In three at-bats in 19th Judicial District Court, Gov. Bobby Jindal got called out from three different judges on the constitutionality of his major initiatives from the 2012 Legislature.
The latest problem: A judge struck down as unconstitutional a Jindal bill that changes pensions offered to newly hired state workers.
Earlier, judges struck down parts of two major education bills from the session. One judge ruled that parts of the bill violated the constitutional rules on how a bill is passed, and another struck down as unconstitutional the financing mechanism for vouchers for students’ tuition in private schools.
In all three cases, we note, the rulings are likely to be appealed. And in all three cases, we note, the judges were exercising their proper role, to determine whether the measures were properly passed in compliance with the Louisiana Constitution. They did not rule on the merits of vouchers or the other proposals pushed by the governor.
That said, the rules are important.
In each case, the governor’s proposals were passed by a compliant Legislature despite objections from critics on the points later raised in court.
In two of the cases, the judges found that the process for passing the legislation was roundly ignored by the administration.
The latest case: Did the pension change require a two-thirds vote instead of a simple majority?
The governor’s hand-picked speaker ruled for a simple majority, even though a tougher two-thirds vote is called for in the constitution. Why? The constitutional two-thirds is required in cases where the cost to the taxpayer of public pensions is increased by legislation.
Protecting the taxpayer, in other words, got in the way of the governor’s plans. So he tried to change the rules.
In the case of the funding mechanism for the vouchers — an outright raid on the state fund explicitly dedicated to “public schools” — the administration’s willingness to ignore that very explicit constitutional language suggests a cavalier attitude that ought to concern every citizen.
The idea that these are procedural technicalities has two problems. One is that the rules are the rules, and most of them are put in the constitution for good reasons.
Another problem: the ethics of my-way-or-the-highway executive leadership.
This has been a problem in Louisiana for generations.
By choosing these short-cuts, Jindal acts on the dubious principle that the ends justify the means. If that is Jindal’s idea of “reform,” we want no part of it.