- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

May 17

The Courier, Houma, Louisiana, on oil and gas supply:

Louisiana has a unique challenge: Make the rest of the nation realize how important we are to the nation’s supply of oil and gas and how vulnerable that supply is.

A group of local government and business officials got a good chance to address that challenge last week.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, brought four of his Republican colleagues for a visit to our region, giving them a chance to see where much of our nation’s energy is produced and giving locals a chance to share some of our unique challenges with some influential officials.

Scalise, who represents part of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, organized his annual energy tour and brought along Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Susan Brooks of Indiana, Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Steve Womack of Arkansas.

Those are some important visitors, people who wield power in Congress but who might not know the needs and hardships of our region.

Scalise’s tour took them to an offshore site and allowed them to see the tenuous road linking the offshore oilfield with the nation it supplies.

Local leaders got a chance to plead their case for an improved La. 1 - a roadway that is a valuable daily conduit for workers and machinery and also the way in and out before and after any future storm might force an evacuation.

Greater Lafourche Port Commission Director Chett Chiasson summed up our dilemma to the visiting congressional contingent: “Let’s cut to the chase. Up to $10 billion of impact annually to the federal treasury. We need $320 million. That is not that much to ask. Then we can get the access very easily, and it’s not just the everyday access. It’s access post-storm. It is hurricane evacuation. It is coming back in to get production back online.”

That is no exaggeration.

La. 1 is a commercial lifeline for the oilfield, but in the event of an evacuation, it is an actual lifeline, carrying residents and workers to safety and allowing them to return to home and work after the emergency has passed.

We have made great strides in elevating and improving sections of La. 1, but it is a far-reaching project that has been addressed in segments. It is one of the greatest needs of our region, and it has been far too long in the making.

The challenge is to carry our message beyond our region, where it is so well known, to the people who can actually help us fix it.

Events such as the tour Scalise organized allow us to do just that.

We have a compelling message, one that the nation needs to hear so it can help us continue to help it.

Having our leaders in Washington reaching out to their colleagues to share the story and allowing those people to see it for themselves will be a valuable tool as these efforts continue.




May 20

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on not gutting 2006 reforms:

Voters had a lot to consider when they went to the polls on Sept. 30, 2006. The ballot included 13 constitutional amendments, many reflecting the ambitions and anxieties of a state still recovering from the costliest disaster in U.S. history.

Just a year earlier, Louisiana had endured two of the eight most ferocious Atlantic hurricanes in recorded history. They came less than four weeks apart.

One of the Sept. 30 amendments aimed to replace Louisiana’s feckless and politicized parish levee boards with professionally-managed regional flood protection authorities. Statewide, four of five voters approved the flood protection authorities. In New Orleans, the margin was 16 to 1.

But voters have short memories and politicians are always looking for an opportunity to claw back power and patronage. So this year the independence of the flood protection authorities is under attack as never before.

To be sure, much of the blame for the current crisis can be laid at the feet of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, which plotted in secret to sue 97 energy companies for their roles undermining Louisiana’s coastal defenses.

Whether a state should sue one of its leading industries is an important matter of public policy and as such should be subject to open debate. But the flood authority took the easy route, deliberating in secret and declining to conduct a rigorous, public process for selecting its attorneys before giving a group of lawyers as much as 32.5 percent of the money that ought to go to protecting America’s most vulnerable metropolitan area.

As a result, the flood protection authority finds itself nearly friendless in Baton Rouge. Even its counterpart authority on the west bank of the Mississippi has rejected the lawsuit.

Powerful energy interests are understandably upset and they have joined forces with politicians who never wanted to give up their control over flood protection in the first place.

Their first attack was Senate Bill 79 which allows Gov. Bobby Jindal to fire authority members and find willing replacements. But defenders of the 2006 reforms seem to have sidetracked that measure.

Recently, lawsuit foes will try another attack with Senate Bill 553, which would require that the authorities get written permission from the governor before hiring special counsel.

The measure is designed to override the lawsuit, but its lasting effect would be to allow this governor and all future governors to hit up law firms for campaign contributions and other favors by withholding the written approvals. That’s hardly what the voters had in mind in 2006.

The Jindal administration, which has supported coastal protection efforts, has admitted that energy firms played some role in damaging Louisiana’s coastline. With more constructive leadership, a solution could be crafted that eliminates the lawsuits and dedicates every dollar to protecting the coast.

Instead, the governor and his allies are taking advantage of public anger over the suit to undermine a significant improvement in the way Louisiana protects its citizens from flooding, and the only way to stop them is to rekindle the reform spirit that made 2006 such an important year in the recovery of our state.




May 15

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on protection for domestic violence victims:

State lawmakers have approved a series of bills aimed at increasing protection for victims of domestic violence.

The centerpiece, House Bill 1142, would require that in some cases judges issue protective orders at the time of bail hearings for those whose felony charges stem from domestic violence.

Judges would have the option of keeping the abuser in jail if they believed the victims in the case remain in danger.

The bill is referred to “Gwen’s Law” and is named after a 39-year-old DeSoto Parish woman who was kidnapped and killed by her estranged husband, who then committed suicide.

“He’d threatened to kill her and her daughter for years,” said Theresa Donald, Gwen Salley’s sister.

Donald said her sister, who had filed for divorce, believed that the estranged husband would be kept in jail for three days after a previous domestic incident.

He was in jail for about 18 hours before he bonded out.

“This bill is written in the blood of an innocent woman,” said attorney Gary Evans.

House Bill 753 would ban anyone who had been issued a protective order or an injunction as a result of a domestic violence incident from carrying a gun until the order was removed.

House Bill 750 would increase the sentence for second-offense domestic abuse battery from six months to a year. The bill would also expedite protective orders.

According to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Louisiana ranks first in the country in the number of domestic violence homicides since 1997.

Domestic violence cases have become so pervasive in the Baton Rouge area that 19th Judicial District Judge Don Johnson has suggested that his colleagues on the bench create a division of the court that handles only domestic violence cases.

He believes that before bail is set for someone accused of domestic violence the defendant should undergo a psychological or mental health evaluation.

“We need to do something. …,” said Johnson. “I want to prevent this from happening.” …

H.B.s 750 and 753 have already passed both chambers and are awaiting Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature.

That can’t happen fast enough, nor can the implementation and enforcement of these laws to give those who have suffered from domestic violence and fear a bit more security.



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