Monday, January 23, 2017

New ERA bill introduced in Congress

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 

Cardin Measure Would Immediately Revive Consideration of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)

*As hundreds of thousands of Americans prepare to attend the Women’s March on Washington, Senator urges national guarantee of full equality*

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today announced the formal reintroduction of a resolution, S.J. Res. 5, to immediately revive the consideration of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which needs to be ratified by only three additional states to ensure our Constitution finally guarantees full and equal protections to women. Senator Cardin’s ERA resolution has the active support of the ERA Coalition, an umbrella organization comprised of dozens of civil and human rights organizations. The reintroduction comes just days before hundreds of thousands of women and men are expected in our Nation’s Capital for the Women’s March on Washington. Senator Cardin plans to participate in the march with three generations of Cardin women: his wife, daughter and granddaughters.

“I think many Americans would be shocked to find out that the U.S. Constitution still lacks a provision ensuring gender equality. Think about that: in 2017, women lack the same constitutional protections as men. This is clearly wrong and needs permanent correction,” said Senator Cardin. “America was built on the promise of equal rights. Our history is defined by groups struggling to achieve full equality under the law.  It’s long past time for us to recognize the equality of women in our fundamental governing documents.”

When Congress proposed the ERA in 1972, it provided that the measure had to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38) within seven years. This deadline was later extended to 10 years by a joint resolution enacted by Congress, but ultimately only 35 out of 38 States had ratified the ERA when the deadline expired in 1982. To put that in context, in 1992, the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits immediate Congressional pay raises, was ratified after 203 yearsSenator Cardin’s legislation would immediately remove the ratification deadline and revive the consideration of the ERA by the states.

The Equal Rights Amendment is slightly longer than two tweets but would finally give women full and equal protection under the Constitution. It reads as follows:
  • Section 1.  Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
  • Section 2.  The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
  • Section 3.  This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

“Article V of the Constitution contains no time limits for ratification of amendments, and the ERA time limit was contained in a joint resolution, not the actual text of the amendment. The Senate could pass my legislation removing the 10-year deadline right now,” said Senator Cardin.  “I hope that the Majority Leader will bring this legislation up for a vote because American women deserve to know that their most fundamental rights are explicitly protected by our nation’s most venerated document. And what better way to set a positive tone for a new Congress and presidential administration than to take clear steps to fix a long-standing slight to America’s women.”

The amendment gives power to Congress to enforce its provisions by appropriate legislation, and the amendment would take effect two years after ratification.

“Today, nearly half of the states in America have a version of the ERA written into their state constitutions. In Maryland, my home state, the constitution reads that ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied because of sex,’” said Senator Cardin. “Those sentiments also represent the present-day views of the vast majority of people across America and are the spirit that underpins this legislation.  Congress should give the states another chance to ratify the ERA and correct this historical injustice.”

Representative Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) will once again introduce the House companion version of this legislation shortly. Senator Cardin’s legislation is part of a two-track approach to ERA ratification, with Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) also preparing to introduce legislation to revive consideration of the ERA. As Senator Cardin’s resolution would remove the deadline for states to ratify the ERA, which has already been ratified by 35 states, Senator Menendez’s resolution would begin the process anew, giving all states a fresh opportunity to voice their support for women’s equality.

The 20 senators listed below have joined Senator Cardin’s resolution as original co-sponsors. Additional cosponsors will be added during upcoming legislative days.

Sen Baldwin, Tammy [D-Wisc.]
Sen Booker, Cory A. [D-N.J.]
Sen Brown, Sherrod [D-Ohio] 
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [D-Calif.] 
Sen Franken, Al [D-Minn.]
Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [D-N.Y.]
Sen Kaine, Tim [D-Va.]
Sen Klobuchar, Amy [D-Minn.]
Sen Markey, Edward J. [D-Mass.]
Sen Menendez, Robert [D-N.J.] 
Sen Merkley, Jeff [D-Ore.]
Sen Reed, Jack [D-R.I.]
Sen Sanders, Bernard [I-Vt.]
Sen Stabenow, Debbie [D-Mich.]
Sen Udall, Tom [D-N.M.]
Sen Van Hollen, Chris [D-Md.]
Sen Warner, Mark R. [D-Va.]
Sen Warren, Elizabeth [D-Mass.]
Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [D-R.I.]
Sen Wyden, Ron [D-Ore.]

