- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

March 31

American Press, Lake Charles, La., on needing Texas’ help on coastal restoration:

Louisiana appears to have picked up a massive and key ally in its campaign to garner attention for its vanishing coastline.

A recent statewide poll for America’s Wetland Foundation found that a majority of Texans are worried about the future of their state’s coast as an economic engine that relies on a healthy ecosystem. The results are similar to the same concerns expressed by Louisiana voters in a survey commissioned by the foundation.

Foundation president Val Marmillion said Texas “is poised to join Louisiana in recognizing the Gulf Coast as one of the world’s great ecosystems.”

He said the poll provides motivation and encouragement to Texans who have been working to raise awareness of the coast’s importance, much the same way Louisiana has built support for coastal sustainability over the past decade.

“The new findings are a powerful instrument for charting a course forward for dealing with coastal issues in Texas,” said Dr. Larry McKinney, director of the Harte Research Institute. “It was a bit disturbing to see confirmation that Texans see themselves as a state with a coast, rather than a coastal state. That may seem subtle but to those of us for whom this issue is paramount, the poll draws a line in the beach sand. It will be the measuring stick of our effectiveness in convincing our fellow citizens that the future of Texas rests with assuring a coast that is economically and environmentally healthy and productive.”

America’s Wetland Foundation senior adviser Sidney Coffee said the poll shows that voters across Texas “join Louisiana voters in seeing the link between a strong environment and the economy that depends upon it.”

To that, we say, welcome aboard to our neighbors to the west. The more voices to advocate for the coastal regions of this nation, the better.




April 1

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., on ending barrier on trials:

If there is one sign of Louisiana’s failed political system, it is the willingness to do or to structure things in a way that is different and usually radically different from most, if not all, other states.

There ought to be a high barrier of argument for those wanting to keep Louisiana’s unusual ban on civil jury trials. Today, a jury trial is not allowed in lawsuits seeking damages under $50,000.

Louisiana is alone among the states with such a high bar, and 36 other states have no value limit at all. If a party wishes to seek a jury trial in a dispute, other states have managed to provide that avenue, instead of a bench trial before a judge.

In 2012, the House Civil Law Committee refused to change the ban on jury trials for damages under $50,000. Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, is back for another round.

His bill has the backing of a statewide coalition of business interests and Gov. Bobby Jindal, who early in the session talked about “the need to create a more business-friendly environment in the legal system.”

The jury trial limit seems an obscure issue, but we hope legislators will tackle it this year and pass the Garofalo bill.

The argument for today’s 20-year-old limitation is that court dockets will be clogged with civil jury trials involving relatively small sums. If that is a legitimate argument, and other states don’t seem to have the problem, we shall see in a couple of years if it happens in Louisiana, and the Legislature can revisit the issue.

The prospect of a jury trial would not be welcome to every business defendant, but it would, as Garofalo says, have an impact on “settlement negotiations” - presumably leading to lower settlements in simple accident cases and slip-and-fall lawsuits.

This is a collision of interests, no pun intended.

What business interests have in their favor in the argument is the need to bring Louisiana in line with other states where possible and useful.

We would not back this bill if we thought that people with genuine and serious injuries would not get a fair day in court, but the fact is that a serious injury is, in today’s high-cost medical system, always going to exceed $50,000.

Louisiana should not be an outlier in this high barrier to civil jury trials.




March 30

The News-Star, Monroe, La., on Governor should air Common Core concerns:

Gov. Bobby Jindal seems to be taking a step back from the Common Core State Standards, a cause he once vigorously espoused.

Recently, Jindal told reporters he had “concerns” about the more rigorous education standards, but wouldn’t say precisely what those concerns were.

But he should.

Jindal’s vacillation is causing consternation and confusion among proponents and opponents alike.

Meanwhile, several bills regarding Common Core are cropping up in the Legislature, ranging from proposals to “tweak” the standards to those that would do away with Common Core outright, plus one that seeks to formulate Louisiana’s own standards for students.

Jindal said he prefers to deal with each issue as it comes up.

During his multiple tours of the state to rally support for Common Core, State Superintendent John White has said time and again that Common Core is not a federal program but one independently developed and approved by the National Governors Association, of which Jindal is now president.

While insisting he supports academic rigor, Jindal also decried the “one-size-fits-all” nature of the testing that accompanies Common Core.

Oddly, “one-size-fits-all” is the very phrase that White has used to describe the ills of current education system - ills that Common Core is meant to cure.

Such statements by the governor can go a long way toward undermining the work of the state superintendent.

Barry Erwin, executive director of the Coalition for a Better Louisiana, an advocacy group that supports Common Core, has said Jindal’s statements sent “shock waves of disappointment” to Common Core supporters.

BESE member Lottie Beebe of Breaux Bridge said she applauds Jindal’s apparent change of heart, but wonders where he was “when we were struggling.” Beebe is also the superintendent of the St. Martin Parish School System.

Did the governor, who has aspirations beyond his current office, have some sort of epiphany? Or is his sudden concern inspired by angry parents - also known as voters?

Whatever the motivation, Jindal’s comments have cast doubt on the education reform that has been steamrolling across the state.



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