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Legislature must fix consequences of bad Court ruling

In his headlong rush to buffalo legislators into unneeded tax increases, perhaps Gov. John Bel Edwards will take the time to include in an anticipated special session call a measure to correct, on two levels, a helpful constitutional amendment recently entirely gutted by the judiciary.

Last month, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled the provision that barred unpardoned felons from running for office for 15 years after the end of their sentences suffered from a drafting error that rendered it unconstitutional. Apparently, even as the Legislature in its Act 1492 of 1997 provided a provision that applied this attenuation only to individuals “actually under an order of imprisonment for conviction of a felony,” the secretary of state then mistakenly left that language off the ballot. A majority ruled the matter inseverable and junked the entire thing.

Ironically, when Prisoner #30609-034 challenged the ruling so as to run last fall for the state House, he never should have had standing in the first place since he, once known as state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, did not receive probation for his federal corruption conviction but imprisonment. Yet only Court of Appeals Judge (sitting as a Supreme Court substitute) John Michael Guidry had the temerity to call the court’s majority to that inconvenience.


Optimal LA higher education policy still elusive

Readers of the excellent series from The Advocate concerning higher education in Louisiana should draw as the major lesson from it that policy-makers must understand the nature and purpose of higher education before they can appropriately size and task it.

The several articles explode many myths previously uncovered in this space: that higher education has sustained severe cuts in revenues, tuition has climbed relatively too high, and that an overbuilt system increases access, among others. However, it does perpetuates one here and there, such as implying an extreme imbalance of user fees to taxpayer subsidies as in “taxpayers put up barely a quarter of the tab, leaving students and their families to cover most of the gap in the form of rising tuition and fees” to fund higher education; in fact, the fiscal year 2016 budget has self-generated money making up 51.6 percent of total funding, with not all of that tuition and fees and that figure barely above the national average.

More accurately, limiting the amount spent to just institutions with instructional programs, which includes Taylor Opportunity Programs for Students dollars but excludes Office of Student Financial Affairs money as state resources, and also excluding research institutes’ amounts, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office the self-generated revenue figure comes out to 63.2 percent. So if discussing money going to instructional-related activities, bearing in mind “self-generated” includes some portion not related to educational charges (such as the $10 million Louisiana State University kicked in from its insanely profitable football program), a good figure probably is 60 percent, not the near 75 percent policy-makers would have people believe.


Edwards still blundering in discarding House influence

How Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards continues to fumble through the early days of his term found its expression in sports this weekend when the Louisiana State University Tigers men’s basketball team after one time holding a big lead came up short against the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.

Pretend Edwards is LSU’s Tim Quarterman, former Speaker of the House candidate Republican Cameron Henry is OU’s likely Wooden Award winner for best college player Buddy Hield, Republican Speaker of the House Taylor Barras is OU’s Big 12 Conference blocks leader Khadeem Lattin, and the Republican House delegation (most of it) is OU’s Isaiah Cousins. In a tie game with only seconds left, the Sooners had the ball.

Hield went into the area near the Tiger basket while Cousins brought the ball up court. Hield, a very marked man, then broke away and carried his defender with him, freeing up space for Cousins to step in and hit a short jumper. With fewer than five seconds remaining, Quarterman raced the ball up the court and tried to fling a short bank shot to reestablish the tie, but Lattin had slid back and rejected it as time expired to seal the win.


I-49 connector, not loop, best for Shreveport

Last month, a series of public meetings gave Shreveport residents a chance to deliver input (and they still may do so online until Feb. 8 here) concerning the largest capital project in city history that will shape its contours for decades to come.

Until the past couple of years, consensus seemed to appear that the Interstate 49 connector would route through the heart of the city, the Allendale neighborhood (and a bit of Ledbetter Heights). But then some residents, nonprofit organizations operating in the area, and interests allied with them raised sufficient protest that authorities added a fifth option to the four that varied little in proximity. This one abandons the idea of going through the inner city and incorporates existing Louisiana Highway 3132 and Interstate 220 as the path to the southern end of existing I-49 at I-220.

Now the time has come to pick the final route, which requires another round of public input. Essentially, it has become a choice between the “loop,” which on it alone would require little in the way of construction and therefore not a great cost, or any of the other four alternatives, very similar to each other but would cost at least $300 million, displace a portion of the 4,000 or so people living in Allendale (down from over 16,000 in 1970) and a few businesses in an area that does not feature many to begin with (half of the property in the area is adjudicated), and go against the grain of recent nonprofit efforts and the city to build housing.