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Major overhaul can solve LA roads underfunding

As complaints about Louisiana roads in quality and quantity have increased continually, if anything expect things to get worse on these accounts before they get better unless big changes are in the offing.

That implication came through in a recent discussion arranged by the Public Affairs Research Council, involving policy-makers and group representatives. They emphasized a recent Legislative Auditor report that noted the retail fuel excise tax will erode significantly in its ability to provide money for roads in order to tackle a $15 billion in expressed needs.

Two trends drive that: slow but steady improvement in overall gasoline efficiency and slow but steady growth in the proportion of non-fossil fuel engines on the road. Both reduce the amount of gas sold thus tax collected.


LA can't miss again on protecting children

Here’s a chance, after previous missed opportunities, for Louisiana to get atypically out in front and on the right side of an issue and protect children.

It’s the last state to convene its legislature, and many others aren’t waiting to file bills that prevent potentially destructive pharmaceutical and surgical interventions on children. Some already have acted to prohibit sexual transition surgery on children and the administration of puberty blockers without a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports such a position, with an excellent recitation of it as of last year contained in HR 158 by Republican Rep. Gabe Firment, a bill passed in last year’s regular session. Mounting evidence since then has led additional public health authorities worldwide to take that more cautious view encapsulated in the bills now advancing in about 20 statehouses.


BC to bus riders: take a hike, see the statue

The Jan. 24 meeting of the Bossier City Council provided a perfect summary of the last 25 years of city governance: building monuments instead of helping people.

It started off innocently enough, with a bid opening. When the city bids out business (much less often than it should according to best practices), interested bidders have theirs revealed to the Council publicly, and then the city makes the decision who to go with or, if just one qualifying one received, whether to rebid.

The project was to construct a statue of Walter O. Bigby, the politician for whom the northern extension of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway is named, at the completed roundabout. That decision was made over two years ago as Ordinance 165 of 2020 at its Dec. 15, 2020 meeting as holidays approached and Wuhan coronavirus restrictions remained in effect. The projected maximum bid was $330,000 and attracted several supplicants.


Looming short special session driven by politics

The short-but-sweet special session of the Louisiana Legislature to kick off next week came more from politics than any genuine need for urgency.

The very narrowly-defined call by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards leaves legislators only the option to choose how many of just-recognized excess dollars from last month’s Revenue Estimating Conference forecast to pour into a special fund designed to attract property insurers into the state. At the behest of Republican Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, $45 million of the almost $925 million would go for this purpose.

The vehicle used will be an overhaul of an effort over 15 years ago in response to insurers either dissolving or refusing to write policies in the state after the hurricane disasters of 2005. A series of lesser storms over the past couple of years has triggered a similar situation and pushing at least 20 insurers out of the state, driving the population of the state-overseen nonprofit insurer Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to levels last seen in the aftermath of 2005 comprising about a tenth of all insured properties. Further, rates for Citizens clients on average will increase 63 percent.


Top spot race action ripples to lower LA offices

The flurry of activity surrounding Louisiana’s governor’s race has had an impact on other constitutional statewide offices up for grabs later in the year as well.

Long thought to seek the state’s top job, instead Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser opted to vie for reelection. That may not be a slam dunk, for GOP former Rep. John Fleming months ago declared his candidacy, after having said he would wait on Nungesser to decide who dithered until about a week ago.

While that may imply Fleming could abandon the effort, having gone a few months into it he well might keep going. He would pose a real challenge to Nungesser, who has alienated a good portion of state Republican activists over sniping with them about endorsements for Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry for governor as well as differences over key issues. Those disgruntled with Nungesser would give Fleming a long look, who has an impeccable conservatism record although the position largely is nonideological and who is flush enough to finance his own campaign.


Term limits beneficial for Bossier, LA govts

It’s a tall order given the power elites involved, but the Bossier Parish Republican Parish Executive Committee has launched some initiatives worthy of emulation statewide.

