Naming the TOPS saboteurs

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 By Dayne Sherman

When John Bel Edwards was inaugurated governor on January 11, he needed several wins to put Louisiana back on the right path. The most important reforms were the expansion of Medicaid, stabilizing the state budget, and preventing destructive cuts to higher education and the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS).


After three ignoble legislative sessions in a row, some positive reforms occurred. Yet much was left undone when the real logjam didn’t end, and the clock ran out on the last special session late in the evening of June 23.


Of these essential reforms, only the Medicaid expansion was successfully implemented. No one can honestly say the governor failed to advocate for needed initiatives. However, real progress met resistance in the House.


I’m not going to sugarcoat it. There has been no respite for higher education or the popular TOPS program. Colleges and universities are in a desperate position heading to the fall semester, and many smart students and faculty are looking for a way out of Louisiana. How could anyone blame them for leaving?


But diagnosing a problem only does so much toward repairing the damage. In this case, I believe Gov. Edwards should immediately employ four steps to correct the malevolence in the Legislature.


First, veto the front-loading of TOPS. In other words, spread the current funding between semesters, which is the most responsible thing to do. There’s no reason to give students a false hope with full funding in the fall and 40 % funding in the spring term. This plan, which passed in the final minutes of the third session, is a craven political move to prevent legislators from feeling the heat between now and January 2017.


Second, take the veto pen to all of the pet projects in the districts of the most delusional and spiteful representatives. The worst offenders, the most committed obstructionists, are as follows: Democrat Neil Abramson (New Orleans), Republicans Cameron Henry (Metairie), Speaker Taylor Barras (New Iberia), Lance Harris (Alexandria), John Schroder (Covington), Valarie Hodges (Denham Springs), Barry Ivey (BR-Central), Jim Morris (Oil City), Beryl Amedee (Houma), Mike Johnson (Bossier City), Alan Seabaugh (Shreveport), and Jay Morris (Monroe). If these mossbacks really want small government, as they claim, then certainly they’ll be happy to lose taxpayer-funded capital outlay pork slated for their backyards.


Third, go to House districts and explain to citizens exactly how boneheaded legislators backed the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s agenda instead of the needs of the people living in the region. This must be an all-out media blitz. Don’t be shy. Tell the people what mischief has been caused by Neil Abramson et al.


Last, visit every college and university campus in the state and explain to the remaining students, parents, staff, and faculty how the obstructionists fought plans to save TOPS and protect higher education. Name names.


The citizens of Louisiana need to know who sold them out. From my view, it wasn’t John Bel Edwards kicking the can down the road. Rather, it was a group of well-organized saboteurs in the Louisiana House of Representatives.


It’s time to hold legislators accountable for their gross negligence. Voters must know who tried to hamstring the state’s future, destroy higher education along with TOPS, and cripple the newly elected governor for no better reason than partisan political games.


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Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker


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6 Responses

  1. John P. Wefel

    Right on …….. but you failed to say what the citizens can do. Be informed and vote the obstructionists out of office at the next opportunity. Publishing their names won’t ‘faze’ them, but a voter effort just might get their attention.

  2. Butch Gautreaux

    The opposition was well organized by David Vitter and Timmy Teeple. And let’s not forget former Chief Council and Chief of Staff for Bobby Jindal Stephen Waguespack who now heads up LABI. A strong rating by LABI is a sure sign that a legislator wants to continue the failed Jindal policies that got us in this mess.

    • Mr. Gautreaux, et al, why are these representatives all considered bad? This state needs and must have some serious fiscal reforms. The status quo is killing us. The original TOPS plan was fantastic but the legislature has been involved and turned it into a political football of free money for everybody. I honestly do not believe that Vitter and the vile Teeple were involved in lobbying these reps. The only fix to this situation is to vote out the professional politicians and start over. How can we expect change when Mr. B. Edwards hand picks John Allario for Senate Prez, dear God, we’ll never change with the good ole boy network still running the show.

      • Sid, the reps are bad because they are putting party loyalty ahead of the state’s people. I’d like to see any documentation where TOPS has changed and how. Give me some facts on how it WAS great but now is DIFFERENT. It’s not free money for EVERYONE. Only a percentage of college students even get TOPS. It’s not ubiquitous. Alario did NOT destroy TOPS. It was a collection of butt kissers in the HOUSE. They need to be voted out.

  3. Back in 1989 when it was named the Louisiana College Tuition Plan it was set up for low and moderate income students who met the academic requirements. In 1997 it was opened for all students. Now it’s a political football whether you admit it or not. The original intent was noble and helped many young people get a college education that may not have been able to otherwise. The change to open it up to all income levels and students was probably done with good intentions. It needs tweaking and with the legislature involved only heaven knows what will happen. The piece mill approach to fixing TOPS is fiscally stupid when what is needed is comprehensive and fundamental changes to the way the state funds and administers higher education. Until we have a responsible person in charge, not someone who cries the sky is falling and LSU won’t be playing football unless taxes are increased, we are not going to change. John Alario has been in the Legislature for almost half a century. He voted with Mr. Jindal on every budget, in my opinion he is the poster child of what’s wrong in this state. A good ole boy professional politician who is responsible for the mess we’re in.

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