Thursday, January 18, 2018

Editorial: Rick Scott — Florida’s Bobby Jindal

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 9:00 AM

  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Louisianans are used to their politicians stunting to advance themselves, but this week we got something different: an out-of-state pol coming to Louisiana to pull a stunt he hoped would advance his career. Florida Gov. Rick Scott came to New Orleans on what he called a “trade mission” to entice local businesses to relocate to Florida, which he says is a more business-friendly state. It was his second “trade mission” to our state. He has made similar trips to Illinois, California and New York (not coincidentally, all states with Democratic governors, as is Gov. John Bel Edwards). If his previous visits have caused businesses to relocate to Florida, he hasn’t touted it.

Edwards issued a blunt retort, saying, “Rick Scott was Bobby Jindal’s biggest cheerleader and surrounds himself with the same set of advisors who turned Louisiana’s $1 billion budget surplus into a $3 billion budget deficit.” Edwards added, “However, Gov. Scott should call this what it is — a fundraising stop on his yet-to-be announced U.S. Senate campaign. Louisianans would appreciate the honesty and hope that he’ll take his political contributions and leave.”

Scott, who is term limited as Florida’s governor, says he hasn’t decided whether to run for the Senate, though most Florida political watchers suggest he will. Last year he took over the “New Republican Super PAC,” which officially isn’t affiliated with any candidate but appears to have two main goals: to raise money and to promote Scott. Those who remember Jindal’s “Believe Again” Super PAC might find echoes of that with Scott’s Super PAC.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

With new machine, Lighthouse Louisiana creates jobs for 8-10 blind workers in New Orleans

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 at 10:00 AM

David Green, a Lighthouse Louisiana employee, shows off the organization's new paper towel machine. - COURTESY LIGHTHOUSE LOUISIANA
  • David Green, a Lighthouse Louisiana employee, shows off the organization's new paper towel machine.

Who made that paper towel you used to clean up a spill? If you're a member of the U.S. military, the answer might be a blind person.

Lighthouse Louisiana is one of many organizations nationwide using blind workers to produce or package materials like mess trays, cups and paper towels, which are then sold to government groups such as the Department of Defense through the AbilityOne program. With its recent acquisition of a new single-fold paper towel machine at its State Street facility, Lighthouse will create 8-10 new jobs for blind workers in New Orleans, who can use the machine to transform raw materials into $2 million in paper towels each year.

"This isn't just a job for anybody," public policy and communications director Anne Jayes says. "This is a job for a population that has been limited in the workforce [and] excluded from the workforce. ... To us, it's about changing the expectation of what people think and feel and see when they see somebody who's blind."

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Gov. Edwards and Florida Gov. Scott exchange words over Scott's trip to poach Louisiana businesses

Posted By on Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 4:38 PM

  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced this morning he will be leading a "trade mission" to New Orleans to "meet with Louisiana companies to share how Florida is making it easier for families and job creators to succeed and why they should consider moving their operations to Florida." And that has Gov. John Bel Edwards steamed:
“Rick Scott was Bobby Jindal’s biggest cheerleader and surrounds himself with the same set of advisors who turned Louisiana’s $1 billion budget surplus into a $3 billion budget deficit. We’re happy to have him visit Louisiana and see for himself all that Gov. Edwards has done to turn this state around — record low unemployment, higher wages, historic economic development announcements and stabilized funding for higher education. However, Gov. Scott should call this what it is — a fundraising stop on his yet-to-be announced U.S. Senate campaign. Louisianans would appreciate the honesty and hope that he’ll take his political contributions and leave.

“Instead of fundraising, we recommend he spend time with the first responders we willingly dispatched to Florida last hurricane season when his state needed assistance.”
This isn't Scott's first time playing the domestic "trade mission" gambit — Scott did the same thing to Louisiana in 2016, as well as to another state with a Democratic governor, California.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Sick and tired of state lawmakers doing nothing about fiscal reform? Remember that next time you vote

Posted By on Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 2:42 PM


When it comes to fiscal reform, voters should be getting sick and tired of seeing lawmakers do nothing — and I do mean nothing — about a serious problem that hasn’t fundamentally changed in a decade.

In 2002, at the urging of Republican Gov. Mike Foster, voters approved the Stelly Plan, which lowered sales taxes and increased state income taxes. Note that voters approved that plan. And it worked. Louisiana got a tax base that grew as incomes rose.

In 2007 and 2008, Govs. Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal signed legislation effectively gutting the Stelly Plan. Since then, Louisiana has fallen farther and farther behind other southern states in economic development and prosperity, educational funding and attainment, and just about every other “good” list you can imagine.

Meanwhile, lawmakers talk about fiscal reform but do nothing about it.

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

29 of the year's Gambit cover stories you may have missed

Posted By on Sun, Dec 31, 2017 at 9:00 AM

It's been a rough year for some alt-weeklies (as well as daily papers and news websites), but what continues to work for us — and seems to work for you — is locally written and produced stories about our city, potholes and all.

We get it. You're busy. But we've been busy too. Here are 29 of the cover stories from 2017 in the five areas in which we specialize: news, politics, city life, food and the arts. Maybe you missed a couple.

