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Voucher series misses context, completeness

Louisiana’s media would do well to steer clear of the mistakes made in a recent series of articles about the Louisiana Scholarship Program that did little to inform comprehensively the public.

Several outlets produced print and broadcast stories about the LSP, which provides vouchers to low-income students in lower-performing schools to attend a private school. This year, an estimated nearly 7,000 families took advantage of this, at a cost of around $42 million.

The pieces focused on a theme that the program had come up short in aiding students in struggling public schools. These pointed out that many clients ended up at schools rating just as poorly as the ones they left. Also, compared to peers at the schools they left if anything they performed worse. Finally, the series contained critical remarks about procedures used to qualify a nonpublic school, arguing these demanded too little and served to prop up financially some schools that have high proportions of voucher students enrolled.


Edwards may need Alario to thwart reform

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, as Louisiana’s legislative Republicans showed on a controversial matter. But one of their own might employ the same to thwart them.

Yesterday, the House Insurance Committee had a light schedule of just two bills. One, SB 173 by Republican state Sen. Fred Mills, has generated much conflict. It regulates the state’s response in case the U.S Supreme Court declares unconstitutional part or all of the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards actually opposed it, setting off skirmishes that continued in yesterday’s hearing where an administration representative softened that stance with the bill’s passage.

Those fireworks only set the stage for an unexpected conflagration. SB 212 by GOP state Sen. Conrad Appel would have created some temporary reporting requirements for insurers about commercial vehicles. It easily passed through the Senate. The room mostly had cleared and Republican state Rep. Thomas Carmody handled the bill and spoke about it.


Edwards can't win with sales tax cut bill

Even his Senate allies can’t help Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards from taking a hit on his tax-and-spend record going into a tough reelection battle.

That comes courtesy of HB 599 by Republican state Rep. Lance Harris, which next fiscal year would begin paring away a 0.45 percent sales tax increase Edwards backed initially as part of a larger increase in 2016, then renewed in 2018 at the present level for seven more years. That costs consumers an extra $392 million annually.

The bill should hit the floor of the House this week and go to the Senate’s Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee the week after. There, it will die, because even though Republicans outnumber Democrats nearly two-to-one in the Senate, Edwards teamed with his bootlicker GOP Sen. Pres. John Alario to stack that panel with a majority of Democrats, who will act to ensure the measure never forces Edwards to veto it.


Gatti, Milkovich betrayals perhaps last straw

The latest prank by northwest Louisiana’s Katzenjammer Kids, Republican state Sen. Ryan Gatti and Democrat state Sen. John Milkovich, may be the one that costs them their seats.

In many ways, the two differ only in party affiliation. Both narrowly defeated sitting representatives by pledging social conservatism and criticizing their opponents for tax increases, then launched their careers by supporting a tax-and-spend agenda in their first year in the Senate. Both try too hard to define themselves as social conservatives, with Milkovich espousing fringe ideas rejected by most conservatives and Gatti backing religious liberty policies that most conservatives think would backfire to erode that.

This overcompensation comes as a result of their center-left fiscal policy preferences. Through 2018, according to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s legislative scorecard that focuses on government taxing and spending issues Gatti with a lifetime score of 52 has the third-lowest figure for Republicans while Milkovich at 41 has the third-highest among Democrats.


Perkins explaining inadequately, opaquely

The more Democrat Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins explains, the more trouble he finds himself in.

Already buffeted by a false savings claim he made on an insider city contracting deal and an apparently illegal attempt to change the city’s panel overseeing aviation, Perkins now finds himself exposed on a deal to charge the city for transition team expenses. Meanwhile, a nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose donors formed by his campaign manager seemingly reluctantly pays bills.

Perkins initially wanted the city to cough up around $47,000 for a string of transition-team related expenses utilizing the city’s convention center. While Shreveport did reimburse the nonprofit, called Future of Shreveport, about $7,000 for expenses related to Perkins’ inauguration ceremony, the City Council has balked on providing the remainder.


Bad arguments against convention resurface

Here we go again, getting treated to the two worst arguments against revision of the Louisiana Constitution.

These inadequate objections resurfaced during a debate of HCR 56 by Republican state Rep. Franklin Foil by the House and Governmental Affairs Committee. The resolution would create a study commission by which at the beginning of the next Legislature the panel would make recommendations about the necessity and scope of a constitutional convention.

That’s actually a step back from the recent myriad and numerous efforts to rework the state’s basic governing document. During this legislature’s term, ten bills have come forth to initiate a convention without any study, although another four resolutions take the lesser step. That includes Foil’s measure of this year and one by Democrat state Rep. Neil Abramson which appoints a committee only of legislators. All of the previous three years’ have foundered.


Useless LA inspection fee needs jettisoning

A California bicycling race can teach Louisiana a lot about the perils of excessive vehicle fees.

This week, the Amgen Tour of California traipses through that state, with a distaff version starting on Thursday. These are the only such contests on American soil that rate the Union Cycliste Internationale’s highest classification. American Tejay Van Garderen, who has the best finishes by any of his countrymen over the past decade in July’s Tour de France, currently leads and had put himself in a good position to win the general classification.

Between the two sexes, 35 teams will compete to put one of their riders on the top step of the podium by the races’ ends. Stage races require extensive infrastructure, including provision of two cars per team to ride near the cyclists, and other cars for the race organization. For this, organizers gain sponsorships, with Japanese maker Lexus again making well over 100 vehicles available to ATOC. After the race puts on a thousand or so miles to the odometers, Lexus can do with them what they please.


LA legislators miss chance to abolish lt. gov.

You don’t make a useless office relevant by tying it to another, you get rid of it.

Legislators failed in the latter duty as a part of routing HB 113 by Democrat state Rep. Walt Leger. The bill would have amended the Constitution to elect jointly the governor and lieutenant governor although not defining the method, but it received barely half the votes necessary to advance an amendment.

On the floor, Leger pointed out that a majority of states used this method already, although only a couple of southern states do. While he said this pairing would reduce political conflict and rivalry, in eight of these states separate primary elections actually elect each as a party nominee, and in another three, regardless of its gubernatorial candidate’s preference, party conventions make the selection.


Union insults voters with half-baked boycott

Bossier Parish voters have a chance to return in kind the area’s teacher union’s display of three fingers and request of the public to read between the lines.

The sore losers at Red River United sent out a tone-deaf call to boycott some area businesses and individuals related to these. The list contained large donors to campaigning against propositions for property tax hikes that would have sent Bossier City school taxes 40 percent higher and made the district by far the highest property-taxed in the state.

Instead, voters crushed the items at the ballot box by about three to one. About 90 percent of the pair’s avails school leaders had pledged towards salary increases to educators and support staff, with the remainder going towards technology updates.


Reject bad N.O. hotel/tourism taxes deal

A bad deal still isn’t better than no deal.

That’s what the state and New Orleans got as a complex set of bills began moving through the House of Representatives dealing with tourism tax revenues. While the bulk of taxes in this format comes from tourists, through occupancy and sales taxes, state law determines the distribution to New Orleans-based entities, including city government and allied agencies.

Essentially, existing revenue streams in statute heavily favored tourism-related bodies – two largely duplicative nonprofits and the Ernest N. Morial Exhibition Hall Authority, which runs the convention center and ancillary operations. In the past, city leaders occasionally would grumble about millions of taxpayer dollars automatically shunted to these nonprofits and to the special district with responsibility over the convention center, especially as the latter banked tens of millions of dollars annually into a kitty that grew so large that it began to concoct grandiose schemes to spend it all and state officials eyed for other purposes the surplus reaching the hundreds of millions of dollars.