When Gov. Bobby Jindal raided the constitutionally protected Artificial Reef Program, outdoorsmen were up in arms. The man who came to office on the coat tails of this state’s hunting and fishing community proved beyond any shadow of doubt that he was anything but “the sportsmen’s friend” he had claimed.
While officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (the top echelon of which serve at Jindal’s behest) kowtowed and promised the removal of almost $30 million wouldn’t harm the program, the members of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (even those appointed by the sitting governor) flipped out.
LWFC members (one of whom works for Louisiana Sportsman) threatened legal action and held numerous executive sessions behind closed doors to discuss the matter.
District Judge William Morvant ruled in November that the retirement fund for probation and parole officers should not have been raided, and state legislative leaders announced last month that they would accept that judgement — despite Jindal’s vow to fight on for the right to steal from, er, “sweep” dedicated funding sources for the farce of balancing the state budget.
In light of these recent developments, it’s time the LWFC commissioners stop talking and instruct their attorneys to earn their money.
Oddly, such a lawsuit probably won’t regain the $27 million removed from the Artificial Reef Program, since even the ruling on the probation and parole retirement fund didn’t include instructions for the money to be returned. Instead, it seems the Legislature would have to appropriate the $3.7 million lost in the maneuver. Fat chance that will happen.
So is it worth suing over money that likely will never be seen again? Absolutely, for one simple reason: Jindal and succeeding governors need to understand that dedicated funds are just that — dedicated for very specific purposes that do not include balancing the budget.
One possible reason legislative officials didn’t challenge Morvant’s ruling is that they felt confident they would lose any appeal. But more importantly than simply losing an appeal was the very real possibility that such a loss would include a broad legal prohibition on the use of dedicated funds to balance the budget. That seems to be something they want to avoid.
It’s time to force the courts to make a ruling on whether it is legal for a governor to ignore constitutional protections placed on certain funds by the voters and do whatever he or she wants.
Either the state constitution is binding or it’s so much worthless paper.
It seems the LWFC believes the former, and it’s time to find out if the courts do, as well.