1. MINIMUM WAGE BILL KILLED IN STATE
The state Senate Finance Committee, buttressed by warnings that any mandated increase in the state minimum wage could cost jobs, killed a bill last week that would have raised the state's minimum wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $8 in 2018, and to $8.50 in 2019. The vote was 7-3.
Both the debate and voting on Senate Bill 153 by state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, fell along party lines. Most Republicans argued businesses would make up for the increased expense by eliminating low-wage jobs or raising the cost of products.
"Instead of trying to raise the wage that could drive jobs away, we should be focusing on our economy," said state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie. "If you raise the minimum wage, you might be jeopardizing those very jobs that earn that $7.25."
Washington, D.C. and 28 other states have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum of $7.25.
About 85,000 Louisianans would have received a pay raise had Carter's bill passed, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Carter said 78 percent of Louisianans believe the minimum wage should be higher. "The old adage of 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' — what if you don't have any boots?" Carter asked.
"We need to show people that we don't live in these ivory towers where we're sanitized from the issues our community deals with," he added. "I'm going to take this bill up every year until it gets done."— MATT HOUSTON | MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
2. Quote of the week
"Definitely not a health care bill. An embarrassment in its blatant and selfish disregard for the most vulnerable citizens of our nation." — Dr. Rebekah Gee, head of the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals, responding to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the GOP health care bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month. The CBO estimated it would leave 23 million fewer Americans without health care by 2026, as opposed to the current Affordable Care Act.
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican and a critic of the GOP health care bill, told CNN, "We have to, if you will, fulfill President [Donald] Trump's campaign promise. And his campaign promise was to cover all continuing care for those with pre-existing conditions and eliminating mandates and lowering premiums and by that analysis, the latest plan doesn't address that."
3. Domestic abuse law that would have included same-sex couples fails in state Senate
The state's domestic abuse laws will continue to exclude same-sex couples after a bill to extend the law's protections failed in a 17-14 Senate vote. But the measure may not be dead.
House Bill 27 by State Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, proposed striking "of the opposite sex" from the law's definition of a household member to extend domestic abuse protections — such as sentencing enhancements for abusers and greater protections for victims — to same-sex couples. Currently the law only applies to married couples, whether same-sex or heterosexual, and heterosexual couples who are cohabiting.
Connick said lawmakers tend to shy away from LGBT issues, and some always will oppose the bill, but ultimately this is a question of the constitutionality of Louisiana's domestic abuse statute and an important legal move for the state. Once senators are made aware of the situation, Connick believes he can get the six votes needed for passage. Seven senators — including five Democrats, three of whom are from the New Orleans area (Sens. Wesley Bishop, Troy Carter and J.P. Morrell) — were absent for the initial vote.
"You've got haters that you're never going to get changed on it, but overall I think we have the message to say to people this is not a dangerous vote," he said. "This is one that can help a lot of people and it's needed in our law." — SARAH GAMARD | MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
4. Senate to consider domestic abuse laws for dating partners
A Louisiana Senate Judiciary Committee last week favorably dispatched to the full Senate for final debate a bill that would provide dating partners the same protection afforded spouses.
Dating partners involved in domestic abuse cases can be charged only with simple battery under current law. Domestic abuse battery carries more severe penalties. Louisiana is one of nine states where domestic abuse law does not recognize dating partners and does not grant them the same protection as spouses.
House Bill 223, by State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, creates a new section of law for dating partners, which is the same as the domestic spousal abuse law, except it does not ban the guilty dating partner from owning a firearm for 10 years.
The presence of a firearm in an abusive relationship increases the chances of a homicide by about 500 percent, according to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Moreno's bill would trigger a federal ban on firearm possession for more intense acts of violence, such as burning or strangling the victim, or for repeat offenders.
5. Landrieu: New Orleans not a 'sanctuary city'
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said New Orleans "is not and has never been a sanctuary city" following last week's memo from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions clarifying President Donald Trump's executive order to crack down on so-called "sanctuary" policies prohibiting local cops from working with federal immigration authorities. Sessions' definition of "sanctuary" policies appears to keep New Orleans out of federal scrutiny, for now.
