Every campaign season brings an opportunity to hit the “reset” button. This year’s statewide election in Louisiana is no exception. As candidates and would-be candidates prepare to run, three reform groups likewise are preparing a coordinated campaign for a slate of long-range initiatives they hope the governor and next Legislature will support.
They call their effort “Reset Louisiana.” It’s the latest multifaceted reform drive by the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR), the Council for A Better Louisiana (CABL) and the Committee of 100. All three groups are guided by boards composed of business and civic leaders — but, unlike the uber-partisan Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, these three groups are strictly nonpartisan; they neither endorse nor oppose candidates, and they don’t have PACs.
Reset Louisiana (www.reset-louisiana.com) in some ways is an extension of ongoing efforts by all three groups, with some new twists. The Reset initiative concentrates on four areas: state finances, education, transportation infrastructure and criminal justice/public safety.
Already CABL has held “informational meetings” with roughly 90 first-time legislative candidates to introduce them to the Reset agenda. “The good news is there are people out there who are serious about running and who are hungry for information,” says CABL President Barry Erwin. “We hope to give them information that is useful before they get to the Legislature and discover that things are not what they thought.”
I’ve chosen three respected sources for this inaugural exercise: the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR); the Council for A Better Louisiana (CABL); and the Louisiana Budget Project (LBP).
Reset’s four areas of concentration have presented challenges for decades, with periodic advances and retreats. In some cases, the state has made significant gains — such as improved high school graduation rates — but much remains to be done.
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For example, Louisiana once spent heavily on early childhood education (before Bobby Jindal became governor), then all but abandoned it — except for continuing existing federal programs. Earlier this year, lawmakers made modest reinvestments in early childhood programs, but Reset aims to make high-quality programs for at-risk children from birth to age 3 a real priority. It should not be a partisan issue.
“What we’re trying to do is remind people that reforms take a lot of effort by a lot of people over a long time,” says Robert Scott, president of PAR. “There is no silver bullet.”
Although Reset is led by business-oriented reform groups, the head of the left-leaning Louisiana Budget Project (LBP) praises the effort.
“There’s a lot to like about the Reset agenda,” says Jan Moller, LBP executive director. “Increasing investments in early childhood education and making college more affordable are issues we can all rally around. … While we disagree on some points — and would urge extreme caution before a constitutional rewrite — this is a serious platform that merits a full debate.”
LBP is in the process of drafting its own proposed reforms under the heading “Invest in Louisiana,” which will be unveiled in August and focus on programs that benefit workers, children and families.
As Reset’s website notes, issues emphasized during campaigns often become legislative priorities. After the campaign season concludes, we’ll see if candidates — and voters — truly are ready to hit the reset button … and to invest in Louisiana.
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