KSYL Local News

News For Thursday 062311


NEWS FOR THURSDAY 062311
BY DAVE GRAICHEN

PINEVILLE OFFICIALS YESTERDAY ANNOUNCED THEY EXPECT TO ONCE AGAIN BE FORCED TO DIP INTO THE CITY'S SAVINGS ACCOUNT TO COVER THE COST OF CITY EXPENSES NEXT YEAR. MANY OF THOSE COSTS, INCLUDING STATE-MANDATED PENSION COSTS FOR FIRE AND POLICE PERSONNEL THAT ARE TRENDING UPWARD. PINEVILLE CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS WEDNESDAY VOTED TO PUBLISH THE PROPOSED 2011-12 BUDGET AND TO HOLD A FINAL MEETING ON THE BUDGET AT NOON NEXT THURSDAY.

THE TWO-MONTH REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION IS DRAWING TO A CLOSE THIS EVENING.
LAWMAKERS PLANNED TO COMPLETE NEXT YEAR'S STATE CONSTRUCTION BUDGET AND DECIDE WHETHER TO RENEW A 4-CENT STATE CIGARETTE TAX BEFORE WRAPPING UP THEIR WORK BY 6 P.M. THE SESSION IS MARKED BY DEFEAT OF MANY OF GOV. BOBBY JINDAL'S KEY INITIATIVES, AS LAWMAKERS SHOWING SIGNS OF INDEPENDENCE SHELVED JINDAL PROPOSALS TO RAISE COLLEGE TUITION, MERGE TWO NEW ORLEANS UNIVERSITIES, SELL STATE PRISONS AND RAISE STATE EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT COSTS. THE GOVERNOR GOT WHAT HE WANTED OUT OF THE BUDGET, BUT LEGISLATORS WENT THEIR OWN WAY IN DECIDING HOW TO FINANCE IT ALL.

A WESTWEGO SENATOR HAS AGREED TO ACCEPT THE CIGARETTE TAX RENEWAL THAT THE HOUSE TACKED ONTO HIS BILL TO FUND A POPULAR COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM.
THE COMPROMISE IS EXPECTED TO BRING TO A CLOSE ONE OF THE MOST CONTENTIOUS BATTLES OF THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION, ALL BUT ENSURING THAT THE BILL WILL EMERGE FROM A CONFERENCE COMMITTEE WITH THE 4-CENT TAX EXTENSION INTACT. REPUBLICAN JOHN ALARIO HAD SPONSORED THE JINDAL ADMINISTRATION BILL TO REDIRECT A STREAM OF TOBACCO SETTLEMENT MONEY TO THE STATE'S TOPS PROGRAM. GOV. BOBBY JINDAL OPPOSES THE RENEWAL OF THE STATE'S CIGARETTE TAX. BUT JINDAL SAID TUESDAY — AND ALARIO AGREED WEDNESDAY — THAT TOPS IS A BIGGER PRIORITY THAN ENSURING THAT THE CIGARETTE TAX EXPIRES.

LAWMAKERS AGREED TO BOOST PENALTIES FOR EMPLOYERS WHO KNOWINGLY HIRE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. THE MEASURE (HOUSE BILL 646) BY REP. KIRK TALBOT, R-RIVER RIDGE, WILL INCREASE THE FINE FOR A FIRST VIOLATION FROM $250 TO $500, ON A SECOND VIOLATION FROM $500 TO $1,000 AND ON A THIRD VIOLATION FROM $1,000 TO $2,500. THIRD-TIME VIOLATORS ALSO WILL FACE JAIL TIME OF AT LEAST 30 DAYS AND UP TO SIX MONTHS.
THE CHANGED PENALTIES, HOWEVER, WON'T APPLY TO HEALTH CARE FACILITIES LICENSED BY THE STATE HEALTH DEPARTMENT, WHICH HAS OTHER RESTRICTIONS AND REQUIREMENTS. THE BILL WAS SENT WEDNESDAY TO THE GOVERNOR WITH AN 89-0 HOUSE VOTE.

DESPITE SOME HEADWINDS HITTING THE NATIONAL ECONOMY, LOUISIANA'S JOB GROWTH PICKED UP SLIGHTLY IN MAY. THE LOUISIANA WORKFORCE COMMISSION SAID WEDNESDAY THAT THE STATE RECORDED 15,000 NON-FARM JOBS MORE LAST MONTH THAN IN MAY 2010, INCLUDING A JUMP OF 10,200 FROM APRIL. THE APRIL-TO-APRIL COMPARISON SHOWED A GAIN OF 14,500 JOBS, WHILE THE MARCH-TO-MARCH GAIN WAS 9,200 JOBS. IN A CONTINUATION OF A RECENT TREND, THE PRIVATE SECTOR PROVIDED ALL OF THE GROWTH, ADDING 31,800 JOBS OVER 12 MONTHS. GOVERNMENT EMPLOYMENT AT ALL LEVELS DROPPED 16,800 JOBS. ALEXANDRIA GAINED 1,400 JOBS OVER 12 MONTHS, INCLUDING 300 IN THE GOODS-PRODUCING SECTOR AND 1,100 IN THE SERVICE-PROVIDING SECTOR.

