- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Sept. 16

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on a bloat in the laws:

This is an anniversary year for one of the landmarks in recent Louisiana history, adoption of the 1974 Louisiana Constitution.

The previous constitution, written in 1922, had ballooned over decades of amendments into a long and unwieldy document. Voters had begun to rebel, turning down proposed amendments en masse, without regard to the subject matter.

A revision of the constitution was needed, but it took a real revolution in state leadership to make it happen. Among the leaders of that historic effort, resulting in a yearlong constitutional convention and eventual adoption of the new document, were then-speaker of the state House E.L. “Bubba” Henry and then-Gov. Edwin W. Edwards.

The leadership of Henry steered the convention into a document that drastically reduced the old sprawling constitution into 35,000 words.

If not perfect, the result was brief and fulfilled what was needed - a constitution of fundamental structure, that could then be the framework for statutes adopted by lawmakers.

As voters will now face no less than 14 amendments on the Nov. 4 ballot, it is past time to wonder if the political class has forgotten the lessons of 40 years ago. The voters’ “patience at the polls” may be tested by a long list of amendments, said Robert Travis Scott, president of the Public Affairs Research council.

The practice of legislating through the constitutional amendment process is still with us, and most amendments pass. Meaning that the political class and special interests will continue to promote constitutional amendments for future election days.




Sept. 16

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on college tuition costs:

Costs for college tuition have been on the rise in Louisiana for far too long. The average debt for a student graduating college is $30,000, and it’s only growing.

It is the job of every generation to educate the one after it, and the millennials have gotten the short end of the stick. It’s become harder and harder to attend college as the cost of tuition increases.

It leaves us to wonder if current and future generations will be left behind if we cannot come up with a solution to share in the costs. With so much wasteful spending in Washington, D.C., it might be time to re-examine our priorities and give back to students who in the future will be the ones running our country. We’re counting on them, but are we giving them the financial tools to succeed? It’s incumbent upon us to do so because they hold the key to our future and our long-term interests.

It’s important to note that McNeese State University has the lowest undergraduate tuition and fees in the University of Louisiana System, which includes Grambling State, Louisiana Tech, Nichols State, Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana universities, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, University of Louisiana at Monroe and University of New Orleans.

Fall 2014 tuition and fees for an in-state, full-time student (12 hours) is $3,159 and combined fall and spring tuition and fees is $6,305.

Besides four-year universities, there are other options. Sowela Technical and other community colleges offer associate degrees for high-paying careers.

With no substantial relief to the status quo of tuition costs in the state at the present time, a student may want to refocus his or her priorities before accepting that inevitable mounting debt.

We must re-evaluate our priorities as a state and a nation for the betterment of future generations.




Sept. 17

Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on double billing by lawmakers:

State Rep. Joe Harrison, a Napoleonville Republican, brushed off questions in May about public records showing he charged taxpayers and his campaign account for the same expenses, including excessive amounts for gasoline and mileage. “You travel with me and tell me how much travel I do,” he said then.

Federal authorities apparently want more than Rep. Harrison’s glib assurances that everything is fine.

A federal grand jury in New Orleans asked the House of Representatives for all records of reimbursements to Rep. Harrison since 2009, according to a subpoena signed July 15 and obtained by NOLA.com ‘ The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News.

The subpoena follows reports by the news organizations that public records showed Rep. Harrison charged his campaign more than $25,700 in gas purchases between 2010 and 2013 while also receiving nearly $24,900 in mileage reimbursements from the House.

There were numerous instances in which Rep. Harrison was reimbursed with taxpayer dollars for travel on the same dates and places where he charged gasoline to his campaign. He denied double billing and keeping the House reimbursements for himself, but reporters found no evidence that he paid back his campaign.

State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb of Baton Rouge kept more than $18,600 in taxpayer money between 2010 and 2013 that she should have used to reimburse expenses paid by her campaign, according to the news investigation.

Senate President John Alario, a Westwego accountant and 42-year veteran of the Legislature, couldn’t account for $22,000 in discrepancies reporters found between expenses reported by his campaign and political action committees and the amounts that records from LSU and Audubon Institute showed they were paid.

The state’s campaign finance law isn’t ambiguous on this issue. Politicians are required to “accurately report” their expenses, said Loyola University ethics professor Dane Ciolino.

Getting money from your campaign and taxpayers for the same costs is worse than inaccurate, and it is encouraging that federal authorities are looking at Rep. Harrison’s dealings. They need to examine all these questionable expenses, not just his.



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