Baton Rouge

Friday, April 21, 2017

Brew U: Shreveport lawmaker seeks to bar colleges from branding with beer companies

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 2:49 PM

Tin Roof Brewery's "Bayou Bengal" lager. - SARAH GAMARD
  • SARAH GAMARD
  • Tin Roof Brewery's "Bayou Bengal" lager.

A contentious proposal in the Louisiana House of Representatives by a Shreveport lawmaker would prohibit a state institution of higher learning from allowing its name or symbol to be affixed to an alcoholic beverage.

This has ramification for both the microbreweries and the schools. The controversy even caught the attention of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who weighed into the brew-ha-ha Thursday.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Louisiana State University, which have their own official beer associated with their brands, are in the crosshairs of the bill by Democratic Rep. Cedrick Glover, who believes there is no justification for a university officially branding itself with alcohol.

Glover believes the current licensing agreements with breweries is a sudsy slope to hard liquor branding, but his concerns go beyond the alcohol.

“If you do this, why not the official lottery ticket game of the various universities across the state?” he said facetiously. “Let’s have the Mike the Tiger pick-three card.”

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An alternative to legislative gridlock: a limited-purpose constitutional convention

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 1:09 PM

State Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, has authored a bill to convene a limited-purpose state constitutional convention. - SARAH GAMARD
  • SARAH GAMARD
  • State Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, has authored a bill to convene a limited-purpose state constitutional convention.

The Louisiana Constitution of 1974 was far from a perfect document when voters approved it more than four decades ago. Proof of that is the fact that it has been amended more than 180 times — and lawmakers currently are considering still more amendments.

Given the gridlock between the Republican-controlled House and Gov. John Bel Edwards, the prospects for long-range, comprehensive fiscal reform are dim. Heck, it would take a minor miracle to get a small gasoline tax hike out of the House, even though a clear majority of Louisiana voters support that idea as a means of putting more money into the state’s crumbling infrastructure.

That’s one reason why state Rep. Neil Abramson’s bill to convene a limited-purpose constitutional convention deserves serious consideration. If lawmakers can’t even agree on the simple things, maybe a constitutional convention can address the big picture. Abramson doesn’t quite frame his argument that way, but that’s the reality.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Orleans Political Woman Forum April 25 takes on the "glass ceiling"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 10:20 AM

State Rep. (and upcoming New Orleans City Council candidate) Helena Moreno.
  • State Rep. (and upcoming New Orleans City Council candidate) Helena Moreno.

A panel April 25 hosted by Voters East of the Industrial Canal (VEOTIC) focuses on women's issues in politics, including political literacy, gender gaps in voting and overall women's rights. The event is notable for its guest list, which includes every female member of the current New Orleans City Council (councilwomen Nadine M. Ramsey, Stacy Head, Susan G. Guidry and newly declared mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell), plus State Rep. Helena Moreno, who will run for the council seat being vacated by Stacy Head. Veteran organizer Timolynn Sams Sumter moderates the discussion.

Political involvement and activism led by women is fast becoming a powerful force in both local and national politics, particularly on the left. A recent Slate article credits the surprise success of dark horse Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, who will advance to a runoff to represent Georgia's historically-Republican Sixth District, to women organizing on his behalf. The organization EMILY'S List, which supports progressive women as political candidates, has reported a dramatic uptick in the number of women who have reached out to express interest in running for office. These are encouraging signs for proponents of women's rights in Louisiana, where women have historically been underrepresented in the legislature and beyond.

The event, which takes place at St. Maria Goretti Church Community Center, begins at 6:30 p.m. It's free to attend.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Proposed changes for Louisiana animal shelters move to the full state Senate

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 3:13 PM

Pups clamor for attention at the LA/SPCA. - CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER
  • Pups clamor for attention at the LA/SPCA.

Save the washable markers and cardstock. The days of “Missing Dog” posters may become a faint memory for Louisiana youngsters.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development on Tuesday moved to recommend to the full Senate two bills, one authorizing animal shelters to post pictures of animals on a social media account or website, and the other setting regulations governing the operation of animal shelters and training of personnel.

Sen. Ryan Gatti, R-Bossier City, who authored Senate Bill 64, said the idea to authorize posting pictures of missing animals came up after talking to an array of pet-owning constituents “from all walks of life.”

“Social media is free, and you can set up a page for just about anything,” Gatti said.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Y@ Speak: end of Lent

Posted By on Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 5:40 PM

Louisiana follows its Lenten fast with Easter candy, crawfish boils, declaring John Wayne Day, twerking in the streets. and continuing the relentless tradition of roasting the Falcons.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

As 2017 legislative session begins, Baton Rouge lawmakers already appear divided along partisan lines

Posted By on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 5:49 PM

Louisiana House Speaker Taylor Barras, left, and Senate President John Alario, both Republicans, await the arrival of Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to address a joint session of the opening session of the 2017 Legislature. - SARAH GAMARD/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • SARAH GAMARD/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Louisiana House Speaker Taylor Barras, left, and Senate President John Alario, both Republicans, await the arrival of Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to address a joint session of the opening session of the 2017 Legislature.

