KSYL Local News

News For Tuesday 05/24/11


NEWS FOR TUESDAY 052411
BY DAVE GRAICHEN

IN WHAT HAS COME AS A SHOCK TO MANY, FORMER BALL MAYOR ROY HEBRON WAS SENTENCED YESTERDAY TO 48 MONTHS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR HIS ROLE IN THE TOWN'S FRAUDULENT RECEIPT OF DISASTER-CLEANUP MONEY AFTER HURRICANE GUSTAV IN 2008. JUDGE DEE DRELL IN ANNOUNCING THE SENTENCE SAID IT PROVIDES NO CHANCE FOR EARLY RELEASE. DRELL ORDERED HEBRON TO PAY $105,566 IN RESTITUTION TO FEMA, AND LEVIED A $25,000 FINE. HEBRON WILL REPORT JUNE 27 TO A MINIMUM SECURITY FEDERAL PENITENTIARY.

A BILL BY FRANKLINTON REPRESENTATIVE HAROLD RITCHIE, RENEWING FOUR CENTS OF THE EXISTING 36-CENTS-PER-PACK CIGARETTES TAX, IS SCHEDULED FOR A VOTE ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE. HOUSE SPEAKER JIM TUCKER SAYS WHILE THE VOTES WERE NOT THERE TO LEVY AN INCREASED TAX ON CIGARETTES NO ONE WANTS TO LOWER THE TAX EITHER. HE SAYS THAT WILL MAKE THE DIFFERENCE IN GETTING THE EXTENSION PASSED.
THE BILL FACES OPPOSITION FROM THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE. IN A STATEMENT EARLIER THIS SPRING GOVERNOR JINDAL STATED HIS OPPOSITION TO ANY TAXES, INCLUDING A RENEWAL. TUCKER SAYS HE DISAGREES WITH THE GOVERNOR'S POSITION.

THE HOUSE IS SCHEDULED TO DEBATE A PROPOSAL TO REPEAL LOUISIANA'S INDIVIDUAL STATE INCOME TAX TODAY. GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL SAYS THE UNLIKELY PROPOSAL WOULD MEAN ALMOST A BILLION DOLLARS IN ANNUAL LOSS OF STATE REVENUE, AND HE WANTS TO KNOW HOW LAWMAKERS WOULD HANDLE THE SEVERE BUDGET CUTS TO DO THAT. REP. GREENE SAYS TEXAS AND FLORIDA ARE TWO SOUTHERN STATES THAT HAVE NO INCOME TAX. GREENE SAYS THEY MANAGE TO COPE WITH REVENUE SHORTAGES, WHILE ATTRACTING NEW BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY. GREENE SAYS THE STATE WOULD HAVE TO DECIDE HOW TO GO FORWARD WITH NO INCOME TAXES.

THE STATE HOUSE APPROVES LEGISLATION THAT WILL MAKE IT MORE DIFFICULT TO APPROVE BUDGET BILLS THAT CALL FOR THE USE OF ONE-TIME MONEY. LAKE CHARLES REPRESENTATIVE BRETT GEYMANN'S RESOLUTION CALLS FOR A TWO-THIRDS SUPER MAJORITY VOTE BEFORE ONE-TIME MONEY CAN BE SPENT ON RECURRING EXPENSES. HE SAYS ITS A PRACTICE THAT HAS GONE ON LONG ENOUGH. THE RULE WAS ADOPTED ON A 60-42 VOTE, DESPITE OBJECTIONS FROM THE JINDAL ADMINISTRATION. THE CHANGE MEANS IT WILL TAKE A TWO-THIRDS VOTE TO PASS THE BUDGET, WHEN IT COMES UP FOR DISCUSSION TOMORROW. BECAUSE THE PROPOSED BUDGET CONTAINS TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN ONE-TIME MONEY. APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN JIM FANIN SAYS THIS WILL RESULT IN THE BUDGET GOING BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD.

LAWMAKERS WORKING ON LOUISIANA'S ANNUAL CONSTRUCTION BUDGET MONDAY STRIPPED DOLLARS FROM A PLANNED $1.2 BILLION PUBLIC HOSPITAL IN NEW ORLEANS, A MOVE THAT IF UPHELD BY THE FULL LEGISLATURE WOULD STALL THE BUILDING OF THE TEACHING AND RESEARCH FACILITY. THE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE REMOVED $900 MILLION IN BORROWING AUTHORITY THAT HAD BEEN SET ASIDE FOR THE NEW, 424-BED HOSPITAL CALLED UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER. THE HOSPITAL'S CONSTRUCTION WOULD BE PUSHED BACK AT LEAST ANOTHER YEAR WITHOUT THAT AUTHORITY. CONSTRUCTION WAS SCHEDULED TO START THIS SUMMER.

THE HOUSE PASSES A BILL TO MOVE THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS FROM THE LSU SYSTEM INTO THE U.L. SYSTEM. BILL SPONSOR AND HOUSE SPEAKER JIM TUCKER SAYS, AFTER FAILING TO GET ENOUGH VOTES FOR MERGING UNO WITH SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY-NEW ORLEANS, HE'S AMENDING THE BILL TO AFFECT UNO ONLY. ANOTHER AMENDMENT TO THE BILL DIRECTS UNO TO WORK WITH SUNO AND DELGADO UNIVERSITY TO SEEK COST EFFICIENCIES THROUGH COOPERATIVE ENDEAVORS.

