Baton Rouge

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Editorial: 'Smart on crime' one of the successes of the 2017 Louisiana legislative session

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 2:41 PM

State Rep. Joe Marino, I-Gretna (right). - SARAH GAMARD | MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • SARAH GAMARD | MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • State Rep. Joe Marino, I-Gretna (right).
The 2017 regular legislative session has been widely — and rightly — criticized for its failure to produce long-term fiscal reform. Yet, despite lawmakers’ failure to work together on fiscal issues, they showed true bipartisanship in succeeding on another, equally important front: criminal justice reform. The long-term impact of that success cannot be overstated.

After decades of pretending to be “tough on crime,” lawmakers finally enacted policies that reflect what enlightened law enforcement leaders have known all along: we cannot jail our way to safety. Spurred by objective data from the Pew Charitable Trust, a yearlong study by the bipartisan Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, and critical support from conservative as well as progressive voices across the state, lawmakers passed a package of 10 bills that significantly overhaul Louisiana’s sentencing, probation, parole and re-entry laws.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Y@ Speak: thoughts and prayers edition

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 6:25 PM

Twitter reacts to the shooting of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Legislature closes out the very special limited edition ultra-rare super exclusive session, and New Orleans endures chin straps, cement, and Sidney Torres.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Louisiana House approves state operating budget, sends it to Senate

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 6:05 PM

The Louisiana State Capitol. - CREATIVE COMMONS/FORMULANONE
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/FORMULANONE
  • The Louisiana State Capitol.

The Louisiana House approved the newest version of the state operating budget Wednesday and moved it to the Senate on a 56-46 vote. The approved budget appropriates all forecasted revenue, but instructs state agencies to refrain from spending a combined $60 million as a precaution against midyear shortfalls.

The House Bill 1 plan that left the Appropriations Committee Tuesday would have appropriated $100 million less than the total revenue projection, creating a budget surplus. If the projections were accurate, the money could be appropriated in next year’s regular session through a supplemental bill.

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Louisiana legislature begins day with prayer for Scalise and other victims of this morning's shooting

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 1:15 PM

From left, House speaker Taylor Barras, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate president John Alario gather to pray for U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot in a Virginia park. - PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • From left, House speaker Taylor Barras, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate president John Alario gather to pray for U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot in a Virginia park.

After news broke that U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was shot in the hip early this morning while practicing in a Virginia park for a charity baseball game later this week, the Louisiana Legislature and Gov. John Bel Edwards began their day gathered in prayer in the Capitol Rotunda.

Edwards, state Sen. President John Alario, R-Westwego, and House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, led a prayer for Louisiana House members, who retired last night expecting to dedicate their day to a handful of fiscal bills.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

State health director says Louisianans will 'suffer and die' under proposed cuts

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 5:10 PM

Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee (right) and Administration Commissioner Jay Dardenne testify before the House Appropriations Committee Monday. - Gee’s department faces $920 million total in cuts — $237 million in state fundings and the rest in federal funds — in the latest budget proposal for next fiscal year that begins in July. - SARAH GAMARD/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • SARAH GAMARD/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee (right) and Administration Commissioner Jay Dardenne testify before the House Appropriations Committee Monday.Gee’s department faces $920 million total in cuts — $237 million in state fundings and the rest in federal funds — in the latest budget proposal for next fiscal year that begins in July.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, head of the Louisiana Department of Health, today said Louisianans will “suffer and die” under the legislature’s proposed cuts to state health programs.

The House Appropriations Committee met Monday to address House Bill 1, the state budget for next fiscal year, as it starts through the enactment process for the second time. The Department of Health faces $237 million in cuts from the state — $920 million if federal funds are included — in the latest version of HB1, a 9 percent decrease to the governor’s plan.

Including federal losses, cuts include $21 million from a development program for children with health complications, $60 million from displaced youth rehabilitation, $2 million from Zika virus infection prevention and $88.7 million from Medicaid-funded mental health services.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Da Winnas & Da Loozas of the 2017 Louisiana legislative session: Part 1

Posted By on Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 1:25 PM

The Louisiana legislature in the final hours of the regular session. - CAITIE BURKES/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • CAITIE BURKES/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • The Louisiana legislature in the final hours of the regular session.

