Tenure law appeal goes before Supreme Court _lowres

Stafford Palmieri

Maybe it seems a historical issue now, but if one lived through the dramatic hearings and legislative battles of 2012 over public education, the changes wrought by Gov. Bobby Jindal and his aides, including one Stafford Palmieri, continue to be an issue in the state.

Jindal’s team rammed through three significant bills through the House Education Committee, on one day locking down the State Capitol to keep agitated teachers out of the building. At the point was Palmieri, one of the governor’s supersmart aides — they’d all vouch for each other about that — from out of state.

Acts 1, 2 and 3 of 2012 are still law, but strangely enough. the debate between teacher unions and Jindal has had a curious consequences, endangering the jobs of other supersmart and well-paid LSU administrators.

Amid Palmieri’s heyday at the State Capitol, reporters spotted her New York State license plate and questioned the governor’s office about it. She was borrowing her father’s car, was the answer.

4 LSU officials making 6 figures resign after they didn't get Louisiana driver's license, registration

Now, many people were probably violating state law then, because one is supposed to get Louisiana licenses and car registrations when you move. It costs money, so many don’t, or at least until they need to renew a license or an inspection sticker.

But the borrowed luxury car was around a bit too long, as the supersmart Palmieri ascended from education adviser to deputy chief of staff and finally commissioner of the Division of Administration.

Payback came from one of the legislators who fought Jindal’s education agenda, a representative named John Bel Edwards, a Democrat from Amite who was an avid supporter of the unions.

Under the Edwards law, the Louisiana license and car registration is a qualification for employment, at least at a six-figure salary from the state. Any person who does not meet the requirement or who no longer meets it, however supersmart, is to be removed from their unclassified job within 30 days of learning of the lapse.

“Why are you bringing this bill?” suspiciously asked state Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City. Edwards was hardly going to admit to payback; he said there were too many political appointees without a deep commitment to Louisiana.

While it sounded innocuous enough, at least a few of Edwards’ fellow members found it a bit too cute; a bill without the cast of characters, and the bad feelings from the 2012 clashes in the House Education Committee, might have been waved through. It did pass, but 20 members voted against it.

Our Views: The bills keep coming from Jindal’s budgets

The concern about a commitment to Louisiana was prescient enough, as a lot of the supersmart like Palmieri found other credulous states to serve once Jindal left office and Edwards came in.

But the new law stays, and no less than four LSU employees from Illinois, doubtless supersmart, resigned after auditors found they had not complied. “When asked if they would be willing to register their vehicles in the state of Louisiana or obtain a Louisiana driver's license each employee stated they would not be willing to do so," the audit says.

Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, and perhaps devotion to that ideal is stronger among the supersmart than among the rest of us.

But Edwards’ long-ago revenge on Palmieri had a truly weird side-effect.

Email Lanny Keller at lkeller@theadvocate.com.