Political candidates, conservative think tanks and others have promoted a state constitutional overhaul as the solution to Louisiana’s problems. Former state senator Tony Guarisco, who participated in the last constitutional convention in 1973, writes in The Advocate that a convention would be unlikely to “free up” state tax dollars as proponents claim and could potentially widen the state’s ideological chasms.
If a new assembly is called, constituencies will aggressively fight to retain their dedications. Out-of-state money will flow in to fund political agendas and advance ideologies. Our “Declaration of Rights” section, emulated by more than 20 states, will be fodder for mutation. Writing a new document with our present political sensibilities is akin to the slob who cleaned out his closet, only to create a bigger mess.
Property tax renewal has high stakes
A vital local property tax is up for renewal in Pointe Coupee Parish to fund their public schools. And while the tax has been renewed every decade since the 1970s, more is at stake this year due to the recent closure of two barge companies which has left a hole in the school budget. All districts received a mild increase in state funding for this school year. But with state funds being largely stagnant over the last decade, local communities have been left to raise the revenue they need. Youssef Rddad from The Advocate reports:
The 11.96-mill property tax up for renewal generates $5.6 million and accounts for a quarter of the school system’s operating budget, which includes everything from paying teachers to keeping the lights on. School leaders have stressed that the millage is not a new tax but rather renewal of the existing property tax. The millage has stood at the same rate since the late-1970s and has been renewed every decade. The parish, as well as the school district, expects less money from property taxes even if the millage renewal passes. That’s because two barge companies closed their operations in the past two years, leaving a roughly $1.3 million funding gap to solve.
Fines and fees problem has not been solved
The New Orleans Criminal District Court has historically relied on fines and fees to fund its operations. Last year, the New Orleans City Council approved a 124% increase in funding for the courts so they no longer have to depend on this unreliable and regressive source of income. Unfortunately, low-income defendants are still racking up debt. But instead of fines and fees supporting the court’s operations, the money is now sitting in a bank. Matt Sledge of Nola.com | The Advocate has more:
While the court’s lawyers have maintained the escrow account cures the court’s conflict of interest in the matter of bail, civil rights lawyers say the arrangement now soaks the poor and taxpayers alike. “They control that escrow account, and the only statutory purpose under Louisiana law for that money is to fund the operations of the court. It’s not as if they could use that money for other things. It’s bewildering,” said Alec Karakatsanis, the director of the Civil Rights Corps, which helped bring the funding lawsuits against the court.
Actions speak louder than words
President Donald Trump’s administration’s claims it has a healthcare plan that will cut costs, lower deductibles for consumers and protect people with pre-existing conditions. But his administration’s actions are very different than its words. Nicholas Bagley of the University of Michigan Law School writes about this contradiction in the New York Times:
Without the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration doesn’t have the power to force insurers not to discriminate against the sick. You’d need a new law for that. Good luck getting Congress to pass one. Though Republicans have no shortage of white papers endorsing controversial reform plans — the Republican Study Committee, a group of legislators, recently released another one — they’ve never been able to coalesce around a piece of actual legislation.
Number of the Day
$100,000 – The amount the New Orleans Criminal District Court has collected in fines and fees since the beginning of the year. (Source: Nola.com | The Advocate)