The partisan divide in the Louisiana Legislature is more palpable than ever, especially in the House of Representatives. Whether you call it Washington-style politics or something else, there’s no denying that the days of lawmakers putting their differences aside and getting along on a personal level are fading fast.

That makes legislating look like something even bloodier than making sausage.

When the House adjourned amid a ham-fistedly orchestrated meltdown — which was designed to prevent a vote on the state operating budget — it was obvious that most of the carnage (and most of the bloodletting) came at the hands of the House GOP leadership. That made Gov. John Bel Edwards look like a “winna” even though the governor suffered his share of defeats on other fronts.

Speaking of other fronts, one of the bright spots of the session was the bipartisan effort to enact meaningful criminal justice reform — a heroic feat that proved lawmakers are indeed capable of working together when they put their minds to it (and put partisan political agendas aside).

All of which brings us to our annual review of the slaughters and triumphs — Da Winnas and Da Loozas — which we’ve done for more than 30 years now. Let’s start with …

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

State lawmakers one step away from finalizing bill offering parole for some juvenile lifers

Posted By on Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 10:37 AM

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After months of negotiations over a controversial bill aimed to curb life without parole sentences for juveniles, lawmakers have reached a compromise.

Senate Bill 16, by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, will eliminate life without parole for juveniles convicted of second-degree murder, but retain the sentence for offenders convicted of first-degree murder. Those who are granted the chance at freedom will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years of their sentence.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Da Winnas and Da Loozas, and a split decision: early bird edition

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 6:41 PM

PHOTO BY ZRFP PHOTO
  • Photo by ZRFP Photo

Despite claims by some to the contrary, the partisan divide in the Louisiana Legislature is more palpable than ever, especially in the House of Representatives. Whether you call it Washington-style politics or something else, there’s no denying that the days of lawmakers putting their differences aside and getting along on a personal level are fading fast.

That makes legislating look like something even bloodier than making sausage.

At the end of the day, this year’s legislative session likely will produce more loozas than winnas. With one day to go, two key players — Gov. John Bel Edwards and the House GOP leadership — remain deadlocked over the budget.

On other fronts, Edwards and House Republicans have fought to a draw. For now, I’m calling it a split decision — until we get a final resolution of the budget.

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Governor, House leaders deadlocked on budget

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 1:25 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards says monies in the House budget proposal for TOPS would send students “to institutions with inferior funding and educational opportunities.”
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards says monies in the House budget proposal for TOPS would send students “to institutions with inferior funding and educational opportunities.”

Negotiations over next year’s state operating budget remain very tense in Baton Rouge as leaders of the House and Senate — along with representatives of the governor’s office — wrangle over whether, where, and how much to cut state spending after July 1.

According to several sources in the talks, GOP-led House has put forth a proposal that continues to make deep cuts — a total of more than $154 million compared to the Senate’s proposed budget, and a total of $233 million in cuts to higher education, health care, childcare services and other critical services. The governor and the Senate are balking at the House proposal, and the entire process appears gridlocked as lawmakers approach the final 24 hours of the annual session.

HouseConfProposal.pdf
Earlier in the session, the House passed what it calls a “standstill” budget that spends just over 98 percent of what the state Revenue Estimating Conference predicts the state will take in. The latest House proposal for next fiscal year would cut more than $154 million from hospitals, higher education and other social services. The governor says the House also has not addressed $80 million in unmet needs for the current fiscal year (known in the Capitol as the supplemental budget). The Senate passed a spending plan more to the governor’s liking. That plan spends all of the estimated revenue for next year and includes a supplemental budget, but the House refused to go along with the Senate version.

The budget bill, known as HB 1, is now in a conference committee, where representatives from both chambers (and the governor’s office) are attempting to find middle ground.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Gov. John Bel Edwards calls for special section of legislature to begin June 8

Posted By and on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 6:54 PM

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

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards today served legal notice he intends to call a special session of the 2017 Legislature 30 minutes after the regular session finally adjourns at its official deadline, 6 p.m. on June 8 — if the lawmakers have not completed their work on three funding instruments.

Once that is completed, the leges can adjourn for good again, even if it is that same evening. Otherwise, the special session can run through midnight June 19.

Under law, the governor must give notice of his intention to call the session seven days in advance of that date and set topic parameters for the Legislature.

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