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TOPS, once untouchable in Legislature, to see modest changes to limit growth

Louisiana House Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, left, speaks with Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, ahead of Gov. John Bel Edwards' budget cut presentation to the committee, Tuesday, April 12. Edwards is proposing to close a $750 million budget shortfall with cuts to the TOPS free college tuition program, safety net hospitals for the poor and public schools.  (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

TOPS has long been a sacred cow of the Louisiana Legislature. Though many have tried, few have succeeded in passing substantive changes that would limit the scope of the statewide scholarship program. But this Legislature is on its way to passing an unprecedented number of changes for TOPS. While the measures are relatively mild, it’s the… Continue reading →

Sweet relief: Governor signs bill that will prevent lemonade stands from being ticketed

Advocate file photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Imogen Hebert, 8, serves a cup of lemonade to Chris Declouet on National Lemonade Stand Day in Lafayette.

Children will be able to operate lemonade stands without state interference under a bill signed Friday by Gov. John Bel Edwards. The change was among nearly three dozen bills signed into law. The legislation, Senate Bill 99, prohibits the imposition of any tax or assessments on a minor engaging in a business with sales of less… Continue reading →

Gov. John Bel Edwards issues call for second special session, 'bold decisions' to close budget gap

Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Gov. John Bel Edwards on Friday ordered the state Legislature to begin a second special session in order to close the budget gap.

Louisiana legislators will get a 30-minute break when the regular session ends June 6 and then have 18 days to sort out a final version of the budget that begins July 1. Gov. John Bel Edwards on Friday ordered the state Legislature to begin a second special session a half-hour after the regular session ends,… Continue reading →

Farm-to-school program bill sent to governor who supports it

Louisiana lawmakers have sent to the governor’s desk a bill to create a farm-to-school program that encourages locally-grown products in state public school cafeterias. With an 85-0 vote Thursday, the state House gave the Senate-supported measure final legislative passage. The bill by Sen. Francis Thompson, a Delhi Democrat, earned unanimous approval from each chamber. Gov. John… Continue reading →

Lawmakers back call for US constitutional convention

Louisiana is joining a call for the first U.S. constitutional convention since the nation’s founding, under legislation backed by state lawmakers. The House voted 62-36 Wednesday to support the call, giving Senate Concurrent Resolution 52 final passage. Less than 10 states have signed onto the effort, which requires 34 states to consent to the call. Even… Continue reading →

Battling low transfer rates, LSU and community college system announce transfer scholarship plan

Advocate staff photo by REBEKAH ALLEN -- Monty Sullivan, system president of Louisianas Community & Technical Colleges, left, and LSU System President F. King Alexander look on Thursday as Gov. John Bel Edwards signs an agreement Thursday that guarantees the most academically motivated community college students admission and a scholarship to LSU.

In an effort to boost Louisiana’s low transfer rate of community college students to universities, higher education officials announced a partnership on Thursday that guarantees the most academically motivated community college students admission and a scholarship to LSU. The award is called the Honors Promise, and it offers a $3,000-a-year LSU scholarship to community… Continue reading →

'Hate crimes will not be tolerated in Louisiana': New 'Blue Lives Matter' law first in nation

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards  (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

Louisiana will become the first state in the country to treat attacks on police and firefighters as hate crimes and extend the same protections that are offered to people targeted for their race, gender or religion. Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday signed into law the so-called “Blue Lives Matter” legislation that has gripped national attention in… Continue reading →

Key provision of House budget 'unworkable, unconstitutional, ill advised,' Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration says

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- From left, Sen. W. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria; Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston; and  Sen. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales, chat in the Senate Revenue & Fiscal Affairs Committee as the legislature takes up taxing bills last week.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration wants Senate budget leaders to scrap the state budget proposal the House spent weeks working on and start over on the budget that takes effect July 1. “We have a wholly unacceptable budget,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told the Senate Finance Committee during a briefing Thursday. The Louisiana Legislature has… Continue reading →

Bill to give attorney general budget autonomy put on hold, may not get vote

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry speaks, answering questions from House members, Thursday, May 12, 2016 at the State Capitol. After a nearly three-hour debate and testimony from, the House voted 69-26 to advance a bill that would fund the Attorney General's Office separately from the rest of the state budget.

