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Politics & Policy

Louisiana Legislature Honors Late State Think-Tank Founder

Deroy Murdock and I wrote last October about the death by cancer, at age 50, of our dear friend Kevin Kane, who founded Louisiana’s Pelican Institute, a conservative think tank, to help guide the state and city of New Orleans back after the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. Now the Louisiana House of Representatives has unanimously passed a resolution honoring Kevin. Watch this wonderful video.

While Kevin did great work on budgetary matters, on energy, and especially on school choice, he devoted most of his final few years to building a coalition for a package of sentencing reform bills — to keep tough laws against violent offenders, while reducing the prison population (and horrendous costs associated with it) and promoting human capital — that promote alternative sentencing and rehabilitation for minor, non-violent offenses. Again and again I have heard and read people say that the effort would not have, could not have, succeeded without Kevin’s patient work with legislators of all ideological persuasions. He found ways to bring them together when nobody else could do so. A couple of key parts of the package passed last year, before he died, but major portions of it remained until 2017. In the end, just as the legislative session ended this week, all the bills passed, with Kevin’s memory often being invoked in the process.

These are indeed reforms of which conservatives can be proud. They will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, and will promote ways to help avoid turning petty offenders into hardened criminals (and, one hopes, help them become productive citizens). But, again, they keep in place the crucial lesson that violations will require punishment of one sort or another, and that major crimes or habitual offenses do merit particularly tough punishment.

That the state House took time to pass a resolution honoring Kevin was a wonderful tribute to his seminal work . . . 

Finally, a note about Pelican. (Full disclosure: After Kevin’s death, I was appointed to Pelican’s board to try to keep it going.) On June 1, the Pelican Institute announced the hiring of Daniel Erspamer as its new chief executive. Erspamer comes to Pelican after many years as the vice president for strategic partnerships at the State Policy Network. Media throughout Louisiana are taking notice. If anybody doubts the good that conservative state think tanks can do, just watch the video above, again, to see the respect they can earn.