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Veto of surrogacy bill best on moral, policy bases

Gov. Bobby Jindal has a tough call to make on state Sen. Gary Smith’s SB 162. Proper weighing of its good and bad points, the moral import, and public policy ramifications involved direct him to the correct decision on whether to sign or veto this bill.

SB 162 would make surrogate motherhood contracts enforceable in Louisiana courts for married couples. Smith argues this from his own personal experience in the matter, saying that under the present unregulated system that couples whether married in the state can contract for this service but the contracts can be abrogated without penalty. Even after successful birth, then adoption must occur as the child legally is the mother’s who bore him, costing time and money.

Most states regulate the practice, and this version has drawn opposition. One complaint is that it precludes unmarried couples from falling under the new legal protection. But it makes no sense for this to occur in anything but a marriage between one man and one woman. Same-sex unions by definition cannot produce children, and why should the state support an attempt between a man and a woman not married to each other when the state recognizes and subsidizes through policy marriage as a means to reproduction?


N. LA legislators made more chaff than wheat this session

Most high-profile legislation offered by north Louisiana legislators this past session for the area and the state failed to win passage. And that’s a good thing.

Previously discussed here was state Rep. Henry BurnsHB 179, which would have jacked up the occupancy tax for Caddo and Bossier Parishes and divert those sums to touristic interests and the Advocare V100 Bowl. There was no financial justification to kill jobs this way, and the bill was quickly smothered in a House of Representatives committee.

However, Burns did well in getting his HB 717 passed that will make it harder for the mentally ill and felons to buy firearms. He was joined with getting through a quality bill doubly by state Rep. Jeff Thompson, whose HB 8 will punish dissemination of information concerning concealed carry weapon license holders that could make certain households more vulnerable to crime, and whose HB 98 makes it easier to have that license across parishes.


Leger pleads to put more Democrat policies in place

Trying to rebuild the Democrat brand in Louisiana is a tough task, even when you have an easy audience of reporters whose ideological faith by and large has them proclaiming “hallelujah” to the task. But if this is the best that state Rep. Walt Leger can do, he’d better get used to being on the outside of power looking in.

Leger, who serves as the speaker pro-tem in the Louisiana House of Representatives, addressed the weekly exercise of capitol-area media members intended to demonstrate their relevance by attracting newsworthy speakers, a meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge. Not only his position, which makes him likely the most powerful Democrat in state government, but also his membership as apparently the only Democrat in the Louisiana Budget Reform Campaign made what he had to say of some note.

And on the subject of that affiliation with the group that terms themselves the “fiscal hawks,” Leger did have an accurate observation. He noted the internal contradiction that existed with the group’s presumed signature achievement during the legislative system, asserting a sharp decrease in the amount of “one-time money” in the budget, or dollars budgeted from recurring sources that are not from the general fund and money that comes from one-off transactions such as property sales. The main mechanism by which to replace these bucks, was the use of a tax amnesty program which, as far as he was concerned, “kicked the can down the road” and “doesn’t fix the root problem.”


Voters poised to let queued-up sick tax infect LA

Regrettably, Gov. Bobby Jindal recently signed into law what may not be technically a tax increase by law, but in spirit is nothing more than a geographically-restricted version of a “sick tax” that could become a self-inflicted wound across the state by 2015.

Jindal affirmed into Act 222 of 2013 SB 44 by state Sen. Ben Nevers. The law allows the city of Bogalusa to impose as high as a six percent “provider fee” onto delivery of health care services by a hospital, which applies to just one entity, Bogalusa Medical Center. The intent is for the state to be able to use this money as a basis to capture Medicaid matching funds, a large portion of the business of the state-owned hospital that soon will be contracted out for running likely to a religious nonprofit entity. This would occur only after approval by Bogalusa voters, presumably at the regular 2014 election date.

The law regards this surcharge onto gross receipts as a “fee” because it is reasonably related to the purpose it funds and given other language in the law that states “No hospital … shall pass on the cost of the provider fee or include the provider fee as an itemized and separately listed amount on any statement sent to any patient, responsible party, insurer, or self-insured employer program.” Further, “Any bill or statement sent to a patient, responsible party, insurer, or self-insured employer program after the initial effective date of this Subsection shall contain a statement that, ‘This bill does not contain any cost of the provider fee levied by the city of Bogalusa’.”


More money, access won't solve for too few LA degreed

That Louisiana barely maintains second-to-last place among the states in terms of proportion of adult population with a college degrees tells little about resources put into and access to higher education but much about how those resources are deployed and how access can occur in a deleterious way.

With only 27.9 percent having any kind of degree, over 10 points below the national average, several reasons exist why this could be the case. One, that not enough funding is going into the enterprise, can be dismissed quickly. The state ranks 18th in state per capita spending on higher education, yet ranks poorly in outcome measures such as this one, in part because these inputs are being spread too thinly with so many campuses of an overbuilt system.

The other reasons, which deal with how the inputs get used, reveal much more about the nature of the problem and the solution. Until this past year, one of these was the virtually open admissions model that existed at the lowest tier or “regional,” universities. Before then, all a recent high school graduate or General Equivalency Diploma holder needed to do for admittance to at least some of these was to perform around the national average in the American College Test, or have a better than C average in core coursework, or to graduate in the top half of the high school class. Now, both these averages must be achieved as well as 2.0 grade point average overall and some require higher standards still, and universities in higher tiers even have more stringent requirements. And these are due to increase again next academic year.