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Politics blog: U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond gets heat for defense of Steve Scalise

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond addresses Mt. Zion First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a black Democrat from New Orleans, has maintained that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, of Jefferson, doesn’t have “a racist bone in his body” since it was disclosed late last year that Scalise had spoken in 2002 to a group founded by ex-Klan leader David Duke. Richmond’s stance is generating some “blowback,”… Continue reading →

Report says Louisiana has second-highest gun death rate in nation

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Two people console one another on the scene of a shooting death under investigation by Baton Rouge police the morning of Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015 at 4965 Jefferson Avenue near N. Foster Drive.

A report released Thursday says Louisiana had the second highest rate of gun fatalities in the country in 2013, trailing only Alaska. The Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit group, found that Louisiana had 19.15 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2013, well above the national average of 10.64 deaths per 100,000. Alaska had 19.59 deaths.… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: State's budget problems can't wait for Jindal to leave

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Aerial of the new State Capitol building and grounds.

In speaking to lawmakers over the last couple of years, I’ve heard a common refrain from both House and Senate members, Republicans and Democrats: Just wait until Gov. Bobby Jindal leaves office. Then — finally, they say — they’ll be able to stop factoring Jindal’s national ambitions into… Continue reading →

U.S. Senate approves Keystone pipeline despite veto threat

The U.S. Capitol in Washington is seen Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Washington The Keystone XL pipeline got the green light Thursday from the U.S. Senate, moving the legislation to build the project closer to final congressional approval — and closer to an expected veto from President Barack Obama. The fight over Keystone figured prominently in the 2014 U.S. Senate… Continue reading →

David Duke: Steve Scalise is a sellout; I might run against him in next election

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, left, and David Duke

David Duke said U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is a sellout and that he might challenge the Republican congressman in the next election. “Steve Scalise, let me tell you something, this is the way I view it now: I mean this guy is a sellout. I mean he’s a sellout. He’s not David. He used to say that… Continue reading →

Campaign cash: La.’s top contributors in 2014

The top political donor from Louisiana last year gave at least $86,362 to candidates over the course of the 2014 election cycle, while the next highest donor — who is closely tied to the first — gave at least $70,000, according to a new report. The Center for Public Integrity, a national non-profit, analyzed campaign finance records… Continue reading →

Abortion rights supporters: Louisiana ‘vastly exceeds’ its governing authority of abortion clinics

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON --  In this file photo, New Orleans lawyer Ellie Schilling testifies in front of the House Committee on Health and Welfare against HB388 authored by State Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, in 2014 at the Louisiana State Capitol.

The state Department of Health and Hospitals has gone too far in its proposed rules governing the operation of abortion clinics, abortion rights interests testified Thursday. “These regulations vastly exceed DHH’s statutory authority,” said Ellie Schilling, a New Orleans lawyer representing the outpatient clinics that terminate pregnancies. About 80 people attended the… Continue reading →

Special BESE meeting sought on Common Core; discussion needed on how to handle students who opt out tests, member says

Advocate file photos -- Lottie Beebe, left, and Chas Roemer

A member of Louisiana’s top school board said she and three other panel members want a special meeting to discuss upcoming Common Core tests, including students who skip the exams. Lottie Beebe, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, made her comments in an email Wednesday to BESE President Chas Roemer.… Continue reading →

Legislators unlikely to act on hospital stability plan

Legislators likely won’t act on a constitutional provision approved by Louisiana voters in November that would have protected some of the money hospitals are paid to provide medical care for the poor and uninsured. “I’m 99 percent sure we are not doing anything,” said House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, who sponsored the constitutional amendment… Continue reading →

Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former spiritual adviser to Pres. Obama, accepts invite to speak at Southern University

Associated Press file photo / Chattanooga times Free Press, Doug Strickland -- Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a former spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama, is slated to speak at Southern University next month. According to the university, Wright — who has been a lightning rod and controversial figure for Obama critics throughout Obama’s presidency — was invited to give the public speech on campus by College of Social and… Continue reading →

