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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NOV 26 Zach Kopplin, who we came to know and love when he was a Louisiana high school student lobbying for the continued inclusion of science stuff in science class, pens this post in The Atlantic about a "textbook" available for social studies instruction in Texas that discusses how Moses contributed to the Constitution. (Oy! Texas rednecks love Jews. Who knew?)
NOV 26 Finally, mad people on the interwebz is a good thing! World wide webby outrage has caused the village of Moreauville to reverse its plan to confiscate pit bulls and Rottweillers and euthanize them simply because of their breed, WAFB reports here. The plan? They're going to enforce the lease law. Well - that would have been a good place to start.
NOV 26 Jim Brown, like many of us Louisiana voters, seems fed up with out of town know-it-alls trying to tell us what to do. Bill Cassidy can't make it through the day without flying someone in to "tell us political retards" how to vote, he says.
NOV 26 Blogger Tom Aswell is writing about the behavior of the two finalists in the 6th Congressional District race: Edwin Edwards and Garret Graves. Edwards has come out swinging, but Graves' campaign seems bent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Tom says.
NOV 26 Unless you're in Virigina, you shouldn't count on seeing our Governor on Election Day. Mark Ballard writes in the Advocate's political blog that Bobby will be appearing at a GOP love fest of some kind there, instead of spending the day here.
NOV 26 This post on The Lens takes a look at the ongoing dispute in New Orleans over the banners about the upcoming tax election for the school system. The banners are hanging on schools, and some feel they are promotional, which is not allowed, instead of educational - which is allowed.
NOV 26 Not all college students are focused on football games and parties at this time of year. This post on DIG Baton Rouge recounts an LSU student group that tries to make sure that those who are hungry and homeless are not forgotten by those of us who aren't.
NOV 25 Edwin Edwards took off the gloves on Monday, this post on WAFB tells us. At a Press Club appearance, he wondered how his 6th Congressional District opponent, Garret Graves, could be an expert in all the areas in which he claims to be - when he has no college degree in anything. (Five years - FIVE YEARS - in college, but no degree. Huh?)
NOV 25 Blogger Mike Deshotels offers this primer on predatory charter schools and how they operate, specifically in Louisiana. They're not just profiting from our tax dollars, they're using children and shortchanging them to do so, Deshotels says.
NOV 25 Here's a link to the petition that has been created to save Zeus, a family dog who is targeted for death by the learned fathers of the Avoyelles Parish village of Moreauville. They passed an ordinance based on nothing that outlaws pit bulls and Rotweillers. As of Tuesday morning, the petition had more than 230,000 signatures - a number that's a wee bit higher than the village population of 929.
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