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Journal Archives

'Full investigation' ordered by Gov. Edwards into State Police officials' Las Vegas side trip

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday ordered an extensive audit of State Police travel practices, including trips taken by the agency's superintendent, as the fallout continued from the revelation that four troopers took a costly detour to Las Vegas last year while driving to a law enforcement conference in San Diego.

Edwards directed the Division of Administration's auditor to launch "a full investigation into travel by the State Police." The inquiry will encompass trips made before Edwards took office last year.

Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said the governor found it "concerning, based on (news) reports," that the troopers were paid thousands of dollars in overtime and charged overnight stays at the Grand Canyon and a Las Vegas hotel in October during a cross-country road trip to attend the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

"It's our understanding that they're going to look for patterns and keep going further back if they find additional information," Carbo said.

Read more: http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police/article_66dee0f2-f874-11e6-8075-579a8e5705e7.html

At Napoleonville town hall, Sen. Bill Cassidy says he's on Obamacare, pays $25,000 a year

NAPOLEONVILLE — A crowd of about 75 people on Thursday morning didn’t protest or chant, but they did challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy's assertions on how best to replace former President Barack Obama's healthcare plan during a town hall meeting here.

While the polite group sparred a bit with Cassidy during his town hall meeting at the Assumption Parish Community Center, they appeared much more interested in finding out the answers to questions about the Affordable Care Act than protesting or staging dramatics. That was in marked contrast to hundreds of protesters Wednesday in Metairie who spoke over and cut off Cassidy throughout his stop there.

On Thursday, Cassidy used both audience members and himself as examples of those who are trapped into failing federal healthcare program. The Obamacare replacement plan he devised with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine would give states three options, he explained.

State legislatures or governors could keep Obamacare as is, turn their backs on the federal government entirely or improve on Obamacare, as Cassidy said, by creating individual health savings accounts for the poor and uninsured.

Read more: http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_b0bd68e6-f960-11e6-a622-bf98e046b5c7.html

Cassidy says he pays $25,000 per year with a high deductible. Is that amount believable?

Louisiana Legislature agrees to deficit-closing plan hours before special session deadline

The Louisiana Legislature closed a $304 million mid-year budget deficit after a short special session on Wednesday, and now legislators are beginning work on the next budget cycle.

The final plan for closing the shortfall in the budget that ends June 30 relies on $99 million from the state's rainy day fund. The rest will be made up through cuts to state agencies and other funding sources.

"You know you're in a good place where nobody's totally happy, but everybody's reasonably satisfied," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Beginning Thursday morning, the focus will shift toward the next budget cycle, when Edwards presents his recommendations for the budget that begins July 1. The Legislature will ultimately hash out a final budget in the session that begins in April.

Read more: http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/legislature/article_b29776de-f8f2-11e6-ad5b-9f8d7cd70c98.html

U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise defends decision to hold town hall by conference call

As many Republican officeholders across the country face crowds of furious constituents, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Metairie has been taking heat for not scheduling a meeting in his district.

The residents clamoring for a chance to address Scalise, the House majority whip and third-ranking GOP member of the House, will get a chance Friday, though in a far more controlled format than they had hoped.

A day after U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy was shouted down at a chaotic Jefferson Parish meeting, Scalise announced he’ll be hosting a “tele-town hall,” essentially a conference call, to speak with anyone who has questions.

“What I’ve found from my constituents is they much prefer that approach,” Scalise said when asked about Friday's event after touring tornado damage at the Michoud Assembly Plant in New Orleans East on Thursday. “Maybe someone that wants to dominate and deny constituents the opportunity to have a productive dialogue, they may not like that approach.”

Read more: http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/politics/article_34e21e12-fa0d-11e6-8fb5-5ba8c596dd29.html

Here's how Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards administration seeks to streamline flood recovery

A federal law could delay the start of repairs to homes damaged in the 2016 floods – even stop those already underway – if the rehabilitations are being paid for by much of that recovery money Louisiana officials are hustling around Washington to get.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is coming up with wording that could exempt Louisiana homeowners from the long-held federal policy. Failing that, the state is developing procedures that could circumvent the delay.

Once a flood victim applies for the federal dollars being administered by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, an environmental inspection is required before work can begin and that can take up to 45 days. Failure to wait for the inspection could cost the homeowner the HUD money.

“We want homeowners to rebuild,” Patrick Forbes, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development told The Advocate Friday.

Read more: http://www.theadvocate.com/louisiana_flood_2016/article_c5af0880-faab-11e6-84dc-5b5412cf0284.html

Louisiana among states without gun owner responsibility laws

Journee' Campbell's story is shockingly similar to others across Louisiana. A child is unintentionally shot in Louisiana at a rate higher than every other state except Alaska, according to The Associated Press and the USA TODAY Network, which analysed accidental shootings involving children ages 17 and younger from 2014 to June of 2016.

Unlike many other places in the nation, Louisiana has no laws specifically addressing parental responsibility for guns.

“We don’t have the gun owner responsibility and parental responsibility statutes that many other states have,” East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said.

