Louisiana state lawmaker suggests that schools should teach the ‘good’ of slavery

Louisiana State Capitol
The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge.

  • La. state Rep. Ray Garofalo said that public schools should teach the “good” and “bad” of slavery.
  • His suggestion was immediately dismissed by fellow GOP state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty.
  • Garofalo backs legislation that would prevent teaching that the US or Louisiana is “systematically racist or sexist.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

GOP state Rep. Ray Garofalo of Louisiana on Tuesday said that public schools and colleges should teach the “good” of slavery during discussions about race, as part of a bill that he proposed that would bar “divisive concepts” from classrooms.

Garofalo, who chairs the House Education Committee, said during a hearing on the bill, also known as HB 564, that his legislation sought to remove “politics out of the classroom” and cultivate “a learning environment free of discrimination.”

When Garofalo began to explain how slavery could be taught in the classroom, his comments elicited derision.

“If you’re having a discussion on slavery, then you can talk about everything dealing with slavery, the good, the bad, the ugly,” he said.

His suggestion was immediately dismissed by fellow GOP state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty.

“There’s no good to slavery, though,” she said.

Read more: This millennial GOP congressman voted to impeach Trump. Now he’s trying to save his party from going off a cliff.

Garofalo’s bill would have barred teaching that the US or Louisiana is “systematically racist or sexist,” among other requirements for exploring such issues in classroom discussions.

The bill would also ban the instruction of information that “teaches, advocates, acts upon or promotes divisive concepts.”

On Tuesday, the proposal stalled, but Garofalo was optimistic about rewriting some of the language in order to gain the support of some skeptical Republicans.

However, a bipartisan group of committee members asked Garofalo not to bring back the bill during the current legislative session, according to the Associated Press.

“I’m not sure that we can get this bill in the correct posture this session,” said GOP state Rep. Barbara Freiberg.

Democratic state Rep. Gary Carter slammed the legislation as “a bad bill.”

The Louisiana Democratic Party, which shared a video of Garofalo on their Twitter account, rebuked his statements on slavery.

“The low point of session undoubtedly came today when Rep. Ray Garofalo said Louisiana schools need to teach the good of slavery,” the party wrote.

The legislation comes as Republicans across the country have pushed back against critical race theory, which seeks to explore how generations of inequality and racism still reverberate in American society.

Garofalo argued that critical race theory “furthers racism and fuels hate.”

When asked what specific problems have arisen in Louisiana regarding such teachings, Garofalo said that he’s heard “concerns” from various teachers and parents, but declined to provide any names, according to the Associated Press.

Read the original article on Business Insider

RESULTS: Louisianians voted to fill 2 US House vacancies in Saturday special elections

Karen Carter Peterson
In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, speaks in Baton Rouge, La., about her campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat after signing up for the race.

  • Louisianans voted in two special US House elections on Saturday.
  • The elections will fill vacancies in the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts.
  • Julia Letlow won the race for the 5th District, while two candidates advanced to a runoff in the 2nd.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Louisiana held special elections for two vacant US House seats on Saturday, March 20. Polls closed at 8 p.m. Central Time.

The 2nd District, which is based in southern Louisiana and includes part of the Baton Rouge area and all of New Orleans, was vacated by former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who left Congress to serve in the White House as Director fo the Office of Public Engagement and a senior advisor to President Joe Biden.

State Senators Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter advanced to a runoff for the safely-Democratic seat, which gave Biden over 75% of the vote in 2020, Insider and Decision Desk HQ.

Richmond has endorsed Carter as his replacement, while Peterson has received the backing of EMILY’s List and Stacey Abrams, according to Ballotpedia.

In the 5th District, Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, who was elected to succeed retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham, died of COVID-19 on December 29, 2020, before he was able to assume office.

Letlow’s widow, Julia Letlow, who works as an administrator at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, will win the race to replace him outright with enough votes to avoid a runoff, Insider and Decision Desk HQ projected Saturday night.

The 5th District, which contains a large portion of eastern Louisiana, is safely Republican, backing former President Donald Trump by a margin of over 30 percentage points in 2020, according to Daily Kos.

Louisiana uses a “jungle” election system where all the candidates from all parties run in the same primary, instead of separate primaries for each party.

Since neither candidate earned over 50% of the vote in the 2nd District, Carter and Peterson will advance to a general runoff on April 24, with the winner seated in Congress shortly after.

