fbpx
Connect with us

Louisiana Illuminator

Gun law raises funding concerns for school hunting programs

Published

on

lailluminator.com – Samantha Dietel – 2023-09-02 15:00:49

Gun law raises funding concerns for school hunting programs

by Samantha Dietel, Louisiana Illuminator
September 2, 2023

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers are concerned that the Biden administration is interpreting last year's bipartisan gun safety law to cut funding for school archery and hunting programs, though programs themselves say they haven't been affected.

A provision in the law – a bipartisan effort to curb gun violence that established new criminal offenses, and expanded background check requirements and the scope of existing restrictions, according to the bill summary — bans education funding for “training in the use of a dangerous weapon.” Republicans in Congress have noted concern that could lead to funding cuts for school programs that encourage gun safety.

The law included a provision that “prohibits the use of elementary and secondary education funds to provide any person with a dangerous weapon or training in the use of a dangerous weapon.”

The Department of Education has interpreted this provision to defund school archery and hunting programs across the country, scores of Republican lawmakers say, which prompted wide disapproval.

However, there is little evidence that any programs have yet been affected.

Patrick O'Connell, director of training and technology at the National Archery in the Schools Program, an organization that coordinates school archery programs across the country and has spoken out in defense of archery and firearm safety education, said he is unaware of any schools that have been affected by a loss of funding.

“Just a large number of schools concerned about that possibility,” he said.

Spokespeople for the Education Department did not return messages seeking comment.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

SUBSCRIBE

Criticism from lawmakers

Funding for hunting and archery programs generally comes from student fees, organized fundraisers, donations or state funds — with federal money adding relatively little, Michael Bloxom, the NASP Alabama state coordinator, said.

But congressional Republicans have still voiced objections about potential losses in that funding.

In an Aug. 4 letter, 66 House Republicans pressed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to restore funding for archery and hunting programs.

The representatives praised the long safety records of such programs and the opportunities that they provide for students.

“These scholastic programs are where millions of kids learn safe and responsible firearm handling and storage, and this egregious, irresponsible overreach by your Department will have far-reaching negative consequences,” the representatives wrote.

In an Aug. 11 letter to President Joe Biden, 19 Republican senators demanded that the administration withdraw Education Department guidance specifying that federal funds cannot be used for firearm training programs. That reversal would allow school archery and hunting programs to continue receiving federal funds, they said.

Kennedy, GOP senators recoil over blocked funding for archery, hunter education

The senators, led by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican and the third-ranking member of the Senate GOP, used the letter to highlight the importance of school archery and hunting programs.

“While the administration claims to be eliminating dangerous activities, this guidance will, in fact, have the opposite effect,” the senators wrote. “These programs provided thousands of students with the opportunity to learn proper instruction for firearm and archery safety.”

The senators, none of whom were among the 14 Senate Republicans who joined the full Democratic caucus in voting for the bill last year, called on the Biden administration to reverse “this misguided decision and ensure funding for these vital programs is not withheld.”

Objections haven't come only from Republicans. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, also wrote a letter to Cardona to express concern about how the interpretation of the gun law may affect school archery and hunting programs.

“In Montana, our schools have long offered shooting sport and hunter safety classes that play an important role in teaching safety and personal responsibility to students,” Tester said in his letter. “Outdoor recreation is foundational to our western way of life and any reduction of federal support for these educational programs is unacceptable.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Green, a Republican from Tennessee who chairs the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, introduced a bill on Aug. 1 meant to ensure federal funding for school archery and hunting programs would continue.

Green said that the Biden administration should not prevent Tennessee schoolchildren from receiving safety and skills training in archery, hunting or other shooting sports.

“The classes President Biden wants to defund aren't only about hunting and archery, they are about teaching young Americans how to respect nature and to focus on a goal,” Green said. “The Biden administration's decision to strip funding for these important classes doesn't just miss the mark, it misses the entire target.”

