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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Remembering Bill Broadhurst: The lion who never roared

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 3:15 PM

Bill Broadhurst, the longtime Louisiana political strategist who died May 22 at 77.
  • Bill Broadhurst, the longtime Louisiana political strategist who died May 22 at 77.

The old political lions are leaving us, one by one. Each one’s passing leaves a void that cannot be filled — and reminds us that we won’t see their kind again. We lost another lion on May 22 when attorney, consultant, political strategist and lobbyist Bill Broadhurst died at his home in Crowley. He was 77.

In addition to the many hats Billy wore so well, he was also my friend. As a political insider, he taught me a great deal about Louisiana politics. As a trusted friend, he taught me just as much about life.

In the end, we both learned that the lessons of politics truly are the lessons of life, because the same things matter in both arenas: relationships; respect; trust; honor; loyalty.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Minimum wage bill killed in state Senate Finance Committee

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 4:36 PM

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The state Senate Finance Committee, buttressed by warnings that any mandated increase in the state minimum wage could cost jobs, today killed a bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $8 in 2018, and to $8.50 in 2019. The vote was 7-3.

Washington, D.C. and 28 other states have a minimum wager higher than the federal minimum of $7.25. Only three have a lower employment rate than Louisiana, according to Louisiana Budget Project Director Jan Moller. States must at least match the federal minimum.
Both the debate and the voting on Senate Bill 153 by state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, fell along party lines. Most Republicans argued businesses will make up for the increased expense by eliminating low-wage jobs or raising the cost of products.

“Instead of trying to raise the wage that could drive jobs away, we should be focusing on our economy,” state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said. “If you raise the minimum wage, you might be jeopardizing those very jobs that earn that $7.25.”

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State Senate rejects expanding domestic abuse protections to same-sex couples

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 1:41 PM

ROBERT ASHWORTH / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • ROBERT ASHWORTH / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

The state’s domestic abuse laws will continue to exclude same-sex couples after a bill to extend the law’s protections failed in a 17-14 Senate vote. But the measure may not be dead.

House Bill 27 by State Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, proposed striking “of the opposite sex” from the law’s definition of a household member to extend domestic abuse protections — such as sentencing enhancements for abusers and greater protections for victims — to same-sex couples. Currently the law only applies to married couples, whether same-sex or heterosexual, and heterosexual couples who are cohabiting.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bill on domestic violence protections for 'dating partners' moves to full state Senate

Posted By on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 1:40 PM

State Rep. Helena Moreno.
  • State Rep. Helena Moreno.

A Louisiana Senate Judiciary Committee favorably dispatched a bill to the full Senate for final debate Tuesday that would provide dating partners the same protection afforded spouses.

Dating partners involved in domestic abuse cases only can be charged with simple battery under current law. Domestic abuse battery carries more severe penalties. Louisiana is one of nine states where domestic abuse law does not recognize dating partners and does not allow the same protection as spouses.
House Bill 223, by State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, creates a new section of law for dating partners, which is the same as the domestic spousal abuse law, except it does not ban the guilty dating partner from owning a firearm for 10 years.

The presence of a firearm in an abusive relationship increases the chances of a homicide by about 500 percent, according to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Moreno’s bill would trigger a federal ban on firearm possession for more intense acts of violence, such as burning or strangling the victim, or for repeat offenders.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Nungesser: Revenue shortfall means funding cuts for cultural events, Special Olympics

Posted By on Mon, May 22, 2017 at 3:04 PM

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser cites funding woes to the Senate Finance Committee Monday. The committee has been getting the reaction of state agencies regarding cuts to their budgets under the state funding proposal for the coming fiscal year. - SARAH GAMARD
  • SARAH GAMARD
  • Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser cites funding woes to the Senate Finance Committee Monday. The committee has been getting the reaction of state agencies regarding cuts to their budgets under the state funding proposal for the coming fiscal year.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser says he will be forced to cut several areas under his responsibility next year — including cultural events, state parks and museums — because of Louisiana’s revenue shortfall.

Following his testimony today to the Louisiana Senate Finance Committee, Nungesser said some fiscal cuts he's made have broken his heart and warned future reductions would negatively affect art, parks and tourism across the state.

Nungesser’s office includes the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in House Bill 1, which holds the state’s $29 billion spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1. Under HB1, the funding instrument, the department will see a $3.3 million decrease in state general funds in its budget to $87.8 million from this year’s $91 million. The department also expects a $2 million decrease in self-generated revenue.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

House proposal on Uber and Lyft: Newton's First Law of Bad Government

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 2:50 PM

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Sir Isaac Newton reduced much of what we know about the universe to a handful of precise mathematical formulas. Good thing Sir Isaac isn’t around today to try to make sense of the Louisiana Legislature. He’d surely go mad.