GOVERNOR JINDAL HAS SIGNED A BILL BY LAFAYETTE REPRESENTATIVE RICKY HARDY INTO LAW REQUIRING LOUISIANA HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TO CARRY A C AVERAGE IN ORDER TO PARTICIPATE IN SPORTS. THE NEW LAW MIRRORS A RULE BY THE LOUISIANA HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION DUE TO TAKE EFFECT THIS FALL. HARDY SAYS THE C AVERAGE IS STANDARD IN ALL OF OUR NEIGHBORING STATES. HE SAYS IF WE WANT TO CHANGE THE DIRECTION WE'RE HEADING IN WE NEED TO START BY HOLDING OURSELVES TO A HIGHER STANDARD.

THE FORMER MAYOR OF NEW ROADS, IN POINTE COUPEE PARISH, HAS BEEN CONVICTED OF FEDERAL RACKETEERING AND WIRE FRAUD CHARGES. TOMMY NELSON WAS ACCUSED OF TAKING BRIBES IN CONNECTION WITH A CONTRACT FOR A GARBAGE CAN CLEANING SERVICE.

A CREAMERY KNOWN FOR ITS ORGANIC MILK HAS BURNED DOWN AFTER A MASSIVE EXPLOSION IN WASHINGTON PARISH. AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE MOUNT HERMON EXPLOSION AND FIRE IS UNDERWAY, BUT STATE FIRE MARSHAL BUTCH BROWNING SAYS THIS WAS A GAS/VAPOR EXPLOSION. OFFICIALS SAY NO ONE WAS THERE AT THE TIME AND THERE ARE NO REPORTS OF INJURIES.

LAWMAKERS HAVE GIVEN FINAL APPROVAL TO A BILL THAT WOULD REQUIRE INFORMATION TO BE GIVEN TO WOMEN IN ABORTION CLINICS BEFORE THEY CAN TERMINATE A PREGNANCY. WEST MONROE REP. FRANK HOFFMAN SAYS THE NEW LAW WOULD REQUIRE ABORTION CLINICS TO POST SIGNS INFORMING WOMEN THAT THEY CAN NOT BE FORCED TO HAVE AN ABORTION BY ANYONE. THE BILL NOW HEADS THE GOVERNOR'S DESK FOR HIS SIGNATURE.

THE BILL THAT WOULD BAN SO CALLED "BATH SALTS" AND OTHER SYNTHETIC FORMS OF DRUGS IS HEADED TO THE GOVERNOR'S DESK FOR HIS SIGNATURE. THE BILL BY GRETNA REP. RICKY TEMPLET WOULD MAKE HALLUCINOGENIC PRODUCTS ILLEGAL ON JULY 15TH. TEMPLET SAYS THE PENALTY FOR POSSESSING OR DISTRIBUTING SUCH PRODUCTS WILL BE SIMILAR TO THOSE OF POSSESSING OR DISTRIBUTING MARIJUANA OR COCAINE.

FIFTY-ONE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH A MEDICAID FRAUD INVESTIGATION IN LOUISIANA. THE STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SAYS 50 OF THOSE ARRESTED WERE MEDICAID RECIPIENTS. THE OTHER WAS A FORMER PHARMACIST IN METAIRIE. ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES D. CALDWELL SAYS CHARGES INCLUDE MEDICAID FRAUD AND DISPENSING DANGEROUS DRUGS BY FRAUD. HE SAYS THE INVESTIGATION BEGAN AFTER THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH HOSPITALS ALLEGED THAT FRAUDULENT PRESCRIPTIONS FOR NARCOTICS WERE ISSUED BY A NON-EXISTENT MEDICAL CLINIC CLAIMING TO BE IN BATON ROUGE. THE MAJORITY OF THE PRESCRIPTIONS HAD BEEN FILLED IN METAIRIE AT ONE PHARMACY. CALDWELL SAYS MORE ARRESTS ARE EXPECTED.

LOUISIANA'S LONG DROUGHT WILL PROVE TO BE MORE A PROBLEM FOR AGRICULTURE THAN THE RECENT FLOODING. LSU AGCENTER ECONOMIST KURT GUIDRY SAYS IT'S TOO EARLY TO PREDICT THE DROUGHT'S EFFECTS ON CROPS, BUT IT IS PLAIN THAT 2011 WON'T BE AS GOOD AS 2010. GUIDRY SAYS EARLIER HARVESTED CROPS, LIKE CORN, HAVE ALREADY SUFFERED MORE FROM THE DROUGHT THAN OTHERS.



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