The Department of Education issued a statement to Fox News last month that it would work to restore federal funding for these programs.

Signs of impact

Officials with state chapters of NASP say they have been unaffected by the recent funding interpretation.

Generally the only cost to the schools may come in the form of teacher salaries, Bloxom, the Alabama NASP coordinator, said.

Still, there has been confusion and concern from people involved in the program.

“There was a lot of concern and discussion among teachers and parents, and a lot of that fear was due to a lack of information,” Bloxom said.

Alabama's programs have not been interrupted so far, he said.

“We are hopeful a compromise on the interpretation by the US DOE will permanently alleviate the fear that these important programs could be affected in the future,” Bloxom said.

Wyoming NASP coordinator William Poole said the legislation has been misinterpreted and that it is unclear how it would impact schools in his state.

“Our agency and partners are working to understand the intent of the legislation,” Poole said. “We will continue to support and advocate wholeheartedly for hunter education and archery in the schools. These programs play a vital role in fostering conservation ethic in our youngest citizens.”

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

DONATE

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

Read More

The post Gun law raises funding concerns for school hunting programs appeared first on lailluminator.com

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Louisiana Illuminator

Landry removes job requirements, trumps local authority for industrial tax breaks

Published

on

lailluminator.com – Greg LaRose – 2024-02-22 05:00:54

Landry removes job requirements, trumps local authority for industrial tax breaks

by Greg LaRose, Louisiana Illuminator
February 22, 2024

Companies that receive major breaks on their local property taxes to invest in large industrial projects in Louisiana will no longer have to set hiring goals to get the incentive, plus they won't need approval from local taxing authorities if the governor is in favor of their proposal.   

Gov. Jeff Landry signed an executive order Wednesday that upends the standards and approval process that's been place for the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) since 2016. The signing took place during the governor's appearance at a Louisiana Association of Business and Industry luncheon, according to the Baton Rouge Business Report

“This program is about capital investment. It is not about job creation,” Landry said.

Since 1998, Louisiana has awarded more than $20 billion in local tax breaks to industry through its Industrial Tax Exemption Program, according to an Ohio River Valley Institute analysis. 

Flow from the ITEP spigot slowed significantly in 2016 then-Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an executive order that required local approval of industrial tax exemptions. He also reduced the tax break available from 100% of property taxes to 80% and inserted a job-creation requirement for companies. Landry's order keeps the tax reduction at the same level.

The executive order he signed Wednesday also condenses the process for companies to receive local approval on their tax exemptions. Previously, each local body that collects property taxes had to approve tax breaks independently with a separate public hearing. For example, a parish school board could approve the tax exemption, but a parish council or sheriff could reject it. The business would then receive a partial tax break.  

Landry's new arrangement calls for a single parish industrial board, which would include representatives from the taxing agencies, to consider ITEP applications. Its vote would apply to all local agencies that receive property taxes, meaning companies would get approval a total tax break or none.

The executive order also upends the sequence of approval to award industrial tax exemptions, placing ultimate power in the governor's hands. Local approval has been necessary for an ITEP request to advance for consideration to the state Board of Commerce and Industry, a 24-member panel of appointees from business groups and the governor. 

Now, under Landry's order, companies will first submit their applications to the Board of Commerce and Industry. If their request is approved, the state panel will then notify a parish industrial board that it must hold a public hearing on the application within 45 days.

However, the order says little about what weight the local recommendation has in the ITEP approval process or how it factors into the governor's decision.

“Input from the Local ITEP Committee is important for consideration of an industrial tax exemption; however, it should not unduly delay the ITEP application process,” the order reads.

In an email, the Illuminator asked Landry spokesperson Kate Kelly about the governor's ability to override a local ITEP vote.

“The governor is the final say,” Kelly said.

Together Louisiana, a coalition of church and civic groups, has been highly critical of the state's generous ITEP giveaways. In a statement Wednesday, the group questioned whether Landry's order turned the incentive program into “a gift.”

