During the last legislative session, voters learned a lot about their lawmakers and about the large number of multinational corporations with Louisiana operations (Big Industry) that regularly lobby the lawmakers to do what Big Industry demands.

The voters learned that some of our lawmakers had the courage to do what was necessary to save from destruction the state universities — the essentials to a better future for the people of Louisiana. Without bold action by these legislators, the universities would have faced bankruptcy and the loss of accreditation, a disaster that would have taken the state decades to overcome.

On the other hand, there were legislators who, fearing the loss of Big Industry’s re-election campaign money, refused to take the necessary steps to prevent chaos in higher education.

They had a choice to either save the universities or please Big Industry by voting no to the suspension of a few of Big Industry’s many state tax exemptions. They opted to please Big Industry. A good report card from Big Industry was more important to them than the survival of the universities. Profiles in courage were sorely lacking among this group.

The refusal of Big Industry to accept, for a short period, a small reduction in the billions of state tax giveaways in order to help the universities get through a crisis is further proof that Big Industry continues to treat Louisiana as a colony, a place to be exploited for its natural resources and its strategic location with the profits from the Louisiana operations deposited in other states to be used, in part, to enhance the quality of universities in other states.

A recent (Oct. 2011) example of Big Industry’s philosophy is the $250 million donation to 11 universities in the United States by a giant chemical company with extensive, decades old Louisiana operations. Significantly, neither LSU nor any other university in Louisiana made the donee list.

Ironically, Louisiana welcomed the donor chemical company and all the other chemical companies with open arms when the other states refused to put up with the pollution that the chemical industry caused.

How can Louisiana make progress when big industrial corporations with all their political money work not only against the state universities in the Legislature but also against the re-election of lawmakers who support the universities?

Our state will take a great leap forward on the road to progress when Big Industry becomes a partner of higher education in the Legislature rather than its adversary.

Howard Franques

retired lawyer