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New Orleans Attorney Profiles 2015
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A longtime smoker, Rep. Harold Ritchie’s long fight for higher cigarette taxes could succeed this year

Advocate Photo by TYLER BRIDGES -- State Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, has been pushing for higher state taxes on cigarettes for five years. This year he likely will succeed with a bill that would increase taxes by 32 cents per pack.

Harold Ritchie had unfinished business when he climbed into his 2001 Nissan truck in April and drove from Bogalusa to Baton Rouge to begin this year’s legislative session. It’s nearly a two-hour drive, and it gave Ritchie plenty of time to think. For the previous five years, the Democratic state representative had been on a quest… Continue reading →

Higher education bills are in the home stretch; legislation to slim TOPS costs on deck

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue R-Mandeville, left,  Phyllis Taylor, whose late husband founded the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, and Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, right, spoke in March in favor of legislation designed to better control costs of the popular scholarship program. Donahue and Appel sponsored Senate Bill 48, which the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation helped draft, that would set an amount that would cover tuition for each qualified student annually, but allow the Legislature to vote on whether to raise the amount of the TOPS award each year.

When higher education leaders started gearing up for the legislative session, they had a short list of requests. First and foremost, they wanted to be spared from potentially devastating cuts to state funding for universities and colleges. As the Legislature continues its work on the budget, that threat appears to have lessened somewhat. The rest… Continue reading →

Louisiana House to Gov. Bobby Jindal: Pay your own travel expenses

Wearing a Kansas City Royals jersey, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, left, looks on as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, gives a speech at New Steel and Pipe Supply in New Century, Kan., Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Louisiana legislators clipped Gov. Bobby Jindal’s wings Thursday by inserting wording into the state budget that would require the governor’s office to pay the out-of-state travel expenses of his security detail. Jindal spent almost 45 percent of 2014 outside Louisiana attending political events. He has kept up the pace so far in 2015 and since forming a… Continue reading →

Louisiana Senate bill would bar school suspension as a punishment for students violating uniform rules

The Louisiana Senate approved a bill Thursday that would bar public and charter schools from suspending or expelling elementary school students for violating school uniform rules. Senate Bill 54 sponsored by Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, was significantly scaled back from an earlier version. The initial bill would have barred schools from expelling or suspending… Continue reading →

Cassidy pitches healthcare alternative

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Sen. Bill Cassidy speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Louisiana Key Academy, a tuition-free charter school specializing in the education of students with dyslexia, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015.

The principle of putting patients, not politicians, in the driver’s seat on health care lies at the heart of his plan to shield people in Louisiana and other states from the impact of a potential U.S. Supreme Court decision to end subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said… Continue reading →

Bill to allow car inspections every five years killed; opponents cite risk of vehicle problems, harm to inspection stations

A Louisiana Senate panel Thursday killed a bill that would allow car and truck inspections every five years in some areas. The proposal, House Bill 564, earlier cleared the state House. But the Senate Transportation Committee voted 3-2 to shelve the measure, which likely means it is dead for the session. The legislation excluded motor… Continue reading →

New York lawmakers want to enact non-essential travel ban to Louisiana following Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive order

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

Two New York lawmakers want to ban all non-essential, state-funded to travel to Louisiana in the wake of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive “Marriage and Conscience Order.” New York Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell and State Senate Deputy Minority Leader Mike Gianaris have urged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to enact the travel ban, which is similar to what… Continue reading →

It's time: Louisiana House vote on state budget looms; solutions offered don't solve the problems, fiscal official says

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

After weeks of wrangling and raising money, the Louisiana House on Thursday takes up a state spending plan full of increased revenues and deep cuts in government services. Lawmakers are set to gather in various caucus meetings before the House convenes at 9 a.m. Thursday to go over House Bill 1 — the state’s proposed… Continue reading →

Statue of the late civil rights leader Rev. T.J. Jemison in the Louisiana State Capitol Complex is expected to gain final legislative passage

Rev. T.J. Jemison (Advocate staff photo by Tim Mueller )

A Louisiana House panel Wednesday endorsed placement of a statue of the late civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. T.J. Jemison Sr. in the State Capitol Complex. The House and Governmental Affairs Committee shipped Senate Bill 57 to the House floor where it is expected to gain final legislative passage. State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb,… Continue reading →

GOP debate details: Gov. Bobby Jindal might not end up on stage with top tier Republican candidates under Fox News, CNN rules

