Saturday, April 20, 2024

Sam Hanna: Budget Woes, flagship status for La. Tech

by BIZ Magazine

The Louisiana Legislature is in the final throes of its fiscal-only session and to date the only substantive matter lawmakers have approved was a $37-billion budget, which is saying something.

Normally lawmakers wait until the last couple of days of a session before approving the budget, but this year it’s been a different story.  Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, both Republicans, decided lawmakers should get the budget out of the way early and send it on to the governor, who has the power to sign it as it is or veto any spending measure he doesn’t like.  By putting the budget in the governor’s lap while the legislative session is still underway, lawmakers would have time to override the governor’s veto of a particular appropriation if they chose to go that route.  Remember, it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a veto, which equates to 70 votes in the House and 26 in the Senate.  That’s a tall order under any circumstances.  

On the flip side, by receiving the budget while the Legislature is still in session Gov. John Bel Edwards can hold the budget hostage while lawmakers dicker around with legislation such as two rather controversial bills authored by Sen. Jay Morris of Monroe.  Morris, a Republican, offered a bill to allow individuals to carry a handgun sans a conceal carry permit issued by Louisiana State Police while another bill would open the door for social media titans – such as Facebook – to be punished if the companies engaged in censoring conservative commentary.  A host of Republican-controlled legislatures around the country have approved legislation similar to Morris’ anti-censorship bill.  

For the record, Edwards is opposed to both of Morris’ bills.

Morris’ anti-censorship bill was approved by the Senate on a 37-0 vote, but for some reason, Rep. Greg Miller, the Republican chairman of the House Civil Law & Procedure Committee, refuses to schedule Morris’ bill for a hearing.  Morris’ bill must be approved by Miller’s committee in order for it to be sent to the House for consideration.  

One can only imagine what’s motivating Miller to refuse to hear Morris’ anti-censorship bill.  The cynic in me would suggest Miller received instructions from his boss, Schexnayder, to sandbag the bill.  After all, a committee chairman won’t be a committee chairman for long if he bucks the boss.  In the House of Representatives, the Speaker is the boss. 

And one can only imagine what could have possibly prompted Schexnayder to sandbag Morris’ bill.  The cynic in me would suggest someone from the governor’s office whispered in Schexnayder’s ear, and that someone said the governor would appreciate it if he wasn’t put in a position in which he must sign the bill or veto it.  After all, Edwards has plans to veto at least one other controversial bill this year (More on that topic in a moment).

Meanwhile, Morris’ conceal carry bill was approved by the House and Senate and is en route to the governor, who has not indicated whether he’ll sign it or veto it.  Odds are he will veto it.

On another controversial front, Sen. Beth Mizell’s bill to ban men from playing women’s sports passed the House and Senate and awaits the governor’s signature or his veto.  Edwards has said he will veto the bill.  Apparently the governor feels it’s okay for men to beat up on little girls on a soccer field or a basketball court because there is no justification on God’s green earth in allowing males who are confused about their identity to participate in women’s sports.  None whatsoever.

No legislative session would be complete without a little controversy brewing behind the scenes and out of sight of the nosy press.  This year is no different.

When the LSU Board of Supervisors tapped William Tate a few weeks ago to become the next president of the university, more than a few lawmakers got a bit peeved with the board’s decision.  They got their noses out of joint because more than a few lawmakers had been told Jim Henderson, who currently runs the University of Louisiana System, would get the LSU job.  As we all know by now, the LSU board opted to make history by making Tate the first black president of LSU in the history of the Ole War Skule.  

So it seems LSU has run into a bit of a problem at the Legislature in securing funding in this year’s budget for a pet project or two on the main campus just down the road from the Capitol.  The irony of it all is the LSU people – those that hold high-paying jobs on the campus to do little or nothing – are simply dumbfounded by the Legislature’s refusal to give LSU what it wants and when it wants it.

Perhaps if the LSU board had not hired a man whose entire academic career was focused on peddling the silly narrative that every white SOB on the planet was a racist, lawmakers wouldn’t give LSU the cold shoulder.

There’s something to be learned in this latest episode of LSU proving its worth – or lack thereof – to the state.  That is, perhaps the time has arrived for LSU get some competition for a change as it relates to sucking money out of the public till.  One way to level the playing the field – so to speak – would be for the Legislature to grant flagship status to La. Tech University.  

Sam Hanna Jr. is publisher of the Ouachita Citizen.

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