The Interstate 10 bridge at Lake Charles is crumbling, and residents there want a replacement built as quickly as possible. Last week President Trump unveiled proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that would fast-track such projects by expediting the environmental reviews that have to be done in advance of major construction. The inimitable Jim Beam of the Lake Charles American-Press is on board:
Trump said his new policy called “One Federal Decision” will allow one environmental review per project. He added it will also be able to rely on documents put together at the state and local level to eliminate duplication. Area residents expressed their views about the bridge delay last month in the American Press and they didn’t mince any words. They also made a lot of sense.
But Christy Goldfuss, Claire Moser and Sally Hardin of the Center for American Progress write that the proposed rules change will make it easier for fossil fuel companies to bulldoze local communities with less public input and without full consideration of a project’s effects on the environment and climate.
Removing analysis of cumulative effects would also spell disaster for communities already grappling with a toxic legacy of pollution—overwhelmingly, communities of color. Under the Trump proposal, agencies would be directed to consider each project separately, allowing for compounding pollution. For example, they could consider the public health effects of a new oil refinery without considering the three refineries that may already exist near a community.
Strong opposition for Tennessee’s Medicaid block grant
The state of Tennessee is asking the federal government for permission to radically transform its Medicaid program by converting the federal government’s share of the program’s cost into a block grant. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has received about 6,200 comments from the public, with groups representing patients and health care providers overwhelmingly opposed. Hannah Katch of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, has a roundup:
The opposition demonstrates the essential role that Medicaid plays for individuals, providers, and communities. Other states considering similar proposals should instead look for opportunities to strengthen access to Medicaid — such as by adopting the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which in Tennessee would cover over 200,000 uninsured people and secure $800 million in federal funding each year.
ERA Now! in Virginia
Virginia on Wednesday became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which would amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit discrimination based on sex. While several legal hurdles remain before the amendment can take effect, that did not dampen the enthusiasm in the Commonwealth, as The Washington Post reports:
But supporters were jubilant that Virginia, after years of failure, is poised to become the 38th state to approve the amendment. They pledged to mount a massive national campaign to enact it. “For the women of Virginia and the women of America, the resolution has finally passed,” Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), the first female House speaker in the 401-year history of Virginia’s legislature, said in announcing the result of the House vote. She set off cheers that could be heard across the Capitol in the Senate chamber, where debate on the ERA was still underway.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has joined with his counterparts in Alabama and South Dakota in a federal lawsuit to block ratification, arguing that it could protect abortion rights.
Who’s leading America’s colleges?
LSU is conducting a nationwide search to replace outgoing president F. King Alexander, and there are bound to be a few attorneys that apply for the job. Lawyers are increasingly leading U.S. public colleges and universities, with the number more than doubling in the last three decades. Patricia E. Salkin, provost of the graduate and professional divisions of Touro College in New York, thinks this is a good thing, considering the changing landscape of higher education, in this country, but also adds a caveat.
Effective advocacy is a hallmark of lawyering skills. Lawyers who lead have experience in team building, collaboration, crisis communications and business decision-making that will serve their campuses well as president. It remains to be seen, however, how lawyer presidents will prioritize the demands of the workforce of the future with the long-standing desire of campuses to protect the traditional liberal arts and classics education.
Number of the Day
40.5 – Percent of university presidents at U.S. public colleges and universities who have never held a tenured or tenure-track-eligible position in higher education. (Source: Inside Higher Ed)