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Convention as envisioned good but tricky

If kept within the intended parameters, the (very) limited constitutional convention envisioned by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry and legislative supporters best should happen this summer.

HB 800 by GOP state Rep. Beau Beaullieu would convene the conclave in the middle of May and give its two months duration, composed of legislators plus 27 selections made by Landry. It would be limited only to removal of parts of the existing document, adhering to an argument that its size and ensuing inflexibility needs paring to increase legislative policy options that can address state needs. The idea would be to jettison sections that then could be teed up to become statute, if not altered or ignored, with the changed document if approved by voters later this year to become effective in 2025.

Skepticism is warranted over the convention’s composition, of elected officials and political appointees. One reason why fiscal reform is so difficult and needed in Louisiana is the straitjacket made by the Constitution, but that’s something many elected officials don’t really mind. Its inflexibility gives them an excuse from making hard decisions in raising revenue and allocating it. The state never has had a revenue problem, but a spending problem in part because officials point to the Constitution and claim they have to spend money in certain ways, thus they declare themselves not responsible when more important things capture less funding and low priority items get too much, or revenues are raised in inefficient ways.


More evidence of Edwards' dark days receding

Rightly the negative legacy of Democrat former Gov. John Bel Edwards for the most part continues to slip into the sea, as the latest sign confirming the ruinous nature of Edwards’ regime reveals.

Last month, S&P Global Ratings raised Louisiana’s bond rating a notch. It now sits at AA, the third-highest, considered investment grade but with some nontrivial long-term risk. It’s the first change since a 2017 downgrade, and follows on an increase from Aa3 to Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Services in 2022 to the third highest ranking and the first change since a downgrade in 2016. The third major credit reviewer, Fitch, hasn’t made any changes since it downgraded the state’s debt in 2016.

It's instructive to know the timeline here. Hamstrung by a sputtering national economy throughout the presidency of Democrat Barack Obama and in the later years at the state level stung by declines in oil prices even as for the most part Louisiana’s economy did better than the national throughout Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s terms, in his last year Jindal got the Legislature to go along with tax increases. Understand that Jindal tried to reduce state spending by making government more efficient, but even when the GOP captured majorities in the Legislature just before his second term began, he was unable to reduce spending that essentially remained flat during his second term. Revenues continued to be constrained, and while he tried to offset this with strategic reductions in overfunded accounts, clearly that strategy couldn’t last forever.


Bossier school officials flunk ESA test

Are the members of the Bossier Parish School Board and Superintendent Jason Rowland merely ignoramuses, or are they so craven as to put their own self-interests ahead of children’s needs?

Last week, the Board met – and in special session, no less, at increased taxpayer expense so triggered they were – to pass a resolution specifically opposing HB 745 by Republican Rep. Julie Emerson. The bill would create education savings accounts that could be used to pay for educational expenses, including attendance of nonpublic schools but not home schooled, phased in over three years starting next academic year. Upper-middle-income and higher families would receive 55 percent of the state’s per student contribution to local schools, others would receive 80 percent, and for those families with children with disabilities each would receive 160 percent. Any funds raised locally by a local education agency would remain unaffected.

Yet ultimately the Board voted unanimously (Republican Sherri Pool being absent) for the resolution, which was full of dubious claims easily rebutted. Unfortunately, financial statistics about education notoriously are difficult to come by and often quite out-of-date. The federal government has some final numbers only as recently as 2021 and the state in aggregate form has others incredibly only up to academic year 2018. Still, some conclusions may be drawn from these and likely relational rankings and other comparisons haven’t changed a whole lot in the present.


Good bill to do little to discourage panhandling

The concept is sound, but the Legislature has a tricky road ahead if it wants to pass a statewide law to ban attempted panhandling that, if successful, by definition will do little to curb the practice.

HB 97 by Republican state Rep. Dixon McMakin would make panhandling illegal on all public roads in the state. Current statute bars this only on interstate highways and points of entry and exit, which practically doesn’t happen since panhandlers populate areas where traffic speed is extremely slow as that’s the objective: grift from vehicle occupants, which can’t be done unless vehicles are basically not moving.

This extension threads a very narrow needle eyelet, given Supreme Court decisions of the past decade. Essentially, the Court has ruled that panhandling can’t be banned because it’s annoying – which it is – as it is an exercise of free speech. Thus, grounds to regulate this behavior in any way must rest on other criteria, such as public safety for both those in vehicles and those in and around the road.


Easter Sunday, 2024

This column publishes five days weekly after noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Easter Sunday, Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Sunday, Mar. 31 being Easter, I invite you to explore this link.