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U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, of New Orleans, wins House OK of a bill for the first time

It may not go down in history as a landmark piece of legislation, but H.R. 4812 nonetheless represents a milestone for U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, of New Orleans: It’s the first bill he’s sponsored to pass the House of Representatives.

Called the Honor Flight Act, the measure directs the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to come up with a system for “expedited and dignified” airport security screening for military veterans taking charity flights to visit war memorials that honor their service.

The bill passed the House on a voice vote Tuesday and now moves to the Senate.

In his two terms in Congress, Richmond, 40, has served as lead sponsor on several other bills, but none of them has made it out of committee, the first stop for legislation. Richmond’s status as a member of the Democratic minority in the House makes the task of advancing legislation more difficult.

The bill takes its name from the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization that flies veterans to visit memorials honoring them, such as the World War II Memorial in Washington. The organization concentrates on the most senior vets.

The bill was filed by Richmond in June and has four co-sponsors: Democrat Bennie Thompson, of Mississippi, and Republicans Richard Hudson, of North Carolina, Michael McCaul, of Texas, and Steven Polazzo, of Mississippi. It was sent to the full House from the Homeland Security Committee, which includes Richmond as a member.

NCSL summit agenda features 3 from Louisiana

State legislators from across the country will travel to Minnesota next month for the National Conference of State Legislatures’ legislative summit, and at least three people from Louisiana are slated to participate in or lead sessions during the five-day event, which is meant to bring state lawmakers together for information on trends and innovations.

Various topics will include labor and economic development, the future of higher education and changes states are making to the role prisoners play in redistricting, as well as a discussion featuring Bizarre Foods America’s Andrew Zimmern on addressing chronic hunger.  The meeting agenda also notes a “bipartisan bike ride” opportunity for legislators.

Louisiana House Clerk Alfred Speer is scheduled to preside over a meeting of NCSL’s Mason’s Manual Commission on Aug. 19, and Louisiana Senate IT coordinator Gary Schaefer is slated to facilitate a discussion on “Crypto-Currencies: Changing the Way We Do Commerce” on Wednesday. That session will feature Jim Harper, global policy counsel for Bitcoin and other experts on alternative payment methods.

Ron Gubitz, of New Orleans’ ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy, will speak at a lunch discussion on the President’s Arts Council partnership efforts with schools and pilot programs.

Read the full agenda here.

U.S. Senate confirms Baton Rouge lawyer John deGravelles as federal judge

The U.S. Senate Tuesday confirmed Baton Rouge lawyer John W. “Johnny” deGravelles as a federal judge in Louisiana.

A partner at the firm of deGravelles, Palmintier, Holthaus & Frugé, deGravelles specializes in civil litigation representing individuals and businesses. He has practiced extensively in both state and federal court. He received his bachelor’s and law degrees from LSU.

He serves as an adjunct faculty member at the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center and Tulane University Law School’s Summer Program in Rhodes, Greece. He was honored as a Fulbright Scholar for his work on international maritime education.

deGravelles will serve on the bench for the Middle District of Louisiana, comprising the parishes of Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana. The court convenes in the Russell B. Long Federal Courthouse on Florida Street in Baton Rouge.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., recommended deGravelles to President Barack Obama for nomination to the judgeship in December. deGravelles also received support from Baton Rouge-area elected officials, legal educators and lawyers.

Federal judicial nominations require confirmation by the Senate. The vote for deGravelles was unanimous

Jindal: Obamacare falling apart

A federal appeals  court ruling  provides more proof that President Barack Obama’s health care law is “falling apart at the seams,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday.

A three judge panel in Washington ruled 2-1 that the law, as written, only allows insurance subsidies in states that have set up their own exchanges.

It affects consumers who purchased their coverage through the federal insurance marketplace — or exchange— that serves 36 states and could mean more out of pocket expense.

Jindal’s office released the following statement:

“ This should come as no surprise. President Obama and his liberal allies rammed Obamacare through Congress without any care for following the Constitution and the laws of this country. Worse, the Obama administration continues to change the rules and make them up as they go in an effort to force Obamacare on the American people.”

