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Next session offers big chance to reduce crime

The next special session this year of the Louisiana Legislature, dealing with justice matters with a bit of monetary matters thrown in, promises to be remarkable both in successful coverage of a governor’s intent and setting the stage to achieve a policy goal of crime reduction.

Last week, Republican Gov. Jeff Landry issued the call of two dozen items, and with four days to go before commencement of the meetup that could go as long as 17 days possibly ending only five days before the start of the regular session – leaving several days still realistically for introduction of bills – prefiled bills covered nearly all of these. The two biggest omissions at present were the most complicated, dealing with surplus money accumulating for this fiscal year, and the most controversial, reapportionment of state Supreme Court districts.

Just about everything else had been addressed by bills with one or more items, with a few bills offering complementary approaches on the same subject. Clearly Landry had consulted with legislative and other allies on the content of his call, given this response, of items designed to increase punishment of more guilty parties in a greater age range with increased transparency.


Landry offers welcome change in budgeting

Republican Gov. Jeff Landry produced a solid budget request for Louisiana, in a refreshing change of pace one designed to live within the state’s means rather than as an instrument to grow government.

Overall, the budget envisions slightly lower spending, although about two-thirds of that fall is driven by reductions in federal dollars as the debt binge used to hose down states with money dries up. Much of the rest comes from a decline in statutory dedication receipts, with very nominal decreases in the general fund and self-generated funds. In these cases, the revenue sources that fell largely are tied into economic activity at first overstimulated by the enormous increase in federal spending then sapped by the resulting sagging economy slowly slipping into recession.

Thus, Landry and budget architect Commissioner of Administration Taylor Barras concentrated on slicing spending tied to temporary initiatives or bonuses. For example, higher education received about a $100 million cut, but that mostly came from non-recurring spending outside of the funding formula disappearing. In almost all instances spending will continue at around standstill levels.


For now, LA legislative map decision does little

There’s much less to the eye regarding the ultimate impact of the decision recently rendered in Nairne v. Landry than the possibility this case eventually could upend reapportionment jurisprudence very much in the opposite direction of the ruling.

The case involves reapportionment of Louisiana’s legislative districts after the 2020 census, involving plaintiffs similar to those in the winding-down case regarding reapportionment of its congressional districts. In that other case, the same Middle District of Louisiana Judge Shelly Dick ruled an expansive reading of Title 2 of the Voting Rights Act that gives race (given certain circumstances) preference over other traditional principles of reapportionment (absent compelling circumstances), essentially sidestepping the text of the law that says it does not normally confer proportional representation of racial minorities in a state.

In ruling that the state had to draw a map with two of six black majority-minority districts because about a third of the population identified as black, which impelled the Legislature to do precisely that although its product almost certainly is constitutionally defective because in order to do that race took on a dominant role in making the map, Dick applied the same rubric to legislative districts. The legal backing for this she derived from a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that affirmed custom over the past six decades and an expanded view of the VRA language as developed through past court cases allowed for elevating the place of race.


Officials wisely eschew problematic new welfare

Louisianans should thank a couple of senior officials, one who’s been on the job awhile and the other a newcomer, for saving the state many millions of dollars, from excess bureaucracy, and from disincentives to self-sufficiency.

Last week, new Department of Children and Family Services Sec. David Matlock confirmed the state wouldn’t take part in the new Summer EBT program sponsored by the federal government, Essentially, the new program – born from the pandemic era as an additional direct cash benefit – extends the school meal programs designed to help lower-income families into the summer when school isn’t in session, although a parallel program already exists doing the same in pickup or congregate fashion. It would provide $40 per child for three months.

While many states accepted this welfare expansion, some have turned it down, and Matlock’s explanation tracks these reasons given by others. He pointed out the large amount, about 28 times the dollars turned down, that the state distributes in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program money almost half of which goes to children (very generously which almost entirely overlaps the Summer EBT intended audience; for example, paying for a family of two qualifying for the new program $535 a month).


BC review panel signals moves on term limits

The term limits issue in Bossier City elections took interesting turns this past week that will impact what voters see on the ballot the remainder of the year and reveals the high stakes involved for the parish’s political establishment.

Last week, the city’s Charter Review Commission met mainly to go over more preliminaries about input into its task, but sparks flew when the term limits subject came up. The four appointees by Republican Mayor Tommy Chandler and Republican Councilors Chris Smith and Brian Hammons at various points have signaled they want to see the recommendations forwarded include a term limits measure.

Up until then, the assumption had been the commission – voted into existence by all councilors except Hammons and Smith and excepting that pair multiple times voted against placing a certified petition under the city charter, and in violation of it, to establish a lifetime three-term limit to elected officials retroactively applied that would have disqualified four of the five from running in 2025 – was a vehicle to head off meaningful term limits in the immediate future either by recommending a weak substitute or by pairing a measure with such an unpopular measure, as consideration comes as a package deal, that would send it to defeat. The other five appointees represent the anti-term limits councilors – Republicans David Montgomery, Jeff Free and Vince Maggio; Democrat Bubba Williams, and no party Jeff Darby.