There are currently five total vacancies in the House, creating a precarious situation for Democratic leaders presiding over a narrow eight-seat majority of 219-211 with some seats set to be vacant for months.

The special election to replace the late Republican Rep. Ron Wright of Texas’s 6th District, who died of COVID-19 on February 7, will take place on May 1.

And two representatives from safely Democratic seats, former Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico and former Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, were tapped to serve in Biden’s cabinet as Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, respectively.

The special election to replace Haaland will take place on June 1, with the nominees selected by party committees. The primary to replace Fudge in Ohio’s 11th District will be on August 3 and the general election on November 2.

Read the original article on Business Insider

LIVE RESULTS: Voters go to the polls in 2 special US House elections in Louisiana

Karen Carter Peterson
In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, speaks in Baton Rouge, La., about her campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat after signing up for the race.

  • Louisianans are voting in two special US House elections on Saturday.
  • The elections will fill vacancies in the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts.
  • Follow along for live results from Insider and Decision Desk HQ.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Louisiana is holding special elections for two vacant US House seats on Saturday, March 20. Polls closed at 8 p.m. Central Time.

The 2nd District, which is based in southern Louisiana and includes part of the Baton Rouge area and all of New Orleans, was vacated by former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who left Congress to serve in the White House as a senior advisor to President Joe Biden.

The leading contenders for the safely-Democratic seat, which gave Biden over 75% of the vote in 2020, are State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, Sen. Troy Carter, and Gary Chambers.

Richmond has endorsed Carter as his replacement, while Peterson has received the backing of EMILY’s List and Stacey Abrams, according to Ballotpedia.

In the 5th District, Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, who was elected to succeed retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham, died of COVID-19 on December 29, 2020, before he was able to assume office.

Letlow’s widow, Julia Letlow, who works as an administrator at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, will win the race to replace him outright with enough votes to avoid a runoff, Insider and Decision Desk HQ projected Saturday night.

The 5th District, which contains a large portion of eastern Louisiana, is safely Republican, backing former President Donald Trump by a margin of over 30 percentage points in 2020, according to Daily Kos.

Louisiana uses a “jungle” election system where all the candidates from all parties run in the same primary, instead of separate primaries for each party.

If neither candidate earns over 50% of the vote, the top two will advance to a general runoff on April 24, with the winners seated in Congress shortly after.

There are currently five total vacancies in the House, creating a precarious situation for Democratic leaders presiding over a narrow eight-seat majority of 219-211 with some seats set to be vacant for months.

The special election to replace the late Republican Rep. Ron Wright of Texas’s 6th District, who died of COVID-19 on February 7, will take place on May 1.

And two representatives from safely Democratic seats, former Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico and former Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, were tapped to serve in Biden’s cabinet as Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, respectively.

The special election to replace Haaland will take place on June 1, with the nominees selected by party committees. The primary to replace Fudge in Ohio’s 11th District will be on August 3 and the general election on November 2.

Read the original article on Business Insider

LIVE UPDATES: Voters go to the polls in 2 special US House elections in Louisiana

Karen Carter Peterson
In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, speaks in Baton Rouge, La., about her campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat after signing up for the race.

  • Louisianans are voting in two special US House elections on Saturday.
  • The elections will fill vacancies in the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts.
  • Follow along for live results from Insider and Decision Desk HQ when polls close at 8 p.m. CT.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Louisiana is holding special elections for two vacant US House seats on Saturday, March 20. Polls close at 8 p.m. Central Time.

The 2nd District, which is based in southern Louisiana and includes part of the Baton Rouge area and all of New Orleans, was vacated by former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who left Congress to serve in the White House as a senior advisor to President Joe Biden.

The leading contenders for the safely-Democratic seat, which gave Biden over 75% of the vote in 2020, are State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, Sen. Troy Carter, and Gary Chambers.

Richmond has endorsed Carter as his replacement, while Peterson has received the backing of EMILY’s List and Stacey Abrams, according to Ballotpedia.

In the 5th District, Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, who was elected to succeed retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham, died of COVID-19 on December 29, 2020, before he was able to assume office.

The GOP frontrunner for the 5th District seat is Letlow’s widow, Julia Letlow, who works as an administrator at the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

The 5th District, which contains a large portion of eastern Louisiana, is safely Republican, backing former President Donald Trump by a margin of over 30 percentage points in 2020, according to Daily Kos.