“More federal regulations and lawless executive orders are not the way to improve health care in this country.  Obamacare needs to be fully repealed and replaced with a system that empowers patients and providers, and that gives states greater ability to decide how best to reduce health care costs.”

Graves to open campaign headquarters

Congressional candidate Garret Graves is opening his campaign headquarters, and he’s offering free lunch to the media if they show up for the ribbon cutting.

Graves, a Republican running in the 6th Congressional District, is locating near Government Street in Baton Rouge at 660 Jefferson Highway.

The grand opening is Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.

One of Graves’ congressional opponents is former Gov. Edwin Edwards, whose office is a mile or so away on Jefferson Highway.

Jindal goes “on duty” for Iowa candidate

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Gov. Bobby Jindal jumped onto the GOP tweeting bandwagon Monday in support of Iowa Army National Guard member Joni Ernst’s U.S. Senate bid.

Jindal is a little late to the game. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and N.J. Gov. Chris Christie showed their support for Ernst during trips to Iowa last week.

The idea behind the Twitter campaign is to go on election duty for Ernst – who is a Republican – while she fulfills her military service in Wisconsin. She can’t actively campaign while on military duty.

The Twitter campaign also likely appeals to White House hopefuls, who want their names to resonate with Iowa voters.

Among those “on duty” for Ernst:

 

 

Jindal praised at conservative event in Denver

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was lauded for apparently “transform(ing) the state government of Louisiana from an embarrassment to what’s been called the best in the nation”  at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver over the weekend.

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File photo: Gov. Jindal

Bob Beauprez, the GOP nominee for Colorado governor, was tasked with introducing Jindal before he gave a speech at the event.

“Bobby Jindal emphasized ethics and transparency and transformed the state government of Louisiana from an embarrassment to what’s been called the best in the nation,” The Denver Post quoted Beauprez as saying in the introduction. “He emphasized jobs and the economy and he set an all-time record for employment in the state of Louisiana and a top ranking for a business-friendly climate — a role that I think I might want to follow at some point.”

The Post reports that Jindal, a possible contender for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination, went on to give “one of the best speeches of the three-day summit,” which ended Sunday with a straw poll in which Jindal came in fourth — behind Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin.

Reports from Jindal’s speech indicate that he spent much of his time taking aim at President Barack Obama, a familiar theme for the term-limited governor.

“If you listen to this president’s policies, if you listen to his rhetoric, you hear a president trying to divide us by class, by geography, by gender, by race,” The Washington Times quoted Jindal as saying. “You hear a president talking to us about how government needs to get bigger and more intrusive and more powerful.”

Rep. Edwards takes his governor’s campaign to Press Club

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State Rep. John Bel Edwards, left, spoke to the Press Club of Baton Rouge Monday about his run for governor.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards went on the attack Monday. His target: Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Edwards, D-Amite, is running for governor in 2015. Jindal is barred by term limits from seeking a consecutive, third term.

Still, Edwards framed his campaign as a chance to undo some of Jindal’s policies, saying the governor has set up his successor for a financial disaster.

“He’s just trying to keep the balls in the air long enough to exit the stage,” Edwards said during an appearance at the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Edwards is unhappy that the governor:

- Rejected an expansion of the Medicaid program, which provides health insurance to those who otherwise would not have it. Jindal rejected allowing an additional 250,000 people onto the Medicaid rolls, saying the expansion would be too costly to the state in the long run. Edwards said the expansion would help the working poor and create additional jobs for nurses, doctors and custodians.

- Eased the strain on the state budget by lowering health insurance premiums for state workers. The reduction decreased state agencies’ share of the cost for employee benefits but also failed to cover expenses, resulting in a drain on financial reserves. Edwards predicted that state workers eventually will receive fewer health benefits as the state struggles to contain costs.

Jindal wasn’t the only one on the receiving end of Edwards’ criticism. He also took a pointed swipe at U.S. Sen. David Vitter. Vitter, R-La., also is running for governor.

Edwards said Vitter as governor would be like Jindal on steroids. He said Vitter would amplify the platform of selling state assets and privatizing state duties.

“We need a proven leader from the middle. You can’t govern from the far left or the far right because you’re not going to continue to have a consensus,” Edwards said.