Last week, the PEC endorsed that the Bossier City Council convene a charter committee with the intent of installing a three-term limit to its members and the mayor’s office. This route requires city registered voter signatures equal to a third of the turnout in last mayoral contest, or 2,742 to place the matter in front of the Council where if it doesn’t ratify the result by a majority then the matter would go to referendum at the next scheduled election, where a majority in favor implements.

It also announced another petitioning project for parish voters requesting the same on Bossier Parish Police Jury members. As one of the 36 parishes in the state whose government operates without a charter, it functions under state law, requiring legislators to pass a law placing limits which would be unprecedented. It also called upon the Jury to resolve whether it endorses the idea.


Caddo debates criminalizing political dissent

The great Caddo Parish Commission showdown never materialized and maybe cooler heads eventually will prevail on free speech issues aggravated by thin-skinned commissioners.

Last Tuesday at a Commission work session’s end, local publisher John Settle and Democrat Commissioner Steven Jackson got into a verbal altercation. Witnesses say other commissioners and parish workers had to restrain Jackson after Settle made critical remarks about him, apparently referring to the recent arrest of Jackson for impersonating a police officer, which Settle believes may be related to extracurricular amorous activities of Jackson, who also faces issuance of a domestic protective order against him.

Shortly thereafter, on behalf of Democrat Commission Pres. Roy Burrell a letter was sent to a deputy with the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office supposedly overseeing Commission security, in which he claimed commissioners were so worried about Settle’s alleged comportment at meetings that he would be banned from attending meetings henceforth. In particular, it claimed that he “has threatened Commissioners, regularly makes outbursts from his seat during the meeting, violates posted restricted area notices regularly, made comments that staff and commissioners [sic] intentionally uncomfortable, and his provocations have led to multiple physical confrontations in recent years both in and outside the chamber.”


Spirited GOP jockeying shouldn't repeat 2015

Now that Republican candidates for Louisiana governor have come like throws from a carnival float, is a repeat of 2015 in the offing as some senior party activists fret?

Last week, after GOP Sen. John Kennedy and GOP Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser announced they would pass on the race, first Republican Treasurer John Schroder threw his hat into the ring followed shortly by Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt. With GOP Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry in it for months, that makes for three quality Republican candidates on offer. A fourth, state Rep. Richard Nelson, jumped in earlier this week.

Which was the case in 2015, with Sen. David Vitter, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. Even with Vitter presumed the frontrunner, he made the runoff but behind then-little known Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards, who defeated Vitter heads-up even facing a center-right voting public.


Other GOP candidates offer what Nelson can't

Now GOP state Rep. Richard Nelson has joined the Louisiana gubernatorial fray. Compared to the other candidates already announced, this one seems premature if not half-baked.

The first-term legislator joined two-term state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, two-term Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry, and almost two-term Treas. John Schroder, who also served over two terms in the Legislature, all Republicans, in the contest. He obliquely but quite pithily referred to these competitors as “career politicians” in contrast to him who he alluded to as providing “real solutions.”

Of course, they may appear as careerists in contrast to him, as he has been an elected official for just three years – although in proportional terms, he has served almost a tenth of his life in office, at age 36, whereas Hewitt has served just slightly at seven years out of 64, and by years end he’ll have spent as much proportionally of his life in office as she. And therein lies the problem with his candidacy.


Graves has tough, risky choice to pursue top job

As Republican Rep. Garret Graves ponders whether to enter the Louisiana governor’s race this year, a lot of competing considerations make it a tough call.

In the race so far among major candidates, all Republicans, are state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry, and Treas. John Schroder. Democrats almost assuredly will offer up a quality candidate because they can’t concede the only lever of power they have any shot at having for their own, they need a decent candidate at the top to help down ballot candidates, and they don’t want to risk allowing an insurgent to wrest party control from the white elite and its black allies who currently run it (with the recent election of Democrat Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis replacing part of that cabal a warning to them to prevent this).

All three are solid conservatives, with perhaps only Schroder willing to waver on that account. This leaves establishment Republicans – think rent seekers who want to keep their fingers in the pie of special tax breaks and taxpayer subsidies and/or who feel indifferent, if not look down on, voters driven by cultural issues – basically bereft, with Schroder their best but fairly imperfect bet for a horse to back in that lineup.