John Bel Edwards

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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Friday, April 14, 2017

Report: Louisianans support anti-discrimination protections for transgender people, but not bathroom access

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 4:00 PM

A rally in Jackson Square following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
  • A rally in Jackson Square following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

The results of a survey of more than 1,000 Louisianans illustrates the continuing, deep divide among people who believe LGBT people deserve protections from discrimination and those who do not.

The Louisiana Survey from LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication found that a majority of respondents believe transgender people deserve protections from discrimination in the workplace — but don’t believe transgender people should be able to use bathrooms according to their gender identity.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents agreed transgender people should be protected from workplace discrimination, a move supported by an executive order from Gov. John Bel Edwards which mandates that state contracts include language that prohibits discrimination against LGBT employees. That order — prompted by the state Legislature’s inability to pass similar measures to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people — was tossed out by state courts following a lawsuit from frequent Edwards opponent and Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Respondents who agreed to workplace protections for LGBT people included 83 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans.

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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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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Editorial: Legislative forecast: more gridlock

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 1:40 PM

CREATIVE COMMONS/401KCALCULATOR.ORG
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/401kcalculator.org

State lawmakers return to Baton Rouge next week for an annual session that by law must focus mostly but not exclusively on fiscal matters. This year’s session, like most in recent memory, seems destined to be marked by partisan squabbles over the state’s taxing and spending policies. If history is any indicator — and it usually is — Louisiana taxpayers should not expect much progress toward the oft-stated but elusive goal of fiscal reform. Kicking the proverbial can down the road always seems to be the Legislature’s default course of action.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Edwards' CAT finally out of the bag: the governor and the proposed 'commercial activity tax'

Posted By on Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 1:56 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards.

A lot has already been said about Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposed “commercial activity tax,” or CAT, but the early rumblings against it are nothing compared to what’s to come. The governor undoubtedly knows that, which explains why he quickly promised to find ways to reduce the tax’s adverse impact on low-margin businesses.

Edwards presented his new tax last week as part of a “budget stabilization plan” that he hopes lawmakers will adopt in the annual session that begins next Monday, April 10. This year’s session, like others in odd-numbered years, will focus heavily though not exclusively on fiscal matters. Because the “temporary” sales tax increase adopted last year expires in 2018 — a “non-fiscal” year for legislative sessions — this year’s session presents an opportunity for Edwards and lawmakers to adopt long-term fiscal reform.

The chances of that happening appear to be even slimmer than the likelihood of the Republican-controlled (and very partisan) House of Representatives embracing Edwards’ newfangled CAT, which is actually a gross receipts tax — that is, a tax on businesses’ gross earnings. Even companies that lose money would pay an income tax on their gross receipts.

Only four other states levy such a tax, which is just one of the reasons it faces long odds of passage in its present form.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gov. John Bel Edwards unveils far-reaching tax plan

Posted By on Wed, Mar 29, 2017 at 3:55 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday unveiled a far-reaching tax plan to fix a $1.2 billion fiscal precipice the state is approaching next year, calling for a striking departure from how businesses are currently taxed and cutting income taxes for most Louisiana residents.

A key part of the plan is the addition of a commercial activity tax (CAT) — essentially a 0.35 percent tax on gross receipts for businesses. That tax would raise between $800 and $900 million per year. Businesses making less than $1.5 million would not be subject to the CAT, and would instead pay $250 to $750 per year.

Edwards called for a reduction to personal and corporate income tax rates, an end to corporate franchise taxes phased out over 10 years and eliminating the fifth penny of sales tax that lawmakers raised last year temporarily to cover a more than $1 billion budget hole.
Louisiana currently has the highest combined state and local sales tax in the nation.

“Our problem is easy to identify. We’re operating on a broken outdated structure,” Edwards said at an afternoon news conference at the Capitol. “The central piece of this plan involves leveling the playing field that has been unfairly tilted toward the big guy.”

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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

screen_shot_2017-03-27_at_3.45.33_pm.png


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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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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