Baton Rouge

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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Friday, May 12, 2017

SMOR poll: no easy answers

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards out-polls President Donald Trump in a recent survey. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards out-polls President Donald Trump in a recent survey.

The annual spring survey of Louisiana voters by Southern Media and Opinion Research (SMOR) has mixed news for our state’s politicians. That shouldn’t surprise, given the mixed signals coming out of Baton Rouge.

The bad news for all elected officials is a majority of the state’s voters (52 percent) think Louisiana is going down the tubes, or, as pollsters call it, “headed in the wrong direction.” Roughly 32 percent believe we’re headed in the right direction, while 16 percent don’t know where we’re headed. Considering state lawmakers currently are vexed over how to solve a massive budget problem, the latter group actually may have got it right.

The good news for Gov. John Bel Edwards is he continues to get positive reviews overall despite voters’ gloomy outlook for the state. The bad news for him is that his numbers have slipped since just last autumn. His latest “job performance” ratings show him with an overall 53.8 percent “positive” rating compared to a 42 percent “negative” rating.

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House approves bill adding "dating partner" protections to domestic violence laws

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 3:00 PM

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Legislators in Baton Rouge agree that "dating partners" — not just spouses and family members — should be included in domestic violence protections. The Louisiana House of Representatives voted May 11 to extend those protections, including preventing offenders from carrying firearms, to dating partners — a distinction applied in 41 other states.

The House voted 59-30 to approve New Orleans Democratic state Rep. Helena Moreno's House Bill 223, which now heads to the state Senate for approval.

It's a significant arm twist to the National Rifle Association (NRA), whose grip on legislators effectively killed several measures over the years that would prevent violent offenders from possessing firearms. The NRA argued "dating partners" encompasses too broad a group — despite reports from the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence showing that, in 2016 alone, 60 percent of Louisiana's intimate partner homicide victims were not married to their abuser.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Sanctuary" city bill fails in Louisiana House

Posted By on Tue, May 9, 2017 at 6:30 PM

New Orleanians marched against President Donald Trump's immigration orders in January. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • New Orleanians marched against President Donald Trump's immigration orders in January.

Legislators in the Louisiana House of Representatives failed to pass a bill that defines "sanctuary" cities and gives the state Attorney General authority to withhold state funding to them.

House Bill 676 was a second attempt from state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, who was able to get support for her measure in the House last year, though it later died in the Senate. With 70 votes needed for passage this time around, Hodges' measure — bolstered by aggressive support of Attorney General Jeff Landry — failed 64-32, following questions from New Orleans lawmakers challenging its constitutionality and whether it supports racial profiling.

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18-year-olds would be allowed to work as strippers in Louisiana under amended bill

Posted By on Tue, May 9, 2017 at 2:42 PM

State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, pushed his Senate Bill 144 Tuesday with major amendments through the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. The bill originally sought to restrict the age of dancers in Louisiana clubs to 21 and up, but amended version reverts back to require a minimum age of 18. - PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, pushed his Senate Bill 144 Tuesday with major amendments through the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. The bill originally sought to restrict the age of dancers in Louisiana clubs to 21 and up, but amended version reverts back to require a minimum age of 18.

State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, moved his Senate Bill 144 through the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. The bill aims to protect young women from human trafficking by prohibiting strippers under the age of 18, three years younger than what he wanted.

The tweaks, authored by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, amended the original bill, which raised the minimum age of dancers at strip clubs and similar venues to 21. Morrell’s amendment, which was supported by every committee member but Johns, took the age back to the original 18-and-up.

The committee was unanimous in its decision to send the amended bill to the full Senate for debate.

Morrell argued that sex trafficking does not specifically affect people age 18 to 21, but all people. He said his amendment seeks to protect everyone from human trafficking, not just those under 21.


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Monday, May 8, 2017

Abramson bill requiring private, charter schools to have suicide prevention programs passes House unanimously

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 5:07 PM

PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD

The Louisiana House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill Monday that requires nonpublic and charter schools enact suicide prevention programs. The law already requires it in public schools.

House Bill 452 by Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, mandates all charter and approved nonpublic school teachers, school counselors and principals to have in-service training in suicide prevention as determined by the board, other school administrators.

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Former WWL-TV "Action Reporter" Bill Capo to be honored at Louisiana Legislature Tuesday

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 12:27 PM

Bill Capo. - COURTESY WWL-TV
  • COURTESY WWL-TV
  • Bill Capo.

Bill Capo, the "Action Reporter" who retired in February after 36 years at WWL-TV, will be honored in Baton Rouge tomorrow with a commendation in the state legislature "for outstanding service to people of Louisiana and beyond."

State Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, and State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, are introducing the commendation, which salutes Capo's 42 years in journalism, as well as his humanitarian work in the year after Hurricane Katrina and the federal flood.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Louisiana House votes in favor of amendment to add same-sex couples to domestic abuse protections

Posted By on Wed, May 3, 2017 at 1:50 PM

State Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, presents his bill which qualifies partnerships, including same-sex couples, for legal protection and assistance in cases of domestic abuse.  The measure was approved 54-42. - SARAH GAMARD
  • SARAH GAMARD
  • State Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, presents his bill which qualifies partnerships, including same-sex couples, for legal protection and assistance in cases of domestic abuse. The measure was approved 54-42.

The Louisiana House voted 54-42 Tuesday and sent to the Senate an amendment to state law that would qualify same-sex couples for legal protection and assistance in cases of domestic abuse.

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Shreveport legislator gets committee support for measure to stop Confederate monument removal

Posted By on Wed, May 3, 2017 at 12:45 PM

Protesters gathered at the Jefferson Davis statue in Mid-City May 1. - CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER
  • Protesters gathered at the Jefferson Davis statue in Mid-City May 1.

A bill from a Shreveport Republican aimed at preventing the removal of Confederate-era monuments won a legislative committee's support in Baton Rouge May 3.

State Rep. Thomas Carmody's House Bill 71 prohibits "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."

The bill — to be named the Louisiana Military Memorial Conservation Act — was approved by a vote of 10-8 from the House Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs committee. "My objective is to stop the hate," Carmody told the committee before the vote. "These are military monuments, friends."

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