Baton Rouge

Monday, April 28, 2014

Y@ Speak: #JazzFest, week one

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 12:30 PM


If you're reading this, you survived the Krewe of Chad Bachelor Party Massacre of 2014, in which many recycling bins were tumbled and fists were bumped. Elsewhere, this year's Jazz Fest kicked into gear as @BeingNOLA went with weeklong Phish programming, Jason Isbell got hustled and had a couple get engaged, Solange hung out with empanadas and Glen David Andrews, and we learn one woman's Jazz Fest "cleansing" ritual.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Marijuana possession bill killed in Louisiana Senate committee

Posted By on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 1:41 PM

After heated debate, a bill from state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, to reduce penalties for marijuana possession was killed in a Louisiana Senate judiciary committee this afternoon.

Senate Bill 323 would make possession of marijuana a misdemeanor in any offense with a fine of up to $100 and/or imprisonment for up to six months. The committee attempted to add an amendment, however, that essentially stripped all of Morrell's bill to make possession of no more than one ounce of marijuana a misdemeanor for the first offense only, with other offenses remaining felonies. The bill would be exactly as current law with the exception of a first offense, a move that would have given the committee a better chance of passing the bill. But committee members voted 4-3 against that amendment.

Ironically, throughout testimony, several speakers and legislators admitted to smoking marijuana. Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb (who voted in favor of the amendment) said she has never smoked nor drank alcohol, while Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, admitted to smoking and inhaling. John DeRosier, district attorney of Calcasieu parish, said he was "downwind from several marijuana cigarettes from time to time."

"What this bill seeks to do is have a more compassionate outlook on how we interact with people who get caught with less than an ounce of marijuana," Morrell said in his closing statements before the votes.

Adley, who co-authored the bill, said, "This committee had an opportunity to reduce what you wanted to do dramatically. We’re not even willing to do that. Clearly it’s not going to pass in the fashion it’s in. I want the world to understand what happened here. .... People aren’t even willing to reduce to an ounce or less to protect the civil rights violated every day because the punishment does not fit the crime."

The committee voted 4-3 to defer the bill.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Y@ Speak: high holy days

Posted By on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 12:41 PM


As Louisiana's state book inches closer to being the Bible — or rather, "the Holy Bible" — and the fogs of Easter 4/20 lift to reveal the harsh sunlight of Jazz Fest, Y@ Speak looks back at a week of hipsters, gutterpunks and fancy private streets, as well as the end of the inaugural season of New Orleans Pelicans basketball.

Also: mark your calendars for #twitterprom. The second-ever Y@ Speak Awards are coming at you Monday, June 2. Stay tuned for nomination information.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Dissing the Constitution

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 10:17 AM

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The next time you hear a Louisiana legislator praise or cite the U.S. Constitution, keep in mind recent and ongoing antics in Baton Rouge. The state House of Representatives this week refused to remove laws from the books that had already been declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it is poised to enact a brand-new law that is sure to suffer the same fate.

House Bill 12 by State Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, would have removed from the state’s criminal code our archaic sodomy laws, which were declared unconstitutional nearly a decade ago. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 struck down a similar Texas sodomy statute, and two years later the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dealt the same fate to Louisiana’s sodomy statute. Nevertheless, Louisiana’s sodomy laws (effectively criminalizing consensual oral and anal sex) remain on the books, despite the fact they cannot be enforced. A House committee had approved Smith’s bill and sent it to a vote of the full House, but it went down in flames on a lopsided 27-66 vote April 15.

The chief opponents to removing the unconstitutional language were, of course, the Louisiana Family Forum and those legislators who are perpetually under its spell. “We’re not here to rubber stamp the Supreme Court,” said state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs — as if the Louisiana Legislature had the authority to affirm or overrule a case decided by the nation’s highest court. Kudos to local legislators who had the sense — and the courage — to vote for Smith’s legislation: Reps. Jeff Arnold, Austin Badon, Wesley Bishop, Jared Brossett, Walt Leger III, Helena Moreno and Ebony Woodruff. Unfortunately, they could not carry the day, and Louisiana was the object of another round of embarrassing national headlines.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dan Savage goes after Louisiana lawmakers following yesterday's vote on sodomy law

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Dan Savage, author of Savage Love. - CREATIVE COMMONS/ERIK ABDERHALDEN
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/ERIK ABDERHALDEN
  • Dan Savage, author of Savage Love.


"Savage Love"
 columnist Dan Savage has had it with the Baton Rouge lawmakers who voted yesterday to keep Louisiana's unconstitutional sodomy laws on the books:
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No mention of state Rep. Pat Smith, who tried to overturn the law — nor of the (mostly New Orleans-based) legislators who voted for the repeal. And Seattle's The Stranger, where Savage is editorial director, has also posted a blog entry, "Louisiana Lawmakers Vote to Keep Blowjobs Illegal," which has the usual comments about all of us who are so stupid that we live here. So there's that, too.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Louisiana House kills anti-sodomy bill

Posted By on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Following its narrow passage in committee last week, House Bill 12 — which aims to remove language in Louisiana's crimes against nature statute criminalizing consensual oral and anal sex — failed to pass in the Louisiana House, where it was voted 27-66.

