Louisiana

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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Monday, June 5, 2017

Domestic violence protections enhanced in state Senate

Posted By on Mon, Jun 5, 2017 at 2:33 PM

State Rep. Helena Moreno.
  • State Rep. Helena Moreno.

Louisiana legislators took steps to broaden and strengthen the state’s domestic violence and protection laws Sunday when they gave the OK to two Senate amended measures, House Bills 223 and 509. The bills now will move to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk for his expected signature.

House Bill 223, by state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, would expand the state’s domestic violence laws to cover dating partners. Current law restricts the criminal charge to couples who are married or living together, meaning offenders who are not living with or married to their victim can only be charged with simple battery.

Extending the law will offer increased protection to victims and enhanced sentencing for offenders, including stronger sentences for strangulation, burning or the presence of a firearm, as well as access to domestic abuse intervention programs.

The bill extending coverage — including same-sex couples — passed on a 66-32 vote.

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Louisiana officials react to Trump's withdrawal from climate agreement

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 5:53 PM

A March for Science in New Orleans on April 22 brought attention to climate change and other environmental and health issues. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • A March for Science in New Orleans on April 22 brought attention to climate change and other environmental and health issues.

As Louisiana and coastal states prepare for the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw the U.S. pledge to reduce emissions under the international Paris climate accord. Paricipating countries under the agreement — which President Barack Obama joined in 2015 along with dozens other countries — have committed to lowering emissions to shrink the global footprint on climate change.

It's another potential blow to the future of Louisiana's coast following Trump's proposed 2018 budget. Trump — who has said global warming "was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive" — glimpsed potentially devastating rollbacks to Louisiana coastal protections in his budget plans, revealed last month.

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Editorial: It's hurricane season again. Tips for preparing

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 1:33 PM

A thermal image of Hurricane Sandy, the second most costly storm in U.S. history. - CREATIVE COMMONS/ NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/ NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER
  • A thermal image of Hurricane Sandy, the second most costly storm in U.S. history.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially began June 1, even though the first named storm of the season (Tropical Storm Arlene) formed April 19, one of only two named storms to form in April since at least the 1960s. Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center have forecast a second above-normal hurricane season for the Atlantic, with 11 to 17 named storms, five to nine of which could become hurricanes and two to four Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricanes. But as we know in Louisiana, it only takes one.

Now is the time to review hurricane preparations and make sure friends, relatives and neighbors have a plan as well. The basics for “hunkering down” in a non-evacuation situation include bottled water (at least a gallon per person per day), ready-to-eat food, flashlights, a battery-operated radio (and extra batteries), baby supplies, pet supplies, wet wipes, a stash of cash, cellphone chargers (a portable power source for them is a good idea) and at least a week’s worth of necessary medication. For emergency fixes, a tool kit and contractors’ garbage bags are a good idea. A rule of thumb throughout hurricane season is not to let your gas tank go below half-full.

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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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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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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

Y@ Speak: taking them down, part 4

Posted By on Mon, May 22, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Festival season is in full swing as hundreds of people gathered to listen to brass bands, dance, drink beer and watch cranes lift monuments to Confederate generals from their pedestals. Also this week: graduation time and twerking Mickey Mouse.

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