When state lawmakers ended their work last year, having passed a host of temporary tax increases to help fill a looming budget hole, many shrugged off the fact they did not make significant long-term changes to a tax code widely considered broken.

After all, the temporary taxes, most notably a one-cent increase to the sales tax, would roll off in 2018, putting pressure on the Legislature this year to make bold changes to the tax code and budget. Plus, the 2017 regular session is a fiscal session, meaning lawmakers can consider tax changes without entering a special session, ordered by the governor.

On Monday, the Legislature began its 60-day session with that fiscal cliff once again looming. But lawmakers appear still to be politically divided, and few had optimism the various factions will be able to find compromise in an increasingly partisan and tense Legislature.

“We knew this day was coming, and I don't see the political will to get it done,” said State Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston. “I hope I’m wrong. But until we put aside the ridiculous partisan politics that has absolutely gridlocked Washington, we can expect to see some more here."

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Gov. Edwards addresses the opening of the 2017 Louisiana legislative session

Posted By on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 4:08 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards had a message for Republicans opposing his plans for tax reform: Chart a new path. The call to action came during his State of the State address – the second of Edwards’ tenure – that opened the Louisiana State Legislature’s 2017 regular session.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards had a message for Republicans opposing his plans for tax reform: Chart a new path. The call to action came during his State of the State address – the second of Edwards’ tenure – that opened the Louisiana State Legislature’s 2017 regular session.

Gov. John Bel Edwards had a message for Republicans opposing his plans for tax reform: Chart a new path.

The call to action came during his State of the State address — the second of Edwards’ tenure – that opened the 60-day Louisiana State Legislature’s 2017 regular session. Much of the speech centered on the governor’s proposals for tax reform, which includes eliminating one penny of the five-cent sales tax and implementing a commercial activity tax (CAT) for businesses.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Agents of change: Remembering Lolis Edward Elie and state Rep. Ralph Miller

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 1:57 PM

Civil rights attorney Lolis Edward Elie (left) and former State Rep. Ralph Miller, both of whom died recently, each was an agent of change in his own way. - ELIE: COURTESY THE LOLIS EDWARD ELIE FAMILY
  • ELIE: COURTESY THE LOLIS EDWARD ELIE FAMILY
  • Civil rights attorney Lolis Edward Elie (left) and former State Rep. Ralph Miller, both of whom died recently, each was an agent of change in his own way.

Change doesn’t come easily. It typically requires great risk by people willing to take on the status quo against daunting odds. Louisiana recently lost two agents of change with the passings of civil rights lawyer Lolis Edward Elie and former state Rep. Ralph Miller.

Elie fought in the trenches of the local civil rights movement, often representing clients that no other attorney would take. Though not large in stature, Elie had a lion’s heart. “He was fearless,” recalled longtime friend Don Hubbard, a businessman, veteran politico and a former leader in the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of Elie’s early clients.

Miller, also an attorney, worked the legislative halls pushing bills that opened local and state government to public view for the first time. They included strengthening Louisiana’s Sunshine Law (open meetings), Public Records Act and campaign finance disclosure laws. When Miller arrived in Baton Rouge in 1968 as a freshman lawmaker from his hometown of Norco (where he lived until his death), “open government” was a radical concept. Today, no investigative reporter could function without those laws.


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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Leger in no hurry to announce for mayor

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 4:23 PM

Sate Rep. Walt Leger.
  • Sate Rep. Walt Leger.

State Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, has been mentioned in many quarters as a possible candidate for mayor later this year, but he says he’s in no hurry to announce his intentions. The lawmaker had hired a team of consultants, but they’re on hold until after the annual legislative session ends June 8.

“There will be a time in the future when my attention will shift more keenly toward local political and policy issues,” Leger said in an emailed statement to Gambit. “However, at this time, as the Speaker Pro Tempore of the House and a member of the Appropriations Committee, the most important thing that I can do for our city and state is to focus on my near-decade-long crusade for criminal justice reform, ongoing efforts to stabilize our budget and tax situation, fighting for equal pay, access to quality healthcare, fair wages and working closely with Gov. Edwards on generating revenue for and investing in crucial infrastructure….

“There is plenty of time to focus on local political campaigns and issues, but for me the next few months is a time of real action, not campaigning.”

Qualifying for mayor, City Council, sheriff and clerks of court will be July 12-14. The primary will be Oct. 14; runoffs, as needed, will be Nov. 18.

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Louisiana Legislature to consider banning the death penalty in this year's session

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 4:11 PM

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The Louisiana State Legislature is slated to consider a ban on the death penalty in this year's legislative session, after three former law enforcement officials introduced bills in both the state Senate and House of Representatives.

Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, the chairman of the senate’s Judiciary C committee and former prosecutor in New Orleans, filed one of the bills.

He collaborated on the initiative, he said, with Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia. Landry, who was a state police superintendent under former Gov. Mike Foster, wrote another bill with support from Rep. Steven Pylant, R-Winnsboro, a former sheriff of Franklin Parish.

Both Claitor’s Senate Bill 142 and Landry’s House Bill 101 would eliminate the death penalty and instead mandate life in prison without the possibility of parole for defendants convicted of first degree murder, first degree rape or treason.

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