"It appears that the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security heard the call from mayors and police chiefs — that our local police should be focused on fighting violent crime and building trust with the communities they serve," Landrieu said in a statement.
According to Sessions, the term "sanctuary jurisdiction" will refer only to jurisdictions that "willfully refuse" to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373, a statute that prevents state and local governments from enacting law or policies that limit cooperation with the feds. But Sessions says that "narrow" definition won't necessarily mean municipalities are off the hook from additional review.
6. Cassidy to hold town hall in Covington May 31
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy will hold a town hall in Covington May 31 at 9:30 a.m. Cassidy has emerged as one of the most prominent GOP critics of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in March, and was further critical of the AHCA after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last week found that sick and older Americans would be paying much more out of pocket if the ACHA becomes law.
The town hall will be held in the St. Tammany Parish School Board facility at 321 N. Theard Street in downtown Covington.
7. Landrieu to Nungesser: We'll handle our own
On May 22, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser met with Mayor Mitch Landrieu to request the state's control over the fate of the city's four recently removed Confederate-era monuments. But Landrieu deferred to the city's request for proposals (RFP) process, which Landrieu announced the night before crews removed the statue of Robert E. Lee from Lee Circle May 19.
"The Lieutenant Governor asked that we simply give him the monuments to run a process of his own," Landrieu said in a statement. "I welcomed the Lieutenant Governor to be a part of the RFP process we have outlined and look forward to getting formal ideas the state has to share about how to place the Confederate statues in proper historical context."
City officials said the RFP process would open the week following the monuments' removal.
8. Prospect.4 details
Prospect.4, the fourth installment of the international contemporary art expo founded by Dan Cameron, will open Nov. 18 and run through Feb. 25, 2018. Trevor Schoonmaker, head curator at Duke University's Nasher Museum of Art, is the artistic director of Prospect.4. He released the names of 73 artists selected for the triennial and previewed the expo in remarks at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art last week.
Work will be displayed at 17 venues, including museum spaces such as the Ogden, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Arts Center, as well as in public spaces such as the Lafitte Greenway, Crescent Park and Algiers Point. The expo will include 32 works being made in New Orleans or specifically for Prospect.4. John Akomfrah, who was born in Ghana and lives in London, will make a film about Buddy Bolden for the expo, Schoonmaker says.
Prospect New Orleans was launched as an international art biennial by curator Cameron in response to Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, and it drew critical acclaim around the world. Franklin Sirmans curated Prospect.3, which opened in 2014. It drew 100,000 attendees.
9. "March for Truth"
at City Hall June 3
A "March for Truth" — asking for an independent commission investigation of President Donald Trump's possible collusion with Russian interests, along with a demand he release his federal tax returns — is set for more than 70 cities on Saturday, June 3. The New Orleans march will begin at 11 a.m. in front of New Orleans City Hall (1300 Perdido St.). For more information, visit www.marchfortruth.info. The New Orleans People's Assembly also meets that day at 11 a.m. at Crescent City Boxing Gym (3101 Erato St.). It is hosted by organizers of the J20 rally for racial and class solidarity that was held in New Orleans Inauguration Day.
10. The end of the
After more than a decade of dance parties, DJ Soul Sister (aka Melissa Weber) ended her weekly Hustle show at Hi-Ho Lounge May 27. "I might change my mind in a couple years, but right now, every Saturday is out," she told Gambit. "I'm not afraid of change and this is what it is."
Hustle will return as a semi-regular event, beginning 11 p.m. Saturday, June 24 at The Orpheum Theater's below-ground space, The Ice Pit. Weber also will preside over a monthly "Soulful Takeover" show beginning Friday, July 7 at One Eyed Jacks. She also will continue to host the weekly Soul Power show at 8 p.m. Saturdays on WWOZ-FM.
Weber presides over two Prince-related events in June. She hosts the second annual "Revolution: A Prince Celebration," kicking off Prince's birthday weekend at 10 p.m. Friday, June 2, as well as Prince Day at the Catahoula Hotel, beginning 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 7.