The bill from state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, would remove part of a 200-year-old law that was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, a ruling upheld in Louisiana's Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2005. Smith's measure also met approval from LGBT organizations as well as Louisiana criminal justice organizations, on the grounds that there exists in the books a law they can't enforce.

State Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, asked the House to vote against Smith's measure, consdering "yesterday was Passover and Friday is Good Friday."

"This has been on the Louisiana law books for nearly 200 years," she said. "Just because we decriminalize something doesn’t make it right. ... We’re not here to rubber stamp the Supreme Court. ... We’re here to uphold the law of what’s right and wrong."

The bill faced similar religious objection in the House Administration of Criminal Justice committee on April 9, when members of the Louisiana Family Forum called the measure "immoral" and that removing the language would create a health crisis.

At today's House session, Smith pleaded with members to vote in favor "not only for me, for this bill, but for your law enforcement … bringing in people who can’t be prosecuted."

Orleans and Jefferson Parish Reps. Jeff Arnold, Austin Badon, Wesley Bishop, Jared Brossett, Helena Moreno, Walt Leger and Ebony Woodruff were among the 27 people who voted in favor of the bill.

Orleans and Jefferson Parish reps. who voted against the measure: Bryan Adams, Robert Billiot, Pat Connick, Raymond Garafalo, Jerry Gisclair, Cameron Henry, Christopher Leopold, Joseph Lopinto, Nick Lorusso, Julie Stokes, Kirk Talbot and Thomas P. Willmott.

Neil Abramson was absent and did not vote.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Y@ Speak: family values

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 12:53 PM


From kissing congressmen to virgin ice cream to Bibles to dog funerals to protecting your drag queen husband in a barroom brawl, Louisiana stood up for the Family, however one defines it, even if it's terribly. This week's Y@ Speak celebrates the defenders of family values.

Also, a reminder: you can now catch a preview of Y@ Speak in the print edish of Gambit.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

No wine ice cream for you, Louisiana House committee says

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 2:06 PM

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The Louisiana House Judiciary Committee deferred for the second time a vote on a bill that would allow wine ice cream in the state. House Bill 471 from Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, would exempt ice cream from "adulterated food" prohibited by state law.

Wine ice cream — available from Mercer's in New York, offering flavors like Cherry Merlot, Peach White Zinfandel and Red Raspberry Chardonnay, with 5 percent alcohol by volume — was turned down by Louisiana attorney general Buddy Caldwell last year in a letter to Troy Hebert, commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol & Tobacco Control (ATC), which helped draft Hunter's legislation.

At today's meeting, Rep. Ray Garofalo Jr., R-Chalmette, said he feared wine ice cream would be attractive to children, and that there are no ways for law enforcement to prevent children and people under 21 from buying it. Hunter said, "There’s no way we can legislate the provision for a child or adult from getting alcoholic beverages."

Rep. Edward James, D-Baton Rouge, said the committee was "creating more problems than it needs" adding that it already delayed a vote in March. "We beat it up then and we're beating it up now."

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The sweeter side of the legislative session: Laws on pie and cane syrup

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 11:22 AM

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Cane syrup and pie have marched (read: oozed and rolled) into Baton Rouge, demanding the same respect as similar sweet treats from Louisiana legislators.

HB 294 (Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette) calls for the exclusion of home cane syrup preparations from the state Sanitary Code and commercial food regulations, affording it the same treatment as small batch jellies, preserves, jams, honey, and honeycomb products. A similar bill — HB 216 (Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington) — calls for home preparations of pie to be held to the same standards as small batch, home prepared cakes and cookies.

No word on why these two important sweets were excluded from the original laws. Both bills currently sit in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Whether or not we achieve #canesyrupjustice or #piejustice, budding cooks of all backgrounds are on their way to having their own 30-day long, state sanctioned celebration. SCR 65 (Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma), which would designate November as Culinary Careers Awareness Month, passed the state Senate unanimously earlier this week and sailed through the House yesterday.


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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bill to remove anti-sodomy law passes House committee

Posted By on Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 12:45 PM

House Bill 12 from state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, which would remove consensual oral and anal sex from the state's "crimes against nature" statute, passed today's House Administration of Criminal Justice committee. The language already was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas.

"This bill is a cleanup bill. That’s all it is," Smith said. "No matter what you think about the language, it’s unconstitutional."

Between 2011 and 2013, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office made arrests under the state's anti-sodomy crimes against nature statute. East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux III later apologized and pledged to work to remove the language from the law. Smith's repeal also saw support from East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore, Louisiana Sheriffs Association director Michael Ranatza, and Pete Adams, director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association.

In a February statement, Equality Louisiana president Tim West said, "This bill is a common sense solution to a silly problem. It just makes sense to remove an unenforceable law from the books." He also called opposition from Gene Mills and his conservative Christian group the Louisiana Family Forum "unambiguous discrimination."

In today's meeting, opposition to the bill came out in full force. The Louisiana Family Forum's Bill Smith said while he wasn't present “to make a moral judgment” he said the bill would not address the AIDS crisis in Louisiana and Baton Rouge, which has one of the highest rates of HIV in the U.S. "This [bill] opens up ways for them to kill themselves," he said.

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