Louisiana News Briefs

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Louisiana senators split on constitutionality of Trump’s impeachment trial

Louisiana’s two U.S. senators, both Republicans, are split on whether it would be constitutional to convict former President Donald Trump in an impeachment trial held after he has left office.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, who previously said conviction would be unconstitutional, voted Tuesday with most of his Republican colleagues to halt the trial. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, after listening to testimony Tuesday, voted to continue the trial and said he was keeping an open mind about the final vote to convict.

“If anyone disagrees with my vote and would like an explanation, I ask them to listen to the arguments presented by the House Managers and former President Trump’s lawyers,” Cassidy said in a prepared statement. “The House managers had much stronger constitutional arguments. The president’s team did not.”

The Louisiana GOP issued a statement praising Kennedy while declaring the party “profoundly disappointed” in Cassidy. Six Republicans joined every Democrat in the 56-44 vote to continue the trial. The votes of two-thirds of senators is necessary to convict, after which a simple majority could ban Trump from seeking office again.

Business lobby open to penalty for first-offense employee misclassification

Business leaders would be OK with a flat $500 penalty on the first offense when a company wrongly classifies its employees as independent contractors, but only if the penalty is waived if the offending business can get into compliance with the law within 60 days, Jim Patterson with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry told a state task force.

Louisiana is the only state with a misclassification statute that lets first-time offenders off with a warning. Critics say lax enforcement allows bad actors to have a competitive advantage over companies that follow the law, which have to pay for more of the taxes that fund unemployment benefits.

LABI previously has been opposed to penalties for a first-time offense. Luke Morris, assistant secretary with the Louisiana Department of Revenue, called the $500 penalty “not significant” and suggested mandatory education as an additional requirement, to which Patterson did not object.

Under LABI’s work-in-progress proposal, penalties would increase for subsequent offenses and might fall heavier on larger firms than smaller ones. The task force plans to hold its next meeting Wednesday.

Kennedy touts federal money for vaccination, diabetes research, health centers

Louisiana will receive almost $6.7 million to support diabetes research and two community health centers in Kenner and New Orleans, said U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge will get $259,000 to focus on diabetes, endocrinology and metabolic research. St. Charles Community Health Center in Kenner will get almost $4.7 million, and St. Thomas Community Health Center will receive more than $1.7 million, Kennedy said.

Louisiana Children’s Medical Center will get almost $4.2 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts in the state, Kennedy said.

“The pandemic has impacted Louisianians tremendously, and getting people vaccinated should be a top priority,” he said.