Legislation that would have given Louisiana’s Attorney General autonomy to decide how to spend the money appropriated to his agency was set aside late Wednesday night and may not get a vote for the rest of the legislative session. Metairie Republican Rep. Cameron Henry, who as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has his name… Continue reading →

Senate sends “ban the box” bill to governor, who supports it

State agencies would be prohibited from asking job applicants about their criminal histories before interviewing them for a position, under a bill that has received final legislative passage. A 30-6 Senate vote Wednesday sent the “ban the box” bill to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who supports it and is expected to sign it into law. Supporters… Continue reading →

Planned Parenthood will seek abortion license for new clinic

Louisiana legislation aimed at discouraging Planned Parenthood from offering abortions at its New Orleans clinic won’t stop it from seeking a license to provide the procedure, the organization’s national leader said Wednesday. Cecile Richards, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said she believes the bill pushed by Gov. John Bel Edwards to block Medicaid financing for entities… Continue reading →

'Somebody just dropped the ball': Bomb threat response criticized in Louisiana State Police report

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Emergency vehicles stand by the State Capitol during a bomb scare on May 16.

The Louisiana Legislature’s safety officials failed to follow proper procedures in what turned out to be a confused evacuation of the State Capitol after last week’s bomb threat, according to a Louisiana State Police investigation. “This common protocol for bomb threats was not followed,” reported the State Police in a document obtained by The Advocate… Continue reading →

Bill aimed at identifying sex offenders online gets final OK

A proposal described as helping parents keep their children away from sex offenders when they play video games or participate in other online activities has received final passage. House Bill 1146 by Republican Rep. Cameron Henry, of Metairie, would let the public have access to email addresses and online screen names of registered sex offenders. It… Continue reading →

Louisiana lawmakers encourage trade relations with Cuba

Louisiana’s lawmakers are pushing trade talks with Cuba, now that President Barack Obama has moved to normalize relations with the island nation. The House and Senate have passed House Concurrent Resolution 37 urging the state economic development department to “develop and improve” trade relations with Cuba, within the limits of state and federal law. The request,… Continue reading →

Governor not consulted before Louisiana joins lawsuit challenging President Obama's LGBT school directive, spokesman says

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Gov. John Bel Edwards holds a press conference following the closure of the 25-day Special Session  of the Louisiana Legislatiure Wednesday. The regular session begins Monday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and state Attorney General Jeff Landry are again sparring — this time over Edwards’ executive order that prohibits discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. And on Wednesday, Landry committed Louisiana to join Texas and nine other states in a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s recent directiveContinue reading →

Louisiana Senate sends red light camera notification bill to governor

Motorists would have to be alerted to the locations of red light cameras, under a bill headed to the governor’s desk. With a 37-0 vote Tuesday, the Louisiana Senate gave the measure final legislative passage. Senate Bill 357 was also overwhelmingly supported in the state House. If signed by the governor, the bill would require municipalities… Continue reading →

Bid to outlaw employer discrimination against gays, others, fails

Despite a passionate appeal from its sponsor, the Louisiana Senate overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would ban employers from discriminating against gays, lesbians and transgender people. The vote was 8-25. No senator rose to oppose the measure, and most of the brief discussion was limited to state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, urging colleagues to approve… Continue reading →

Bid to curb trafficking of human remains nears final passage

An effort aimed at curbing the trafficking of human remains is steps from final legislative passage. Sen. Neil Riser, a Columbia Republican, says his Senate Bill 179 would outline who has the right to possess human remains and under what circumstances. He said the state justice department has seized about 100 human skulls and other remains over… Continue reading →

Ban on abortions for genetic abnormality nears final passage

An effort to ban abortions performed in cases where the fetus is determined to have a genetic abnormality is steps from final passage. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee delayed a vote last week to try to devise compromise language, in response to concerns the proposal runs afoul of court decisions upholding a woman’s right to an… Continue reading →

