The Courier, Houma, La., on bill possibly creating bad public policy

April 17
The Courier, Houma, La., on bill possibly creating bad public policy:
The state Legislature is considering a bill that would allow the governor to remove members of levee boards if they violate “public policy.” However, it does not define “public policy,” leaving it open to the governor’s interpretation.
That would be a terrible step backward for the autonomy of the state’s levee boards and set an unwise precedent that would allow governors to meddle with levee districts for their own political purposes.
In fact, it would encourage the kind of political interference our current system was set up to prevent.
The issue at the heart of the legislation is a lawsuit the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed against dozens of oil and gas companies.
The suit seeks payment from the energy companies because, the suit says, they have failed to live up to the terms of their state permits and are costing levee districts such as that one more than it would otherwise cost to provide flood protection.
It is a complex issue that pits some environmentalists against the oil and gas industry. It has also drawn the ire of Gov. Bobby Jindal and a host of state legislators who are trying to stop the lawsuit before it gets started.
One of their tactics is the bill that would allow the governor to remove levee board members.
Whatever anyone thinks of the merits of or motivations behind the board’s lawsuit, changing public policy to allow the governor such power over levee boards is short-sighted and would open the door to potential abuses.
If, as many in the oil and gas industry and the Legislature have argued, the lawsuit is without merit, the courts can come to that decision without the interference of state government.
Allowing the governor such direct power over board members is an overreach even for those who think the Legislature should put an end to the lawsuit.
Reactionary lawmaking is seldom a good idea, and this is an example of why it is so troubling.
The governor and his backers in Baton Rouge are willing to radically alter the balance of power between the state government and local levee boards — which should be allowed to operate with some autonomy — just to further one political outcome.
That is bad policy that would remain in place long after this governor has left office, this lawsuit has concluded and these levee board members have moved on to other pursuits.
The system of nominating and naming levee board members was set as it is to keep political meddling to a minimum. The bill the Senate is considering would undo that carefully constructed system and invite the very practices the system was designed to discourage.
Senate Bill 79 would make bad public policy and should be rejected.

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