KSYL Local News

News for Tuesday 062111


NEWS FOR TUESDAY 062111
BY DAVE GRAICHEN

AFTER A SENATE COMMITTEE STRIPPED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN PROJECTS FROM A HOUSE-PASSED STATE CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM, THE SENATE ON MONDAY RESTORED ALL OF THE PROJECTS AND ADDED SOME. AS APPROVED, HB2 TOTALS $2.68 BILLION. ABOUT $1.6 BILLION IS IN PRIORITY 1, THE TOP PRIORITY THAT CONTAINS MANY PROJECTS FUNDED WITH CASH AND PROJECTS THAT HAVE RECEIVED FUNDING IN PREVIOUS YEARS. PRIORITY 2, WHICH WILL BE FUNDED WITH BONDS TO BE SOLD, TOTALS $122 MILLION. PRIORITY 5 HAS $904 MILLION IN PROJECTS THAT COULD BE STARTED WITH NON-CASH LINES OF CREDIT. IN PAST YEARS, PROJECTS HAVE BEEN PLUGGED INTO PRIORITIES 3 AND 4 BUT NOT FUNDED FOR YEARS, IF EVER.

IN A SURPRISE MOVE BY MANY, THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HAS APPROVED THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES PLAN FOR DRAWING NEW ELECTION DISTRICTS FOR THIS FALL'S ELECTIONS, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THERE WON'T BE FURTHER CHALLENGE. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN THE STATE’S HISTORY THAT WE HAVE GOTTEN PRECLEARANCE ON A FIRST SUBMISSION.

TODAY IS THE FIRST OFFICIAL DAY OF SUMMER. STATE CLIMATOLOGIST BARRY KEIM SAYS THE TREND OF ABOVE-AVERAGE TEMPERATURES WILL CONTINUE. KEIM SAYS THE LANINA EFFECT HAS PRODUCED A SERIOUS DROUGHT ACROSS MOST OF THE STATE. HE SAYS THE DRY, PARCHED GROUND IS THE REASON FOR THE HIGHER THAN NORMAL TEMPERATURES. KEIM SAYS THE EXPECTATION FOR MORE RAINFALL DURING THE SUMMER WILL COME TO FRUITION OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS AS MOST OF THE STATE SHOULD SEE SIGNIFICANT RAIN.

A NEARLY $3.4 BILLION SPENDING PLAN FOR STATE PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS RECEIVED FINAL PASSAGE FROM THE LEGISLATURE WITH A UNANIMOUS SENATE VOTE MONDAY.
THE 2011-12 FUNDING FORMULA WILL KEEP FUNDING STATIC FOR ANOTHER YEAR, NOT PROVIDING DISTRICTS WITH THE ANNUAL 2.75 PERCENT INCREASES THEY HAD GROWN ACCUSTOMED TO RECEIVING TO COVER RISING HEALTH AND RETIREMENT COSTS. BUT IT AVOIDS THE TYPES OF CUTS THAT HAVE BEEN LEVIED ACROSS MANY STATE AGENCIES.
LAWMAKERS, GOV. BOBBY JINDAL AND THE STATE EDUCATION BOARD SAID THE STATE COULDN'T AFFORD AN INCREASE IN SUCH TIGHT BUDGET TIMES. IT'S THE THIRD YEAR IN A ROW WITHOUT NEW MONEY.

STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY CO., LOUISIANA'S LARGEST INSURER OF HOMES, IS ASKING STATE INSURANCE REGULATORS FOR PERMISSION TO BOOST PREMIUMS BY AN AVERAGE 8.5 PERCENT. IN A FILING RELEASED MONDAY BY THE STATE INSURANCE DEPARTMENT, STATE FARM SAID THE REQUESTED HIKE FOR JUST OVER 301,000 POLICYHOLDERS WOULD INCREASE RATES BY $32.7 MILLION ANNUALLY. THE INSURER WANTS THE HIGHER RATES TO GO INTO EFFECT FOR NEW POLICIES ON AUG. 15 AND BE ADDED TO RENEWED POLICIES ON OCT. 1. IN MARCH, INSURANCE COMMISSIONER JIM DONELON REJECTED A STATE FARM REQUEST FOR AN AVERAGE 14.3 PERCENT INCREASE, SAYING IT WAS NOT JUSTIFIED. THAT INCREASE WOULD HAVE RAISED HOMEOWNER RATES BY $55 MILLION ANNUALLY.

IT'S BEEN ABOUT SEVEN WEEKS SINCE OSAMA BIN LADEN WAS KILLED BY US NAVY SEALS AND MINDEN CONGRESSMAN JOHN FLEMING HAS VIEWED THE CONTROVERSIAL "DEATH PHOTOS." FLEMING VIEWED THE PHOTOS YESTERDAY AT C-I-A HEADQUARTERS. THE CONGRESSMAN SAYS THE GRAPHIC PHOTOS WERE TAKEN AT VARIOUS ANGLES. FLEMING SAYS BIN LADEN WAS CLEANED UP PRIOR TO HIS BURIAL AT SEA. FLEMING IS ALSO A DOCTOR AND HE SAYS ONE THING HE NOTICED ABOUT THE PHOTOS CONTRARY TO WHAT MANY BELIEVE, BIN LADEN WAS NOT AN ILL MAN.

