Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on how the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent gerrymandering ruling could affect the state:
When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to act 5-4 on two cases involving unfair fixes of the political system, Democrats were quick to find fault with the five Republican-appointed judges in the majority.
But it’s important to remember that the court’s majority had before it cases of Democratic gerrymandering (of districts for Congress in Maryland) as well as a widely reported case from North Carolina favoring the Republicans.
And what should courts do?
That’s a harder question, as the justices said that they recognized the “unjust” drawing of district lines by partisans as an affront to democracy. Further, Chief Justice John Roberts said for the majority that the cases before them — again, by both parties — were “extreme” political actions.
We disagree with some of the liberal critics who believe that the high court should have rushed into a decision. One of the important qualities of any court is restraint: Once an issue is to be decided, the actions recommended by the judges should not put the judicial system on a slippery slope to becoming an all-purpose political tribunal.
While the justices saw the abuse, they were uncertain about the response to it, but the good news for Democrats is already coming in from the states, where litigation against unfair redistricting has already rolled back a GOP district map that was found to be extreme under state laws.
Democrats might not be in general as fond of federalism as conservatives usually are, but it may be working against the abuse of redistricting.
The best way to deal with redistricting excesses is through the political system. Louisiana ought to align itself with the states that have adopted independent redistricting commissions.
In five states where laws can be passed by public vote — Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, Michigan and Utah — independent commissions were created last year and will draw the lines next time, after the 2020 Census.
Those are very different states politically. That suggests this is a more popular issue with the people, even if politicians don’t agree, and want to keep the process entirely in their hands.
In Louisiana, the Legislature failed to pass a much more modest proposal to set standards of public input and transparent deliberations for redrawing lines. That bill or something very like it isn’t as good as an independent commission, but it is a way to protect the political system from the fixers.
Our state has seen dramatic population shifts. For elementary notions of fairness to rule, a better way to draw district lines is necessary — or every shift will be seen as a political opportunity to rig the results in 2021 and beyond.
The Houma Courier on the decreasing number of HIV cases in the state:
Louisiana has registered its lowest number of new HIV infections in more than a decade.
That is excellent news for our state, as officials continue to battle against a stubborn infectious disease that affects many who don’t even know they have it.
In 2018, 989 new cases were diagnosed, the first time since 2006 that the number was less than 1,000.
And the news might be even better than that.
“It is quite possible that the number of new HIV cases reported in Louisiana in 2005 and 2006 were artificially low due to reporting challenges resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” Dr. Alexander Billioux, head of the Office of Public Health, said last week. “We know these storms had a big impact on the state’s health services at that time. Since there had not been fewer than 1,000 people with HIV diagnosed each year since 1988, it is quite possible that today’s number is the lowest in a generation.”
Part of the battle against this health problem is to convince people who might be at risk of being infected to be tested. This has several positive outcomes. First, if people are tested, their cases can be diagnosed and they can get the medical help they require. Second, if people who are infected know they are, they can help prevent the further spread of the disease.
Both are important in making sure fewer and fewer of us are suffering and dying from a disease that can diagnosed and treated and whose spread can be prevented.
And the numbers bear out that the battle has turned in the right direction. With fewer new diagnoses, fewer people will be living with HIV, potentially spreading it to others and suffering from the many health problems that can result.
This is a stubborn public health challenge, one that requires the dedication and hard work of hundreds of professionals across the state to make it more manageable. The most recent numbers suggest that that is exactly what has been happening.
Of course, with nearly 1,000 new diagnoses last year alone, we know that there remains much work to be done. Public awareness and access to testing and treatment must be the continued focus. Let’s hope the momentum that has been achieved can be maintained until this terrible disease is a thing of the past.
The Houma Courier on the dangers of impaired boating:
Impaired boating is a scourge on the waters. It is a dangerous and deadly practice that can land you in jail or worse.
Unfortunately, people still have the habit of imbibing to excess while they are on the water — a place that demands the full attention and capabilities of whoever is operating the boat.
This past weekend, state officials ran Operation Dry Water, aimed at getting intoxicated boaters off the water.
“We are always on the lookout for impaired boat operators, but this weekend it will be more of a focused effort,” Wildlife and Fisheries Maj. Rachel Zechenelly, Louisiana’s boating law administrator, said in a news release last week. “We know this will be a busy weekend and we want people to have fun on the waterways. However, we please ask everybody on the water to wear a personal flotation device and have a sober operator.”
In a place where so many of us spend so much time in boats, both recreationally and professionally, we should be leading the way in keeping the water safe for operators. But that is not the case.
Even here, where boating and fishing are second nature to folks, a disturbing number of boating deaths take place. And nearly one in five of them involve alcohol as a contributing factor. That should frighten all of us. Even those who do operate their boats safely are put at risk by those who are drunk at the controls.
The danger of boating while intoxicated should be enough to persuade anyone not to do it. But keep in mind, too, that there are legal perils involved. Drunken boating can result in a DWI, which can bring hefty fines and even a jail sentence. A DWI can also lead to a loss of your driver’s license and boating privileges. That’s a lot to risk for something that doesn’t really help you have a better time on the water.
Then there is this: If you are intoxicated and operating a boat, you are risking the lives of everyone else on the boat, too. That means your friends or family members could pay with their lives for the poor decisions you make.
The good news is that you can make the right decision. As we enjoy these hot summer months, please remember to stay safe and sober on the water.
Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.