Sept. 9: Federal disaster aid flowing, but more needed

Sept. 9: Federal disaster aid flowing, but more needed

Louisiana will now pay 10 percent of the costs of federal disaster assistance in the aftermath of the historic August flooding, instead of 25 percent, after costs exceeded a $621 million threshold.

Louisiana will now pay 10 percent of the costs of federal disaster assistance in the aftermath of the historic August flooding, instead of 25 percent, after costs exceeded a $621 million threshold. This includes the more than $660 million already spent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for recovery efforts ranging from the provision of temporary housing to the deployment of the Louisiana National Guard. While welcome news for the state, officials say it will be still be a challenge to come up with the smaller state match. Julia O’Donoghue with Times-Picayune has more:

“We have cash flow issues, and [the flood] was certainly not contemplated in our budget,” said Jay Dardenne, Edwards’ budget chief, in an interview Thursday evening. “Obviously we are talking big numbers. The difference between coming up with 25 percent and 10 percent is significant.” Dardenne said it is not clear yet where Louisiana will get the money to cover it 10 percent of the flood bill yet. FEMA isn’t likely to bill the state for a few months, so Louisiana will have time to come up with a plan for covering the expense.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is in Washington hoping to garner support for a $2 billion flood recovery package. This comes at a time when Louisiana’s congressional delegation has lost much of its seniority, which is important when attempting to muscle through big spending bills. Julia O’Donoghue has more:

Louisiana has a lot it needs to get accomplished in the next term, starting with federal support for flood recovery from the August deluge. The National Flood Insurance Program — which is crucial to Louisiana residents and businesses — is coming up for renewal. Some decisions about how Congress will spend money collected from penalties and fines connected to the Deepwater Horizon explosion are also on the table. The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, which ranks Congressional clout based on the size of the delegation, seniority, number of full committee chairs, ranking members, and per capita federal spending received, had already dropped Louisiana from No. 4 to No. 30 after three-term Sen. Mary Landrieu was knocked off in 2012 by Cassidy.  


Feds lose money on stadium subsidies

The federal government has subsidized professional sports stadiums to the tune of $3.7 billion since 2000 through an array of tax breaks on municipal loans and for high-income bond holders. A new Brookings Institution report breaks down the spending and argues that subsidies are only justifiable for projects that provide a public good across states. Local sports stadiums don’t meet the mark, and hardly even provide local economic benefits.

Gayer, Drukker, and Gold argue that the most direct way to eliminate the practice of stadiums receiving federal money toward construction is for Congress to eliminate the “private payment test” for stadiums. By doing so, any stadium used primarily for “private business use” (that is, all professional sports stadiums) would no longer be eligible to receive federal tax-exempt financing. An alternative approach would be to limit, rather than eliminate, the federal tax subsidy by mandating tax-exempt stadium bonds be deemed “qualified private activity bonds,” which are subject to a statewide volume cap.


Training needed on ‘Blue Lives Matter’ law

The first attempted use of the newly enacted Blue Lives Matter law, which extends hate-crime law to police officers and firefighters, was used erroneously on an intoxicated, homeless man directing racial expletives toward officers. Hate-crime laws can only be invoked when accompanied by a more serious criminal offense, not just verbal slurs. The Advocate’s Matt Sledge has more on how little training New Orleans Police have received on the law.

Allison Padilla-Goodman, the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said Delatoba’s arrest showed the need for greater education on hate crimes in general. “I mean this for law enforcement as well as for community members. We just have a lot of catch-up to do,” Padilla-Goodman said. Gamble said that until now, officers have received only “informal” training on how to use the new “Blue Lives Matter” provision. “There’s been some training, but there needs to be more, and there will be more,” Gamble said.


Louisiana reviews federal education law

More than 200 groups from across Louisiana have already provided input on potential changes to school policies as part of a year-long review to comply with the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. More group meetings are planned for the coming weeks and the initial plan will be available for public review in late September. By mid-2017, the plan will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, with the changes it entails taking effect in the 2017-18 school year.  The Advocate’s Will Sentell has more on the suggestions so far:

Suggestions include better aligning public schools to colleges and universities and the workplace; more help for struggling students and schools and improving the teaching profession. Specifically, state education leaders were told public school changes are needed to improve the success of college freshmen; better measures on how alternative schools are performing and ensuring more practical experience before new teachers enter the classroom.

Gov. John Bel Edwards also plans a review of the federal law which may conflict with the Louisiana Department of Education-led effort already underway.


Number of the Day

$3.7 billion – The amount of federal tax dollars not collected on municipal bonds and tax breaks for bond holders to build professional sports stadiums since 2000. (Source: The Brookings Institution)