Child access prevention laws in 27 states and Washington, D.C., impose criminal liability on adults who give children unsupervised access to firearms, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a San Francisco based nonprofit.

Read more: http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police/article_550e13ba-faaa-11e6-9b50-937ec83b5511.html

One budget battle down; now here's Louisiana Legislature's next step

Gov. John Bel Edwards and state legislators ended the nine-day special session Wednesday by settling on a plan that solved a midyear budget deficit but left frayed nerves and satisfied no one.

Now the hard work begins.

Edwards and lawmakers are preparing for the start of the regular session in six weeks, when they must craft next year’s budget amidst a cross-current of conflicting and contradictory demands that could result in a grand solution that ends the state’s chronic budget deficits, another patchwork fix to muddle through the year or the type of budget standoff between the governor and lawmakers that has plagued Illinois, Kansas and several other states recently.

After nearly a decade of cuts in spending on state government, professors are leaving Louisiana’s colleges and public universities to take more attractive jobs elsewhere, some of the state’s technical and community college campuses are facing possible closure and the state’s roads are crumbling while traffic jams are worsening.

In the budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year that he released on Thursday, Edwards said a lack of funding is forcing him to fund the TOPS scholarships once again at only 70 percent of the full tuition cost. Lawmakers will have the final say, but no one can be certain whether they will make the necessary changes to restore the lost funding for TOPS or the many other programs facing more cuts.

Read more: http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/legislature/article_2bfeb820-fb05-11e6-ae7a-6b9e7ca812cf.html

'Horrific' Endymion crash: 28 hurt; injuries not life-threatening; driver apparently drunk, ...

'Horrific' Endymion crash: 28 hurt; injuries not life-threatening; driver apparently drunk, officials say

NEW ORLEANS -- A driver who appeared to be intoxicated slammed through a massive crowd celebrating the Endymion parade in Mid-City on Saturday night, injuring at least 28 people including five who were taken to a trauma center in guarded condition, officials said.

Stunned bystanders said they watched in horror as a gray truck driven by a young man raced downriver on N. Carrollton Avenue toward its intersection with Orleans Avenue about 6:45 p.m. Saturday before slamming into two vehicles, then veering left into the neutral ground before it came to rest against a large dump truck.

Several people were pinned underneath the dump truck in the aftermath of the crash. Paramedics and civilians raced to help the nearly two dozen injured. None of their injuries appeared to be life-threatening, according to EMS Director Jeffrey Elder.

The driver, who has not been identified, was taken into custody on the scene. Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said that investigators suspect he was intoxicated.

Read more: http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/crime_police/article_64897f1c-fbbf-11e6-80f0-872f5b1912a9.html

Transgender boy wins controversial girls wrestling state title

CYPRESS, Texas—Mack Beggs had just won a state wrestling title Saturday in a category he didn't want to be in.

But instead of wallowing in a debate about what should or should not have happened this weekend at the Texas state girls wrestling tournament, the 17-year-old transgender boy simply decided to be a good teammate.

"I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for my teammates," he said. "That's honestly what the spotlight should have been on ... The hard work that I put in in the practice room with them, beside me—we trained hard every, single day."

Beggs completed an undefeated season by winning a controversial title in an event clouded by criticism from those who believe the testosterone he's taking as he transitions from female to male created an unfair advantage. His family has said he would rather be wrestling boys, but state policy calls for students to wrestle against the gender listed on their birth certificates. So the junior from Euless Trinity beat Chelsea Sanchez 12-2 in the 110-pound weight class to improve to 56-0 and earn the championship.

Read more: http://www.texarkanagazette.com/news/texas/story/2017/feb/26/transgender-boy-wins-controversial-girls-state-title/663259/

Key congressman: It's a good thing if more Americans lose coverage

Rep. Mike Burgess (R-Texas) chairs the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee related to health care, which makes his perspective on the issue rather important. If Republicans ever present their alternative to the Affordable Care Act, for example, Burgess’ panel would be among the first to tackle the policy.

It was therefore rather striking yesterday when the far-right congressman appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and shared an unusual insight. BuzzFeed reported:

Burgess was asked about concerns that repealing Obamacare will lead to a drop in the number of people with health insurance. He responded that it would be a good thing because it means fewer people are subject to the individual mandate.

“First off, we’re not going to send an IRS agent out to chase you down and make you buy health insurance,” said Burgess. “So if the numbers (of insured people) drop I would say that’s a good thing because we restored personal liberty in this country.”

It’s a fascinating perspective. It doesn’t matter if the ACA is helping bring health security to millions of Americans; what matters, in Burgess’ mind, is conservative ideological principles.

U.S. News’ Robert Schlesinger noted in response, “If you listened to Burgess, you’d think that all or most of {the 20 million people insured by the ACA} were dragged kicking and screaming into the system and that they yearn for liberation from the tyranny of being able to afford catastrophic illness.”

Read more: http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/key-congressman-its-good-thing-if-more-americans-lose-coverage
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