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23.4.15

Exigency scare tactic should not distract in budgeting



Even as the announcement serves as a scare tactic, the possibility that the Louisiana State University System and perhaps others higher education systems or institutions in the state could declare partial or entire financial exigency could pave the way to helpful changes – or simply make the problem worse.



LSU System Pres. and LSU Chancellor F. King Alexander announced that the system’s Baton Rouge campus was putting together plans for financial exigency, a condition that allows an institution greater latitude in making decisions about programs or personnel as a result of adverse financial conditions. By way of example, the LSU System receives such authorization from its Board of Supervisors for any of the entire system, institutions within it, or academic units within an institution, after an institution’s leader consults with the faculty and petitions. This allows, for example, for a school to furlough, lay off, or even terminate contracts with faculty members prior to these ending or in the case of tenured individuals to bypass other for-cause requirements for their discharge.



Of course, Alexander did not have to tell the world that he had asked the institution to begin drawing up such plans, so that served as a public relations move more than anything else (affirming this primarily was a scare tactic by adding “We don't say that to scare people”). He piled on with the imaginary terrors by stating “You'll never get any more faculty” if declaring exigency and lamenting that, at budgeted levels without changes in current revenue-raising capacity for the state of which the Legislature is trying to alter, the taxpayer portion per LSU undergraduate student would drop to $660.

22.4.15

Anti-Common Core side showing closed-mindedness


Maybe it’s that state Rep. Brett Geymann doesn’t get around much. Or perhaps he’s just incredibly thin-skinned. Regardless, if the attitude he displays regarding arguments against opposition to the Common Core State Standards Initiative stands in for the prevalent thinking of those agreeing with him on that issue, this discredits altogether opposition to Common Core.



Earlier this week, Geymann tried a parliamentary maneuver that would have sent a bill of his that would negate the use of CCSSI standards in Louisiana schools directly to the House floor. Common Core is a compendium of learning objectives put together by state officials and educators the outcomes of which are designed to be measurable by a common instrument. Critics maintain that specification of standards must lead to standardized content out of control of states, that the standards are too hard or too lenient, and that these are driven by conspiratorial forces.



The House rebuffed his attempt, which Geymann explained was motivated by a recent lobbying effort by a pro-Common Core group that placed pink stuffed unicorn toys on legislators’ desks with the tagged inscription “Unicorns are not real. And neither are most of the things you’ve heard about Common Core.” This greatly perturbed Geymann, who emoted through a press release that “This is the most distasteful thing I have seen in my entire career as a public servant.” He also clarified by alleging that the interest group stunt that was “mocking” opponents thusly making parents think the usual process of going through the relevant committee before floor consideration was rigged against them, and hence the extraordinary step that until then never had been taken under the current Constitution of trying to bypass a committee.

21.4.15

Intolerance marks arguments against religious freedom

The confusion and arrogance expressed in state Rep. Walt Leger’s recent opinion piece in the New Orleans Times-Picayune against HB 707, which would prohibit state government coercion against service deliverers who make decisions to engage in commerce on the basis of their views about marriage, illustrate the bill’s necessity.



His error begins at the most fundamental level by conjuring an equivalency between protections granted in the U.S. Constitution based upon a person’s immutable characteristics, such as race and sex, and a person’s behavior, such as expressions of homosexuality that would include the notion that a marriage between people of the same sex is blessed by God. The Constitution protects people for what they are, not how they choose to behave, with the two exceptions of behavior extending from political belief and religious belief – the latter exactly the point of the bill.



Confusion reigns elsewhere in Leger’s screed. He claims that existing law would provide adequate protection against discrimination against religious belief, but does not seem to understand that the government actions the bill seeks to enjoin as a result of exercise of religion concern matters of state government regulation not otherwise addressed. He also inaccurately distorts the permitted invocation of conscience as a cause for concern far beyond its extremely narrow zone of views on marriage.

20.4.15

Jindal should lead on state divestment in Iran issue



If Gov. Bobby Jindal wishes to continue to put himself on a path to a run for the White House in 2016 and to promote good state policy simultaneously, there’s something he can get behind in the area of foreign policy during the Louisiana Legislature’s current regular session that’s good for both the state and country.



Just as the prefiling period for session bills came to an end, Pres. Barack Obama declared victory in getting any deal negotiated between the United States and several other prominent states and Iran described as a means by which to constrain its nuclear ambitions. Great debate has ensued, with almost all Republican, but also including some Democrat, national lawmakers noting the framework’s inability to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weaponry, which stays consistent with Obama’s overall foreign policy thinking.



As a result, some states’ legislatures have decided to pursue passing laws akin to those already existing in several other states that require divestment in any enterprise that deals with Iran and/or barring these from state contracts. Even if the federal government lifted sanctions, it can do nothing constitutionally about states’ decisions on where to invest their money and with whom to do business.

19.4.15

Legislators must stop wasteful meeting expenses



Q: How do you know when a lawyer is lying?

A: His lips are moving.



While there are many really, really bad lawyer jokes out there, that could be the worst of them. Unfortunately, one member of the Louisiana bar appears to be living up to that stereotype as taxpayers get fleeced for some high living off the hog by the Louisiana State Law Institute, an appendage of the Legislature that has acted as the official law revision commission, law reform agency, and legal research agency of Louisiana since the 1930s.



I write “appears” stereotypical because it’s possible the guy in question, the longtime executive director of the organization William Crawford, simply may have horrendous research skills – although that seems highly doubtful given his considerable academic accomplishments (having been a law professor at Louisiana State University’s Paul M. Hebert School of Law for nearly half a century). That’s because he was asked by a Baton Rouge Advocate reporter about the Institute’s penchant for having meetings in New Orleans, even though it is headquartered at LSU, which have cost more than $500,000 over the past three years; specifically, why didn’t meetings of its council, which has over 100 members, occur where it is housed? About a third of its members live in the greater New Orleans area, while almost as many live in the Baton Rouge area.