The demise of an anti-bullying bill that spelled out protections in schools based in part on sexual orientation has caused a rift among some state Democrats. Dubbed the “Safe Schools Bill,” the legislation by state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, was stripped by the full House Thursday of language specific to sexual orientation when it approved an amendment by Amite Democratic Rep. John Bel Edwards. Following impassioned floor debate pitting social conservatives against progressives, the House then shot down the bill, despite the absence of the controversial language.
But it was the fact that several Dems voted for the Edwards amendment, which supporters of the bill decried as an attack on the main purpose of the legislation — to protect gay, lesbian and transgender students from harassment — that raised some hackles within the party.
Political activist Stephen Handwerk of Lafayette, co-chair of the National Stonewall Democrats — a gay-rights wing of the party that is a counterpoint to the Log Cabin Republicans — unloaded on his Facebook page just moments after the final roll call, singling out a handful of Dems who voted for the Edwards amendment: “Louisiana Legislators just declared open season on gay & disabled children... shame on you Karen St Germain and John Bel Edwards, Rickey Hardy, Regina Barrow who voted to exclude protections for the most vulnerable children in our state... See you on Election day in October! How many kids must commit suicide before you act? 50? 100? 1,000? Just let us know,” Handwerk fumed in a status update.
Several of Handwerk’s Facebook compatriots piped in with similar invective. Then state Rep. Karen St. Germain jumped into the fray: “ I did no such thing,” St. Germain commented. “I felt it would pass easier if we did this. So don’t label me because u never even heard my testimony. I am for the bill went to the mike on it. So if u are gonna talk about me talk to me first!!!!”
Handwerk quickly responded: “NO Karen, you stripped out the verbiage that would have protected the very kids that this bill was aimed at protecting - Kids are being pulled from school by their parents because teachers and administrators are telling them they should “NOT” be so “GAY” or “Try harder in school” so not to be called a “FAG” or a “RETARD” - and those are the kids who talk to their parents... others - as in a 12 year old boy here in lafayette HUNG HIMSELF so he wouldn’t have to face the bullies anymore because the BIAS that exists...” Handwerk added in a follow-up post that he had heard St. Germain’s testimony, telling the solon her votes “stand on their own.”
After another exchange, St. Germain signed off: “I will agree to disagree,” she wrote. “U are wrong on John Bel and my motives. Absolutely wrong. I voted for the bill everytime I thought it was a good idea! For the kids. If u would like to speak in person then I will be there.”
Handwerk also posted a critical comment on the Facebook page of state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, to which Barrow simply responded: “God knows my heart.”
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
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.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.