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Slidell ordinance promises to shape free speech law

The actions of Slidell may end up shaping First Amendment jurisprudence, as result of an ordinance it enacted requiring licensing for panhandling.

Interpretation regarding this area of law went topsy-turvy last year in the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert, which did not even involve panhandling. But the constitutional standard made in that case, dealing with signage, quickly became applied to a host of municipal ordinances that had prohibited various permutations of panhandling. In essence, almost all instances of panhandling acquired automatic non-neutrality in speech content, meaning that almost all regulation of it unjustifiably restricted freedom of speech.

A wide swath of challenged laws, often by a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, fell as a result. In response, Slidell abandoned its own ordinances restricting the prevalence and venue of the practice and instead turned to licensing, an approach that then had no challenge in the few places with something similar. The ordinance requires that 48 hours prior to commencing of begging that prospective solicitors obtain a free annual license that aims to provide some kind of positive identification of the holder. Information gathered for that purpose the city may use to conduct background checks.


TOPS gap makes govt, students more responsible

While current students receiving Taylor Opportunity Program for Students award got a curveball thrown at them this year, in the long run future students and taxpayers will benefit from the state’s failure to fund the program fully.

The decision by policy-makers to cover only about 93 percent of tuition due for this year and only around 41 percent for the remainder of the academic year caused consternation, but many of the state’s senior institutions found ways to mitigate costs for some or all of their award recipients. In some cases, this meant dipping into university monies or receiving one-time gifts from benefactors that clearly serve only as stopgap measures.

However, it’s on the student end of things where the shortfall can assist both them and the citizenry as well as make the program run more efficiently. Technically, applicants must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as part of the process, where any no-cost aid a student receives from the federal government offsets TOPS dollars.


Candidates of varying appeal test treasurer waters

With state Treas. John Kennedy ascending to the U.S. Senate at the start of next month, the job he has held for 17 years comes open. Since now it has catapulted upwards its last two occupants who won reelection to it, ambitious politicians reasonably view it as a stepping stone to higher office, attracting a number who have voiced consideration for the job.

But as a state whose population votes center-right ideologically, the electorate would prefer certain candidates over others. Even though the job itself provides little room for policy-making, featuring largely technocratic and arcane functions to most voters, because it can act as a launching pad to higher, more issue-driven positions, candidates who stake out issue preferences on fiscal matters appealing to conservatives have every incentive to publicize these and force the election to play out in this territory.

This makes certain candidates more acceptable than others: those who have conservative fiscal ideas and can demonstrate at least minor expertise in the area of the treasurer’s job functions (not that Kennedy had a lot of this background before his election, and prior to the guy he beat former Sen. Mary Landrieu held the job, who had zero qualifications on this account). Thus, listed below in order of acceptability to conservatives are major figures not fairly unlikely to run.


Edwards unable to afford hyper-politicized agency

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards threw overboard outgoing Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Charlie Melancon because the latter’s use as a political instrument became too costly to the former’s political future.

Last week, Edwards announced the departure of Melancon after less than a year on the job. Melancon latter clarified, saying he had been dismissed but would stay on the job until completion of an audit of past agency practices.

Melancon’s stormy tenure included shilling for national Democrat interests in fisheries policy against the will of all other Gulf states and congressional majorities, aligning himself with commercial fishing interests against recreational users, firing an apparent whistleblower that came forward concerning unseemly management practices that earned him a law suit, and feuding with the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, the other part of the duopoly that runs the department. The audit also had overtones of politicization, perhaps as a method to subjugate the agency and Commission that clearly have resisted Edwards’ influence in the department.