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New Orleans Attorney Profiles 2015
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Bill would ban businesses from discriminating against LGBT, advances for 1st time

The state of 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… 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 backburner. As Republicans are looking over the state budget, they’re also hoping that the Revenue Estimating Conference will officially tell the state it has more money to spend. Edwards said the prudent thing is to… Continue reading →

Edwards says voucher cuts product of historic budget crisis

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he proposed cutting state aid for vouchers 14 percent because of Louisiana’s historic financial crisis, not because of anyone sudden turnaround in his education views. “When you have a large budget deficit you have to make adjustments,” Edwards told reporters. “It is just a function of arithmetic,” he said later.… 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 →

Without dissent, Louisiana Senate says yes to mandating cursive writing

A bill that would require the teaching of cursive writing in public schools won approval Wednesday in the Louisiana Senate. The vote was 37-0. The measure, Senate Bill 275, next faces action in the state House. Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, has said cursive is needed so students can appreciate historical documents and carry distinctive signatures.… 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 →

Gov. John Bel Edwards 'lied to me,' voucher advocacy group says in new TV ads

A pro-voucher group is launching statewide television ads that accuse Gov. John Bel Edwards of lying to voters when he promised not to slash state aid for the school assistance. Edwards labeled the accusation blatantly false. The ads, which begin Tuesday in Baton Rouge and elsewhere, feature three unidentified mothers of voucher recipients looking into the… 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 →

Sacked: Bill to force Louisiana high school sports playoff changes crushed in House vote

A revamped bid to force changes in high school football and other playoffs was crushed Monday in the Louisiana House. The vote was 34 in favor and 51 opposed. The lopsided vote likely ends any effort by the Legislature to get involved in the issue during the current session, which ends June 6.… 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 →

Revised Common Core tests spark little debate, no widespread boycotts this year: 'It's a lot quieter'

In a radical change from last year, about 300,000 public schools students Monday begin taking what used to be called the Common Core tests — without any widespread boycotts, political rhetoric or other drama. “It just seems to be an overall calmer environment this year,” said Hollis Milton, president of the Louisiana… Continue reading →

LSU seeks high-demand public dollars -- to tune of $23 million -- for Nicholson Gateway development

Rendering provided to The Advocate -- A streetcar, seen in the background, could tie into a proposed plan for the Nicholson Drive corridor from LSU to downtown Baton Rouge. Two firms have been selected as finalists to redevelop tho old Alex Box Stadium site with student residence halls and retail. LSU officials hope to select which business will head up the public-private partnership in the spring.

LSU is charging ahead with plans to build Nicholson Gateway, a mixed-use development concept that is intended to add much-needed student housing while expanding LSU’s footprint west across Nicholson Drive. Yet the project, which is a public-private partnership, needs an infusion of public dollars to the tune of about $23 million to kick-start construction.… Continue reading →