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TOPS changes continue going the wrong way

An issue the Louisiana Legislature continues to address poorly a House of Representatives panel this week kept that pattern going.

Yesterday, the House Education Committee passed along HB 399 by state Rep. Gary Carter. It would alter, whenever the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students did not receive full appropriation, the present across-the-board reduction algorithm. Instead, higher-achieving students, defined as those earning the top two categories, would receive no cuts although losing their extra stipends while the remainder would keep theirs only if their families had annual incomes below around $50,000, although they could recoup some from Pell Grants.

Speaking against it, James Caillier of the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation said the change would subvert the merit-based principle of the idea. Before the state took it over, the Foundation distributed awards on the basis of merit, although to lower-income students.


Democrats trying to subvert efficient LA govt

It’s now clear: Louisiana Democrats don’t want fiscal reform because it reduces their chances of propping up big government.

For years, policy-makers have lamented the straitjacketed nature of the state’s fiscal system. With nearly 400 different constitutional and statutory dedications, relatively little in the way of discretionary revenues exists. That makes the areas of health care, higher education, and corrections rely heavily on these dollars and unprotected when general income, sales, or excise tax revenue falls, thus disproportionately making that kind of spending vulnerable to cuts.

While a small number of dedications channel a large chunk of nondiscretionary bucks – perhaps the Minimum Foundation Program serving as the best example, creating the single largest expense in state government at around $3 billion – the many smaller ones do add up to hundreds of millions of dollars. And among these, no objective observer would dare to argue that a handful of them at best should have greater priority over those three larger concerns.


LA Legislature should push Schedler out the door

Refreshed embarrassment has come the way of Louisiana’s Republican Sec. of State Tom Schedler, and perhaps it’s more appropriate that he be ushered out the door rather than hoping he’ll do it himself anytime soon.

Last week, the Baton Rouge Advocate got ahold of cards sent from Schedler to and email messages between him and his former executive secretary, who has filed suit against him for sexual harassment. It had submitted a public records request for these, but according to it these arrived with redacted key passages that could shed light on the relationship. However, it also obtained unredacted versions, which, in the words of its editorialist, showed “a pattern of lewd and embarrassing language by one of the state’s top elected officials” that displayed “a powerful public official making sex jokes and tasteless propositions on agency time.”

The snippet placed online by The Advocate, spanning just months, doesn’t reveal that egregious of communication, but I’m confident it wouldn’t have described the nature of the entire set of conversations errantly. (For readers otherwise unfamiliar with this, I am a weekly columnist for it.) And its stories about the release of these and reporting on an interview the former employee gave proved convincing enough for a very high-profile Republican, Sen. John Kennedy, to add his voice in calling for Schedler’s immediate resignation.