Louisiana

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Minimum wage bill killed in state Senate Finance Committee

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 4:36 PM

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The state Senate Finance Committee, buttressed by warnings that any mandated increase in the state minimum wage could cost jobs, today killed a bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $8 in 2018, and to $8.50 in 2019. The vote was 7-3.

Washington, D.C. and 28 other states have a minimum wager higher than the federal minimum of $7.25. Only three have a lower employment rate than Louisiana, according to Louisiana Budget Project Director Jan Moller. States must at least match the federal minimum.
Both the debate and the voting on Senate Bill 153 by state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, fell along party lines. Most Republicans argued businesses will make up for the increased expense by eliminating low-wage jobs or raising the cost of products.

“Instead of trying to raise the wage that could drive jobs away, we should be focusing on our economy,” state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said. “If you raise the minimum wage, you might be jeopardizing those very jobs that earn that $7.25.”

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bill on domestic violence protections for 'dating partners' moves to full state Senate

Posted By on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 1:40 PM

State Rep. Helena Moreno.
  • State Rep. Helena Moreno.

A Louisiana Senate Judiciary Committee favorably dispatched a bill to the full Senate for final debate Tuesday that would provide dating partners the same protection afforded spouses.

Dating partners involved in domestic abuse cases only can be charged with simple battery under current law. Domestic abuse battery carries more severe penalties. Louisiana is one of nine states where domestic abuse law does not recognize dating partners and does not allow the same protection as spouses.
House Bill 223, by State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, creates a new section of law for dating partners, which is the same as the domestic spousal abuse law, except it does not ban the guilty dating partner from owning a firearm for 10 years.

The presence of a firearm in an abusive relationship increases the chances of a homicide by about 500 percent, according to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Moreno’s bill would trigger a federal ban on firearm possession for more intense acts of violence, such as burning or strangling the victim, or for repeat offenders.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Y@ Speak: taking them down, part 4

Posted By on Mon, May 22, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Festival season is in full swing as hundreds of people gathered to listen to brass bands, dance, drink beer and watch cranes lift monuments to Confederate generals from their pedestals. Also this week: graduation time and twerking Mickey Mouse.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

With the removal of Robert E. Lee's statue, what's next for the monuments and New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 10:00 PM

Robert E. Lee's statue was removed from its pedestal May 19. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Robert E. Lee's statue was removed from its pedestal May 19.

At 11 a.m, a single PA speaker packed into a wagon blasted Ginuwine's "Pony" and Blackstreet's "No Diggity" as a small crowd gathered outside Lee Circle to watch a fourth Confederate-era monument come down.

Robert E. Lee's statue —  16 feet tall, 8,000 pounds, in his Confederate uniform, arms crossed, facing north — would remain on his pedestal, where the statue stood since 1884, for only a few more hours. At a few minutes after 6 p.m. May 19, a crane lifted Lee off the tower to cheers from a growing crowd.

At 3 p.m., Mayor Mitch Landrieu addressed an invitation-only crowd inside Gallier Hall, his period at the end of a nearly three-year sentence arguing for the removal of Confederate-era monuments from New Orleans' public space. In his impassioned 20-minute address, Landrieu challenged the city to acknowledge and reconcile its ugly past while building a more inclusive society. If not, he said, "then this will all have been in vain." Meanwhile, two members of the construction crew tasked with their removal placed the crane's hook to the straps wrapped around Lee's statue.

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House proposal on Uber and Lyft: Newton's First Law of Bad Government

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 2:50 PM

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Sir Isaac Newton reduced much of what we know about the universe to a handful of precise mathematical formulas. Good thing Sir Isaac isn’t around today to try to make sense of the Louisiana Legislature. He’d surely go mad.

Or perhaps, upon noticing the extravagance with which hordes of unctuous lobbyists are pushing a bill to regulate web-based transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, he might be moved to formulate his First Law of Bad Government: A proposed law’s awfulness is geometrically proportional to the number of lobbyists hired to secure its passage.

That is surely the case with House Bill 527 by Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, which might otherwise be called the No Lobbyist Left Behind Bill.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bill to end death penalty in Louisiana killed in House committee

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 8:08 PM

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A bid to end the death penalty in Louisiana was killed Wednesday night after a House committee rejected a bill that would eliminate capital punishment by a single vote.

The bill’s failure to get past the Administration of Criminal Justice committee seemed to signal that an identical bill that had been passed by a Senate committee, authored by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, would also fail to advance through legislature.

