Baton Rouge

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Domestic violence protection for same-sex couples, dating partners moves to Louisiana House

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 2:25 PM

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The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice passed without objection two bills extending domestic violence protection to same-sex couples and to dating partners. They move to the full House for expected debate next week.

Under current law, the victims of domestic violence are given some protections and assistance through the Protection From Family Violence Act. Domestic abuse is considered to be an act of violence committed by one household member to another.
In Louisiana, same-sex couples are not eligible for the assistance because current law defines a household member as “any person of the opposite sex presently or formerly living in the same residence with the defendant as a spouse, whether married or not.”

House Bill 27 by state Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, would amend the definition of household member to include all couples with the elimination of the phrase “opposite sex.”

Two representatives from the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s office said they are not able to charge a suspect in same-sex violence as domestic violence, a more serious crime, instead having to opt for simple battery — a misdemeanor.

“(An abusive partner) should be prosecuted equally as anyone else would whether they’re opposite sex or not,” said state Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Scat, CAT: Gov. Edwards' controversial tax proposal effectively killed in House

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 2:16 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards' controversial tax proposal, opposed by business interests and many Republicans, effectively died today in the Louisiana House.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards' controversial tax proposal, opposed by business interests and many Republicans, effectively died today in the Louisiana House.

State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, voluntarily pulled his controversial corporate activities tax (CAT) bill from consideration Tuesday following a day and a half of testimony before the House Committee on Ways and Means in which various business interests and most of the Republican committee members expressed staunch opposition.

Because Jones voluntarily deferred his House Bill 628, it can be brought before the committee again. It is Gov. John Bel Edwards revenue-raising centerpiece to balance the budget.

“This [discussion] has brought us to a point of catharsis,” Jones said after explaining his conversations with political leaders were ongoing.

At a press conference held by Edwards after the meeting, the governor said the legislation aimed to restore fairness. He said 80 percent of Louisiana’s corporations do not pay any income tax.

“The truth is, the fate of that bill was decided long before it became available,” Edwards said.

The committee also deferred the four other bills on the agenda, including Jones’ bills regarding a minimum corporate income tax and a Louisiana margins tax, as well as legislation by Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, levying an oil refinery tax and a general business tax.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Bills exempting feminine hygiene products and diapers from state sales tax move to full Senate

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 3:48 PM

State Sen. JP Morrell.
  • State Sen. JP Morrell.

The Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs on Monday sent to the full Senate two bills Senate Bill 24 and Senate Bill 27, both proposed by state Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, which would exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from state sales tax. The first would seek the exemption by statute and the second by constitutional amendment.

Under the current state law, diapers and feminine hygiene products are subject to the current 5 percent sales tax rate until June 30, 2018, and a 4 percent tax rate thereafter. The state already has exemptions for food for home consumption, residential utilities and prescription drugs.

Morrell said he feels it is “immoral” to tax items that not only affect some of the state’s low- income populations, but also that are not optional, adding, “This is really an issue that’s bothered me for quite some time.”

SB27 would put the measure to a vote of the people, which requires a two-thirds majority approval.

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Lawmakers to introduce bills to abolish death penalty in the state

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 1:54 PM

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A proposal to abolish the death penalty in Louisiana could help prevent a crisis the state’s public defenders say they are hurtling toward, unless drastic changes are made in how the state handles defense for the indigent.

But because the bill does not apply to those already convicted or indicted of capital offenses, the savings in money earmarked for such cases will come slowly. And the state’s district attorneys are taking a hardline stance against the idea, arguing to local lawmakers the move would take away a vital tool in obtaining plea bargains — hanging the possibility of the death penalty over defendants’ heads.

Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, state Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, and state Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, are authoring or co-authoring legislation that would end the death penalty. Claitor’s bill will get its first hearing on Tuesday.

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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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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Orleans Political Woman Forum April 25 takes on the "glass ceiling"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 10:20 AM

State Rep. (and upcoming New Orleans City Council candidate) Helena Moreno.
  • State Rep. (and upcoming New Orleans City Council candidate) Helena Moreno.

A panel April 25 hosted by Voters East of the Industrial Canal (VEOTIC) focuses on women's issues in politics, including political literacy, gender gaps in voting and overall women's rights. The event is notable for its guest list, which includes every female member of the current New Orleans City Council (councilwomen Nadine M. Ramsey, Stacy Head, Susan G. Guidry and newly declared mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell), plus State Rep. Helena Moreno, who will run for the council seat being vacated by Stacy Head. Veteran organizer Timolynn Sams Sumter moderates the discussion.

Political involvement and activism led by women is fast becoming a powerful force in both local and national politics, particularly on the left. A recent Slate article credits the surprise success of dark horse Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, who will advance to a runoff to represent Georgia's historically-Republican Sixth District, to women organizing on his behalf. The organization EMILY'S List, which supports progressive women as political candidates, has reported a dramatic uptick in the number of women who have reached out to express interest in running for office. These are encouraging signs for proponents of women's rights in Louisiana, where women have historically been underrepresented in the legislature and beyond.

The event, which takes place at St. Maria Goretti Church Community Center, begins at 6:30 p.m. It's free to attend.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Proposed changes for Louisiana animal shelters move to the full state Senate

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 3:13 PM

Pups clamor for attention at the LA/SPCA. - CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER
  • Pups clamor for attention at the LA/SPCA.

Save the washable markers and cardstock. The days of “Missing Dog” posters may become a faint memory for Louisiana youngsters.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development on Tuesday moved to recommend to the full Senate two bills, one authorizing animal shelters to post pictures of animals on a social media account or website, and the other setting regulations governing the operation of animal shelters and training of personnel.

Sen. Ryan Gatti, R-Bossier City, who authored Senate Bill 64, said the idea to authorize posting pictures of missing animals came up after talking to an array of pet-owning constituents “from all walks of life.”

“Social media is free, and you can set up a page for just about anything,” Gatti said.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Y@ Speak: end of Lent

Posted By on Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 5:40 PM

Louisiana follows its Lenten fast with Easter candy, crawfish boils, declaring John Wayne Day, twerking in the streets. and continuing the relentless tradition of roasting the Falcons.

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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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