PETA: Displaying live tiger mascot 'like championship trophy' cruel; LSU should end practice

Advocate 2013 file photo  LSU mascot Mike the Tiger sun bathes in his habitat on Thursday on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge

A day after LSU announced Mike the Tiger has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, an animal advocacy group called on the university to make this tiger the university’s last live mascot kept in captivity on the campus. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urged LSU to end the tradition of keeping a live tiger… Continue reading →

Louisiana House committee unexpectedly rejects controversial license plate reader bill

Legislation already approved by the Louisiana Senate and one House panel that would authorize a private company to catch uninsured motorists — in exchange for a generous fee — unexpectedly met rejection Tuesday before another House committee and likely is dead for the session. Senate Bill 54 sought to allow the company to install… Continue reading →

Video: Jefferson Parish Sheriff calls 'sanctuary cities' bill 'overarching bull----' before Senate panel rejects it

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand reviews an amendment Tuesday to legislation that would punish "sanctuary cities" in Louisiana. A Senate committee rejected the measure.

Legislation that aimed to punish cities in Louisiana that adopt policies favorable to immigrants who come here illegally stalled in a Senate committee on Tuesday after coming under fire from law enforcement, New Orleans leaders and even a Catholic nun. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand called House Bill 1148 “bulls***” and accused lawmakers of political… Continue reading →

Louisiana Senate committee kills Pastor Protection Act intended to safeguard clergy who deny gay marriages

Advocate Photo by REBEKAH ALLEN -- A group of religious leaders meet in a hall of the State Capitol after "pastor protection" legislation failed in a Louisiana Senate committee.

The so-called Pastor Protection Act, legislation aimed at shielding religious leaders from legal retribution for refusing to conduct gay marriages, died in the Louisiana Legislature on Tuesday after a Senate committee voted it down. But opponents of the measure say the failure of the bill in no way means that clergy members will now be forced… Continue reading →

State lawmakers agree: Abortions should negate Medicaid financing for Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood should lose its Medicaid financing if the organization starts performing abortions in Louisiana, state lawmakers have agreed. The Senate gave final passage to the proposal Monday with a 33-2 vote, sending it to Gov. John Bel Edwards. The Democratic governor was pushing the bill as part of his legislative agenda and is expected to sign… Continue reading →

Bill to require pet store record-keeping nears final passage

People buying dogs and cats in Louisiana pet stores often don’t know where the animals were bred. A state senator is attempting to change that, with a bill nearing final passage to require pet store record-keeping. Senate Bill 337 from Sen. Danny Martiny, a Kenner Republican, would require stores to post breeders’ names and addresses, as… Continue reading →

New Orleans firefighters deal in Legislature stumbles on whether benefit is grandfathered

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD  City officials and union leaders regroup after a hiccup Monday in legislation aimed at resolving four-decade-old disagreement between the City of New Orleans and its firefighters. From left to right is New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Chief Timothy McConnell; Nicholas Felton, New Orleans Fire Fighters Local 632; Suchitra J. Satpathi, executive counsel and director of state relations for the City of New Orleans; State Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans; and Louis Reine, president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO.

The d├ętente between the city of New Orleans and its firefighters started teetering during a Louisiana Senate committee hearing Monday over what a clause in the deal actually means. Three of the four bills in the legislative package that tweaks firefighters’ retirement benefits marched through the Senate Retirement Committee with little discussion and no opposition. The… Continue reading →

If Gov. John Bel Edwards calls another special session, here's his gameplan and how it could affect taxpayers

Advocate staff photo by Bill Feig -- Members of the Louisiana House wait on budgetary legislation for consideration on Tuesday, March 8.

