KSYL Local News

News For Thursday 05/17/12


NEWS FOR THURSDAY 051712
BY DAVE GRAICHEN

TWO BILLS FOCUSED ON DETERRING PREGNANT WOMEN FROM GETTING ABORTIONS HAVE BEEN OVERWHELMINGLY APPROVED BY TWO LEGISLATIVE HEALTH COMMITTEES. SEN. SHARON WESTON BROOME SAID WEDNESDAY THAT HER PROPOSAL GIVES WOMEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO LISTEN TO A FETAL HEARTBEAT BEFORE AN ABORTION IS PERFORMED. THE MEASURE IS BASED ON A SIMILAR LAW PASSED LAST YEAR IN TEXAS. OPPONENTS SAY THE BILL OVERREACHES AND WOMEN SEEKING ABORTIONS HAVE ALREADY WEIGHED THEIR OPTIONS. ANOTHER BILL BY SENATE PRESIDENT JOHN ALARIO WOULD BAN ABORTION AFTER 20 WEEKS POST-FERTILIZATION, EXCEPTED IN LIMITED MEDICAL CASES, DECLARING THE FETUS CAN FEEL PAIN AT THAT POINT.

A HOUSE-PASSED BILL THAT WOULD BAN USING A HAND-HELD CELL PHONE WHILE DRIVING IS SCHEDULED TO GO BEFORE THE SENATE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE TODAY. BENTON SENATOR ROBERT ADLEY CHAIRS THAT COMMITTEE. HE SAYS THE BILL IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC SAFETY. THE BILL WOULD BE A PRIMARY OFFENSE, MEANING POLICE COULD STOP YOU IF THEY SEE YOU ON A HAND-HELD PHONE WHILE DRIVING.

AN ARBITRATOR HEARD ARGUMENTS WEDNESDAY FROM NFL AND PLAYERS UNION LAWYERS ON WHETHER COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL CAN DISCIPLINE PLAYERS FOR ACTIONS THAT OCCURRED BEFORE THE LEAGUE'S CURRENT LABOR AGREEMENT WAS SIGNED LAST AUGUST. THE HEARING DEALT WITH WHETHER AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE UNION AND THE LEAGUE AS PART OF LAST SUMMER'S LABOR NEGOTIATIONS PRECLUDED THE NFL FROM PUNISHING THE SAINTS PLAYERS IN THIS CASE. NO WORD AS TO WHEN A RULING MAY BE FORTHCOMING.

LOUISIANA'S LAWMAKERS DISAGREE OVER HOW TO CRAFT A NEW BAN ON BULLYING AT PUBLIC SCHOOLS. TWO DIFFERENT PROPOSALS ADVANCED WEDNESDAY IN THE HOUSE, ONE BY REP. PATRICIA SMITH, D-BATON ROUGE, THAT RECEIVED 71-16 BACKING ON THE HOUSE FLOOR AND ANOTHER BY SEN. RICK WARD, D-PORT ALLEN, THAT RECEIVED PASSAGE WITHOUT OBJECTION FROM THE HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE. WARD'S PROPOSAL IS BACKED BY THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE AND THE CONSERVATIVE LOUISIANA FAMILY FORUM. SMITH'S PROPOSAL IS BACKED BY SEVERAL GAY RIGHTS GROUPS, ADVOCATES FOR THE DISABLED, A TEACHERS UNION AND THE LOUISIANA CHAPTER OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS.

A PROPOSAL THAT WOULD HAVE SET UP A BODY OF ELECTED AND APPOINTED OFFICIALS TO CRAFT THE HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGES THAT ANCHOR PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA'S HEALTH OVERHAUL HAS FAILED TO GAIN TRACTION IN THE LOUISIANA SENATE. THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE DECISIVELY REJECTED THE PROPOSAL TUESDAY IN AN 8-1 VOTE. LOUISIANA REMAINS ONE OF A HANDFUL OF STATES THAT HAVE REFUSED TO SET UP THEIR OWN EXCHANGES. THE EXCHANGES WILL LAUNCH IN 2014, WITH PRIVATE INSURANCE FIRMS OFFERING INDIVIDUAL POLICIES TO AMERICANS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO PURCHASE POLICIES ON THE OPEN MARKET.

