1. TRUMP ASKING STATES TO TURN OVER VOTER DATA
Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler's office received a letter June 28 from President Donald Trump's Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asking for voter names, addresses, party affiliation, dates of birth, the last four digits of Social Security numbers, and voter history since 2006 — all to be made available to the public. The letter from commission Vice Chair Kris Kobach was sent to all 50 states to identify policies that "enhance or undermine the American people's confidence in the integrity of federal election processes."
Schedler press secretary Meg Casper Sunstrom told Gambit in an email June 30 that the office was reviewing the letter with its staff and attorneys before deciding how to move forward. "Our priority, as we've demonstrated in the past, will always be to protect voters' protected, personal information," she wrote. "This includes social security numbers, mother's maiden name and date of birth. As you know, voter lists are publicly available, but only include limited information including voter history. Voter history is not how a voter cast their ballot, it's whether they participated."
Though most of that information is public record through (paid) record requests, civil rights advocates warned that gathering mass voter information could lead to policies that disenfranchise voters. Vanita Gupta, CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former head of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, said on Twitter that Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the commission, are "laying the groundwork for voter suppression, plain & simple."
Trump has alleged that millions of people voted illegally in 2016, though there is no evidence of voter fraud on that scale.
2. Quote of the week
"I think that the president is wrong often. He is wrong most of the time, because he takes a myopic, narrow view. When you make blanket statements that Muslims are dangerous, or refugees will kill you ... or 'cities are bad' — even if there is a kernel of truth about that, it doesn't make the whole thing true." — Mayor Mitch Landrieu in an interview with POLITICO, in which he criticized President Donald Trump without ever mentioning Trump's name. Landrieu also criticized the Senate health care plan designed to replace the Affordable Care Act: "When all those people in the cities don't have health care, where are they supposed to go?" he asked. "And how do we provide enough drug treatment centers and emergency rooms, and if you don't have an answer for that — why are we doing this again?"
3. Senate health care bill shelved — for now
With defections mounting in the Republican caucus and a blistering analysis released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), GOP leaders in the Senate last week pulled a vote on the "Better Care Reconciliation Act," which would lay the groundwork to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The CBO report said that 22 million people would lose health insurance over the next 10 years under the Senate plan — 15 million of whom are on Medicaid. Those particularly impacted would be people between 50 and 64, who could pay five times more than younger people.
Louisiana U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy, who made "Obamacare sucks" a catchphrase of his Senate campaign last year, issued a noncommittal statement after a meeting with President Donald Trump saying, "I will continue to work towards a better, more sensible health care system that benefits all Americans." Sen. Bill Cassidy, a physician, made several media appearances during the week, saying he would "make a decision as to how I will vote once we see the final product." Cassidy also told CNN, "We need to make it so if somebody goes off Medicaid, on private insurance — which is good — that they can still afford it. We have to make it so those Trump voters, who voted for Donald Trump because he said he was going to help them have coverage, truly have coverage."
Gov. John Bel Edwards, who expanded Medicaid in Louisiana last year, said in a conference call, "I would hope they throw [the GOP plan] out and start over." The Louisiana Department of Health reports that 433,000 Louisianans have obtained health coverage under Medicaid expansion.
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Institute for Public Opinion poll conducted June 21-25 found that only 17 percent of Americans approved of the GOP bill. Fifty-five percent of all voters disapproved, including 78 percent of registered Democrats. The date for a new vote wasn't set at press time.
4. Landrieu takes reins at U.S. Conference
Mayor Mitch Landrieu was installed as the new president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) at its annual meeting earlier this month at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel. The USCM is an organization of cities with populations greater than 30,000; Landrieu is the fifth New Orleans mayor to lead the group.
At the meeting's conclusion, Landrieu sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives registering the group's "strong opposition" to H.R. 3003, a bill that would seek to punish so-called "sanctuary cities," saying, "It would jeopardize public safety, pre-empt local authority and expose local governments to litigation and potential findings of damages." The USCM also came out against proposals backed by the National Rifle Association which would allow concealed- carry permit holders to carry their guns into states where it's allowed.
According to POLITICO, Landrieu also made an impression at the party on the final night of the four-day meeting when he played a zydeco washboard.