Louisiana uses a “jungle” election system where all the candidates from all parties run in the same primary, instead of separate primaries for each party.

If neither candidate earns over 50% of the vote, the top two will advance to a general runoff on April 24, with the winners seated in Congress shortly after.

There are currently five total vacancies in the House, creating a precarious situation for Democratic leaders presiding over a narrow eight-seat majority of 219-211 with some seats set to be vacant for months.

The special election to replace the late Republican Rep. Ron Wright of Texas’s 6th District, who died of COVID-19 on February 7, will take place on May 1.

And two representatives from safely Democratic seats, former Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico and former Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, were tapped to serve in Biden’s cabinet as Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, respectively.

The special election to replace Haaland will take place on June 1, with the nominees selected by party committees. The primary to replace Fudge in Ohio’s 11th District will be on August 3 and the general election on November 2.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Texas isn’t the only state lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Here’s how 11 other states and cities are easing lockdowns, despite the CDC insisting that ‘now is not the time.’

greg abbot coronavirus vaccine texas
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

  • Texas on Tuesday became the largest US state to ease its lockdown restrictions.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that would end all COVID-19 restrictions, including a mask mandate, on March 10.
  • Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan also made announcements to ease restrictions.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Texas on Tuesday became the largest state in the US to lift its mask mandate.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order set to end all COVID-19 restrictions on March 10. He tweeted that “Texas is OPEN 100%,” and said “people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Monday of a potential resurgence of coronavirus infections in the US, despite a dip in numbers of new cases nationally.

“At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, said. “Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Texas isn’t the only place in the US easing restrictions. Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan, as well as Chicago and San Francisco, all made announcements to ease restrictions on Tuesday, though the details varied.

Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, and Mississippi have already waived mask-wearing restrictions, and Michigan has eased other lockdown restrictions. Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have not enforced state-wide mask mandates throughout the pandemic.

In Florida and South Dakota, schools and businesses have been widely open for months.

More than 35 US states have kept their mask-wearing rules in place, albeit with variable enforcement.

Here is how some other states, as well as some cities, are easing their restrictions.

Chicago

Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot arrives at a University of Chicago initiative event for the science in Chicago, Illinois, on July 23, 2020.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Chicago announced Tuesday that hospitality, sports, and performance venues could increase to 50% capacity, up from 40%. The maximum number of people is 50, or 20 people for indoor fitness classes. Curfews were also extended. The changes were effective as of Tuesday.

San Francisco

Mayor London Breed of San Francisco said Tuesday that indoor dining, indoor fitness, museums, and movie theaters would be allowed to reopen Wednesday at limited capacity.

Louisiana

Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said on Tuesday that starting Wednesday, businesses could operate at 75% capacity, except in indoor event halls, which were limited to 50% capacity at a maximum of 250 people.

Live music could also resume indoors. He said that the state’s mask mandate would continue, and the new rules would remain in place for at least 28 days, until March 31.

Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan announced easing of restrictions on Tuesday, set to take effect on Friday.

Restaurants would be able to operate at 50% capacity – increased from 25% – and retail, entertainment, and sports facilities could open at increased capacity, she said. People can also visit a nursing home after a negative COVID-19 test.

Michigan has a state-wide mask-mandate, and Whitmer said mask-wearing, social distancing, and washing hands was “more important than ever.”

Mississippi

Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves.

Mississippi rescinded a state-wide mask order in September, but Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi said Tuesday that county-specific mandates would be lifted too. He also said that the only COVID-19 restrictions that would remain were a 50% cap on the number of people in indoor arenas, and that certain restrictions would remain in schools.

North Carolina

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina eased restrictions starting February 26, lifting a curfew and allowing indoor venues to operate at limited capacity. There is still a mask mandate.

Arkansas

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on February 26 lifted capacity limits for bars, restaurants, gyms, and large venues. He said that the state’s mask mandate would remain in place until March, provided the number of cases and hospitalizations were low.

Massachusetts

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said February 25 that restaurants could open at full capacity – albeit with social distancing and table size and time restrictions – starting Monday.

Other venues could open at 50% capacity, with no more than 500 people allowed inside. A state-wide mask mandate is still in place.

Washington

Gov. Jay Inslee lifted restrictions for five counties in the state on February 14, and allowed restaurants to open up at 25% capacity.

Montana

Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana terminated the state’s mask mandate February 12.

