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Bill to require 3-day wait for abortions in Louisiana crosses latest hurdle, likely heading to governor

Louisiana is likely in line to become the sixth state in the country to require that women wait 72 hours before obtaining an abortion. The state Senate on Tuesday quickly passed the extended waiting period legislation in a 34-4 vote. Because of a technical change to add an apostrophe, the bill has to return to the House… Continue reading →

Electronic driver’s license wins lopsided House approval

A bill that would allow motorists to get an electronic driver’s license won approval Tuesday in the Louisiana House. The vote was 88-8. The measure, House Bill 481, next faces action in the state Senate. The legislation would give the state’s 2.9 million motorists a way to download a copy of their driver’s license through… Continue reading →

Senate-passed bill to help set path for medical marijuana in Louisiana advances to full House

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD  Louisiana Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, asked Tuesday that the House Health committee approve legislation that would ease access to use marijuana for medical purposes. He is flanked by Katie Corkern, of Amite, a parent who says medicine made from cannabis oil would help her son, and Malcolm Broussard, executive director of the state Pharmacy Board.

Legislation that would make marijuana available for medical uses in Louisiana had mixed results Tuesday in the Legislature. Overcoming spirited opposition, the key bill in the legislative package to increase medical accessibility to marijuana narrowly cleared its toughest hurdle Tuesday, winning approval in a Louisiana House committee. A related measure — House Bill 446,… Continue reading →

'They're not merchandise': Louisiana Legislature advances bill outlawing payments for aborted fetuses' organs

Louisiana lawmakers are one step away from approving legislation that would make it a crime — punishable by up to 50 years in prison — to accept any payment to harvest, sale or transport the organs of aborted fetuses. The legislation is a direct response to last year’s uproar over a series of covert videosContinue reading →

At Baton Rouge events, John Bel Edwards attempts to build support for budget changes, Medicaid expansion

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Gov. John Bel Edwards, third from right, and Dr. Rebekah Gee, DHH Secretary, second from right, discusses Medicaid expansion at an event. From left, Rodrick Perkins, BR council member Donna Collins-Lewis, Loretta Robillard, Originae Brown, Edwards, Gee and Linda Simms. The event is the first in a series from Gov. Edwards and Dr. Gee in the state on this topic. Gov. Edwards and Dr. Gee met with new enrollees of the Medicaid expansion program and made an announcement regarding the June 1 enrollment start date, including providing new information for the public.

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday made back-to-back appearances in Baton Rouge to appeal to supporters and community leaders on two of the key issues he’s facing — the state budget shortfall and expansion of the Medicaid health care program. The effort to plug a $600 million gap in the state budget that begins… Continue reading →

$600 million question: Task Force looking at income taxes, other state budget alternatives

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Gov. John Bel Edwards answers questions during a press conference.

The blue ribbon commission whose recommendations Gov. John Bel Edwards hopes to incorporate in the agenda for the upcoming second special session is looking at income taxes as a way to immediately fix the budget. No decisions have been made — the members are still studying alternatives — but the need to find money soon, coupled with… Continue reading →

Bid to cut legislative agency's spending at swanky New Orleans hotel wins Senate support

State senators have overwhelmingly backed a bill seeking to cut the spending of a legislative agency whose meetings cost thousands of dollars each year. The Louisiana State Law Institute, which studies complex legal issues for the Legislature, holds meetings of its decision-making council at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans. A financial analysis shows travel and… Continue reading →

Bid to end open burning of chemical waste advances in House

A bid to end the open burning of hazardous waste and waste explosives in Louisiana narrowly advanced out of a House committee. Rep. Gene Reynolds, a Minden Democrat, says his bill limits dangerous burning because “there are better ways in which to do things.” The House Natural Resources Committee voted 9-8 Wednesday to send the proposal to… Continue reading →

Louisiana House votes to ban second-trimester abortion procedure

An effort to prohibit a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure received overwhelming support Thursday from lawmakers in the Louisiana House. House Bill 1081 by Rep. Mike Johnson, a Republican from Bossier City who is running for Congress, would ban a procedure called dilation and evacuation, known as D&E. The procedure would only be allowed if necessary to… Continue reading →

Bill would ban businesses from discriminating against LGBT, advances for 1st time

Louisiana could ban public and private employers from discriminating against gays, lesbians and transgender people under a bill that narrowly passed out of a Senate committee on Thursday. Significantly, while the Legislature hears bills every year intended to stop LGBT discrimination, rarely do they ever get past committee for a full vote of the House or… Continue reading →

Louisiana Gov John Bel Edwards focusing on fiscal crisis

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Gov. John Bel Edwards, right, chats with 4th graders from St. Genevieve Catholic School in Thibodaux before his press conference on the 4th floor of the State Capital Building.

Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters Thursday that his first priority is stabilizing the fiscal crisis, and everything else is on the back burner. “Priority No. 1 has to be about stabilizing the state of Louisiana and dealing with the largest budget deficit in our history,” Edwards said. “If we are not successful, very little else that… Continue reading →

Trimming tax breaks key point for Louisiana legislature, but frustrating hurdle remains

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.