After Wednesday’s vote, Claitor said he would abandon his bill as well, according to multiple reports.

One of the nine lawmakers to vote against the bill, Rep. Steven Pylant, R-Winnsboro, was actually a co-sponsor of the bill. It was authored by Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia.

During debate on the issue, Pylant, a Republican and retired sheriff of Franklin Parish, said he was in fact “100 percent in favor of the death penalty,” and said he had put his name on the prospective legislation so that the public could be aware of how infrequently the death penalty was being administered in Louisiana, despite it being a law on the books.

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Beauregard monument is removed from pedestal outside City Park

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 4:51 AM

A monument fo P.G.T. Beauregard is removed early May 17. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • A monument fo P.G.T. Beauregard is removed early May 17.

The peripheral block party scene at Confederate-era monument removals and demonstrations has become a nearly-weekly ritual. During the seven-hour stretch from when removal crews arrived and when a statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard was lifted from its pedestal outside City Park, people kayaked on Bayou St. John to get a closer look, pulled up beach chairs along the water, popped Champagne, brought beer and coolers, and then a brass band showed up.

The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) separated the crowd with a series of barricades at Moss Street and Esplanade Avenue facing Beauregard. Barricades stretched from across the bridge down Esplanade in front of the Shell gas station on Moss, with more around City Park, stretching across Carrollton Avenue. On one side of Esplanade were a couple dozen monument supporters, who draped Confederate flags over the barricades and waved several others, including a half-Stars and Stripes and half-Confederate flag, a flag that said "President Trump," and two flags symbolizing the 3 Percenters. Supporters chanted "where's Mitch?"

A saw cut into the statue's base where it meets the pedestal as crews hovered above in cherry pickers to strap Beauregard to a crane using yellow straps.

Among people in the crowd: musicians Terrence Blanchard and Nicholas Payton, as well as Angela Kinlaw, Michael "Quess" Moore and Malcolm Suber with Take 'Em Down NOLA.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bill to allow anonymous health risk surveys in high schools fails in Louisiana Senate

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 6:00 PM

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Louisiana has the seventh highest rate of teen pregnancies in the U.S. among kids aged 15-19. Half of all new STD diagnoses in the U.S. are among young people — Louisiana leads the U.S. in rates of gonorrhea and syphilis, and it has the second-highest rate of chlamydia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A bill from state Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, would allow the state's departments of health and education to administer an anonymous survey to school districts to gauge risk behaviors among high school students. The CDC survey already is administered in 42 other states. In Louisiana, the survey omits questions about sexual activity but does ask about drug and alcohol use, among other behaviors. Colomb's Senate Bill 85 would allow those questions on the survey.

Proponents argued that with access to the full scope of risk behavior data among young people, the state could apply for more funding for programming to accurately reflect student behavior and help lower the state's high rates of STDs and unplanned pregnancies. A similar bill won House approval last year, and Colomb's bill cleared the Senate's Health and Welfare Committee last week.

But after pushback from conservative opponents, the bill failed by a vote of 14-22 during Senate debate May 16. The bill is scheduled for reconsideration in the Senate May 17.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Y@ Speak: taking them down, part 3

Posted By on Mon, May 15, 2017 at 7:10 PM

This week: The lingering sunscreen fog of Jazz Fest dads, a monument to the specter of slavery gets yellow suspenders and a green bubble wrap diaper, and a ton of people roasted it completely. Also, Sen. John Kennedy got some embarrassing national attention.

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Louisiana House passes bill that aims to put monument removal to a vote

Posted By on Mon, May 15, 2017 at 6:53 PM

During demonstrations on May 7, monument opponents stood behind a supporter who gave the finger to other opponents at Lee Circle - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • During demonstrations on May 7, monument opponents stood behind a supporter who gave the finger to other opponents at Lee Circle

Despite powerful testimony from several black lawmakers urging the Louisiana House of Representatives to vote against a measure that aims to prevent the removal of Confederate monuments, the bill passed by a vote of 65-31 on May 15. It now heads to the Senate.

House Bill 71 from state State Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, prevents "altering, removing, relocating, or destroying a memorial, including any structure, plaque, statue, or monument that is located on public property and that commemorates specified wars in U.S. history." It also prohibits renaming or rededicating statues, streets, bridges, buildings and parks that are named "in memory of or named for any historical military figure, historical military event, military organization, or military unit." It doesn't list the Civil War among those events, but rather the "War Between the States."

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