- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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Jan. 31

The Courier of Houma on the Louisiana Workforce Commission computers being harmed by a substandard system:

The Louisiana Workforce Commission continues to be harmed by a substandard computer system that has caused problems since its installation in 2015.



The Helping Individuals Reach Employment, or HIRE, system was implemented in the final months of former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tenure and under the supervision of his mother, Raj Jindal, who was the department’s information services director.

And since that time, the system has caused overpayments of unemployment, delays in fraud investigations and an inability to track the department’s expenditures. It’s so bad, according to the audit, that the Workforce Commission doesn’t know if it’s budget for last year was even accurate.

Most concerning, though, is the fact that it still lacks proper security systems that should protect users’ personal information.

All of it is inexcusable.

According to a recent audit report produced by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office, those issues are still affecting the system.

The good news, if it can be called that, is that the current leadership seems to be making great strides in addressing the problems left behind by Jindal when he left office.

“My administration continues to work diligently to resolve all noted issues in the report,” Workforce Commission Executive Director Ava Dejoie wrote. “While considerable work remains, I think the progress made over the last fiscal year illustrates LWC’s commitment to satisfactorily resolving these findings.” And she disputed the audit’s finding that the system’s security remains weak.

Still, the fact that this public agency is having such persistent problems in correcting a system that should be working for Louisiana’s job seekers is deeply troubling. The task of getting our working people back to work - particularly in this time of economic distress - is a vitally important to our state.

Having problems like this linger for years on end has to erode the confidence anyone can have in a public agency that is supposed to do this great work.

There are still questions about why it was put into place so quickly and without adequate testing and trouble-shooting. But those questions are less important than the one that should be on the public’s mind: When will this system be fixed?

If Dejoie is correct, it could be headed in the right direction. But that is little comfort to the many who were inconvenienced or hurt by the needlessly enduring shortfalls.

Online: http://www.houmatoday.com

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Jan. 31

The Advocate on an executive order by President Donald Trump committing the federal government to a permitting process:

Even if it were it sitting in a green field on high ground, the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion would be a giant project. Permits and approvals to build it would take years, typically. But since it’s within - and intends to preserve and rebuild - Louisiana’s deeply endangered coastal zone, an environmentally sensitive area by any definition, the challenges of gaining needed construction permits and approvals are even more staggering.

That’s why we welcome an executive order by President Donald Trump committing the federal government to a permitting process that will work and not bog the project down in the marsh of red tape and regulations.

A two-year timeline for advancing the project will be enforced by a memorandum between the state and several federal agencies. The provisions of the agreement don’t set aside federal laws and regulations, but it establishes an expedited process for untangling any disagreements in the course of permitting the project.

That’s no small matter: The state proposes to pay $1.3 billion for the diversion project. The money will come from the legal settlement with BP after the disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Even with the money in hand, such a major project for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will involve a lot of consultation with federal authorities that have broad power over actions in wetlands or on the coast. But with the agreement, the agencies are being nudged to avoid delays.

Will they? We hope so, and we hope that the Louisiana delegation in Congress will also bird-dog compliance with the memorandum signed by the federal agencies and CPRA chief Johnny Bradberry.

Political tensions have been greater lately in Washington, with at least a couple of members of the state’s delegation in Congress thinking aloud about running against Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2019. However, the delegation and the state officials of both parties have often come together on behalf of the coast.

We are confident a Democratic governor working with the new Republican administration on a major environmental project will once again generate common ground for all the officials involved.

The project will eventually return Mississippi River sediment to the coastal wetlands to rebuild land that has been lost and offset the subsidence of coastal wetlands that is occurring every day on Louisiana’s shoreline.

Coastal erosion has been accelerating since at least the 1930s, when federal officials promoted a series of levees for flood control, limiting the Mississippi River’s ability to carry replenishing sediment to the coast. Subsequent damage to wetlands by oil and gas exploration further sped the loss.

The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion project is a big bet that the natural replenishment of the coastline by the river can be mimicked by man. The expedited timeline for its permits, and eventually its construction, is good news.

Online: http://www.theadvocate.com/

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Jan. 31

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune on why Louisiana shouldn’t let abusers get away with keeping guns:

Louisiana law forbids people convicted of domestic abuse or who are under certain protective orders to possess a gun.

But legislators refused to include a process in the law for relinquishing the weapons, so many abusers are allowed to keep their guns by default. That leaves victims unprotected and at risk of being injured or killed by a vengeful spouse or partner.

Lawmakers ought to pass legislation to close that loophole and set up rules for every sheriff and court to follow. The state’s Domestic Violence Commission, which was created as part of a 2014 domestic violence law, is working on recommendations on relinquishment to present to the Legislature.

A statewide law would be the best approach. State Rep. Helena Moreno of New Orleans tried for two years to get that done, but lawmakers wouldn’t agree to it because of resistance from sheriffs and other criminal justice officials. Basically, opponents didn’t want to have to handle more paperwork or hold additional hearings, victim advocates said.

The fact that lawmakers went along with the opposition shows how few of them are really committed to protecting victims.

But sheriffs and judges don’t have to wait on the Legislature to act. All they have to do is enforce state law requiring abusers to give up their guns, Rep. Moreno said. “Individual parishes can do this on their own,” she said.

Lafourche Parish is leading the way. Sheriff Craig Webre has developed a process for tracking offenders who fall under the prohibition, notifying them of the law and working with them to give up the weapons.

He made a detailed presentation on his strategy to the Louisiana Judicial College in 2015. There’s a copy online for any sheriff who wants to do the right thing.

Judge Bernadette D’Souza, who was elected in 2012 as the first judge in New Orleans’ family court, also is enforcing the relinquishment provision in the domestic violence laws. Rep. Moreno, who is moving to the City Council in May, said she will push to expand enforcement in the city.

Other parishes should follow the lead of Sheriff Webre and Judge D’Souza.

Louisiana is a dangerous place for victims of domestic violence. The state ranks third in the nation for murders of women, according to the Violence Policy Center. Louisiana has 2.22 deaths of women per 100,000 residents, which is twice the national average.

One reason for that high rate is the easy access abusers have to guns, Mariah Wineski, executive director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said in a statement released in September.

“Although state and federal law prohibit many abusers from possessing firearms, our state lacks any consistent process for actually implementing these prohibitions,” she said. “This means many people convicted of domestic abuse battery - and therefore prohibited from possessing a firearm - nonetheless retain access to their guns.” Sixty-four percent of the women in Louisiana killed by men in 2015, were shot to death, the Violence Policy Center found.

The lack of a relinquishment process could lead to more deaths. According to a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine, states with relinquishment laws have 14 percent fewer domestic violence homicides than states without those laws.

There was a restraining order in place in November when Krystle Landor, a 28-year-old mother of three, was shot to death near Lacombe by her ex-boyfriend. Her family said Ms. Landor had done everything possible to protect herself, but the criminal justice system didn’t help her enough. “A convicted felon with a gun, and a mental patient; four days he’s back out on the streets. A couple weeks he comes back out and killed my daughter,” Ms. Landor’s father told WWL-TV.

That is what Rep. Moreno has tried to prevent. It’s time for every sheriff and judge to follow the law and take guns out of abusers’ hands.

Online: http://www.nola.com

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