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Eliminate, don't expand, LA hate crime protections

Louisiana lawmakers should want to create disincentives to attack first responders. But it won’t work using the flawed concept of “hate” crimes legislation.

HB 953 by state Rep. Lance Harris would add to the list of hate crimes already in statute law enforcement officers (including retirees), firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel, including people not of these professions but whom attackers believe them to be. In state law, the hate crime concept adds extra penalties when victim selection for a number of serious crimes comes from some characteristic imputed towards the individual.

However, the concept itself seriously threatens personal liberty and empowers the state beyond legitimate needs. It introduces the notion that certain thoughts and motives become criminal when acted upon in addition to the inherent immorality of the act itself. That might make philosophical sense if violent acts disregarding motives received no punishment under the criminal code, so only motive counted in assessing the criminality of the act; thus, punishable acts only would emanate from impure motives, while acts from other motivations receive a pass.


Booze livens up Bossier City mayor's race

In the big small town known as Bossier City, booze keeps washing over mayoral politics, almost a year out from municipal elections.

Last month, Mayor Lo Walker ran into controversy when at first the city would not terminate an employee found to have alcohol in his system, but below the legal level of intoxication, after an accident on a city-owned vehicle while on the job. The employee claimed he had not drank on the clock, meaning he must have experienced quite a bender the night before.

City policy did not dictate the automatic firing of employees under those circumstances, a policy initially defended by Walker who claimed the guy on the job for two months was a “good employee” and did not deserve an ignominious end to his brief tenure. But when Bossier City Councilman Bubba Williams introduced an ordinance that would introduce a zero-tolerance policy to seemingly-receptive colleagues, Walker backtracked and canned the partier as part of a reinstitution of zero tolerance.


GOP House members wisely solicit order clarity

Necessary questions asked about a recent executive order issued by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards should prove useful in keeping Louisiana adhering to the rule of law.

Executive order JBE 16-11 promulgated last month mostly reinstates a much older order that “[a]ll state agencies, departments, offices, commissions, boards, entities, or officers of the state of Louisiana” shall not “harass or discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation or disabilities” in the provision of services, in personnel practices, in contracting, and that contractors must do the same. Also mirroring the past order, this one mandates cooperation from “any political subdivision” in Louisiana. It differs from the past one in that it specifies two additional protected classes, “age” and “gender identity.”

In response, a number of Republicans from the House of Representative petitioned Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry to review unclear aspects of the order, both of those parts copying the older version and the newly introduced protected classes. Legislators may make such a request on an aspect of state law, and in this instance they ask several good questions about how the order impacts how several parts of government may carry out their constitutional and statutory duties. The opinion issued serves as the definitive interpretation of the law until such time the Legislature enacts or a judicial organ rules something different.


House must not discard winning hand on LA budget

The breathless reporting occurring over Louisiana’s fiscal year 2017 budget seemed to lose sight of what Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration functionaries alleged as a $600 million deficit compared to a standstill FY 2016 budget that went to zero with only one main area of contention.

At the end of last week Louisiana’s House of Representatives delivered a budget where the only controversy came over supplying just 76 percent of the projected funding for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students program that otherwise would pay tuition for any high school student with mediocre scholastic achievement to attend college. That $72 million shortfall under current law means that to qualify for TOPS only students with decent-to-good performance on the American College Test would have taxpayers foot their tuition bills.

Meaning that the other $528 million supposedly so vital for the health and safety of Louisianans found resolution. About $100 million of that would come through a funds sweep redirecting fee proceeds into funding programs not tied to those fees, but the remainder came out of operating budgets of a large cross-section of bureaucratic agencies. And it came with resounding support of House members: only three of 41 Democrats voted against it, with 14 Republicans of 61 actually against it.