Gov. John Bel Edwards appears likely to call the Legislature into a special session in June in an effort to limit income tax deductions and close corporate tax loopholes. But it’s not clear that Republicans in the House are willing to approve the taxes that Edwards says are necessary to prevent slashing $500 million or… Continue reading →

Task force gives free hand to governor on taxes

A special task force issued recommendations on taxes Friday that were broad enough to avoid limiting the governor’s options as he seeks to raise revenue during a special session next month. The Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy called on Gov. John Bel Edwards and state legislators to focus on whether to keep… Continue reading →

State retirees to see bump in pension checks with Governor Edwards' COLA approval

A lot of retired teachers, troopers, school workers and state government employees will start seeing slightly bigger monthly pension checks starting July 1. Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday signed into law a cost-of-living adjustment for nearly 125,000 pensioners who are over the age of 60 and have been retired at least a year. Most live in… Continue reading →

‘He’s a great guy’: National commentator, constituent defends Louisiana lawmaker who joked about strippers

Rod Dreher

A national commentator who lives in Louisiana Rep. Kenny Havard’s legislative district defends him in a new blog post that addresses Havard’s stripper amendment “joke” that has stirred a firestorm of negative media attention. Rod Dreher, senior editor for The American Conservative and a St. Francisville resident, calls Havard “a great guy who does a lot… Continue reading →

Rep. Kenny Havard said he will not apologize for stripper age, weight joke, says political correctness is ruining country

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, talks to media members after the House adjourned for the day, Thursday, May 19, 2016, regarding his 'joke amendment' about weight  and maximum age limitations for strippers, proposed the day before to a bill regulating strip clubs. The bill actually passed, but without the amendment, but many found Havard's amendment inappropriate and offensive. Havard was not present during the House's afternoon session, but kept a scheduled appointment for an interview.

State Rep. Kenny Havard said Thursday he won’t apologize over his “joke” legislation that sought to ban exotic dancers from being overweight or older than 28. He took a firm stand on Thursday, despite numerous demands he apologize, blaming the firestorm his comments created on the delicate sensibilities of a nation that he said… Continue reading →

Equal Pay shot down in Louisiana House Labor committee

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD  State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, meets Thursday with Erin Monroe Wesley, special counsel to Gov. John Bel Edwards, before the House Labor committee took up a Senate-passed Equal Pay bill. Johns was handling the measure for the chief sponsor, Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans. He also sponsored a bill that would raise the minimum age of strippers in the House on Wednesday night. Women in the House erupted in anger when a representative tried to amend the bill to also set a maximum weight limit for strippers. Supporters held up a copy of The Advocates coverage of the stripper imbroglio as proof that women still arent respected in Louisiana.

A day after a Louisiana House member proposed a weight limit for strippers, a House committee voted down equal pay legislation. “The failure of the House Labor Committee to pass the Equal Pay Act today is a true disservice to the women of our state,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement released moments after the… Continue reading →

Gov. John Bel Edwards signs measure to expand medical accessibility of marijuana in Louisiana

Advocate staff photo by Elizabeth Crisp -- Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signs medical marijuana legislation on Thursday, May 19, 2016.

Louisiana residents suffering from certain health ailments may soon have access to cannabis oil treatment, under a new law Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law Thursday. Senate Bill 271, which the governor signed during a formal ceremony featuring families in his Capitol office, is intended to expand the medical accessibility of marijuana by expanding the ailments… Continue reading →

Louisiana Senate halts bill to include drones in criminal statutes

Louisiana senators have rejected a Baton Rouge lawmaker’s bid to regulate drones by adding them to Louisiana criminal statutes. Republican Sen. Dan Claitor said his bill to include illegal drone use in state laws — including trespassing, stalking and criminal mischief laws — would close holes in Louisiana’s criminal code. But his colleagues voted 17-15 against… Continue reading →

Louisiana Senate approves bid to raise human trafficking threshold age

A bid to raise the threshold age for human trafficking victims by three years has earned the unanimous support of the Louisiana Legislature. With a 37-0 vote, the Senate gave final passage Wednesday to Senate Bill 90 increasing the threshold age of victims from 18 to 21 when determining penalties in human trafficking cases. The House-backed proposal… Continue reading →