'JUSTICE FOR LOUISIANA WOMEN' DAYAT STATE CAPITOL
More than 100 women — many of them affiliated with women's advocacy groups including Lift Louisiana, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Feminist Majority Foundation, Women With a Vision, New Orleans Abortion Fund and Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault — convened at the state Capitol April 11 to call for "Justice for Louisiana Women." The event was part lobbying day, part activist workshop and part response to a legislative session that has included many bills that are consequential for women.
In the current session, lawmakers are considering bills dealing with health care, LGBT discrimination protections, equal pay for women, sexual violence, stalking, abortion access and other issues that advocates say could impact women's health and economic security or even endanger their lives. At last week's lobby day, organizers began training a new generation of activists in the grinding, sometimes multi-year process of influencing and educating Louisiana's largely male and mostly conservative Legislature.
"Lawmakers have often overlooked and outright ignored the plight of women in this state ... by passing laws that have negatively impacted us," said Petrice Sams-Abiodun, vice-president of external services for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. "You know what we need to remember, women? [The Capitol] is our house."
Women (and a few men) who attended the event spent the day learning about legislative advocacy and networking with prominent organizers who support women's rights in Louisiana. They joined legislators to offer comment in committee hearings and got a crash course in approaching lawmakers for face-to-face conversations on issues. Many who attended the event were in the Capitol for the first time; some were just learning the names of their state legislators.
Though the event focused on influencing current lawmakers, it wasn't hard to imagine some participants ultimately joining the record number of women running for office themselves — or digging deep into the long, often-frustrating process of changing representatives' minds, one vote at a time.
Quote of the week
"A Kevlar backpack is not a Captain America shield. You are not going to run out there blocking bullets with a good outcome." — State Sen. J.P. Morrell, speaking last week when the Louisiana Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that would let students wear body armor on school grounds or buses. The bill, which passed 34-2, now heads to the House. (Morrell and state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, both New Orleans Democrats, were the dissenters.) "When you have a bill like this," Morrell said, "you push a false sense of security on parents that purchasing these would assure safety." — DREW WHITE | MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
Gambit sold to parent company of The New Orleans Advocate
Gambit, New Orleans' signature weekly news and entertainment paper, was purchased last week by the parent company of The New Orleans Advocate. Advocate owners John and Dathel Georges purchased the weekly from Margo and Clancy DuBos, native New Orleanians who have owned Gambit since 1991. Terms were not disclosed. (See Margo and Clancy DuBos' letter to readers, p. 10.)
John Georges said the purchase was in line with his vision of preserving iconic Louisiana brands and creating a locally owned media company dedicated to traditional journalistic values in print and online. Besides The Advocate, which they purchased in 2013, the Georges own the St. Tammany Farmer and weekly newspapers in Zachary and East and West Feliciana parishes. The Advocate is the state's largest newspaper.
"Dathel and I believe Gambit is a perfect fit with our other media properties and performs an important role covering Louisiana's unique mix of arts, entertainment, politics and culture," John Georges said. "We want to keep Gambit locally owned and thriving."
"Gambit will continue to be published as an independent voice with its own distinctive look and feel," said Dan Shea, The Advocate's publisher. "There may be some shared promotions and features in the future, but our plan is to let Gambit be Gambit. They have been highly successful, and this purchase ensures that Gambit will continue to succeed for years to come."
The DuBoses will continue with Gambit, Clancy as a columnist, and Margo as a business and marketing adviser. The couple has worked at Gambit from its earliest days — Clancy starting as political columnist in December 1981, and Margo as an advertising sales rep in November 1982. Margo served as Gambit's publisher from 1987 to 2016.
The DuBoses made Gambit one of the country's most successful alternative weeklies, a genre which grew up in the 1970s as traditional daily newspapers eschewed coverage of social changes and other issues important to younger readers.
"Looking to Gambit's future, we wanted to make sure that what we built would continue as it always has, under a company that shares our vision and our mission," Margo DuBos said. "When we bought Gambit in 1991, our goal was to provide local ownership of a beloved local institution — and to cement Gambit's place as a strong, independent voice for the community we serve.
"Joining the Georges family of publications continues and strengthens our mission because it gives Gambit more resources than ever to serve our readers and advertisers."
Jeanne Exnicios Foster, Gambit's publisher; Kevin Allman, its editor; and Sandy Stein, its advertising director, are all remaining with the company, as is its entire editorial staff. The purchase will add two dozen journalists and ad sales staff to the combined Gambit-Advocate team.
