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Slidell begging law can survive court challenge

It’s back to the drawing board for Slidell and its anti-panhandling ordinance, as both flaws in a decision negating the measure and in the city’s procedures for enforcing it allow for a retooling and a retry into its becoming constitutional.

Earlier this week Eastern District of Louisiana Court Judge Lance Africk sided with the American Civil Liberties Union challenge to the law. It requires those wishing to engage in begging to obtain a temporary, free license good for 72 hours, during which time the city can perform a background check on the applicant, and unless certain information comes to light such as a felony conviction in the prior two decades, the city must award the permit that includes an identification badge of the individual worn during expression in public.

Africk’s ruling argued that the ordinance would not be content-neutral since it treated begging differentially than other forms of expression, and that Slidell could not hurdle the high burden of proof necessary to justify its regulation. In particular, he noted that similar forms of speech the city regulated for interests of public safety, peddling and solicitation, had less onerous registration requirements, and even an exception to any registration for the latter if it involved political and religious views. Thus, given the number of complaints about and declining number of arrests for panhandling over the past couple of years, Africk asserts this does not present compelling enough evidence that the Slidell approach addresses a public safety problem.


Tax increase small part of cliff solution, if needed

So, the Louisiana Legislature is out of session – any kind – and thus it cannot threaten to take more of what we earn. That won’t last.

With a modicum of tax increases – and also factoring in a second straight year of paying June Medicaid bills in July, hence pushing these into the next fiscal year not covered in the budget about to launch – that means from current spending levels the state faces a deficit of around $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2019, as a number of temporary taxes roll off after June, 2018. Use of tax increases to deal with this would require a special session as regular sessions in even-numbered years can’t process tax increases.

That makes such an extra session inevitable, for Democrats from Gov. John Bel Edwards all the way down to the party’s legislators stubbornly refuse to consider tax reform, that might alleviate the mismatch of money to priorities that makes fewer funds available than could be for genuine needs, as something independent from tax increases. Further, concerning the increased taxation they doggedly insist the citizenry must suffer, they dictate this must come on income and progressively.


New law may nail shut Elio Motors' coffin

If Republican state Rep. Thomas Carmody didn’t plan on nailing shut Elio Motors’ coffin, he could have fooled Caddo Parish.

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards recently signed SB 107 by GOP state Sen. Bodi White that unambiguously would prohibit bulk sales of motor vehicles in Louisiana without a dealer’s license. State law promulgates a long list of qualifications necessary, such as one has a fixed location with adequate space, that the dealership has a positive effect on the economic well-being of the state, and specifies what it sells. However, statute created an exception to a violation of direct sales for “operating a dealership” without defining “dealership.” SB 107 changed the language to grant an exception only to “an existing, licensed, and franchised motor vehicle dealership.”

The Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association stumped for the amendment to the bill to facilitate these changes, trying to fight the tide of deregulation in car sales that continues to spread. The extra costs forced upon them through regulation that they must pass on to consumers puts them at a competitive disadvantage to the direct sales model that more and more states have legalized. Having government protect them by disallowing such sales only can stave off this threat to shrink the impact of their business model.


Legislators correctly sidelined pair of bad bills

You win some and you don’t lose some describes the fate of a couple of meaningful bad bills from the Louisiana Legislature’s 2017 regular session.

Much discussion that session revolved around an unnecessary hike in the gasoline tax, which eventually went nowhere. Motorists didn’t need such a measure because over the past two years the state already proved that by boosting such spending by tens of millions of dollars.

That happened as it stopped diverting money paying for state police operations, which constitutionally allows up to 20 percent of gas taxes to go towards that function. The same can happen for sloughing off money to local government and subsidizing roads and facility operations for which users can pay, to use instead for roads work that benefits the state as a whole.


Vote shows LA political thinking still immature

The maturation of Louisiana’s politics, the incomplete evolution of which has kept the state behind the curve, still appears unfulfilled.

At this time last week, it appeared the state’s political culture had reached an inflection point. The state’s political class seemed willing to bridge the transition from revenues driving policy to the reverse when the Legislature appeared poised to budget below forecast revenues as a means to prevent shortfalls. A week later, such hope turned out premature.

Yesterday, by the barest of margins, a revolt by Republicans-in-Name-Only allowed a budget amendment to go through to spend all the money available. House leaders had argued for holding back tens of millions of dollars as a hedge to prevent budgetary deficits. If actual future receipts in the upcoming fiscal year suggested hitting predicted marks, then the Legislature would have made the sequestered money available.