 

Whitney releases video response to border crisis

State Rep. Lenar Whitney, a Republican who is seeking the Baton Rouge-based 6th Congressional District seat, continues to speak out on the border crisis.

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Click for video on YouTube

Today, Whitney is releasing a 2 minute, 41 second video, again, slamming President Barack Obama’s response to the ongoing immigration issue and flood of immigrant children attempting to cross the border from Central America. Last week, Whitney asked supporters to sign a petition decrying the border situation.

In today’s video, Whitney says Obama is “too busy drinking beer and shooting pool” to deal with the crisis.

“The Rule of Law is being ignored, by politicians seeking to gain political advantage from a new wave of undocumented immigrants. This insanity must stop. Immediately. We need to secure the border!” Whitney says in the video.

She urges Congress to appropriate money for a border fence and compares the Texas/Mexico border to the South Korea/North Korea border.

Media have reported that tens of thousands of Central American youths — unaccompanied minors – have been caught crossing the U.S. border since October. (Read more about the situation here and here.)

Whitney is one of eight Republican candidates running in the Nov. 4 election to replace U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, a Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate. She gained some attention previously for controversial remarks on climate change.

Whitney isn’t the only Louisiana legislator eyeing the ongoing situation at the border. State Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, released a survey on Facebook today, questioning whether a special legislative session should be called.

Additionally, Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican who is running for governor in 2015, and Cassidy (who is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu) have sponsored legislation to address the influx of Central American children attempting to cross the border.

Here’s the full transcript of the video Whitney’s campaign released today:

A crisis is taking place on the southern American border. More than 50,000 immigrant children have been detained since October. And President Obama refuses to address the problem. He’s too busy drinking beer and shooting pool. Illegal Immigration is getting out of hand in America. The Rule of Law is being ignored, by politicians seeking to gain political advantage from a new wave of undocumented immigrants. This insanity must stop. Immediately. We need to secure the border!

And I mean an absolute. shut. down. If we can secure the border between South Korea & North Korea, why can’t we do the same between Mexico and Texas? We have the most powerful military in the history of mankind! It’s called the Department of Defense for a reason. Let us DEFEND our homeland! And if necessary, congress should appropriate funds to build a fence.

Fences work. Isn’t there one around the White House? Furthermore, we cannot give Amnesty to the 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here. Those individuals have broken the law and we can’t ignore that fact simply out of convenience. Immigrants flock to America for two reasons: They want jobs. Or they want our entitlements: Medicaid, welfare and food stamps. So first, we need to make it virtually impossible to receive any of these free services without proof of citizenship.  If you want welfare, you’re gonna need to show us your birth certificate. We need you to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are an American citizen. Second, we must crackdown on employers who hire illegal aliens. We need to send a message loud and clear: if you hire a non-citizen, you will go to jail. We need mandatory minimums. And a Justice Department who has the will to make an example of violators.

If illegal aliens can’t find work, or can’t get free stuff, what will happen? They will go home. This is a problem that can no longer be ignored. America must act. And act immediately….Because a nation that ignores the rule of law can only descend into chaos. As John Adams said, “Liberty once lost, is lost forever” I sincerely hope our generation will be the ones to reverse course. The future of America is at stake. 

Hodges posts survey

State Rep. Valarie Hodges wants to hear from Louisiana residents about “the current crisis of illegal border crossings into Texas.”

Hodges, R-Denham Springs, has a survey on her Facebook page – facebook.com/RepresentativeValarieHodgesDistrict64.

Among the questions: whether a special legislative session should be called to address the “crisis of a large number of people crossing the border into the United States illegally, and their impact on Louisiana?”

“I’m asking Louisiana citizens from across the state to give me their direct thoughts on illegal immigration and what Louisiana ought to be prepared to do,” Hodges said in a news release.

She said she is concerned about reports from Texas that federal officials are secretly transporting and housing detainees captured while trying to cross the border from Mexico.

Some have been identified as “members of violent gangs, possibly infiltrating the United States disguised as refugees,” said Hodges, a member of the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice. Others, she said,  have been determined to carry dangerous, contagious disease.

“At the very least, we need to know if the federal government is planning to transport detainees to Louisiana, and we need to plan ahead how to respond to that,” Hodges said.