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State agencies line up to comply with same-sex marriage changes

State agencies quickly started adjusting to the reality of same-sex marriages in Louisiana as the last federal court roadblock came down Thursday. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman rescinded his ruling supporting traditional marriage between a man and a woman, citing last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling which made same-sex marriages the law of the… Continue reading →

State ending program that pays for private insurance for some Medicaid recipients

The state health agency will end a special program under which it has been paying for private insurance for some Medicaid recipients. The Louisiana Health Insurance Premium Payment, or LaHIPP, program serves 1,500 households and will go away Dec. 1 as a cost-saving measure. LaHIPP provides help for a Medicaid-eligible member of a household to be… Continue reading →

5th Circuit Court tells Louisiana to recognize same-sex marriages; Jindal administration still balks

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Douglas Alexander, left, and his partner Erik Bass wait with Michael Robinson and Earl Benjamin  to get the first marriage licenses for same sex couples at the Orleans Parish Department of Health and Hospitals Marriage Office Benson Tower in New Orleans, La. Friday, June 26, 2015.

A Federal appeals court, unsurprisingly, ruled Wednesday that Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi must allow and recognize same-sex marriages in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Friday legalizing the practice nationwide. But while Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration previously had said it was waiting on that 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling before recognizing same-sex marriages, top… Continue reading →

Chemical industry trade association challenges tax exemption rollback

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley, concentrates on work during the last day of the 2015 Legislative Session on June 11. His House Concurrent Resolution 8 was passed in the last minutes of the session. The Louisiana Chemical Association filed a lawsuit July 1 challenging the constitutionality of the legislation that is designed to bring state government about $103 million in revenue.

In what is the first of several expected lawsuits attempting to upset the revenue-raising measures enacted to balance the state budget, chemical manufacturers filed a constitutional challenge in state district court on Wednesday. The lawsuit, filed by the Louisiana Chemical Association, could blow a $103 million hole in the $25 billion state operating… Continue reading →

'I can’t uphold the oath that I swore' so I resign, says one justice of the peace, as others grapple with same-sex marriage

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Scott Kirkland signs his certificate of marriage to certify his marriage with partner Kenneth Parker at the Clerk of Court's Office on Coursey Blvd., Monday, June 29, 2015, in Baton Rouge.

While a lot of justices of the peace across the state are wondering just what their obligations are under the high court ruling allowing same-sex marriages, one filed her paperwork and quit Tuesday rather than perform a wedding ceremony for a gay couple. “It was pretty black and white for me. I wasn’t going to wait for… Continue reading →

Governor Bobby Jindal signs law to ease marijuana penalties, calls change 'compassionate, smart and just'

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Republican presidential candidate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal addresses the crowd at a reception held at the Louisiana Governors Mansion, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Baton Rouge.

. Penalties for simple marijuana possession are decreasing in Louisiana effective immediately. The reduction came with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signing into law of a measure approved during the 2015 Louisiana Legislature. Jindal’s office announced the bill signing Monday. House Bill 149 sponsor state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, called it “a compassionate, smart and just approach to justice reform.” The state’s sheriffs… Continue reading →

State health chief makes about-face on abortion clinic rule, says unenforceable

A state rule requiring new abortion clinics to prove their services are needed was unenforceable so she decided to scrap it, the state’s health chief said. “We recognized we were asking for (needs) information that is not typically found for this kind of provider,” said state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert. “You… Continue reading →

Lawmakers curtail Louisiana’s generous solar tax break, cause industry to cry foul

Sticker-shocked lawmakers say they never intended to give away millions to Louisiana’s solar power industry and its Wall Street investors. Yet industry watchers say that’s exactly what happened when a loophole was added to a tax credit program for home solar panel systems — metastasizing into a subsidy that has cost the state $147 million since 2009.… Continue reading →

Jindal agrees to legislative review of consulting contracts

Lawmakers will have new approval authority over consulting contracts signed across state agencies, in response to complaints about wasteful spending and after a state representative’s five-year struggle to get the provisions put in law. In the end, Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard said he got his House Bill 30 signed by voting with Gov. Bobby Jindal on another… Continue reading →

DOTD agrees with Congressman Garret Graves about solutions for 'ridiculous' Washington Street exit

Advocate Staff Photo by WILL SENTELL -- U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, told the Press Club of Baton Rouge Monday that the Washington Street exit near the Interstate 10 over the Mississippi River needs to be reworked to ease daily congestion.

Sixth District Congressman Garret Graves of Baton Rouge said Monday the Washington Street exit needs immediate attention, and a possible reworking, to help ease daily traffic tie ups on and near Interstate 10 and the Mississippi River Bridge. A short stretch near the exit is the lone spot on a 2,460-mile coast-to-coast highway where traffic narrows to… Continue reading →

Tax stance may be issue in Joel Robideaux’s bid for Lafayette mayor

Advocate Staff Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Louisiana House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, addresses the Press Club of Baton Rouge on June 15. Robideaux was a key architect in the recently enacted plan to balance the state's operating budget. He now is turning his attention to a run for city-parish president of the Lafayette Consolidated Government.

