state legislature

It’s past the half-way mark in this year’s session of the state Legislature. One political expert sees a change in tone on the way.

So far the legislative action has been in House committees. Jeremy Alford, publisher of LA Politics Weekly, says the second half is being controlled by Senate lawmakers in a much different political situation than their colleagues chairing major House panels.

A bill prohibiting abortions based on the baby's sex was approved by Louisiana's full House Thursday. The bill's author, Houma Rep. Lenar Whitney explained why she brought the bill.

"The practice of sex-selection abortion has made its way from the Asian nations to inside our borders here in the United States," Whitney said.

Whitney said those cultures prefer boys over girls, and this is about protecting mothers and their potential daughters. "In high Asian immigrant populations, many of these women were coerced into abortions and threatened by divorce and violence if they did not bear sons."

Did you know a piece of paper could kill? Natchitoches Rep. Kenny Cox found that out Wednesday, when the fiscal note for his HB 590 was delivered just a few minutes before its hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee.

Cox’s bill would require industrial plants to install air quality monitors along their fence lines.

“This bill is about safety: safety for the people who live along the fence lines,” Cox said in explanation of the proposed law.

Before too much testimony on the bill was given, Houma Rep. Joe Harrison advised Cox that the estimated state cost for implementing the bill – the fiscal note – was going to be the real issue.

Louisiana’s Senate approved a bill requiring private businesses to provide equal pay for equal work, and setting up a mechanism for enforcement.

“This bill is important to our wives, our mothers, and our daughters. But it’s equally important to our fathers and sons,” said New Orleans Senator J. P. Morrell. “The message we’re sending to people around this state is that we believe that people should be paid equal pay for equal work.”

The debate over Senator Edwin Murray’s SB 219 was fierce, with the business lobby pushing lawmakers to vote no.

“All we’re doing with this bill is we are putting one more little nail in the coffin of businesses across the state,” said Senator Jack Donahue.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the budget bill – HB 1 – Monday. But first, members exhibited their expertise in using the news for clues which couch cushions to look under for loose change.

Houma Rep. Joe Harrison snagged some Racing Commission money for the Board of Regents, which he discovered in a recent report from the Legislative Auditor.

“The Racing Commission, since the inception of ‘gaming’, was supposed to be giving a percentage of its money, its budget, to Regents,” Harrison told the committee. “So we can only go back five years, but that amounts to $2.8 million.”

Covington Rep. John Schroder found some spare change for disabilities programs by looking in the Department of Economic Development.

For the first time in months, LSU System President F. King Alexander was able to relax a bit over the weekend.

“I spent it with our daughter, at her soccer tournament Saturday and Sunday.”

Last Thursday, Louisiana’s full House passed some revenue raising bills, alleviating some of Alexander’s worry that no solution to the $1.6 billion budget deficit – and the crippling cuts looming over higher education – would be found. Today, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to add that additional funding into the budget bill, with the bulk going toward higher education.

Alexander says the situation appears brighter than before, but, “We’ve got a long ways to go. We’re not there yet.”

Louisiana’s $1.6-billion budget hole is doing nothing to help with the state’s $14-billion backlog of road and bridge projects.

“We kicked the can down the road, but we lost it in a pothole. And we can’t get the can out,” says House Transportation chair Karen St. Germain.

So she offered two tax-raising measures to solve the problem. One, HB 778, increases the state’s sales tax by a penny. The other, HB 777, ups the tax on fuel, gasoline and diesel, by ten cents per gallon.

“This is not, and should not be a partisan issue, Rep. John Bel Edwards said last Thursday.

When it comes to Medicaid expansion, want to bet? The same concept with the same arguments supporting it was heard from a different author in a different committee Monday, and got a very different reception.

Republican House Speaker Chuck Kleckley’s resolution sailed through House Appropriations yesterday, while Democratic Rep. John Bel Edwards’ resolution failed to pass out of House Health and Welfare last Thursday.

A bill to prohibit payroll deductions for union dues prompted hours of impassioned testimony Thursday.

“Teachers, firemen, police — these are the people you trust every day to take care of everything in our communities. But you insult us by telling us we’re not smart enough to know if we want things taken out of our paycheck,” said an angry Melody Munch, president of the Jefferson Parish Federation of Teachers.

This was the fourth annual try for the so-called “Paycheck Protection Act”, pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity (AFP), and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

“It’s being advanced by the same folks everywhere, because it’s template legislation,” Louisiana Federation of Teachers president Steve Monaghan noted during his testimony against the bill.”

LABI president Stephen Waguespack said this is about drawing a bright line between political organizations and public employees.

Compassion and Cannabis

Apr 30, 2015

A bill that would set up rules and the system for dispensing medical marijuana advanced out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday. Although law enforcement opposition has derailed similar bills in previous sessions, the difference with Fred Mills’ SB 143 was the support of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

“The move that our sheriffs made was to be compassionate; was to do things to provide relief,” Sheriffs’ Association director Mike Renatza testified, “And to hopefully not harm anyone.”

Renatza said each sheriff examined his own conscience, and asked themselves, “What would you do? What would you do for your son? What would you do for your daughter?”

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