Beam: Governor is 'On the road again'

By By Jim Beam / American Press

Gov. Bobby Jindal has come under fire

from some of the state’s newspapers and others for being an absentee

governor. He obviously

rejects that view, because, as the famous Willie Nelson song says,

Jindal is “On the Road Again.”

The governor hasn’t been around long enough to specifically address the criticism. He’s back on the campaign trail, lambasting

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for failing to conduct a more effective campaign.

We also haven’t heard any explanation from Jindal about why he spent so much time before the election promoting Romney if

he thought the former Massachusetts governor wasn’t doing a good job. Apparently it’s what other presidential hopefuls do

to keep their future options open.

The Times-Picayune opened a Friday editorial with some tough words.

“With every decision Gov. Bobby Jindal makes, the message becomes clearer to hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents

who are uninsured: The state has no interest in helping you...,” the newspaper said.

Now that President Obama has been

re-elected, many assumed his Affordable Health Care Act that is feared

and despised in many

quarters would no longer face extinction. However, Jindal

continues to reject two of its major features — Medicaid for more

of the state’s low-income residents and health insurance exchanges

where individuals and small businesses could purchase affordable

insurance.

The Medicaid feature of Obamacare would

add as many as 400,000 Louisiana residents to its rolls. The federal

government would

pay 100 percent of the costs for three years (2014-2016) and 90

percent thereafter. Jindal insists the other 10 percent would

be too expensive for the state to handle.

Families of four making about $88,000 a year could get federal subsidies to help them purchase insurance on those exchanges.

Fifteen other states have also said they won’t set up the exchanges. However, the federal government will do the job, but

its plan may not be best for some of the states rejecting the concept.

Some other health care issues on the

state scene are also troubling. A former LSU official has left the

state, saying she

was concerned over the direction of health care delivery.

Legislators are worried that the downsizing of LSU hospitals could

drive medical students to other states for their training. Others

believe the charity hospital system is being dismantled

and private hospitals aren’t prepared to take up the slack.

The Advocate in a Friday report said,

“... The constituents in his (Jindal’s) home state now need to Google

their governor

to catch the latest news about him, whether it’s for his recap of

the election or for an important decision that could impact

their health care.”

Then, there are some higher education

issues. LSU supporters, for example, are apprehensive about plans to

restructure the

university system. They also realize Jindal has appointed a

majority of the members of the LSU Board of Supervisors, and they

are afraid it will go along with the governor’s wishes with few

questions asked.

William Jenkins, interim president and

chancellor, tried to calm some of those fears in a letter to the

university’s friends

and supporters. The positions of president and chancellor will be

consolidated and work will begin on realignment and reorganization

of LSU, Jenkins said.

The LSU Board of Supervisors voted to merge the top jobs, but has to do it again because it might have violated the state’s

open meetings law the first time around.

Kevin Cope, LSU Faculty Senate president, expressed concerns that have become a disturbing Jindal method of operation in many

areas of state government.

“The board’s actions show contempt for the public in that they illegally tried to stifle input from the public,” Cope said.

“If the merger was such a good thing, why was the board afraid of public debate?”

The possibility of more higher education budget cuts is also troubling. McNeese State University got State Bond Commission

approval this week for a number of its capital construction projects, but the university’s operating budget is razor thin.

That poses future problems in attracting academic talent and retaining present faculty.

Jindal’s relations with the Legislature are also strained because of his retaliatory action against lawmakers who refuse to

“toe the line.” The legislative leadership insists the governor doesn’t interfere, but most citizens know better.

Legislators are often their own worst

enemy, of course, because they kowtow to almost every governor’s wishes.

Two lawmakers

removed from a key committee recently said the governor won’t

stand for an independent Legislature. They said it was the sign

of a broken political system.

Yes, the system is broken because

legislators don’t have the guts to stand their ground. They have given

all governors a free

hand at deciding who gets the funding, the pet projects, the

committee assignments, the leadership jobs — the whole ball of

wax.

Two current situations are extremely frustrating: Criticism seems to simply roll off Jindal’s back, and the Legislature appears

to be content to play second fiddle.

None of that may ever change, but the governor still needs to take some time away from his presidential pursuits to take care

of a lot of pressing business on the homefront.

• • •

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com