Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The American Press on questionable legislative proposals:
Election season or not, Louisiana’s lawmakers have plenty on their plates during this session to make this state better. To name a few, they include paying teachers more and improving crumbling infrastructure.
As with most sessions, some bills may cause people to scratch their heads and ask why are they spending time debating them. One such bill is Senate Bill 152 by Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi.
At first glance, it reads that the intent is to provide “for truth in labeling requirements of agricultural products.”
What exactly does that mean? It basically states that foods labeled “veggie meat” or “cauliflower rice” would be prohibited. Those who don’t follow the law would be fined up to $500, with each day of a violation being a separate offense.
Thompson said the legislation is necessary to stop companies from misrepresenting their products.
Whether you are a vegetarian or not, is this bill really necessary? Why are state lawmakers even discussing this?
Have you ever been in a grocery store and saw a package of veggie meat or cauliflower rice and not known that it wasn’t actual meat or rice? The packaging is pretty clear that the food isn’t actual meat or rice, but rather an alternative for vegetarians. Do our state lawmakers think we are that ignorant to not know the difference between actual meat and a vegetarian alternative to it?
The Senate unanimously passed the legislation April 22. It heads to the House for consideration. State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain supports it.
If the bill is signed into law, these changes would become effective on Oct. 1, 2020.
Since the bill already passed the Senate with ease, it’s likely that the House will follow suit.
Sometimes, quirky bills can provide some light-hearted humor at the state Capitol. With everything that occurred last year — including numerous special sessions and tensions surrounding the state budget — it’s understandable that legislators experienced burn out.
However, Louisiana has more important issues to tackle besides food labels.
If all goes as planned, this session should be a short one. Lawmakers should stick to what really needs to be improved, instead of wasting time on bills like these.
The Courier on coastal restoration investment:
Our region doesn’t get nearly as much federal help restoring our coast as we need.
But Louisiana and our local parishes do get some assistance, and this year the amount is nearly $100 million.
Under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, Louisiana and other Gulf states get a share of the oil money taken in by the federal government for offshore drilling. This year, Louisiana is getting $95 million, and Terrebonne and Lafourche combined will get nearly $2.5 million of that. The parishes will coordinate with the state on the projects they can manage locally that contribute to the long-term master plan.
This is a significant amount of money that will go a long way toward paying for projects that are necessary in fighting back the encroaching Gulf.
“Energy-producing states along the Gulf Coast have waited a long time to start getting a fair share of offshore energy revenues, especially in Louisiana - where the Gulf has eroded over 2,000 square miles of our coast,” said Congressman Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, whose district includes the parishes’ northern reaches. “Every single penny of this funding will be invested in urgent coastal-restoration and hurricane-protection efforts to protect Louisiana lives, communities, culture and a nationally-important economic engine responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all offshore energy production in federal waters in the United States.”
Terrebonne is set to get $1.45 million, and Lafourche will get $980,000. And the money will be put to good use.
GOMESA has been a valuable tool for funneling some of the oil money back to the coastal states that help the oil production so much. And the really good news is that as oil prices have rebounded some from their lows a few years ago, oil royalties - and our share of them - have gone up as well.
GOMESA has been the target of numerous plans that would have returned the states’ money to the larger federal budget. But so far at least, Louisiana lawmakers and their colleagues across the coast have fought off those attempts.
For the sake of our coastal battles, let us hope that this important source of money remains intact. It gives us a stream of money, though far from adequate, that we can use to protect our homes, businesses and lives.
The Advocate of Baton Rouge on Louisiana’s shrinking population:
What happened to metro New Orleans in 2005 was unprecedented in the history of the United States. It included the vast displacement of hundreds of thousands of people after Hurricane Katrina. But since then, the city at the epicenter of the storms and levee failures has been coming back in terms of population and economics.
In new U.S. Census Bureau figures, New Orleans saw its population shrink by nearly 1,000 between 2016 and 2018. Needless to say, as people have been returning — and new residents have joined in a growing business and jobs recovery — it’s a milestone.
The Census figure of just over 391,000 residents is about 80 percent of its pre-Katrina population in 2005.
But New Orleans, as iconic as the city is in so many ways, is also part of the whole of Louisiana, where population declined by about 10,000 — a fraction of a percentage point, but still troubling.
And as in New Orleans proper, the decrease was a function of more people leaving than people moving in or being born.
About 27,000 more people chose to move out of the state than into it, a number that was somewhat offset by the fact that more people were born than died.
“In Louisiana, we have a fundamental problem attracting the businesses and the industries that are attractive to populations that are more likely to migrate,” said Robert Eisenstadt, an economics professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
“When you look at 27,000 people leaving the state, that’s got to be a work-related consequence,” he said.
Probably, and what can be done about that?
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the same year were dramatic alterations in the direction of Louisiana and have had far-reaching impacts. Growing population, once the surge of returning families slows, is by its nature a step-by-step process.
In Louisiana, where an oil-and-gas bust at the end of 2014 causes significant job losses in southern Louisiana, recovery has been slow but includes upticks in personal income and other vital indicators. For New Orleans in particular, suburban parishes in the region continued to grow, and nationally many such center-cities have lost a bit of population recently — perhaps a function of housing costs, which have steadily risen in the Crescent City as elsewhere. Lafayette Parish has grown every year since 1989, even with the latest oil price slump, and Baton Rouge’s metro area still shows some of the impact of the disastrous 2016 flooding.
But for both New Orleans and Louisiana, a renewed commitment to economic diversification and educational attainment is the key to prosperity that outlasts oil price collapses, or even damaging storms and floods.
New hires flow into the DXC Technologies building on Poydras Street, and that building is not alone, either in the city or in Louisiana, particularly in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. These should be beacons of what we still need to do in making our state more vibrant economically, and not dependent on any one industry.