Friday, January 20, 2017

Louisiana Anthology Podcast: Episode 192.

January 19, 2017

We talk to Debbie Lynn Hollis and Lamar White about how to remain hopeful and active in the present political situation.

Debbie has organized a Women's March in Shreveport/Bossier for this Saturday at 3:00 p.m. It will take place at the Caddo Parish Courthouse, 501 Texas St., Shreveport, LA 71101.

 Lamar White also joins us to discuss how to have a positive impact during the coming era. They both recommend finding a way to connect to others. 

 Lamar works through his blog CenLamar and the Democratic Party. Debbie works with NOW and Works in Progress Louisiana.

Working with others both keeps our hopes up and helps change for the better.

Listen here:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

New Government Accounting Rules to Shine a Light on Corporate Tax Breaks

States and local governments that enter into tax-abatement agreements with businesses and others will soon be required to disclose more information to the public, as the result of new nationwide accounting rules that go into effect in 2017.

Under the new rules, state and local governments must report all economic development incentives as foregone tax revenue beginning with their fiscal year 2017 annual financial reports. Specifically, governments will have to disclose the gross dollar amount of corporate tax breaks for economic development and similar activities, any commitments agreed upon, and how the government will get the money back (clawback) if the goals are not achieved, among other things.

The amount of foregone tax revenues for tax deals with businesses and others is significant, with estimates for 2012 exceeding $80 billion.

The new rules from the Government Accounting Standards Board are designed to encourage transparency while “provid[ing] citizens and taxpayers, legislative and oversight bodies, municipal bond analysts, and others with information they need to evaluate the financial health of governments, make decisions, and assess accountability.”

Business tax abatements usually reduce tax revenues to local governments, which often turn to nonprofits to make up the some of the difference by demanding taxes, fees, or payments in lieu of taxes.

The new government disclosure rules should enable nonprofits to demonstrate their value to communities in comparison to economic deals struck by local policymakers.

More info here.
Source:  National Council of Nonprofits

Monday, November 14, 2016

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Louisiana's SB 461 will protect families who are abused by the family court system

Sen. Troy Carter has proposed SB 461 this session.  This bill, if it becomes law, will change EVERYTHING that caused my son's father to abuse us via the court system for 16 years, and eventually steal him away from me for three years.

The bill eliminates a well-hidden aspect of the overt corruption in our family courts: the ability of wealthy, well-connected people to pick and choose
custody "evaluators" and "mental health professionals" who will do whatever is required to secure custody for the parent who had them hired by the judge. 

The bill is currently in committee.  You can email the committee members and encourage them to approve the bill.  After they approve it, they will forward it to the legislature for a full vote.  If approved by the full House and Senate, the bill will then go to the governor's desk to be signed into law. 

PLEASE contact your state legislators and tell them to vote FOR this bill.

Children and parents experiencing painful family separation deserve this protection from Louisiana's corrupt, vile, one-sided court system!

Following is the email I sent to my legislators and the committee.  You are welcome to use/modify it as you wish:


First, thank you for your service to our state. This has been an especially difficult year for Louisiana, and I appreciate your tenacity and willingness to go the extra mile for your constituents.

Second, I would like to encourage you to support Sen. Troy Carter's SB 461.

As the mother of a son who endured 16 years of family court abuse in Louisiana, I am hopeful that this legislation will eventually reverse the widespread corruption and overt graft in our state's district courts.  This bill represents the only glimmer of hope for systemic improvement and progress in an otherwise notoriously corrupt family court system.

