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1.10.20

Much room for LSU free speech improvement

It’s bad enough that, overall, the most popular universities in America don’t fare well on their commitment to free speech. Worse still for Louisianans, Louisiana State University scores close to the bottom of them all.

RealClearEducation, part of the complex of websites best known for its flagship RealClearPolitics, along with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and College Pulse, has created an index called the College Free Speech Rankings. The former advocates and litigates for robust free expression policies on campuses, while the latter collects data online and provides analysis of student opinion.

The rankings accumulate data from five different areas, most of which comes from student perceptions about a school’s openness, tolerance, administrative support, and comfort with self-expression. Mixed into that is FIRE’s Spotlight Database, which evaluates schools on their policies’ fidelity to First Amendment jurisprudence.

30.9.20

Panel shows full-frontal cowardice, hypocrisy

In fewer than 15 minutes, Louisianans were treated to full-frontal political cowardice and hypocrisy at yesterday’s Revenue Estimating Conference meeting.

That gathering came after the REC punted during its previous meeting last week its duty concerning the state’s unemployment trust fund. R.S. 23:1474 requires that the REC, between Sep. 5 and 30, project the balance of the fund for the beginning of next September. In doing so, it is to “consider all information, including projections and information from the United States and state departments of labor, in its analysis for [the] official projection.”

The determination affects what rates employers must pay and maximum benefit amounts payable to unemployment insurance recipients for next calendar year. If the fund has below $750 million, the former increases and the latter decreases for 2021.

29.9.20

Edwards mess grows with invalid decree

Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has moved onto a new section of his party’s playbook. Not only does his policy create a problem that he proposes to solve by doing more of the same, but also he now has taken to proposing for it unconstitutional solutions.

During the budget process, Edwards acted as if the state’s unemployment trust fund wasn’t hemorrhaging its balance. The Wuhan coronavirus pandemic brought a retrenchment in economic activity worse than any other state’s, with a dramatic increase in the state’s unemployment rolls. Although federal policy encouraged this to an extent, Congress compensated somewhat in its CARES Act by allowing the state to use as much of the $1.8 billion gift as it wanted to replenish the fund.

Instead, Edwards asked for not a cent of its use for this purpose and plowed much of CARES Act money into inflating general fund spending by $600 million this year. Regrettably, the Legislature went along but it had more foresight to include $275 million in grant relief for small businesses. This would diminish the drain on the fund by allowing more businesses to stay open and thereby employ more people that additionally would boost the fund with payroll taxes being collected.

28.9.20

Bossier City taxpayers aided, betrayed

Accountability kept Bossier City in line with taxpayer interests. Lack of it led the Cypress-Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District to betray them.

Last week, the Bossier City Council met to deal with the city’s property tax millages in the wake of reassessment. The statewide version that occurs every presidential election year requires that local government entities adjust their rates in response to that so that the total amount paid in from that action remains the same, either down (if values increase) or up (if values decrease). However, in another subsequent vote (or proclamation, in the case of single executives that solely helm a government), any rate below the maximum allowed may be adopted, although increasing the adjusted rates (termed a “roll forward”) require a two-thirds supermajority to enact.

The city had courted controversy a month earlier when a ballot item to renew one of the three taxes subject to elections (the fourth doesn’t require one and lasts into perpetuity, as permitted by the Constitution) asked voters to increase the maximum allowed over the previous 6 mill rate to 6.19 mills. Because of a reassessment that showed a decrease four years earlier, the Council took the opportunity to jack taxes up then, and convinced enough voters to ratify that increase in that election.

27.9.20

Mistake to let LA govts borrow to operate

At least one bad precedent was set at the last Louisiana State Bond Commission meeting, and hopefully legislators will act so more won’t follow.

Most of the panel’s business, comprised of most statewide elected officials, select legislators, and the commissioner of administration, involves allowing local governmental units to issue debt for capital expenditures, approving of election items to fund these, and permitting units to issue short-term debt for operating expenses backed by highly predictable revenue streams, such as a property tax. But at last week’s meeting, it veered off into controversial, if not dangerous for taxpayers, territory.

