- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Oct. 4

The Monroe (Louisiana) News Star on why competition benefits Louisiana consumers

Anyone who doesn’t believe competition doesn’t benefit consumers should go grocery shopping in Ouachita Parish.

Grocery prices have dropped 6 percent since Brookshire Grocery Co., Mac’s Fresh Market and Wal-Mart began a building spree 18 months ago, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index.

That makes prices here the lowest in Louisiana and more than 8 percent cheaper than the national average.

Wal-Mart dropped the biggest bomb in the grocery store wars, opening four of its Neighborhood Market stores simultaneously, joining the company’s two existing Supercenters and Sam’s Club in the market.

But Mac’s countered with two new stores of its own and Brookshire expanded and renovated many of its stores in response.

“I wasn’t surprised the increased competition has suppressed prices, but the magnitude of the drop is significant,” said Bob Eisenstadt, director of the University of Louisiana’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

Eisenstadt’s staff gathers the local data for the Cost of Living Index.

“When Wal-Mart opened four new Neighborhood Market stores in Ouachita Parish simultaneously, it raised the stakes,” Eisenstadt said. “The only things competitors can do to preserve market share is compete on price and raise the bar on quality and service.”

So the intense competition didn’t just create bargains. It also elevated the level of service, variety of products and amenities in the stores, from fresh sushi to hummus bars to new bathrooms.

It’s a textbook case of why monopolies, unless regulated by government boards (utilities are an example), are illegal and why the federal government occasionally stops mergers that could establish them.

Competition is almost always good. It promotes fair pricing and quality.

So the next time you go shopping, enjoy the fact that you’re dollar, for once, is buying more than it used to buy.




Oct. 4

The Houma (Louisiana) Courier on how Speaker Boehner’s resignation could help regions in Louisiana

When Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner made the surprise announcement that he was retiring from Congress, it left room for other Republicans to move up.

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is now the House majority leader, is expected to move up to take Boehner’s place.

That move would create an opening in the House’s No. 2 position, and opening that Steve Scalise could be in line to take.

Scalise, who represents the southern portions of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, as well as much of south Louisiana, has secured the support of several other Louisiana Republicans.

As majority whip, the third-ranking Republican in the House, Scalise has been in charge of securing party consensus on important issues.

Moving up in the party hierarchy could be important for our region, provided the Republicans retain control of the U.S. House after next year’s elections.

In any event, though, having our local congressman so close to the seat of power is bound to have its advantages.

Wielding power in Congress can mean the difference between getting or not getting a crucial hearing on a bill of great local importance.

It could go a long way toward getting much-needed attention to and investment in Louisiana’s coastal challenges.

“I understand from experience that unity is easy to call for, but it takes the right kind of leadership to achieve,” Scalise said in a letter to fellow Republicans announcing his candidacy for majority leader. “Whenever you’ve called on me, I’ve delivered. Together, we’ve confronted many challenging issues, and each time I’ve worked to bring all parts of our conference together to pass legislation that reflects our values and moves our country forward.”

That is the sort of tone each party’s leadership needs to take.

To get things done at the federal level, the parties have to marshal their political power and make sure each member is working toward a common goal.

Ideally, that goal would be driven by national priorities rather than party allegiance, but the fact is that party plays a huge part in the current workings of Washington.

Scalise’s move up the political ladder is not guaranteed.

He has several competitors for the job, including Budget Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., who has picked up some high-profile endorsements. But Scalise remains the frontrunner in a contest that should be decided in a private vote on Thursday.

Louisiana now has just six members of the U.S. House and two members of the Senate. Its small congressional delegation has some huge responsibilities. Making up in clout what we lack in numbers could be one way to increase the local area’s chances of getting what we need from the federal government.




Oct. 4

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune on why Bobby Jindal should cut his losses on Common Core:

Despite rulings against him in state and federal court, Gov. Bobby Jindal still has his lawyers fighting Common Core. He doesn’t mind throwing more money at a losing battle - and, no wonder. It’s not his money he’s wasting.

It’s ours. And it is no small amount.

So far, Gov. Jindal has spent $830,000 of taxpayers’ money on his failed effort to put an end to Common Core academic standards. That was before the decision to appeal the September federal court ruling against him, so the bill will almost certainly rise.

Jimmy Faircloth, the governor’s former executive counsel, has been the biggest beneficiary. He’s gotten $600,000 for his work so far on the Common Core cases in state and federal court. Gov. Jindal is appealing both losses.

Two other law firms worked for the governor on the Common Core lawsuit filed in state court. The Long Law Firm in Baton Rouge was paid $200,000 and John Murphy, of Morain & Murphy in Baton Rouge, was paid $30,000, according to legal contracts.

The costs ballooned over the past year. The Jindal administration initially contracted to pay Mr. Faircloth $50,000 to handle the governor’s federal lawsuit against Common Core. That was in August 2014. This summer, the contract was revised to $475,000.

Mr. Faircloth blamed the increase in cost on the need to hire experts and do out-of-state depositions. “The experts in that case … cost $70,000 that my firm advanced,” he said. There also were depositions in Washington and Chicago, he said.

Those must have been pricey depositions to increase the legal costs almost tenfold.

Asked whether the appeals would push the legal costs higher, Mr. Faircloth said: “I really don’t know. I hope not.”

He hopes not? Is he going to do the work pro bono? That would be a switch.

The Associated Press reported in 2013 that Mr. Faircloth’s law firm already had gotten $1.1 million in no-bid legal contract work from the Jindal administration. That included defending the governor’s voucher program, which was found unconstitutional. His firm also worked on the state’s litigation against BP.

The lawsuit against BP was filed to protect the public’s interests. The Common Core lawsuits are just another way for Gov. Jindal to court conservative presidential primary voters in other states.

Spending $830,000 in public money on political vanity is obscene - particularly given Louisiana’s current budget woes.

Gov. Jindal long ago stopped being interested in the good of the state. Once he focused on the presidency, Louisiana was just a prop for his campaign. And the state is suffering from the lack of leadership.

The next governor and Legislature, who will be chosen in the coming weeks, are facing an estimated $100 million deficit from last year’s budget. In addition, there is a $300 million shortfall in the Medicaid program and a $19 million gap in the TOPS college scholarship budget.

Colleges and universities are bracing for more cuts. It is unclear where the savings will be found since they have already absorbed a 34 percent cut in state revenue over the past seven years. No other state has cut higher education as much.

Gov. Jindal should be ashamed of that record. He should also be ashamed of spending $830,000 on these lawsuits.

Common Core isn’t going to be taken down by him. U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick discounted every argument he made. Common Core, which grew out of the National Governors Association, isn’t a federal program and doesn’t infringe on the state’s power to decide what children are taught, she said.

He also lost a lawsuit against Common Core in state court last year. Baton Rouge District Judge Todd Hernandez ruled Aug. 19, 2014, in state court that the governor’s executive order forbidding Louisiana’s Department of Education to buy new student tests was improper and harmful to families and schools. His ruling freed the Department of Education to purchase the new tests.

The Legislature came up with a compromise to try to end the fight. Educators from across the state are serving on committees to review Common Core math and English standards and recommend any changes needed. More than 30,000 Louisianians had offered their opinions as of mid-August.

The next governor will be the one to judge their work.

Gov. Jindal is just pretending he has a role in the future of Common Core at this point. And he needs to stop wasting state money in the process.



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