Iowa

Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa lifted restrictions February 5. Iowans no longer have to wear face coverings in public. Businesses can have as many people as they want inside and don’t have to abide social-distance guidelines.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Congressman-elect Luke Letlow who died of COVID-19 was an incoming champion for rural America and ‘destined for big things,’ friends say

Luke Letlow
Luke Letlow leaves behind his wife, Julia, and their two small children.

  • Luke Letlow, Congressman-elect from Louisiana, died Tuesday from COVID-19 complications.
  • The 41-year-old Republican was otherwise healthy and set to be inaugurated next month.
  • Friends say Letlow was beyond partisan politics and instead was a champion for rural America, like the community where he grew up.  
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Luke Letlow, a Republican from one of the poorest districts in the US, launched his campaign for congress on the day the first COVID-19 case was reported in Louisiana.

He ran to replace Congressman Ralph Abraham – his former boss and good friend – in the middle of a pandemic when fundraising events and meet-and-greets were a challenge.

He also had to campaign without access to high-speed internet at his rural Richland Parish home.

Letlow still won in a landslide and was to be inaugurated next month.

“He was very uncommon when you compare him to modern-day politicians, especially the younger politicians. He was very rural rooted and he loved being from a rural community,” Letlow’s best friend and campaign chairman Scott Franklin told Insider. “He fully understood the struggle that rural America is going through.” 

Letlow, 41, died Tuesday night from complications related to COVID-19. He had tested positive for the coronavirus on Dec. 18. and suffered a heart attack following surgery at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport, the Monroe News-Star first reported.

He had no preexisting conditions. 

By Tuesday, more than 247,000 Louisiana residents had been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

Franklin told Insider that Letlow was a history buff who loved to learn as much as he could about their agrarian community and share it with the world. He started the blog Richlandroots.com and filled it with facts about his community. 

“He did that all himself. He would go to estate sales all over the state to find information about people who were from our home,” Franklin said. “What was going to make him great is that he didn’t care about the credit. I know when people die, they make people out to be saints when they weren’t, but I’m telling you, he didn’t care about accolades.” 

Letlow worked briefly in the private sector in Colorado and came back to Louisiana to help Abraham, a local doctor turned politician, run for Congress. When Abraham was elected, Letlow worked as his chief of staff. He had also worked for former Governor Bobby Jindal. 

While they grew up in the same community and knew each other by name, Letlow and Franklin didn’t become friends until about seven years ago. That was when Letlow joined Franklin’s local effort to create the first-ever chamber of commerce for Richland parish – an all-volunteer organization. 

“Here’s a guy who’s destined for big things and I was the chairman. You’d think he’d not be used to playing follower. You’d think a politician would be like ‘who are you to tell me?'” Franklin, a rice farmer, said. “He said ‘I believe in it. I believe the causes. He was one of the founders, and we became best friends because we shared an interest in doing better for Richland.” 

Chamber of commerce, Luke Letlow
Congressman-elect Luke Letlow went hunting community organizers from Richland parish.

‘A rural champion’

Louisiana’s fifth congressional district, for which Letlow was elected to serve, runs up the center of the state to the Arkansas border. 

Letlow looked forward to fighting for policies that would help serve the poorest in his district, including those in Richland, Franklin said.

One of his highest priorities was securing widespread access to broadband internet, which is still inaccessible to many rural residents. 

“He didn’t have high speed internet at his house. Luke just notices, with the pandemic kids are having to learn remotely, how are you going to do that if you don’t have high speed internet?” Franklin said. 

Broadband infrastructure isn’t necessarily a partisan issue, Franklin said, but it was expensive, and because it serves primarily those who live in communities with few voters it tends to be overlooked.

Letlow was somewhat unusual in modern day politics as he occasionally strayed from the party line, Franklin said.

He cared deeply about protecting the Mississippi River from flooding. 

“Luke saw the Mississippi River as a gift from God. It can give to us and it can take away from us,” Franklin said.

He was also a proponent of leaning into growth opportunities in the agriculture sector.

“What Luke really harped on is that there are opportunities in agriculture,” Franklin said. “Not everyone is a farmer, but everyone eats. We’re so good at growing food, we have a diverse crop make-up, why not capitalize on the things we know best?” 

Letlow could have made a good salary working in the private sector, Franklin said, but was propelled into state politics because he was sick of watching his community get left out. 

“Over the last 20 years, politicians don’t really care about places with only one stoplight because that’s not where voters are. We matter,” Franklin said. “We work hard, we pay our taxes, we have a great community, but unfortunately politicians on both sides of the aisle have ignored rural people of all backgrounds and races. That’s what really disgusted Luke.” 

