Baton Rouge

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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.


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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Bills to prevent Confederate monument removal are killed in Louisiana Senate committee

Posted By on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 4:41 PM

A demonstrator carries a sign opposing House Bill 71 as a crane prepares to take the statue of Robert E. Lee from its pedestal May 19. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • A demonstrator carries a sign opposing House Bill 71 as a crane prepares to take the statue of Robert E. Lee from its pedestal May 19.

After nearly seven hours of debate and testimony, a Louisiana Senate committee effectively killed a pair of bills that would give voters and the state Legislature control over the fate of Confederate-era monuments in the state.

The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 4-2 May 31 to defer state Sen. Beth Mizell's Senate Bill 198 and state Rep. Thomas Carmody's House Bill 71. They will not head to the full Senate for a vote and are effectively dead for this year's session.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Sanctuary" bill dies in Louisiana Senate commitee

Posted By on Tue, May 30, 2017 at 12:47 PM

Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order.

A bill that aims to revoke certain funding to "sanctuary" cities has died in a Louisiana Senate committee. House Bill 676 from state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, was deferred without objection by the state's Senate's Judiciary B Committee May 30.

After the bill failed the state House of Representatives, an amended version of the bill passed May 18. That version would give municipalities with so-called "sanctuary" policies 90 days to change them or risk losing state funding — though Hodges conceded that Louisiana does not have any "sanctuaries" that protect people living in the country illegally from federal authorities.

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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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