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Much room for LSU free speech improvement

It’s bad enough that, overall, the most popular universities in America don’t fare well on their commitment to free speech. Worse still for Louisianans, Louisiana State University scores close to the bottom of them all.

RealClearEducation, part of the complex of websites best known for its flagship RealClearPolitics, along with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and College Pulse, has created an index called the College Free Speech Rankings. The former advocates and litigates for robust free expression policies on campuses, while the latter collects data online and provides analysis of student opinion.

The rankings accumulate data from five different areas, most of which comes from student perceptions about a school’s openness, tolerance, administrative support, and comfort with self-expression. Mixed into that is FIRE’s Spotlight Database, which evaluates schools on their policies’ fidelity to First Amendment jurisprudence.


Panel shows full-frontal cowardice, hypocrisy

In fewer than 15 minutes, Louisianans were treated to full-frontal political cowardice and hypocrisy at yesterday’s Revenue Estimating Conference meeting.

That gathering came after the REC punted during its previous meeting last week its duty concerning the state’s unemployment trust fund. R.S. 23:1474 requires that the REC, between Sep. 5 and 30, project the balance of the fund for the beginning of next September. In doing so, it is to “consider all information, including projections and information from the United States and state departments of labor, in its analysis for [the] official projection.”

The determination affects what rates employers must pay and maximum benefit amounts payable to unemployment insurance recipients for next calendar year. If the fund has below $750 million, the former increases and the latter decreases for 2021.


Edwards mess grows with invalid decree

Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has moved onto a new section of his party’s playbook. Not only does his policy create a problem that he proposes to solve by doing more of the same, but also he now has taken to proposing for it unconstitutional solutions.

During the budget process, Edwards acted as if the state’s unemployment trust fund wasn’t hemorrhaging its balance. The Wuhan coronavirus pandemic brought a retrenchment in economic activity worse than any other state’s, with a dramatic increase in the state’s unemployment rolls. Although federal policy encouraged this to an extent, Congress compensated somewhat in its CARES Act by allowing the state to use as much of the $1.8 billion gift as it wanted to replenish the fund.

Instead, Edwards asked for not a cent of its use for this purpose and plowed much of CARES Act money into inflating general fund spending by $600 million this year. Regrettably, the Legislature went along but it had more foresight to include $275 million in grant relief for small businesses. This would diminish the drain on the fund by allowing more businesses to stay open and thereby employ more people that additionally would boost the fund with payroll taxes being collected.


Bossier City taxpayers aided, betrayed

Accountability kept Bossier City in line with taxpayer interests. Lack of it led the Cypress-Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District to betray them.

Last week, the Bossier City Council met to deal with the city’s property tax millages in the wake of reassessment. The statewide version that occurs every presidential election year requires that local government entities adjust their rates in response to that so that the total amount paid in from that action remains the same, either down (if values increase) or up (if values decrease). However, in another subsequent vote (or proclamation, in the case of single executives that solely helm a government), any rate below the maximum allowed may be adopted, although increasing the adjusted rates (termed a “roll forward”) require a two-thirds supermajority to enact.

The city had courted controversy a month earlier when a ballot item to renew one of the three taxes subject to elections (the fourth doesn’t require one and lasts into perpetuity, as permitted by the Constitution) asked voters to increase the maximum allowed over the previous 6 mill rate to 6.19 mills. Because of a reassessment that showed a decrease four years earlier, the Council took the opportunity to jack taxes up then, and convinced enough voters to ratify that increase in that election.


Mistake to let LA govts borrow to operate

At least one bad precedent was set at the last Louisiana State Bond Commission meeting, and hopefully legislators will act so more won’t follow.

Most of the panel’s business, comprised of most statewide elected officials, select legislators, and the commissioner of administration, involves allowing local governmental units to issue debt for capital expenditures, approving of election items to fund these, and permitting units to issue short-term debt for operating expenses backed by highly predictable revenue streams, such as a property tax. But at last week’s meeting, it veered off into controversial, if not dangerous for taxpayers, territory.

It approved a request by the Lafayette Parish Convention and Visitors Commission to issue 10-year notes totaling $1 million for continuing operations. Calling it “emergency financing” due to the economic dropoff born of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, the quasi-public agency said it needed the money for “continuity of essential government functions.” It said it would need funds by the beginning of next month, having already seen nearly $600,000 fewer in revenues for the year to date and expected a forecast revenue loss even higher over the next 12 months.