“If a corporation gets a tax exemption, not to bring in a new plant or create jobs, but just as a public subsidy for its routine capital investments — investments, that is, that would have happened anyway — the result is not economic development. It's the opposite,” the Together Louisiana statement said. 

“In that scenario, local communities don't get new economic activity, but they still lose the millions in tax revenue from their schools, roads and police,” the statement continued. “They lose jobs — the teachers, construction workers, sheriff's deputies and others who would have provided the services that went unfunded. And their property taxes start going up, to fill the holes in the tax base left by each new round of gratuitous giveaway.”

Without any job requirements, companies can now apply for tax exemptions for most any large-scale investment in Louisiana. Landry's order does specify that maintenance expenses, environmental compliance upgrades and replacement parts that are not part of an extensive restoration do not qualify for ITEP awards.

The order goes into effect for all ITEP applications moving forward, effective Feb. 21, but does not apply retroactively to applications or exemptions.

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

DONATE

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

Read More

The post Landry removes job requirements, trumps local authority for industrial tax breaks appeared first on lailluminator.com

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share
Continue Reading

Louisiana Illuminator

Criminal justice reform advocates ask court to force Legislature to hear from public

Published

on

lailluminator.com – Piper Hutchinson – 2024-02-21 16:51:56

Criminal justice reform advocates ask court to force Legislature to hear from public

by Piper Hutchinson, Louisiana Illuminator
February 21, 2024

Three Louisiana criminal justice reform advocates have asked a state court to prevent the Legislature from discussing several proposals until more public testimony is heard on the bills. 

Their petition was filed Wednesday in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge by Norris Henderson, executive director of Voice of the Experienced, Ronald Marshall, chief policy analyst with Voice of the Experienced, and Erica Navalance, a staff attorney with the Promise of Justice Initiative. Read the full petition below. 

They contend House Administration of Criminal Justice Chair Rep. Debbie Villio, R-Kenner, has irregularly limited public input over two days of hearings during a special session on crime policy. The agenda for the session features a string of bills, with Gov. Jeff Landry's support, that call for harsher consequences for criminals.   

The committee enacted a rule to limit each public commenter to three minutes and cut off public debate after proponents and opponents of a bill each testified for one hour. The three-minute rule is a common practice at the Capitol, but overall time limits are seldom used. 

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

SUBSCRIBE

Committee members said they supported these rules to get through testimony more quickly. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the committee had a full schedule of bills that attracted a large number of public comments. The special session doesn't have to end until March 5, but leaders have suspended the rules several times in order to expedite hearings on bills rather than letting them lay over for a day between hearings. 

House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Matthew Willard of New Orleans and other Democrats have criticized Republicans for fast-tracking legislation that would almost totally reshape Louisiana's criminal justice system, giving the public limited opportunity for input. 

The court petition seeks to prevent the full House of Representatives from discussing the bill until the House Criminal Justice Committee holds another hearing to allow more public comment. The complainants say they traveled to Baton Rouge to testify, but the committee's time limits prevented them from speaking. 

House Speaker Phillip Devillier, R-Eunice, defended the committee, arguing two hours of discussion per bill is reasonable, and that the Legislature is allowed to suspend the rules to advance bills. 

The complainants want to pause debate on four bills: 

House Bill 4, by Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carenco, which limits post-conviction relief opportunities. House Bill 6, by Rep. Nicholas Muscarello, R-Hammond, which expands the methods by which Louisiana executes people and shields records related to executions from public viewHouse Bill 9, by Villio, which eliminates parole in almost all circumstances House Bill 10, by Villio, which limits good time credits and credit for time served

 

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

Read More

The post Criminal justice reform advocates ask court to force Legislature to hear from public appeared first on lailluminator.com

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share
Continue Reading

Louisiana Illuminator

Biden unveils latest round of student loan cancellation to aid 153,000 borrowers

Published

on

lailluminator.com – Jennifer Shutt – 2024-02-21 16:26:30

Biden unveils latest round of student loan cancellation to aid 153,000 borrowers

by Jennifer Shutt, Louisiana Illuminator
February 21, 2024

President Joe Biden expanded his push to eliminate student loan debt Wednesday, saying during a speech the initiative is part of a campaign promise to address the “broken” system.