Even when working in state office, Letlow had the phone nearly “glued to his ear” fielding calls from residents who had issues with their roads, taxes, or other inconveniences, Franklin said. Letlow would do what he could to help from behind the scenes. 

“Luke was going to be the rural champion,” he said. 

Letlow surrounded himself with people who he felt were also community-minded. Rep. Ralph Abraham, who he would be elected to replace, and Rep. Garret Graves, of the state’s sixth congressional district, were among people he respected, even when their thoughts on policy differed. 

“There is a divide in politics: there are real people and then the people who are in show business,” Franklin said. “Garrett and Dr. Ralph Abraham, they’re real. They’re not looking for a spot on the news station. They’re not looking to tweet out gibberish to get attention. They’re there to go to work.” 

Abraham released a statement on Facebook which read in part, “There was no one like Luke Letlow, and there was no one who loved this state and its people more. Luke was a part of our family, and we are so incredibly proud of the man he was.”

Franklin said he is reeling from the loss of his friend and heartbroken for Letlow’s wife Julia and their two young children, 3-year-old Jeremiah,  and 11-month-old Jacqueline. 

Since Tuesday, politicians across the state have been sharing their reactions to Letlow’s death online. But Franklin said not all of the comments have felt authentic because some have come from people who didn’t even reach out when Letlow was sick. 

“The political world is just encapsulating themselves in the story, even if they didn’t know Luke,” Franklin said. “Julia and their two children are going through an extremely difficult time. When the smoke clears and the story isn’t warm anymore, are people just going to forget about them?”

Letlow’s wife, Julia Barnhill, is declining media requests for the time being, Franklin said. 

Through a spokesperson, the family told the News-Star that memorial plans will be released in the future.

“The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time,” spokesman Andrew Bautsch said in the statement to the local paper. “A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time.”

luke letlow
In this July 22, 2020 file photo, Luke Letlow, R-Start, chief of staff to exiting U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, speaks after signing up to run for Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District in Baton Rouge, La. Louisiana’s newest member of Congress is in intensive care with COVID-19.

In rural America, learning to be socially distant is an adjustment

Getting to know your constituents is important no matter where you’re campaigning, but in rural Louisiana, it is the only way to succeed, Franklin said.

For the first few months of Letlow’s campaign, he didn’t host any fundraising events and avoided in-person meet and greets as much as possible, Franklin said. 

After a while, they started to host events, but at a limited capacity, Franklin said. 

“I know people are sifting through social media to find photos of him not wearing a mask, but I am telling you, he made an effort to do the best he could while still reaching the people,” Franklin said. “Despite coronavirus, these people needed a hero. And in this district, to do that you have to meet people. They have to look you in the eye and understand they can trust you.” 

“It wasn’t perfect, but I think he did the best he could,” he added.

Franklin said that Letlow’s last days alive were difficult, as he was quarantined alone without visitors. 

 

“When we talked on the phone, he was bored to tears. He was pretty depressed,” he said.

Franklin said he tried to explain to Letlow that if he had fallen ill or had been injured during normal times, there would be a line around the block of visitors wishing him well.

“That’s the sad part of the coronavirus, it just takes all the love out of the world,” Franklin said, adding that social distancing proved difficult for small, tight-knit communities. 

“It’s hard in small-town Louisiana because we’re just not used to that. We’re a very friendly community. The community is all we have. And we just had a really hard time adjusting to that, especially around the holidays,” he said. “It’s not because we’re stupid or we don’t know there is a virus in our world. It’s just because it’s just not in our nature to be socially distant.” 

Letlow’s death came as a shock to the state, and to those who loved him. Being only 41 and otherwise healthy, he was not at an elevated risk of complications from the deadly virus.

“Their son and my son are the same age,” Franklin said. “I just thought there would be so much time for us to enjoy raising children in the same community. That’s gone now.” 

LSU Health Shreveport Chancellor G.E. Ghali said Wednesday that Letlow’s death was devastating to the entire medical team, the News-Star reported.

“He had no underlying conditions,” Ghali said. “It was just COVID.”

While the fifth district might have lost their incoming hero, Franklin doesn’t think that his legacy will end here. 

“I think Letlow is going to be the benchmark for anyone who comes in in the future. The story is so sad it’s going to linger in this community for a long time.” 

Read the original article on Business Insider