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Louisiana editorial roundup

August 7, 2019

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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Aug. 6

American Press on protecting U.S. elections from foreign interference:

Making sure U.S. elections are secure from foreign interference has become a puzzling problem. The states need federal funding to update their voting systems, but they are worried about too much interference in what has been a longtime state responsibility.

The fact that foreign governments are meddling in our elections isn’t disputed. The Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee has told the American people all 50 state election systems have been targeted and free and fair elections are under attack by the Russians and others.

The Associated Press said Russian agents “exploited the seams” between federal government expertise and ill-equipped state and local election officials. Cybersecurity experts support legislation stalled in Congress that would require states to have a voter-verified paper record of every ballot cast and require states to implement more rigorous audits of election results.

Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and member of the Intelligence Committee, said, “We would not ask a local sheriff to go to war against the missiles, planes and tanks of the Russian Army. We shouldn’t ask a county election IT employee to fight a war against the full capabilities and vast resources of Russia’s cyber army. That approach failed in 2016 and it will fail again.”

The AP said Senate Republicans have been uninterested in taking up election security legislation because the Trump administration has already made great strides in protecting the vote. They say no more federal funds are needed beyond the $380 million in grants sent to states last year.

Some progress is being made. Homeland Security, the department given the job of securing elections, over the last two years has been working to build up trust with wary state and local officials through increased communications, training and offers of cybersecurity support. The AP said both sides say the relationship has greatly improved.

State election officials should remember what a voting technology expert said about the federal-state election connection.

“There is no question that the authority resides with the states, but Congress not only has the right but an obligation to make sure federal elections are secure,” said Lawrence Norden with the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law.

We know there has been foreign election interference, so this is not the time for a turf war. Both governments have to be involved in protecting U.S. elections.

Online: https://www.americanpress.com

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Aug. 5

The Houma Courier on the annual emergence of summer ‘dead zones’ in the Gulf of Mexico:

The annual summer dead zone that develops in the Gulf of Mexico has arrived once again.

But, while its arrival remains a troubling sign of the level of agricultural runoff that affects the Gulf and the life it supports, its size appears to be smaller than what the experts expected — giving some hope that perhaps the problem is trending in the right direction.

“The momentum is in the right direction,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Bill Northey, a member of the Hypoxia Task Force, said. “Though, I certainly don’t have an end point for when things will have a massive improvement either.”

The dead zone, or hypoxia, remains a concern, particularly here on the Gulf Coast where our fishermen and others are directly affected by it. Nitrogen and phosphorous runs off from farmland throughout the Mississippi River Valley, eventually making its way to the Gulf. There it spurs huge growths of algae in the warm summer sea. The algae then dies off, sucking the oxygen out of the water and killing wildlife or making it flee to more hospitable waters.

Unfortunately, the effects of the dead zone are seen and felt far away from where its causes reside, making the problem a tough one for any agency other than the federal government to tackle.

For years now, scientists have measured the zone and registered alarm at its continued existence, all to no avail. While there have been some voluntary efforts to curb the water pollution at the phenomenon’s root, anything short of federal action is unlikely to have a large enough impact on it.

“Nitrate levels have not gone down, and phosphorous levels have actually increased,” said Raleigh Hoke, the campaign director for Healthy Gulf.

And there is some speculation that Hurricane Barry could have made the dead zone appear smaller than it actually was this summer.

In any event, federal action is needed to protect our plentiful but delicate natural resources. We cannot continue to dump harmful chemicals into our river and our Gulf and expect the outcomes to be any different than they have been for years now.

The dead zone is a sign of imbalance, and it should be a call to action for the agencies that can make a difference. We have to continue watching to see if it has the effects it should.

Online: www.houmatoday.com

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Aug. 1

The Advocate on an effort to ease rules for hair braiding licensing in the state:

On the face of it, Louisiana is in a ridiculous legal position: The state requires hundreds of hours of training and an expensive license for hair braiders.

If ever there were a case made for the libertarian crusaders of the Institute for Justice, this is it.

The law firm and three hair braiders have challenged in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge the clearly oppressive rules of the state Board of Cosmetology.

We say oppressive because no other neighboring state has such rules. “What is safe across the border does not suddenly become dangerous in Louisiana,” the IJ contends. There are only a handful of licensed hair braiders in Louisiana, and hundreds in Texas and Mississippi.

Like eyebrow threading, natural hair braiding doesn’t require chemicals or anything else that constitutes a health hazard that government can use to justify interfering with private enterprise.

In Texas, an eyebrow-threading regulation was struck down by courts in 2015.

How can the state possibly defend its hair braider regulations? Well, maybe on the legal grounds that the Legislature has given regulatory authority to the board, and they’ve used it, however unwisely.

Whatever the outcome of the IJ case, and the nonprofit law firm has won some and lost some in Louisiana, it should be another instance in which the Legislature ought to be called upon to justify its many and often oppressive regulations and licenses imposed on entrepreneurs.

Often, the root of this evil is money. Licenses fund jobs in government on boards that regulate businesses; legislators are reluctant to upset insider deals.

The Pelican Institute for Public Policy has advocated for loosening these restraints on trade, but it’s more politically difficult than one might think. “While the recently concluded session saw some progress made toward reforming Louisiana’s burdensome occupational licensing laws, the usual entrenched status quo attempted to obstruct reforms at every turn,” Pelican President Daniel Erspamer reports.

A sign of progress: Erspamer cites House Bill 431 by state Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, that will help formerly incarcerated individuals trained in hospice care to secure licenses to work. It passed and was signed into law by the governor, despite some opposition along the way.

In earlier years, an effort to change the system of florists’ licensing — florists! — resulted in a typical Louisiana compromise. The state board kept the fee but the oppressive test requirements were loosened.

This is not much in the way of progress.

The IJ lawsuit on hair braiding, if nothing else, draws attention to the system that is anti-competitive and unreasonable.

Online: www.theadvocate.com

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