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|Solons challenge media|
Two northeastern Louisiana legislators took the media to task Wednesday, challenging members of the press to report the state's efforts to implement workforce development reform with as much intensity as the media covered a legislative pay raise issue in the regular legislative session.
"I know of the issues that stirred up everyone across the state, but I want to challenge you today: If you are part of the news media …we have not met the needs of the workforce in this state … and I would hope that the news media would take as much interest in trying to solve that problem," said Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro.
Fannin joined Sen. Bob Kostelka Wednesday in criticizing the media for its reporting of the Legislature approving pay raises for its members. Some two weeks ago, Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed a bill that would have more than doubled the annual compensation for state lawmakers. The pay hikes would have become effective July 1.
Speaking at a Monroe Chamber of Commerce legislative appreciation luncheon, Fannin directed his remarks at the general public, too.
"And all those who sent e-mails and were concerned (about the pay raise issue) I want you to get just as concerned with this because if we don't solve this problem, we won't solve Louisiana's problems," Fannin said.
He said less than 50 percent of every student who starts college will eventually graduate.
"That's not acceptable, and here's why: We've got 100,000 jobs in this state that we can't fill because we don't have folks trained," Fannin said. "That's all over Louisiana, and we're not concerned, and we haven't been for the last 15 years. We've poured hundreds of millions of dollars into higher education and we've still got 100,000 jobs out here that we haven't trained anybody for."
Fannin said several business leaders have told state officials that until the state solves the workforce problem and provides businesses with a pool of workers to pick from, there will be no reason for them to locate in Louisiana.
"News media and those of you who want to get excited about this state, you need to get excited about reducing the dropout and provide a dual-track system that starts in high school," Fannin said. "I challenge the news media to get just involved in solving the real problems of this state as you did with the other issues you were excited about during this session."
While praising Fannin for the job he's doing as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Kostelka said he is of the opinion the news media paid too much attention to the legislative pay raise issue and did not spend enough time reporting accomplishments the Legislature achieved during the Regular Session.
"The news media seems to pay attention to really the unimportant stuff, and not all the good things we've done over the last four years," said Kostelka, R-Monroe.
"Earl Long once said one of these days Louisiana citizens are going to get good government and they're not going to like it," Kostelka said. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, you've got good government during the last four years."
"Whether you know it, or whether you like it, that's your problem," Kostelka said.
Kostelka also touted ethics legislation state lawmakers approved earlier this year, saying the state's ethics laws are among the strictest in the nation.
On another front concerning ethics, Kostelka chastised ethics boards members who recently resigned so they wouldn't have to disclose their personal finances in light of the state's new ethics laws.
"They all resigned before July 1 because they didn't want to report their matters," Kostelka said. "If you are on the ethics board and want to do a good job, why would you quit?"
We're in the process of naming the new board and we have people ready and willing to serve who don't mind abiding by the ethics laws," he said.