- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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June 27

The Houma Courier on fireworks:

The Fourth of July is just a week away.

That means the nation is ready to embark on a celebration of its birthday.

Americans will do that through patriotic displays, parades, community gatherings and, most commonly, with fireworks.

Fireworks displays are traditional parts of many Independence Day celebrations.

But smaller, less-formal gatherings that culminate in explosive light shows are also commonplace throughout our region and most others.

While this can be a festive way for people to celebrate patriotism, it can also be a way for people to end up in an emergency room, set off a fire or land in legal trouble.

There are some easy ways to keep any of those things from putting a damper on your patriotic celebration.

First, rather than bringing home a carload of fireworks, go to one of the local fireworks shows that are great community events.

These are great family-friendly affairs that will leave you in the mood for some fireworks … and then there’s the fireworks.

The Houma Independence Celebration kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center, 346 Civic Center Blvd, Houma. The band Pepper Jelly will perform at 7:15 p.m., and fireworks start at 9:30 p.m.

Thibodaux’s Let Freedom Ring Festival is set for the Fourth of July at Peltier Park, 151 Peltier Park Drive, Thibodaux. It starts at noon and includes food and music. The band Royal Flush will perform from 4-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. The fireworks start at 9 p.m.

If you want to set off your own fireworks, make sure you follow all the safety precautions and that fireworks are allowed where you will be.

They are illegal in Terrebonne Parish.

In Lafourche, fireworks are illegal in Thibodaux and Golden Meadow, except in Oak Ridge Park. The designated times to pop fireworks in Lafourche is from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through July 2, 9 a.m. to midnight July 3-4, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 5.

If you are outside of those places and times, leave the fireworks to the professionals and just sit back to enjoy the bright, loud show.

Over the course of the holidays, it is vitally important to be responsible with alcohol. This is particularly true if you will be operating a vehicle or setting off fireworks. Joy can turn to tragedy in an instant. If you are going to drink, plan to stay away from the fireworks and make sure you have a safe, sober ride home.

Enjoy this most patriotic of holidays, and please stay safe.

Online: https://www.houmatoday.com/

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June 25

Nola.com/The Times-Picayune on why Louisiana’s senators need to protect Medicaid:

The impact of the federal Medicaid expansion in Louisiana has been dramatic. In less than a year, more than 428,000 residents have signed up. These are mainly people whose jobs don’t provide health care and who make too little to afford to buy a private policy. They work in tourism and construction and other jobs essential to our state’s economic well-being.

“This access is changing, and in many cases, saving their lives,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a letter he hand-delivered to Vice President Mike Pence in late May.

The governor included a litany of statistics in the letter. In the first year of the expansion, 91,600 Louisiana residents have gotten preventive care, he said. In addition: 6,500 women were screened for breast cancer; 9,400 patients were screened for colon cancer; 2,300 people were diagnosed with diabetes, and nearly 22,800 Louisianians received mental health treatment. More than 100 women who were screened by mammograms are now being treated for cancer.

As the governor noted, this kind of access to health care will save lives.

That is why, as the Senate considers its replacement for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Louisiana Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy must make sure residents don’t lose their newfound health coverage.

The Senate bill, which was revealed Thursday (June 22) after being hammered out in private, makes deep cuts to Medicaid. Its version appears to be even more draconian than the House’s Medicaid revisions, which didn’t seem possible.

Both the House and Senate would phase out the extra money going to states for the Medicaid expansion and would cap how much federal money is spent on health care for poor residents. The Senate bill takes longer to phase out the expansion and reduce funding, but it is less generous in payments to states.

That is very bad news for Louisiana.

The House’s American Health Care Act would shift at least $8 billion in Medicaid costs from the federal government to Louisiana over the next decade, according to an analysis by the Louisiana Budget Project. That would leave the state with no good choices: raise taxes significantly, slash health coverage, cut other state services to pay for health care - or all of the above.

Louisiana has struggled to balance its budget for most of the past decade, and health care and higher education already have taken hits. If Congress pushes billions more in costs to the state, the most likely outcome is that tens of thousands of Louisiana residents would lose health coverage. They would have to go without preventive care and most likely wind up in emergency rooms, which would put a greater financial burden on hospitals.

Before the Medicaid expansion, only Louisiana’s poorest residents qualified for the federal health program. The expansion raised eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which includes many low-income workers.

Louisiana had nearly 30,000 uninsured restaurant workers and 15,500 uninsured construction workers a year ago, the Department of Health and Hospitals said when enrollment started for the expansion. Musicians and other artists also benefit from access to Medicaid.

In Louisiana, Medicaid patients have access to a primary care physician to manage their care. They are able to get annual checkups and have prescription coverage. With regular care, doctors can catch serious illnesses early enough for a cure and help patients control chronic conditions.

The Medicaid expansion has economic benefits, too - adding health care related jobs and an estimated $1.8 billion to the state’s economy, the governor said.

Louisiana is not alone in its concerns. Gov. Edwards and six other governors, including three moderate Republicans, sent a letter to Senate leaders critical of the House bill because it threatens coverage for the most vulnerable Americans.

Gov. Edwards echoed those thoughts in his letter to the vice president. The most important investment “is in our most precious resources, our human capital,” he said.

He’s right. That ought to be a priority for us as a nation. And it certainly should be a priority for Louisiana’s U.S. senators.

Online: www.nola.com

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June 24

The Advocate on oil prices:

There’s a drop in the price of oil, and then there’s a long drop. Even veterans of the industry probably were as surprised as the stock markets when oil went down to almost $43 a barrel for U.S. benchmark crude.

The oversupply in the world market has been driven by some wells still being drilled, including in Texas’ Permian Basin. There just is more production in the United States these days to add to traditional sources like Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.

A low price of oil, as well as natural gas, provides benefits even in Louisiana, where energy production is such a vital part of the economy. Drivers save at the gasoline pump, businesses sell more in a growing national economy basking in low energy prices. The vast market for natural gas around the world is driving the building of new export facilities in southwest Louisiana, served by our state’s unsurpassed pipeline network.

Yet it is hard to look at the low price of energy as an unalloyed good for Louisiana. The loss of 17,000 energy jobs represents a significant economic blow in the oil patch, particularly in Lafayette and Houma.

A new report from the LSU Center for Energy Studies projects that about half those job losses should return by 2020.

It is common knowledge that energy prices can be very volatile, and the recent quarrel between Qatar and the Saudis and their allies in the Persian Gulf shows how political factors can affect oil futures prices. For that matter, although Tropical Storm Cindy did not do much damage, a hurricane of the dimensions of the two in 2005, Katrina and Rita, can significantly disrupt world markets for oil and gas.

While it is not a great consolation to natural gas producers, cheap gas has already facilitated $142 billion in announced major industrial projects in Louisiana, according to the report. More than $46 billion of those expansions or new facilities have been completed since 2011, with $96 billion remaining.

“While all these projects likely will not come to fruition, this represents a significant opportunity for the energy manufacturing sector in coming years,” the report says.

The report is also optimistic about improved drilling techniques lowering the break-even cost in key shale formations, even as crude prices remain relatively low.

Fracking of shale formations produces “associated gas” along with oil, so that is a long-term insurance of low prices for energy consumers in Louisiana - the petrochemical complexes between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and in Lake Charles, as well as the new export facilities.

Still, $43 a barrel? Yikes. That suggests a continued problem for Louisiana companies in energy production.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com/


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