John Bel Edwards

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sen. John Neely Kennedy calls for work requirement for many Medicaid recipients

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Sen. John Neely Kennedy. - PHOTO BY TAMMY ANTHONY BAKER
  • PHOTO BY TAMMY ANTHONY BAKER
  • Sen. John Neely Kennedy.

Calling Medicaid a "Sharknado-sized health insurance program for 20 percent of
Americans," Sen. John Neely Kennedy wrote in an opinion column today he would be filing legislation called the “Medicaid Reform and Personal Responsibility Act of 2017," which would require "able-bodied adult enrollees" without dependents to work, go to school or perform community service for 20 hours a week in order to receive Medicaid health benefits:
My bill is a common sense approach to reducing America's reliance on entitlement programs. Its Medicaid work requirement is similar to the current work requirement for food stamps: Adults between the ages of 18 and 55, who have no dependents and are not disabled, must spend 20 hours a week working in a job, going to school or doing community service in order to continue to receive free health care through Medicaid. I believe there is a close correlation between getting up in the morning and getting ahead in the world. Our goal should be to get people off Medicaid because they can afford their own health insurance. I don’t want to take Medicaid away from people in need. I do want fewer people to need Medicaid. 
Later in the column, Kennedy mentioned the problems of unemployed oil patch workers and Louisiana flood victims, but stopped short of exempting them from the work requirement:

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Friday, May 12, 2017

SMOR poll: no easy answers

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards out-polls President Donald Trump in a recent survey. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards out-polls President Donald Trump in a recent survey.

The annual spring survey of Louisiana voters by Southern Media and Opinion Research (SMOR) has mixed news for our state’s politicians. That shouldn’t surprise, given the mixed signals coming out of Baton Rouge.

The bad news for all elected officials is a majority of the state’s voters (52 percent) think Louisiana is going down the tubes, or, as pollsters call it, “headed in the wrong direction.” Roughly 32 percent believe we’re headed in the right direction, while 16 percent don’t know where we’re headed. Considering state lawmakers currently are vexed over how to solve a massive budget problem, the latter group actually may have got it right.

The good news for Gov. John Bel Edwards is he continues to get positive reviews overall despite voters’ gloomy outlook for the state. The bad news for him is that his numbers have slipped since just last autumn. His latest “job performance” ratings show him with an overall 53.8 percent “positive” rating compared to a 42 percent “negative” rating.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Scat, CAT: Gov. Edwards' controversial tax proposal effectively killed in House

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 2:16 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards' controversial tax proposal, opposed by business interests and many Republicans, effectively died today in the Louisiana House.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards' controversial tax proposal, opposed by business interests and many Republicans, effectively died today in the Louisiana House.

State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, voluntarily pulled his controversial corporate activities tax (CAT) bill from consideration Tuesday following a day and a half of testimony before the House Committee on Ways and Means in which various business interests and most of the Republican committee members expressed staunch opposition.

Because Jones voluntarily deferred his House Bill 628, it can be brought before the committee again. It is Gov. John Bel Edwards revenue-raising centerpiece to balance the budget.

“This [discussion] has brought us to a point of catharsis,” Jones said after explaining his conversations with political leaders were ongoing.

At a press conference held by Edwards after the meeting, the governor said the legislation aimed to restore fairness. He said 80 percent of Louisiana’s corporations do not pay any income tax.

“The truth is, the fate of that bill was decided long before it became available,” Edwards said.

The committee also deferred the four other bills on the agenda, including Jones’ bills regarding a minimum corporate income tax and a Louisiana margins tax, as well as legislation by Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, levying an oil refinery tax and a general business tax.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Brew U: Shreveport lawmaker seeks to bar colleges from branding with beer companies

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 2:49 PM

Tin Roof Brewery's "Bayou Bengal" lager. - SARAH GAMARD
  • SARAH GAMARD
  • Tin Roof Brewery's "Bayou Bengal" lager.

A contentious proposal in the Louisiana House of Representatives by a Shreveport lawmaker would prohibit a state institution of higher learning from allowing its name or symbol to be affixed to an alcoholic beverage.

This has ramification for both the microbreweries and the schools. The controversy even caught the attention of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who weighed into the brew-ha-ha Thursday.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Louisiana State University, which have their own official beer associated with their brands, are in the crosshairs of the bill by Democratic Rep. Cedrick Glover, who believes there is no justification for a university officially branding itself with alcohol.

Glover believes the current licensing agreements with breweries is a sudsy slope to hard liquor branding, but his concerns go beyond the alcohol.

“If you do this, why not the official lottery ticket game of the various universities across the state?” he said facetiously. “Let’s have the Mike the Tiger pick-three card.”

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An alternative to legislative gridlock: a limited-purpose constitutional convention

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 1:09 PM

State Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, has authored a bill to convene a limited-purpose state constitutional convention. - SARAH GAMARD
  • SARAH GAMARD
  • State Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, has authored a bill to convene a limited-purpose state constitutional convention.

The Louisiana Constitution of 1974 was far from a perfect document when voters approved it more than four decades ago. Proof of that is the fact that it has been amended more than 180 times — and lawmakers currently are considering still more amendments.

Given the gridlock between the Republican-controlled House and Gov. John Bel Edwards, the prospects for long-range, comprehensive fiscal reform are dim. Heck, it would take a minor miracle to get a small gasoline tax hike out of the House, even though a clear majority of Louisiana voters support that idea as a means of putting more money into the state’s crumbling infrastructure.