Pro-Jindal super PAC soliciting donors

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

The political action committee that’s been set up to support Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s potential run for president started circulating letters to Republican donors Wednesday, pitching Jindal as a “once-in-a-lifetime leader.” Buzzfeed obtained a copy of the letter, which is signed by former Congressman Bob Livingston, chairman of the pro-Jindal “Believe Again” super PAC. Continue reading… Continue reading →

Vitter grills attorney general candidate

Associated Press photo by J. SCOTT APPLEWHITEAttorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama's choice to run the Justice Department, wraps up a full day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee at her confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., aggressively questioned attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch about her defense of the Obama administration’s controversial immigration policy in her confirmation hearing Wednesday. “I have a huge concern regarding what I think is the president’s illegal, unconstitutional executive amnesty,” Vitter said to Lynch in the U.S. Senate Judiciary… Continue reading →

Jindal says he’ll suggest ‘options’ to reduce budget cuts

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks during his prayer rally,

Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday that he’ll offer lawmakers “suggested solutions” in February that could lessen the depth of next year’s budget cuts as the state grapples with a $1.6 billion projected shortfall. The Republican governor’s 2015-16 budget proposal is due to lawmakers Feb. 27. It will outline Jindal’s recommendations for closing the gap in the fiscal… Continue reading →

Vitter aggressively queries AG nominee Lynch on immigration issues during confirmation hearing

Associated Press file photo by The News-Star/Dacia Idom -- U.S. Sen. David Vitter.

Washington – U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., aggressively questioned attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch about her defense of the Obama Administration’s controversial immigration policy in her confirmation hearing Wednesday. “I have a huge concern regarding what I think is the president’s illegal, unconstitutional executive amnesty,” Vitter said to Lynch in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “and I… Continue reading →

Carson addresses La. business leaders

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Dr. Ben Carson, right, signs an autograph for John Finan, of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady, before delivering the keynote address at Louisiana Association of Business and Industry's Annual Meeting and Luncheon.

Dr. Ben Carson, a rising star on the national political scene who is often mentioned among the GOP’s presidential prospects for 2016, won over Louisiana business leaders with a speech Tuesday that called for less government regulation, lower taxes and an alternative to the federal Affordable Care Act. “People have to be so concerned about all of… Continue reading →

Magellan relationship brings ethics charges

The Louisiana Board of Ethics filed conflict-of-interest charges against a state health agency employee overseeing Magellan Health Services’ state contract. The board alleges that Michelle Barnett violated state ethics law by receiving a “thing of economic value” by virtue of her husband’s employment by Magellan, a behavioral health management firm. The “thing” is… Continue reading →

Al Jazeera questions building $1.85 billion plant in St. James Parish

The head of a company building a $1.85 billion plant near Vacherie is a Chinese Communist Party leader who is under fire for environmental problems with a chemical plant in that country, Al Jazeera reported. In what represents the first major direct investment by a Chinese company in Louisiana, Yuhuang Chemical Inc., a subsidiary of Shandong… Continue reading →

Jindal considering cuts to college fund he pushed to create

Advocate staff file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- La. Gov. Bobby Jindal

When it was created last year, a $40 million incentive fund to pay for college programs that fill high-demand jobs in Louisiana was hailed as critical to both higher education and the state’s workforce needs. Now, with the state grappling with deep budget problems, Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing to strip financing from… Continue reading →

Advocate reporter named one of Louisiana, the country’s top political writers

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Visitors to the Louisiana State Capitol enjoy a spectacular view of Baton Rouge from the observation deck of the tallest capitol in the United States, Monday, Dec. 22. Situated on the 27th floor, the observation deck overlooks the city of Baton Rouge at a height of 350 feet

The Washington Post on Tuesday named The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp one of the best state capitol reporters in Louisiana and the country. The newspaper asked readers to name the best statehouse reporters focused on governors and state lawmakers. The results were announced on the Post’s “GovBeat” blog. The Post also named Melinda… Continue reading →

