If there is a theme to the sprawling special session underway this month in Baton Rouge, it is that legislators are hustling to pass bills that solve nonexistent problems.
One such measure is House Bill 38. The Louisiana Police Funding Protection Act would require universities, parishes, and municipalities to notify the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, in writing, of any reductions in law enforcement funding and to appear before the panel if the funding drops by 10% or more.
If the legislative committee, comprised of members of both the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees, finds that the budget cuts have a “significant and harmful” effect on public safety, then the university or local government would lose money for construction projects and it's appropriations from sales tax dedications.
The bill seeks to put a damper on the movement to defund police, but it’s mostly a political stunt. Which means it’s likely to pass.
Defunding the police is a terrible idea. The experience of New Orleans, which has been operating under a federal consent decree, underscores the fact that improving policing typically involves spending more money, not less.
Just because demonstrators took to the streets this summer with signs supporting the defunding idea does not mean that Louisiana elected officials have taken up the call, as supporters of HB38 acknowledge. Even Minneapolis ultimately shied away from the idea.
Still, with the coronavirus crimping tax collections, local officials may have to cut budgets for all government services.
On the day HB38 advanced through the House Appropriations Committee, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced a 10% pay cut for all 4,000 workers in her city. Perhaps that constitutes defunding the police, but the mayor is also defunding everything else in city government, including herself.
Whether that’s the right way to cut expenses during an emergency is a matter between the mayor and her voters.
Rep. Dustin Miller, D-Opelousas, pointed that his cash-strapped hometown is having to go even further.
The police budget needs to be reduced by 25%. But the town’s mayor and leaders are working with the police chief to increase the budget as sales tax revenues return.
“To me, that’s good government, working together, instead of bringing them to” appear before the Legislature in Baton Rouge, Miller said.
There was a time when Republicans stood for local control and Democrats favored a strong, central government.
We supported that brand of Republicanism. Where did it go?