Friday, May 25, 2018

Louisiana House committee votes to keep Hollywood South tax credits at $180 million

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 5:27 PM

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After a heated debate over priorities given the state budget shortfall, a House committee on Friday decided to keep the cap on credits for movies, TV shows and commercials shot in the state at $180 million a year rather than cutting it to $90 million.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 8-4 to maintain the current subsidy even though some legislators suggested that the money should be used instead to stave off possible cuts in vital public services.

The state-subsidized credits incentivize production companies to film in Louisiana, once deemed “Hollywood South.” But the Legislature also is trying to solve an estimated $648 million “fiscal cliff,” and it is not clear if it will approve enough revenue measures to avoid the cuts.

“I think health care and education should be prioritized over Popeye’s commercials,” argued the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice.

“I’m looking at something where we can prioritize our state dollars a little bit better,” he added. He noted a “poor” 23- to 25-cent return for each dollar that the state invests in trying to lure film productions.

By lowering the cap on the tax credits, the bill would have provided an additional $90 million to the state general fund.

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Out now: new albums and music from Lawn, Casual Burn, Jon Cleary and more New Orleans artists

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 4:45 PM

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Here's another edition of an irregular roundup of local releases:

Blood on the Tracks, the impressive debut full-length album from New Orleans duo Lawn, combines offbeat poetry and day-in-the-life whimsy with classic pop melodies, bright riffs and urgent bursts of Kinks-like twists and power pop earworms, wriggling under a signature tape warmth with help from engineer Ross Farbe (Video Age).

Its humid, blurry-eyed trips reveals surprisingly clear and carefully crafted pop sensibilities, shooting an unconventional and deceptively clever arrow through Beat Happening's unorthodoxy and blushing Brit pop. It's out now on Forged Artifacts.

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Meet the producers of 'ChokeHole,' a DIY pro wrestling drag show

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 3:46 PM

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Anyone who's been on social media during WrestleMania has experienced just how far and deep pro wrestling's tentacles reach. What may seem to non-fans like a niche or curiosity is, of course, one of the modern world's most popular art forms.

I recently interviewed three of the promotional impresarios behind a genre- and gender-crossing performance series ChokeHole, a late-night "XXXTREME DRAG PRO WRESTLING" event that spans two weekends, Saturday, May 26 and Saturday, June 2. While die-hard pro-wrestling freaks like myself tend to look askance at non-wrestlers dabbling in pro wrestling, on reflection what's most surprising is that drag and pro wrestling haven't been combined more often.

Drag and pro wrestling are both protean performance arts that ravenously remix and recycle elements from all strata of culture and politics, digesting contemporary anxieties into a physically demanding theatrical form that's proudly lowbrow and yet capable of allegorical profundity. Both are rowdy, cheap-seat-pandering entertainment recombinators of drama, spectacle and humor populated by commanding, larger-than-life archetypes. Both are defiantly transgressive, both combine glamour, artifice, gender excess, sleaze and a performance dynamic hinging on crowd engagement. All in all, it's a perfect if unholy memetic marriage.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

New Orleans City Council hits 'pause' on whole-home short-term rentals

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 6:30 PM

A map of STRs and STR applications in New Orleans.
  • A map of STRs and STR applications in New Orleans.

The New Orleans City Council has agreed to temporarily ban new whole-home short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods until new rules are drawn up at City Hall.

The motions “press pause” on one of the most prolific types of rentals — the 90-day-limit temporary STRs, which encompass half of all 4,500 STRs on platforms like Airbnb — “until we tailor regulations to meet the needs of the city of New Orleans," said District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who authored the motions. Once those temporary permits expire, they can’t be renewed. Those restrictions are effective immediately for up to nine months.

Lengthy debate broke out at the first full meeting of the new City Council May 24, echoing previous debates over the rules governing STRs, which formally went into effect last year.

"This legislation is a first step towards revising and improving the STR regulations to restore and preserve the residential fabric in historic areas of the city," Palmer said in a statement.

The City Council unanimously approved three motions — one to create an interim zoning district prohibiting new STRs and license renewals for some types of rentals, another to prohibit some new commercial STRs, and another to redirect the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) to issue a broader study of the city’s STR laws within the next few months, which it already was doing with a limited scope.

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Dong Phuong bakery to pay more than $127K in back wages

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 5:43 PM

Dong Phuong bakery has been ordered to pay more than $127,000 in back wages, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Dong Phuong bakery has been ordered to pay more than $127,000 in back wages, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Dong Phuong Oriental Bakery (14207 Chef Menteur Hwy., 504-254-1568) has been ordered to pay $127,128 in back wages to 43 employees, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

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Chef Chris DeBarr takes over kitchen at Revel

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 1:35 PM

A crab and watermelon salad with arugula is now on chef Chris DeBarr's new menu at Revel in Mid-CIty. - COURTESY CHRIS DEBARR
  • COURTESY CHRIS DEBARR
  • A crab and watermelon salad with arugula is now on chef Chris DeBarr's new menu at Revel in Mid-CIty.

