- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Feb. 3

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on President Barack Obama’s proposal to reallocate sharing of offshore drilling revenue:

The good news is that one of President Barack Obama’s worst ideas isn’t going to become law; the bad news is that the president is so out of touch with Louisiana’s needs that the cut was proposed at all.

The budget for the 2016 fiscal year starting Oct. 1 would eliminate the sharing of revenue from drilling in federal waters with Louisiana and three other states along the Gulf of Mexico, as outlined in a 2006 law. Over time, the offshore oil revenue sharing would grow to $500 million for the four Gulf states, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.

The money is only a small repayment for the impact of oil and gas development in the Gulf. Those impacts are clear throughout Louisiana’s coastal parishes and offshore, where fleets of rigs and boats supply a huge proportion of the nation’s energy.

It’s valuable and vital but unlike states with traditional minerals like coal and oil onshore - those states get 50 percent of the mineral revenues - the offshore oil money has been going to the U.S. Treasury.

We are glad to report that the Louisiana delegation, in company with its sister Gulf states’ representatives, certainly will kill that provision in the president’s budget. It would take an act of Congress, literally, and as U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, said, it has “a zero percent chance of becoming law.”

If that’s the good news, there is the not-so-good news that the cap for offshore revenue sharing remains in place at $500 million a year. Raising the cap has an obvious impact on federal revenues. To put the president’s fiscal 2016 proposal in the best possible light, it’s an attempt by the budget office to hold down the U.S. deficit. Raising the offshore cap also would add to the deficit formally, although one can argue that it’s more a cost of doing business; states pay heavily for the impacts of oil and gas development, and that’s an indirect tax of its own.

What this Obama proposal shows is that federal officials consider a revenue sharing proposal as not legitimate compensation for the affected states, but a subsidy for oil and gas exploration.

The reality is that oil and gas is going to be part of the world’s energy future for a long time. We support, as Obama does, investment in research of renewable energy. That’s a long-term investment.

In today’s world, does it make sense to shut down fossil fuel industries before alternatives are in place? Of course not. But the administration is increasingly misled by environmentalists who believe that oil and gas is dirty energy, that the legitimate needs of coastal states are a subsidy to encourage more drilling.

It is this narrow and crabbed notion of energy policy that has too much influence with the president and his followers.

Again, we don’t like U.S. budget deficits either. Nor are we going to be reflexively critical of honest efforts to cut the deficit. The state, by the way, is going to use the money for coastal preservation - a national benefit that would otherwise cost the federal government a lot more.

What we can’t abide is the notion that Louisiana’s service to the nation’s energy needs is some anti-climate plot.

If the Treasury were a private-sector business, it long ago would have seen a lawsuit about the disparate treatment of the energy states. That lawsuit would have been won by the states, not the federal government.

We applaud the delegation’s efforts to protect revenue sharing and expand it in future.

It’s money that Louisiana deserves and it will be put to good use, an investment in the preservation of the nation’s coastline in the Gulf of Mexico.




Feb. 3

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on highway safety:

It is infrequent that we hear praise for Louisiana highways. That is why it was good hearing recently that the for the second consecutive year Louisiana has been recognized for having nine of 15 highway safety laws that a national group says are essential to trimming road deaths and injuries.

The report was part of the 12th annual review by the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety. The group represents consumer, health and insurance interests.

The report notes that, “By closing these lethal loopholes we can save more lives.

Louisiana was one of 11 states and the District of Columbia that earned a “green” rating, which means it is well on the way to adopting all measures considered essential by the group.

Included in the laws and standards the organization considers are mandatory safety belt measures for front and back seats; a requirement that motorcycle riders wear safety helmets; and a rule that beginning drivers have to undergo at least 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training with an adult licensed driver.

Louisiana does make exceptions in some cases for open containers in vehicles. The organization’s standards include a ban on open containers of alcohol in the passenger area of both cars and trucks.

Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, said he is pleased the state was listed among the most compliant. He said the Legislature has to vote on the state laws, which can be difficult to enact.

LeBlanc noted that every state is unique and Louisiana has proud traditions like tailgating and Mardi Gras, which could be impacted by some of the standards.

The report did fault Louisiana for its lack of laws to require booster seats through age 7, a driver’s license learning permit until age 16 and an unrestricted license at age 18. The ages in Louisiana are 6, 15 and 17, respectively.

Louisiana had 703 motor vehicle fatalities in 2013, according to the report. A total of 32,719 people died in car and truck accidents nationally.

While it is good to hear some praise for Louisiana on a national list, we should never rest on our laurels when it comes to highway safety.

The group’s complete report, The 2015 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, is available on the group’s website, www.saferoads.org.




Feb. 3

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on cleaning up the community:

Pride of place can be measured in appearances.

Visitors and those contemplating moving to Ouachita Parish often judge the community by first impressions. And that impression, even before they get to know our people and what we have to offer, can be formed by how we look.

And, frankly, we’re messy. Litter can be found in almost any ditch in Ouachita Parish, something Ouachita Parish Police Juror Pat Moore, for instance, has been trying to address for several years now.

For Tommy Smith, who has visited several communities throughout North America, the cleaner the community, the better the impression it left behind. And after returning home to Ouachita Parish, he formed Extraordinary Ouachita.

The organization’s goal: to clean up our home, reduce litter and making the parish more visually appealing.

The grassroots effort holds tremendous hope at making a difference. Since Smith started Extraordinary Ouachita around eight months ago, its steering committee has grown to 69 members. Members include local and state government officials, community leaders and business leaders.

Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Alana Cooper said she was proud to join the group. Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Sue Nicholson joined the organization to help coordinate the chamber’s efforts with that of the group.

“Every year we do a strategic plan for the chamber,” she said. “It (lists) our focus priorities for the year. For the last several years, the group has identified the litter and cleanliness as an issue for our community. The one effort that seems to have gotten some really significant traction is Extraordinary Ouachita.”

Smith said combining efforts is key to the organization. He has incorporated several existing efforts into a collaborative approach. He envisions a day when street coordinators on every street in the parish would monitor litter and identify citizens who might need a hand in maintaining their property. Such organizational structure seems key to long-term success.

Extraordinary Ouachita would unite ordinary citizens in making the parish a much more welcoming and beautiful place. Efforts include picking up trash and mowing along Interstate 20 and U.S. 165.

And the effort already is spilling beyond Ouachita Parish. Smith has started a similar organization in Lincoln Parish with more than 40 members.

Certainly Ouachita Parish could use sprucing up, and many events target a particular area on a particular day, with temporary results. Smith’s organization combines existing efforts and provides an overarching strategy, and based on participation has energized the community.





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