An emerging plan to raise more revenue in a June special session by trimming tax breaks is running into a fundamental problem: Policymakers don’t know the bang the state is getting for giving up its big bucks. Gov. John Bel Edwards and state Senate President John Alario both said in interviews that they want lawmakers to trim… Continue reading →

Bill rejected that would have shielded TOPS recipients from tuition hikes

Baton Rouge Rep. Barry Ivey’s creative plan to give universities and colleges more tuition-raising authority, while shielding TOPS recipients from the hikes, fell flat on Tuesday in the Louisiana House. Ivey’s House Bill 439 would have allowed higher education governing boards, like the LSU and Southern University boards of supervisors, to increase tuition… Continue reading →

Lawmakers at odds over medical marijuana access, depth of treatment: 'Don’t get bogged down in your fears'

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Vernon Parish's Michelle Hall, who moved from Louisiana to Colorado to be able to get medical marijuana for her severely epileptic daughter, reacts to questions by committee members as she waits to testify for the medical marijuana bill HB 1112 by Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at the State Capitol.

Baton Rouge Rep. Ted James said the state needs to go further and faster in making medical marijuana available to sick Louisianans who are in need of the treatment. On Wednesday, James pitched his bill to the House Health and Welfare Committee, which would have expanded the ways it can be consumed, the diagnoses that are eligible… Continue reading →

'Thank you ... for not saving our children': Louisiana lawmaker riled after movie theater security measure killed

Legislation that was inspired by a deadly shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette set off a spat between two House members on Wednesday after the bill was abruptly killed. State Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, had proposed a bill that would require movie theaters in Louisiana install metal detectors and screen customers for weapons. She… Continue reading →

Returning New Orleans charter schools to local control a step closer to becoming reality

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Flanked by Orleans Parish School Board Superintendent Henderson Lewis, left, and Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard, New Orleans Sen. Karen Peterson takes questioning Wednesday from New Orleans Rep. Joseph Buie. He supports the concept of returning state-run public schools in New Orleans to local control, but opposes the way Peterson's bill would accomplish that goal. The Louisiana House Education committee heard a lot of criticism during the two-hour testimony but voted 11-2 to advance the legislation to the full House. Buie was one of the no votes.

Parents voiced their anger at the quality of state-run charter schools in New Orleans during a stormy Louisiana House hearing debating a move to return the city’s schools to local control. Despite their complaints, the House Education Committee voted 11-2 to advance legislation that would transfer control of 52 public schools — all charters —… Continue reading →

Senate panel advances three-day waiting period for abortions in Louisiana; House approves effort that could defund Planned Parenthood

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, far right, talks with Deanna Wallace of Louisiana Right To Life, after each testified in favor of his HB 386, which would require women in Louisiana  to wait three days before getting an abortion, as opponents Amy Irvin, far left, executive director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, and Alison Lutz, with Medical Students For Choice, testify against the bill in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at the State Capitol. The bill made it out of committee on a 5-2 vote, and now heads to the full Senate,  If approved, would place Louisiana among the states with the longest mandatory abortion waiting periods.

Louisiana lawmakers are advancing anti-abortion measures that would give the state one of the nation’s longest mandatory waiting periods and eliminate state funding for any group that provides abortions — even if that money would go only toward unrelated services. Both proposals won overwhelming support when they reached their latest hurdles at the State Capitol on Wednesday.… Continue reading →

La. Senate advances bill to allow separate courtroom seating

Louisiana’s Senate has approved a proposal allowing crime victims, crime witnesses or their family members to request courtroom seating separate from defendants, defendants’ family members or defense witnesses. Sen. J.P. Morell, a New Orleans Democrat, says his Senate Bill 320 is meant to protect the people “most vulnerable to intimidation.” In particular, he says the measure… Continue reading →

House backs fee bill for Louisiana’s veterans cemeteries

House lawmakers have agreed to authorize a $745 fee for burials in Louisiana’s veterans cemeteries, but veterans won’t be expected to pay the price. The Department of Veterans Affairs says the federal government has been paying the $745 toward the cost of each burial. But the agency says a recent attorney general’s opinion suggested the fee rate… Continue reading →

Bill to force drones to keep distance, allow property owners to 'disable' trespassers, moves forward

AP file photo: DroneLinx CEO Steve Metzman operates a drone to make videos and still images of an apartment building.

Drones would have to keep their distance from private properties under a bill that advanced out of committee on Tuesday in the Louisiana Legislature. The bill would force unmanned aircrafts, many of which have surveillance capabilities, to stay at least 350 feet above ground level from others’ properties. The bill also would impose criminal penalties… Continue reading →

Louisiana House panel shoots down safety bill for short-term rentals

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD  State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, and State Fire Marshal Butch Browning testified Tuesday on legislation that would require basic safety measures of people renting their homes to tourists for short stays. The House Commerce Committee voted against the measure.

A Louisiana House committee Tuesday shot down legislation that would have required people who rent their homes to tourists on a short-term basis to certify with the State Fire Marshal’s Office that they comply with simple safety measures. “This has to do with basic safety,” said Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, sponsor of House Bill… Continue reading →

Louisiana legislators back off proposal to block access to police body camera footage

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Smile for the Camera: New Orleans Police Officer Lionel Reneau wears a body camera on his shirt.

