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Bad 2015 session for conservatism, but how bad?

A couple of interest groups graded Louisiana’s legislators harshly for their votes last session. But a more comprehensive overview shows things weren’t as “bad” as these groups make them out to be.

This month, stalwart grader the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry put out its annual scorecard, while Americans for Prosperity launched its initial version. Both hew to conservative issue preferences, with the former representing business interests and the latter ideological conservatives.

LABI provides a listing for every legislator and grades them on a long list of votes, some procedural, some final, with some counting for as little as less than one percent of the cumulative score and the most about ten percent (weighings varied between chambers). By contrast to this completeness, AFP does not attempt an aggregate listing nor a grade; it simply shows how legislators who represent a postal address voted on eight measures, most of these also appearing on LABI’s.


LA just had to have public breastfeeding controversy

Do we really have to have a controversy over breastfeeding in public in Louisiana? Especially in a state known for at least one location notorious for public exposure of female breasts without babies attached?

It seems that in Leesville recently a restaurant owner informed a woman that she could not stay on the premises if she chose to breastfeed her baby uncovered – this in spite of R.S. 51:2247.1 that allows a woman to do so “in any place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement.” The female owner said if the mother did so she had to use a cover, but many women find them cumbersome and larger babies may have difficulty with them, and this case the mother refused. However, the law does not give owners the ability to require that, and while the mother graciously does not plan legal action against the establishment, the owner, citing decorum, put out a sign demanding that breastfeeding patrons cover up and plans to build an enclosed area in the dining room as a station for these mothers.

Besides the logistical problem in the rare instance that multiple women wish to breastfeed at the same time – which will be induced artificially as compatriots of the affected mother plan a kind of “nurse in” at the restaurant in the near future – even having a separate and enclosed area for this purpose does not affect a woman’s legal right to breastfeed uncovered in public in Louisiana. In fact, it explicitly exempts women from R.S. 14:106 that defines obscenity as showing the female nipple.


Formula will work best by demoting institutions

Drowned out by all of the cheering concerning a standstill higher education budget in Louisiana passed last month was these dollars continue to flow in a way that props up an inefficient delivery system, perpetuating waste of taxpayer dollars in a tight budgetary environment that by law is becoming harder to justify.

The issue came to the surface at the latest Board of Regents meeting, where community colleges complained that state money continues disproportionately to go to baccalaureate-and-above schools, and to certain ones of those. The Board has a funding formula that details how much of this money should go to institutions, based largely on enrollment but also in recent years’ performance. But it also has a provision called “stop-loss” that attenuates the impact of the formula the lower the state subsidy goes, which means fewer dollars are subtracted than the formula would indicate the lower enrollment goes for an institution.

This has been to the disadvantage of community colleges because their enrollments have been growing. In essence, because as a result the portion of money they receive through tuition and fees continues to rise, this is used to supplant part of what they would get from the state, which then is transferred to weaker four-year institutions that have been losing students (ironically, those institutions have kvetched about proceeds from tuition hikes substituting for reductions in taxpayer subsidization). Generally speaking, with a shift to stronger entrance requirements at senior institutions and continuing increases in tuition that may price out some baccalaureate-and-above students and intended students, the proportion of students attending junior institutions in Louisiana has been on the climb over the past several years.


Misunderstanding poverty leads to bad housing policy

The conclusions drawn from a recent study of the Housing Voucher Choice program in Orleans Parish demonstrate that if you don’t understand why the world works as it does, not only can you not craft good policy, but also liberty becomes threatened.

The New Orleans Data Center published a report about the federal benefit more commonly known as “Section 8” housing. The program calculates a standard payment value representing what a local housing authority would define as a “moderately” priced home and offers eligible clients a chit worth that rate minus 30 percent of the family’s monthly adjusted income or gross rent minus monthly adjusted income. Landlords whose dwellings meet health and safety standards may rent to voucher holders, who can supplement the payment standards with any amount of their own money up to 40 percent of monthly adjusted income. As a result, landlords get a guaranteed income stream (for a minimum of a year at first) with a security deposit, and low-income renters get a break on housing with the money they save potentially going to better their positions in life. In New Orleans, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, for example, set the fiscal year 2015 standard payment for a two-bedroom home at $1,028.

The study in question looked at whether the vast expansion in Orleans Parish of voucher supply and usage after the hurricane disasters of 2005, when the public housing stock shrank over 90 percent, had the effect of diluting concentrations of poverty and, as race is associated with poverty, of racial segregation in housing patterns. It concluded that both had happened, but so moderately that program implementation had only had a marginal impact.


Bluff called, not time to retreat on LA film subsidies

Understand that the retreat of special interests wishing to siphon more tax dollars from citizens to make movies is not because of their generous and cooperative nature, but because the correlation of political forces continues to swing even more decisively against them.

After making a big show of threatened lawsuits against the state for changes to its Motion Picture Investors tax credit, last week the group representing filmmakers and ancillary entities announced they had dropped that strategy. The changes put a cap on how much in credits would be redeemable each year for the next three, and included other tightening of criteria to receive them that would diminish their availability and generally favor in-state efforts. The group asserted that suing essentially would make the film environment in state look unfavorable, which it wished not to encourage.

Yeah, right. It’s not the legal climate that has changed; as previously explained, the shills had a weak case from the start challenging the constitutionality of the new law, a threat which properly understood constituted a bluff. With this strategic alteration signaled, this proclamation and explanation serve as another bluff to try to magnify the power of an increasingly weak hand. The very fact that the group had to publicize the demise of a nonexistent suit shows an attempt to leverage power by trying to create the impression that it is discarding that plan in exchange for policy-maker compliance in changing the law essentially before the cap bites, in a way more favorable to the interests it represents. In others words, it’s trying hard to convince the political class that it’s the one with leverage and can call the tune.