- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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Feb. 14

The Advocate of Baton Rouge on the expulsion of state Sen. Troy Brown:

As a victim of domestic violence earlier in her life, state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey Colomb has particular standing to speak out on the case of Troy Brown.



“I don’t believe 26 of us - and certainly the people he represents - believe he should be thrown out. It’s not right,” Colomb told The Advocate about Brown, who represents a River Parishes district south of the capital.

She said Brown has apologized for his actions and has sought treatment, therefore is deserving of forgiveness.

We believe he has ample opportunity to seek forgiveness from the women he has abused, his family and church, his community at large. He shouldn’t be allowed to remain in the Senate.

Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, prepared a resolution seeking a lesser punishment, such as a suspension from office. Other senators said resolutions will seek his ouster, the first time in a generation that the Senate has taken such a severe action on one of its own.

In Brown’s case, the harsher penalty is richly deserved.

Brown, a Napoleonville Democrat, last month pleaded no contest to a domestic abuse charge arising from an incident involving his wife. He was fined $300, sentenced to 30 days in jail - all but 48 hours were suspended - and he was ordered to do 64 hours of community service as well as participate in a domestic violence program. Brown also got three months of probation and was assessed other costs.

He previously had pleaded no contest, meaning he accepts the validity of the accusations, in a separate incident in which he was accused of punching his girlfriend in the eye hours after the 2015 Bayou Classic football game in New Orleans in 2015.

At his own expense, Brown mailed a personal apology to his constituents. But while this is appropriate, is it enough? We do not think so. His continued service brings discredit on the Senate as a body.

There is bipartisan agreement that Brown should go. Gov. John Bel Edwards and fellow Democrats, such as state Sen. JP Morrell of New Orleans, as well as Republicans like then-State Treasurer and now-U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and the state GOP, have called for Brown’s resignation.

That relatively easy out for the Senate is apparently going to be denied by Brown. So it is important that the members coalesce around a resolution that rejects Brown, allowing a special election to be held at an early date to return a successor for the 2nd District seat.

The short special session, focused on budget adjustments, can and ought to act quickly. Dragging this out does not serve the interests of the Senate.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com/

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Feb. 15

The New Orleans Times-Picayune on NBA All-Star weekend:

New Orleans was already known for inclusiveness, but the return of the NBA All-Star game this week is cementing the city’s reputation. The headline on an Associated Press story picked up by news sites across the country Tuesday described New Orleans as an “LGBT oasis in the South.” Rebecca Santana, the AP’s Deep South correspondent, pointed out that the city is “home to one of the country’s oldest gay bars, the gay celebration Southern Decadence draws nearly 200,000 people yearly, and gay and lesbian authors flock here for the Saints and Sinners literary festival.”

New Orleans has had protections in place against discrimination based on sexual orientation since 1991 and extended domestic partner benefits to its employees in 1997.

So, when the NBA decided last summer to take the 2017 All-Star game away from Charlotte, N.C., because of anti-gay legislation there, New Orleans was an obvious replacement.

“It’s important for us to have our All-Star game in a city that’s welcoming to all of our participants and guests,” Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s president of Social Responsibility & Player Programs, told Ms. Santana. In addition, city and state officials “know how to manage and put on great big fun events and welcome everyone and treat everyone fairly and equally.”

That’s for sure. This is the third time New Orleans will host the All-Star Weekend. The previous games here were in 2008 and 2014. The city also has hosted 10 Super Bowls and numerous high-profile college football and basketball games.

And, of course, there is Mardi Gras. There’s no bigger party than that. The fact that the city can host more than a dozen parades this weekend and host the All-Star festivities is impressive.

The NBA decided in July to move All-Star events out of Charlotte because of a state law that allows discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. House Bill 2 is most notorious for requiring transgender people to use public restrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates. It also prohibited cities from putting in place their own protections.

Louisiana has no such law. And Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order soon after he was sworn in last year to protect LGBT employees in state jobs or working for state contractors.

During his tenure, Gov. Bobby Jindal took away anti-discrimination protections put in place by former Gov. Kathleen Blanco. But Gov. Edwards reinstated the protections last April and became the first Louisiana governor to extend protections to transgender residents. “I believe in giving every Louisianan the opportunity to be successful and to thrive in our state,” Gov. Edwards said in a written statement at the time.

A Baton Rouge judge sided with Attorney General Jeff Landry in December, ruling that the governor overstepped his authority with the executive order. Gov. Edwards is appealing that ruling, but for now the order is not being enforced.

The court ruling doesn’t make Louisiana as unfriendly as North Carolina’s law. But the state ought to be allowed to protect its LGBT employees from discrimination.

The All-Star game is setting a good example. Athlete Ally, a nonprofit that fosters inclusiveness in sports, and the Jr. NBA are teaming up during the All-Star weekend to host on a forum on LGBT issues for coaches. New Orleans‘ host group set up an “inclusion committee” to reach out to LGBT businesses, Jay Cicero, who heads the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, told Ms. Santana.

Of course, there will be the usual skills, three-point and dunk contests, and the league’s superstar players will square off at the Smoothie King Center Sunday night. But New Orleans - a city famous for its broad-mindedness - also will get a chance to be a star.

Online: https://www.nola.com/

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Feb. 15

The Houma Courier on why state budget problems require a solution:

On Tuesday, while many of us celebrated Valentine’s Day or looked forward to a busy and festive Carnival season, the state’s lawmakers were in Baton Rouge settling into the ongoing special session.

Aimed at closing a $304 million gap in this year’s state budget, the session began on Monday and will close on Feb. 22.

To make up the sizable difference between expected revenue and expected expenses, Gov. John Bel Edwards has proposed an approach that relies heavily on the so-called “Rainy Day Fund” and about $120 million in one-time state revenue.

Edwards has put forth only around $60 million in proposed cuts to the state’s spending - which totals $27 billion this year.

The first priority for Edwards and the Legislature is to balance the state’s books. But they must also attack the problem in search of a solution, not just a delay.

Putting off spending cuts is only that, putting them off until a later date.

We have done that for far too long, and it is the primary reason the state is facing the current crisis - just the latest in a series of them that dates back years.

It was commonplace during former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s eight-year term to balance the budget using one-time money, including raiding the Rainy Day Fund multiple times.

Our officials in Baton Rouge took that approach rather than taking a more long-term look at the budget and aligning spending with tax revenue.

Had they done so six or eight years ago, the state’s finances would be solid now.

Instead, they continued to put off the tough decisions, opting time and again to avert one crisis by ensuring the next.

Now, the time has come to face the underlying problem - spending more money than we have.

Unfortunately, the early signs are that Edwards is reluctant to do that.

“Not using the Budget Stabilization Fund (the Rainy Day Fund) in my view would be a mistake,” the governor told lawmakers Monday as the session began. “Not using the Budget Stabilization Fund would inflict more pain upon Louisianans than is necessary or advisable.”

That is not true. Coming to grips with our budget problem will require cuts, whether it is done now, in six months or in six years. The difference is that if we do it now, we won’t have to do it again in six months or six years.

Yes, it will require sacrifices in services and spending. And the tough decisions will likely require some political leadership and courage. But it is past time for the governor and Legislature to show that leadership and courage - not by once again relying on one-time budget gimmicks but by taking a long-term view and attacking the root of the problem.

Online: https://www.houmatoday.com/

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