That’s one reason why state Rep. Neil Abramson’s bill to convene a limited-purpose constitutional convention deserves serious consideration. If lawmakers can’t even agree on the simple things, maybe a constitutional convention can address the big picture. Abramson doesn’t quite frame his argument that way, but that’s the reality.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Report: Louisianans support anti-discrimination protections for transgender people, but not bathroom access

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 4:00 PM

A rally in Jackson Square following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
  • A rally in Jackson Square following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

The results of a survey of more than 1,000 Louisianans illustrates the continuing, deep divide among people who believe LGBT people deserve protections from discrimination and those who do not.

The Louisiana Survey from LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication found that a majority of respondents believe transgender people deserve protections from discrimination in the workplace — but don’t believe transgender people should be able to use bathrooms according to their gender identity.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents agreed transgender people should be protected from workplace discrimination, a move supported by an executive order from Gov. John Bel Edwards which mandates that state contracts include language that prohibits discrimination against LGBT employees. That order — prompted by the state Legislature’s inability to pass similar measures to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people — was tossed out by state courts following a lawsuit from frequent Edwards opponent and Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Respondents who agreed to workplace protections for LGBT people included 83 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

As 2017 legislative session begins, Baton Rouge lawmakers already appear divided along partisan lines

Posted By on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 5:49 PM

Louisiana House Speaker Taylor Barras, left, and Senate President John Alario, both Republicans, await the arrival of Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to address a joint session of the opening session of the 2017 Legislature. - SARAH GAMARD/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • SARAH GAMARD/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Louisiana House Speaker Taylor Barras, left, and Senate President John Alario, both Republicans, await the arrival of Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to address a joint session of the opening session of the 2017 Legislature.

When state lawmakers ended their work last year, having passed a host of temporary tax increases to help fill a looming budget hole, many shrugged off the fact they did not make significant long-term changes to a tax code widely considered broken.

After all, the temporary taxes, most notably a one-cent increase to the sales tax, would roll off in 2018, putting pressure on the Legislature this year to make bold changes to the tax code and budget. Plus, the 2017 regular session is a fiscal session, meaning lawmakers can consider tax changes without entering a special session, ordered by the governor.

On Monday, the Legislature began its 60-day session with that fiscal cliff once again looming. But lawmakers appear still to be politically divided, and few had optimism the various factions will be able to find compromise in an increasingly partisan and tense Legislature.

“We knew this day was coming, and I don't see the political will to get it done,” said State Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston. “I hope I’m wrong. But until we put aside the ridiculous partisan politics that has absolutely gridlocked Washington, we can expect to see some more here."

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Gov. Edwards addresses the opening of the 2017 Louisiana legislative session

Posted By on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 4:08 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards had a message for Republicans opposing his plans for tax reform: Chart a new path. The call to action came during his State of the State address – the second of Edwards’ tenure – that opened the Louisiana State Legislature’s 2017 regular session.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards had a message for Republicans opposing his plans for tax reform: Chart a new path. The call to action came during his State of the State address – the second of Edwards’ tenure – that opened the Louisiana State Legislature’s 2017 regular session.

Gov. John Bel Edwards had a message for Republicans opposing his plans for tax reform: Chart a new path.

The call to action came during his State of the State address — the second of Edwards’ tenure – that opened the 60-day Louisiana State Legislature’s 2017 regular session. Much of the speech centered on the governor’s proposals for tax reform, which includes eliminating one penny of the five-cent sales tax and implementing a commercial activity tax (CAT) for businesses.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Editorial: Legislative forecast: more gridlock

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 1:40 PM

CREATIVE COMMONS/401KCALCULATOR.ORG
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/401kcalculator.org

State lawmakers return to Baton Rouge next week for an annual session that by law must focus mostly but not exclusively on fiscal matters. This year’s session, like most in recent memory, seems destined to be marked by partisan squabbles over the state’s taxing and spending policies. If history is any indicator — and it usually is — Louisiana taxpayers should not expect much progress toward the oft-stated but elusive goal of fiscal reform. Kicking the proverbial can down the road always seems to be the Legislature’s default course of action.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Edwards' CAT finally out of the bag: the governor and the proposed 'commercial activity tax'

Posted By on Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 1:56 PM

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

A lot has already been said about Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposed “commercial activity tax,” or CAT, but the early rumblings against it are nothing compared to what’s to come. The governor undoubtedly knows that, which explains why he quickly promised to find ways to reduce the tax’s adverse impact on low-margin businesses.

Edwards presented his new tax last week as part of a “budget stabilization plan” that he hopes lawmakers will adopt in the annual session that begins next Monday, April 10. This year’s session, like others in odd-numbered years, will focus heavily though not exclusively on fiscal matters. Because the “temporary” sales tax increase adopted last year expires in 2018 — a “non-fiscal” year for legislative sessions — this year’s session presents an opportunity for Edwards and lawmakers to adopt long-term fiscal reform.

The chances of that happening appear to be even slimmer than the likelihood of the Republican-controlled (and very partisan) House of Representatives embracing Edwards’ newfangled CAT, which is actually a gross receipts tax — that is, a tax on businesses’ gross earnings. Even companies that lose money would pay an income tax on their gross receipts.

Only four other states levy such a tax, which is just one of the reasons it faces long odds of passage in its present form.

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