It approved a request by the Lafayette Parish Convention and Visitors Commission to issue 10-year notes totaling $1 million for continuing operations. Calling it “emergency financing” due to the economic dropoff born of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, the quasi-public agency said it needed the money for “continuity of essential government functions.” It said it would need funds by the beginning of next month, having already seen nearly $600,000 fewer in revenues for the year to date and expected a forecast revenue loss even higher over the next 12 months.

24.9.20

Edwards lexicon entry: "whiner," not "leader"

Look up the word “leadership” in the dictionary, and the last picture you would see is that of Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards. Instead, you’ll find his picture next to the entry of “whiner.”

Edwards left no doubt about his lexicographical placement with a screed he delivered published in the pages of the Baton Rouge Advocate. The story covered his reaction to the Republican-controlled Legislature calling itself into special session to deal mainly with Wuhan coronavirus pandemic issues, some others attached to recent storms, and a few miscellaneous matters.

Legislators have become concerned about the policy drift the state has taken over the past several months, which consists of Edwards reluctant to surrender a hold over the state’s activities imposed by his use of emergency powers that looks compared to other states increasingly out-of-step and draconian that achieved a double ignominy: the worst state economy since the pandemic erupted and the most physical suffering from the pandemic. Somebody had to act while Edwards fiddled.

23.9.20

LA needed ant, not John Bel Grasshopper

Just call him John Bel Grasshopper.

The guy otherwise known as Democrat Gov. Edwards, in his handling of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic has followed the liberal Democrat playbook perfectly: create a problem, then claim that more government intervention will solve it. Edwards, because of his persistent ignoring of science, continues to employ some of the most draconian restrictions among the states as Louisiana, despite that restrictiveness, continues to suffer more than any other state. It now is the only state ranking in the top ten of total virus cases (first), current hospitalizations from it (tenth), and total deaths by it (fifth) per capita.

Even as his policy hasn’t proven very effective – because it has slowed the acquisition of herd immunity from a more saturated start point (because of Carnival celebrations that acted as accelerants) that has allowed the virus to linger longer and thereby threatening more vulnerable individuals longer – it has proven brutally effective in punishing the state’s economy, more than any other state’s.

22.9.20

Session to try end run around Edwards policies

So, what can we expect out of the 2020 Second Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature? Optimistically, policies for economic improvement and a better way to govern in times of emergency – aspirations not shared by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The latter issue first and foremost the session seems to aim at. Starting next Monday, lawmakers will have 30 days – a week before elections if it goes the distance – to sort out a list of items more extensive than the month-long first such session tackled. Some are small items that could have waited, but most deal with the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.

The call appears to indicate the Republican majority will pursue several intertwined tracks. As Edwards continues to use statutory powers to keep more restrictions on personal interactions than most states that keep entire swaths of the economy almost entirely closed – even as the state suffers with the worst indicators of all the states and follows a plan almost entirely at odds with what worked in Sweden – the call leave plenty of room to change that.

21.9.20

LA auditor must vet emergency expenditures

Louisiana’s legislators should give a task to the Legislative Auditor as soon as possible to ensure wise spending of precious Wuhan coronavirus pandemic recovery dollars.

Earlier this month, a KEEL radio talk show host noticed essentially duplicate signs along stretches of highway. She made inquiries to the Department of Transportation and Development, and received explanations from both the regional spokeswoman and the department Secretary himself, Shawn Wilson. They said signs could need better reflective qualities at night or font changes, but she noted no font changes and wondered why reflectivity changes could not occur on the existing signs, saving at least some money.

Shreveport area legislators weren’t amused when contacted about this. They expressed skepticism that the money needed to be spent, and one conjectured that the funds for this came from federal grant money that it would have to use or lose.

20.9.20

Charges make bad electoral news for Perkins

More bad news has come for Democrat Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins’ Senate campaign. Even worse for him, it’s more bad news for his potential reelection.

Last week, Caddo Parish’s current grand jury brought charges against four Shreveport police officers in the death of Tommie McGlothen. Called to the scene of a disturbance McGlothen apparently had instigated, after using force to subdue him and putting him unsupervised into a police vehicle, he began to have medical problems and died hospitalized a short while later.

McGlothen was black, which made him a candidate for a narrative America’s political left increasingly had propagated that somehow, despite considerable evidence discrediting it, that white police officers discriminate against blacks, leading to deaths through excessive force. Adding credibility to this particular instance was a coroner’s report that said different actions might have prevented McGlothen’s death.