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Grace: Expect to see more of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ ‘Disappointed Dad’ face down the road

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD  Gov. John Bel Edwards told the state Board of Commerce and Industry on Friday that from here on he expects applications for exempting manufacturers from local property taxes to be tied to job creation and retention.

Following three consecutive legislative sessions, each of which ended in confusion over just what lawmakers were doing — or not doing — to address the state’s historic budget shortfall, Gov. John Bel Edwards on Friday once again donned his Disappointed Dad face and told the press that he’d hoped for better. At the end of the… Continue reading →

Grace: Once a 'sacred cow' for Louisiana politicians, TOPS becomes unreliable source of college help

For the longest time, the TOPS college scholarship program, which offers free public college tuition to in-state students who meet relatively humble benchmarks, has been a sacred cow for Louisiana politicians. Even amid reports that the program was on a financially unsustainable path, due not just to its widespread use but also to rising… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Louisiana poised for political stalemate that could mimic Washington's frustrating partisanship

There’s been lots of talk lately, from Gov. John Bel Edwards right on down, over whether Louisiana’s politics are becoming more like Washington’s. Edwards’ contention, backed by many fellow Democrats and more than a few Republicans, is that state government is drifting away from a historic nonpartisanship and toward a system in which party trumps all.… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Edwards picks which bill-signings to tout

So far, Gov. John Bel Edwards has divided the bills that have reached his desk into two categories: There are the bills he’s signed and those he wants to make sure we all know he signed. The first category is perfunctory. The bills on this list range from technical matters to run-of-the-mill legislation to measures he… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Louisiana remains reliably red, won’t get to see much of presidential candidates

There hasn’t been much good news lately for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Sure, he finally snagged an endorsement from deeply conflicted House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose differences with his party’s standard bearer cover both style and substance. But that big announcement was overshadowed by a damaging document-dump painting the allegedly fraudulent Trump… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy leads in scramble for Senate seat

Louisiana’s everyone-in-the-pool primary system definitely has its charms. But as the state gears up for this fall’s U.S. Senate election, its quirky way of choosing candidates is turning the election less into a contest of ideas and more into a multicandidate muddle. A new poll by Southern Media & Opinion Research conducted for Baton Rouge businessman… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: After ‘break,’ tough budget slog continues

Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, left, listens to a question from Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, right, holding his laptop and a copy of state budget House Bill 1, shortly before all but two Senators voted to send the bill on to the House, Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. LaFleur was handling the bill in the Senate for its author, House Appropriations Committee chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie. (Travis Spradling/The Baton Rouge Advocate via AP)

Lest anyone think our elected representatives lack senses of humor, several took to social media when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced plans to start a revenue-raising special session just a half-hour after the current regular session expires Monday. Typical was a comment by Lafayette Republican state Rep. Nancy Landry, who joked about her “huge plans for… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: TOPS shortfall may be Gov. Edwards’ strongest bargaining chip as budget showdown looms

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signs a bill to expand and jump-start Louisiana's medical marijuana program, on Thursday, May 19, 2106, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

For a man who won the election last fall by a more-than-comfortable 12-point margin, Gov. John Bel Edwards is visibly struggling to get lawmakers to follow his lead. One major plank of his campaign, a modest $1.25-an-hour minimum wage increase, appears stalled. Another high-profile proposal, a bill to make it easier for women to pursue allegations of… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: McFarland, Havard spark talk about sexism

I didn’t really feel like sitting down to write this column Friday morning. I wasn’t feeling sick or anything, just not in the mood. Then a thought occurred to me: Maybe I could call in female. I never would have conjured up such an idea up on my own, so credit goes to state Rep. Jack… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Louisiana stripper 'joke' seems like part of Donald Trump’s America; we don't have to tolerate it

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Republican Rep. Kenny Havard, of Jackson, awaits the vote on one of his bills.

Am I the only one who heard about state Rep. Kenny Havard’s supposed “joke” of an amendment to regulate strip clubs and thought, “Is this what it would be like to live in Donald Trump’s America?” The presumed GOP presidential nominee had nothing to do with Havard’s measure to mandate that dancers who work at… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: No longer on same side, Gov. Edwards and Rep. Henry spar over budget issues

There was a time when Gov. John Bel Edwards and state Rep. Cameron Henry were, in a sense, on the same side. As legislators during former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s time in office, both Edwards, then the Democratic caucus chair, and Henry, a leader of an informal conservative coalition knows as the fiscal hawks, criticized the administration… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Vitter still firing away at congressional health plan

Call it David Vitter’s white whale, the subject of a lonely, yearslong crusade that the retiring U.S. senator appears bent on pursuing until his final days in office. I’m not talking about some grand policy goal but rather the subsidized health insurance available to members of Congress and their staffs. As it stands now,… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Donald Trump’s big-name critics are in the GOP

