Jim Brown is a Louisiana legislator, Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner.
The Queen City of the South is under siege. No, not from hurricanes. This time, the siege is from within. New Orleans is known as the city that care forgot. But it’s been hard to let the good times roll in the Big Easy when the dice keep coming up snake eyes.
New Orleans is in a battle to stay afloat as it deals with major street crime, inept public officials, and a dysfunctional criminal justice system where even federal officials can no longer be trusted. Author James Lee Burke writes about this corruption and dysfunction in his novel Last Car to Elysian Fields. “One of the most beautiful cities in the Western hemisphere was killed three times, and not just by forces of nature.”
For years, legislators in Louisiana have maintained a well-deserved reputation of irrelevance when it comes to substantively addressing a host of public issues. The mantra seems to be one of keeping a finger in the financial dike to get through the next fiscal year, and side stepping a host of idiosyncratic concerns that include bestiality, hair braiding and sports betting. But if you think Louisiana has an oddball legislature that leans toward quirky solutions to non- existent problems, check out California that has moved a notch ahead of us here in the Deep South.
Down in the Bayou State, there’s a clamor for more executions. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry makes no bones about his feelings. More executions- including nitrogen gas, hangings, firing squads, electrocution and lethal injection. But a federal judge has put all executions in Louisiana on hold for another year.
With one recent Supreme Court Justice confirmed and another just appointed by President Trump, the issue of televising hearings before the nation’s highest court will surely be discussed. The Supremes have stood steadfastly against letting the public watch the cases argued before them, even though the court’s decisions can often have major implications for every American. The Constitution guarantees that trials are public and open to everyone. And what could be more public than televising a criminal trial for the whole world to see?
President Trump has put the French back in good graces with the U.S. while criticizing other European nations. He apparently turned a cold shoulder to both German and England over tariffs and NATO, but has developed a close and warm relationship with current French President Emmanuel Macron. And that’s good news for Louisiana.
Legislators were high fiving this week over the balancing of the state budget by increasing the already highest sales tax in the nation. Fully funding the TOPS tuition program for college students became the centerpiece for much of the discussion. But through all the euphoria of self-congratulation, lost in the shuffle was the failure to address or even discuss early childhood learning and funding the child-care assistance program.
”The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” And according to politicians in both parties, they are out to infiltrate the entire U.S. election process. A special prosecutor is looking under every rock to find out the culprits involved. And down here in Louisiana, the Secretary of State’s office is calling for the immediate replacement of some 10,000 voting machines at a cost of $60 million. Wow! This looks like a really crisis. But is it?
Can you put lipstick on a pig? Well, business leaders are certainly giving it their best shot in an effort to counteract the fact that Louisiana’s outrageously expensive insurance rates make the Bayou State an environment hostile to the attraction of new businesses. But, last week, compounding the problem, new figures showed automobile rates continue to rise, along with insurance rates for every homeowner. And unfortunately, both legislators and insurance regulators are assuming a blasé attitude — “that’s just the price you have to pay for living in Louisiana.”
The Times Picayune reported last week that the New Orleans Saints may ask the state to pay for a $350 million upgrade to the Superdome before the 2024 Super bowl. That’s a huge taxpayer commitment for a state that can’t even fund education at all levels and basic healthcare for hundreds of thousands of its citizens. So how should any upgrade be paid for?
Billy Cannon died this week. He was a Louisiana sports legend. There are some things you just don’t forget. Where you were on 9/11, or when President John Kennedy was shot. Down here in the Bayou State, add to those special dates Halloween night 59 years ago when Billy Cannon made football history with his 87 yard run to beat Ole Miss and keep the Tigers undefeated. His story is the rise and fall, then the rise again by LSU’s all-time great sports hero.