1. LANDRY PREVAILS OVER JBE IN LGBT LAWSUIT
In a blow to LGBT rights in Louisiana, Baton Rouge's 19th Judicial District Court Judge Todd Hernandez ruled against the inclusion of anti-discrimination language in state contracts, which Gov. John Bel Edwards authorized in an executive order this year. State Attorney General Jeff Landry (pictured) had refused to sign state contracts that included language protecting LGBT people from discrimination. State lawmakers repeatedly have turned down measures to update anti-discrimination laws to include protections for LGBT people.
Hernandez ruled that the governor overstepped his authority by creating the order. Edwards says he intends to appeal the issue.
"We are disappointed in the court's ruling today," Edwards said in a statement. He added, "With great respect for the role of the Louisiana Legislature, we continue to believe that discrimination is not a Louisiana value and that we are best served as a state when employment decisions are based solely on an individual's qualifications and job performance."
It's the latest victory for Landry, who has established himself the antagonist to Edwards' policies, from challenging LGBT protections to railing against so-called "sanctuary" cities. Hernandez's ruling notes that the governor's executive office is "constitutionally superior" to the AG, but the executive order at issue is a "violation of the Louisiana Constitution's separation of powers doctrine and an unlawful usurp of the constitutional authority vested only in the legislative branch of government."
2. Quote of the week
"I think it's easy to imagine those folks in despair, those folks perhaps going on disability, those folks perhaps becoming addicted to opiates. I can go on, but it's easy to imagine."
— U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a doctor, indirectly tying the U.S. opioid epidemic to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in a live chat with The Washington Post. Cassidy's argument: Businesses may have reduced workers' hours in an attempt to skirt the provisions of the ACA, and the resulting loss of insurance may have triggered depression among the workers, some of whom may have turned to opioids to ease their pain.
3. Landrieu visits Trump
Mayor Mitch Landrieu met with President-elect Donald Trump in New York City Dec. 15. Landrieu, who is Vice President of the United States Conference of Mayors, made the visit in that capacity. According to a press release from the city, Landrieu planned "to discuss how investments in public safety and infrastructure in cities can make America's cities, and therefore the rest of our country, stronger. He will talk about how New Orleans is a model for how investments in infrastructure, healthcare and education have made his city stronger following Hurricane Katrina."
Unmentioned in the press release was Trump's stated goal to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as one of his first moves in office. Regarding the ACA and the president-elect, Landrieu told Gambit earlier this month, "I think the election of [Donald] Trump was a surprise for everyone in the country, including him. He's enigmatic and unclear in many ways, self-professedly on purpose. It's almost impossible to plan for. There's a certain stability that governance requires that the nation lacks at the moment, which goes to the issue of whether someone is fit. Stability is really important. You can only take somebody at their word. When you say 'I'm going to repeal,' all of a sudden we have to start thinking about what does a repeal look like, unless and until they articulate what 'replace' looks like, which they have not done."
4. Income inequality and tax reform in Louisiana
The Louisiana Budget Project (LBP) has called for tax reform in the wake of a report detailing the state's income inequality — just as the Louisiana Legislature begins to tackle the state's budget woes. According to a report this month from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Economic Policy Institute, the richest 5 percent of Louisiana households have incomes 16 times larger than the poorest 20 percent, and five times larger than middle-income households. Looking only at the gap between the richest 20 percent and poorest 20 percent, Louisiana has the third-worst income inequality in the U.S. "After decades of widening inequality, Louisiana's richest households have dramatically bigger incomes than its poorest households," the report says.
Since the late 1970s, incomes for the state's richest 1 percent grew by more than 80 percent, while incomes for the remaining 99 percent fell by 3 percent, according to the report. The report and the LBP recommend eliminating corporate tax breaks and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.
"Louisiana is at a critical juncture and has a unique opportunity to reduce inequality trends at home," said LBP Director Jan Moller. "After years of inadequate revenues and patchwork funding, it is crucial that the Louisiana Legislature enact smart tax reforms that help working families get ahead and fully fund priorities such as early child care, education, health care and transportation."
5. LaPolitics Weekly: Special session of lege 'inevitable' in 2017
The political newsletter LaPolitics Weekly reported last week that Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration sees a special session of the legislature as "inevitable" given the state of the state's coffers, which includes a $300 million deficit for the current fiscal year. 2016 saw two special sessions called to grapple with the budget.
6. Superdome to get a Supreme talent for Essence
The 23rd annual Essence Music Festival returns to the Superdome in 2017, with Diana Ross making her Essence debut. The lineup also includes New Orleans resident Solange (following her acclaimed 2016 album A Seat at the Table) with her biggest New Orleans performance to date. Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Erykah Badu, Master P, Doug E Fresh, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Chaka Khan are also on the bill. The festival runs June 29-July 2, 2017. Weekend ticket packages start at $126 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 16.
7. Cardell Hayes to be sentenced Feb. 17
Cardell Hayes, who was convicted of manslaughter Dec. 11 in the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith, will be sentenced Feb. 17, 2017. Hayes also was found guilty of attempted manslaughter of Smith's wife, Racquel. Hayes will have to serve a minimum of 20 years on the charges, but District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said his office will recommend the maximum sentence of 60 years.
Hayes and Smith got into an argument after an apparent fender-bender in the Lower Garden District April 9. The case and the trial drew national attention, but a jury took just five hours to convict Hayes on the charges by a 10-2 vote.
8. OIG: Sewerage & Water Board employees stole $526,000 in brass fittings
New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux released the results of an investigation last week that showed 10 New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) employees stole $526,565 worth of brass fittings from the agency. The fittings, which are used in residential water meters, were sold piecemeal for cash between January 2013 and June of this year. New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro issued arrest warrants, and the OIG's report noted that all employees involved in the alleged thefts were fired, resigned or quit.
"As a result of this investigation," S&WB President Cedric Grant said in a statement, "we have implemented significant changes to security and logistics to better ensure this type of malfeasance does not occur again." Those changes include video surveillance systems, quarterly warehouse checks and embossing S&WB property such as brass fittings so it can be identified more easily.
9. Chappelle, Tucker coming to Saenger in February
Comedians Dave Chappelle and Chris Tucker will headline the Saenger Theatre on Feb. 15, 2017.
Chappelle, who had put his career on hold for several years, made his Saturday Night Live debut on the show's first episode following the 2016 presidential election, opening with a stellar, cathartic 10-minute monologue. Chappelle also recently signed with Netflix to release three stand-up comedy specials through the streaming service in 2017. In 2014, he performed two last-minute shows at the Saenger amid his "return" tour; it was Chappelle's first show in New Orleans since a 2004 appearance at UNO Lakefront Arena.
Tucker recently returned to the standup circuit and appeared in the Academy Award-nominated Silver Linings Playbook and the Rush Hour franchise. Tickets are $59.75-$99.75 and go on sale 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21.
10. Lionel Richie, Mariah Carey at SKC in May
Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey will hit the road on a three-month "All the Hits" tour, which comes to New Orleans in 2017. The performers (billed as "Lionel Richie and very special guest Mariah Carey") headline the Smoothie King Center May 18.
Both artists last performed in New Orleans at Essence Festival (Richie in 2014, Carey in 2016). At this year's Essence, Carey — who entered on a chaise lounge carried by several dancers and made several stops to change her outfits — had a brief set list, but she nailed her hits with a casual, funny and cabaret-like performance. General ticket sales open Saturday, Dec. 17.