Mid-City cocktail haunt Revel (133 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-309-6122) has a new chef at the reins, and it’s a name many New Orleans diners will recognize. Chris DeBarr, who most recently ran the kitchen at Bywater Bakery, is now helming food operations at Chris and Laura McMillian’s Carrollton Avenue cocktail bar and restaurant.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Louisiana House Ways and Means committee frustrated over budget discussions

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 5:12 PM

Several of the 11 Republicans on the committee, which must initiate tax and budget bills, told Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne (pictured) they were upset that Edwards vetoed the budget passed by the Legislature that dealt with a $648 million shortfall solely through budget cuts. - PHOTO BY KAYLEE POCHE/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • PHOTO BY KAYLEE POCHE/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Several of the 11 Republicans on the committee, which must initiate tax and budget bills, told Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne (pictured) they were upset that Edwards vetoed the budget passed by the Legislature that dealt with a $648 million shortfall solely through budget cuts.


Members of the House Ways and Means Committee were notably frustrated when they met Wednesday to begin the special session’s budget discussions, a conversation they have been having in some form for over two years.

However, not all of the 18 members were frustrated for the same reason, and the meeting quickly turned into an airing of grievances, some with Gov. John Bel Edwards and others with their own colleagues.
Several of the 11 Republicans on the committee, which must initiate tax and budget bills, told Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne they were upset that Edwards vetoed the budget passed by the Legislature that dealt with a $648 million shortfall solely through budget cuts.

While that budget would have fully funded health care priorities, it would have decimated state agencies with 24 percent cuts across the board, slashed TOPS scholarships by 30 percent and left Louisiana as the only state without a food stamp program.

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Editorial: To our leges — when it comes to the budget, get it right this time

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 3:36 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards addressing a crowd at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, stressing the need for both parties to work together to find solutions to the “fiscal cliff,” which begins July 1 after several temporary taxes roll off the books. - PHOTO BY DEVON SANDERS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • PHOTO BY DEVON SANDERS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards addressing a crowd at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, stressing the need for both parties to work together to find solutions to the “fiscal cliff,” which begins July 1 after several temporary taxes roll off the books.

The first day of the Louisiana Legislature’s special session to address the state’s $648 million budget gap got off to a familiar start: It was rancorous and partisan. One noteworthy exception: Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, a Republican, addressed a crowd at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, stressing the need for both parties to work together to find solutions to the “fiscal cliff,” which begins July 1 after several temporary taxes roll off the books.

House Speaker Taylor Barras, a Republican, called the governor’s speech “political theater.” Richard Carbo, one of Edwards’ top aides, replied, “Makes you wonder if he listened to the speech or if he just let their consultant write it in a crayon. Seems childish and petty.”

Things have degenerated so badly that some Republicans are sniping at one another. State Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, wondered on social media, “Did Billy Nungesser just endorsed [sic] the Governor tax and spend policies on the hardworking taxpayers of Louisiana? What a disappointment to the Republican Party of Louisiana!” To which Nungesser replied, “No, Billy Nungesser wants the state to come together and fix the problem. … Blake Miguez is a liar and the people of Louisiana know better.”

No wonder the Legislature is in its sixth special session to tackle a problem that it could — and should — have solved two years ago. Legislative comity, trust and decorum have hit rock bottom.

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New Orleans to host Super Bowl in 2024

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 9:20 AM

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New Orleans will host one of those Super Bowls in 2024, marking the 11th anniversary of that time Beyonce killed the power in the Superdome.

The NFL awarded New Orleans its 11th hosting gig after a bid presentation dubbing New Orleans as a neon-lit "2024/7" city.

In a statement, New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson said "hosting a Super Bowl is synonymous with New Orleans as is the legacy of my husband Tom Benson."

“This is a great honor and well deserved for our city as New Orleans and our Gulf South region continue to prosper in so many ways," Benson said.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell said bringing the Super Bowl to New Orleans would create a "tremendous" economic impact — the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation measures the last New Orleans-hosted Super Bowl's impact at $480 million, with $21 million to the state.

"So we’re talking a significant shot in the arm," Cantrell said. "We have proven that our destination is second to none — it is special and I believe the NFL recognizes that fact. They’re not coming to New Orleans for the 11th time for no reason.”

And that was a whole thing — from the first large-scale glimpses of the impacts of short-term rentals in New Orleans to Beyonce singing the national anthem at a press conference, the weird world of international press descending on the city, many for the first time under vastly different circumstances, to 86-ing Roger Goodell around town and then-Mayor Landrieu telling us to not do that .

Of course, Super Bowl LVIII (58) will fall right in the middle of Carnival on Feb. 4 — 10 days before Fat Tuesday.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gov. Edwards appeals for public support in budget process as special session of the legislature begins

Posted By and on Tue, May 22, 2018 at 4:55 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards appealed for public support Tuesday in solving the state’s budget problems. - PHOTO BY DEVON SANDERS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • PHOTO BY DEVON SANDERS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards appealed for public support Tuesday in solving the state’s budget problems.

Gov. John Bel Edwards appealed directly to the public in a speech in Lafayette today for help in passing his plan to solve the state’s $648 budget shortfall.

The governor has proposed a half-cent sales tax, the reduction of some tax exemptions for businesses and the elimination of a provision that lets individuals deduct state income taxes in one year from the next year’s returns.

Edwards spoke at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette three hours before the Legislature began its sixth special session in the last three years to try solve the state’s budget problems.

“My hope is that we can shake the divisive partisanship that’s begun to take root, put aside our differences and put in place the solutions the people of Louisiana deserve,” Edwards said. “Now is the time to be Louisianans first and foremost.”

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