- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Feb. 2

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on house should delay flood insurance rate hikes the same as Senate:

The U.S. Senate’s overwhelming vote Thursday to suspend exorbitant flood insurance rate increases sent an encouraging message to millions of Americans who depend on the federal program.

This is a hugely important issue to people who live along the nation’s coast and its inland waterways, but so far only the Senate has shown it understands the dire consequences of letting flood rates spiral upward.

Despite huge spikes in premiums, House Speaker John Boehner has said he won’t bring up the legislation delaying the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act.

The vast majority of senators recognized the seriousness of the flooding problems, including staunch conservatives like Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Sen. Mary Landrieu and Sen. Vitter — as well as Louisiana’s House members — have been pushing for months for a delay of Biggert-Waters. Sen. Rubio came on board in recent weeks. “The current increases have paralyzed the real estate sector in much of Florida,” he told The Palm Beach Post. Congress needs to suspend the rate hikes and then work out a plan to make the National Flood Insurance Program financially stable long-term, he said.

Congress made this mess, but the White House belatedly raised concerns about the delay just before the Senate vote. Sen. Landrieu rebuked the Obama administration, calling its opposition “short-sighted, misguided and irresponsible.”

Senators said Thursday that they were being inundated with calls from constituents urging them to delay the rate hikes. House members should hear those same messages, particularly Speaker Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership.

Biggert-Waters was touted as a way to make the flood insurance program self-sustaining by reducing federal subsidies and raising rates to market levels over time. That sounds benign. But that isn’t how it is playing out, and Congress needs to fix it.

Online:

http://www.nola.com

___

Feb. 1

The Times, Shreveport, La., on time right for state to move on marijuana:

Marijuana has been in the headlines a lot lately.

Partly, that is because it is now being sold legally for not only medical use but recreational as well in Washington and Colorado. However, in recent state meetings, there have been indications Louisiana lawmakers might once again revisit easing the penalties faced by those caught with marijuana in this state.

While that would certainly be a good start, lawmakers really should take the issue much further. Indeed, Louisiana should be the next state to just go ahead and legalize it. No matter from what angle one looks at the issue, which makes the most sense.

Marijuana is a Schedule I(C) hallucinogenic substance under state law, which is one of the harshest in the nation. Currently in Louisiana, those caught in possession of marijuana may find themselves jailed for as long as six months just on a first offense. A second offender may be sentenced to up to five years and fined up to $2,500. Anyone convicted three or more times is looking at a possible 20-year sentence and a $5,000 fine. The numbers are even direr in instances of distribution or cultivation.

Laws with such stiff penalties for non-violent crimes like marijuana possession are part of why our state has such a high incarceration rate.

Obviously, we can’t continue on this path. Not with our state’s struggling budget. The answer, though, is not to stop enforcing the law - the numbers prove law enforcement has been having an impact on what is on the books as a crime - but to look at changing the ways the law works. And adjusting what is and is not legal.

The history of marijuana prohibition has been a series of expensive and ineffective tradeoffs such as spending billions in enforcement costs and arresting hundreds of thousands of individuals each year for something as simple as possession. Essentially, current marijuana laws seem to make a lot of criminals yet do little to actually prevent crime.

Louisiana’s, and indeed the nation’s, true payoff from the legalization of marijuana will not be the tax revenue that might be gained, but the many losses that will be avoided.

The bottom line as we watch (and hopefully learn) from the legalization experiences of Washington and Colorado is that marijuana can, and should, be moved from the realm of the criminal to legitimate business. As such, it can be a tightly regulated and taxed industry that could help the state save money.

Indeed, now is the right time for Louisiana lawmakers to seriously look at the complete legalization of marijuana for our state. We should go all the way.

Online:

http://www.shreveporttimes.com

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Jan. 29

The Daily Comet, Thibodaux, La., on shrimpers deserving some help:

It is no secret that Louisiana’s shrimpers have seen troubled times in recent years.

They have battled rising costs, falling prices and vicious competition - much of it illegal - from foreign countries that import their shrimp to the U.S.

They also have been hampered by hurricanes and a catastrophic oil spill.

Through it all, the industry has retained the resilience that allowed it to survive for generations.

The good news is that there is some help out there for shrimpers, purchasers and processors - help that could make it more likely for these important Louisiana businesses to survive and thrive.

The Louisiana Wild Seafood Certification Program is offering up to $30,000 in cost sharing for shrimpers and others who want to install new refrigeration equipment or who have already installed the equipment.

The idea is that better refrigeration can help shrimpers stay out on the water longer, decrease the cost of ice and fuel and ultimately make their work more profitable.

Anything the state can feasibly do to help the industry support itself will be welcome.

This effort is actually part of a larger program aimed at creating, maintaining and strengthening the brand of Louisiana shrimp.

Online:

http://www.dailycomet.com

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