News for Monday 032513
By Dave Graichen
Lawmakers trying to track how Louisiana spends its money are learning that even if they don't fund pay raises, state agencies still are finding ways to boost worker salaries.
Promotions, merit raises, optional pay. The raises have many names. No complete tally has been done of pay raises over the past year, but the details have trickled out as individual agencies go to the Appropriations Committee to talk about the budget for the next year that begins July 1.
A Breaux Bridge lawmaker proposes the Legislature look into legalized Internet gaming. Rep. Mike Huval says his primary interest is helping to protect Louisianans who already gamble on websites--sometimes at significant risk. Huval says his House Concurrent Resolution 3 requests the legislature to convene a joint meeting of the House Criminal Justice and Senate Judiciary committees, to study the feasibility and practicality of legalized online gaming. Huval says he's not trying to promote more gambling in Louisiana, but people in the state ARE engaged in online gaming and the state may as well make some revenue from that.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said he would support giving Louisiana’s public colleges and universities more control over tuition, provided they agree to higher performance standards and greater oversight from the state Legislature. Jindal’s comments come as the Board of Regents, which sets policy for all the state’s public university systems, is considering whether to take the fight for “tuition control” to court. The Regents last week publicly announced it was looking at the possibility of filing a lawsuit that could potentially take tuition control away from the Louisiana Legislature and give it to the institutions.
The Federal Aviation Administration will close the Shreveport Downtown Airport's control tower, as part of enforced budget cuts brought about by the so-called sequestration. The tower will go dark on April 8th. Airport officials are working out plans to try to keep air traffic flowing there nevertheless. The air control tower at Monroe Regional Airport is not among those listed for closure by the Federal Aviation Administration. However, the FAA is expected to make another round of cuts in September because of federal budget cuts.
Minden Congressman John Fleming blasts Senator Mary Landrieu for her "no" vote on a bill that would repeal Obamacare and demand the US balance its budget. However, this time the bill would have also strip out money for Pell Grants, historically black colleges and $2 billion for community colleges. No response from Senator Landrieu. By the way, in case you are keeping count, Friday's vote is the 36th time that Senate Republicans have tried -- and failed -- to repeal Obamacare.
The Jindal administration cancels a $185-million Medicaid claims contract with a company called C-N-S-I after it became public that a federal grand jury was looking into how the contract was awarded. Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein is a former employee of CNSI. Political Analyst Bernie Pinsonat says the federal
investigation is looking at whether Greenstein used his authority as DHH Secretary to help his former employer land this contract. The governor's chief of staff, Paul Rainwater, released a statement that says they have confidence in Greenstein. But Pinsonat says if the allegations are true, Jindal will have to take action.
A group of Louisiana clergy says Governor Jindal's tax reform team used flawed information to claim that the tax swap plan won't place a burden on families with limited income. Baton Rouge pastor Rev. Melvin Rushing says the administration’s impact analysis conveniently leaves out the 5.88% tax that would be charged on many services not currently taxed. Rushing and fellow pastors want the Governor's Office to refigure the impact taking service taxes into account and release those findings.
Google is offering free websites for small businesses in Louisiana. Spokeswoman Rebecca Ginsberg says 97% of consumers do some type of online shopping, yet 64% of small businesses in Louisiana don't have a website. She says businesses are missing out on a huge opportunity by not having a presence on the web. Ginsberg says small business owners can take advantage of this opportunity by visiting www.LouisianaGetOnline.com.
A Baton Rouge state lawmaker wants convicted felons to have their voting rights back as soon as they are released from prison. Democratic representative Patricia Smith says the idea behind this legislation is to help former prison inmates feel like they are part of society again, which could keep them from committing another crime. The legislation does not restore voting rights for felons convicted of federal crimes, this proposal only impacts state prisoners.
New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control show Louisiana leads the nation in cases of Prostate Cancer. Our state's incidence rate is 178.4 per 100-thousand male residents; the national rate is 137.7 per 100k. The good news is, when caught early, chances of making a complete recovery are good.
The third ranked LSU baseball team completed a sweep over Auburn with an
8 to 2 victory on Sunday at Alex Box Stadium. The Tigers are now 22-and-2 heading into a four-game road trip that starts Tuesday night at Tulane.