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1.12.11

Campaign finance clarity achieved by eliminating limits

While a Virginia-based public interest group argues for a slight change in Louisiana campaign law that it says would rectify an unconstitutional situation, a different change would moot the whole point and make state and local elections that much more transparent.

The Freedom Through Justice Foundation asked the Louisiana Board of Ethics to issue an advisory opinion that it stop enforcing the state law that limits individual contributions to political committees that make only independent expenditures concerning candidacies (meaning that they do not donate money to campaigns nor coordinate activities with them). The Board correctly said it could not do anything regarding this $100,000 limit over a four-year period to a committee since it lacked jurisdiction over the law, it merely enforced it.

This group now could bring suit in state court, where it bases its objection to the decision in Speechnow.org v. Federal Election Commission, which involved federal law.

30.11.11

Panel product may provide impetus for needed reform

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and forces sympathetic to beneficial change in Louisiana’s higher education may be getting the upper hand despite previous defeats, as the results coming from a panel dedicated to reviewing higher education policy indicate.

Last year, a bold higher education reform package was proposed by Go. Bobby Jindal, but his legislative allies found it tough sledding. After the failure to merge the worst-performing college campus in the country with another a couple of miles down the road also not performing well, the steam seemed to escape from other efforts such as streamlining the duplicative governance boards and more rational distribution of merit scholarship aid through the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students. In the end, tinkering at the margins to shunt a school out of one system and into another and giving temporary, limited authority for schools to set tuition in exchange for promises of more efficient performance constituted the extent of progress.

Establishment of a Governance Commission to study higher education policy came as one of the consolation efforts, and, from the recommendations it has forwarded, helpfully might build momentum to getting going some of those efforts stalled in the last Legislature. Most controversially, it recommended that the Constitution be amended to strengthen the role of the Board of Regents relative to the four system boards, three for baccalaureate-and-above institutions and one for community and technical colleges.

29.11.11

Online education plan has conceptual, symbolic problems

Besides the issue of scope of mission, a question of whether Louisiana resources should support somebody with questionable associations and agendas needs weighing regarding the Southern University System’s request to expand dramatically its online education offerings.

System Pres. Ronald Mason unveiled a proposed partnership involving a company called EOServe, which has assisted several other historically black universities and colleges to establish a national online presence. The idea is that Southern become a “brand” in the area of online education that could compete with for-profit providers that would provide a stream of revenue, even after EOServe takes it cut, especially important for the cash-strapped Baton Rouge campus, which declared financial exigency last month.

This has raised concerns among the Board of Regents, with Commissioner of Higher education Jim Purcell questioning the plan.

28.11.11

Black legislator power declines, not black voter opportunity

Even if black voters in Louisiana accept a false premise, this mistaken policy agenda need not relegate them to near-absolute political irrelevancy if sufficiently motivated or open-minded.

As the latest round of state elections confirmed, if we equate power of black interests with the proportion of black legislators and whether their partisan allegiances lie with the majority party, black lawmaker influence in the American South would be low, as pointed out recently by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a research center to study public policy as it relates to black Americans. It turns out that most of the 318 black legislators in the south, the highest number in history, belong to parties in the minority in their statehouses.

Yet this does not necessarily condemn interests of black people to the whims of “conservative whites [who] control all the power in the region” who enact “legislation both neglectful of the needs of African Americans and other communities of color (in health care, in education, in criminal justice policy) as well as outright hostile to them,” as the report ignorantly hyperventilates. Such a view entirely misunderstands that all people’s interests, regardless of skin color, at the most basic level are universal and that conservatism addresses them better far than any alternative.

27.11.11

Power gone with shoe on other foot for LA House Democrats

With elections now finished and Louisiana House Democrats finding them in a minority for the first time in over a century as a new Legislature heads towards its organizational session, speculation turns its new leadership. With the biggest question apparently settled, it now is time for Democrats to dream big in the hopes of avoiding the nightmare of their reality when it comes time to handing out committee assignments and chairmanships, and the policy implications that come from that.

With the imprimatur of Gov. Bobby Jindal, state Rep. Chuck Kleckley appears poised to assume the speakership, jumping current Speaker Pro Tem and recent GOP convert (in label only) Joel Robideaux. The latter has complained about his fate but, unless he pushes the speaker’s matter to a vote that would embarrass politically Kleckley and Jindal, he could well hang onto his spot.

Regardless of Robideaux’s fate, created will be a situation to which Democrats seem resigned, the only two full-time jobs in the chamber being in Republican hands.