- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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May 18

The Daily Advertiser on state Republicans:

If there is a loyal opposition in Baton Rouge, it’s getting clearer where its loyalties rest. It is not with Louisiana’s people.

Three different efforts involving leading state Republicans over the past month suggest the party is too focused on exercising its own power for its own purposes, less interested in providing good outcomes for the people of Louisiana. Does the GOP need new leadership?

Consider these actions taken of late by some of the party’s leading lights:

- Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, acting at the behest of state GOP Chairman Roger Villere, participated in a bizarre scheme involving a Lake Charles company, a Delaware corporation and Iraq’s oil export agency that ostensibly would have lured business to Louisiana. Not only did the deal, reported by The Advocate, wind up appearing like a scam, but Nungesser, in promoting it, apparently told others he was acting on behalf of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who had no idea what Nungesser and Villere were pulling. Nungesser has since apologized.

- Attorney General Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, is attempting to carve out his own office budget, separate and apart from the executive branch budget that Gov. John Bel Edwards is constitutionally charged with preparing. House Republicans have aided him in that effort, one that is likely illegal and will either be defeated in the Senate or vetoed by the governor. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said Landry’s office, in essence, would become a fourth branch of government, chipping away at the governor’s authority as the state’s chief executive officer.

- The House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, pushed a budget that, on the surface, would preserve funding for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, TOPS, at the expense of Louisiana’s charity hospitals. But the Council for a Better Louisiana rightly called the Appropriations version of the budget “a shell game,” one proposed to curry favor among worried voters without actually solving any pressing budget issues. Who benefits?

What gives? This state has a monumental problem, a $600 million hole in the fiscal 2017 budget, that threatens to shake the financial foundations of Louisiana. It casts a shadow over all the state’s good intentions. Meanwhile, some Republican leaders, apparently unable to accept that a Democrat sits in the governor’s chair, have run off the rails with partisan craziness.

This newspaper endorsed a Republican candidate for governor in 2015, but this editorial board recognizes that our new governor is honorable, decent and well qualified to lead Louisiana. Louisiana voters apparently thought so, too, because they put Edwards into office by a comfortable margin.

There are still state leaders, some Republicans included, who recognize that Louisiana voters need results from Baton Rouge, not raw, partisan, poisonous excesses. It’s time - no, past time - to let reason reign.

Online:

https://www.theadvertiser.com/

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May 15

The Advocate on U.S. Sen. David Vitter:

While the national political debate has been focused on the presidential race, there will be an important election this fall to replace U.S. Sen. David Vitter, retiring from the Senate after two terms.

Vitter is a controversial figure, as his loss in the 2015 race for governor indicated, and he is no less so in Washington than in Louisiana. He is one of the younger generation of GOP partisans who often annoyed the leadership of his own party, opposing his elders’ compromises and relishing confrontation.

Among those happy to see him go this year? If truth be told, some on his own side of the aisle as well as Democrats he has criticized. But we would say that among the group are some institutional players in Washington criticized by the senator, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which richly deserved his attention.

A senator for only months before the arrival of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but a member of the U.S. and state House before that, Vitter was a tireless advocate for the devastated state and his home region flooded by the failure of Corps levees.

Badgering the Corps, though, was not all that Vitter has done well.

Among the most ideological of Republicans, he worked closely with one of the most liberal of Democrats, Barbara Boxer, of California. In 2014, she was chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee where Vitter also serves. It’s one of the key committees for Louisiana because of its oversight of water projects and the Corps.

However far apart on many issues, including environmental ones, the two senators worked to pass through the difficult political ecosystem of Capitol Hill major new bills for water projects.

While the entire Louisiana delegation typically works on these issues, because rivers and coastlines are of such vital importance to the state, Vitter’s post as ranking minority member gave him a particularly key role as one of the members reconciling different versions of the 2014 bill for water resources.

A new bill has been passed out of committee, again with Vitter’s leadership as a subcommittee chairman in the GOP-led Senate. It’s a tough year for a bill, as it is a national election year, but the proposed Water Resources Development Act of 2016 provides for hurricane and flood protection projects and dredging and maintenance of major ports, including those in Louisiana.

Another provision of the bill will make it easier for dredged soil to be used for coastal restoration projects.

Vitter’s work in this area has long been valuable for the state. If he pulls off a major water projects bill in an election year, it will be a remarkable finish for his Senate years.

Online:

https://theadvocate.com/

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May 11

The Courier of Houma on the effects of low oil prices:

If you live in Oregon or Michigan or Georgia, you might only think about oil prices when you fill up your gas tank.

In those places, low oil, and therefore low gas, prices are welcome.

They help people travel at a lower cost. They also help deliver goods and services at lower costs. They have kept inflation low and had some positive impact.

But their overall impact, many agree, has been negative, particularly in places such as south Louisiana where oil prices determine the level of activity of the larger economy.

Here, we have struggled through the past year and a half, seeing layoffs at numerous local workplaces. The companies and workers who depend on the oilfield workers, too, are feeling the slowdown brought on by low oil prices.

So it was good to see a national focus on this issue that has deep local ties.

Last week, CNBC’s Brian Sullivan, who co-hosts the network’s show “Power Lunch,” stopped in Larose to detail the impact the tepid oil industry is having here.

Part of a series called “Crude Reality: State of Pain,” the Larose stop was the last of a group that also included North Dakota, Alaska and New Mexico.

Sullivan broadcast live May 6 from Bollinger Shipyards’ Larose facility.

“What we’re seeing is not a lot of people working,” Sullivan said. “Boats are docked, in drydock, and rigs are stacked. What you want to see is people at work. It’s a tough situation. You don’t get this sense in North Dakota and Texas.”

Sullivan went on to explain what he has seen as the fallout from the oil downturn.

“Not expensive gas prices are good, super cheap gas is not,” he said. “Low gas prices are good for certain things, and they matter, but I don’t think they make up for the hits to the families that see the layoffs.”

That is an important point that could well be lost on people so far away from the oilfield who don’t see the layoffs and the local economic impact.

That impact here has been significant. The region lost 2,800 jobs last year, and some economists are predicting thousands more will be lost this year.

It is a story that should be told, that low prices at the pump have a lasting impact elsewhere.

In the sense that Sullivan’s show might help take that point to people who would otherwise have no idea of the economic struggle involved in the current oil industry, it is a good thing.

Of course, everyone here would prefer that he were reporting on the booming local industry. Perhaps he will make a return trip - soon - to tell that story.

Online:

https://www.houmatoday.com/


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