My son's father is an attorney here in Shreveport, and I cannot begin to tell you how harshly he abused my son, me, and the system by using his unfettered access to personal friends who are also court officials.  You are welcome to read a sample of our horrific court transcripts here:

Over the years, countless parents across the region have contacted me about their similar painful experiences with custody/divorce trials, and several of us have started a support group for people who have lost children via the courts and their faulty use of unqualified, prejudiced mediators and court-appointed "experts." NOTE: Parents in our group were never reported to or investigated by the Department of Children & Family Services.  Our experiences are all the result of intentional abuse by and through the court system via a circle of attorneys/mediators/judges who have a well-documented history of working together to manipulate the 1st Judicial District court to their financial and personal advantage. In addition, each parent in our group was found 100% fit to rear our children upon being evaluated by independent licensed psychological professionals, despite the findings of court-appointed mediators and judges during the course of our trials.

This type of abuse is rampant and unchecked here in the 1st Judicial District; there is no evidence that other districts in our state operate any differently.

This bill, as I understand it, eliminates a portion of the overt corruption in our family courts: the ability of wealthy, well-connected people to pick and choose custody evaluators and mental health "professionals" who will do whatever is required to secure custody for the parent who (literally) had them hired by the judge.

It also forbids ex parte communication between the court and the mediators, as well as eliminating many other prejudicial practices I have personally witnessed in the courtroom while fighting to rightfully maintain custody of my own son for 16 years.

I encourage you to approve this bill as it is written, and send it for a full vote of the legislature.

Children and parents experiencing painful family separation deserve this legal protection from Louisiana's corrupt, one-sided family court system. 

I trust that you will do what is best for our state's children and families.

Many thanks,
Debbie Hollis
(Address, Phone)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Popular Austin singer/songwriter Julieann Banks returns home to North Louisiana to release new album!

Julieann Banks is coming home to Shreveport after scoring big in Austin -
and YOU can help her launch her new album!

A well-known musician among musicians, Julieann Banks has worked professionally as a bassist and vocalist for popular Austin bands including The Austin Lounge Lizards, The Cosmic Americans (with Earl Poole Ball and Casper Rawls), and with notable performers like Leeann Atherton, Patterson Barrett and more.  She has toured nationally with show bands Rotel & the Hot Tomatoes and The Big Time, and performed with her own award-winning bands, Apaches of Paris and The Activates.

"Julieann Banks’ alternative country musical stylings include songwriting, singing and guitar-playing in a blend of Texas Americana, folk, rock and country, with a streak of blues and gospel for good measure. The edgy, electric emotion of her songs and singing are probably what earns her awards such as Austin Music Magazine’s “Best Female Vocalist Rock,” one of the Top Ten in South by Southwest Austin Chronicle Music Awards’ “Best Songwriter,” and Austin’s Local Flavor Music Magazine’s “Best Pipes,” among many others."

Her new album is the next step in Julieann's career.

She writes:

"I’d like to start playing more nationally, with an eye toward international touring to promote the new (album).  So many people have expressed interest in my new songs when I perform them, but I have no product to sell.  I want to let new and old fans know I’m still at it and I want them to hear my new works.

So much of what we hear and are exposed to (in) media, on television, and radio – is multi-track trickery.  It’s impersonal and digitally “created” and enhanced to the point where it has no human connection. 

I’d like to return to an acoustic “warts and all” method of live recording, like the way Neil Young recordings sound.  Like the Cowboy Junkies recording where they are all gathered at certain distances around one, or very few, mics in a large church.  I’m very excited about staying true to a minimalist approach on this recording..."

How much does Julieann need to complete her project?

Studio rental, engineering, mixing - $2250.00
Musicians' fees - $1500.00
Album artwork + reproduction costs - $1464.00

Works In Progress Louisiana investment - $4000.00
Presales of album + artist's contribution- $1214.00

Total cost of project - $5214.00
How can I help?

Julieann submitted a written request for $4000.00 to Works In Progress Louisiana for this project.  Our Board of Directors met with her, performed our due diligence, and approved her request for funding.

Artists, musicians, designers and writers can't visit the local bank to apply for a loan for a creative concept.  This can be a career-ending problem for creative professionals.

A recent article in The Times featured Julieann, and pointed out the many challenges faced by North Louisiana musicians - including finding funding for new projects, and sustaining a creative career in a region that doesn't understand that musicians are also serious businesspeople.