Joel Robideaux faced a quandary. A Republican state representative from Lafayette, Robideaux faced a choice during the just-concluded legislative session that, in simplistic terms, could lead him to be labeled as a tax-and-spend politician or as the savior of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The label mattered because Robideaux is running for Lafayette… Continue reading →

Term limits helping reshape next Louisiana Legislature

At least one of every five Louisiana House and Senate members will be replaced when the next Legislature convenes in 2016. Twenty-two of the 105 House members, by latest count, say they aren’t running for re-election to that chamber in the fall. On the Senate side, nine of its 39 members are in the same situation.… Continue reading →

Lawsuits likely from new limits on film tax credit

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, prepares to address the Press Club of Baton Rouge on June 15, during which he discussed his controversial legislation that limits the amount the state will pay for film industry tax credits over the next three years. Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the bill on June 19.

The film industry envisions a litany of lawsuits now that Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed into law limits on the lucrative tax credits that helped turn Louisiana into Hollywood South. Jindal on Friday signed House Bill 829, a contentious proposal passed in the last minutes of the recent legislative session that caps the amount the… Continue reading →

Bobby Jindal vetoes bill to help about 130,000 retirees struggling with cost-of-living adjustments

Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed legislation Friday that included a cost-of-living adjustment for about 130,000 retired state employees, teachers, school employees and State Police. The 1.5 percent COLA would have gone into effect July 1 to help retirees struggling to meet rising costs of the state’s health insurance program. The measure, popular among legislators, encountered difficulty… Continue reading →

Gov. Bobby Jindal complimentary of state budget as he signs it into law

Cigarettes will cost more as will selling vehicles, and the business community will have fewer tax credits available in the $25 billion state government spending plan Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law Friday. “The budget continues the trend of making smart reductions to the size of government, while strengthening the state’s health care system and protecting higher… Continue reading →

Baton Rouge state Rep. Erich Ponti resigns to become Louisiana Asphalt Pavement Association's executive director

Baton Rouge state Rep. Erich Ponti on Friday said he is resigning his state House seat effective immediately. Ponti previously said he was not running for re-election this fall. But in a letter to House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, Ponti said he has an opportunity to be executive director of the Louisiana Asphalt Pavement Association.… Continue reading →

Video: Gov. Bobby Jindal blasts President Obama’s ‘shameful’ comments on gun violence in wake of church shooting

Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Gov. Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jinday, during an interview on Fox News on Thursday, criticized President Obama for the president’s comments about gun violence in the wake of the Charleston, S.C., church shooting that left nine people dead. “I think it was completely shameful, within 24 hours of this awful tragedy, nine people killed in a Bible… Continue reading →

MERS director resigns, probe continues into spending

The head of a pension system for about 150 municipal governments in Louisiana quit Thursday under fire for allegedly misspending retirees’ money. Municipal Employee Retirement System Executive Director Robert Rust submitted a lengthy resignation letter in advance of a pension board meeting where he was supposed to respond to allegations of excessive spending for… Continue reading →

New troubles erupt in LSU Shreveport hospital privatization

LSU leaders and the manager of the university system’s Shreveport hospital are again at odds, and the threat of a possible breach of contract lawsuit emerged Thursday in the privatization deal. A last-minute add-on to Friday’s LSU Board of Supervisors agenda shows a possible discussion about “prospective litigation” against the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana for… Continue reading →

Bobby Jindal on South Carolina church shooting: 'This is pure evil. It’s infuriating'

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has released this statement in response to the deadly shooting that took place at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Wednesday:

“This morning we are all trying to make sense of this senseless act. This is pure evil. It’s infuriating. Mankind’s capacity for evil is horrific.
I’m enraged by this ungodly act and my heart… Continue reading →

Bobby Jindal gets honorary degree from Louisiana Community and Technical College System

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has degrees from Brown University and Oxford, but now he can add an honorary degree from the Louisiana Community and Technical College System to his résumé.

Jindal was awarded the honorary degree in applied science in industrial maintenance technology in recognition of his efforts to enhance career and technical education and workforce development in Louisiana.

“For… Continue reading →

LSU students grade Louisiana legislators; some denounce grades as 'bogus'

The chairwoman of the state Democratic Party and others are crying foul over a legislative report card released by LSU students this week.

State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, a New Orleans Democrat who was rated an “F” on the LSU Student Government report card released Monday, has denounced the much-hyped report card as “bogus” — arguing grades based on… Continue reading →

New Orleans legislators urge Gov. Bobby Jindal to veto legislation they say would kill Louisiana film industry

Louisiana Senator J.P. Morrell

Three New Orleans legislators are urging Gov. Bobby Jindal to veto legislation that would put a $180 million cap on Louisiana’s film tax credit.

State Sen. JP Morrell, House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger III, and state Rep. Helena Moreno sent letters to Jindal asking him to reject House Bill 829.

