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Legislature must stop backdoor censorship

A recent court decision threatens freedom of speech and assembly at the local level in Louisiana and thereby demands that the Legislature act as soon as possible to rectify.

Last week, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a group that wanted to participate in a 2015 Christmas parade in Natchitoches. Authorities barred the state’s Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter from marching while displaying the Confederate battle flag.

The three-judge panel ruled that city authorities weren’t policy-makers on this matter. Not long before the parade, the city voluntarily had turned over parade administration to a local nonprofit group. The group placed the restriction on the SCV, over which city policy-makers had no control the court decided. However, the mayor did ask the group to impose the restriction, which the group had not thought to do otherwise.


Film giveaway to pressure further LA budget

You might think the halt in television and film production in Louisiana caused by economic restrictions wrought by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic might save the state a lot of money. If only that were a silver lining from the budgetary devastation the virus has caused.

Louisiana’s Motion Picture Production Tax credit loses the state a lot money annually. Every two years, the state legally audits the giveaway, which on in-state production can kick back from 25 to 40 percent of costs, subject to certain minimums and screenplay or personnel caps, up to a total across all ventures of $150 million annually in first-come, first-serve fashion. The last report, covering 2017 and 2018, showed that in 2018 it returned only 19 cents on the dollar to state taxpayers, with another 17 cents going to local governments fortunate enough to host productions. In 2018, that meant state taxpayers shelled out a net $120 million future loss (future because credits issued on that spending can be redeemed indefinitely, creating a long-term liability).

In fact, that report showed taxpayers benefited from legal changes in force from 2015-17 that discouraged producers from raiding the treasury. In 2017, the state certified only $113 million in credits, but with the relaxing 2017 changes that figure increased to near the maximum at $148 million. Future years were predicted to hit the cap.


Stuck pig Walker squeals on Bossier tax hike

Stuck pigs squeal, which is why a lot of oinking came from Republican Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker over a tax increase he wants voters to ratify on Aug. 15.

Monday, Walker took to the airwaves to explain how the city’s request for voters to authorize starting next year a 6.19 mill property tax dedicated to public safety operations for the next decade really wasn’t an increase over the current 6 mills set to expire this year. The feat to deny the ballot item’s actual wording that it “represent[s] a nineteen hundredths (.19) of a mill increase over the 6 mills authorized” currently involved some misdirection, blame-shifting, and a subordinate’s handy prop.

To understand his argument as it is, which doesn’t quite mesh with how he wanted it to appear, it’s necessary to review the legal arcaneness of Louisiana property taxation. When citizens pass a property tax dedicated to government operations of some kind, the amount becomes a ceiling on what the government can charge. It doesn’t have to levy all of it; every year, governments have the option – in Bossier City’s case, by ordinance – to set rates anywhere up to that maximum, which normally equals the amount approved by voters.


Never any reason for weaker LA election rules

No elections emergency ever existed in Louisiana, nor will one exist this fall, that justifies weakened election rules.

When the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic descended upon Louisiana this spring, a combination of panic and opportunism gripped elected officials in charge of elections. Those who panicked foresaw voting locations for April and May elections becoming a miasma of the virus, inevitably pouncing on the vulnerable who showed up to exercise the franchise. The opportunists saw the environment as a doorway to relax procedures, whether it encouraged illegal voting, that could bring partisan advantage favoring their interests.

Thus, without an entirely convincing rationale, these elections were postponed first for about two months, then another. In the meantime, Republican Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin, backed by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, presented a deeply flawed plan to alter procedures for the pair of low-stimulus affairs. When the appropriate legislative panels rejected those temporary rules, he came back with a less-flawed plan that unwisely won acceptance. The rescheduled to Jul. 11 elections operated under these, as will the rescheduled to Aug. 15 set.


Edwards blames you for his policy inadequacy

It’s you, not him, who deserves blame for Louisiana’s worst-in-the-nation Wuhan coronavirus pandemic response, according to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

In his latest attempt simultaneously to avoid taking responsibility for and to drag out needlessly the state’s sorry policy reaction to the pandemic, last week Edwards said he would keep in place for at least two weeks proclamations that had reduced the size of gatherings to 50, closed bars even with food service permits (unless they have video poker machines) for anything on premises, and mandated face coverings. At week’s close, Louisiana ranked second in cases per capita (Edwards erroneously claimed the state had the most), ranked fourth in current hospitalizations per capita, and sixth in mortality per capita. Only Georgia, which held down, respectively, first, first, and eighth places, rivals Louisiana in pandemic severity at this time.

The reason, said Edwards, is you. Enough of you don’t wear your masks enough to let the state register improved metrics and then move towards more economic openness. And maybe those nasty Republicans had something to do with it, one of his functionaries last month charged, saying that Edwards had resisted imposing this kind of restriction previously because of “political considerations.” Mainly GOP politicians have led the public fight against a heavy-handed state response that included a mask mandate.