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Donation destinations explain LSU kerfuffle

The kerfuffle over Louisiana State University’s new luxurious football locker room and by the school’s new athletic director signaling a subsidy elimination says less about the school’s priorities than it indicates public attitudes about higher education.

Some observers seemed aghast that $28 million in private donations specifically for athletics would go to such a palatial setup, lamenting that the school couldn’t pony up similar dollars for its academic pursuits. A few days later, Athletic Director Scott Woodward said his department potentially would reduce, if not eliminate its annual subsidization, of school academics when he noted a reevaluation of the policy was on the way. In an arrangement almost unique in academia, among a handful of schools where athletics makes a surplus, LSU athletics has given the academic side an average recently of $10 million annually.

This possible policy shift could have developed from a federal tax change that took place last year with the ending of tax deductibility of seat licensing, from which LSU athletic foundations have received huge sums now partially dried up. But likely there’s another reason as well, as articulated by Woodward: “In both places [where Woodward worked previously, Texas A&M and Washington], on average they give 1.5 times more to the academic side. I’m sure that’s the case here.”


Time to put teeth in car leasing ethics law

It seems a Shreveport television station has stumbled upon a well-known loophole in Louisiana’s campaign finance law. It’s a reminder that legislation needs to fix this.

Trawling through campaign finance reports of state legislators, a reporter discovered that four legislators use campaign finance funds to lease vehicles. One, House Speaker Taylor Barras, presents something of a surprise given his above-the-board reputation, but perhaps no other legislator has a greater claim on doing something like this given the duties of the speaker that require much far-flung automobile travel.

The other three should come as no surprise. Senate Pres. John Alario has a long history of playing fast and loose with this law. Despite his running an accounting firm and having sat in the Legislature almost a half-century and seeing every meaningful campaign finance law enacted in that period, Alario’s campaign has been plagued by at best shoddy, at worst illegal reporting of contributions and expenditures. In fact, his campaign finance habits have drawn Federal Bureau of Investigation scrutiny, although for reasons unknown that seems to have stalled.


Edwards to adopt 3 Wise Monkeys posture

Should Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards join some of his party’s counterparts in worrying about the far left policies trumpeted by its presidential candidates? Not if he adopts the Three Wise Monkeys posture.

Some Democrats in their state’s highest office do worry about how the extremist preferences on a multitude of issues including health care, immigration, abortion, and restructuring the American economy will reflect upon their own fates. Recently, New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo, and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer all voiced concern that campaigning for the party’s 2020 nomination, in the words of Grisham, “scares people.”

Raimondo is way underwater with the latest poll putting her at 38 percent approval. Grisham may join her, as at 44 percent that approval barely outdistances disapproval of her. Whitman has a bit more peace of mind, for while at 44 percent approval as well her disapproval is ten points lower. For his part, Edwards enjoys 47 percent approval compared to 34 percent disapproval – numbers indicating not a shoe-in for reelection, but with a decent chance. While almost no one who disapproves of a governor’s performance will vote for him, some who express approval will defect to challengers who they see as potentially better.


NW LA taxpayers set to lose more

One northwest Louisiana entertainment institution faces another threat to its continued existence despite taxpayer assistance. Another seems poised to magnify its drain on taxpayers unless wiser heads prevail.

The summer hasn’t been kind to Shreveport’s Independence Bowl or Bossier City’s (for now called) CenturyLink Center. In June, the former received news that the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conferences would drop their affiliations with it starting after this year. In July, the latter found out that its arena’s eponymous corporation would cancel the deal for naming rights next year (which means, if past practice applies, the city will have to change the name of the street it’s on.)

The SEC tie-in was crucial to the game’s health, now the eleventh longest-running such postseason matchup. The closer a participating school’s fan base, the better ticket sales will be. The ACC’s closest campus was farther away that he majority of SEC schools, but at least it fulfilled its quota every year for the past several which the SEC couldn’t always do.


Blueprint LA 3.0, or doomed to failure?

Blueprint Louisiana 3.0? Or back on the ash heap?

Last week, three interest groups that focus on state government policy – the Committee for a Better Louisiana, the Committee of One Hundred, and the Public Affairs Research Councilintroduced an initiative called Reset Louisiana. This agenda addresses four general areas – criminal justice/public safety, education, state finances, and transportation/infrastructure – concluding with recommendations for state policy-makers to follow when they enter or return to office next year after this fall’s elections.

In a way, this echoes the effort of the now largely moribund group Blueprint Louisiana. In 2007 it concocted a cocktail of policy preferences that it asked state office candidates to endorse. As always, candidates want their candidacies to live or die on their own issues, so few prominent and/or ultimately successful candidates did so, and not much of what the agenda advocated came up for policy-maker discussion, much less was adopted.