The Hill: Steve Scalise to meet with National Urban League president Marc Morial over speech controversy

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La., right, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, left, rush through a basement corridor to a House Republican Conference on Capitol ill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. At a news conference later, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, acknowledged that there have been

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise will meet with the head of the National Urban League in the wake of a revelation that the Louisiana Republican spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002. Marc Morial, a former Democratic New Orleans mayor, publicly questioned this month whether Scalise should remain in GOP leadership. Now Morial will get a… Continue reading →

Report: La. teacher retirement system gets C-

The health of the teachers’ retirement system in Louisiana got a C minus in a report issued Tuesday by a national group. National Council on Teacher Quality, which calls itself a nonpartisan research and policy organization in Washington, D.C., did the review. The report says the state’s teacher retirement debt totals $11.3 billion, or $16,134 per public… Continue reading →

Louisiana charter school laws rated second in U.S.

Caroline Roemer Shirley

Louisiana has the second best charter school laws in the nation, a national advocacy group for the schools announced Tuesday. The ranking is up from third last year among the 43 states and District of Columbia that have such laws, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit group in Washington,… Continue reading →

U.S. Rep. Fleming, conservative caucus select name for ultra-conservative assemblage

Associated Press file photo -- U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-La.

What U.S. Rep. John Fleming, of Minden, and other hard-right House Republicans set in motion a few weeks ago now has a name: the House Freedom Caucus, a group dedicated to advancing a strongly conservative agenda. Although the organizing has been widely reported, the announcement Monday of the group’s name and mission makes it more formal.… Continue reading →

More cuts possible for Louisiana higher education, health care; another $100M needed to balance budget

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Aerial of the new State Capitol building and grounds.

For the second time since November, the Jindal administration is going to have to find another hundred million dollars or so to balance this year’s state government budget. The Revenue Estimating Conference decided Monday that the state should again lower its expectations for collections from taxes and other sources. The amount reduced ultimately will be another $103.5… Continue reading →

Bobby Jindal on ABC: 'I'm proud that in Louisiana, we define marriage as between a man and a woman'

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks during his prayer rally,

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal thinks the Republican party has come a long way since he made headlines in 2012 calling the GOP the “stupid party,” but Republican leaders still have to “earn the right” to lead the nation, he said over the weekend. “I think the GOP needs to earn the right to be a governing party. We can’t… Continue reading →

EBR school thefts target of police probe

Baton Rouge police are investigating the theft of about $9,500 of equipment from the East Baton Rouge Parish School District, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said Monday. Projectors and iPads used in the district’s anti-dropout Jobs for America’s Graduates program were stolen, Purpera said in a prepared statement that accompanied the report. The review of a range… Continue reading →

Here's the first key hurdle in the quest to build a Baton Rouge inner loop

The first step in whether an $800 million “inner loop” around Baton Rouge is doable is an economic feasibility study expected to be done by October. The plan, which was submitted by an international engineering firm called AECOM, faces huge financial, technical and political hurdles. But for now, it is in the hands of… Continue reading →

Capitol Buzz: Poll shows uptick in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s approval

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Jerome Zeringue, Executive Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Activities, speaks at the Baton Rouge Press Club about coastal issues facing Louisiana.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has seen a slight uptick in Louisianans who view him favorably, according to a new poll of likely Louisiana voters. The poll, conducted by Jindal’s campaign pollster Wes Anderson of OnMessage Inc., found 46 percent approve of Jindal’s job performance heading into the final year of his final term, while 45 percent view… Continue reading →

Lawmakers looking for ways to balance the budget

The Louisiana State Capitol building in Baton Rouge.

Louisiana legislators are throwing out all sorts of ideas to see what sticks in hopes of short-circuiting possible layoffs and deep budget cuts. State government will bring in about $1.4 billion less next fiscal year than is needed to pay for the current level of services. Come Monday, that hole could get much larger. To bring… Continue reading →