1. No. 1 on defense
The New Orleans Saints used a first-round draft pick to acquire some muscle on its defensive line, tapping 6-foot-1, 299-pound (the Saints' roster lists him at 6-2, 304 pounds) Louisville Cardinals defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (right) last week to help with the Saints' running and passing defense. The Black and Gold allowed an average of 4.9 yards per rush and 8.35 yards per pass last season, the highest in the NFL. Rankins could help trim those numbers; in his last two seasons at Louisville he sacked quarterbacks 14 times and made more than 26 tackles for yardage losses.
2. A Prince is gone
Thousands of fans flocked to Treme April 23 to celebrate the life of Prince Rogers Nelson, the Purple One, at a massive second line and block party. A parade — led by a Charbonnet Funeral Home escort with a purple cloth-draped coffin towed by a horse-drawn wagon — included members of the Baby Dolls walking group, social aid and pleasure clubs and brass bands, all starting from the Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar, circling several blocks and returning to Orleans Avenue for a streetwide dance party featuring Prince's music. Several local theaters also resurrected Prince's 1984 film Purple Rain for special screenings last weekend.
3. 'Drunk on violence'
"We are a city, we are a country that is drunk on violence. And we need to wake up to this fact." — Mayor Mitch Landrieu, in an address on violence April 27 at Tulane University. More than 4,600 people have been killed in New Orleans since 1994, Landrieu said. Since the mayor took office six years ago, 1,003 people have been killed (at the time of his speech).
4. House committee extinguishes bill on short-term rental fire safety
If you're staying at a short-term rental in New Orleans, bring your own fire extinguisher. House Bill 952 by state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, would have required short-term rental property owners to take basic fire safety precautions (smoke alarms and extinguishers). The measure was deferred by the House Commerce Committee, despite having support from the State Fire Marshal's office. Opponents claimed the proposed law was an expansion of the fire marshal's power.
5. No more
Louisiana could ban so-called "sanctuary cities" (like New Orleans and Lafayette) under a measure from state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, that also is supported by state Attorney General Jeff Landry. Sanctuary city measures limit local law enforcement from working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigations in immigration matters. Hodges' House Bill 151 prohibits state and local authorities from drafting such policies. Hodges' bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on April 21 and is set for floor debate in the House as early as this week.
In an April 27 letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Landry questioned why the U.S. Department of Justice, in its consent decree with the New Orleans Police Department, authored a set of policies preventing officers from inquiring about immigration statutes or working with ICE agents on immigration enforcement. NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison says immigration matters are a federal issue, not a local one.
6. Your best pitch
The Krewe? The Soul? How about the Pelicans? The New Orleans Zephyrs plans to rename the team in 2017, in time for the AAA baseball team's 25th anniversary, and there's a contest to come up with the name that best suits the team. The winner will receive season tickets, participate in a ceremonial first pitch and more. For details, visit www.zephyrsbaseball.com.
7. 'Raise the Age' moves forward
The Louisiana Senate will consider Sen. J.P. Morrell's "Raise the Age Act" after a Senate committee approved it unanimously last week. Senate Bill 324 would change the law so 17-year-olds who commit crimes would fall under the juvenile justice system, rather than being treated as adults. Louisiana is one of only nine states that treats 17-year-olds as adults in the justice system. The bill has the support of Gov. John Bel Edwards.
8. Hazy future
for medical marijuana
Louisiana appears to have one less shot at updating its medical marijuana laws. Following lengthy testimony and debate, state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, deferred his Louisiana Therapeutic Use of Cannabis Act, leaving its future uncertain.
Though state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, has a similar bill pending in the House to update a medical marijuana measure he helped pass last year, James said the state needs to move faster. After criticism from skeptical members of the House Health and Welfare Committee on April 27, James said he's tabling his measure and backing Mills' instead. "If what we did last year solved the problem and saved lives, made living life more enjoyable for those of us who are severely ill," James said, "I would not be here."
James' House Bill 1112 expanded the ways people can use weed and added more ailments for which it could be prescribed (or "recommended," as to avoid federal scrutiny of pharmacists). His measure added PTSD, arthritis, lupus and "intractable pain" to the list of qualifying medical conditions.
9. LGBT non-discrimination bill moves to full Senate
It's legal for employers to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender people in Louisiana, but state Sen. Troy Carter's Senate Bill 436 would outlaw that. The Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee voted 4-2 last week to advance SB 436 to the full Senate over the objections of some religious leaders, but Carter, D-New Orleans, pointed out the bill specifically exempts "a corporation, association educational institution or institution of learning, or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of the Civil Rights Act." Carter's bill may face a tougher time in the full Senate, as similar measures have failed in past years.
Last month, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an executive order protecting LGBT state workers and government contractors. Similar measures had been put in place by past governors, but former Gov. Bobby Jindal rescinded the order during his tenure.
10. 'Blue Lives Matter'?
Louisiana could be the first state to adopt a measure that considers any offense against law enforcement a hate crime. A bill by state Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, received unanimous support in the House (by a vote of 91-0) on April 28. It now heads to the full Senate.
Hate crime laws add stronger penalties for criminal offenses targeting a person or group's "actual or perceived, race, age, gender, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, creed, sexual orientation or organizational affiliation." Harris' bill adds "their actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer or firefighter" as a discrimination classification.
The measure mirrors a national push among police after a growing backlash against law enforcement in the wake of high-profile deaths of unarmed black men and the Black Lives Matter movement.