Merger bill dead for this legislative session
The LSU-Shreveport Pilots have amassed quite a sports record with its basketball and baseball teams, but this past week in Baton Rouge, supporters of the university scored perhaps the biggest victory yet.
The effort to merge LSUS with Louisiana Tech, basically killing the local institution, bit the dust in the state House of Representatives. In fact, the movement was such a failure, the bill was withdrawn without a vote being taken.
All the money-people and political big-wigs supporting this misguided plan could not muster the two-thirds vote needed in the House to pass the measure.
The sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, who is chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, recognized that the votes for the merger were not there and pulled the plug.
The two campuses are 70 miles apart and in two separate university systems. The bill would have moved LSU-Shreveport into theUniversity of Louisiana System as an “urban campus” of Louisiana Tech, which is located in Ruston.
State Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, who supported the bill as a member of the House Education Committee, said he’ll revisit the north Louisiana universities’ merger idea in future sessions if he doesn’t see the improvements and course expansions promised by LSU System leaders who fought the bill.
But, for now, there are several northwest Louisiana elected officials and business and civic leaders walking around with a yellow substance known as egg on their faces, having bought into the merger idea thinking it would be a slam dunk.
LSUS supporters had this take: It is time for those members of the LSUS Foundation Board and the LSUS Alumni Association who supported the merger – some who readily accept awards from the two organizations – to step down. In other words, resign.
There is no benefit for LSUS in having members on those two boards who want to see the university gobbled up by Louisiana Tech. Will they do the honorable thing? Or will they continue to pretend they are the money and brains behind LSUS?
The first to go, they say, should be Dr. Phillip Rozeman, the president of the Foundation, who has been the “point man” for the merger and has said he will continue to fight for it.
An Aside: State Reps. Roy Burrell and Barbara Norton, both of Shreveport, are getting kudos from LSUS supporters who opposed the merger for their actions during debate on the merger bill.
Also, when the Fax-Net e-mailed area state representatives to see how they would vote on the merger bill, not one of them responded. So much for keeping in touch with constituents and the public.
Keep talking and driving...
Although it’s dangerous, Louisianians who are addicted to talking on their cell phones while driving can keep on keeping on. The bill that would have made using a hand-held device while driving a primary offense has died in the state Senate.
It passed the House of Representatives with flying colors, but two senators of the Senate Transportation Committee voted against the measure. Only one other member of the committee was present, who voted for the bill.
State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Bossier City, is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and Sen. Sherri Smith Buffington, R-Shreveport, is vice chairman, but it is not known if they were present or if they voted.
State Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, pleaded for passage of his bill. “We see it every single day, drivers swerving in their lanes, stopping at green lights, running red lights, driving below the speed limit,” he told the Senate committee.
And he asked that Louisiana be the 11th state to make using a hand-held cell phone a primary offense.
His words fell on deaf ears. “The will of the committee has been not to push this forward, and it’s unfortunate because it’s probably going to take a catastrophic accident or fatality by somebody close to a legislative member,” Badon said.
Louisiana already has a ban on texting while driving.
Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.