WELFARE RECIPIENTS WOULD BE UNABLE TO WITHDRAW THEIR ASSISTANCE AS CASH OR SPEND IT ON LIQUOR AND CIGARETTES, UNDER A HOUSE-APPROVED PROPOSAL SUPPORTED WEDNESDAY BY THE SENATE HEALTH AND WELFARE COMMITTEE. THE STATE SOCIAL SERVICES DEPARTMENT WOULD HAVE TO ENACT THE MEASURE BY FEBRUARY 2013, IF LAWMAKERS PASS THE BILL. THE MONEY CURRENTLY IS ALLOCATED ON AN ELECTRONIC BENEFITS CARD ISSUED TO WELFARE RECIPIENTS, WHICH FUNCTIONS LIKE A DEBIT CARD. THE PROPOSAL WOULD ELIMINATE THE ABILITY TO WITHDRAW THE MONEY AS CASH FOR SPENDING. THE SENATE PANEL VOTED 3-1 TO ADVANCE THE PROPOSAL TO THE FULL SENATE FOR DEBATE.

A BID TO ASK VOTERS IN EACH PARISH IF THEY WANT TO ENACT TERM LIMITS ON THEIR LOCAL SCHOOL BOARDS IS HEADED TO THE FULL SENATE FOR DEBATE. THE TERM LIMIT QUESTION WOULD APPEAR ON THE NOV. 6 BALLOT. IF APPROVED IN A PARISH, LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS THERE WOULD BE LIMITED TO THREE CONSECUTIVE FOUR-YEAR TERMS, LIKE STATE LAWMAKERS.

A PROPOSAL THAT WOULD GIVE LOUISIANA'S SHERIFFS A PAY RAISE OPPORTUNITY IS NEAR FINAL LEGISLATIVE PASSAGE. NEW ORLEANS SEN. J.P. MORRELL'S BILL WOULD CREATE AN "EXECUTIVE MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE" FOR SHERIFFS, TO TEACH THEM MANAGEMENT SKILLS AND REQUIRE ANNUAL FOLLOW-UP TRAINING. WHEN A SHERIFF HAS COMPLETED THE TRAINING, THE ELECTED OFFICIAL WOULD BE ABLE TO GET A PAY RAISE — IF LAWMAKERS HAVE APPROVED A SALARY BOOST FOR DISTRICT COURT JUDGES. THE HOUSE BACKED THE BILL IN A 91-1 VOTE WEDNESDAY, WITH NO DISCUSSION OF THE SALARY HIKE. NEW ORLEANS REP. JEFF ARNOLD DESCRIBED THE PROPOSAL AS ESTABLISHING THE FIRST STATEWIDE TRAINING FOR LOUISIANA'S SHERIFFS. THE MEASURE HEADS TO THE SENATE FOR APPROVAL OF A TECHNICAL CHANGE BEFORE GOING TO THE GOVERNOR.

A FEDERAL JUDGE HAS ENDED THE FEDERAL DESEGREGATION LAWSUIT AGAINST THE EVANGELINE PARISH SCHOOL BOARD, ENDING YEARS OF FEDERAL OVERSIGHT OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM IN THE PARISH. THE DESEGREGATION CASE SPURRED MAJOR CHANGES OVER THE PAST DECADE, INCLUDING A 2004 SCHOOL CONSOLIDATION PLAN THAT CLOSED HIGH SCHOOLS IN THE RURAL COMMUNITIES OF VIDRINE, CHATAIGNIER AND BAYOU CHICOT. THE MAIN STICKING POINT IN RECENT YEARS HAD BEEN THE POOR CONDITION OF VILLE PLATTE HIGH SCHOOL, WHICH HAS A PREDOMINANTLY BLACK STUDENT POPULATION. THE BOARD HAS SPENT ABOUT $6.2 MILLION IN UPGRADES SINCE 2004 AND LAUNCHED SEVERAL ACADEMIC INITIATIVES THERE, INCLUDING A MAGNET PROGRAM AND ADVANCED PLACEMENT CLASSES. U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE TUCKER MELANCON TOLD BOARD MEMBERS WEDNESDAY THAT THE TURNAROUND AT THE SCHOOL HAS BEEN "REMARKABLE."

