Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
Lake Charles American Press on Louisiana's transportation needs:
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Louisiana's transportation officials have abandoned any hope of constructing new roads and bridges and are concentrating instead on trying to preserve the infrastructure already in place. Unfortunately, the roads and bridges are getting worse day by day.
Meanwhile, eight of the 13 Southern states are spending $1 billion to $12 billion on new transportation construction and maintenance, according to Ken Naquin, CEO of Louisiana Associated General Contractors. Louisiana and Mississippi are last and spending only $600 million each.
Texas tops the list at $12 billion, followed by Florida, $4.4 billion; South Carolina, $3 billion; Virginia, $2.6 billion; North Carolina, $2.5 billion; Georgia, $1.7 billion; Kentucky, $1.4 billion; and Tennessee, $1 billion.
Legislators showed little interest at their spring session in increasing the state's 20-cent gasoline tax, even though surveys indicate motorists are willing to pay more for better highways and bridges. The AGC report said only Louisiana and Mississippi haven't increased their transportation dollars in the past four years.
The Interstate 10 traffic jams at the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge are familiar to drivers statewide, and they are being repeated in other sections of the state. Accidents on I-10 and I-210 at Lake Charles are causing problems almost daily.
Louisiana has a $13 billion backlog of road and bridge needs and that much or more in essential new highway projects. New I-10 bridges needed at Baton Rouge and Lake Charles are among those projects.
Without a special session, the earliest new transportation dollars can realistically be raised is 2021. The next fiscal session comes in 2019, but it is statewide election year when it is virtually impossible to raise taxes.
Shawn Wilson, secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development, was right when he said, "The issue isn't going away. The challenges, the pavement conditions, it is not going to get better. As it worsens, the outcry and the plea for funding will get much louder."
What a sad commentary it is that state legislators lacked the political courage to raise new transportation dollars at such a critical time for the state's infrastructure.
The Advocate on Mike Edmonson's fall from grace:
As a media spokesman for Louisiana State Police who eventually rose to lead the agency, Mike Edmonson was for many years the most visible face of the most prestigious law enforcement institution in Louisiana.
Now Edmonson, who retired in March under a cloud of scandal, stands accused of living lavishly on the taxpayer dime and even destroying public records to cover his involvement in the misuse of tax dollars.
The accusations, resulting from a draft report from state auditors and a separate internal review by the LSP, suggest a huge breach of public trust.
Edmonson deserves his day in court if these accusations lead to a criminal prosecution, which would be the best way to give the public a full airing of what went wrong at LSP and who's to blame. That would strike a blow for the kind of transparency that's sorely needed at an agency where, as in many government scandals, the cover-up could end up being the worst misdeed of all.
Edmonson retired under fire in March amid revelations of side trips that state troopers took as they drove to a professional conference in California, billing taxpayers along the way. Edmonson claimed he was in the dark about the side trips after they were made public, but LSP investigators concluded it was "obvious" the superintendent knew of the scam all along, later directing the erasure of smartphone messages he sent to the traveling troopers during their excursion.
For anyone to destroy evidence related to an investigation is terrible. That a top law enforcement officer is accused of doing such a thing is even more grievous.
Meanwhile, allegations of wrongdoing against Edmonson continue to mount. A draft report from the Legislative Auditor's Office chronicles a pattern of profligate behavior funded by public dollars. Among many other things, Edmonson stands accused of assigning state troopers to chauffeur his wife and run personal errands, using New Orleans hotel rooms meant for troopers to accommodate friends and family, and improperly using state credit cards.
The role of Louisiana State Police in fighting crime across the state underscores the need for the highest standards of integrity. That's why any wrongdoing at the agency should be swiftly prosecuted.
Edmonson, one of the most high-profile public servants in Louisiana's recent history, is now poised to get the biggest spotlight of all. How tragic that it's for all the wrong reasons.
The Town Talk on the Louisiana Department of Insurance's tips for the holiday season:
The Christmas season is supposed to be about peace on earth and goodwill to man. It's a time when we put others ahead of ourselves, preferring to give rather than receive.
Unfortunately, there are people out there with other ideas — specifically taking for themselves, often making off with the presents you intended for others.
The Louisiana Department of Insurance offers some insightful tips residents should keep in mind this holiday season. You can find more details at their website, but here are some key points to keep in mind regarding possible holiday mishaps:
Someone breaks your car window and steals gifts from the back seat. Most standard homeowners and rental insurance policies provide coverage. However, you are responsible for the policy deductible and there are limits. Some auto policies provide coverage for this situation. Contact your agent or company to find out under which policy you should report your claim.
Someone steals the holiday decorations from your front yard. A standard homeowners policy typically provides coverage, subject to policy deductible and coverage limits. These items are also generally covered if you have a condominium or renter's insurance policy.
Presents are stolen from your home. Standard homeowners insurance policies provide coverage with special limits for certain goods, such as electronics and jewelry. Standard condominium and rental insurance policies provide similar coverage. Check your policy for specific item limits and be sure to add new items to your policy as soon as possible to ensure you are covered.
Credit Card Theft
Someone uses your credit card to buy a big screen television. The purchase might be covered as part of your contract with your credit card company. Standard homeowners insurance policies typically provide up to $500 of coverage toward your legal obligation to pay your credit card company. However, there is no coverage if, for example, a family member entrusted with the card buys a big screen television.
You drink bad eggnog and end up in an urgent care facility while you are out of state. Your visit is typically covered under most health insurance policies. If you plan to travel, remember to take health insurance information for all family members, including your identification cards and contact details. Copayments with urgent care visits are typically lower that co-payments for emergency room visits. It's important to understand which doctors and hospitals are in your health insurance plan's network. If you are provided services from outside of your network, you may receive what is sometimes referred to as a "surprise bill".
We hope that none of our readers are victims of any of these situations, but we realize that is unlikely. Please enjoy the holiday season, but be alert and be prepared in case things go wrong.