- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

June 30

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on higher education:

State Treasurer John N. Kennedy had a great idea: Cut expenditures for state consulting contracts by 10 percent and funnel the savings to higher education. State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard, I-Thibodaux, proposed a bill to that effect and it passed unanimously out of the House and Senate.

Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed it.

We find that perplexing. Public institutions in the state are struggling because of draconian funding cuts over the past few years.

Kennedy’s plan is elegant in its simplicity. Just reduce spending on outside consulting contracts. Louisiana pays about 90,000 consultants who are collectively paid about $5.86 billion a year. Yes, that’s billion with a B. You don’t have to be a math whiz to figure out that Louisiana’s public colleges and universities would have been the beneficiaries of $586 million, had the bill not been vetoed.

And that, together with the puny $140 million Jindal handed state institutions in the new state budget, would go a long way in making up for the $700 million in cuts higher education has suffered in recent years.

Now, the final version of the bill did indeed have some problems. The bill didn’t contain a mechanism to legally transfer the savings to higher education as was intended by Kennedy. But the governor did not cite those issues in his veto letter.

Kennedy was disappointed by the veto but remains philosophical. This is the fourth time the bill, in some form or another, has been introduced. Historically, it has cleared the House and died in the Senate. This is the first year it has made it all the way through and Kennedy hopes it will fare better next year - or the next, when there is a different governor in Baton Rouge.

Jindal has his reasons for the veto. In past reports, he has said it would interfere with his scheme to privatize state services.

In his veto message, he said the bill could “hinder the state’s efforts to continue to provide its citizens with timely, high quality services.”

Jindal also complained in his veto message that the bill would “cause significant delays and introduce uncertainty to executing a contract .” He was referring to a process spelled out in the bill for approving or rejecting contracts of $40,000 or more.

But all other arguments aside, should a governor veto a bill that was passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature?

Should he set aside the decision of 98 representatives and 37 senators who represent the interests of their constituents?

Clearly, he has the power, but should he have exercised it?

We think not.




July 1

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on open talk on issues

Amid a lot of politics and posturing, it makes sense for the state’s top School Board to huddle today over the fracas created by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s legal offensive against Common Core educational standards.

The flashpoint is whether the state Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education can legally pay for the tests that would match up with the Common Core, adopted by Louisiana and most other states in 2010 and now a political hot potato.

We think that public opinion is largely on the side of the BESE board members and Education Superintendent John White, who are standing firm on the need for higher standards and the immediate need to ensure the tests are available in classrooms in the coming school year. Jindal’s flurry of executive orders and demands for documents represent a political agenda more than an educational concern about Common Core.

While we think there is much for BESE to chew over, we hope the board members led by President Chas Roemer, of Baton Rouge, opt for a public discussion. There has been talk of hiring a lawyer, as the governor’s executive counsel is already pitching in memos challenging BESE authority.

While hiring a special counsel may be a good idea for BESE, it’s important that the board’s majority does not end up in a lengthy executive, or closed, session; all too often, the public is rightly suspicious that a lot of talking out of public view hides political discussions that really could be made in the open, or mostly so.

We think the board majority led by Roemer is showing courage under pressure. We want them to avoid squandering some of that advantage with the public.




July 1

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on fighting pollution:

In not-so-surprising news, Louisiana ranks third in the amount of toxic chemicals released into waterways, according to a new report.

The state released 12.6 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the water in 2012, trailing Indiana (17.7 million) and Texas (16.4 million), according to a report by the Environment America Research and Policy Center.

There are other ways to look at toxic releases, though, the report said. When gauged by the toxicity of the chemicals, Texas released an equivalent of 34.4 million pounds of toxic releases, while every other state was far behind. Louisiana’s 3.1 million pounds ranked a distant second.

The report used 2012 data from the Toxics Release Inventory, provided by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The report indicated that, nationwide, 53 percent of rivers and streams and 67 percent of lakes, ponds and reservoirs assessed by the Environmental Protection Agency were too polluted for fishing, swimming or drinking.

The Mississippi River had 16.9 million pounds of toxics dumped into its waters.

On this side of the state, the lower Calcasieu River was in the top 50 local watersheds for toxic releases - 38th with 1.6 million pounds of toxic releases dumped into its waterways. The good news is, the river didn’t make the list’s top 50 local watersheds for releases of cancer-causing chemicals.

One local refinery, ConocoPhillips, was 38th among facilities, with 1.4 million pounds of total releases. PPG, now Axiall, was 12th (268,000 pounds) in releases of toxic chemicals by toxicity-weighted pounds.

The report called upon the government to “restore and strengthen” the Clean Water Act of 1972. Some suggestions were to make sure permits are current, require reductions in releases, eliminate permit loopholes and enforce pollution limits.

Louisiana’s economy relies heavily on industry, which in turn, relies heavily on our waterways. The waterways are used for fishing, skiing, boating and swimming.

Pollution is a known cause of birth defects, developmental problems and cancer, among other things.

The concerning report is a reminder that the state and nation need to remain vigilant about pollution. We’ve got to protect our Sportsman’s Paradise.



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