Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

States spend a combined $1.4 billion a year on film subsidies; court rules Senate violated open meetings law; Holding corporations accountable just got more difficult; More Common Core confusion

States spend a combined $1.4 billion a year on film subsidies
The Wall Street Journal reports that states spend a total of $1.4 billion annually on subsidies for the movies, noting the irony of stereotypical “liberal” Hollywood-types relying on “corporate welfare,” often at the expense of taxpayers from more conservative states like Louisiana. Around 40 states offer some kind of subsidies for film production. New York spends more on movies than on pre-kindergarten programs, and Louisiana forks out $250 million per year to Hollywood—dollars that can’t be invested in higher education or used to repair the state’s crumbling infrastructure. While the film subsidy program is certainly successful at poaching productions from other states, it comes at a high cost and does little to create permanent jobs, while most of the benefits flow to the wealthiest taxpayers, notes the Journal:

“The Louisiana Budget Project, a left-leaning nonprofit, also has found that most of the benefits of the state’s transferable tax credits “flow to a few wealthy taxpayers.” Nearly two-thirds of the 2,056 Louisiana taxpayers who claimed credits in 2009 reported incomes above $1 million while 92.25% earned more than $250,000. Taxpayers subsidized each production job to the tune of $60,000.

Most of these jobs are not destined to last. Like hustlers, production studios leave once they’ve finished their job and gotten paid. They then hook up with the next client that makes them a lucrative offer. In Hollywood, money never sleeps.”

Court rules Senate violated open meetings law
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to close Huey P Long Medical Center in Pineville hit a bump on Monday when a judge in Baton Rouge ruled that a Senate committee did not follow the open meetings law when it voted to close the facility. Despite the ruling that the Senate acted unconstitutionally, the judge suspended his ruling, allowing the closure to proceed while the case is appealed, reports the Associated Press. The case next heads to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The hospital is scheduled to close on Monday.

Holding corporations accountable just got more difficult
Legislation signed into law Monday by Gov. Bobby Jindal will ban Attorney General Buddy Caldwell from hiring lawyers on a contingency-fee basis, a move that some critics say will make it harder to pursue financial damages from large corporations that rip off the state and its taxpayers. But supporters of House Bill 799 say contingency-fee contracts, where outside lawyers hired by the state get a percentage of any settlement proceeds instead of a set fee, put too much money in the pockets of lawyers.

“HB799 is the last of a triumvirate of measures aimed at limiting victims’ ability to seek monetary payments to recompense alleged negligence by corporations.

“Senate Bill 667 clarified how courts should handle “legacy lawsuits” over environmental damage from long-ago oil and gas drilling and production that was never cleaned up. Senate Bill 469 defined what government agencies could file a lawsuit involving the wetlands — and that new definition does not include the lawsuit filed last year by Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against 97 oil and gas companies.”

More Common Core confusion
Add the state Board of Regents to the list of organizations pushing back against Gov. Bobby Jindal’s attempts to pull Louisiana out of the Common Core education standards. The higher education oversight board sent a memo to college and university deans saying they should continue to use the standards to instruct students in education programs or risk their graduates losing accreditation from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education the Advocate reports. Despite the governor’s high-profile change of heart on the issue—he previously supported the standards, which were created by a consortium of state education leaders, before decrying them as a federal takeover—state education chief John White and BESE president Chas Roemer have loudly declared their intentions to move forward with Common Core.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Alford of LaPolitics says Jindal is making a “risky gamble” by taking unilateral action on Common Core and throwing the state’s education policy into a state of purgatory after the legislature left the standards in place this session. Perhaps more significantly, the about-face represents the governor’s highest-profile break with the business community, which has lobbied heavily in support of the standards in the name of boosting Louisiana’s competitiveness.

And as if to prove Alford’s point, the former head of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry has a column on The Advocate’s op-ed page defending the standards and decrying the political circus that has erupted in recent months. Dan Juneau writes:

“This is not a liberal versus conservative issue. There is nothing “liberal” about having reasonable standards that fifth-graders should master in math in order to have a reasonable chance to measure up to other fifth-graders in the U.S. and other countries. There is nothing “conservative” about developing critical thinking skills that are all too often missing in high school graduates today and are in high demand in the workplace. Unfortunately, much of the controversy surrounding the Common Core debate today is centered on politics and not sound education policy.”

NUMBER OF THE DAY: $1.4 billion—The amount states collectively spend on movie subsidies every year (Source: Wall Street Journal)