Opinion: Legislators get report card

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It is obvious that the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) was not a happy camper about  the 2015 session of the Legislature.

IIt used a sharp pencil in grading legislators, many of  whom, especoally  Republicans,  like  to  tout a  good grade from the powerful business lobby.  However, its power in the recently completed session took a big it as a majority of legislators voted for veiled tax increases.

LABI appeared to be angry as it graded members  of the Legislature.  Only 12 of the 144 total legislators received an A grade, and three of them were from northwest Louisiana – Republican Reps. Richard Burford, Mike Johnson, and Alan Seabaugh.

Burford and Johnson received a 97% approval rating from LABI, while Seabaugh came in at 92%.

Two area legislators, Republican Reps. Henry Burns and Jim Morris were given a B.  Burns had an 89% rating and Morris had 81%.

A total of 64 out of 105 state representatives were given an F by LABI.  And 30 state senators out of 39 were also given an F.

Area representatives who received an F.  They are, with grade approval rating, Gene Reynolds (D) (56%),  Thomas Carmody (R) (53%), Patrick Williams (D) (34%), Barbara Norton (D) (32%), and Roy Burrell (D) (22%).

All four area senators got a F – Barrow Peacock (R) (39%), Robert Adley (R) (36%), Greg Tarver (D) (34%), and Sherri Smith Buffington (R) (28%)

Campbell continues fight

lou BurnettPublic Service Commissioner Foster Campbell is continuing his fight to return millions of dollars in illegally collected telephone charges to families of jail inmates.

“The Public Service Commission (PSC) regularly orders refunds when utilities overcharge customers.  Companies that  operate  inmate  telephone  systems  in  Louisiana  jails and prisons must be treated no differently,” Campbell said.

Jails and prisons hire specialized firms to run telephone systems used by inmates.  Family members on the outside pay for the calls.

A PSC investigation in 2011-12 concluded that the rates  for  inmate  calls  were  an  average  of  30  times  higher than calls on the outside.  The investigation also found that telephone companies routinely ignore Commission orders and tack on a variety of illegal fees.

    Campbell spearheaded the effort by the PSC in December 2012 that lowered the rates allowed for inmate calles by 25% and ordered te immediate elimination of all added charges on bills.

In March, the PSC concluded contempt  proceedings against inmate phone provider City Tele-Coin of Bossier City.  The Commission said any  charges in excess of Commission-approved rate caps were prohibited.

The PSC also rejected the company’s argument  that it had filed notice of the added charges with the Commission.

“These practices are dishonest and immoral.  Jail telephone companies prey on inmate families, who have no choice in the provider of service and little to no ability to fight back,” Campbell noted.

He added, “Millions of dollars in illegal fees have been collected from consumers.  That money must be returned to the people who paid it.”

Campbell’s proposal will be considered at the meeting of the PSC on Wednesday, July 22.                       

  

Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.