"Our writers will continue to tell the stories that matter most to Gambit readers, and our account executives and designers will continue to create print and digital products that are effective for our advertising partners." Foster said. "Having so many talented people working together means more growth for both Gambit and The Advocate."
Sometime this summer, Gambit will move from its Mid-City location on Bienville Street to The New Orleans Advocate headquarters in the Warehouse District. The two papers will share The Advocate's exhibition and assembly space at 840 St. Charles Ave. and plan to increase open-to-the-public programs that add to the civic life of the city. Gambit will be printed at The Advocate's state-of-the-art print facility in Baton Rouge.
Gambit was launched in 1981 and currently distributes 36,000 free copies per week at 350 locations across metro New Orleans.
- Dr. Michael Henderson is the director of the Public Policy Research Lab at LSU.
Survey: residents support criminal justice reforms, Medicaid expansion
A survey by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab found that a majority of Louisiana residents support criminal justice reform and Medicaid expansion, two major policies pushed by Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration.
The survey comes at a time when legislators are considering proposals to scale back last year's changes in criminal justice and cut funding for some Medicaid programs.
Of those surveyed, 61 percent of Louisiana residents approve of the criminal justice changes.
Louisiana's expansion of its Medicaid program also remains popular with residents, with an overall approval rating of 69 percent.
Among Democrats, 74 percent supported the criminal justice changes. Ninety-two percent approved of the Medicaid expansion, which Edwards, who is up for re-election next year, pushed through in 2016.
Republicans were notably divided on both issues. Forty-six percent of Republicans surveyed approved of the criminal justice changes and 42 percent disapproved. The Medicaid expansion received support from 47 percent of Republicans, while 46 percent disapproved.
The report was the fifth installment of the 2018 Louisiana Survey, a poll of 852 Louisiana residents by researchers at LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication.
The researchers also have found general disillusionment with state political leaders. In the first installment of the survey, about half of the respondents said they believed the state is headed in the wrong direction.
Last year's criminal justice package that found favor with a majority of respondents included changes in parole, sentencing and after-prison policies aimed at reducing the state's notoriety as the incarceration capital of the world.
But support for letting judges determine sentencing without mandatory minimums — requiring minimum prison sentences for people convicted of certain crimes — decreased. Seventy-two percent of state residents supported judicial discretion in sentencing over mandatory minimums, down from 64 percent last year.
Additionally, 58 percent of those surveyed favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, significantly higher than the national average of 49 percent reported by Pew Research Center in mid-2016.
A House committee on criminal justice rejected a proposal to eliminate Louisiana's death penalty Wednesday, after a version of the bill advanced in a Senate committee Tuesday. This seems to mirror the trajectory of a similar bill last year that died after rejection by a House committee, despite its success in a Senate committee.
The state expanded Medicaid in 2016 to include those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. However, a lack of public awareness of the expansion exists, with only 35 percent of survey respondents reporting they knew about the expansion.
Favored by the public across party lines is the implementation of work requirements and copayments for Medicaid recipients, with 79 percent favoring work requirements and 69 percent favoring copayments. Republicans have pushed hard for both measures, and Edwards has expressed his support for the two policies. Both of the measures were attached to tax bills that died when the recent special session collapsed.
Changes to the Medicaid program also have been discussed during the current regular session. Because legislators failed to create any new revenue raising measures during the special session earlier this year, Edwards' doomsday budget proposal could become reality if legislators are unable to find an alternative solution before a temporary sales tax increase expires July 1.
Edward's budget plan included a $656 million reduction in the Health Department's budget and a loss of nearly $1.6 billion in federal matching funds. While Medicaid, which is primarily funded by the federal government, would continue to receive state dollars under the proposed budget, some services are at risk. They include a low income-based program providing long-term care for aged, blind and disabled individuals. Nearly 46,000 residents who receive funding for nursing homes and disability centers under the program could lose that coverage.
Municipal glass recycling suspended; compost dropoff service added
Glass recycling in New Orleans will be suspended starting April 14 due to expansion by the city's glass recycling contractor, according to a press release from the city. No date was given for resumption, though the city notes that all local Target locations offer glass recycling dropoff containers in front of their stores.
New Orleans instituted curbside glass recycling in 2015 for the French Quarter and Downtown Development District, but suspended the practice in 2017, citing low citizen participation.
For those who want to compost egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps and more, the city has good news: New Orleans is partnering with The Composting Network to accept compost materials via dropoff at its monthly event at the City's Recycling Drop-Off Center (2829 Elysian Fields Ave.). Note that The Composting Network will not accept dairy products, meat products and other things.