1. ALL STATE POLICE TO BE FITTED WITH BODY
CAMERAS IN 2017
All state troopers will be equipped with body cameras starting next year, Louisiana State Police (LSP) Superintendent Mike Edmonson said at a press conference last week. After a pilot program that ran from February through September (and included state troopers on foot patrol in the French Quarter), Edmonson ordered 1,556 cameras to be worn by officers.
"For nearly twenty years our troopers have used in-car cameras to document interactions with members of the public, but I am pleased to announce that we will now be taking that capability a step further," Edmonson said in a statement. The cameras also will activate automatically whenever a trooper's Taser is armed.
This will make the LSP the first statewide law enforcement agency in America to have body cameras, said Gov. John Bel Edwards, and troopers in New Orleans will be among the first to be outfitted.
2. Quote of the week
"The lives that have been maimed and the lives that have been taken were not lives that were or will be lived in vain." — Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Dec. 19, standing with families of victims killed by New Orleans Police Department officers following Hurricane Katrina. Landrieu announced the city's $13.3 million settlement with 17 plaintiffs, including families of Henry Glover, Raymond Robair and victims of the Danziger Bridge shooting.
3. Council to consider
'rental registry' in new year
The New Orleans City Council will consider a rental registry program in 2017, making landlords accountable for substandard housing and ensuring rental units meet all basic health and safety requirements. Council members LaToya Cantrell and Jason Williams introduced the measure earlier this month, and the City Council's Community Development Committee will consider the registry in January.
More than half of New Orleans' residents live in rented homes or apartments. According to the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, rents have increased as much as 25 percent over the past four years. Reports from the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center show that more than half of all renters pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities. Meanwhile, more than three-quarters of rental properties require major repairs. Defects include roof leaks, infestation, plumbing problems, mold and other issues. The proposed ordinance would require rental units be "registered, inspected and properly maintained, and that substandard conditions be identified and corrected."
Registration would be phased in throughout 2018, with full compliance by 2019. The ordinance also gives renters the ability to report violations without "fear of retaliation," such as eviction, protections that currently aren't guaranteed in New Orleans.
4. The 'Amazon tax' —
online retailer to begin
collecting sales tax Jan. 1
Addicted to Amazon Prime? Be prepared to pay about 10 percent more for that purchase. Amazon announced last week it will begin collecting sales tax on all purchases delivered to Louisiana starting Jan. 1. That means the state's 5 percent sales tax will be tacked on to each purchase, along with any local taxes. Louisianans long have been expected to self-report online purchases, but a new law passed during the 2016 legislative session and signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards paved the way for online retailers to collect and remit the taxes. State Treasurer (and Senator-elect) John Neely Kennedy told Monroe's KNOE-TV, "The Edwards administration is celebrating, because that means they get more money to spend, but you have to ask yourself, where is that money coming from? It's coming from the pockets of our people." A spokesman for Edwards told the station that consumers were not following the existing law about self-reporting. Amazon charges sales tax in 29 other states.
5. Equality Louisiana
to Landry: #DropItJeff
Equality Louisiana has called a recent court ruling against anti- discrimination language in state contracts a "setback to the progress made in keeping Louisiana a fairer and more equitable place to work." A Dec. 14 ruling by state District Judge Todd Hernandez of Baton Rouge prevents Gov. John Bel Edwards from enforcing an executive order he issued to protect LGBT people from discrimination in state contracts. Attorney General Jeff Landry had sued Edwards after Landry refused to sign contracts that included the anti-discrimination language. Edwards said he will appeal the ruling.
"Edwards' executive order raised Louisiana's profile as a great place to do business, and this ruling will immediately harm our ability to attract major convention, tourism and sporting events," Equality Louisiana President Baylor Boyd said. "We are disappointed, but not discouraged. We remain committed to building a Louisiana where hardworking LGBTQ people are judged on their job performance, not on who they are or who they love. Discrimination is not a Louisiana value. We stand with Gov. Edwards' decision to quickly appeal this ruling."
Equality Louisiana started a social media campaign (#DropItJeff) and circulated a petition urging Landry to back off his challenge.
6. New review for
In 2015, the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association (FMIA) lost a court battle against the city when the group sued to challenge zoning rules allowing buildings up to 80 feet tall in the neighborhood. The FMIA argued the downtown Riverfront Overlay violated the city's Master Plan and didn't allow for public input. Several weeks ago, the New Orleans City Council sent two motions to the City Planning Commission (CPC) seeking a review of the overlay.
The overlay allows developers to build higher than the 55 feet allowed in the zoning regulations if they include certain amenities. The council directed the CPC to study whether those "bonuses ... are appropriate and consistent with the Master Plan" and for the CPC to recommend other "appropriate bonuses and other best practices to incentivize quality developments along the riverfront in a manner consistent with the Master Plan."
In a statement, the FMIA said the motion "is a call for citizens and neighborhood groups to step up and declare that 'CBD-style' zoning in the Bywater and Marigny is inappropriate." The CPC is expected to discuss the amendment early next year.
7. ACA open enrollment
continues through end
In the first six weeks of 2016, more than 84,000 Louisianans bought health insurance through the federal marketplace via HealthCare.gov. More than 350,000 people in the state have enrolled in Medicaid following its expansion in July, with many folks ditching their Affordable Care Act plan and moving to Medi- caid coverage.
Across the U.S., totals from November through Dec. 19 include 2.05 million newly insured people and 4.31 million renewals. More than 700,000 people selected health care plans through the website in the last two days leading up to the deadline for Jan. 1 coverage, marking the two biggest sign-up days in the website's history.
Open enrollment for 2017 continues through Jan. 31, 2017.
8. Tennessee Williams
Festival announces speakers
Dick Cavett, Rick Bragg and Robert Olen Butler will join New Orleans writers including Ethan Brown, Julia Reed, Kalamu ya Salaam and Bill Loefhelm at the 31st annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival March 22-26 at various locations around the French Quarter. In addition to dozens of panels and master classes, productions of Sweet Bird of Youth and The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Any More will be staged, and local writer John Pope will interview Ti Martin about Miss Ella of Commander's Palace, a biography Martin wrote about her mother, the matriarch of the Brennan family of restaurateurs. For a full schedule of events and tickets, visit www.tennesseewilliams.net.
9. CNN, ABC to air New Orleans New Year's Eve festivities
If your idea of New Year's Eve is staying in with a pint of ice cream (or a pint of something stronger), you'll be able to catch the local debaucheries on either CNN or ABC — both of which are planning remote segments from New Orleans.
CNN's annual Anderson Cooper-Kathy Griffin extravaganza will give way to a New Orleans segment at 11:30 p.m., with correspondents Brooke Baldwin and Don Lemon at The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street. According to the club's website, the New Orleans Jazz Vipers will perform. Meanwhile, over at the Allstate Fan Fest before the Sugar Bowl, Panic! at the Disco and Jason Derulo are set to perform on ABC's Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest. Hosted by Lucy Hale, the New Orleans segment will feature the traditional fleur-de-lis drop at Jax Brewery.
10. Schumer goes smaller
Comedian Amy Schumer, who was scheduled to perform at Smoothie King Center Dec. 31, now will perform at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for Performing Arts instead. Tickets for the Smoothie King event will be honored at the Mahalia, and ticketholders will receive emails with their new seat assignments.
The Smoothie King Center can accommodate more than 17,000 people; the Mahalia seats fewer than 2,300. Schumer's last appearance in New Orleans was in May 2015 at the Saenger Theater, which seats approximately 2,600 people.