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Good ESA bills expose LA's big govt hypocrites

If trying to make seismic policy changes, you can’t do it all at once, but where you can start in one instance has brought a bonus of exposing the hypocrisy of the opposition.

Over the past two weeks, the Louisiana House of Representatives has made notable progress in expanding educational choice for deserving families. Last week, it passed on to the Senate HB 33 by Republican state Rep. Phillip Devillier, which establishes education savings accounts (ESA) for children of military families, those in foster care, and students attending D- or F-rated schools that have been denied a transfer to higher-rated schools. ESAs would take an amount equal to the state's average per-pupil allocation as provided in the Minimum Foundation Program formula, considering all student characteristics, and set them aside for family use in education at a qualifying nonpublic school.

Presenting this opportunity to these families seems appropriate. Children with a parent actively serve in the military and in foster families often have to switch schools frequently and can benefit from the extra flexibility the ESA provides. Children who otherwise may qualify for transfer out of poorer-performing schools but who can’t find space at another public school also would have increased options for a better education.


Strain's climate alarmism raises questions

Unless he wises up, if Republican Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain keeps talking about climate change as he did earlier this week, he’s begging to forfeit reelection.

Earlier this week in remarks to the media, Strain addressed this subject. Bidding to make the most obvious statement in the world, he noted, “Climate change is real,” and for the most part it went downhill from there.

Perhaps nobody in the world believes the climate will be static until doomsday, so he really went out on a limb there. Where the debate commences is the role of human activity in that. There’s a lot of bad science on the topic, and where there’s quality its conclusions typically are warped by the media and special interests to serve a political agenda. Best we know is there is a lot we don’t know, but that human activity may or may not significantly affect climate, and even if so, other natural factors that we don’t have the technology to affect almost certainly are far more important drivers of it.


LA must restart trimming burdensome licensing

It’s a great first step, but as longtime observers of Louisiana oversaturated occupational licensing regime have advocated, more needs doing to cut the red tape and bureaucracy plaguing entrepreneurs posed by the state’s tradition of overly aggressive and needless requirements on professions.

Monday, a Louisiana House panel passed to the floor two bills that will ease this regulatory burden at least slightly. HB 639 by Republican state Rep. Thomas Pressly would allow previously incarcerated individuals the chance to petition licensing boards before attending school or training to determine if a past conviction disqualifies them from obtaining a license. HB 597, now HB 1062 by substitute, by Democrat state Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman would allow individuals to request a review of a regulation from an occupational licensing board to ensure the regulation is the least restrictive method of regulating the occupation.

Both bills try to cut down on the unnecessary hoops to work a trade in the state. HB 639 would prevent situations where somebody spends time and money to train for something and then doesn’t get surprised by a licensing regulation to pursue that trade that excludes ex-convicts. Even more helpfully, it sets up a challenge process that would force licensing boards to justify why a conviction matters and what went into making that determination. Publicizing this could lead to dismantling such requirements where they don’t appear necessary.


Genuine criminal justice reform merits enactment

Now more than ever, changes fronted by Republican state Sen. Jay Morris need to correct mistakes made in the name of criminal justice reform as well as tackle a newer phenomenon threatening public safety.

Five years ago began changes Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards spurred the Legislature to agree upon in the criminal justice system such as reducing sentences, different sentencing, and increased eligibility for release on a periodic (for work release) or permanent basis in the name of cost savings. With fewer people imprisoned and some of the money otherwise spent on that diverted to other programs that supposedly would reduce recidivism, this reputedly “smarter” approach to crime was sold as a way to lower imprisonment numbers, crime rates, and save money all at once.

Half a decade later, evidence on the cost side at least casts doubt on that proposition. The emptying of jails, where in the past local jailers housed roughly half of the state inmate population, hit some sheriffs’ bottom lines hard so they couldn’t cover costs for the larger and newer jails they had built to help incarcerate state prisoners at the previous higher levels, so legislators bumped up the daily rate paid $2 to $26.39 per prisoner. This wiped out the “savings” going back into state coffers.


Dubious bills push LA towards more toking up

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards might be all right with letting biological males prance around female locker rooms, and the former U.S. Army officer may frown upon allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms without government permission, but despite this he’s the Louisiana politician willing to stand up to Big Ganja?

Louisiana legislators seem determined to rush headlong into all but legalizing marijuana use by making medical herb so widespread and easily available in even the most detrimental and least understood forms. A House of Representatives panel last week advanced several measures that cumulatively accomplish this, despite the fact that medical research consistently has demonstrated few effective medical uses for grass, with the most recent research only compounding that trend as well as noting more definitively undesirable spillover effects, including that medical marijuana use may increase risky use of opioids. Indeed, even the nebulous claim that its use reduces pain has come under serious question.

Yet the state has flung itself into permitting its use in any form for any malady, the charge led by legislators who appear ignorant of the science and would rather rely on selective anecdotal evidence to guide their actions on this issue. Their big move this term has focused on creating more pushers, through a myriad of bills that would create more dispensaries, allow more “recommenders,” deal to out-of-state residents looking to take a hit, and even would demand curb service delivery to users.