- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:


July 21

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on putting highway money back where it belongs:

Louisiana can’t whittle down its $12 billion backlog in highway and bridge needs because too much of the state’s gasoline tax revenue is being used for other purposes.

Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, a longtime champion of highway development, said $60 million is being used to fund state police. Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, said the state is spending about $46 million per year for parish road needs, which is about $16 million more than required.

The Advocate said Adley repeatedly noted during the meeting that voters would be stunned to know the state is spending only $27 million a year on highway preservation, which is well below the $70 million or so spent in recent years.

Taxpayers have a difficult time determining why highway work is always underfunded, but a close look at the funding mechanism explains why.

Motorists pay 38 cents per gallon in sales taxes - an 18-cent federal tax and a 20-cent state tax. The Advocate said the state also collects $630 million per year in federal highway dollars, but congressional bickering has that revenue stream in doubt.

Four cents of the state’s 20 cents pays for the TIMED program that funded over a dozen highway, airport and port projects. The major goal was to four-lane major highways in the state, but estimates were low and costs have increased since 1989 when the program was launched. Too many revenues from the remaining 16-cent state gasoline tax are going to other areas of state government.

An interim legislative committee is supposed to come up starting in September with ways to generate new highway dollars, but it’s an almost impossible task. Anti-tax sentiment is so intense, that is an unlikely source. However, putting existing gasoline tax revenues back on highways and increasing the gasoline tax appear to be the only answers.




July 21

Daily World, Opelousas, Louisiana, on allowing students to bring cellphones to school:

The debate over whether students should be allowed to take cellphones to school has emerged again.

This time, the push in favor of it isn’t coming from students who want to text under their desks during world geography class. It’s coming from school principals who believe it’s time to take advantage of the potential of cellphones as educational tools.

And if that’s not an idea whose time has come, surely its time is coming soon.

It’s a way to bring the latest technology into the classroom using resources that already exist and students already know how to use. And it’s already being done in other parts of the country.

It would just take a change in attitude and a shift in policy.

Cellphones have been banned from middle and high school campuses in the Lafayette Parish School System for several years.

The reasons are obvious. Ringing cellphones and students talking and texting are disruptive.

But now, a recent article in The Daily Advertiser says, the district is considering a revision to the cellphone policy that would allow middle school students to carry their phones to school, but not use them during school hours and would allow high school students to use their phones between classes. It would also give teachers the option of allowing their students to use their cellphones during class.

There are questions to be answered before the issue is placed before the Lafayette Parish School Board for discussion. Aside from the concern that students may not honor the rules, there is a concern about overwhelming the district’s wireless Internet if everyone is using their cellphones.

But those things can be overcome and they shouldn’t be reasons not to take advantage of this available technology.

The technology is here, and it’s already in the hands of students. Let’s use it to bring our classrooms into the 21st century.




July 13

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, on new effort to raise awareness about Louisiana’s eroding coastline:

There is arguably no more vital issue across South Louisiana than replenishing our state’s eroding coastline. The rapid degeneration of coastal marshes, beaches and barrier islands is putting hundreds of thousands of residents, homes and businesses at increased risk from hurricanes and tropical storms.

In an effort to bring greater attention to the problem and advocate for resources to fix the coast, regional business leaders are launching the Coalition for Coastal Resilience and Economy. It is a smart approach.

“Our region has a take-it-or-leave-it opportunity to make strategic investments in the environment today that will ensure continued economic growth and opportunity tomorrow,” Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., said Friday in a written statement.

The coalition board includes top executives from an array of businesses, including banking, real estate, shipping, manufacturing and major law firms. The list includes Saints and Pelicans owner and vice chairwoman Rita Benson LeBlanc, former Louisiana Recovery Authority member Donna Fraiche and other key leaders in greater New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

This is a high-powered and influential group of people, and it is good to see them take on such a crucial issue. The effort is being funded by the Walton Family Foundation.

The coalition plans to focus in part on making sure Restore Act funding from federal fines levied against BP for the 2010 oil spill are spent for restoration here, as they are supposed to be.

That is essential. Louisiana lawmakers agreed in 2012 to use the money for the coast, but they have refused since then to strengthen protections for Restore Act money and the state’s Coastal Trust Fund. At this point, a simple majority vote of lawmakers could allow the state to tap into the money.

It would be a huge mistake to divert Louisiana’s share of BP fines to anything other than coastal needs.

Louisiana has lost a frightening amount of coastal land — a trend that threatens entire communities. It will take a mighty effort to reverse that land loss.

This coalition has the potential to bring a new level of attention and resources to the problem. It is a necessity, said Brandon Nelson, vice president of Commercial Banking at Whitney Bank, “to ensure our children’s children will be able to call this place home.”




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