Board, task forces have more money than oversight

An empty board room awaiting members of one of the 471 boards, commissions and task forces  in Louisiana. Photo by Justin DiCharia.

By Justin DiCharia

BATON ROUGE — In Louisiana, there are hundreds of bureaucratic fiefdoms referred to as boards, commissions or task forces, for nearly everything — marriage and families, strawberry marketing, polygraphs, crawfish promotion, grandparents raising grandchildren, polysomnography (the record of a person’s sleep patterns).

Collectively, they cost the state hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars annually. The precise amount is nearly impossible to calculate. And for a majority of these bodies — some large, some as small as five people, some powerful, some insignificant, some with executive authority, some merely advisory — efficient governmental checks and balances do not exist.

Read the story in The Shreveport Times

TOPS gets cut to help balance budget

By Samuel Carter Karlin

BATON ROUGE — For the first time in the history of the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), the state’s flagship tuition-paying scholarship for in-state students who meet average academic benchmarks, lawmakers are cutting the program to help balance the budget.

Students will pay 30 percent of their tuition bills this upcoming school year — meaning a $1,000 to $1,700 increase in their bottom lines at most schools. While the Legislature moved into the night on budget negotiations, leadership said the TOPS funding will remain at 70 percent.

Read the story in The Advertiser

Laws to crack down on sex trafficking not enough, state senator says

By Justin DiCharia

BATON ROUGE — Since 2014, the Louisiana has enacted eight laws to crack down on the state’s pandemic of human sex trafficking. State Sen. Beth Mizell of Franklinton, doesn’t see that record as sufficient.

On the second-to-last day of the Legislature’s second special session, Republican freshman Mizell offered a resolution to recommit the Joint Human Trafficking Study Commission, whose research spanned those eight laws after it terminated in 2014.

Read the story in The News Star

Six confirmed cases of Zika in Louisiana, health department says

By Justin DiCharia

BATON ROUGE — Six cases of the Zika virus in Louisiana were confirmed Wednesday by the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) during a one-person Senate committee hearing.

LDH Public Health Executive Director Doris G. Brown told Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, the only available legislative member at the Committee on Women and Children due to budget negotiations, that the six cases were travel associated and the infections did not originate within the state.

Read the story in The Town Talk

Milkovich and his biblical bloc

By Justin DiCharia

BATON ROUGE – The Christian Right looms in the Louisiana Senate Education Committee, and if the committee’s biblical bloc doesn’t change over the next three years, hot-button issues involving sex education, increased regulation of charter or home schooling, and evolution will likely receive a proper Christian burial.

Continue reading “Milkovich and his biblical bloc”