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom 15th Annual Spring Kick Off, in Waukee, Iowa, Saturday, April 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Unless Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal picks up some popularity points in the next couple of months, he’s unlikely to find himself on stage debating the top-tier candidates for the GOP’s presidential nomination this fall. Both Fox News and CNN released information Wednesday on the formats for their debates, and how they plan to… Continue reading →

To help State Police, Louisiana Senate panel adds $100M in new revenue with unique tactic

Legislation dealing with vehicle sales regulation morphed Wednesday into a $100 million revenue-raiser. The Senate Commerce Committee added a $50 increase to the cost of certificates of vehicle title and duplicates to an otherwise largely technical bill. State Rep. Cameron Henry said the idea is to come up with a stable source of revenue to replace… Continue reading →

Jindal administration reconsidering Welcome Center sale

The Jindal administration is rethinking its plan to sell the Capitol Park Welcome Center after running into legislative resistance. “Legislators have expressed concerns about the sale of the welcome center and its proximity to the Capitol complex,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said Wednesday. “We are listening to those concerns and evaluating our options.”… Continue reading →

Key bill that's part of achieiving Common Core accord clears Louisiana's Senate; here's what's next

Legislation that is part of a three-bill agreement on Common Core won easy approval Wednesday in the Louisiana Senate 36-1. The measure, Senate Bill 43, next faces action in the state House. The proposal requires that any changes in the academic standards be submitted to the House and Senate education committees after the state’s top school… Continue reading →

Experts: Why Bobby Jindal's executive order surrounding Marriage and Conscience Act could have little impact

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Gov. Bobby Jindal, left, and Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, talk to the media about the religious freedom bill sponsored by Rep. Johnson.

Gov. Bobby Jindal made headlines Tuesday when he issued an executive order that he said was to carry out the intent of the Marriage and Conscience Act just hours after the proposal suffered a devastating blow in a House Committee. But experts say the order could have little real impact in Louisiana. Rep. Mike… Continue reading →

Bill advances, would limit future governors' ability to shield records from public

Future governors’ ability to shield records from the public would be limited under a measure headed to the Louisiana House for debate. The House and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday advanced legislation which its sponsor state Sen. Dan Claitor said would “increase transparency in the governor’s office.” Gov. Bobby Jindal, who promotes transparency, has… Continue reading →

Bill would create fund to help lure Super Bowl, other major sporting events to Louisiana

FILE- This Feb. 3, 2013 file photo made with a fisheye lens shows fans lined up to enter the Superdome before the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, in New Orleans.   (AP Photo/Gene Puskar, File)

Looking for a way to secure the money needed to attract big sporting events, like the Super Bowl, a Louisiana House committee Wednesday advanced legislation that would create a fund for that purpose. Officials deciding where to hold tournaments want assurances that the promised money to help stage the event is in place, said Jay Cicero, president… Continue reading →

Key Louisiana House committee approves TOPS bill seeking to nix automatic increases; here are the next steps

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, and Phyllis Taylor, chairman and president of the New Orleans-based Patrick F. Taylor Foundation, testified Wednesday for legislation that would rein in the cost of the popular TOPs award, which pays college and university tuition for qualified students. Though Taylor, whose late husband founded the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, supports the changes, Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes the bill.

A key House panel has advanced legislation that seeks to rein in the cost of Louisiana’s TOPS scholarship program and give colleges more authority over the tuition they charge. The House Education Committee approved Sen. Jack Donahue’s Senate Bills 48 and 155 following brief discussions on each Wednesday morning. No members objected to… Continue reading →

Senate resolution supports Louisiana students right to voluntary school prayer

The Louisiana Senate has gone on the record as supporting the rights of Louisiana’s students to voluntarily gather for prayer. With a 39-0 vote Tuesday, senators backed Senate Concurrent Resolution 69 by Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, that he described as a “clear statement on the student’s right of expression.” The resolution, which doesn’t have the force… Continue reading →

Louisiana legislators find more money for the state budget

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Louisiana House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, left, and Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, meet Tuesday after a committee meeting.

Louisiana’s difficult financial picture brightened a bit on Tuesday. That had state lawmakers saying they now face an easier job in meeting their constitutional responsibility to balance the budget this year and next, while achieving their goal of doing that without preventing cuts to the public health care system and to public colleges and universities. “It… Continue reading →