It appears that President Barack Obama and Beltway Republicans have reached a compromise on the so-called Bush era tax rates. Obama, to be certain, took it on the chin, but it remains to be seen whether Democrats will follow course. Here’s the deal: the prez gave up his fight to more aggressively tax the rich and agreed to a two-year extension of all the current federal tax rates, plus a temporary 35 percent estate tax rate with a $5 million cap and a 2 percent decreases in payroll taxes. In return, the GOP leadership has expressed a willingness to support a provision allowing unemployment checks for individuals at the present 99-week cut off limit for a period of 13 months only — this means, for the first time in U.S. history, unemployed citizens will be able to collect a check from the feds for three consecutive years without having to enter the workforce. Both sides of the aisle call it a true compromise.
Now that the tax rate debate is settled — hopefully — lawmakers can begin focusing on what to do about that pesky food safety legislation. The Senate passed S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, earlier this month, but it included a fee, which must constitutionally originate in the lower chamber. Lawmakers have a number of options, yet it seems likely that the policy package will have to be re-routed through the Senate and then sent back to the House for consideration. There’s a great deal at stake for Louisiana. For example, the Senate-passed bill requires, among other things, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration conduct public health and cost assessments before issuing any new regulations affecting the processing and consumption of raw oysters.
It also includes language to prohibit “port shopping,” which is a tactic foreign seafood producers use to find ports with loose safety requirements to sell seafood that would otherwise be rejected. Farmers and other agriculture interests are on the hook, too, since the bill creates new standards for harvesting fruits and vegetables; expands the FDA’s recall authority; increases facility inspections; requires more testing; and strengthens oversight on imports. State Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain says the Senate food safety bill is “a major advance toward safeguarding the nation’s food supply” and added that Louisiana will be ready for the news regs — if and when they’re adopted. “As much as I dislike additional red tape for farmers to navigate, I believe these new measures will provide the framework to strengthen our food supply chain and prevent adulterated and contaminated food from entering the markets in the future,” Strain says.
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DEC 20 The Robertson family is playing hardball in their dispute with A&E, the network that airs the wildly profitable "reality" show about their family, Duck Dynasty. Patriarch Phil Robertson was suspended by the network after GQ printed an interview with him that contained his (unedited) comments about gay and black folks. Here's a link to their statement, in which they say they can't imagine the show without papa and announcing that they are in negotiations with A&E about the future of the show.
DEC 20 Blogger Robert Mann (also a journalism prof at LSU and thus an authority on the First Amendment) says something in this post of which a lot of Fox News anchors and internet trolls should take heed: the Constitution says you have freedom of speech. It does not say you can't face consequences for what you say. He also takes a look at what our governor has to say -- and ole Bobby had to drag Miley Cyrus into it.
DEC 20 Blogger Tom Aswell says Governor Bobby Jindal has now had more to say about the comments a "reality" star made about gay and black people than he has had to say about the problems in his own voucher program or the sinkhole in Bayou Corne. In fact, Tom points out, Bobby's all over the Phil Robertson "issue" like "a duck on a June bug."
DEC 20 Here's an interesting post from blogger Katie East in DIG Magazine about celebrity passings. She understands why so many would be sad because of Mandela's passing -- he was an international figure, a political figure, an activist. But there is similar wailing following the passing of people who may not have had the same impact, she says -- like the guy who starred in the Fast and Furious movies. She wants to know: why is that?
DEC 20 Columnist James Gill writes about Louisiana's embattled voucher program in this post. Just because a child attends a private school does not mean he's going to get a good education, Gill writes. Gov. Jindal likes to say the program helps kids get a great education, but whether it does that is open to "considerable doubt," Gill writes.
DEC 20 Gambit's Clancy DuBos writes about the NOLA mayor's race in this post. For a while, it was assumed that it would be a quiet one, given the amount of money Mitch has in the bank. But at the last minute, a (possibly) formidable candidate threw his hat in the ring. The question is, Clancy says, why?
DEC 20 In Louisiana's education system, the state takes over a school that is designated as "failing." The assumption is, that's a good thing and will produce improvement. But is that the case? Blogger Mike Deshotels takes a look at how takeovers perform in one area of testing, the ACT.
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