Written by The Independent Staff
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
The Louisiana Supreme Court, in reversing last week a Third Circuit Court of Appeal ruling that green-lighted a convicted felon’s candidacy for elected office, clarified an important aspect of state election law and underscored a universal tenet: Do the crime, do the time. Ernal Broussard wants to be a member of the Abbeville City Council. Problem is, he pleaded guilty five years ago to a federal felony — aiding and abetting an illegal gambling operation. State law says convicted felons have to wait 15 years after completion of sentence before running for office. Incumbent Francis Touchet Jr. challenged Broussard’s eligibility. A district court judge in Lafayette disqualified Broussard. The Third Circuit overruled, reasoning that the federal felony may not be a state felony. The high court settled the matter, ruling that it is.
The spring session is almost here, time for the annual running of the funding gauntlet by arts councils and cultural providers statewide. The executive budget released in February seeks a 41-percent reduction to both Decentralized Arts Funding and Statewide Arts Grants, two critical state-funded programs that help underwrite the festivals, fairs and other cultural activities that make Louisiana a destination for tourists worldwide. Forty-one percent is draconian, more so when total funding in 2009 for both programs was under $5 million, which is closer to a molecule than a drop in the budget bucket. If Louisiana government can throw down $50 million to save 1,600 jobs at a chicken plant, $5 million to buttress a cultural economy that employs many more sounds like a bird brainer.
There’s nothing like using your police department for a little paramilitary black-ops to keep residents on their toes. It was a trademark of former Opelousas Police Chief Larry Caillier, whose now legendary live-action police drills included an infamous mock hostage crisis at the Federal Building in Opelousas and a ‘terrorism situation enactment’ at a 9-11 memorial replete with explosions, tanks and an actor playing an Arab terrorist. In that grand tradition comes Bossier Parish Sheriff Larry Deen. Last week, Deen’s office announced it is launching a program called “Operation Exodus,” a policing plan for an end-of-the-world scenario involving a quasi-militia of ex-cops and a “war wagon” with a mounted .50 caliber machine gun. Lest you think Deen has been watching too much Mad Max, the inspiration for this apocalypto police state is actually, in part, the Bible. The part where all hell breaks loose.