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T-P creates no-go zone for local conservative columnists

Perhaps Gov. Bobby Jindal went a bit hyperbolic on the issue, but there’s no doubt that as far as the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s editorial page goes that’s a “no-go zone” if you’re a conservative columnist willing to stand on your feet and present heterodoxy when writing about state and local issues.

This week, the T-P announced that James Varney had been reassigned to report on the Northshore beat. Varney was moved from the opinion pages, where for nearly two-and-a-half years he had presented a perspective rarely seen on those pages about state and local political issues, with some forays into national events as well. When he started, this space wondered whether it signaled a change in the thinking of the newspaper, then on the cusp of transforming itself into a more Web-centric media outlet that put many of its stories into print, rather than act as a dead tree publisher than on the side posted its stories to the Web.

Orthodoxy reigns when it comes to Louisiana newspapers, enthralled to the political left that corresponds to the state’s recent history of populism. Only the Houma Courier and its sister publications and the Alexandria Town Talk among the larger outlets have anything close to ideological balance with opining in their pages about state and local issues while, among the smaller, the Hanna Publications chain, to which I contribute, does yeoman work in presenting alternative conservative viewpoints. At the time of Varney’s debut, the two hardest left editorial pages were the state’s two largest newspapers, the T-P and the Baton Rouge Advocate, with the latter the farther out there.


Inefficiency sinks privatization of LA higher education

Over four years ago this space conjectured about the privatization of Louisiana State University. Now that it seems that some on the Louisiana Board of Regents and others have caught up to this, then the time has come to revisit the idea – and such an inquest shows why it likely would fail without major restructuring of the state’s higher education system.

The post stemmed from a move at the University of Oregon to accomplish this. Since then, not only UO, but also Oregon State University and Portland State University all headed in this direction, commencing last summer. The other then-existing four state universities were given a similar option and some have moved to take it.

These institutions no longer participate in almost any state grouped settings, such as for risk management, but handle most of their own organizational maintenance. Revenues generated by participating schools now accrue to a separate fund that schools draw upon for expenditures, including issuing revenue bonds for capital items. A minimal state general fund contribution continues and they must ask the state’s coordinating commission for higher education for any tuition increases above 5 percent. They also have independent boards to govern each, although their members appointed by the governor. In short, they have almost entirely detached themselves from state government, with its flagship UO able to do this on an endowment only about 50 percent higher on a per student basis than LSU Baton Rouge’s.


Bill falls short in letting market forces price college

If state Rep. Franklin Foil knows what’s going on with his HB 62, he’s the only one.

Foil’s bill would amend the Constitution to get rid partially of the odd artifact that any new fee imposition or existing fee increase by a state agency needs a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the Legislature to go through. As it applies specifically to academia, this includes both fees and tuition.

While falling short of asking for repeal that thereby exempts all of government from this to grant added flexibility to administration, where oversight could be conducted by running every proposed increase or new charge by the Joint Legislative Committee of the Budget which then could veto these by a majority within a certain time span, at least HB 62 removes entirely fees charged in higher education, with no oversight at all. This makes sense as the marketplace will punish an institution that raises fees too much, if there’s some concern that the Legislature must conduct oversight on these matters out of fear that otherwise that runaway government will jack all fees sky high (even though oversight already exists in that policy-makers accountable to the electorate always can pass laws and resolutions vetoing these hikes or new ones).


Case dismissal clarifying flood board politicization to all

Fool the Baton Rouge Advocate’s editorialists once, shame on you. Fool it twice, shame on them. And maybe that’s enough, as their eyes now seem wide open to understanding the unavoidable political nature of any government agency, no matter how allegedly protected it is and/or should be “independent” of politics – at some cost to the taxpayer.

After the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East sued nearly a hundred petroleum extraction companies or their successors for reputed damage to the Louisiana coastline over decades and the Louisiana Legislature responded by legislating to negate that and Gov. Bobby Jindal began using his gubernatorial powers to pick members to the SLFPA-E opposing the suit, howls came from some about how such tactics produced (in the words of one Advocate opinion writer) a “loss of independence” concerning a board that many wished somehow was above politics. The suit now functions on life support after a federal judge routed it out of court in a way that almost nobody believes it has any of chance of survival on appeal.

Except, of course, for the lawyers who, with renegade former members of the SLFPA-E’s governing board Tim Doody and John Barry, concocted a contract approved by the board that means any attempt for the agency to stop the suit before it is concluded means it owes a huge payday of taxpayer dollars to the Jones Swanson Huddell & Garrison law firm and the discretion to pursue the suit lies totally in the firm’s hands, which the firm has chosen to continue despite the Advocate's pleading to desist. The nature of the contract leads to disputation over the final disposition, but that could be anything from, at worst, losing or withdrawing and the agency (read "taxpayers") owing the firm perhaps into the eight figures of dollars to, at best, doing either and losing nothing monetarily.


Family cap would aid LA taxpayers, client families

In all the talk about finding ways to bring Louisiana’s fiscal year 2016 budget into balance, through spending cuts and/or revenue additions, an obvious policy change of the former should stand out – limit welfare receipts to those who already receive some forms of assistance if they have another child.

Colloquially termed “welfare queen” laws, about half of all states place family caps on recipients in a variety of programs. While a few states offer either a flat amount regardless of children or a voucher spendable only on certain items, a couple reduce incremental payments as the number of children goes up and the rest deny the entire increment when a receiving family has another child.

In Louisiana, an unlimited number of children related to a head of household by blood, marriage or adoption may qualify for higher Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program dollars; 10 family members, for example, qualify for $512 monthly with roughly a $36 addition for every additional qualifying child. Another cash benefit program, the Kinship Care Subsidy Program, awards $222 per month for a child. Naturally, income for the family cannot exceed certain amounts.