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Commentary: What a difference a governor makes 

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Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Last week, Louisiana took one more step toward common sense when the state Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) began issuing REAL ID-compliant drivers' licenses and identification cards. The federal REAL ID law requires applicants to present more stringent forms of identification than in years past (such as a certified copy of a birth certificate, a Social Security card and proof of residence) to get a state-issued license or ID card. Under the law, Americans by the year 2020 will not be allowed to fly domestically without REAL ID-compliant identification.

  Typically, Louisiana trails the rest of America on this. Then-President George W. Bush signed the federal REAL ID Act in 2005 to fight terrorism, and most states have reconfigured their licenses to comply. Former Gov. Bobby Jindal, however, opposed REAL ID, arguing along purely ideological grounds that it was an information grab by the feds.

  Legislation that would have created an optional REAL ID Louisiana driver's license went nowhere until this year, when Gov. John Bel Edwards signed measures allowing Louisianans to choose REAL ID. The new law took effect last week. More information about REAL ID can be found at

Gov. John Bel Edwards' policies have been a breath of fresh air after eight years of Bobby Jindal's ideological showboating.

  Jindal's baseless obstructionism had little to do with privacy (getting a passport requires similar documentation) and everything to do with political grandstanding. REAL ID in Louisiana thus played out along the same lines as Medicaid expansion. Jindal refused to accept federal Medicaid dollars on the pretext that it would be "bad for Louisiana's taxpayers" — even though the feds now pick up 90 percent of the cost to insure Louisiana's working poor. The real reason for Jindal's opposition, of course, was because President Barack Obama conceived the expansion program. Jindal couldn't bring himself to endorse anything Obama touched. Edwards had promised to expand Medicaid while a candidate for governor. He kept that promise, and already more than a quarter of a million previously uninsured Louisianans have signed up for Medicaid coverage. Lives already have been saved.

  The new governor also took a pragmatic approach in April when he signed an executive order that provided state workers and employees of state contractors with basic non-discrimination protections — including protections for LGBT citizens. Former Govs. Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards issued similar orders, but Jindal let them lapse and supported so-called "religious freedom" laws, which would have explicitly allowed discrimination. John Bel Edwards' executive order caused barely a ripple in the state, as it was both the right thing to do and a signal that Louisiana was business-friendly. It paid off big time just four months later when the National Basketball Association (NBA) pulled its 2017 All-Star Weekend out of Charlotte, North Carolina in response to that state's controversial anti-LGBT laws — and moved the star-studded event to New Orleans.

  Edwards may never be a favorite among national progressive Democrats, but his common sense moves during his first nine months in office have been a breath of fresh air after eight years of Jindal's ideological showboating.

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