5. Lafayette alt-
weekly The IND
The publishers of IND Media announced the suspension of TheIND.com, the Lafayette-based news website that housed the former alt-weekly and alt-monthly newspaper The Independent, which went online-only earlier this year.
The Independent launched in 2003 with a focus on smart, often-irreverent takes on hard news, investigative journalism and local arts and culture reporting. Its office on Jefferson Street in downtown Lafayette put the paper in the heart of the city. In 2012, it went from a weekly to a monthly. In 2017, the paper moved to online only.
IND Media's announcement on Facebook suggests the newsroom might continue under a different model. "Key personnel with the publishing group are exploring the possibilities of an online-only news product, potentially doing so as a nonprofit journalism organization," with details coming later this year, according to the announcement.
6. French Quarter
traffic plan revealed
The City of New Orleans has revealed more details about a controversial traffic plan that would limit car traffic in the French Quarter and turn several blocks of Bourbon Street to pedestrian-only use. The proposal is part of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's $40 million public safety strategy. At a meeting at the Old U.S. Mint June 28, city officials discussed the traffic study and recommendations prepared by engineering firm AECOM.
Recommendations include a movable bollard system installed on Bourbon, with only cross streets open to traffic and a closure of Bourbon from Canal to Dumaine streets from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. The plan also recommends consolidating the 26 kinds of loading zone and no-parking signs and reallocating curb space reserved for loading zones (including cab stands).
7. AG Landry's task
Roughly a year after its launch, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has ended his New Orleans-based task force, a group Landry assem- bled using members of the Louisiana Bureau of Investigation, the St. Bernard Sheriff's Office and the Hammond Police Department. "While my office works to stop crime all over Louisiana, the spike in crime within our State's largest city is alarming," Landry announced in January. "That is why I announced this initiative and why we are taking action."
All told, Landry's group made a total of 16 arrests — mostly for marijuana and carjacking charges — in the last few months of 2016. (The New Orleans Police Department made more than 17,000 arrests last year; 28 percent were felony arrests.)
The group's dissolution follows criticism about Landry's overreach from Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the Metropolitan Crime Commission and U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, who oversees NOPD's federal consent decree and who expressed doubts that Landry's task force had legal authority to make arrests in New Orleans.
Last week, Landry was elected president of the National Association of Attorneys General. He'll take the position in 2018.
8. Frank Stewart and monument supporters demand changes to city laws
Despite the city already taking down four Confederate monuments it had targeted for removal, monument proponents — led by Frank Stewart, a recent critic of Mayor Mitch Landrieu — are circulating a petition calling for changes to the New Orleans Home Rule Charter to return them to public view. The petition also demands putting their removal to a public vote and exempting statues more than 50 years old from the city's "nuisance" ordinance, the law used to remove the monuments. That ordinance calls for the removal from city property anything promoting or reflecting racial superiority, as the monuments were erected after the Civil War to honor the cult of the Lost Cause, according to city officials
The petition needs at least 10,000 signatures from registered New Orleans voters before city officials can consider the changes.
9. New Orleans musician Dave Rosser dies after
New Orleans musician and Afghan Whigs guitarist Dave Rosser died last week following a battle with inoperable colon cancer. He was 50.
Rosser lived in New Orleans for more than two decades and joined the Afghan Whigs in 2014. He appears on the band's well-received 2017 Sub Pop album In Spades. Last year, the band performed its seminal 1996 album Black Love at several concerts to support Rosser.
He spoke with Guitar World last month and gave an update after six months of chemotherapy. "I'm feeling pretty good and my spirits are good," he said. "I record a lot at the house and have been making a lot of music with friends. I'm staying busy and have purpose."
10. Satchmo SummerFest announces artists
Satchmo SummerFest returns Aug. 4-6 with a lineup of Satchmo newcomers including Nicholas Payton, Stephanie Jordan, Quiana Lynell, David L. Harris, Pinstripe Brass Band and Ashlin Parker and Trumpet Mafia.
After hosting the festival in Jackson Square last year, the 17th annual event returns to the Old U.S. Mint with three stages of jazz and brass band music, including a stage and dance area on the museum's second floor and two stages outside the museum. There also are Louis Armstrong- and jazz-centric panel discussions and screenings, a kids' activities area and a jazz Mass and second line beginning in Treme. Admission is $5 daily (children under age 12 get in free).