LEGISLATION TO TRANSFER THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS FROM ONE COLLEGE SYSTEM TO ANOTHER IS CLOSER TO FINAL PASSAGE. ON THE SENATE FLOOR, THE SENATE PASSED THE HOUSE BILL 35-4, AND SENT IT BACK TO THE HOUSE. IN THE HOUSE, SPEAKER JIM TUCKER AMENDED THE BILL TO CLEAR UP WHICH SYSTEM PAYS FOR WHAT PARTS OF THE COST OF THE TRANSFER. WITH BOTH HOUSE AND SENATE VERSIONS OF THE LEGISLATION FINALLY PASSED, NOW THE TWO CHAMBERS MUST CONFER ON WHICH ONE GOES TO THE GOVERNOR.

LAWMAKERS RESURRECT LEGISLATION TO RENEW AN EXPIRING 4-CENT CIGARETTE TAX, AFTER THE BILL WAS VETOED LAST WEEK BY GOVERNOR JINDAL. THE MEASURE RETURNED AS AN AMENDMENT TO A BILL TO COMMIT MORE TOBACCO SETTLEMENT DOLLARS TO TOPS GRADES-BASED SCHOLARSHIPS. IT WAS BROUGHT BY BOGALUSA REP. HAROLD RITCHIE. THE TOPS BILL--WITH THE CIGARETTE TAX INCLUDED--PASSED BY 92-8 VOTE. IT GOES BACK TO THE SENATE FOR CONCURRENCE ON RITCHIE'S AMENDMENT. BILL AUTHOR SEN. JOHN ALARIO SAYS HE'LL OBJECT TO THE CHANGE AND SEND THE BILL TO A CONFERENCE COMMITTEE.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN LOUISIANA WILL GET LETTER GRADES BASED ON PERFORMANCE STARTING IN THE FALL. BOARD OF ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION PRESIDENT PENNY DASTUGUE SAYS BASED ON SPRING PERFORMANCE SCORES, NEARLY HALF OF LOUISIANA SCHOOLS WOULD RECEIVE A "D" OR "F" UNDER THE NEW LETTER GRADE SYSTEM. DASTUGUE SAYS THE GRADE LETTERS ARE BEING USED SO THAT PARENTS AND LEADERS CAN GET A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF HOW SCHOOLS ARE PERFORMING IN THEIR COMMUNITIES.

AUTHORITIES ARE TRYING TO DETERMINE WHO KILLED TWO TEENAGE GIRLS IN MADISON PARISH OVER THE WEEKEND. THE VICTIMS HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED AS 18-YEAR-OLD NIKESHA WASHINGTON AND 18 YEAR OLD JASMINE SMITH BOTH OF TALLULAH. STATE POLICE SPOKESMAN TROOPER MARK DENNIS HAD LITTLE TO SAY OTHER THAN THEY ARE FOLLOWING UP ON LEADS.

CAN THE SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER MARKET SUSTAIN SIX RIVERBOAT CASINOS. THERE'S TALK OF A CASINO LICENSE MOVING FROM LAKE CHARLES TO BOSSIER CITY. ANY PROJECTED TIME TABLE FOR THE MOVE WOULD HAVE A SIXTH CASINO IN THE MARKET IN TWO OR THREE YEARS.

LOUISIANA CITY MAYORS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT LOSING FEDERAL FUNDING DUE TO BIG BUDGET CUTS UNDERWAY IN CONGRESS. SPEAKING FROM THE 79TH ANNUAL MEETING OF THE U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS IN BALTIMORE, BATON ROUGE MAYOR KIP HOLDEN SAYS HE AND COLLEAGUES ARE DISCUSSING THE POTENTIAL LOSS OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANTS. HOLDEN SAYS HE AND FELLOW MAYORS HOPE THEIR COMBINED MESSAGE WILL CARRY WEIGHT WITH CONGRESS AND THE WHITE HOUSE, TO SPARE THE BLOCK GRANTS FROM THE BUDGET AXE.

THE FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT IS ALLOCATING JUST UNDER $17 MILLION TO HELP LOUISIANA HOMEOWNERS FACING FORECLOSURE. PARTICIPANTS HAVE TO BE INVOLUNTARILY UNEMPLOYED OR UNDEREMPLOYED DUE TO ECONOMIC CONDITIONS OR A MEDICAL CONDITION. THOSE DECLARED ELIGIBLE CAN GET A NO-INTEREST, FORGIVABLE LOANS THAT COVER PAST-DUE PAYMENTS AND A PORTION OF THE MONTHLY MORTGAGE PAYMENT FOR UP TO 24 MONTHS, OR UP TO $50,000, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST. CONGRESS HAS PROVIDED $1 BILLION FOR THE PROGRAM NATIONWIDE.






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