KSYL Local News

News For Tuesday 07/24/12


NEWS FOR TUESDAY 072412
BY DAVE GRAICHEN

PRIVATE SCHOOLS WHO TAKE PART IN THE STATE'S NEW TUITION VOUCHERS PROGRAM WILL BE HELD TO THE SAME BASIC ACCOUNTABILITY STANDARDS AS PUBLIC SCHOOLS. THAT'S ACCORDING TO A NEW PLAN PROPOSED BY EDUCATION SUPERINTENDENT JOHN WHITE. WHITE WILL ASK BESE TO APPROVE THE PLAN TOMORROW. THE PLANS ANSWERS CRITICS OF THE SCHOOL VOUCHERS LAW, WHO COMPLAINED PRIVATE AND PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS WOULD BENEFIT FROM TAXPAYER DOLLARS AND NOT BE HELD TO ANY STANDARD. THE VOUCHER PLAN IS AN EXPANDED VERSION OF A PROGRAM STARTED IN NEW ORLEANS IN 2008. IT OFFERS PRIVATE SCHOOL TUITION TO POORER STUDENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS WITH A FAILING GRADE.

THE LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES IT'S MAKING A $4 MILLION-DOLLAR DONATION TO ASSIST THE UNIVERSITY WITH BUDGET ISSUES. SENIOR ASSOCIATE ATHLETIC DIRECTOR HERB VINCENT SAYS THE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT AT LSU IS IN A UNIQUE POSITION TO HELP SUPPORT ACADEMICS AT THE UNIVERSITY. VINCENT SAYS LSU IS ONE OF THE ONLY INSTITUTIONS IN THE COUNTRY THAT DOES NOT USE STATE TAX DOLLARS OR STUDENT FEES TO OPERATE ITS ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT. LSU CHANCELLOR MIKE MARTIN SENT A LETTER TO FACULTY AND STAFF STATING THAT THEY WOULD BE ABLE TO AVOID LAYOFFS AND BUDGET REDUCTIONS IN LARGE PART BECAUSE OF THE HELP FROM THE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT. VINCENT SAYS THIS IS THE LARGEST TRANSFER OF MONEY FROM ATHLETICS TO ACADEMICS IN SCHOOL HISTORY.

LOUISIANA LAWMAKERS BRISTLED MONDAY ABOUT GETTING FEW DETAILS AND NO ABILITY TO DECIDE THE $523 MILLION IN BUDGET CUTS GOV. BOBBY JINDAL'S ADMINISTRATION HAS MADE TO HEALTH CARE PROGRAMS, LARGELY TO LSU'S SAFETY NET HEALTH CARE FACILITIES. SEVERAL COMPLAINED THE GOVERNOR'S TOP LEADERS WEREN'T EXPLAINING THE GRAVITY OF THE SLASHING AND THE IMPLICATIONS ON THE LSU NETWORK OF PUBLIC HOSPITALS AND CLINICS THAT CARE FOR THE POOR AND UNINSURED IN A STATE WHERE ONE IN FIVE RESIDENTS HAVE NO HEALTH INSURANCE. THE CUTS ARE TIED TO A DROP IN LOUISIANA'S FEDERAL MEDICAID FUNDING THAT WAS PASSED IN CONGRESSIONAL LEGISLATION AFTER THE STATE'S 2012-13 BUDGET WAS ALREADY CRAFTED. THE JINDAL ADMINISTRATION LEVIED TWO-THIRDS OF THE CUTS ON THE LSU SAFETY-NET HOSPITAL SYSTEM, WHICH WILL LOSE $329 MILLION, OR ONE-QUARTER OF ITS ENTIRE BUDGET FOR THE FISCAL YEAR THAT BEGAN JULY 1.