The big-name Republicans who populate the first major ad of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presumed general election campaign have two things in common. One, they’ve shared some choice words about Clinton’s all-but-official opponent, reality TV mogul Donald Trump, on camera. Clinton’s web-only video takes more than a minute to let Trump’s former primary foes —-… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Perhaps hard to believe, but there's one set of ex-Gov. Bobby Jindal’s ideas still in play in Louisiana

If there’s one thing that seems to unite the warring factions that make up the state’s political class, it’s the firm belief that many of former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s policies should be undone. Legislators, Republican and Democratic alike, are in the process of enthusiastically passing bills that can be read as direct rebukes to the former… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Decoding Mayor Mitch Landrieu's New Orleans violence speech

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu speaks about violence will displaying a photo of Ka'Nard Allen at Tulane University's Dixon Hall in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, April 27, 2016. Allen lost his cousin 5-year-old cousin Briana Allen at his birthday party to a gun violence and he was also wounded in the neck, his father was killed by gun violence, and Ka'Nard was also grazed by a gun in the face during a mass shooting at a second line.

From the outside, it’s not entirely clear what New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu was getting at when he made what was billed as a major address on violence in New Orleans last week. Was the main goal of the emotional hourlong speech at Tulane University to explain how intractable the problem is? How it’s… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Here's why Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards shifted right on food stamps policy

AP file photo: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards

During his winning campaign for governor last fall, John Bel Edwards sharply criticized outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal for trying to cut benefits provided through the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps. Once elected, Edwards successfully petitioned President Barack Obama’s administration to reverse Jindal’s move and keep the benefits in… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: The sins of the mighty aired in the courthouse during Danziger case

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Former New Orleans Police officer Arthur Kaufman, center, enters the Hale Boggs Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Metairie, La. Wednesday, April 20, 2016. Five officers were sentenced in the case where New Orleans Police Department officers fired at unarmed civilians on September 4, 2005, killing two people and wounding 4 others, and later tried to cover up the shooting by blaming one of the civilians.

While many eyes were on the long-awaited end to the epic Danziger Bridge case last Wednesday, something else extraordinary was happening at the federal courthouse in downtown New Orleans. Even as the five former New Orleans officers prepared to plead guilty in the high-profile post-Katrina shootings, two other former law enforcement officials faced allegations that they… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Closure of Danziger cases downplays the victims

Here’s a name that featured prominently in Wednesday’s two-hour federal court hearing, in which five former New Orleans cops pleaded guilty in charges stemming from the horrific post-Katrina mass shooting of unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge: Justice Department lawyer Karla Dobinski. Here are some names that barely came up, if at all: James… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Louisiana GOP lawmakers get exactly what they asked for: chance to cut; can they do it?

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Then-Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, center, listens to Rep. J. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, right, and Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, left, meet in a back room of the House chamber during debate on the state budget in 2014.

The exchange between Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican state Rep. Cameron Henry last week could not have been more civil. Edwards appeared before the House Appropriations committee to explain where he proposed to strike some $792 million from the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, in order to account… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Regressive South makes Louisiana look good, inclusive amid flood of anti-gay legislation

It’s not so hard to look like you’re taking a big step forward when everyone around you is taking one step back. And so Gov. John Bel Edwards won perhaps more praise last week than he might have otherwise for issuing an anti-discrimination executive order, amid a flood of anti-gay legislation bubbling up in… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser goes rogue on wacky economic deal with Iraq

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser testifies on SB148 concerning monuments in the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.

During a memorable 2011 League of Women Voters forum between two candidates for lieutenant governor, incumbent Jay Dardenne, a tourism policy wonk, hammered challenger Billy Nungesser on his knowledge — or lack thereof — of the job he was seeking. As Nungesser cast himself as a plain-talking outsider who follows his gut, stands up… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Breakthrough with Big Oil on coast more possible now

Author John Barry and his former colleagues on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East board may have watched their landmark lawsuit against the oil and gas industry get pummeled by politicians and ultimately dismissed in federal court. But judging from some intriguing developments in Baton Rouge, it seems they were on to something all along. In… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Panel makes right call to allow New Orleans to decide fate of Confederate monuments

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2015 file photo, the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee stands in Lee Circle in New Orleans.  Backlash has stalled work to remove four Confederate monuments in New Orleans. The backlash has come in the form of lawsuits, boycotts, a possible torching of a contractors car, alleged death threats against contractors and protests. Now, a bill in the Louisiana Legislature is taking aim at the removal. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

It’s too bad that it took a legislative committee stacked with New Orleanians to stand up for the city’s right to take care of its own business. But that’s what happened Wednesday, when the state Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee rejected a bill by new Franklinton state Sen. Beth Mizell that would have required New Orleans… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Listen up, Louisiana legislators; at least consider minimum wage hike, think about people affected

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Gov. John Bel Edwards makes his address Wednesday morning at the 52nd Annual Louisiana Governor's Prayer Breakfast at the River Center.