Louisiana lawmakers have walked back from a proposal that sought to block public access to any recordings from police-worn body cameras. A bill that would have made all body camera footage exempt from state public records requirements — unless a court ordered its release — was heavily amended before passing through the Senate Judiciary B Committee on… Continue reading →

Louisiana House OKs cost of living increase for state retirees, but there's still another hurdle

Not a single Louisiana representative and senator has voted against raising the monthly pension checks for most of the state’s retirees. But the bill that passed the full House on Monday 92-0 is not the same as the version that passed the Senate 35-0 on April 13. The differences between the House and Senate measures… Continue reading →

Baton Rouge has 'worst traffic in the nation,' and CATS a 'disaster,' Congressman Garret Graves says

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Drivers sit in traffic on I10 east approaching the Highland Road exit during rush hour, Thursday, January 28, 2016, in Baton Rouge, La.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves lamented the capital region’s traffic problem as “the worst in the nation” Monday, adding that Baton Rouge’s public bus system only adds to the congestion and needs to be completely dismantled. Graves, one of the few freshman congressmen or women to sit on the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, weighed in on… Continue reading →

App for that? Louisianians could carry one-of-a-kind driver's license on phone in bill advancing to House

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Representative Ted James speaks during a town hall meeting, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, at Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, La.

Louisiana could become the first state in the nation that offers an electronic copy of a driver’s license, which motorists could access through an app on their iPhones or other devices. Legislation to do just that — House Bill 481 — won approval Monday in the Louisiana House Transportation Committee. The measure next faces… Continue reading →

Louisiana Legislature looks at statewide rules for police-worn body cameras

Advocate file photo An Iberia Parish Sheriffs Deputy looks at the monitor of his body cam during an orientation class after deputies were issued the cameras.

With an increased national focus on officer-involved shootings and incidents, Louisiana lawmakers are now looking at what could — and should — be done on the state level to regulate the use of police-worn body cameras. At least 31 other states have adopted legislation to guide how body cameras are used or how information from them… Continue reading →

Budget the top worry as Louisiana legislative session reaches midpoint

As Louisiana lawmakers reach the halfway mark of their regular session, new abortion restrictions are advancing, the governor’s main agenda items are questionable for passage and budget decisions are in limbo. Only six bills — out of more than 1,600 filed for consideration — had received House and Senate passage and reached the governor’s desk by Friday.… Continue reading →

Treasury uncovers almost $45M for insurance beneficiaries

The Louisiana Department of the Treasury has found nearly $45 million in death benefits that should have been paid to Louisiana residents. State Treasurer John Kennedy, in a news release Wednesday, said that kind of discovery is why they check insurance company records. The department has been conducting such audits since 2009. All of the money… Continue reading →

Sweeping retirement changes deferred in Louisiana Legislature

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD  State Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, right,  conferred Thursday with Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, during a House Retirement Committee hearing that considered revamping the states pension system.

Sweeping reforms to the way the state government pays its retired employees were withdrawn Thursday when the sponsor for the four-bill package said he saw the writing on the wall. Central state Rep. Barry Ivey, who sponsored the four bills that would have worked in concert, said the central point is to change state government retirement from… Continue reading →

Louisiana ‘sanctuary’ cities under fire in the Legislature for protecting undocumented immigrants

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry testify Thursday for legislation that would prohibit local governments and state agencies from adopting sanctuary policies that limit local law enforcements cooperation on pursuing illegal immigrants.

Louisiana could ban so-called “sanctuary cities” under a bill — which advanced through its first hurdle of the Legislature on Thursday — that takes aim at New Orleans and Lafayette. A sanctuary city is a label for cities that have policies or local laws in place that limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with the U.S. Immigration and… Continue reading →

‘Historic’ changes for Louisiana food stamp program as Gov. John Bel Edwards inks executive order

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- On the first day of the regular legislative session, Gov. John Bel Edwards, third from right, and wife Donna Edwards, second from left, shake hands with solons and enter the House Chamber for the  joint session address at 1:00 on the State of the State.

Beginning July 1, thousands of unemployed adults in Louisiana will have to seek job search and training assistance through the state’s workforce centers to continue receiving food stamp benefits for an extended period. Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday signed an executive order establishing the first work restrictions on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program… Continue reading →

Bill would ease state involvement in St. Joseph dirty water crisis

Saying local officials won’t do what needs to be done, a Louisiana House panel Wednesday advanced legislation that could give the state authority to take over the troubled water system in the small northeast Louisiana town of St. Joseph. For months, the water coming out of the taps for the historic town’s 1,100 residents has been varying… Continue reading →

TOPS bills to lock in current amounts, isolate awards from tuition increases move forward

Louisiana lawmakers signed off on a variety of changes to the popular TOPS scholarships and other bills giving colleges and universities more authority to increase their tuition, moving the legislation ever closer to becoming law. The Louisiana Senate OK’d a bill that could strip the Legislature of its hold over tuition rates, giving the authority to… Continue reading →