000.

Other notable contributions included $5,000 from the University of New Orleans Foundation and $10,000 from Todd Graves, founder of Raising Cane's, according to campaign finance forms filed with the Louisiana Ethics Administration.

Three of the four men leading this effort are also some of the largest contributors to conservative causes and Republican candidates in Louisiana.

C.A. 3 is the result of a compromise stumbled into during the legislative session. What was originally an effort to raise revenue by eliminating the federal deduction on state corporate taxes was knocked back to a theoretically "revenue neutral" measure that exchanges that deduction for a flatter set of corporate tax brackets.  Actually this is hard to pin down but proponents still insist this is a net gain fiscally.  I am skeptical.  I do think doing away with the deduction is a good idea.  I'd prefer not to couple that with a corporate tax break, though.

C.A. 4 is kind of a "Blue Lives Matter" but for property taxes bill.  It offers a tax exemption for spouses of police or fire or military service personnel killed in the line of duty. It sounds nice and patriotic as well as charitable but it's a strange and improper use of tax policy.  Here, also, is a bit from the Antigravity commentary on this amendment with which I concur.
Where are the bills that protect, honor, and advantage the protesters who were attacked by police and National Guard in Baton Rouge this summer? Where’s the ad valorem property tax exemption for the family of Alton Sterling (may he rest in peace)? We need better ways to support our heroes.
C.A. 5 is compelling in principle.  It proposed to create a "revenue stabilization trust fund" which would mitigate the fluctuating revenue effects of Louisiana's fossil fuels based "boom and bust" cycle. We've actually written about this quite a bit.  But I'm not convinced this plan actually accomplishes what is says it does.

C.A. 6 is problematic because it would undo the specific will of the voters in myriad circumstances under which they have approved dedicated funds for various purposes. It also encourages legislators to act lazily and irresponsibly during the budget process which is something they need little more of.

In Orleans, there are also a handful of neighborhood improvement and/or security district parcel fees. Those are always bad news. If you see one on your ballot, vote against it.

So there's your cheat sheet to the boring stuff. Yes on the charter change. No on everything else. That should rig things up nicely.

Now.. about that Senate race....

Later tonight. I'll try.

No comments: