Louisiana News Briefs

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Special elections for Congress set

Gov. John Bel Edwards has called a March 20 special election for Louisiana voters to select two new members of the U.S. House of Representatives, followed by an April 24 runoff, if needed.

Cedric Richmond, who represented the 2nd Congressional District, is leaving Congress to join President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. The district includes New Orleans and stretches into Baton Rouge.

Luke Letlow was elected last fall to represent the 5th Congressional District, which stretches across northeast and central Louisiana. He died of complications from COVID-19 last month, days before being sworn in.

A special election to elect a new member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) also will be held March 20, with a possible runoff April 24. Tony Davis, who previously represented District 4 and had served as the board’s vice president, resigned in November, saying his work prevented him from dedicating enough time to the BESE.

State Supreme Court has new chief justice

The Louisiana Supreme Court planned to hold an investiture ceremony Thursday afternoon to mark Justice John Weimer’s ascension to the role of chief justice.

Previous Chief Justice Bernette Johnson retired Dec. 31. Johnson was the court’s first Black chief justice and the second woman to hold the position. She served on the court for 26 years, including almost eight years as chief justice.

Weimer has been on the court since 2001. He was elected from District 6, which includes Assumption, Iberia, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, St. Mary and Terrebonne parishes, along with a portion of Jefferson Parish.

SNAP recipients receive temporary benefits boost

Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will see an increase in their benefits for the first half of the year, following the passage of the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services said.

The new federal legislation also will make more Louisianans eligible for SNAP by excluding federal unemployment benefits and stimulus checks from consideration as income and expanding student eligibility.

The roughly 15% boost is meant to soften the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. For a family of four, the maximum allotment will increase from $680 to $782.  

City councilman arrested for alleged election fraud

An Amite city councilman was arrested and charged with voting fraud, Attorney General Jeff Landry and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced.

Councilman Emanuel Zanders III is accused of manipulating voters signing registration forms that he later would complete with a fraudulent address. He also is accused of submitting a registration application on behalf of another voter with his own address.

Zanders faces eight counts of election fraud, and the investigation is ongoing, Landry said.

“Anything other than a one-for-one vote distorts our election process,” he said.