A 14-MEMBER REVENUE STUDY COMMISSION, PACKED WITH LEGISLATIVE LEADERS, OPENED ITS REVIEW OF THE LOUISIANA'S TAX BREAKS MONDAY WITH A CRASH COURSE ON HOW MANY TAX BREAKS EXIST, WHICH ONES ARE TRACKED FOR PERFORMANCE AND HOW THEY AFFECT STATE INCOME ESTIMATES. LAWMAKERS WERE TOLD AMONG THE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN TAX BREAKS ON LOUISIANA'S BOOKS, MANY HAVE LITTLE OVERSIGHT AND SOME EVEN GIVE CHECKS TO PEOPLE AND BUSINESSES THAT OWE NO TAXES IN THE STATE. THE STUDY COMMISSION WILL RECOMMEND REDUCING OR ELIMINATING TAX BREAKS DEEMED TO BE LOW-PERFORMING OR ANTIQUATED. SUGGESTIONS ARE DUE TO BE COMPILED BY FEB. 1, WITH ANY LEGISLATION STEMMING FROM THE REVIEW TO BE CONSIDERED IN THE REGULAR SESSION THAT BEGINS TWO MONTHS LATER.

LOUISIANA'S ELECTRICITY BILLS ARE AMONG THE LOWEST IN THE COUNTRY. ACCORDING TO THE U-S ENERGY INFORMATION AGENCY, THE STATE HAS THE THIRD LOWEST OVERALL BILLS IN THE COUNTRY, BASED ON THE FIRST THREE MONTHS OF THIS YEAR. JIMMY FIELD, WITH THE LOUISIANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION SAYS LOW NATURAL GAS PRICES ARE KEEPING UTILITY BILLS DOWN. EVEN THOUGH THE U-S ENERGY INFORMATION AGENCY'S REPORT IS POSITIVE FOR LOUISIANA, COMMISSIONER FOSTER CAMPBELL STILL SAYS THE PRICE OF ELECTRICITY IS TOO HIGH IN LOUISIANA.

LOUISIANA'S PROPERTY INSURER OF LAST RESORT ON MONDAY PAID A $104 MILLION JUDGMENT THAT WILL BENEFIT MORE THAN 18,500 POLICYHOLDERS WHO SUED OVER SLOW ADJUSTMENT OF CLAIMS AFTER HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA STRUCK IN 2005. PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY FRED HERMAN SAID ELIGIBLE PLAINTIFFS WILL RECEIVE THEIR SHARE OF THE MONEY FROM LOUISIANA CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE CORP. IN THREE TO SIX MONTHS. A STATE JUDGE STILL HAS TO DECIDE HOW MUCH OF THE AWARD SHOULD PAY FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS. CITIZENS CEO RICHARD ROBERTSON SAID THE COMPANY STILL HAS ABOUT $100 MILLION TO $110 MILLION IN CASH RESERVES TO CONTINUE PAYING CLAIMS "FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE." BUT A CATASTROPHIC STORM THIS YEAR COULD FORCE CITIZENS TO IMPOSE AN ASSESSMENT ON POLICYHOLDERS TO REPLENISH ITS CASH RESERVES.

GAS PRICES, THAT HAD BEEN ON A STEADY DOWNWARD SPIRAL SINCE APRIL, HAVE SHOT UP AGAIN. THE STATEWIDE AVERAGE FOR REGULAR GAS HAS GONE UP NEARLY A DIME TO AROUND $3.27. AAA FUEL ANALYST DON REDMAN SAYS THE CURRENT SPIKE IN PRICES IS ALL TIED TO A JUMP IN THE PRICE OF CRUDE OIL. REDMAN SAYS THE GLOBAL SPOT PRICE FOR CRUDE OIL IS ONE OF THE MOST VOLATILE, NEWS-DRIVEN COMMODITY MARKETS. HE SAYS THE CURRENT JUMP IN THE PRICE OF OIL IS DRIVEN BY NEWS COMING OUT OF THE MIDDLE EAST.

