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March Madness

March 23, 2015

By: Stephen Waguespack

Well, that didn’t last long.

With my NCAA March Madness bracket already destroyed and the talented but unpredictable LSU basketball team abruptly ending their season after coughing up a big lead to NC State, I guess it is finally time to switch focus to other matters. This transition is tough to swallow every year. To help ease into non-basketball matters, let’s touch on several topics in March Madness-like rapid fire format to ease ourselves back into the swing of things.

  • However, I need to vent first. Kansas is a perennial bracket buster for me. The years I pick them to lose early, they make it to the Final Four; years I pick them to go all the way, they lose early and badly. Kansas is always the most difficult team to predict even though they always enter the tournament the same way:  with an imposing roster full of talent, a great record and high ranking. Perhaps the easiest solution would be a two-year post-season ban for the Jayhawks as punishment for their unpredictability. While I am not sure it would be a popular move back in Kansas, it sure would tremendously help my picks every year and be fitting payback for the Lester Earl episode (Google it). #jayhawkpayback #syracusealsousuallykillsmybracket
  • Speaking of bracket busters, the highly anticipated matchup between the Department of Education and BESE vs. the administration over academic standards is poised to be a high profile contest. Last week, teachers administered assessment tests with 99 percent participation around the state and generally favorable reviews about the instructions and content. In large part, after a rough early implementation, things seem to be moving along well. The department’s game plan is to organize an inclusive group of educators, parents and other officials to review the tests and standards to recommend improvements to ensure they adequately meet Louisiana needs, values and expectations. They have also promised to solicit a competitive bid for a new test to be given next year that will continue to deliver on increased standards, give predictability to teachers in the classroom and protect against federal intervention on our state-driven test. The administration’s game plan appears to be different, instead wanting to throw out the standards and tests and revert to standards and tests from over a decade ago (hope our teachers kept those old lesson plans in a box somewhere). This March Madness matchup is the equivalent of the new pick and roll, up tempo offenses focused on ball movement and team work vs. the old school Dean Smith four corners offense used decades ago that forced the shot clock to be implemented in college basketball. Old school vs. new school to decide the fate of Louisiana schools. #unionleaderswantoldschool  #reformerswantnewschool  #teachersjustwantstability
  • Every bracket needs a good Cinderella team to rise from nowhere to make a serious run and the inventory tax may be the 2015 version in the legislative session tournament. As a reminder, this uncompetitive tax has ballooned in recent years and the accompanying credit has driven up the cost to the state. Last year alone, the tax and accompanying credit was close to $455 million and shows no signs of slowing down. Proposals to just swipe the credit and use it for the budget are rightly falling flat. This is in large part due to the drastic economic harm this maneuver would cause, as well as the diminished amount of dollars it would produce as a result of inventory leaving the state in droves and assessment challenges that would assuredly increase without the credit. As a result, many are looking at repealing the tax entirely, depositing millions of savings into health care and higher education and working with locals for a more reliable and economically friendly path forward from here. That discussion is long overdue in Louisiana and needs to take place. Whether this Cinderella effort can pull a 1985 Villanova-style run to the championship or not, this issue has proven it definitely belongs in the Big Dance. You haven’t heard the last of this team. #unsustainabletax  #only12stateshavethistax  #gottabeabetterway  #globaleconomydemandsnewapproach
  • Speaking of big, every player in the Kentucky starting five this year is likely to soon be a NBA lottery pick and an instant millionaire. They are the odds on favorites to win it all and it is hard to see any team knocking them off their path to the trophy.  Every year, stories are written of their pending demise due to the uncertainty of major roster overhaul. Yet, every year, they rebuild, restock and reload their roster to achieve high performance. Similarly, articles are being written about our higher education system facing uncertainty, but there is a quiet confidence by many in the Capitol that by the end of the session the budgets, policy proposals and leadership will all be in place to pursue a higher level of performance. Coach Calipari spent the entire regular season telling folks how his Kentucky team may not be good enough to compete this year, but now that we are in crunch time they are firing on all cylinders. We have some of the strongest leadership in higher education that this state has ever seen. If legislators put together a healthy mix of stable funding, increased campus autonomy and smart efficiencies to low-performing and overlapping programs, you may expect higher education to soon be competing at a higher level. #workforce #partnershipswithindustry #highereducationfeedsoffastrongeconomy
  • Some teams make the tournament every year and seem like they are on the verge of breaking through, but just cannot get over that hump. The # No. 2 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs are one such team. They have been one of the nation’s better programs for over a decade now, but they have yet to really make that deep run in the tournament many have predicted. Similarly, our state’s need for a reliable transportation plan has been much discussed over the years and garnered numerous headlines, but has failed to make it all the way quite yet. This year, LABI will work with legislators to lock up the Transportation Trust Fund for roads, reform the trigger on the vehicle sales tax dedications to start flowing those dollars to roads and reform the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help use some excess capital investments to spur investments in capacity projects. Collectively, these proposals can put hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure once fully implemented. If the goal is to erase the $12.8 billion backlog, then this title cannot be won overnight. But, expect this issue to make a bigger step forward this year than ever before and hopefully make a deeper run than previously seen. #takethenexstep  #gettingclosereachyear  #thiscouldbeouryear
  • Sometimes a boneheaded play can make a lasting impression in the tournament. Chris Webber was part of the “Fab 5” class at Michigan in the ‘90s and helped propel them to two straight national championship games. However, he is most known for calling timeout late in the game vs. North Carolina even though his team had no timeouts left. A few seconds later, the Tar Heels were hoisting the trophy. Another example is Georgetown point guard Fred Brown. In the 1982, Championship game, North Carolina freshman Michael Jordan hit a jumper to put them back in the lead. With 17 seconds left in the game, Georgetown had plenty of time to drive down the court for the winning shot. Instead, Fred Brown inexplicably threw the ball to North Carolina’s James Worthy, mistaking him for one of his own teammates. Seconds later, Jordan, Worthy and Sam Perkins were cutting down the nets. These gaffes at inopportune times can instantly destroy title hopes for a team. Similarly, while our economy is on the verge of historic and sustainable growth, new boneheaded ozone standards from the EPA threaten to stop our momentum in its tracks. These new regulations are unnecessary and will likely put most of Louisiana in non-attainment, making it extremely difficult to get permits for new plants and expansions. They are anticipated to cost our state $3 billion in gross state product loss from 2017–2040, chase away over 33,000 jobs per year, and impose over $43 billion in compliance costs. At a time when we should be focusing as a nation on economic recovery and increasing American jobs, the Obama administration seems intent on drawing up one boneheaded play after another. It is time for this to stop. #keystone  #ozone  #chriswebbercalltimeoutonEPA
  • Any college basketball fan knows that when the championship game is done, you don’t turn off your TV. At this moment, after the trophy is handed out they always play the “One Shining Moment” video montage that shows the best clips of plays and players from the tournament. It is a good way to end the tournament and a good reminder of the great competition that was had. At the end of this session, my guess is a similar moment will be had. There will be boneheaded proposals and lopsided votes. Some of the issues that most expect to fare well will be dealt a surprising setback, and some issues left for dead will rise from the ashes and play an important role in the session. This session will be filled with ups and downs, good plays and bad. The key is to take it one game at a time, keep our composure, and keep the faith that when the final seconds tick off the clock of this session, Louisiana will have a plan for success. #nextyearstartsonsinedie  #fallelectionsarecritical  #itwontalwaysbepretty #thefinalscoreisallthatmatters