Baton Rouge

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gov. Edwards calls conservatives' bluff

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 1:39 PM

From left, House speaker Taylor Barras, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate president John Alario. - PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • From left, House speaker Taylor Barras, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate president John Alario.

If you talk to conservative state lawmakers and business leaders in Louisiana, they’ll tell you there’s no “appetite” for fiscal reform. They all know what fiscal reform looks like, they just don’t see a way to get from where Louisiana is today to where it needs to be in the future, or even next year.

Gov. John Bel Edwards blames House Republicans, who have blunted his efforts to raise taxes. In fairness, the governor also balked at reforms proposed last November by a nonpartisan task force that studied tax policy for almost a year. Instead of backing the task force’s recommendations, Edwards floated an idea that struck many as coming out of left field: a commercial activity tax, or CAT. That idea went nowhere fast.
On the other hand, the GOP-led House failed to offer a reasonable alternative of its own, other than significant cuts this year and draconian cuts next year. Edwards and the Senate, which generally sides with the governor on fiscal issues, tamped down the House plan this year — but Louisiana’s long-range prospects remain untenable.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#FightLikeJulie: Social media goes pink in support of Julie Stokes' breast cancer fight

Posted By on Wed, Jul 12, 2017 at 1:48 PM

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Last week, state Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, announced she would not be running for state treasurer, as she had previously announced, due to a diagnosis of breast cancer. Today her colleagues in the state legislature, as well as supporters and well-wishers around Louisiana, wore pink and sent photos and good thoughts to Stokes on Twitter using the #FightLikeJulie hashtag.
Take a look:


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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Rep. Julie Stokes announces breast cancer diagnosis, will not run for state treasurer

Posted By on Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 3:37 PM

Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, testifies during the 2017 special legislative session on the House floor. - PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, testifies during the 2017 special legislative session on the House floor.

State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, who announced her intent to run for state treasurer earlier this year, has sent a letter to friends and supporters revealing she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will not run.

"My team of doctors has determined that I will begin at least 5 months of chemotherapy treatment," Stokes wrote. "So, instead of running a race to help get our state’s fiscal house in order, I will focus on fighting and winning my battle against cancer and spending quality time with my loving family who mean the world to me."

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Editorial: 'Smart on crime' one of the successes of the 2017 Louisiana legislative session

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 2:41 PM

State Rep. Joe Marino, I-Gretna (right). - SARAH GAMARD | MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • SARAH GAMARD | MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • State Rep. Joe Marino, I-Gretna (right).
The 2017 regular legislative session has been widely — and rightly — criticized for its failure to produce long-term fiscal reform. Yet, despite lawmakers’ failure to work together on fiscal issues, they showed true bipartisanship in succeeding on another, equally important front: criminal justice reform. The long-term impact of that success cannot be overstated.

After decades of pretending to be “tough on crime,” lawmakers finally enacted policies that reflect what enlightened law enforcement leaders have known all along: we cannot jail our way to safety. Spurred by objective data from the Pew Charitable Trust, a yearlong study by the bipartisan Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, and critical support from conservative as well as progressive voices across the state, lawmakers passed a package of 10 bills that significantly overhaul Louisiana’s sentencing, probation, parole and re-entry laws.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Y@ Speak: thoughts and prayers edition

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 6:25 PM

Twitter reacts to the shooting of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Legislature closes out the very special limited edition ultra-rare super exclusive session, and New Orleans endures chin straps, cement, and Sidney Torres.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Louisiana House approves state operating budget, sends it to Senate

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 6:05 PM

The Louisiana State Capitol. - CREATIVE COMMONS/FORMULANONE
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/FORMULANONE
  • The Louisiana State Capitol.

The Louisiana House approved the newest version of the state operating budget Wednesday and moved it to the Senate on a 56-46 vote. The approved budget appropriates all forecasted revenue, but instructs state agencies to refrain from spending a combined $60 million as a precaution against midyear shortfalls.

The House Bill 1 plan that left the Appropriations Committee Tuesday would have appropriated $100 million less than the total revenue projection, creating a budget surplus. If the projections were accurate, the money could be appropriated in next year’s regular session through a supplemental bill.

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Louisiana legislature begins day with prayer for Scalise and other victims of this morning's shooting

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 1:15 PM

From left, House speaker Taylor Barras, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate president John Alario gather to pray for U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot in a Virginia park. - PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • From left, House speaker Taylor Barras, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate president John Alario gather to pray for U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot in a Virginia park.

After news broke that U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was shot in the hip early this morning while practicing in a Virginia park for a charity baseball game later this week, the Louisiana Legislature and Gov. John Bel Edwards began their day gathered in prayer in the Capitol Rotunda.

Edwards, state Sen. President John Alario, R-Westwego, and House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, led a prayer for Louisiana House members, who retired last night expecting to dedicate their day to a handful of fiscal bills.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

State health director says Louisianans will 'suffer and die' under proposed cuts

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 5:10 PM

Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee (right) and Administration Commissioner Jay Dardenne testify before the House Appropriations Committee Monday. - Gee’s department faces $920 million total in cuts — $237 million in state fundings and the rest in federal funds — in the latest budget proposal for next fiscal year that begins in July. - SARAH GAMARD/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • SARAH GAMARD/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee (right) and Administration Commissioner Jay Dardenne testify before the House Appropriations Committee Monday.Gee’s department faces $920 million total in cuts — $237 million in state fundings and the rest in federal funds — in the latest budget proposal for next fiscal year that begins in July.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, head of the Louisiana Department of Health, today said Louisianans will “suffer and die” under the legislature’s proposed cuts to state health programs.

The House Appropriations Committee met Monday to address House Bill 1, the state budget for next fiscal year, as it starts through the enactment process for the second time. The Department of Health faces $237 million in cuts from the state — $920 million if federal funds are included — in the latest version of HB1, a 9 percent decrease to the governor’s plan.

Including federal losses, cuts include $21 million from a development program for children with health complications, $60 million from displaced youth rehabilitation, $2 million from Zika virus infection prevention and $88.7 million from Medicaid-funded mental health services.

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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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Thursday, June 8, 2017

State lawmakers one step away from finalizing bill offering parole for some juvenile lifers

Posted By on Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 10:37 AM

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After months of negotiations over a controversial bill aimed to curb life without parole sentences for juveniles, lawmakers have reached a compromise.

Senate Bill 16, by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, will eliminate life without parole for juveniles convicted of second-degree murder, but retain the sentence for offenders convicted of first-degree murder. Those who are granted the chance at freedom will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years of their sentence.

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