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Totalitarian impulse present in repeal of education bill

I’m not sure what the pathology is here – paranoia, delusion, some combination, or maybe something entirely different – but it’s not healthy to become fixated on an imaginary fear. Especially when it can be exploited for political purposes to stifle open societies.

Once again, the opponents of free inquiry and critical thinking are trying to make Louisiana look stupid, spearheaded by state Sen. Karen Peterson’s SB 374 as another attempt that would repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act. This law mandates that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education “shall allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

Yet Peterson and her supporters seem to be against supporting this idea of encouraging critical thinking, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories because, they claim, this opens the door to teaching “creationism,” the view that some kind of deity formed Earth and the life upon it. This leads one to wonder just how good are the reading comprehension skills of her and her ilk.


Appointee embarrassment try leaves questions unanswered

Apparently, there’s a backstory to the dramatic testimony given by a Gov. Bobby Jindal administrative appointee that shows a lack of honor of her part and perhaps indicative an orchestrated effort to try to embarrass her former boss of three levels up and/or leading to further questions about her former office’s role.

Martha Manuel formerly headed up the Governor’s Office on Elderly Affairs, until today when she was canned as a result of casting doubt on the utility of a switch of her office overseeing program deliveries through Councils on Aging. The Jindal Administration wishes to have the Department of Health and Hospitals take over that role, which makes some sense as there is an ongoing consolidation of programs to serve the elderly with those of the disabled, which DHH oversees. It also says more federal funding would be available by this reorganization.

But announcement of the move, as part of the budgetary process, set off consternation among the various COAs. And then Manuel sprung the surprise when, in front of the House Appropriations Committee, which meets prior to the session to start work on the budget, she opined negatively about the shift.


LA officials must root out inefficient corporate tax credits

Last year, in Louisiana politics the issue arose, in debating the role of income tax reduction, concerning whether the vast myriad of state tax credits was cost effective. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor has released a report that makes answering the question more imperative than ever.

In it, the LLA notes that over the past several years the state has allowed credits to be claimed by corporations to total more than half of all corporate income taxes paid. The figure seems to be accelerating; for the last year (2009) for which there is complete data over three-quarters of the equivalent of taxes actually paid were forgone through use of the tax credits. For individuals over the time span, the amount is about a ninth, much of that due to special write-offs to deal with the underfunded state insurer after the hurricane disasters of 2005. In the 2005-10 span, on the corporate side this came to around $3 billion.

The report helps answer the question posed by other observers about why there seems to have been such shrinkage in corporate income tax take over the past few years. It also notes that such a high volume could make questionable whether all of the state largesse represents a cost-effective investment. The highest-priced bellhop over in the Department of Economic Development, Secretary Stephen Moret, defended them in general, whose agency oversees a plurality of them, by stating biannual reports reveal four to five dollars of economic activity accrues to the state for every dollar credited.


Bill aims to cap pass-through tax by LA local govts

Last year, Shreveporters got set up for the same one-two punch that Bossier City government delivered to its abused citizens in the past year, but the area's new state senator hopes to curb local governments' abilities to foist this on any utility user.

Last August, Shreveport's City Council hiked from two percent of sales the franchise fee SWEPCO pays for the monopoly privilege to deliver power to city residents, after the previous agreement expired. State law allows a municipality to charge up to five percent, which of course then the company can pass through to ratepayers, by charging half to them and spreading the remainder around to the entire service area.

The Council narrowly passed the increase, along party lines with all Democrats in favor.


School plan critics continue peddling flawed arguments

As always, this column offers assistance to those befuddled about important political issues of the day. Some need more help than others, and in that category appears to be Melissa Flournoy, head of the leftist Louisiana Coalition for Progress who after , she reports, facing (very mild, and not even as incisive as this) criticism over her remarks about expansion of educational choices delivered in a public forum, took to a keyboard to complain.

In remarks to Baton Rouge media representatives, Flournoy, said the plan by Gov. Bobby Jindal to make scholarship vouchers available to a wide range of students in fair-to-failing schools would not work. She said there was not enough system capacity, that it would be too expensive, it would divert money from public schools, and it would lack accountability. These carelessly-considered views, built on a foundation of red herrings and straw men, drew several critiques.

In the newspaper column serving as her quasi-response, she tries a slightly different angle. She repeats the claim in new packaging that few would be helped, therefore more attention (and thus money) should be given to public schools where the vast majority presumably would be assisted. She also repeats the assertion that the program would remove money from public schools, hampering that assistance.