- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Dec. 16

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on cheating on districts:

A staggering statistic ought to spur thought about political reform of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the election that just concluded, all 435 seats in the House were up for election nationwide.

And of all those seats, only 22 were rated on Election Day as toss-ups between the two major parties by the Cook Political Report, for many years the leading national analyst of House races.

Many of the toss-ups were won by Republicans, as it definitely was a Republican year, yet the reality is that the number of even remotely competitive races was small in the House.

That is because of manipulation by both parties.

A party dominant in a state will draw district lines to favor its own candidates, particularly incumbent members.

In the early 19th century, that was dubbed gerrymandering, after an early master of the dark political arts. It is now the norm in most states, including Louisiana.

Reformers are trying to change that and have been successful in about a dozen states, putting in place rules that ensure fair district lines are drawn every 10 years after the census.

A reform measure for Louisiana would and should include requirements for nonpartisan redrawing of district lines for the Senate and House of the state Legislature.

One problem for reform: the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which has been amended and interpreted over the years to require minority-majority seats.

What has been found in other states is that Voting Rights Act regulations can be part of a nonpartisan plan for redrawing district lines.

Our Legislature should embrace reform as progressive states elsewhere have done.




Dec. 13

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on new LNG plant:

Gov. Bobby Jindal and local officials got an in-depth look this week at the proposed $4.25 billion LNG plant by Venture Global LNG, a company based in Washington, D.C. The presentation is continued proof that companies are considering Southwest Louisiana as one of the premier places to expand.

This announcement - in addition to the more than $80 billion in industrial expansion projects already slated for the region - is certainly good news for our economy.

Venture Global executives said they plan to build the facility on 203 acres at the mouth of the Calcasieu Ship Channel and have it operating by 2019. It is considered a “midscale” facility, with two full-containment storage units. Each of its 10 blocks will be able to liquefy 500,000 metric tons of natural gas each year to be exported globally, company officials said.

Jindal said the project gets the U.S. closer to becoming “an energy superpower,” and that industry sits at the top in terms of creating job opportunities. In fact, he said one out of every seven jobs in Louisiana comes from the energy sector.

The Venture Global project is expected to create about 100 direct jobs and 326 indirect jobs, along with 1,500 construction jobs, according to Jindal. While the governor said he wants the next generation to “grow up right here in Louisiana,” the challenge remains for our area to produce enough skilled workers to fill those job opportunities once the facility is built.

William Wicker, CEO of Venture Global, said the energy industry has gone through some significant changes over the years in terms of natural gas. A few years ago, the industry was running low on natural gas and had plans to import it from the Middle East and Africa.

Today, things are different because oil and gas can be extracted from shale deposits. He said that in the next 10 years, America could be exporting up to 20 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Wicker said Louisiana “could end up exporting as much natural gas as Qatar in the Middle East” within the next 10 years.

The fact that yet another company has proposed to build a multibillion-dollar facility in Southwest Louisiana means the economy could continue to grow over the next several years. But, as with other projects like it, our region needs to continue preparing for the changes that come with growth on this scale and make sure there are enough local workers to handle the demand.




Dec. 16

News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on the CenturyLink expectations:

We can’t contain our excitement about the CenturyLink expansion.

As we publish news release after news release about the company’s latest successes in the cloud computing and defense contracting worlds, we know little ole Monroe is at the epicenter of something great that is a true game changer.

But, as we talk to CenturyLink management about their vision for the future, it’s even more than that.

It’s evolutionary.

Construction on CenturyLink’s new Technology Center of Excellence will likely be complete by the end of December, although the company will need another few months to equip and furnish the facility. The facility is scheduled to open in March 2015, and 850 new employees will be added to fill it.

The new 300,000-square-foot, three-story, half-moon shaped Center of Excellence will be connected to the company’s existing 365,000-square-foot corporate headquarters on U.S. 165 in Monroe.

“We’re excited about getting it complete,” CenturyLink President Glen Post said. “We believe we can attract the top technical talent in the world. Vendors and employees will be testing the latest technology in our labs and network operations center.”

Post, the company’s chief executive, said has said he envisions the center as a research and development hub to rival the best in the world in the same vein as Bell Laboratories.

“We’re trying to attract the top talent here, and we want people who work in the center to feel like people did about the old Bell Labs,” Post said in a previous interview with The News-Star.

“The Technology Center of Excellence will help support our objective of bringing high quality jobs to Monroe,” he said. “We expect the center to spur innovation, idea generation and problem solving that will benefit our customers, our employees and our community.”

CenturyLink already employs more than 2,000 people in its headquarters city with an annual local payroll exceeding $120 million. It’s the largest public company headquartered in Louisiana.

As a community, we have work to do to lift ourselves to the level of excellence expected by the current and potential CenturyLink employees. We’d like to see our chambers, mayors and community leaders come together on this issue.



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