Left especially must heed Graves' call for civility

This is what you get when you start carrying around a mock severed head of the president.

A gunman took dozens of shots at several Republican Members of Congress, staffers, and Capitol police this morning, striking Louisiana’s Rep. Steve Scalise and other individuals. The members had congregated for baseball practice in an Alexandria, VA park for the upcoming annual charity match between members of the two major parties. Scalise appeared not seriously wounded.

Improbably the incident, which ended when the police detail subdued the alleged shooter after an exchange of dozens of shots, had nothing to do with politics. GOP Rep. Garret Graves, having spoken to several people involved at the scene or briefed on the incident, said the suspect approached the field, specifically asked of the party affiliation of the team, and only then began firing a rifle with a magazine. (Oh, by the way, Virginia law prohibits the use of such guns in populated areas, particularly mentioning parks and Alexandria. Yeah, that example of gun control really discouraged that attack.)

Graves opined that he thought overheated rhetoric relayed in the media had, at least indirectly, contributed to the incident. He stressed that the inflamed passions he believed behind the event found stoking across the partisan spectrum.

Perhaps, but any sentient, attentive individual would acknowledge, since the 2016 elections that resulted in complete GOP takeover of power in Washington, that visceral expressions about the unsuitability, if not conveying outright hatred, of political figures has emanated predominantly from the political left and very often aimed at Republican Pres. Donald Trump. The incident where a cut-rate comedienne on video paraded around a faux, bloodied head of Trump represents just the tip of the iceberg; there are theater productions alluding to his murder, open admissions of hatred of him and justifications made for political violence, and a rush of bogus “hate” crime claims attributed to Trump’s presence and the electoral success of conservatism.

Indeed, it appears that the apparent shooter, who subsequently died from injuries sustained during his attack, loathed Trump. Scalise, as the third-ranking Republican in the House, is seen as one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress and shared in his skepticism of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, in which the believed assailant passionately believed.

Haters will not stop being haters, but at least the mainstream media can reconsider the ways in which it facilitates such views, in coverage decisions and the propriety of remarks from their commenters. A little more balance from a media overwhelmingly negative about Trump also might help. Leftist political elites in the media, popular culture, and politics additionally could lend a hand in tamping down on the extreme rhetoric.

Graves’ call for civility merits heeding by all, but clearly most pertinently applies to the political left. Today’s sad event shows that particularly liberal elites must take greater responsibility to ensure they act to foster a climate of respect in disseminating political information and participating in political debate.


Edwards budget crisis gamble likely to backfire

If Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards wanted to avoid political defeat on Louisiana’s budget, he managed to set himself up to make it more inevitable and worse.

The regular session ended without operating and capital budgets, as a direct result of Edwards’ allowing his handpicked Senate leader Republican Sen. Pres. John Alario and the governor’s ally Democrat Senate Finance Committee Chairman state Sen. Eric LaFleur to refuse any negotiations with the House of Representatives on the fiscal year 2018 general appropriations bill. The House wanted to hold back a little over $200 million as a hedge against disappointing revenue forecasts that have led to regular mid-year budget cuts over the past decade, while the Senate wanted no sequestering.

This led to the Senate trying to cram its version down the throats of the House, with its Democrat allies a mere 15 minutes before session’s end trying parliamentary maneuvers to bring it, without review by the House, to a vote in that chamber. Throughout, egged on by Edwards, his allies in charge of the reconciliation process refused to budge even as the House was willing to halve essentially the amount of dollars to set aside. This attempt represented nothing more than a bloodless coup on government spending, trying to foist a product Edwards and minority Democrats preferred over the GOP majority’s choices.


Peterson conduct illustrates liberalism's bankruptcy

Democrat Sen. Karen “Pottymouth” Peterson strikes again, illustrating the bankruptcy of ideas within her political party.

Until the past year, Peterson merely had earned a reputation for boorish behavior while performing her senatorial duties. In particular, and perhaps explaining why she captured the state party chairwoman’s role, no matter how innocuous and nonpartisan a bill she could find creative ways to inject partisanship into it, using her questioning/filibustering as a means to bash whatever Republican appeared to have a bee in her bonnet at the moment or the GOP agenda in general.

But she took it to another level of vulgarity last fall not long after the election of Republican Pres. Donald Trump when she declared herself offended at a colleague’s birthday cake. The confection, in the form of a bikini-wearing woman poking fun at the advancing age of the birthday boy, she declared obscene and rudely hacked it up. She then engaged in her own obscenities by cursing at that colleague and making wild, unfounded claims that she had seen a cake representing female genitalia present as well.