John Bel Edwards

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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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Edwards joins bipartisan group of governors saying Senate should reject repeal of the Affordable Care Act

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 4:12 PM

President Donald Trump said today, "Let Obamacare fail; it'll be a lot easier." - CREATIVE COMMONS/GAGE SKIDMORE
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/GAGE SKIDMORE
  • President Donald Trump said today, "Let Obamacare fail; it'll be a lot easier."

The Senate health care replacement for the Affordable Care Act may have collapsed (though Congressional GOP leaders and President Donald Trump have expressed support for "just repeal" rather than "repeal and replace"), but a bipartisan group of governors — including Gov. John Bel Edwards — has issued a statement calling for the repeal's rejection.

"The Senate should immediately reject efforts to 'repeal' the current system and replace sometime later," the statement reads. "This could leave millions of Americans without coverage. The best next step is for both parties to come together and do what we can all agree on: fix our unstable insurance markets."

Since Edwards implemented the federal Medicaid expansion in Louisiana one year ago, more than 400,000 Louisianans have gotten health care. The repeal would leave them in limbo. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was set to reveal its analysis of the bill yesterday, but did not do so.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Senate bill would cut health care to 'hundreds of thousands' on Medicaid in Louisiana

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 6:00 PM

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy. - CREATIVE COMMONS/GAGE SKIDMORE
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/GAGE SKIDMORE
  • U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy.

As the U.S. Senate mulls a vote on the GOP's recently released bill designed to gut the Affordable Care Act, Louisiana officials and medical groups are urging senators to consider the potentially devastating impact it could have to people relying on Medicaid's expansion in the state.

In July 2016, Gov. John Bel Edwards approved Medicaid's expansion to include coverage for more than 433,000 people in the state, including more than 100,000 receiving preventive cancer treatment and more than 15,000 women who have received breast cancer screenings. More than 150 people were diagnosed with colon cancer after screenings made possible through recent Medicaid coverage.

Today's report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the Senate's "Better Care Reconciliation Act" would increase the number of uninsured people in the U.S. by 22 million while reducing the federal deficit by $321 billion from 2017-2026 — mostly by cutting spending on Medicaid, which would decline in 2026 by 26 percent compared to projections based on current law. Medicaid would lose more than $770 billion by 2026.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Louisiana lawmakers, activists urge Sens. Cassidy and Kennedy to condemn Senate health care bill

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 9:36 AM

Gov. John Bel Edwards said the bill "specifically disadvantages" Louisiana. - CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards said the bill "specifically disadvantages" Louisiana.

With the release of a 142-page draft early Thursday morning, the Senate finally revealed its much-anticipated (and, by many, dreaded) plan that could make good on the long-term Republican promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare.

The bill's release offered the first opportunity for the public — and many underinformed senators — to view and critique the Senate's plan, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Before its reveal, the bill already had come under fire for an unusually secretive drafting process featuring no public hearings and little debate on the Senate floor.

Within its text: higher premiums for older people, the elimination of the individual and employer mandates (you won't have to carry insurance, and employers don't have to provide it for you), a year-long freeze on Planned Parenthood funding, fewer subsidies to help people buy insurance and cuts to federal Medicaid dollars which support the working poor, 40 percent of American children and people with disabilities. (An easy-to-read breakdown is being updated at The Washington Post.)

Throughout the state, a chorus of lawmakers, public health observers and activists have begun to speak out against this health care plan. But the power lies with Louisiana Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy, who will now turn their attentions to the legislation ahead of a potential vote next week.

Perhaps due to the bill's length and complexity, they have yet to comment extensively on the bill's details. Instead, they've leaned on familiar rhetoric from the past several weeks.

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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

As Senate quietly drafts health care bill, Louisiana senators remain mum on its contents

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 5:00 PM

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy at a February town hall, where constituents peppered him with questions on health care. - CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER
  • U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy at a February town hall, where constituents peppered him with questions on health care.

In March, a group of doctors and nurses — some in scrubs and lab coats — second-lined their way down Basin Street, rallying behind the imperiled Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. There were demonstrations at congressional offices and die-ins; many citizens came forward to tell their personal health stories and explain their opposition to the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the legislation meant to repeal Obamacare that passed the House May 4.

In recent weeks, and as the bill has passed to the Senate for revision and consideration, the ruckus has died down somewhat. But it's not because lawmakers have crafted a bill that appeases the public. Rather, the Senate has offered an unusual lack of information about the drafting of the bill, in a process some observers think was designed to chill public outcry. To date, no public hearings on the bill have been held or scheduled, and as reported by The New York Times, CNN and Vox, even some Republican senators aren't sure what's in it.

Speaking to CNN, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) expressed her confusion — and frustration.

"I have no idea if we even have a bill," she said. "I learned more from you all in this conversation that there may have, in fact, have been [a draft bill] submitted to CBO (Congressional Budget Office), but if that's the case, I don't know what it is nor what it says."

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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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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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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Da Winnas and Da Loozas, and a split decision: early bird edition

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 6:41 PM

PHOTO BY ZRFP PHOTO
  • Photo by ZRFP Photo

Despite claims by some to the contrary, 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.

At the end of the day, this year’s legislative session likely will produce more loozas than winnas. With one day to go, two key players — Gov. John Bel Edwards and the House GOP leadership — remain deadlocked over the budget.

On other fronts, Edwards and House Republicans have fought to a draw. For now, I’m calling it a split decision — until we get a final resolution of the budget.

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