Edwards’ minimum wage push is part of a larger focus on expanding the safety net, which also includes new laws on pay equity and the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act... Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: My 3 questions about Louisiana's not-so-April Fool's Day tax increases

A few loosely-related questions for this Sunday morning: 1) Whose idea was it to have Louisiana’s new, temporary, costlier, and really confusing sales tax regimen kick in on April Fools’ Day? 2) Is there something even worse than worst? 3) And where have you gone, Vic Stelly? OK, the first two of… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Before staring down China, ISIS, others, Donald Trump faces off with ... Louisiana's GOP

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he gets into his vehicle in Washington, Thursday, March 31, 2016, following a meeting at the Republican National Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

By now, we all should know Donald Trump’s grandiose promises by heart. The Republicans’ improbable frontrunner is going to stare down China on trade. He’ll make Mexico not only pay for an ever-growing border wall, but like it. He’ll “kick ISIS’s ass,” if we’re to believe Sarah Palin, who all but out-trumped… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Louisiana should learn from Georgia, stop discriminatory legislation against gay people

After weeks of pleas and outright threats that corporate titans such as the NFL, Apple and Disney would take their business elsewhere, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal did the right thing Monday and said he’d veto a so-called religious liberty bill that would have effectively allowed employment and other types of discrimination against gay people. Deal,… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Louisiana GOP rips taxes its own member supported

Louisiana’s branch of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative interest group that’s closely aligned with the industrialist Koch brothers, issued a legislative report card last week rating lawmakers’ votes in the recent emergency special session. And not surprisingly, those who did the most to close much of a huge budget gap scored the worst in the group’s… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Unpopular at home, Bobby Jindal grasps for national role

Advocate staff file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Gov. Bobby Jindal talks about his tenure as governor in December 2015.

Advocate reporter Tyler Bridges, writing in Sunday’s paper, picked the perfect time to pose a burning question: What will former Gov. Bobby Jindal do next, now that he’s left office and dropped out of the presidential race? The story appeared just as Jindal’s Plan B came crashing down, days after the presidential candidate he’d… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: New Orleans' new marijuana ordinance is a welcome reduced punishment in line with offense

New Orleans’ new marijuana ordinance, approved unanimously last week by the City Council and about to be signed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, is far from an ideal instrument. It contradicts state law, creating uncertainty over whether any individual simple possession offense might net only a cash fine of $100 or less, or a much… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: TOPS an unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky idea, much like Bernie Sanders’ free college promise

Advocate staff photo by CHARLES CHAMPAGNE  —  Incoming freshman and transfer students head to their next STRIPES activity Tuesday, August 11, 2015 on Louisiana State University’s campus. ORG XMIT: BAT1508121038074895

If I didn’t know better, I’d think TOPS was the brainchild of a Vermont senator, not a Louisiana oilman. That enticing but hopelessly unrealistic dream that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders keeps talking about, the one where government provides a free public college education to all? Well, it’s really not so far off from what Louisiana… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: In special session, Edwards’ realism clashes with GOP denial

Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Gov. John Bel Edwards leaves a press conference following the closure of the 25-day Special Session  of the Louisiana Legislatiure in March 2016.At right is Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

It’s hard to pinpoint just when the special legislative session’s frantic conclusion crossed the line between haphazard governance and full-on farce. Was it when the Senate, desperately trying to make order of what the House was sending over in the session’s final hour, had to rescind an amendment it had “inadvertently” tacked onto the… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Governors not faring well in White House runs

There was a time, not so very long ago, when Republican leaders thought they had the deepest, most impressive slate of potential presidents in ages. The sentiment owed largely to the fact that the huge early field was rich with current and former governors. It was these state leaders, the theory went, who were busy getting… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Just in time for Saturday's Louisiana primary, David Duke heralds another race from hell

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Former Klan leader David Duke defends the Confederacy outside the Lod Cook Hotel during a meeting of the Daughters of Confederacy, Thursday, September 10, 2015. Duke was not affiliated with the meeting and later asked to leave the property by LSU Police.

Most journalists who’ve run across David Duke probably remember their initial encounters. This is what happened during mine. It was early 1996, and the Louisiana Republican Party was taking a stab at shaking up the presidential nominating process by jumping to the head of the line and staging a caucus before anybody else. Most candidates stayed… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Gov. John Bel Edwards not trying to scare people? Sure looks like it

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Louisiana Governor-elect John Bel Edwards. ORG XMIT: BAT1601051615460496

Gov. John Bel Edwards insisted during his highly unusual address Thursday night that he wasn’t trying to scare people. Well, of course he was. Why else paint a doomsday scenario on statewide television three days before the Legislature will gather to deal with an immediate cash shortfall of nearly $1 billion and a hole… Continue reading →