• The year in drugs: What lies ahead in drug policy for the U.S., and for Louisiana
• New Orleans protests: Inauguration Day marches, the Women's March and more
• Home sick — the rental registry: New Orleans housing stock in need of repair
• A-breasted development: How New Orleans tattoo artists help breast cancer survivors
• A blueprint for murder reduction: Criminologist Jeff Asher on the crime rate
• Beyond the wall: Local immigrants face an uncertain future under the Trump administration
• Young lives behind bars: Louisiana considers abolishing life without parole for some juvenile offenders
• The facts of life: The sorry state of sex education in Louisiana
• The Landrieu legacy on crime: What the mayor got right — and wrong
• Project Censored: The 10 most under-covered stories of the year
• Breaking the (hurricane) scale: After a destructive hurricane season, is the 1-to-5 Saffir-Simpson scale outdated?
• Shift change: How New Orleans hospitality workers are organizing their industry

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Gov. John Bel Edwards subject of extensive profile in Governing magazine

Posted By on Wed, Dec 27, 2017 at 4:09 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards.

In its January 2018 issue, Governing magazine profiled Gov. John Bel Edwards in a largely flattering feature titled "Has John Bel Edwards Discovered the Right Balancing Act Between Parties?" (the answer, according to Governing, is "sort of"):
The blue-red divide in Louisiana is less fraught and dysfunctional than in Congress. Republicans still allow Democrats to chair some legislative committees. It may take longer to pass a budget then it used to, but it happens. And the government doesn’t shut down. But there has been noticeable ideological creep. “It is certainly more like Washington than it was 10 years ago,” Edwards says. “There’s a group of folks in the legislature, primarily in the House, who I genuinely believe their No. 1 mission is to oppose what I propose and try to ensure that I’m a one-term governor. That’s more important to them than dealing with the problems that the state has.”
It's not a totally rosy profile of the governor and his fiscal stewardship, however:
What Edwards portrays as flexibility, Rep. Cameron Henry, Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, describes as an attempt to avoid responsibility for potential tax increases. “He’s trying to almost circumvent his leadership role by getting everyone else to tell him what to do,” Henry says. “Well, that’s not how governors work. It’s his job to at least let the legislature know, ‘Hey if I was king,’ which as governor of Louisiana you pretty much are, ‘these are the five taxes I would want to raise. These are the five exemptions I would want to get rid of.’ It’s got to be driven by the governor.”
Read the whole thing, which introduces the concept of Louisiana's "fiscal cliff" to America at large.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Here are three calculators to find out how the tax bill might affect you

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 4:01 PM


Following a final House of Representatives vote that took place earlier this afternoon, the tax bill that dominated political news throughout this fall will head to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature. The controversial, sweeping reform package makes changes that affect both corporations and individual taxpayers and has been criticized for its party-line passage — no House or Senate Democrats voted for the final version of the bill — and for a widespread sense that most of the bill's benefits apply to corporations and the very wealthy,  and that its provisions could dramatically worsen economic inequality.

For those of us who are not corporations (or plutocrats), there probably is at least some concern as to how the bill might affect our personal tax rates. With that in mind, here are a few preliminary calculators offered by national publications that suggest what could happen to your personal tax bill.
In Louisiana, U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy and U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise, Clay Higgins, Mike Johnson, Ralph Abraham and Garret Graves all voted for the bill. U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond voted against it.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Steve Scalise, Rosie O'Donnell mix it up on Twitter

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 5:51 PM

  • Rosie O'Donnell.

Once again demonstrating that modern life is basically the fourth grade writ large, with consequences that likely will mean the death of all of us, comedian and professional Donald Trump irritant Rosie O'Donnell mixed it up with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise after he crowed about the U.S. House of Representatives passing its controversial tax cut bill
To which O'Donnell replied ...

To which Scalise replied ...

(As we all know, in the South "Bless your heart!" is just a different way to pronounce "Go fuck yourself.") Scalise's riposte was enough to make O'Donnell switch from all lower case to ALL CAPS in a hurry.

More maturity under the jump ...

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

At union rally, a glimpse of an organized New Orleans hospitality industry

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 10:13 PM


At a Thursday rally that was part of nationwide demonstrations held by the UNITE HERE hospitality workers union, New Orleans and Biloxi hotel, convention center and casino employees called for local service industry workers to organize and spoke out in praise of the union.

About 75 people, a few still in chef coats and pants, gathered Oct. 19 at the corner of Convention Center Boulevard and Canal Street to chant and hear speakers who are members of Local 2262, UNITE HERE's area chapter. The speakers' overpowering message: organizing has raised their wages, given them access to affordable health insurance and more in an industry that's sometimes known for offering meager benefits and poor financial security.

"When hospitality jobs are unionized, they become middle-class jobs," Marlene Patrick-Cooper, UNITE HERE organizing director, said. "It's the best answer for fighting poverty in the United States."

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Report: GOP tax framework offers most benefit to Louisianans making $568,200 a year

Posted By on Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 4:47 PM


In a new report that analyzed the nine-page tax reform framework released Sept. 27 by Congressional Republican leadership, the nonprofit Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that 63.7 percent of the framework's tax cuts would go to Louisiana households making $568,200 or more per year.

According to the report, these households comprise the top 1 percent of the state's income distribution and would receive an average tax cut of $97,200. Families making $1 million or more would get a tax cut of $256,000 if the framework's proposed changes were enacted for tax year 2018.

Louisiana households making between $38,300 and $59,500 would receive an average tax cut of $380, ITEP found. (Median household income in Louisiana was $45,047 in 2015, according to U.S. Census data.) In this state, 11.8 percent of households would see a tax increase.

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