The legislators warn Jindal that the cap and… Continue reading →

Lawmakers unable to take state construction project-selecting authority from governor

Talk of change for the way Louisiana spends its construction budgeting money fizzled in the final days of the legislative session. Instead, lawmakers went home with a construction budget overstuffed by $385 million that continues to give all project-selecting authority to the governor. For the upcoming budget year, Gov. Bobby Jindal will choose which projects should get… Continue reading →

Four constitutional amendments approved by Legislature

Advocate staff file photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler is seen in the Nov. 5, 2012 file photo.

Louisiana legislators proposed 67 constitutional amendments, but by the time the 2015 session ended, only four of them made it to the Oct. 24 election ballot for voter approval. Two of the four deal with transportation funding issues. “We had close to a dozen this past fall, so managing four is far more reasonable for both… Continue reading →

Company claims Bobby Jindal administration’s selection of another firm based on bias

An unsuccessful bidder claims bias by the Jindal administration in the selection of a new firm to run the state’s self-insurance program. York Risk Services Group is challenging the award of the $80 million, three-year contract to Memphis, Tennessee-based Sedgwick Claims Management Services. York is the current contractor, doing business through one of its companies, Mandeville-based… Continue reading →

$1.2 billion for health care in budget; future governor faces hospital funding challenges

Updated renderings of tentative designs for the new University Medical Center at New Orleans, released by the Louisiana Office of Facility Planning and Control, LSU, and NBBJ of Seattle, lead architects for the hospital project. The computer-generated day and night views reflect developing architectural perspectives for the projected $1.2 billion facility, which is expected to form the core of a medical and biosciences district that includes the new United States Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, currently under design. (Photo provided by NBBJ of Seattle)

Health care officials are digging through the dollars the Louisiana Legislature coughed up in the final moments of the 2015 session and are finding some relief. “We were facing cuts of colossal magnitude, but I’m thrilled that our legislators found a way to preserve funding,” Lafayette General Health Chief Executive Officer David Callecod said. The $24.5… Continue reading →

Mission accomplished on Louisiana budget? Lots of issues remain

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia,  left, Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans,  center and Tim Barfield, State Revenue Secretary, right, discuss the budget during the Legislative session Wednesday.

Mission accomplished. That was how Gov. Bobby Jindal, Senate President John Alario and House Speaker Chuck Kleckley all trumpeted the conclusion of the legislative session Thursday night, which ended the state’s worst budget crisis since the late 1980s. “We view this as a very successful session,” Jindal told reporters in his fourth-floor Capitol office. “We wanted to… Continue reading →

Bill permitting automatic license plate scans gets final OK

Louisiana lawmakers have agreed to let law enforcement agencies automatically scan motorists’ license plates, to crack down on car thieves and insurance scofflaws. The House and Senate voted Thursday for a proposal by Republican Sen. Ronnie Johns, of Lake Charles, creating a pilot program that will allow the practice until 2021. Senate Bill 250 goes to Gov.… Continue reading →

Part of the film tax credits package approved by Legislature

Facing a deadline 90 minutes away and with dozens of bills to go, the Louisiana Legislature approved Thursday in quick succession bills that would change the workings of the lucrative tax credit for the film industry. The votes gave final legislative passage to the measures which now go to the governor’s desk. The film industry’s lobbyists… Continue reading →

Louisiana House OKs SAVE provision, clears way for critical budget vote

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, argues on the floor for his DHH amendment to HB-1 Thursday as Rep. Jim Fannen, R-Jonesboro, right, author of HB-1, listens. The amendment passed.

A key provision that would allow Gov. Bobby Jindal to approve the state’s operating budget and the revenue-raising measures that provide the money for the spending plan won final legislative passage late Thursday afternoon. A reluctant House voted 59 to 43 to approve the SAVE offset. The Senate signed off on a 30-9… Continue reading →

Louisiana legislature OKs 50-cent tax increase on a pack of cigarettes

Louisiana legislators voted overwhelmingly Thursday afternoon to raise the tax on cigarettes by 50 cents. It was one of the sticking points in the budget negotiations between the House and the Senate. State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, said, “I think that it was the best that could be done, moving forward at this time.” The… Continue reading →

Louisiana House declines to weigh in on case of Albert Woodfox, last of Angola 3 still behind bars

The dispute over the court-ordered release of Albert Woodfox, the last of the Angola 3 remaining behind bars, hit the Louisiana House on Thursday. U.S. District Judge James Brady ordered Woodfox’s release as well as bar his further prosecution in the 1972 stabbing death of a Louisiana State Penitentiary correctional officer. State Rep. Patricia… Continue reading →

COLA for retired state employees, teachers up OK’d

Some 130,000 retired state employees and teachers could get a bump in their pension checks in July afterall. The only stumbling block could be a veto by Gov. Bobby Jindal. In a last minute move, the Legislature reversed course and agreed to the 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment this year instead of next. The reason: state… Continue reading →