THE LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT IS GIVING ITS JUSTICES AN EXTRA MONTH TO WEIGH IN ON A DEBATE OVER NAMING THE COURT'S NEXT CHIEF JUSTICE. CHIEF JUSTICE CATHERINE "KITTY" KIMBALL HAD SET A JULY 31 DEADLINE FOR THE JUSTICES TO FILE BRIEFS ON WHICH COLLEAGUE IS THE "OLDEST IN POINT OF SERVICE" UNDER TERMS OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION. KIMBALL AMENDED HER ORDER ON FRIDAY TO MOVE THE DEADLINE TO AUG. 31. JUSTICE BERNETTE JOHNSON SUED EARLIER THIS MONTH IN FEDERAL COURT TO BLOCK HER COLLEAGUES FROM DEBATING WHETHER SHE IS ENTITLED TO SUCCEED KIMBALL WHEN SHE RETIRES NEXT YEAR. JUSTICE JEFFREY VICTORY ALSO STAKES A CLAIM TO BEING THE COURT'S LONGEST-SERVING JUSTICE. THE MONTH-LONG DELAY GIVES U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE SUSIE MORGAN MORE TIME TO HEAR ARGUMENTS AND RULE IN JOHNSON'S CASE. ON MONDAY, MORGAN SCHEDULED AN AUG. 16 HEARING FOR THE JUSTICE'S SUIT.

DENZEL WASHINGTON AND MARK WAHLBERG ARE FILMING A MOVIE IN DOWNTOWN AMITE THIS WEEK. THE MOVIE "2 GUNS" IS ABOUT A DEA AGENT AND AN UNDERCOVER NAVAL INTELLIGENCE OFFICE WHO ARE INVESTIGATING EACH OTHER. 2 GUNS WILL BE THE FIRST TIME WASHINGTON AND WAHLBERG HAVE EVER BEEN PAIRED TOGETHER IN A FILM THAT IS SLATED TO HIT THEATERS SOME TIME NEXT YEAR.

NOW THAT THE PENALTIES HAVE BEEN HANDED DOWN BY THE NCAA ONTO PENN STATE, INCLUDING THE LOSS OF ALL WINS BETWEEN 1998-2011, THAT MEANS GRAMBLING'S EDDIE ROBINSON IS THE ALL TIME WINNINGEST COACH OF ALL TIME IN DIVISION 1. THE NCAA TOOK AWAY 111 WINS FROM PENN STATE WHICH MEANS JOE PATERNO NO LONGER HAS A TOTAL OF 409 WINS AND ROBINSON NOW LEADS WITH 408 WINS.

SAINTS LINEBACKER JONATHAN VILMA AND DEFENSIVE END WILL SMITH MET MONDAY WITH NFL LAWYERS AND A FEDERAL MAGISTRATE, BUT THE CLOSED-DOOR SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE DIDN'T RESOLVE LAWSUITS SPAWNED BY THE PLAYERS' SUSPENSIONS FOLLOWING THE LEAGUE'S BOUNTY INVESTIGATION. VILMA AND HIS ATTORNEYS EMERGED FROM THE THREE-HOUR-LONG CONFERENCE WITH U.S. MAGISTRATE DANIEL KNOWLES III WITHOUT COMMENTING ON WHETHER PROGRESS WAS MADE TOWARD RESOLUTION OF THE CASE. THE MEETING WAS CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC. IN A COURT FILING LATER MONDAY, KNOWLES SAID A SETTLEMENT CAN'T BE REACHED "AT THIS TIME." BUT HE INSTRUCTED THE PARTIES TO CONTACT HIM "AT ANY STAGE OF THE PROCEEDING IF AN ADDITIONAL SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE WOULD BE BENEFICIAL."

IBERIA PARISH SHERIFF INVESTIGATORS ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHO'S RESPONSIBLE FOR A SHOOTING THAT TOOK PLACE AT A BAR THAT LEFT ONE PERSON DEAD AND TWO OTHERS WOUNDED. CAPTAIN RYAN TURNER SAYS AN ARGUMENT STARTED INSIDE THE MON AMI TAVERN IN JEANERETTE AND IT ESCALATED TO THE PARKING LOT. TURNER SAYS THERE WERE MANY PEOPLE INVOLVED AND THEY ARE NOT RULING OUR MORE THAN TWO SUSPECTS.

God Bless America!

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