Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Houma Courier on ride-sharing:
It’s taken Louisiana lawmakers three years, but they finally passed the statewide regulations ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are requesting before they add service to all but the largest cities.
And that would include Terrebonne Parish, which has long sought to allow the services to operate locally.
State Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, played a key role in clearing the multiple logjams that prevented the Legislature from doing what most states started doing years ago.
“Allowing the rest of the state to have access to ride-share services is not a privilege - it is a need,” Magee said after his proposal won the Senate’s approval Saturday. “More than 40 states across the country have statewide ride-sharing frameworks, and I am proud Louisiana will now join them with one set of rules that will expand access to transportation options for our residents and visitors.”
Terrebonne Parish President Gordy Dove and the Parish Council also played an important role by joining other smaller communities in lobbying for the bill.
The measure was headed back to the House for concurrence on minor changes, a vote considered a formality since representatives approved it unanimously earlier in the legislative session. Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he will sign the measure.
Supporters repeated a familiar refrain Saturday, noting that Louisiana was unnecessarily lagging behind, blocking a service that is nothing new for most states, one that could lessen drunken driving, boost economic development and help people who lack cars.
“It makes us look like we have not caught up with the rest of the country,” Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, said in an Associated Press news story.
When ride-sharing will hit the roads of Terrebonne and Lafourche remains uncertain. Lawmakers continued to argue Saturday over whether the state Transportation Department should oversee the services, as the bill dictates, or whether that authority should go to the Louisiana Public Service Commission. At least one senator said he suspects the issue could head to court, suggesting that cab companies, which have lobbied against the measure, might file suit.
What is clear is that a major roadblock has been removed, and an Uber or Lyft driver is finally on the way.
The American Press on Lake Charles’ transportation issues:
Traffic on local roadways and interstate bridges has become a bigger problem in Lake Charles in recent years.
Whether it’s ongoing construction or an influx of people, getting around town just isn’t as easy as it used to be.
On top of that, some residents may not own a car and have trouble going from one place to the next, even on shorter trips.
One option that may help people travel easier is bike shares. They’ve been introduced in other cities nationwide as an alternative to driving.
Is Lake Charles ready for such a program? According to a recent study, it is.
The Bayou Bikeshare Plan study listed Lake Charles and McNeese State University as being “feasible locations” for a bike share system. It recommends a phased-in approach, introducing 151 electric bicycles with 32 hub locations citywide, followed by 184 new bicycles and 39 new hubs three years later.
Before anything can be rolled out, however, a vendor has to be chosen. Earlier this week, locals got the chance to visit with representatives from Gotcha Group, a bike share company that has programs in nearly 80 cities in the U.S.
Nathan Huber, Gotcha director of mobility partnerships, talked about Lake Charles’ potential to have a successful bike share program.
Gotcha offers pedal-assist bicycles, e-scooters and e-trikes. Those at the meeting had the opportunity to try out the bicycle and scooter. The bicycles can be unlocked from a phone app, with battery life lasting nearly 50 miles.
One concern is people ditching bicycles or scooters throughout the city outside the designated hubs. Huber said those who do would face fines.
Along with getting a reputable vendor, the movement needs enough financial backing to get off the ground. Lindsey West, president and CEO of Bantam Strategy Group, said some organizations have stated their desire to fund such a program.
McNeese students have spoken up about putting a bike share system on campus, according to Mitchell Adrian, provost and vice president of academic affairs.
There’s still plenty of conversation and steps left before a bike share program becomes a reality in Lake Charles.
For now, it’s important to continue the discussion and iron out any details, making sure the program is successful and offers people another way to get around town.
The Courier on the nation’s flood insurance program:
Houma-Thibodaux residents and the other 5 million Americans who depend on the nation’s flood insurance program have gotten used to Congress playing games with it.
In the latest episode, lawmakers nearly let the program lapse on the eve of hurricane season. And as the Army Corps of Engineers plans to unleash the power of the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin to relieve pressure on levees that protect Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., managed to win approval Thursday of a two-week extension that prevent(ed) the program from lapsing.
The time before that, Congress and President Donald Trump let the program lapse a few days in December during a federal shutdown amid debate over money for his border wall.
A few lawmakers from Louisiana and other coastal states had to push hard to prevent the program from lapsing during last year’s hurricane season.
When the program lapses, current policies remained unaffected. But it stalls thousands of home sales locally and across the country because federal law requires anyone in a high-risk area to have flood insurance before a lender can issue a mortgage. And it causes unnecessary fear and anxiety for the policyholders who depend on the program to insure what for many Americans is their biggest single investment -- their homes.
Here is what Bill Cassidy, R-La., and a bipartisan group of fellow U.S. senators wrote about a week ago in a letter to ranking members of a key Senate committee considering flood-insurance reform proposals:
“Within two years, the National Flood Insurance Program has been subjected to 10 short-term extensions. This ridiculous process has created significant uncertainty and anxiety for homeowners, renters, and small business owners in our states.”
They’re right. “Ridiculous” is the operative word at this point.
For years, Congress has delayed reforms to a program that is now an estimated $25 billion on debt and instead relied on last-minute, short-term fixes to keep it running. The senators argue that it’s long past time for Congress to stop passing short-term extensions and put the flood-insurance program on solid financial footing for the long term.
They’re right about that too.
Anyone can help make that happen by calling his or her representatives in Congress. Here are their names and numbers: Kennedy, (202) 224-4623; Cassidy, (202) 224-5824; Rep. Steve Scalise, (202) 225-3015; and Rep. Garret Graves, (202) 225-3901. You can also call the White House at 202-456-1111. All of their websites have forms that allow citizens to submit comments.
Tell lawmakers to stop messing with our flood insurance.