STATE EDUCATION OFFICIALS ARE PREPARING TO RELEASE THE LATEST STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES FOR LOUISIANA PUBLIC SCHOOLS. TUESDAY'S RELEASE WILL BE THE LATEST INDICATION OF HOW SCHOOLS ARE FARING UNDER MORE THAN A DECADE OF SOMETIMES CONTROVERSIAL POLICY CHANGES, INCLUDING THE TAKEOVER OF FAILING SCHOOLS THROUGHOUT NEW ORLEANS. AND THEY COME AS THE STATE LOOKS FOR A REPLACEMENT FOR ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO CHAMPIONED THOSE CHANGES, EDUCATION SUPERINTENDENT PAUL PASTOREK, WHO RECENTLY RESIGNED TO RETURN TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR. SCORES WILL BE RELEASED FOR THE "LEAP" TESTS THAT FOURTH- AND EIGHTH-GRADERS MUST PASS TO EARN PROMOTION, THE GRADUATION EXIT EXAM FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS AND THE "ILEAP" TEST GIVEN TO THIRD-, FIFTH-, SIXTH- AND SEVENTH-GRADERS.

THE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE AGREED MONDAY AND APPROVED AN AMENDED VERSION OF HOUSE BILL 544, WHICH REQUIRES SOME ONLINE VENDORS TO ASSESS A SALES TAX AND REMIT THE PROCEEDS TO THE STATE. ALTHOUGH THE STATE CURRENTLY ASKS RESIDENTS TO REPORT ONLINE SHOPPING PURCHASES ON INCOME TAX FORMS SO TAXES CAN BE ASSESSED, FEW PEOPLE DO IT. CURRENTLY, TAXES TOTALING LESS THAN $1 MILLION ARE VOLUNTARILY REPORTED.

THE MANDATORY EVACUATION IS BACK ON FOR BUTTE LA ROSE STARTING TUESDAY AFTERNOON. ST MARTIN PARISH SHERIFF'S SPOKESPERSON MAJOR GINNY HIGGINS SAYS EVEN THOUGH THE ATCHAFALAYA RIVER LEVELS DID DROP, BACKWATER FLOODING IS BEGINNING TO APPROACH SOME STRUCTURES IN THE AREA. HIGGINS SAYS THE ORDER FOR BUTTE LA ROSE WILL BE REINSTATED STARTING TODAY (AT 12NOON).

ST. LANDRY PARISH SAYS RESIDENTS WILL NOT HAVE TO EVACUATE, NOW THAT REVISED FLOOD CRESTS ARE LOWER THAN FIRST THOUGHT. ST. LANDRY SHERIFF BOBBY GUIDROZ SAYS NO MORE GATES AT THE MORGANZA SPILLWAY ARE SCHEDULED TO BE OPENED, SO HIGHER WATER ISN'T EXPECTED.

THE US COAST GUARD HAS REOPENED THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT BATON ROUGE TO NORTHBOUND TRAFFIC. THE RIVER WAS CLOSED SINCE FRIDAY NEAR THE US 190 BRIDGE IN BATON ROUGE AFTER SEVERAL BARGES GOT LOOSE. PORT OF SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA OPERATIONS DIRECTOR MITCH SMITH SAYS THE IMPACT SO FAR ON CARGO TRAFFIC HAS BEEN MINOR. SMITH SAYS IT WAS LUCKY THAT THE BARGES THAT SANK CONTAINED GRAIN
AND NOT ANY HAZARDOUS MATERIALS.

LOUISIANA STATE POLICE HAVE ANNOUNCED THEY HAVE MADE AN ARREST OF THE FINAL SUSPECT IN THE ALLEGED GANG RAPE OF THREE YOUNG GIRLS. 35-YEAR OLD LAWRENCE RICKS JR. OF VENTRESS WAS BOOKED INTO THE ST. LANDRY PARISH JAIL. THE THREE GIRLS, ALL UNDER THE AGE OF NINE, WERE ALLEGEDLY ABUSED BY A GROUP OF EIGHT ADULTS. STATE POLICE TROOPER STEPHEN HAMMONS SAYS AT LEAST FOUR OF THE ADULTS WERE RELATED TO THE VICTIMS. SEVEN OTHER SUSPECTS WERE TAKEN IN FRIDAY. RICKS SURRENDERED WITHOUT INCIDENT MONDAY.

LOUISIANA'S TREASURER SAYS THE STATE JOINS 35 OTHERS AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA IN A SETTLEMENT WITH INSURER JOHN HANCOCK THAT COULD MEAN MONEY IN THE POCKET FOR SOME LOUISIANA FAMILIES. JOHN KENNEDY SAYS LOUISIANA WILL SHARE IN $1 MILLION IN UNCLAIMED INSURANCE PROCEEDS DISCOVERED AFTER AN AUDIT FOUND THAT JOHN HANCOCK HAD FAILED TO PROPERLY REPORT UNCLAIMED LIFE INSURANCE BENEFITS

A HOUSE COMMITTEE HAS REJECTED A NEW ORLEANS LAWMAKER'S BILL THAT WOULD ALLOW TWO UNMARRIED, SAME-SEX ADULTS TO ADOPT A CHILD TOGETHER. DEMOCRAT HELENA MORENO SAID THAT PUBLIC OPINION HAS WARMED TO THE IDEA OF GAY ADOPTION SINCE THE BILL FAILED LAST YEAR, BUT THE HOUSE CIVIL LAW AND PROCEDURE COMMITTEE DISAGREED AND SHELVED THE PROPOSAL MONDAY.

GAS PRICES HAVE FINALLY STARTED DROPPING. AAA REPORTS THE STATEWIDE AVERAGE FOR A GALLON OF REGULAR GAS IS $3.72 A GALLON. THAT'S 10 CENTS LESS THAN A WEEK AGO.

God Bless America!

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