“While a college degree is still a ticket to a better life, that ticket is too expensive,” Biden said. “And too many Americans are still saddled with unsustainable debt in exchange for a college degree.”

Biden, who made his remarks while on a trip to California that also included fundraising for his 2024 campaign, argued that canceling student loan debt not only helps those who receive the benefit directly, but those in their communities.

“When people's student debt is relieved, they buy homes, they start businesses, they contribute, they engage in the community in ways they weren't able to before and it actually grows the economy,” Biden said.

The latest round of student debt forgiveness includes nearly 153,000 borrowers and a total of $1.2 billion in debt, according to a fact sheet from the White House.

Those receiving loan forgiveness are enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education or SAVE repayment plan, have been paying back their loans for at least 10 years and originally took out less than $12,000 in loans.

This week's actions bring total student loan cancellation by the Biden administration to $138 billion for nearly 3.9 million people, according to the fact sheet.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

SUBSCRIBE

Repayments tied to income, family size

The so-called SAVE Plan allows borrowers to set their student loan repayments based on their income and family size, not the amount of student loan debt they hold.

“The SAVE plan ensures that if borrowers are making their monthly payments, their balances cannot grow because of unpaid interest,” according to the White House's fact sheet. “And, starting in July, undergraduate loan payments will be cut in half, capping a borrower's loan payment at 5% of their discretionary income.”

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said on a call with reporters Tuesday there are about 7.5 million people enrolled in the SAVE Plan and that 4.3 million don't have a monthly payment.

“Many SAVE forgiveness recipients come from lower- and middle-income backgrounds,” Cardona said. “Many took out loans to attend community colleges. Some were at high risk for delinquency and default. That's why the actions we're announcing today do matter.”

Cardona said those eligible for this round of student debt cancellation would receive an email from Biden telling them about the move.

New FAFSA rollout criticized

Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy said in a written statement the latest round of student loan forgiveness is misguided.

“The Biden Department of Education has been unable to fulfill their basic responsibilities mandated by Congress and essential to families, like implementing FAFSA,” Cassidy said, referring to the application college students fill out to access student aid, including grants, scholarships and loans.

The Biden administration's efforts to revamp the form have been marred by delays and errors. 

“Instead, they have spent a considerable amount of time prioritizing their student loan schemes to shift someone else's debt onto taxpayers that chose not to go to college or already paid off their loans,” Cassidy added. “This is unfair, manipulative and a cynical attempt to buy votes.”

Cassidy is the ranking member on the U.S. Senate's Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, often referred to as the HELP Committee.

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

DONATE

Supreme Court decision

Biden, speaking at the Julian Dixon Library in Culver City, California, criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for blocking his original student loan forgiveness plan. 

“Early in my term, I announced a major plan to provide millions of working families with debt relief for their college student debt,” Biden said. “But my MAGA Republican friends in the Congress, elected officials and special interests stepped in and sued us. And the Supreme Court blocked it. But that didn't stop me.”

Biden said the justices' opinion in that case led him to “pursue alternative paths” for student debt relief, which includes the announcement he made Wednesday.

Canceling some student loan debt, Biden said, is about giving people a chance.

“That's all we're doing … giving people a chance, a fighting chance to make it, because no one who is willing to work hard in America should be denied the opportunity to have that chance.”

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

Read More

The post Biden unveils latest round of student loan cancellation to aid 153,000 borrowers appeared first on lailluminator.com

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share
Continue Reading

News from the South

Trending