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Legislators whiff on patronage program reform

Give Republican state Sen. Dan Claitor credit for figuring it out. But that still didn’t make a difference in the final outcome.

Claitor saw his SB 183 go down in flames yesterday. The bill would have reined in the expansive Tulane Legislative Scholarship program (a separate one exists for the mayor of New Orleans), which allows legislators to pick essentially anyone except themselves, including business partners, friends, relatives (except for children, although this isn’t written into law), and donors and their families, to attend Tulane University tuition-free (these deals from 1884 allowed Tulane to separate itself from the state to become a private university and granted it property tax-free status in Orleans Parish).

Over the decades, a number of students related to elected officials, lobbyists, and donors have received this largesse. Even though Tulane has implemented programs that permit legislators to have the university make the decision, only a few Jefferson Parish legislators on occasion have defaulted to that. Others have set up their own imprecise procedures that inject some merit rating to applicants, but the vast majority of selections come down to who knows who and/or who’s asking.


Zealotry ignores science in CAGW screed

Louisiana environmentalists’ version of Crazy Uncle Joe Biden, Crazy Uncle Bob Marshall, has gone Chicken Little on us again.

Like Biden in the world of politics, the former outdoors reporter Marshall when addressing environmental issues has a habit not only of making embarrassingly foolish statements, but also doing so comically in such a hyperventilating, spleen-venting way that makes one wonder whether he passes out at the keyboard when typing his screeds.

He treated readers at his former employer to another such example when he reported on updates to storm surge maps issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center. These show that a terrifically large hurricane could push enough water to inundate Baton Rouge, and smaller ones could flood the north shore, Cajun and bayou countries, the southwest part of the state, and even Baton Rouge’s suburban parishes.


LA criminal justice changes may prove draining

Advocates of criminal justice changes in Louisiana pitched that it would save the state money. In fact, it may cost taxpayers more.

That well could happen if the Legislature passes HB 551 by state Rep. Katrina Jackson. The bill would increase the amount paid by the state to local jails for housing its prisoners from $24.49 to $28.49. As the state sends (as of the end of 2018) over half of its inmates to local lockups, this would jack up taxpayer costs around $97 million over the next five years. It passed its initial test, a House committee, with no votes against.

This contrasts with dollars saved from changes designed to reduced the prison population. Computed at around $13 million for the past fiscal year – the first under the changes – state officials think the amount will reach about $15 million for this fiscal year.


Wrong claims to abolish death penalty persist

A new legislative year brings the same old inadequate arguments to ban capital punishment in Louisiana, although with one new wrinkle for Catholics.

Two bills filed for the regular legislative session seek to eliminate the death penalty, and in support of these the Most Rev. Shelton Fabre, Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux, sums up the usual arguments against the practice in an opinion column. Fabre is no stranger to this issue, having taken the point on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops efforts to combat racism that has given him opportunities to assert, as he did in the piece, that prejudicial application of the death penalty presents a reason to reject the practice.

Specifically, he notes “Nearly 70 percent of the people on Louisiana’s death row are people of color, the highest percentage of any state with more than three people on death row. In one study of Louisiana’s system, the chances of a death sentence were 97 percent higher for defendants whose victim was white than for defendants whose victim was black. Louisianans should not stand for this prejudice.”


Senate looks to provide Edwards more cover

Get ready for another Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards two-step to try to fool voters.

HB 258 by Republican state Rep. Nick Muscarello would keep confidential information about parties involved in carrying out a capital sentence. In particular, it would shield from public records the data regarding providers of drugs pursuant to lethal injection.

Over the past several years, manufacturers and pharmacies have grown skittish over making these sales to states. Activists ignorant of or unwilling to acknowledge that regular executions of those sentenced to death deters violent crime and saves lives have engaged in a publicity campaign highlighting those vendors role in carrying out lethal injection, and with suppliers involved wishing to avoid a spotlight that could have a negative impact on their sales of any product, the drugs have become hard to come by. Some states have enacted similar laws to prevent this intimidation, with Louisiana officials conceding this negativity has contributed to Louisiana’s nearly decade-long moratorium on executions.