Anti-bullying bill, sans ‘gay’ language, fails in full House
The full House of Representatives Thursday jumped over dozens of bills up for debate and went directly to a controversial bullying bill, gutting language in the legislation that would have expanded the existing state anti-bullying law to include protections based on sexual orientation. Despite the watering down of the bill, it still failed final passage by a 53-43 margin.
House Bill 112, known as the “Safe Schools Bill,” was filed by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans. It made it out of the House Education Committee last week by an 8-4 vote following impassioned exchanges between Badon and opponents of the bill led by social-conservative groups Louisiana Family Forum and the Baptist Convention.
Thursday morning House members approved amendments to Badon's bill filed by Reps. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, and Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport. The amendments killed references to “race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, physical characteristic, political persuasion, mental disability, or physical disability, as well as attire or association with others identified by such categories.”
Debate about the bill was passionate and, at times, shrill. Edwards, considered a rising star in the state Democratic party, insisted he wasn’t “carrying water for the [Louisiana] Family Forum.”
But it was Seabaugh who led the charge for the agents of intolerance: “This bill was intended to promote an agenda and force teaching alternative lifestyles to our children,” Seabaugh insisted. “Every person who testified [on behalf of the bill] was either gay or testifying on behalf of someone who is gay, so let’s not delude ourselves about the intent of this bill.” Seabaugh later added, “This language [in the bill] is straight out of the lesbian, gay, transgender playbook.”
Following the approval of the amendments, the bill’s sponsor sounded resigned yet frustrated. “It’s a sad day in Louisiana,” Badon told his fellow lawmakers. “We have the authority and the power to address this issue. It’s a sad day when we won’t stand up and help the parents. For us to sit here and say that the conservative, religious right is going to dictate to us how we’re going to vote, I’m embarrassed by that. You should be ashamed of that. ...You got sidetracked folks — you got sidetracked. You had the old okey-doke pulled on you. ...We turned this issue into something completely different than what it was.”
Lafayette Reps. Page Cortez, a Republican, Rickey Hardy, a Democrat, and independent Joel Robideaux voted in favor of the bill, as did Carencro Democrat Bobby Badon. Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, voted against it.
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.