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Vitter ignorant to think more govt solves power problems

Politicians who know better have thrown their support behind a statist scheme that will make matters worse regarding power provision in emergencies, when the solution to reduce the incidence of post-emergency problems lies in the opposite direction.

Sen. David Vitter, joined by Jefferson Parish President John Young, ask state government to set in motion constitutional changes to allow any of a private company, private/public partnership, or government to take over forcibly a utility deemed to be underperforming. Incredibly, they argue it “would inject real competitive pressure” into power provision.

Let’s see if we have this straight: according to these guys, government’s bringing its power to bear to achieve an outcome it desires by fiat, where the decision-making doesn’t have to have anything to do with customer service but instead may be captive to fulfilling dozens of allied (on this issue) different special interest agendas for dozens of different reasons, is what defines “competition?” There’s zero guarantee that this action of stripping a company of its assets, even at fair market value, would not reflect a hidden agenda driven by political considerations.


Budget problems present more reform chances for Jindal

Veteran political observer John Maginnis wonders whether Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to set up the Legislature for something. Maybe so, but perhaps not in the way he imagines.

As state budgetary pressures continue, the Jindal Administration has had to start pruning state spending, to the consternation of legislators who are prone to taking more seriously than deserved interests with outsized influence complaining about unanticipated cuts to, if not closures of, colleges, state hospitals, indigent health care, and prisons. Maginnis speculates that the situation created allows Jindal to have his cake and eat it, too, with the cuts encouraging legislators to revisit tax exemptions next session that he has promised to veto changes to and go around him. Already a special panel is meeting to review the exemptions.

Constitutionally, to repeal an exemption requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber, a difficult standard to achieve. But Maginnis argues the Legislature could suspend an exemption with a majority vote, because the Constitution allows suspension by the same vote required for enactment, which in the case of any law that reduces taxes requires only a simple majority (those that serve to increase them requires two-thirds votes). Further, this could work for an extended period of time, as the Constitution permits the suspension of a law to last as many as 60 days past the end of the next regular session – if done next year, as late/long as early August, 2014. With governors unable to veto concurrent resolutions like this, theoretically Jindal could try to goad legislators into going for it, criticize the move, and then budget the extra dollars with them, keeping his anti-tax increase credentials spotless while getting budgetary breathing room.


LA papers to lose more relevance unless reducing slant

The beginning of this week marks the grand experiment of making New Orleans a two-newspaper town again, as its longtime occupant at the end of the week will defer from publishing every day with an outsider starting to publish daily. Regardless of what happens, those interested in state and local politics likely will end up better off, one way or the other.

The owners of the New Orleans Times-Picayune earlier this year decided to go to a thrice-weekly print publication schedule and to concentrate on online delivery. The privately-held firm has stated cost considerations as the factor in an industry that has shown dramatic contraction as digital delivery makes an inexorable march to becoming the medium of choice. Already, a sister publication, the Ann Arbor (MI) News, has gone completely digital, and other outlets in the chain are making a similar transition as is the T-P.

This decision prompted the Baton Rouge Advocate to announce a foray into publishing daily in New Orleans, although with a barebones operation that would cover only news and some sports. This may appear audacious in a market where the dominant market leader, in one of the highest-penetration newspaper consumption areas in the country, asserts it cannot stay in business in the long run with daily printing. Why that’s the case The Advocate’s bigwigs need to understand if they don’t want the black ink used in publishing to be overwhelmed by the red ink from financial losses.


Sue recall scofflaws to protect society, rule of law

Usually, you have to punch bullies in the nose to stop their behavior. The Louisiana state electorate and some smaller parts of it did so to anti-reformers concerning education, but now parties interested in disclosure must step up and really drive the lesson home.

As noted previously, a handful of school employees invested in the current underperforming system got up recall petitions against Gov. Bobby Jindal and several state legislators, the due date for Jindal’s and at least some of the others expired last week with the expected failure of the efforts, sending a reminder that these defenders of the status quo have lost in the marketplace of ideas. In fact, despite much bragging and boasting about how there was such a groundswell of opposition to the politicians based upon their support of education reform and a number of publicized events designed to collect signatures, in all likelihood hardly any were gathered.

But the public can’t confirm this because the organizers continue to flout state law concerning the process. It’s very clear on this: the organization’s chairwoman must produce signatures within three days upon request, unless already filed with the secretary of state when he must do it. However, the organizers, citing some phantom fear of “retribution,” refuse to follow the law and plan to hold onto the petitions, raising the possibility that they will try illegally to recycle them in a future effort against Jindal or the lawmakers.


Free speech opposition to rule errs factually, logically

Even this space will make a mistake once in a blue moon, and that even the best sometimes do so should be kept in mind when evaluating the incorrect rationale by which the normally-incisive Institute for Justice tries to oppose regulation by New Orleans regarding licensing of tour guides.

For many years the city has required licensing of tour guides, an ordinance spottily if ever enforced until very recently. The city maintains the rules, which include passing a knowledge exam administered by the New Orleans Tourist and Convention Commission, completing satisfactorily a criminal background check, requiring a fee, and wearing of a badge, designed to ensure the safety of and provide high quality service to those contracting for a guided tour for hire. Some guides declare the rules intrusive and a restraint of trade, but local governments through powers granted to the states by the U.S. Constitution have the power to regulate in this area.

However, the Institute argues differently in its donated defense of a few guides challenging the ordinance, arguing that this constitutes a freedom of speech question. They don’t want to submit to the background checks, which they don’t see as reasonable especially as they have to pay for these in addition to the license fee, and the Institute argues that the marketplace will sort out whether the public will pay for guides that don’t seem to be worth it. Hence, in this view the city has no compelling argument to override free speech concerns, where government may restrict in this instance only when the health and safety of the public could be threatened.