KSYL Local News

News For Tuesday Morning 05/08/12


NEWS FOR TUESDAY 050812
BY DAVE GRAICHEN

MORE PROBLEMS WITHIN THE ALEXANDRIA HOUSING AUTHORITY. AN AUDIT OF WAS PERFORMED BY A THIRD-PARTY ACCOUNTING FIRM. THE REPORT WAS MADE PUBLIC YESTERDAY. IN THE 179 PAGE REPORT THE ACCOUNTING FIRM WARNED THE AUTHORITY CANNOT CONTINUE TO OPERATE AS IT HAS FOR THE LAST NUMBER OF YEARS AND THAT DRASTIC ACTION NEEDS TO BE TAKEN NOW IN ORDER TO AVOID FINANCIAL DISASTER. THE REPORT ALSO RECOMMENDS TAKING LEGAL ACTION TO RECOVER MONEY THAT FORMER AHA EMPLOYEES PAID THEMSELVES WITHOUT BOARD APPROVAL.

THE ANNUAL DEBATE ON WHETHER THE STATE SHOULD RANDOMLY DRUG TEST WELFARE RECIPIENTS GETS A HEARING IN A HOUSE COMMITTEE TODAY. THE BILL BY LIVINGSTON REP. SHERMAN MACK WOULD REQUIRE YOU TO SIGN A CONSENT FORM SAYING THAT YOU DO NO DO DRUGS, BUT COULD BE RANDOMLY TESTED. MACK SAYS IF YOU'RE TESTED AND FAIL, YOUR BENEFITS ARE NOT CUT OFF. MACK SAYS MANY TAX PAYING PEOPLE FROM HIS DISTRICT HAVE JOBS THAT REQUIRE THEY TAKE DRUG TESTS AT WORK, AND FEEL PEOPLE WHO DO DRUGS SHOULDN'T RECEIVE STATE BENEFITS. HE SAYS UNDER THE PROPOSED LAW, IF A WELFARE RECIPIENT FAILS A RANDOM DRUG TEST, THEY ARE REQUIRED TO ENTER
A REHABILITATION PROGRAM AND PASS ANOTHER TEST WITHIN 90 DAYS. IF THEY FAIL TO PASS THAT TEST, THEY WOULD LOOSE THEIR BENEFITS.

MONDAY, THE PUBLIC AFFAIRS RESEARCH COUNCIL OF LOUISIANA, A NONPARTISAN GOVERNMENT MONITORING GROUP, URGED LAWMAKERS TO RESTORE MONEY FOR THE OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL IN NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET. ACCORDING TO PAR, "THE ROLE AND SKILLS OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL'S OFFICE ARE ESPECIALLY VALUABLE DURING TIGHT BUDGET TIMES AND THE STATE NEEDS A SELF-MOTIVATED WATCHDOG AGENCY TO STOP WASTE, MISMANAGEMENT, ABUSE AND FRAUD IN EXECUTIVE BRANCH GOVERNMENT. AS IT WROTE THE BUDGET FOR THE 2012-13 FISCAL YEAR, THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE STRIPPED THE $1.7 MILLION FOR THE INSPECTOR GENERAL AND EVEN WENT AS FAR AS TO REMOVE REFERENCE TO THE OFFICE. LAWMAKERS SAY THE AGENCY'S WORK OVERLAPS THE DUTIES PERFORMED BY OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AND AUDITING OFFICES IN STATE GOVERNMENT. PAR SAYS IN RECENT YEARS, THE OFFICE HAS FOUND ABUSES INCLUDING EXCESSIVE OVERTIME BY GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, THE ILLEGAL USE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT DATABASES AND THEFT BY STATE WORKERS. MORE THAN A DOZEN PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ARRESTED TIED TO THOSE INVESTIGATIONS.

REPORTS THAT LOUISIANA IS SPENDING LESS TAXPAYER MONEY ON PAYROLL, BECAUSE IT HAS FEWER EMPLOYEES ARE NOT TRUE--ACCORDING TO STATE TREASURER JOHN KENNEDY. KENNEDY SAYS CLAIMS MADE BY THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE TO THAT EFFECT ARE NOT ACCURATE, BASED ON A LEGISLATIVE AUDITOR'S REPORT. KENNEDY SAYS AN AUDITOR'S REPORT FROM FEBRUARY OF THIS YEAR SHOWS THAT THE STATE HAS ELIMINATED ABOUT 6900 POSITIONS, OVER THE PAST 6 YEARS. A LARGE NUMBER OF STATE EMPLOYEES ARE PAID SALARIES IN EXCESS OF $100-THOUSAND A YEAR. SOME STATE DEPARTMENT HEADS ARE PAID THREE TO FOUR TIMES THAT. KENNEDY SAYS STATE EXECUTIVE PAY SCALES ARE PARTLY TO BLAME FOR EVER-RISING ANNUAL STATE BUDGETS.

THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE ADVANCED BUDGETS MONDAY FOR THE JUDICIARY AND THE LEGISLATURE. THE ANNUAL SPENDING PLAN (HOUSE BILL 1058) TO FINANCE THE OPERATIONS OF MANY STATE COURTS, INCLUDING THE LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT, IN THE NEW YEAR THAT BEGINS JULY 1 WOULD STAY FLAT AT $159 MILLION.
SUPREME COURT LEADERS SOUGHT A $6 MILLION INCREASE TO COVER INCREASED COSTS OF RETIREMENT AND HEALTH CARE AND EXPAND DRUG COURT PROGRAMS. THE PROPOSAL TO FINANCE LEGISLATIVE AGENCIES (HOUSE BILL 1044) WOULD GROW ABOUT $3 MILLION TO NEARLY $93 MILLION, MAINLY BY ROLLING OVER $2 MILLION FROM THIS YEAR TO NEXT YEAR'S OPERATING EXPENSES FOR THE LOUISIANA SENATE.

A 10-YEAR, $37 MILLION TAX BREAK FOR THE NEW ORLEANS HORNETS IS NEARING FINAL PASSAGE WITH BACKING IN A 7-2 VOTE FROM THE SENATE REVENUE AND FISCAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE. THE HOUSE-APPROVED MEASURE (HOUSE BILL 1072) HEADS NEXT TO THE FULL SENATE FOR DEBATE. THE TAX BREAK, SPONSORED BY REP. CAMERON HENRY, R-METAIRIE, IS PART OF THE STATE'S DEAL TO KEEP THE NBA TEAM IN LOUISIANA.

LOUISIANA RANKS THIRD-HIGHEST IN THE COUNTRY FOR THE PERCENTAGE OF KIDS ENROLLED IN PRIVATE SCHOOLS, ACCORDING TO DATA FROM THE U.S. CENSUS BUREAU. THE REPORT SHOWS OVER 19-PERCENT OF THE STATE'S CHILDREN ATTEND PRIVATE SCHOOLS. MYRA MCGOVERN, WITH THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS, SAYS THE STATE HAS A LONG TRADITION OF PRIVATE SCHOOLING THAT GOES BACK TO THE DAYS BEFORE IT HAD PUBLIC SCHOOLS. LOUISIANA RANKED BEHIND ONLY HAWAII AND DELAWARE FOR PERCENTAGES OF KIDS ENROLLED IN PRIVATE SCHOOLS.

LOUISIANA SENATORS ARE WATERING DOWN GOV. BOBBY JINDAL'S PROPOSALS TO CHARGE STATE EMPLOYEES MORE AND MAKE THEM WAIT LONGER FOR THEIR PENSION BENEFITS.
THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE REWROTE THE BILLS AT A MONDAY HEARING, TO SHRINK AND PHASE IN THE INCREASED PAYMENTS AND LESSEN THE BLOW TO WORKERS WHO HAVE BEEN STATE EMPLOYEES FOR DECADES. THE RETIREMENT PROPOSALS HAVE FACED OPPOSITION FROM LAWMAKERS AND CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTIONS. LAWMAKERS AND THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE HAVE BEEN HAGGLING BEHIND THE SCENES OVER ADJUSTMENTS THAT COULD WIN ENOUGH SUPPORT FOR PASSAGE. AS REWRITTEN, NONE OF THE CHANGES WOULD BEGIN UNTIL JULY 1, 2013, FOR CURRENT WORKERS. THE DELAYED RETIREMENT AGE WON'T APPLY TO WORKERS WHO ARE 55 YEARS OLD OR OLDER, OR THOSE WHO HAVE WORKED FOR THE STATE FOR AT LEAST 20 YEARS.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL HAS SIGNED INTO LAW A BILL THAT CREATES A NEW TAX BREAK PROGRAM THAT WILL GIVE REBATES FOR DONATIONS TO VOUCHER PROGRAMS THAT ALLOW STUDENTS TO ATTEND PRIVATE SCHOOLS. JINDAL SAYS IT WILL GIVE CHILDREN IN FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO GET AN IMPROVED EDUCATION. HE SIGNED THE MEASURE MONDAY. THE TAX BREAK BEGINS WITH THE 2013-14 SCHOOL YEAR. THE BILL PROVIDES A NEARLY DOLLAR-FOR-DOLLAR STATE TAX REBATE TO PEOPLE AND BUSINESSES WHO DONATE MONEY TO NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS THAT GIVE THE PRIVATE SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIPS TO STUDENTS. OPPONENTS SAY THE TAX BREAK PROGRAM WILL DAMAGE PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE STATE BY SIPHONING OFF CHILDREN TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS AND TAKING DOLLARS AWAY FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

