Baton Rouge

Monday, March 27, 2017

Survey: Louisianans want tax increases, spending cuts to solve state budget crisis

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 3:48 PM

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Louisiana residents may not be as anti-tax as conventional wisdom suggests, according to an LSU survey released today, but most residents also believe the state can and ought to reduce spending by eliminating government inefficiencies.

A sizable majority of those surveyed — 71 percent — believe lawmakers should use a combination of tax increases and spending cuts to solve the state’s reoccurring budget shortfalls, LSU’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs Louisiana Survey 2017 found.

Researchers found tax hikes must be tied to specific areas, like higher education, elementary and secondary education and health care, to gain support.

But which taxes should lawmakers increase when they go into session April 10th?

“That’s the part where the public is not offering our public leaders, our policymakers, a clear path,” said LSU Public Policy Research Lab Director Michael Henderson, co-author of the report.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Harrah's blames New Orleans nonsmoking laws for drop in local revenue

Posted By on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 6:58 PM

Harrah's New Orleans. - CREATIVE COMMONS/MOREBYLESS
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/MOREBYLESS
  • Harrah's New Orleans.

The smoking ban in New Orleans has driven Harrah’s customers away.

That was the argument March 21 from Caesar’s Entertainment, the global casino enterprise that owns Harrah’s New Orleans Casino & Hotel. Representatives testified to the state’s Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force a $70 million loss in gaming revenues since the parish implemented the ban two years ago.

Company president and CEO Mark Frissora, company South regional president Dan Real and task force chairman Ronnie Jones all acknowledged the correlation.

But 24 hours later, Cynthia Hallett, the president and CEO for Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, called those accusations “baseless.”

Real said Tuesday he does not expect the parish to repeal the ban, nor is the company actively lobbying against it. And Caesar’s Entertainment executive vice president of public affairs and communications Richard Broome said the company accepts the smoking ban.

“We don’t want to dwell on the smoking ban,” Broome said. “But it has had an impact on revenue. That’s incontestable.”

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Louisiana women won't receive equal pay until 2115, study predicts

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 9:44 AM

PICTURES OF MONEY / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • PICTURES OF MONEY / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

According to new projections released today by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, the wage gap for women in Louisiana won't close until the year 2115. In the report, Louisiana joins just three other states — North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — in failing to close the gap until the 22nd century.

The group's analysis considered the ratio of women's to men's earnings for full-time workers and how that ratio has changed over time since 1959. The wage gap can cost a woman many thousands of dollars over the course of her career and contributes to lifestyle issues such as difficulty saving for retirement — a serious problem for women, who typically live longer than men.

City and state officials often discuss the egregious pay equity problem statewide and recently have begun to make efforts to address it. The New Orleans City Council established an Equal Pay Advisory Committee and Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for a Civil Service Commission study about gender disparity on its own payroll. Gov. John Bel Edwards and Donna Edwards also hosted a summit earlier this month about pay equity in Baton Rouge.

Though such discussions are limited in their initial impact, it's heartening to know this pervasive issue is on elected officials' radar.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

State legislation proposed to close loophole in domestic violence situations involving same-sex couples

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 4:13 PM

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Proposed legislation prefiled for the 2017 Legislature by State Rep. Pat Connick, R-Marrero, aims to close a longstanding loophole in Louisiana’s domestic violence statutes by including same-sex couples.

House Bill 27 would alter the state’s civil and criminal statutes by opening harsher sentencing possibility for abusers in same-sex cohabiting relationships and by providing key public welfare assistance options to same-sex victims.

The bill simply removes the phrase “of opposite sex” from the state’s definition of a household member, a definition that forms a foundation for the domestic abuse battery and domestic aggravated assault charges, as well as support services for victims.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

BESE accepts updated content standards on evolution, climate change

Posted By on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 6:05 PM

A bust of Charles Darwin. - CREATIVE COMMONS/SAMUEL RIVAS
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/SAMUEL RIVAS
  • A bust of Charles Darwin.

