Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune on the Louisiana Ethics Board saying a woman running for a state office can’t use campaign funds for child care while attending campaign events:
The Louisiana Ethics Board looked clueless and sexist in its Nov. 16 ruling forbidding a woman running for office to use campaign money for child care during election-related events.
The 5-2 vote overturned a previous board ruling 18 years ago allowing child care expenses for a man.
It also went against the federal rules for campaign spending and rules in other states, including Arkansas. And it went against its own staff. The board’s attorney had drafted an opinion approving Baton Rouge attorney Morgan Lamandre’s request before the meeting.
Not only that, Ethics Board member Peppi Bruneau lectured Ms. Lamandre on parenting and family priorities. Mr. Bruneau, a retired state legislator from New Orleans, was known for being prickly as a lawmaker. But his behavior at the Ethics Board was especially offensive.
“You have children. It’s your responsibility. It’s your decision to make as to how to balance your priorities,” Mr. Bruneau is heard telling Ms. Lamandre on an audio recording of the Ethics Board meeting provided to NOLA.com ′ The Times-Picayune.
“Child care should be personal. That should come before public office or anything else, in my opinion,” he says.
Welcome to the 1950s, Louisiana. Mr. Bruneau seems to think that moms shouldn’t run for office.
Other board members implied that Ms. Lamandre wanted to use campaign money for child care, so she could have a dinner date with her husband. Why would someone bother to ask permission from the Ethics Board and then use it improperly? That makes no sense.
Ms. Lamandre, an attorney for a sexual assault victim advocacy group, said she asked for the board’s guidance because she didn’t want to be fined later. If only more candidates were so responsible.
Child care seems like a reasonable expense, and clearly the Ethics Board in 2000 thought it was. U.S. Sen. John Kennedy claimed child care as an expense during a trip to Los Angeles when he was state treasurer.
The Ethics Board allows other expenses that seem highly questionable. Senate President John Alario spent more than $23,000 on a suite at Tiger Stadium between 2009 and 2012, according to a 2014 report by NOLA.com ′ The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News.
“She asked a very specific, reasonable question, and they tripped over themselves to say no,” Sen. J.P. Morrell said after the vote.
Sen. Morrell and Sen. Troy Carter, both New Orleans Democrats, quickly announced that they will co-sponsor legislation in the spring to allow child care as an expense. Sen. Morrell even tweeted a photo of his young child on his lap during a legislative meeting.
The Ethics Board, particularly Mr. Bruneau, seems hopelessly out of touch.
“This allows more people to represent our state,” Ms. Lemandre, who is seeking the House District 66 seat, told the board on the audio recording of the meeting. The state Senate only has five women out of 39 members. The House, which has 105 seats, has 25 women members.
And it seems that the Ethics Board is fine with that.
The Advocate on renewing flood insurance:
Renewal of the National Flood Insurance Program is once again before Congress, with members of Louisiana’s delegation seeking once again a short-term authorization of NFIP so that the program can be considered in full in the new year.
Louisiana’s stake in this outcome is enormous. Flood insurance coverage is not only good protection for homeowners, but it is essential to getting loans on new construction. When the program lapses, existing policies continue, but new ones are not issued.
Obviously, long-term renewal of the program is preferable, but our senators and representatives must do what they can in chronically deadlocked legislative bodies.
Just as obviously, the properties that have been repeatedly damaged by storms are prominently mentioned as abuses of NFIP, operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Louisiana has had the most repeatedly flooded properties over the past 40 years, with 23 percent of the total, according to FEMA records examined by The Associated Press. That includes two single-family homes in Slidell and New Orleans that have each been compensated for flood losses two dozen times.
However, it is important to note that the program has been strengthened in recent years to block NFIP coverage of properties that have been repeatedly flooded. FEMA and other programs work to either elevate properties above flood stage or even relocate some families.
We agree with critics of the program that repetitive-loss properties cannot be given free rides in NFIP. Nor it is a good thing that the program is in the red, although it more than paid for itself for decades since Betsy. That changed with hurricanes Katrina and Rita, with the $16 billion in payouts, principally because of flooding in New Orleans. Last year, the payouts were $10 billion, second-worst on record, because of Hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Maria in Puerto Rico.
With the impact of hurricanes and inland flooding — the AP survey showed repetitive-loss properties in Missouri, for example — doing nothing is not an option. But neither is no insurance for coastal areas where the majority of Americans live and where the private sector is simply not going to offer flood insurance.
NFIP reforms must deal with those fundamentals of life. Alas, hurricanes are part of our experience here in Louisiana and elsewhere long the coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Courier of Houma on local elections and early voting:
... There will be several runoffs for school board seats in Terrebonne and Lafourche, a handful of tax renewals for road lighting, recreation, fire protection, law enforcement and street maintenance, depending on where you live. And the statewide office of secretary of state is up for grabs in a runoff election.
Early voting started Saturday and runs through this Saturday for the Dec. 8 elections. You can, of course, wait until election day to head to the polls, but Louisiana has made it so easy and convenient to vote early, why not take advantage of it?
For years, we had absentee voting, which allowed people who were not going to be in town on election day to vote early by going to the registrar’s office. The state has kept the essence of that system, but it has done away with the requirement that voters be unable to vote on election day to participate in early voting.
What that does is open up a tremendous opportunity to those who are willing to embrace their civic responsibility by casting informed votes for the candidates and issues of their choosing.
Voting is a central right that helps to protect all our other rights. It gives us the power to decide who will represent us on town, city and parish councils and school boards, in state legislatures, the U.S. Congress and the White House, and all sorts of local, regional, state and federal offices in between.
And while we don’t all exercise our right, we should. People elsewhere struggle through unbelievable hardships in the hopes that one day they can participate in their own government. And people here fought and died to win and protect our rights of citizenship. The least we can do is to use the freedom that so many envy and so many have sacrificed for us to have.