Now, thanks to Works In Progress Louisiana, YOU have the opportunity to engage with creative workers like Julieann at the onset of new projects - supporting work that is fresh and experimental in nature, and for which other funding is not available.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Disposable People - A Poem

We are the disposable people.

We hold no elected office – we can’t afford the filing fees.

We are not the wealthy elite – we do not stand behind the curtain, pulling the strings.

We don’t belong to the club.

Our children don’t attend exclusive schools.

We can’t afford to make a donation, and we don’t serve on your board.

Our families are middle class, or lower-middle class, or lower-lower class, based on your system of democracy. 

Every four years, you seek us out.
You clamor for the common man to serve on your campaign committee. You know, to reach the masses. 

You tell us we are influential.

You buy us lunch.

You answer our questions in a manner that is palatable to our sort.

We believe that you care about our lot, if only for a moment. Long enough to champion your cause.

Then you disappear – win or lose.  You disappear.  We were never meant to associate, after all. It’s understood. It’s called ‘strategy.’

We wake up and punch in at 8AM.

You vacation in Cabo to detox from the campaign. 

Your wife returns to her book club and the PTA.

Our spouses return to being the receptionist at the clinic or the retired professor or the equal rights activist facing taunts and editorials from your campaign donors.

Our shoes will cushion our tired feet as we canvas for another candidate during the next cycle.

We will create art that protests your votes in the legislature, and we will sit uncomfortably in the teachers’ lounge while we discuss our disappointment with your latest vote.

Then comes the call – “How are you? How’s the family? Election season is upon us – can I count on your support again?”

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New ‘Creative Marketplace’ aims at stimulating economic development

Aug 28, 2015

Shreveport-based nonprofits Works In Progress Louisiana and North Louisiana Art Gallery have partnered to create an online Creative Marketplace.!creative-marketplace/c244t

The Creative Marketplace is a free to the public, and provides three beneficial services designed to stimulate the cultural economy in North Louisiana:
  • an extensive directory of creative professionals for hire throughout North Louisiana,
  • sample contract templates for use by employers and creative professionals, and
  • an easy-to-use application process for creative people seeking employment in the fields of design, performing arts, music, film, entertainment, literary arts and humanities, visual and culinary arts.

Developers, investors, hospitals, schools, universities, and government agencies often purchase goods and services in Dallas, Austin, and New Orleans because they are unfamiliar with local professionals who are qualified to meet their creative needs. The Creative Marketplace solves this problem by providing direct access to regional graphic designers, musicians, writers, filmmakers, painters, performers, and chefs.

Debbie Hollis, Director at Works In Progress Louisiana, said, “Buying from local creative workers is more than an investment in the economy and community—it demonstrates the buyer’s commitment to his community, and his dedication to local artisans and craftspeople.” Incorporated in May 2014, Works In Progress Louisiana provides financial, educational and business resources directly to creative professionals who live/work in North Louisiana.
Creative Marketplace co-founder Michael G.
Moore curates the Northwest Louisiana Art Gallery – the region’s oldest online arts directory. Moore changed the directory’s name to North Louisiana Art Gallery to reflect the recent expansion of the gallery’s geographical reach.

A widely-collected painter and arts activist, Moore says, “We are thrilled to expand the scope of our website to include creative people from 26 parishes!  We are also adding links to regional arts publications, creative resources, and other tools for arts consumers to browse and enjoy.”

The Creative Marketplace is available online at

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Finding guidance online through artworld jungle

The Times
Neil Johnson 11:08 p.m. CDT September 2, 2015

There are your artists and there are your arts patrons.

Different kinds of people. But don’t they, when you really think about it, need each other, depend on each other?

Getting these people together is a job. Sometimes it seems like these two kinds of people wander around in the dark and, every once in a while, bump into each other. These encounters can become good and healthy relationships, but there’s got to be a better way.

To use another metaphor, it’s a jungle out there in the art-world. I’ve been in it for a few decades, but sometimes even I need a hand to hold in both my wanderings and my more definite journeys. I hit dead-ends and get lost sometimes and have to backtrack to find another path to where I would like to go.

