Lawmakers have weighed in on issues as varied as feeding tubes, human cloning and the rights of smokers and gay people. At times, the State Capitol has been a theater of the absurd or the profound. Sen. Don Hines of Bunkie steered feeding tube and cloning bills to an unfavorable committee, making him the most effective player of the Capitol this side of Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, who retained the powers of his office by wielding enormous clout with legislators.
Gov. Blanco has been scrambling for weeks to round up two-thirds support in the House and Senate for a $1 per pack increase in cigarette taxes. Counting to 70 in the lower chamber and to 26 in the upper chamber got much more challenging when $330 million in new oil and gas money was found at the Revenue Estimating Conference. While the governor strives for smokers to pay the freight for a teacher pay hike, new speculation has Blanco possibly tying the cigarette tax to health care. As the session enters the final turn, there could be some late surprises to complement a session of curious developments.
Senators approved a measure to prevent lobbyists from paying for tickets for legislators. The 35-0 tally was rebuffed by the House and Governmental Affairs Committee as members tabled the bill without casting a vote on the measure. The panel showed Sen. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge, where he could put his good government.
State Rep. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, filed a resolution calling on all public libraries to remove books that feature same-sex parents or gay characters from the children's book sections. Crowe has zero tolerance for a book on his reading list called "King and King." Meanwhile, a measure cleared a House committee to grant job protection to homosexual and bisexual state workers. Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, alerted the panel that the legislation might allow state employees to show up for work "in drag." Just one member of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted against the bill.
The Louisiana House voted 95-3 against a proposed amendment to a bill to allow slot machines at Louis Armstrong International Airport. In order to reap any benefits, the city of New Orleans would have been forced to repeal a residency requirement for police officers. Bruneau congratulated the author, Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, on the dubious distinction of getting three votes, saying it was the most futile effort to generate support in House history.
Bruneau, who has patrolled the halls of the House since 1976, coaxed his fellow House members to back a constitutional amendment to extend terms of state lawmakers and statewide officeholders for one year. The 30-year legislative veteran insists House Bill 80 is unrelated to term limit provisions, which will affect many of the 996 offices, including the seat occupied by Bruneau. Senators will determine whether the measure is opportunistic or an altruistic move to save the state money.
Only 14 senators backed a bill from Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, to ban smoking in restaurants, bars and casinos. Marionneaux puffed on a cigar while urging the ban on smoking in public places. If the bill had passed, Louisiana would have joined 11 other states with similar prohibitions on puffing in public places. Gov. Blanco backed the bill and has become an anti-smoking advocate despite a record of $6,000 in contributions from the tobacco industry.
Senate Bill 146, sponsored by Sen. Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, was the governor's move to provide "healthy choices" in school vending machines. It was reduced to a 50-50 choice between healthy and unhealthy snacks by the Senate on a 34-3 vote. Sen. Tom Schedler, R-Mandeville, assessed the vote by saying, "The bill does nothing." That might not be a good harbinger for Blanco's health care agenda.
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.