Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The (Houma) Courier on ride-sharing services in Louisiana:
It’s taken Louisiana lawmakers three years and they still haven’t come up with 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.
Watching the Legislature repeatedly bungle something at least 45 states have managed to accomplish has become painful. Last year was particularly pathetic, as The Advocate and ProPublica reported that more than a dozen legislators, lobbyists and Capitol staff attributed the bill’s defeat to Senate President John Alario of Westwego. Specifically, the sources cited Alario’s close personal, professional and political alliance with former Sen. Francis Heitmeier, who makes a living selling insurance to cab companies and lobbied against the ride-sharing bill. The cab industry was one of the bill’s few opponents, the news outlets reported.
This year, state Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, has introduced a similar bill, but it has hit another roadblock. This time, lawmakers are locked in debate over which agency should regulate ride-sharing services: the state Transportation Department or the Public Service Commission. And, as news media reported this week, backers of either one say they are willing to let the bill die rather than let the other agency do the job.
Are you kidding?
Louisiana residents, especially those in Terrebonne who have fought for ride-sharing services for years, don’t care which agency oversees them. They are tired of excuses that have left them without a service that is nothing new at all in almost every state in the nation.
Magee said during a Senate committee meeting last week that he recently had a visitor who arrived at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and assumed she could use Uber to get to Houma. She found out that was not the case and couldn’t rent a car because she lacked a driver’s license.
How backward that must look to anyone who travels and is used to using Uber or Lyft to get wherever they choose to go.
What Louisiana residents want, and deserve, are clear, enforceable ride-sharing rules that ensure passengers are safe, fares are fair and that the services will get them to their destination of choice. Almost every other state has managed to come up with a system that avoids the patchwork of local regulations companies like Uber and Lyft say make it too difficult to operate in smaller communities. That means there is no shortage of regulatory systems that work well that Louisiana lawmakers could use as a model.
Lawmakers don’t have to reinvent the wheel with this one. Magee’s bill has passed every hurdle this session and awaits only approval by the Senate. Get the job done now and stop making Louisiana residents wait for something the rest of America -- and Louisiana’s largest cities -- have had for years.
The Advocate on judge “gaming the system”:
Finding that former Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge Yolanda King lied about living in New Orleans on election paperwork, the Louisiana Supreme Court on Monday formally suspended her from the practice of law.
But the high court backdated its one-year suspension to March 2016. Combined with a very favorable plea deal she quietly reached with state Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office, this could set the stage for King to rejoin the profession for the costs of the legal discipline process. Landry’s office declined comment, but the misdemeanor charge is a big break for the former judge.
This is another incidence of a convicted elected official who is spared jail time and then cut a lot of slack to get back the privileges of being an officer of the court.
This isn’t exactly a return to grace for King, who lost credibility because of her sleazy behavior. But it’s another example of the way the system works for those who have connections. When wrongdoers face such meager consequences for violating the public trust, why should anyone be surprised that more politicians don’t try it?
The (Lake Charles) American Press on summer feeding programs vital for many:
It’s widely assumed that all children are thrilled when the school year ends and they get a break from the academic demands of the classroom. But summer can pose problems for some, particularly those whose families rely on free or reduced-price school breakfasts and lunches to meet their nutritional needs.
That need doesn’t go away just because school ends.
Feeding America reports that during the school year, 22 million children receive free or reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch Program. But when school is out during the summer months, only 3.76 million receive free or reduced-price meals through the USDA Summer Food Service Program.
This gap is the result of various barriers experienced only during the summer, including a lack of access to meal sites, insufficient program awareness and limited resources when schools are closed.
The city of Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish are both addressing this issue with their ever-growing summer feeding programs.
The Lake Charles program will serve breakfast and lunch at 21 sites across the city. Last year the program served 157,776 meals during its operations in June and July, Johnnie Mouton, assistant director, said.
“The city has the same philosophy as the school system,” he said. “We believe all children function better if they receive a breakfast and a lunch. They can think better, play better and be better citizens.”
Located at recreation centers, churches and public schools, the sites are “strategically located so everyone should be able to find a serving time for a nutritious hot meal,” he said.
The parish oversees the summer feeding program in cities and towns outside of Lake Charles city limits. Last year the program served more than 20,000 at its 11 sites.
Felicia Davis, program director, said the program is a vital resource for families, many of whom are employed but rely on the school lunch program to make ends meet during the school year.
“A lot of our parents are working and they’re just doing the best that they can,” she said.
All sites are open Monday-Friday, June 3-July 26, but will be closed on July 4.
We applaud those committed to the proposition that people should not be left to go hungry, especially our children.