In this jungle, artists and arts patrons both need navigation guidance. The GoogleNet is a good place to start. There is a solid veteran place of assistance in the intertubes of northwest Louisiana and I have also found a new source of guidance, or at least a good place to find advice and support in this sometimes-confusing world.

Today, we are so spoiled by the Internet. No, that’s not the right word. We have been both freed and enslaved.

The Internet is even more revolutionary than the printing press. But I digress. Let’s get back to the arts in northwest Louisiana and the artists and arts patrons wandering around bumping into each other. There are helpers who can lend us a compass and a map to guide us through the jungle.

First, there are the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and the Bossier Arts Council and their tools for arts hand-holding and guidance. Go. Visit their websites. If you never have, you may be surprised, even astounded, about how much information you can find there.

The names of their two sites are easy to remember: and Shreve. Bossier. Arts. Organizations. Shrevearts and Bossierarts have founts of information from and about these two organizations.

The SRAC website used to have a listing of a wide array of area artists and samples of their work. I thought it was gone, but found that it is only gone from the SRAC site. SRAC has given it its own address: So. Many. Artists. Note that it has a page where artists can apply to be included.

If that is not enough, there is another source of information for both artists and arts patrons on line. It’s called “Works In Progress” and its website is This is largely the year-old child and an ambitious venture of artist and community activist, Debbie Lynn Hollis. It’s stated mission is to provide financial, educational and business resources directly to creative professionals who live/work in north Louisiana

Hollis said, “This site is the ultimate culmination of business, economic development and the cultural economy in north Louisiana.”

One of the really cool things residing within the above website is something called the “Creative Marketplace.” It is a pilot program co-sponsored by Works In Progress Louisiana and the North Louisiana Art Gallery. Its stated purpose is “to encourage greater collaboration between the creative industries and the wider business community in north Louisiana.” Whoa! That’s what I’m talking about!

Here’s a crucial factor in this whole thing. Artist Michael Moore has been patiently building a website for artists for years. He called it the Northwest Louisiana Artist Gallery. He has now done two things with it. He has put it under the umbrella of the Works In Progress/Creative Marketplace and he has also decided to broaden the range to all of north Louisiana, the step-sibling of south Louisiana that south Louisiana avoids learning about or even talking about most of the time. So we must toot our own horn. Louder.

Dig into the Creative Marketplace site and click on the link to the “North Louisiana Art Gallery.” There, you will find a way-cool presentation to learn about north Louisiana (mostly northwest Louisiana, but heading east) artists along with samples of their work. It’s actually fun to explore. There is also a sign-up page for artists wanting to be included.

Websites are complex things, especially these sites. Building sites like these are not for the faint-of-heart. They are very difficult and extremely time-consuming to make them effective. But the hardest part is maintaining them so they stay relevant. It is far too easy to let a website go for too long to where visitors wonder why they are still up. But these sites are so important because they put artists and patrons a click or two away from each other.

Another difficult factor with websites is driving visitors to them. That, dear readers, is what I am trying to do with this column. So you now have an assignment:

Go. Log on. Visit them. The addresses are right there in the paragraphs above.

Arts patrons, these sites are extremely brief introductions to the many fine visual artists working hard in the piney woods of Louisiana. If you are looking for visual art and something punches your buttons, by all means, I strongly encourage you to follow up. Contact the artist and arrange a portfolio viewing or studio tour.

Artists, note who does their artist page right and who does not. If your portfolio is years out of date, update it. If you want to be in the artist site, contact the web master. And artists, be polite to your visiting patrons. Offer them a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. They may have brought a checkbook.

Neil Johnson is a photographer and host at Booth #62/64 at the upcoming Red River Revel. He can be reached at

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wire Road Studios recording session - August 2015

Shreveport-based singer/songwriter Alan Dyson records songs for a new collaborative music project - Stray Dogs by the Highway - at Wire Road Studios in Houston, Texas.  

Stray Dogs is scheduled for release in September 2015.

Engineer Andy Bradley
Dyson at Wire Road Studios
Click on image to view entire session
 Artistic collaborators include:
Thank you to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation for their assistance in funding this project.