- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Jan. 28

American Press, Lake Charles, La., on ads a novel way for DOTD to raise money:

A Louisiana state agency is pitching a novel idea to raise money for its operations. The state Department of Transportation and Development has issued requests to consultants who would run a campaign to sell advertisements for state roads, bridges, rest areas, ferries, scenic areas and even vests worn by transportation employees while they are working on roads.

“State agencies are just getting outside the box, thinking about how to raise money and pay for services,” Rhett Desselle, a DOTD assistant secretary told The Advocate of Baton Rouge.

Creative thinking, some might say. A cynic, however, might point out that the need for such a gimmick to supplement the state’s $25 billion budget speaks volumes about the mismanagement of said budget.

DOTD has already put the practice into action. State Farm, the largest insurer in the state, is paying the department $250,000 annually for three years to have the company’s name and logo appear on Motorist Assistant Patrol trucks, which aid stalled vehicles in metropolitan areas to ensure traffic flow.

Desselle said the sponsorship is open to “anybody that can provide the most value.”

However, the state has the right of refusal based on content. That’s to prevent say an ad for a strip club appearing on a bridge or a rest stop.

Any money raised will be plowed back into DOTD’s $350 million operating budget.

DOTD officials would do well to make a push to sell advertising signs for the Cameron ferry which seems to be out of commission almost as often as when it’s running.

Corporate sponsorship is nothing new. State agencies delving into it is.

The earning potential remains the question. Its success rate will be based on that and whether the public accepts it.




Jan. 26

The News-Star, Monroe, La., on DWI laws still need improvement:

The best way to improve the quality of life for everyone in Louisiana should be fairly simple: Fix the driving-while-intoxicated laws and enforce them.

Here in the land where good times always roll (often through a daiquiri drive-thru); where three-, four- and five-time offenders drive around legally and dangerously; and where people who can afford the right kind of legal counsel (i.e., the politically connected kind) are not prosecuted for their crimes - here in Louisiana we need laws and enforcement that are up to the stiff challenges caused by drivers who are drunk or otherwise impaired.

With that said, we are encouraged to know that a panel of lawmakers has been preparing recommendations that, if passed during the 2014 legislative session, will clarify existing laws and update them to include the full range of substances that are abused.

Far fewer states allow an offender to have multiple third convictions. (You read that correctly: In Louisiana, you can be a three-time offender more than once.) The laws must address that, too.

Last week, the panel of lawmakers reported to the Governor’s Task Force on DWI-Vehicular Homicide. In an interview later, Chairman Douglas J. Saloom, a Lafayette city judge, spoke of the panel’s work, including a proposal to rewrite the law regarding drivers under 21 who are convicted of operating under the influence.

Referring to them and the current law, Saloom said: “If we could put in writing what a slap on the wrist sounds like, it would be less than that.”

Louisiana law says an under-21 first-time offender is subject to a fine of $100 to $250 and is required to participate in court-approved substance-abuse and driver-training programs. The panel recommends keeping the fine; adding jail time of 10 days to three months; and increasing the severity of the penalties for subsequent violations.

In November, when the panel met with the task force, it addressed another gap.

When someone convicted of impaired driving is released early from prison for good behavior, Saloom said at the time, the offender is still a prisoner even though he or she is no longer behind bars. Offenders who are released early cannot be sent back to jail for violating the terms of probation, he said, because probation does not start until the sentence ends.

The panel has recommended amending the law to make release and probation start simultaneously.

We hope these recommendations and others will be well received by lawmakers. Louisiana has made some progress in the fight against impaired driving. That must continue.




Jan. 28

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., on Obama’s agenda:

The State of the Union is strong, unless you have to go listen to it first-hand, like Bob Gates did.

“I absolutely hated going to this political theater,” he says in his new memoir of his years as head of the Defense Department.

The president - and Gates worked for eight different men in a long career -_”tells Congress and the American people that everything in the country is going, or will go, swimmingly with him as president (or at worst, “unprecedented challenges” will be tackled “boldly”) and lays out his agenda for the coming year.”

“Major elements of the address are inevitably partisan,” Gates noted, meaning that Republicans and Democrats vie to be jack-in-the-House cheerleaders depending on which party holds the White House.

By tradition, the military chiefs don’t applaud except for the troops or other such patriotic statements, and Supreme Court justices rarely applaud at all, “never standing except when the president enters or leaves.”

“The president’s cabinet, on the other hand, must rise with virtually every paragraph and every jab intended to outrage the opposition,” Gates fumed. “I disliked doing these political deep knee bends under both Bush and Obama.”

Gates is happily retired, although the new memoir is still steaming many in Washington. But the SOTU theater’s 2014 performance by President Barack Obama, that is less in the way of a mass performance than a soliloquy, or a one-man show, like Hal Holbrook doing Mark Twain.

That is because Obama’s ability to steer major legislation through Congress is limited, particularly in an election year for all members of the House and one-third of senators. So he likely will be appealing less for legislation than talking about his agenda in the executive branch, where he can within limits set his own course and determine government policy without Congress.

In Gates’ book, he remembered that, “A close observer would have seen how often I was the last to rise and first to sit.”

Most of us are likely in that mood in this SOTU. The political calisthenics in the chamber will matter less than whether Obama sets a popular tone for what is a year of acting strategically in the executive branch.



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