FILE - Rep. Randal Gaines

Rep. Randal Gaines, a LaPlace Democrat, speaks at a news conference on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Content Exchange

Edwards vetoes ban on private election funding

Gov. John Bel Edwards has vetoed House Bill 20, which sought to prevent Louisiana and local officials from using private funds to pay for election expenses. Edwards vetoed a similar bill last year.

Edwards’ office said the ban “is not necessary to protect the integrity of the election process,” adding that officials “should retain the authority to apply for grants that would assist them in providing for safe and fair elections.”

Supporters of the ban said outside actors could spend money to influence elections, also arguing some jurisdictions getting grants while others don’t could lead to unequal treatment of voters. Rep. Blake Miguez, an Erath Republican, filed the bill in response to grants Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, paid for last year to ensure “every eligible voter can participate in a safe and timely way and have their vote counted.”

Bill to let college athletes profit sent to governor

The Louisiana Legislature has given final passage to Senate Bill 60, which calls for letting college athletes profit from their name, image and likeness.

University governing boards would be tasked with coming up with rules to govern the endorsements. Among other limitations, schools and boosters would be prohibited from using the compensation as a recruiting tool or as direct payment for competing in a sport.

Sen. Patrick Connick, the Marrero Republican who authored the bill, said 15 states have passed similar laws and 25 more are considering doing so.

“I don’t want to handicap Louisiana athletes,” said Albany Republican Rep. Sherman Mack, who said he would vote for the bill despite having some misgivings about states getting involved in the issue.

Representative plans task force to review nonunanimous convictions

Rep. Randal Gaines, a LaPlace Democrat, is launching a task force to review cases of prisoners who were convicted by juries that were not unanimous and recommend to district attorneys possible opportunities for clemency or a new trial.

Gaines’ House Bill 346, which had a similar goal, died in committee during this year’s session. Louisiana voters have amended the state constitution to require unanimous convictions, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled nonunanimous convictions unconstitutional, but neither act applied retroactively to the approximately 1,500 Louisiana prisoners convicted under the old standard.

“Right now, the justice that they have gotten is not real justice, it’s an imitation of justice,” Gaines said Tuesday.

Lumber company considers 130-job, $160M mill in Beauregard Parish

Canfor, a Canadian forest products company, is studying the feasibility of building a $160 million lumber mill that would employ 130 people in Beauregard Parish, state and company officials announced Tuesday.

If the project goes forward, the mill would be located at Beauregard Regional Airport near DeRidder. Start-up is expected to begin late in the third quarter of 2022. 

The company could get a $1.5 million state grant if it meets investment and payroll benchmarks. The project also is expected to utilize the state-backed FastStart worker training program and Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.

“This project announcement would represent the largest initial investment in Beauregard Parish’s history,” parish Police Jury President Mike Harper said.

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