Coastal restoration advocates are up in arms over an amendment inserted into a bill that would direct fines paid by BP and other companies linked to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill to the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund. House Bill 812 by Rep. Simone Champagne, R-Jeanerette, was amended Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee to allow state lawmakers to siphon off the penalty money for virtually anything, provided that diversion of cash is approved by two thirds of each chamber of the Legislature:
The legislature, by a favorable vote of two-thirds of the elected members of each house, may authorize the expenditures of monies received by the state under the provisions of this paragraph for any purposes not prohibited by this constitution or by Congress. Any such authorization shall be approved by passage of a specific legislative instrument which clearly states the purposes for which the monies will be expended.
The bill as amended is before the full Senate, and opponents of the amendment argue it sends the wrong message to the U.S. Congress, which is reportedly close to passing the RESTORE Act, a bill that would send 80 percent of any Clean Water Act fines levied for the BP spill to the five Gulf Coast states.
On Thursday Blueprint Louisiana, a statewide good-government group comprising civic and business leaders, chimed its concern with the amendment:
While Blueprint is on record for supporting budget flexibility measures allowed by current state law, there are limited circumstances when a dedication is necessary. The Deepwater Horizon incident is one such instance, where the impact was on the coast and where we must demonstrate our commitment to restoration in order to maximize the benefit to Louisiana. The language of the Congressional RESTORE Act dedicates fines from BP and other responsible parties to coastal restoration. We should honor Congress’ wishes as well as our commitment to Louisiana’s coastal communities to ensure that this money is used to rebuild our coast.
We now have a comprehensive master plan for our coast. Let’s show the rest of the nation we can deliver on that plan with money resulting from any environmental fines and violations from the Deepwater Horizon incident. Thank you for your service.
Chris Macaluso, coastal outreach coordinator for the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, issued a press release following the Senate Finance action urging lawmakers to rethink the amendment:
It essentially derails the intent of the legislation...
This amendment sends absolutely the wrong message to Congress, particularly at a time when the RESTORE Act is being considered and is so close to passage. Louisiana’s message to Congress needs to be clear and specific that Clean Water Act penalty money will be spent on coastal restoration and on nothing else. In my extensive talks with congressmen and congressional staff regarding RESTORE, the biggest concern about passing such a powerful piece of legislation was mistrust that Louisiana’s Legislature would do the right thing with the money.
This amendment, to what is otherwise a very good piece of legislation and a good constitutional amendment, confirms those fears. Some legislators want to get their hands on this money and spend it on whatever whim or budget hole that needs to be filled.
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SEP 2 North Carolina's film tax incentive is about to expire, and Louisiana is getting the first benefit, this story on the Wilmington NC newspaper's website tells us. 'Banshee,' a Cinemax series from the same guy who created 'True Blood,' is moving production to New Orleans, the story says.
SEP 2 The Washington Post calls Bobby Jindal on his latest effort to get his name in the national media. In this editorial, the newspaper says Jindal's Common Core lawsuits are just aimed at "burnishing his conservative credentials for a presidential run." The paper, of course, reminds its readers that Jindal was a staunch supporter of the curriculum back when he first brought it to Louisiana.
SEP 2 Huff Post takes a look at a project by a California university which mapped hate speech on Twitter. The project counted derogatory words for homosexuals, people of different races and people with disabilities, then used colors to show where the tweets using these words originated. Spoiler alert: We don't look too good.
SEP 2 Blogger Lamar White Jr. offers this commentary on Bobby Jindal's recent comments about the current US policy toward ISIS. Jindal's sudden, shrill interest in the subject can only be attributed to his desperate desire to be president, Lamar opines. All this begs the question: Do we really want someone in the White House who is willing to say anything to get what he wants?
SEP 2 St. Mary Parish homegirl Julie Hébert lets us in on the next step in her career in this blog post. The writer/director, who has worked on shows like ER, West Wing, Numb3rs and Third Watch, has teamed up with John Ridley, the Academy Award winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave, for a new ABC series that will be filmed in Austin.
SEP 2 Here's another round of crazy on the Scott Rogers shooting from the Advocate. The Baton Rouge television personality was killed last week by his son-in-law (and alleged sexual abuse victim) who then turned the gun on himself. The story gets worse and worse.
SEP 2 This post on Deadline Hollywood outlines the massive tax incentive package passed by the California legislature last week. As one California solon put it, the move is a response to years of seeing movie and TV work "cannibalized by states and other countries poaching tens of thousands of good California jobs." Hey -- is he talking about us?
SEP 2 This photo essay on the NOLA Femmes blog examines homelessness in New Orleans. There are pictures of familiar intersections which look very different during tourist events than they do no a normal day in the city, and an account of the issue since Katrina. The post makes a good point: When the city rousts homeless people the day before a tourist event but calls it a "health issue," the claim rings false, doesn't it?
AUG 29 Everyone who cares about Louisiana should take time to peruse this story about coastal loss from Bob Marshall of The Lens. It's not enough to call it a story; it's an interactive experience packed with data and amazing graphics, timelines, history, photos and excellent writing. Set aside some time, because you can't go through this one in a few minutes.
AUG 29 Huffington Post has a blog called Love Letters, which is grandly described as "an anthology of reflections on places the world over." This entry is from LSU Football Coach Les Miles, who, it appears, loves Baton Rouge. (Of course he does; he's a rich straight white man.) And certainly Baton Rouge loves him - unless he loses (ask Curley "Golden Flake" Hallman about that) or leaves (ask Nick Saban).
AUG 29 This story by WVLA tells us about a guy who got busted for speeding in Baton Rouge. Who cares? This guy took that infraction to new heights by going 129 miles per hour on Nicholson Drive. Poor fella - he probably has spent so much time sitting in Baton Rouge traffic he just had to cut lose.
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