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1.3.12

Bills promise protection of civil liberties of vulnerable

While people’s civil liberties would be protected better by a ban on smoking in any public place, a half measure is better than what violations of some people’s are allowed currently, undertaken by a pair of bills offered up for this year’s legislative session by state Rep. Frank Hoffman.

One, HB 307, would extend the current ban on smoking for a limited pool or areas such as health care and educational facilities to at least 25 feet outside of state-owned buildings or to those renovated in whole or in part using state money, and would ban smoking within 25 feet of ventilation systems, wheelchair ramps and other structures that help the handicapped enter or leave buildings (although exempting local government buildings, for some odd reason). The other, HB 378, is more limited in scope, just banning smoking within 25 feet of entrances, windows, wheelchair ramps and ventilation systems of private buildings, as well as "other enclosed areas" where smoking is prohibited.

Hoffman argues he wishes to curtail second-hand smoke with these and, while the case that this generally causes maladies among the population in general is circumstantial, it definitely causes distress to a growing segment of the population with reduced pulmonary functions. Even a whiff of smoke can send somebody into immediate respiratory distress who carries around portable oxygen units, uses mechanical ventilation, or takes medication to ameliorate asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or other maladies in order to breathe.

29.2.12

Politics may cause doubling up on merger decision mistakes

Last year, when it was a slam dunk on the merits, the Legislature choked in helping three institutions of higher education. This year, when the evidence weighs against it, the Legislature might end up making an error of commission, with politics to blame for both mistakes.

Yesterday, the Board of Regents forwarded a recommendation to merge Louisiana State University Shreveport into Louisiana Tech University. Just last year, the Board issued a similar approval to a plan to merge the University of New Orleans with Southern University New Orleans, while forging links with the new institution with Delgado Community College. Besides the fact it meant putting institutions from different systems together, nothing else is similar between these cases

If there ever was a compelling case for a merger, as previously noted in this space, it was between UNO and SUNO. Institutions a couple of miles apart, one having a low completer rate and the other having the lowest in the country, with many duplicative programs, with the larger having the excess capacity to absorb the smaller, begged to be put together to create one strong institution. Instead, all of these merits got washed away by the politics of race and symbolism, where almost every black legislator, joined by a few others wishing to score political points on the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration that backed the move, were enough to defeat it.

28.2.12

More Roemer dishonesty may lead to scrapping bad law

Another chapter in the former Gov. Buddy Roemer campaign hypocrisy tome has gotten written, but maybe an appropriate epilogue will come with the elimination of a needless appendage of American national politics.

Roemer, running for president, recently has managed an impressive double feat of saying one thing and then doing another. His campaign has railed against what he says is excessive money, connoting power, in politics, and placed a voluntary $100 limit on accepting contributions. Yet Roemer, who has a political history of promising one thing then backtracking and comes from money and influence, hypocritically has embraced any method that raises and spends money on his behalf, first by saying he would ride on the coattails of the big-money Americans Elect group that seeks to pay for providing ballot access to candidate possibilities they choose and then submit for selection of one by Internet balloting. Now, he has accepted money from the federal government, by qualifying for public funding of a presidential primary campaign.

But he did so on the basis of misleading the public.

27.2.12

Altered, bill can improve service to people and state

State Rep. Dee Richard, no party, has an idea that tweaked a bit would prove excellent to discourage legislators from putting their interests ahead of the people’s.

His HB 212 would prohibit, for two years after leaving their posts, legislators from working for state government. Recently, seven legislators near the ends of their terms, or who actually completed a term through limitation and either retired from elective politics, were elected to another office but who will not assume it for another year, or were defeated for election to the other chamber, or who otherwise decided not to run again, have accepted full-time paying jobs in state government by virtue of appointment by an elected executive.

This motivated Richard to file the bill, arguing that, in these instances, given the way the law affects the individuals involved, taking these positions could increase dramatically their potential pensions from the state. He correctly sees this incentive as costing the state more than it should and skewing decision-making by both legislators and those who appoint them. But there’s another, more compelling, reason why the basic idea behind the law makes sense, given slight modification.

26.2.12

Reductionist views of EWE miss understanding his impact

Prisoner #03128-095 was busy giving speeches this weekend, but complimented the chow in his address to the Louisiana Political Science Association annual meeting last Friday. Democrat former Gov. Edwin Edwards is controversial and thus a polarizing figure, tending to make people simplify the man and his attitudes. As he approaches his 85th year, the longest-serving governor in the state’s history expressed some interesting thoughts about politics going forward, apparently recovered from a recent illness, even if he is slightly slow in step and a little hard of hearing, and in the process showed he can’t be dismissed solely as a caricature.

At the state level, remarking about the scope and role of higher education, he noted he had assisted in funding it in two ways; first, by creation of the fund, from a successful state lawsuit, that provides grant money to universities and, second, by changing the taxation structure on the severance tax to make it on a percentage basis, bringing in far more revenue than the old capitation measure. He said he predicted 40 years ago that one day oil would get to $100 a barrel – it actually has gone as high as over $144 on spot pricing – which was not that bold of a prediction (anything can happen in the future) except many doubted that then.

Edwards lamented the state fiscal environment of the day and expressed he thought things would be better with a different set of elites – Democrats – in charge at the state level. But he acknowledged the current electoral climate was part of his own doing, in that he championed the blanket primary, which many theorize opened the political system to respond more easily to a shift in partisan-based voting behavior in the electorate that has come to favor the Republicans, even as he said he caught a lot of criticism from Republicans when that law came into effect.

However, he said he saw the national Democrats as making serious policy errors.