GAS PRICES CONTINUE TO FALL AS SUMMER APPROACHES, DROPPING 20 CENTS A GALLON OVER THE LAST MONTH. THE CURRENT PRICE OF REGULAR GAS IS AVERAGING $3.61 A GALLON, DOWN FROM $3.82 A MONTH AGO. AAA FUEL ANALYST DON REDMAN SAYS UNREST IN THE EUROPEAN FINANCIAL MARKETS IS HELPING DRIVE DOWN THE PRICE OF CRUDE. REDMAN SAYS GAS PRICES ARE FOLLOWING A SIMILAR PATTERN TO THE ONE THEY FOLLOWED A YEAR AGO, WHEN PRICES COLLAPSED IN MAY. HE SAYS A DROP IN CRUDE PRICES AND FALLING DEMAND, CAUSED THE DROP IN PRICES TO BEGIN EARLIER THIS YEAR.

THE 2012 FORTUNE 500 LIST WAS RELEASED THIS MORNING, AND CENTURYLINK IS LISTED AS THE TOP RISING STAR. THE MONROE BASED BUSINESS WAS NO. 171 OVERALL WHICH IS UP FROM 334TH LAST YEAR. BATON ROUGE'S SHAW GROUP SLIPPED TO NO. 412 ON THIS YEAR'S LIST AND NEW ORLEANS' ENTERGY ALSO FELL ABOUT 30 SPOTS TO NO. 239. CENTURYLINK'S REPORTED REVENUE OF OVER $15 BILLION IN 2011 REPRESENTS NEARLY A 200% YEAR-OVER-YEAR INCREASE.

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL WAS IN SHREVEPORT YESTERDAY TO ANNOUNCE A PAPER COMPANY BASED IN NEW JERSEY IS MOVING ITS CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS TO SHREVEPORT. RONPAK'S DECISION IS EXPECTED TO BRING ONE-HUNDRED NEW JOBS TO THE AREA. RONPAK PRESIDENT RON SEDLEY SAYS THEY ARE ALSO BUILDING A NEW FACILITY AT THE PORT OF CADDO-BOSSIER. RONPAK MAKES CUSTOM-PRINTED PAPER BAGS AND FOOD WRAPS FOR MAJOR FAST FOOD CHAINS. THEY ALSO SELL PAPER PRODUCTS TO PHARMACIES.

IF THE SABINE RIVER AUTHORITY WANTS TO SELL TOLEDO BEND RESERVOIR WATER TO TEXAS OR ANY OTHER STATE, IT WOULD HAVE TO GET APPROVAL OF THE GOVERNOR, LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEES AND PARISH MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS UNDER LEGISLATION HEADED FOR FINAL APPROVAL OF THE HOUSE FLOOR. SENATE BILL 436, SPONSORED BY SEN. GERALD LONG, R-WINNFIELD, DOESN'T TAKE AWAY THE SRA'S AUTHORITY TO ENTER INTO CONTRACTS WHICH PROVIDE FOR THE SALE, UTILIZATION, DISTRIBUTION OR CONSUMPTION OF WATER OUTSIDE THE BOUNDARIES OF THE STATE, AS LONG AS IT GETS THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE GOVERNOR. BUT IT ADDS A REQUIREMENT THAT ANY DEAL RECEIVE THE APPROVAL OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEES, TWO THIRDS OF POLICE JURORS IN THE PARISHES THAT BORDER THE RESERVOIR AND TWO THIRDS OF THE MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS IN THOSE PARISHES.


SPORTS..

LSU MOVES UP TO NUMBER THREE IN THE LATEST BASEBALL AMERICA TOP 25 POLL. THE TIGERS ARE 38-AND-11 OVERALL AND TIED WITH SOUTH CAROLINA FOR THE BEST SEC RECORD AT 16-AND-8. THERE'S JUST SEVEN REGULAR SEASON GAMES LEFT BEFORE THE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT BEGINS.

SAINTS LINEBACKER JONATHAN VILMA AND THREE OTHER PLAYERS SUSPENDED IN THE NFL'S INVESTIGATION OF NEW ORLEANS' CASH-FOR-HITS BOUNTY SYSTEM CHALLENGED THEIR PUNISHMENTS MONDAY. VILMA, NAMED BY THE NFL AS A RINGLEADER OF THE OPERATION, APPEALED HIS SEASON-LONG SUSPENSION WHILE THE NFL PLAYERS ASSOCIATION NOTIFIED THE LEAGUE IT WAS RESERVING THE APPEAL RIGHTS OF SAINTS DEFENSIVE END WILL SMITH AND THOSE OF EX-SAINTS ANTHONY HARGROVE AND SCOTT FUJITA. ALL FOUR PLAYERS AND THE UNION ARGUE THAT NO APPEAL SHOULD BE HEARD BEFORE NFLPA GRIEVANCES ARE RESOLVED QUESTIONING NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL'S AUTHORITY TO DISCIPLINE THE PLAYERS AND TO HEAR THEIR APPEALS.





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