With language reminiscent of the evolution-versus-creationism arguments from Inherit the Wind, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) Tuesday accepted updated content standards for science education in Louisiana’s public schools.

This time around, the controversy over climate change was thrown in.

BESE created an 86-person volunteer committee to revise Louisiana science standards for the first time in 20 years. The committee’s plan would begin implementation during the 2018-2019 school year.

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BESE committee debates whether Lycée Français students should have French profiency as a condition of admission

Posted By on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 5:57 PM

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) School Innovation and Turnaround Committee Tuesday took a step toward tightening prerequisites for a French immersion school in New Orleans. - SARAH GAMARD
  • SARAH GAMARD
  • The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) School Innovation and Turnaround Committee Tuesday took a step toward tightening prerequisites for a French immersion school in New Orleans.

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) School Innovation and Turnaround Committee Tuesday took a step toward tightening prerequisites for a French immersion school in New Orleans.

The school, Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans, wants to require students have a certain level of proficiency in French before admitting them to its French immersion program where classes are taught in French instead of English.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

At "milk carton" protest, constituents clamor for absent senator's response

Posted By on Sun, Mar 5, 2017 at 5:46 PM

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Senator John Neely Kennedy's photograph peered out sheepishly from the side of a super-sized cardboard milk carton in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building Sunday afternoon. "MISSING," said the legend above the photo.

The milk carton was constructed by Step Up Louisiana, one of several progressive groups who co-organized the protest March 5 to highlight what they say has been a lack of communication and response from the just-elected senator, especially about his position on high-priority issues such as the protection of the Affordable Care Act and the Trump's administration's moves to restrict immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.

"You are missing and you are making bad decisions while in office," Step Up Louisiana co-director Maria Harmon said, addressing the absent Kennedy. "We don't serve [legislators]. They serve us."

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Budget fight is all politics

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 6:51 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards (left) and state Attorney General Jeff Landry tussled over budget cuts in the special session, but Landry's motivation is more political than economic.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards (left) and state Attorney General Jeff Landry tussled over budget cuts in the special session, but Landry's motivation is more political than economic.


On the surface, the special legislative session that ended last week resembled a small step in the right direction. Gov. John Bel Edwards and recalcitrant ideologues in the House of Representatives hammered out a budget deal to cover a $304 million hole in the current fiscal year's budget — without any last-minute votes on hastily cobbled compromises.

Beneath the surface, however, the partisan divide is as wide and as deep as ever between Edwards and leading House Republicans, with the GOP-controlled Senate generally in the governor's corner.

If you think fiscal policy drives Louisiana's budget discussions, think again. It's all politics.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Special election for Troy Brown's vacated Senate seat set for April 29

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 12:23 PM

Louisiana Senate President John Alario.
  • Louisiana Senate President John Alario.
Since Troy Brown stepped down last week as state Senator from District 2 (covering parts of several parishes south of Baton Rouge), the seat is empty heading into the regular legislative session that begins in April. Today Louisiana Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, called a special election to fill the District 2 seat.

Qualifying will be held March 15-17, and the election will be April 29. Should a runoff be needed, it will be held May 27.

In the year and a half before his resignation, Brown, D-Napoleonville, pleaded no contest to charges involving physical abuse of his wife and another woman described as a "side friend" during two separate incidents. Until last week, Brown had vowed to stay in office, despite competing resolutions in the Senate calling for his expulsion and suspension.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

State Sen. Troy Brown resigns; Senate was set to vote on expulsion Monday

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 4:05 PM

State Sen. Troy Brown, announcing his resignation this afternoon.
  • State Sen. Troy Brown, announcing his resignation this afternoon.
State Sen. Troy Brown, under fire from colleagues and constituents over two misdemeanor charges of domestic violence, abruptly resigned his office this afternoon — four days before the full Senate was set to vote on his expulsion or suspension.

"It is readily apparent to me that a fair and impartial hearing before my peers will never transpire," Brown said, adding that the Senate "tore down the very fabric of our government" by holding expulsion hearings based on misdemeanor charges.

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