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King George James' bad bill tries to slay St. George

One particularly bad prefiled bill for the Louisiana Legislature’s upcoming regular session betrays both an authoritarian impulse and admission of policy defeat.

HB 15 by Democrat state Rep. Ted James would alter state law regarding creation of new municipalities, but targeted at just one parish. If enacted, no longer would incipient municipalities in East Baton Rouge Parish merely need to obtain majority voter approval from those in the area wishing to incorporate; it also would require a majority of the parish’s electors as well.

Such policy dramatically departs not just from Louisiana law, but that generally among America’s states. No state allows voters from surrounding local governments to have any say over the wishes of unincorporated areas; the closest strictures to that are prohibition of incorporating within a certain distance of another municipality without its consent or having the state or a county-level government organ decide rather than putting the matter to a vote of those in the area petitioning for incorporation. Having just one part of a state operate under a different law than the rest of it is unprecedented.


Bossier City begging bills doomed unless altered

Practically no one likes having their day disrupted by panhandlers, and Bossier City wishes to join Shreveport in regulating the practice largely into nonexistence. The problem is the two proposed ordinances and Shreveport’s on the books likely are unconstitutional.

Councilman Thomas Harvey last week introduced an ordinance to ban all panhandling by roadways and another banning aggressive or threatening personal solicitation in and around businesses. Only Councilman Jeff Darby objected to the measures, citing a desire to assist individuals he claimed down on their luck.

Shreveport has had an ordinance since 2004 essentially covering both concerns. Bossier City officials thought that increased enforcement of this had caused a “surge” of panhandlers across the river, necessitating the new laws that move on to consideration of final passage next month.


Edwards proposes good budget, but trouble looms

With the exception of mentioning his name and West Point’s honor code together, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards over the past couple of years most often is heard saying “this not the budget proposal I want to present.” But in this case, it turns out to be the one Louisiana should want, for now.

The day after the Legislature wrapped up the First Extraordinary Session of 2017, its Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget went back to work by hearing a presentation of Edwards’ budget submission for fiscal year 2018. Increased by $1.5 billion to $29.7 billion over last year’s, in terms of its general fund next year’s budget falls $440 million under what the governor would like, according to revenue estimates at present.

Edwards graciously provided a list of items to add in with more funding; i.e. tax increases: paying for all of Taylor Opportunity Program for Students awards instead of only about 70 percent; increasing the Minimum Foundation Program that funds schools 2.75 percent, giving performance raises for state employees; restoring old rates for charity hospital providers and privatized prisons; matching funds for transportation that unless provided could lose federal funds; and making a small two percent reduction from last year’s totals to many agencies, among others. The roster did not include deferred maintenance at higher education institutions – about $1.75 billion worth – nor additional waiver slots to allow home- and community-based services for people with disabilities.


Parent trigger use warns complacent school boards

A move to institute a charter school in East Feliciana parish shows how far the educational reform ethos has come in Louisiana and the tension it continues to introduce between families and interests backing traditional state-monopoly schools.

Last week, the process began for the conversion of Slaughter Elementary School, a traditional government-run school, into a charter school. It involved an enhanced use of the “parent trigger,” which allows families to wrest a public school from local governance and have it run by a nonprofit entity, contracted either to the local district or with the state.

When Louisiana conducted a massive overhaul of its educational system in the direction of school choice in 2012, the dramatic changes overshadowed parent trigger provisions included. And what little publicity these received focused on parents’ ability on their own to convert low-performing schools in R.S. 17:10.5.