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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

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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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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