33 Days to Election Day: Louisiana

Louisiana is strange in several aspects that only become more complicated this year. First, they use the November general election as a de facto primary then hold their House elections in December. Secondly, the state is decidedly Republican, but there is considerable in-fighting among them, especially during the redistricting process in 2011. With a congressional delegation that was 6-1 Republican and with no incumbents wishing a desire to retire coupled with the loss of a seat in the House, a Republican versus Republican primary became necessary. Additionally, despite pleas to put off the redistricting process until after this election, Bobby Jindal nonetheless signed into law the new districts.

It is no secret that most of the loss of Louisiana’s population is attributable to the migration of people to neighboring states as a result of the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Further complicating the redistricting process was a lawsuit filed by the state against the Census Bureau. Bypassing the lower courts, they appealed directly to the Supreme Court arguing that the state lost a seat in the House and that states with large populations of illegal immigrants- Texas, California, and Florida- had gained or kept seats because illegals were counted in the census. They requested that the population be recalculated based on the legal residents of states, not a gross head count. However, the Court turned down the appeal without comment, in effect rejecting the argument and requested remedy.

Regardless, Louisiana is now left with six House seats. The current delegation is 6-1 Republican and should be 5-1 Republican after the elections in December. Likewise, Romney will win this state especially since the highly popular GOP Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, was an early and vocal supporter and has campaigned for him. Thus, give the 8 electoral votes to Romney.

There are several questions on the ballot, three of which deal with taxes. The first of these would allow parishes to opt-in to a program where they can exempt from property tax certain non-industrial businesses meeting certain specified criteria in order to attract business and employment. The second would exempt from property taxation the spouses of military veterans with military-related disabilities. The third would allow the city of New Iberia to grant certain property tax exemptions for areas annexed after January 1, 2013.

Another question would grant the legislature the power to enact a law that would take away retirement benefits from any legislator or public official who commits a felony while in office. Louisiana politics has a reputation for corruption, although not on the order of Chicago. Still, many Louisiana officials have been disgraced and sent to jail but still collect retirement benefits under the state constitution. This proposal would close that loophole. To illustrate the problem with retirement benefits for public officials in the state, many times changes are made to these benefits programs with very little or no public input, often near the end of a legislative session and these changes generally are to the benefit of retiring or potentially retiring politicians or officials. A proposed amendment before the voters would require a 45-day period for comment, input, and analysis of any law that in any way affects retirement benefits of public officials. Although it may not stop the sleazy practice altogether, it does place a roadblock in the way of “pass, adjourn, and run” legislation, especially laws that line the pockets of politicians in retirement.

One question unique to the state is how positions on boards and commissions are filled. Generally speaking, the nominees come from the areas with the most political clout, mainly the population centers like New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette. This amendment would force nominees to first come from those areas currently under represented with respect to any board or commission, then from the state at large. A special district creation amendment- mainly for law enforcement purposes- would put certain requirements on the state government before any plan could be implemented.

An NRA-backed amendment would fortify the existing right to bear arms requirements of the state constitution. Specifically, this proposal would make the right to bear arms so fundamental in Louisiana that any challenge to any gun in any court would have to survive strict scrutiny by the courts. The main thrust of the law would be the strongest concealed carry rights in the Nation. The question passed both the state House and senate by wide margins and it is part of Jindal’s legislative agenda.

The final question asks voters whether the Medicaid Trust Fund be exempted from budget cuts in an effort to balance the state budget. Currently, several other trusts are exempt from budget cuts, for example, the Educational Quality Trust Fund. This proposal would simply add the Medicaid Trust Fund to that list. It has the backing of the health care industry in the state.

In conclusion: Mitt Romney will take Louisiana’s 8 electoral votes and the Congressional delegation will be 5-1 Republican.

Running totals thus far: Barack Obama leads in the electoral count 108-89 while Republicans lead in the Senate 21-15 in seats. Republicans now control the House 83-78 seats.

Next: Arkansas