Or perhaps, upon noticing the extravagance with which hordes of unctuous lobbyists are pushing a bill to regulate web-based transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, he might be moved to formulate his First Law of Bad Government: A proposed law’s awfulness is geometrically proportional to the number of lobbyists hired to secure its passage.

That is surely the case with House Bill 527 by Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, which might otherwise be called the No Lobbyist Left Behind Bill.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bill to end death penalty in Louisiana killed in House committee

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 8:08 PM

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A bid to end the death penalty in Louisiana was killed Wednesday night after a House committee rejected a bill that would eliminate capital punishment by a single vote.

The bill’s failure to get past the Administration of Criminal Justice committee seemed to signal that an identical bill that had been passed by a Senate committee, authored by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, would also fail to advance through legislature.

After Wednesday’s vote, Claitor said he would abandon his bill as well, according to multiple reports.

One of the nine lawmakers to vote against the bill, Rep. Steven Pylant, R-Winnsboro, was actually a co-sponsor of the bill. It was authored by Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia.

During debate on the issue, Pylant, a Republican and retired sheriff of Franklin Parish, said he was in fact “100 percent in favor of the death penalty,” and said he had put his name on the prospective legislation so that the public could be aware of how infrequently the death penalty was being administered in Louisiana, despite it being a law on the books.

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Bills on minimum wage, LGBT non-discrimination move to full state Senate for consideration

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 2:35 PM

State Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, author of Senate Bill 153, which would increase the state minimum wage to $8.50 by 2019, and Senate Bill 155, which would enact a non-discrimination act for Louisiana employees. - PHOTO BY CAITIE BURKES
  • PHOTO BY CAITIE BURKES
  • State Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, author of Senate Bill 153, which would increase the state minimum wage to $8.50 by 2019, and Senate Bill 155, which would enact a non-discrimination act for Louisiana employees.

The Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations on Wednesday favorably moved two bills by Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans — one to increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour by 2019 and the other to enact a non-discrimination policy for Louisiana employees who identify as LGBT.

Senate Bill 153, which was approved for full Senate debate on a 4-2 vote, would increase the state’s minimum wage from the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 to $8 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2018, and $8.50 beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

Senate Bill 155 carried 3-1, with committee chairman Neil Riser opposing. It would enact the Louisiana Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would add language to existing law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bill to allow anonymous health risk surveys in high schools fails in Louisiana Senate

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 6:00 PM

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Louisiana has the seventh highest rate of teen pregnancies in the U.S. among kids aged 15-19. Half of all new STD diagnoses in the U.S. are among young people — Louisiana leads the U.S. in rates of gonorrhea and syphilis, and it has the second-highest rate of chlamydia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A bill from state Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, would allow the state's departments of health and education to administer an anonymous survey to school districts to gauge risk behaviors among high school students. The CDC survey already is administered in 42 other states. In Louisiana, the survey omits questions about sexual activity but does ask about drug and alcohol use, among other behaviors. Colomb's Senate Bill 85 would allow those questions on the survey.

Proponents argued that with access to the full scope of risk behavior data among young people, the state could apply for more funding for programming to accurately reflect student behavior and help lower the state's high rates of STDs and unplanned pregnancies. A similar bill won House approval last year, and Colomb's bill cleared the Senate's Health and Welfare Committee last week.

But after pushback from conservative opponents, the bill failed by a vote of 14-22 during Senate debate May 16. The bill is scheduled for reconsideration in the Senate May 17.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Louisiana House passes bill that aims to put monument removal to a vote

Posted By on Mon, May 15, 2017 at 6:53 PM

During demonstrations on May 7, monument opponents stood behind a supporter who gave the finger to other opponents at Lee Circle - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • During demonstrations on May 7, monument opponents stood behind a supporter who gave the finger to other opponents at Lee Circle

Despite powerful testimony from several black lawmakers urging the Louisiana House of Representatives to vote against a measure that aims to prevent the removal of Confederate monuments, the bill passed by a vote of 65-31 on May 15. It now heads to the Senate.

House Bill 71 from state State Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, prevents "altering, removing, relocating, or destroying a memorial, including any structure, plaque, statue, or monument that is located on public property and that commemorates specified wars in U.S. history." It also prohibits renaming or rededicating statues, streets, bridges, buildings and parks that are named "in memory of or named for any historical military figure, historical military event, military organization, or military unit." It doesn't list the Civil War among those events, but rather the "War Between the States."

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