1. 'RAISE THE AGE'
RALLY IN BATON ROUGE
About 300 youth from New Orleans and Lafayette traveled to the state Capitol April 6 in support of the "Raise the Age Louisiana Act of 2016," which would stop the prosecution of 17-year-olds as adults. Louisiana is one of only nine states that allows this, and Gov. John Bel Edwards told the rally that all the others are working to revise that policy. The bill is sponsored by state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, and the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on it this week, according to its chairman, state Sen. Gary Smith Jr., D-Norco.
"Louisiana is the incarceration capital in our country. We know this," Edwards said. "We are way behind in a lot of things. Let's not be the last in the nation once again."
"We as 17-year-olds deserve clarity," said Carlos Wilson, a senior at the New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy.
"Are we adults, or are we still children?"
2. Bourbon Street shooter sentenced
"I wish I could've sentenced you to more," New Orleans Criminal District Court Judge Byron C. Williams told 22-year-old Trung Le after he was sentenced to 60 years in prison April 4 for the 2014 Bourbon Street shooting that killed one woman and wounded nine others. Williams called the shooting "horrific, callous and calculated."
Following the sentencing, Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued a statement saying that "justice has been served. ... Our justice system has sent a clear and resounding message about accountability to the community — if you engage in brazen acts of violence, you will be prosecuted, sentenced and punished to the fullest extent of the law."
3. Bill to ban strippers under 21
A statewide measure to ban people under age 21 from dancing at strip clubs met no objection April 5 when it was introduced to the Senate Judiciary B Committee. In January, the New Orleans City Council passed a similar measure, beefing up an ordinance preventing people under 21 from performing topless. Under the city's new law, people under 21 can't expose anything. Senate Bill 191 from state Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, "prohibits the employment of anyone under the age of 21 to work, perform or dance while clothed in a manner so as to expose the genitals, pubic hair, anus, vulva, or female breast nipples below the areola in the licensed premises."
Supporters of both measures say the bills would protect women by combating sex trafficking, while opponents of both measures, including Rick's Cabaret owner Robert Watters, who testified to the committee last week, argue they limit women aged 18-20 from making a living of their choice, denying women a job they otherwise might not have.
The bill now heads to the full Senate.
4. Women's health rally to be held in Baton Rouge
Supporters of Planned Parenthood plan to meet in Baton Rouge April 21 to lobby legislators about the clinic's services. "Louisiana women and families depend on and support the vital health care services Planned Parenthood provides," the group said in a statement. Last week, the state House of Representatives voted 89-5 to approve House Bill 386, the "Women's Enhanced Reflection Act," which would extend the time between abortion counseling and the actual abortion from 24 to 72 hours for women who live within 150 miles of the abortion clinic. Five other states have similar waiting periods. The bill is supported by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
5. BP settlement: $20 billion
A long court battle between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and BP has come to an end as the oil giant faces $20 billion in damages for its role in the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster that discharged countless gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier approved the $20 billion settlement, the largest-ever civil penalty awarded under the Clean Water Act. Critics say taxpayers might be subsidizing the majority of it because BP is likely to deduct more than $15 billion of the settlement on its U.S. tax return. Only $5.5 billion is nondeductible as part of the Clean Water Act penalties.
6. Festival season rolls on
Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo's 2016 headliners include The Wailers, Lowrider Band, Buckwheat Zydeco, Irma Thomas and Lost Bayou Ramblers. Also on the lineup are George Porter Jr. and the Runnin' Pardners, CC Adcock, Motel Radio, Billy Iuso and Restless Natives, Nolatet, Truth Universal, Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers and others.
The May 20-22 festival will feature multiple music stages, an art market, food vendors and more along Bayou St. John, roughly from Dumaine Street to Lafitte Avenue. The 2015 festival featured more than 60 bands and drew more than 35,000 attendees.
7. Pedal to the job
NOLA Bike to Work Day returns for its fifth installment Wednesday, April 13, when "bike trains" of commuters ride to work together. Riders can join neighborhood meet-ups (listed on the Bike Easy website, www.bikeeasy.org) or meet at Lafayette Square from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., where they can enjoy coffee and bike-related swag from sponsors.
The ride is part of the Bike Easy advocacy group's Bike to Work Week, which encourages people to commute by bicycle. Other highlights include forums to discuss bike commuting, a special forum for riders with nontraditional and service industry schedules, and weekend traffic training for cyclists. A full program of events is available at Bike Easy's website.
8. Saints preseason opponents announced
The Black and Gold will kick off the team's 50th season with road games against the New England Patriots and the Houston Texans, followed by two home games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, it was announced last week. Dates and times will be announced later, but the first preseason game will be held the week of Aug. 11.
9. Governor plans special session for summer
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced last week that he will present his budget proposal for the next fiscal cycle April 12, and described it to reporters as "very tough." Likely on the chopping block: full funding for TOPS, the statewide college sponsorship program that benefits many Louisiana students regardless of family need. In addition, Edwards said, he will call a second special session to deal with fiscal matters soon after the regular session ends in June.
10. A date switcheroo?
In November 2014, New Orleans voters agreed to move municipal elections — traditionally held early in the new year — back to the fall, where they would coincide with other state and federal elections and, presumably, save money. The rule was set to kick in with the municipal elections of fall 2017, but Senate Bill 434 — introduced last week by State Sen. J.P. Morrell — would move the date of the change, making it effective in the fall of 2021, after Mayor Mitch Landrieu is out of office (and the city's 2018 tricentennial has passed).