1. Women's health groups come out against AHCA
Women's organizations are sounding an alarm about the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which Petrice Sams-Abiodun of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast calls "the worst bill for women's health in a generation."
The substance of the AHCA in its current form has been roundly condemned by observers and providers focused on women's rights and access to health care. The AHCA prohibits reimbursement payments from the Medicaid program to Planned Parenthood for one year, cutting off people who use Medicaid from an organization that acts as a major preventative care provider in many Louisiana communities.
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast also criticized the bill's cuts to "essential health benefits" mandates, a change which would allow insurers to charge extra for policies with reproductive and maternity coverage of any kind. The prospective repeal of the Affordable Care Act's "community rating provisions" requirement means insurers would be free to jack up rates for women who have experienced life changes that might impact their health status — including commonplace situations such as giving birth, receiving a Caesarean section or having had breast cancer.
The AHCA is expected to face challenges in the Senate, which is considering its own health plan.
2. Quote of the week
"He got so flabbergasted at one point he turned into Col. Sanders and he was like, 'Well, looky here, missy! Hold on, now, missy! We don't have no gal talk up here like that.' It was beautiful. They didn't know what to do with that woman." — Comedian Wanda Sykes on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, describing Louisiana Sen. John Neely Kennedy's questioning of former acting attorney general Sally Yates in front of a U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee. At one point, Kennedy said to Yates, "I don't mean any disrespect — who appointed you to the United States Supreme Court?"
3. City removes Jefferson Davis statue
Just after 5 a.m. May 11 (and 152 years and one day from the date of his capture), a monument honoring Confederate president Jefferson Davis was removed by the city from its pedestal overlooking Canal Street. The monument, erected in 1911, was the second of four Confederate-era statues that Mayor Mitch Landrieu said "stood not as historic or educational markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in celebration of it." The rest of the monument was removed later that morning.
"I believe we must remember all of our history, but we need not revere it," Landrieu said in a statement as crews hooked a crane to the Davis monument. "To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in some of our most prominent public places is not only an inaccurate reflection of our past, it is an affront to our present and a bad prescription for our future. We should not be afraid to confront and reconcile our past."
4. Maple Street Book Shop to close next month
Maple Street Book Shop, a mainstay of the New Orleans literary community since 1964, will close its doors for good June 17. Owner Gladin Scott previously announced the store would close at the end of 2015, but he kept the store open on a month-to-month basis. "Unfortunately business went in the other direction," Scott told Gambit.
Scott attributes the downturn to "a combination of many things — certainly online ordering, but in New Orleans we have a number of independent book shops, especially in the Uptown area. ... And there have been no books that really drive business."
Scott says the store will finish out its announced schedule of personal appearances, but this time, the closing is final. "This has been a part of my life for 50 years," he said. "Times change. I've tried to ignore it, but I can't anymore."
5. Beauregard can go, judge says
One day after intense demonstrations at Lee Circle, Confederate-era monument supporters rallied at P.G.T. Beauregard's statue outside City Park on May 8 to support Richard Marksbury's request for a temporary restraining order to stop the city from removing the monument. Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese denied the request later that day, and on May 10 he declined to grant Marksbury's request for a preliminary injunction. In his ruling, Reese pointed to the outcomes in other lawsuits granting the city permission to remove the statues.
In a statement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's press secretary Erin Burns said the win "will allow us to continue to turn the page and chart the course for a more inclusive future."
6. Bagneris joins mayor's race
Retired judge Michael Bagneris has entered the New Orleans mayoral race a second time, after running against incumbent Mitch Landrieu in 2014. Bagneris announced his 2017 campaign May 11 at Dooky Chase's Restaurant. Though they have not formally announced, other candidates include District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who launched a "LaToya For Mayor" Facebook page last month, and former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet.
Qualifying runs July 12-14, and the primary election is Oct. 14.
7. Bill amended to allow 18-year-olds to work as strippers
State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, successfully moved his Senate Bill 144 through the Senate Judiciary Committee May 9. The bill aims to protect young women from human trafficking by prohibiting strippers under the age of 18 — three years younger than what Johns wanted.
State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, made an amendment to lower the minimum age of dancers at strip clubs and similar venues to 18. He said his amendment seeks to protect everyone from human trafficking, not just those under 21.
After the committee adjourned, former New Orleans City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer called Morrell's amendment "bullshit," adding, "If they were genuinely concerned, they would do the amendments but keep it at 21." She said mandating the age to 21 is easier to enforce, and Morrell's provision changes nothing. — SARAH GAMARD | MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
8. Cassidy and the "Kimmel test"
After talk show host Jimmy Kimmel revealed the story of his newborn son's heart defect and said no parent should have to worry about their child dying for lack of insurance, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy coined the term "Kimmel test" to describe his litmus for the health care bill being crafted by Republicans in the Senate to replace the Affordable Care Act. (Cassidy, a physician, is not on the working group; the 13-member committee was criticized for being all-male until Senate leaders invited West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito to join.)
The "Kimmel test" got Cassidy invited to appear on the May 7 edition of Jimmy Kimmel Live! for a cordial but pointed conversation. Kimmel concluded it by saying, "Since I am Jimmy Kimmel, I would like to make a suggestion as to what the Jimmy Kimmel test should be. ... No family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can't afford it. Can that be the Jimmy Kimmel test — as simple as that?"
"You're on the right track," Cassidy said. "If that's as close as we can get, that works great for government. Now we've got to be able to pay for it; that's the challenge."
9. Suicide prevention programs in schools
The Louisiana House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill May 8 that requires nonpublic and charter schools to enact suicide prevention programs. The law already requires it in public schools.
House Bill 452 by state Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, mandates all charter and approved nonpublic school teachers, school counselors, principals and other school administrators named by the board to have in-service training in suicide prevention. The bill would keep current state law, which requires at least two hours of in-service suicide prevention training for public school teachers, counselors and principals, under which the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) develops regulations. The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration. — SARAH GAMARD | MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
10. 'Sanctuary cities' bill off the table for now
The Louisiana House of Representatives declined to pass a bill that defines and penalizes "sanctuary" cities, but the measure is set to come up for another vote this week. House Bill 676 by state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs — bolstered by aggressive support from state Attorney General Jeff Landry — failed to get the required two-thirds vote after New Orleans lawmakers challenged its constitutionality and questioned whether it supports racial profiling. The bill needed 70 votes to pass; it received 64 votes in favor. It is scheduled to be considered again on May 17.
"Sanctuary" policies, according to Hodges' bill, prevent local law enforcement's cooperation with federal immigration authorities and prohibit local cops from asking any "suspect, arrestee, or other person under lawful detention" about their immigration status. Under the bill, if municipalities enable those rules, the attorney general would be able to halt state funding to them.
Under a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) forbids officers from questioning people about immigration status, a policy decision supported by Chief Michael Harrison and Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who believe leaving immigration matters to the feds allows local cops to build trust with communities who fear deportation or arrest for reporting crimes. NOPD is not prohibited from communicating with the feds.