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL IS HEADED TO NORTH CAROLINA FOR A MEETING OF REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS. THE GOP GOVERNOR'S TRIP COMES AS THE STATE'S BUDGET IS MIRED IN DISPUTES, PIECES OF JINDAL'S AGENDA ARE STALLED IN THE WANING DAYS OF THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION AND LAWMAKERS ARE CRITICIZING THE GOVERNOR FOR ABSENTEEISM. JINDAL SPOKESMAN KYLE PLOTKIN SAID JINDAL WILL RETURN TO BATON ROUGE ON FRIDAY. PLOTKIN SAID JINDAL IS PARTICIPATING IN A REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS' ASSOCIATION POLICY SUMMIT.

A CALL ON CONGRESS TO STOP FUNDING PLANNED PARENTHOOD IS ONE STEP FROM FINAL LEGISLATIVE PASSAGE, AFTER NARROWLY RECEIVING THE BACKING OF THE SENATE HEALTH AND WELFARE COMMITTEE. REP. FRANK HOFFMANN, R-WEST MONROE, SAID HE SPONSORED THE PROPOSAL BECAUSE HE WANTS PLANNED PARENTHOOD TO STOP RECEIVING TAX DOLLARS UNTIL THEY STOP PROVIDING ABORTIONS, EVEN THOUGH PLANNED PARENTHOOD IS PROHIBITED FROM USING FEDERAL FUNDING TO PROVIDE ABORTIONS. IN LOUISIANA, PLANNED PARENTHOOD DOESN’T EVEN PROVIDE ABORTIONS. OPPONENTS OF THE LEGISLATION, WHICH ALREADY HAS HOUSE SUPPORT, SAID REMOVAL OF FEDERAL FUNDING FOR THE ORGANIZATION WOULD THREATEN HEALTH CARE FOR MILLIONS OF WOMEN WHO RELY ON PLANNED PARENTHOOD FOR BREAST AND CERVICAL CANCER SCREENINGS, HIV TESTING AND PREVENTIVE HEALTH CARE. THE COMMITTEE VOTED 3-2 TO SEND THE MEASURE TO THE FULL SENATE FOR DEBATE.

LIMITS WOULD BE SET ON THE NUMBER OF CREDIT HOURS IT TAKES MOST LOUISIANA PUBLIC COLLEGE STUDENTS TO GET A DEGREE, UNDER A BILL NEARING FINAL LEGISLATIVE PASSAGE. SEN. BEN NEVERS, D-BOGALUSA, SAID THE PROPOSAL (SENATE BILL 103) WOULD MAKE IT MORE LIKELY FOR STUDENTS TO GET OUT OF COLLEGE IN FOUR YEARS. THE SENATE-APPROVED MEASURE WOULD CAP THE REQUIREMENT AT 120 HOURS OF CREDIT. IT INCLUDES AN EXCEPTION FOR THOSE DEGREES THAT REQUIRE MORE COURSE HOURS UNDER CERTIFICATION RULES, LIKE ENGINEERING PROGRAMS. THE HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE ADVANCED THE BILL TO THE FULL HOUSE FOR DEBATE WITHOUT OBJECTION.


SPORTS..

THE FOURTH RANKED LSU BASEBALL TEAM SEEKS AN SEC REGULAR SEASON TITLE WHEN THEY BEGIN A THREE-GAME SERIES AGAINST SOUTH CAROLINA TONIGHT. THE TIGERS ARE IN THIRD PLACE IN THE OVERALL LEAGUE STANDINGS, ONE GAME BACK OF FIRST-PLACE KENTUCKY AND A HALF-GAME BACK OF THE GAMECOCKS.

DREW BREES SAID IN A RADIO INTERVIEW WEDNESDAY NIGHT THAT HE IS FRUSTRATED BY WHAT HE VIEWS AS A LACK OF COMMUNICATION WITH THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS IN HIS ONGOING CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS, ADDING THE CLUB SHOULD HAVE SHOWN MORE URGENCY TO GET A LONG-TERM DEAL DONE. DURING HIS WWL INTERVIEW, BREES SAID. "IT'S BEEN EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING. AND THAT HE DIDN’T THINK THE NEGOTIATIONS SHOULD HAVE BEEN THIS DIFFICULT. GIVEN HIS LEADERSHIP ROLE AND HIS PERFORMANCE DURING HIS PAST SIX SEASONS, BREES SAID HE WOULD HOPE THE SAINTS WOULD MAKE HIS NEXT CONTRACT A TOP PRIORITY.








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