KSYL Local News

News For Monday 03/26/12


NEWS FOR MONDAY 032612
BY DAVE GRAICHEN

THE REGULAR SESSION OF THE LEGISLATURE IS JUST TWO WEEKS OLD, AND ALREADY THE GOVERNOR'S EDUCATION REFORMS HAVE MADE AMAZING PROGRESS. THE TWO MAIN BILLS OF MR. JINDAL'S PACKAGE HAVE CLEARED HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEES AND THE HOUSE FLOOR. (AT THE CURRENT PACE, THE KEY BILLS IN THE GOVERNOR'S EDUCATION REFORMS COULD SEE FINAL PASSAGE WITHIN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS. UP NEXT FOR THE GOVERNOR, THE PROPOSED REFORMS OF LOUISIANA'S STATE WORKERS' RETIREMENT SYSTEM, CURRENTLY MORE THAN $18-BILLION IN THE HOLE. MOST EXPERTS BELIEVE THE GOVERNOR WILL NOT HAVE AS EASY A TIME GETTING THAT PASSED.

THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES FAILED TO PASS THE TRANSPORTATION BILL WHICH INCLUDES LEGISLATION AUTHORIZING THE RESTORE ACT. THAT WOULD SEND 80-PERCENT OF CLEAN WATER ACT FINES FROM THE 2010 BP OIL SPILL TO THE FIVE GULF STATES TO PAY FOR COASTAL RESTORATION. CONGRESSMAN STEVE SCALISE SAYS THE RESTORE ACT WOULD ALLOCATE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS INTO THE GULF COAST RESTORATION TRUST FUND. THE MAJORITY OF THOSE DOLLARS WOULD FIND THEIR WAY TO LOUISIANA AS THE STATE MOST DEEPLY AFFECTED BY THE OIL SPILL. SCALISE SAYS THE BIGGEST HURDLES TO PASSAGE OF THE RESTORE ACT ARE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN VERSIONS OF THE TRANSPORTATION BILL IN THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE. HE SAYS ITS JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE THOSE DIFFERENCES CAN BE RESOLVED.

POLLS WERE OPEN FOR 14 HOURS ON SATURDAY FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY, BUT THERE'S A BILL MOVING THROUGH THE STATE LEGISLATURE THAT REDUCES ELECTION DAY BY ONE HOUR. SECRETARY OF STATE TOM SCHLEDER WANTS THE VOTING DAY TO BEGIN AT 7, INSTEAD OF 6 A-M. SCHEDLER SAYS STATISTICS SHOW ONLY 3-PERCENT OF THE VOTERS CAST THEIR BALLOT DURING THE 1ST HOUR. BATON ROUGE REPRESENTATIVE FRANKLIN FOIL HAS AUTHORED A BILL THAT WOULD HAVE THE ELECTION DAY START AT 7, INSTEAD OF 6 AM, AND LAST UNTIL 8 PM. FOIL SAYS THE LEGISLATION IS DESIGNED TO MAKE IT A LITTLE EASIER FOR POLL WORKERS WHO FACE LONG HOURS ON ELECTION DAY.

THE STATE CONTINUES TO BATTLE THE GIANT SPREAD OF SALVINIA, ONE OF THE WORLD'S WORST AQUATIC WEEDS, THROUGHOUT LOUISIANA WATERS. LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES SECRETARY ROBERT BARHAM SAYS THE STATE HAS ALREADY SPENT $8 MILLION SPRAYING AND THEY'VE STILL GOT A LONG WAY TO GO. BARHAM SAYS SALVINIA IS A FAST GROWING PLANT THAT CHOKES OFF OXYGEN KILLING FISH, RUINS CONDITIONS FOR BOATING AND CLOGS IRRIGATION SYSTEMS. BARHAM SAYS SALVINIA CAN DOUBLE IN SIZE IN LESS THAN A WEEK. BARHAM SAYS DESPITE THE STATE'S BEST EFFORTS, THE DEADLY WEED CONTINUES TO SPREAD. HE SAYS PART OF THE PROBLEM IS THAT TEXAS ISN'T DOING AS MUCH AS LOUISIANA TO COMBAT SALVINIA AND SOME BOATS FROM THE LONESTAR STATE ARE SPREADING IT TO WATERS HERE.

A LAWSUIT THAT THE STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE FILED IN 2010 AGAINST MORE THAN 100 DRUG MANUFACTURERS, ALLEGING THEY ILLEGALLY INFLATED PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS PAID BY LOUISIANA TAXPAYERS THROUGH THE MEDICAID PROGRAM, IS HEADED TO TRIAL NEXT YEAR. STATE DISTRICT JUDGE WILSON FIELDS HAS SET A SERIES OF TRIAL DATES IN 2013 ON MARCH 4, JUNE 17 AND OCT. 7. THE SEPARATE TRIAL DATES WILL DEAL WITH DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF DRUGS SUCH AS GENERIC OR BRAND NAME.
THE SUIT ACCUSES SOME OF THE COUNTRY’S LARGEST DRUG MAKERS OF CHARGING “GROSSLY EXCESSIVE AMOUNTS’’ FOR PRESCRIPTION DRUGS, A PRACTICE ATTORNEY GENERAL BUDDY CALDWELL CONTENDS HAS CONTRIBUTED TO THE STATE’S HEALTH-CARE FUNDING CRISIS. THE DRUG MANUFACTURERS ARE CONTESTING THOSE ACCUSATIONS.


WESTLAKE CHEMICAL CORP. CREWS ARE CLEANING UP AFTER AN EXPLOSION AND FIRE IN A TOWER AT THE PLANT IN GEISMAR. PETER RICCA OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY SAYS A CRANE APPARENTLY GOT IN LATE SATURDAY, ALLOWING CREWS TO STABILIZE THE TOWER, WHICH HELD LIQUID ETHYLENE DICHLORIDE. HE SAID IT HAD BEEN LEANING SLIGHTLY SINCE THE ACCIDENT THURSDAY, AND HAD TO BE STABILIZED BEFORE ANYONE COULD GO UP TO IT TO START REMOVING ABOUT 500 GALLONS OF CHEMICAL. WORK IS NOW UNDERWAY TO DO JUST THAT. NOBODY WAS INJURED IN THE ACCIDENT, WHICH OCCURRED AS WORKERS WERE RESTARTING A VINYL CHLORIDE MONOMER UNIT.

AN 18-WHEELER FILLED WITH CONDOMS AND HIV/AIDS TESTING KITS WILL BE PULLING UP TO SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY WEDNESDAY FOR THE WOMEN AND GIRLS HIV/AIDS AWARENESS SUMMIT. THE TRUCK’S STOP IN BATON ROUGE IS ONE OF SEVERAL SLATED IN LOUISIANA FROM MARCH 27 TO MARCH 31 AS PART OF THE CONDOM NATION TOUR, A 25-STATE TOUR TO DISTRIBUTE CONDOMS AND SAFE-SEX INFORMATION FOR FREE. THE SUMMIT AT SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY AND THE TOUR STOP COMES TWO WEEKS AFTER THE FEDERAL CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION RELEASED DATA THAT SHOWED THE BATON ROUGE METROPOLITAN STATISTICAL AREA RANKS NO. 1 IN THE NATION IN ITS RATE OF NEW AIDS DIAGNOSES IN 2010 AFTER RANKING SECOND THE PAST TWO YEARS.




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