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I-10: Ten Things to Know in New Orleans This Week, May 17, 2016


1. Trump and Duke (again)
"George Washington, the father of our country, was just like Trump: a non-interventionist." — Ku Klux Klan leader (and former state Rep.) David Duke, praising presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and offering himself up as Trump's vice-president. Duke tweeted an amateurishly doctored photo of himself and Trump at a lectern reading "Trump/Duke: Make America White Again!" Duke added, "It'd be Trump's best LIFE INSURANCE. The Zio [sic] NeoCon Mossad boys would not dare touch him if I was heartbeat from Presidency."

  In 2000, Trump called Duke "a bigot, a racist, a problem." Trump's take on the white supremacist has varied between saying, "I just don't know anything about him" and "I didn't even know he endorsed me."

  Last week, a Trump delegate to the upcoming Republican convention stepped down after it was reported he was a white supremacist leader. The delegate, William Daniel Johnson, had said U.S. citizenship should be reserved for those with "no discernible trace of Negro blood." The Trump campaign blamed Johnson's selection on a "database error."

2. Quote of the week
"Just as we're working to stabilize the state's budget, this proposal throws another wrinkle into our plans and raises numerous legal issues." — Gov. John Bel Edwards, in a statement slamming House Bill 105 by state Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie. HB 105, which passed the House on a 69-26 vote May 12, would give Attorney General Jeff Landry oversight of his own budget, which traditionally has been the governor's bailiwick. Edwards is a Democrat and Landry a Republican.

  "The Louisiana Constitution grants the governor the authority to submit a single budget for the executive branch of government, which includes the attorney General," Edwards said, questioning the bill's constitutionality — and promising to veto it.

3. Presidential poll: Louisiana's for Trump
A statewide phone poll of likely voters found that while Donald Trump narrowly carried Louisiana in the presidential primary, he would beat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by a margin of 52 to 36 percent if the election were held now. Four percent of respondents said they would hold out for a third-party candidate, while 8 percent were undecided. The poll of 624 voters was taken May 5-6 by JMC Analytics and Polling, which concluded, "While there is much news coverage of Trump's weakness among women, Hispanics and Republicans, he starts off with a healthy lead in Louisiana, which means that Louisiana's eight electoral votes are not likely to be in play this November."

4. LGBT employment protection bill advances in committee
A bill that protects LGBT people from employment discrimination narrowly passed its first hurdle last week in the Louisiana Senate's Judiciary B committee. The measure from state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, adds sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law. (A similar policy already is in place in New Orleans through a citywide ordinance; Morrell would apply such protection statewide.) Senate Bill 332 has the support of Equality Louisiana and the Forum for Equality, among other LGBT advocacy groups.

  The influential Louisiana Family Forum and Louisiana Association of Business and Industry oppose the measure, though representatives from opposition groups declined to speak at the May 10 hearing. State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, said she wanted to know why they didn't talk in the hearing.

  "We all were created equally," Peterson said. "Really? You're an association of businesses that don't want to protect people with disabilities? You want to discriminate?"

  With only three members present, Morrell and Peterson cast "yea" votes for the measure's passage to the full Senate and House. The only "no" came from state Sen. Gregory Tarver, D-Shreveport.

5. Medical marijuana one step closer in Louisiana
Medical marijuana in Louisiana likely will be available to people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and other diseases, following the passage of Senate Bill 271 in the state House of Representatives May 11. It now heads back to the full Senate, where it already passed, for approval of minor changes before heading to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who supports the bill. (First lady Donna Edwards also called legislators to urge their support.)

  The measure from state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, expands his 2015 bill by adding other illnesses for approved treatment and changes "prescription" to "recommendation" to avoid potential federal scrutiny. Following another round of debate and testimony, it passed the full House by a vote of 61-32. Opponents feared "creep" — that the bill would lead to full-blown legalization — and state Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, proposed making unlawful possession of medical pot a felony. Mack's amendment was not approved.

  Medical marijuana in Louisiana is pending agreements from either Southern or Louisiana State universities to manufacture it, and it'll take at least two years to get to patients.

6. Polite talk on hate crimes
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite will meet with members of the FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Anti-Defamation League for the Southern Region of Louisiana to discuss hate crimes and workplace violence issues. The "House of Worship" Security Symposium meets 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 18 at the Winters Conference Room at the U.S. Attorney's Office (650 Poydras St., Suite 1600).

7. No public funding for abortion providers
The Louisiana Senate's Health and Welfare Committee approved a bill that prohibits abortion providers from receiving public funding. Representatives from Planned Parenthood testified against the measure on May 12. Though the organization doesn't perform abortions in the state, the measure could interfere with Planned Parenthood's plans to build a health center on Claiborne Avenue. More than 10,000 people received care at Planned Parenthood's Louisiana offices in Baton Rouge and New Orleans in 2014. In 2015, then-Gov. Bobby Jindal threatened to halt federal Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood, which would have affected more than half its patients.

  State. Rep. Frank Hoffman's House Bill 606 prohibits abortion providers from receiving "public funds, made available to any institution, board commission, department, agency, official or employee of the state of Louisiana, or any local political subdivision thereof." The full House also passed a measure on May 11 that extends a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for an abortion following a consultation to 72 hours.

8. A rate freeze for TOPS
TOPS, the popular scholarship program for Louisiana college students, will remain at 2016-2017 funding levels rather than rising each year to meet the newest cost of tuition. That's because Gov. John Bel Edwards last week signed Senate Bill 174, which attempts to rein in future TOPS costs and decouple the program from tuition increases. It would take a vote of the Legislature in future years to raise TOPS allocations per student.

9. Monuments panel May 17 at Tulane
"Taking a Stand on Statues" is the name of a panel on New Orleans' Confederate monuments that will be held at Tulane Hillel's Mintz Center (912 Broadway St.) at 7 p.m. May 17, as part of "The Big Issue" series. WWL-TV investigative reporter David Hammer will moderate, and panelists include Michael "Quess" Moore of Take 'Em Down NOLA and Pierre McGraw of the Monumental Task Committee. The event is free and open to the public; doors open at 6:30 p.m. for complimentary tapas and a cash bar.

10. 'Direct access' to PT clears another hurdle
Louisiana residents with minor injuries soon may be able to get treatment directly from physical therapists without first having to get a doctor's referral. Senate Bill 291 by Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, won approval in the House Health and Welfare Committee last week by a vote of 9-5 and now awaits approval by the full House. The bill already cleared the Senate by a lopsided margin. The House committee tacked on an amendment that will need concurrence by the Senate, but Mills says that won't be a problem if the House approves the measure. Louisiana is one of only seven states that require patients to get a doctor's referral before seeking treatment from physical therapists.

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