News for Tuesday 042313
By Dave Graichen
The effort to prevent a troop drawdown at Fort Polk continues today in Washington D-C. Seventeen Fort Polk Progress members are in the nation's capitol to make the case the military base should be strengthened. The Department of the Army is considering whether to add or reduce troops at Fort Polk.
Opposition from lobbyists and not enough "Yes" votes on the House Ways and Means committee puts a halt on an attempt to raise the state cigarette tax. Four bills that sought to raise the state tax on cigarettes do not make it out of the House Ways and Means Committee Monday. They only debated one of the measures and that was a proposal to raise the tax on cigarettes from 36-cents a pack to $1.41, but the votes were not there. Governor Jindal said he would veto any cigarette tax increase, unless lawmakers pass another measure that would reduce taxes elsewhere.
A new poll from LSU shows nearly two-thirds of Louisiana feel the big cuts being made to state health care are unnecessary, and that Governor Jindal should accept federal money to expand Medicaid. LSU Public Policy Research Lab Director Kirby Goidel (goy-DEL) says almost 2 out of 3 don't want to see further health care cuts. The House Health & Welfare Committee is scheduled this week to hear three bills pertaining to taking the federal Medicaid expansion money that's part of the President's health care reforms. Goidel says 70% of Louisianans polled say "take the money".
For the 3rd year in a row Louisiana has once again ranked highest in the nation for car insurance rates. Insure.com notes a variety of factors make up the ranking. Including
the number uninsured drivers as well as the number of insurers competing for business, driving conditions, and the way state insurance systems are set up.
The Louisiana Senate has overwhelmingly agreed to a new abortion restriction that would require doctors to be present when the abortion pill is administered. Senators voted 32-2 Monday for Senate Bill 90, which would prohibit doctors from remotely administering the pill via video hookup, a process criticized as “telemedicine abortion.”
The abortion pill works during the first nine weeks of pregnancy, causing an embryo to detach from the uterine wall.
A Senate panel Monday killed legislation that would have reduced the pension benefits of many current state employees, teachers and others in some state or statewide system retirement systems. The Senate Retirement Committee voted 4-2 against passage of the legislation which state Sen. Barrow Peacock said he sponsored to improve the financial health of the pension plans. Opponents said the legislation had the same constitutional problem as pension revamp efforts Gov. Bobby Jindal failed to pass last year changing current employee’s contracts with their employers.
The fiscal hawks, a group of Louisiana House Republicans, take flight this week with a package of bills aimed at changing the state budget process. With income tax repeal likely dead for the session, the focus shifts to a state operating budget that funds health care, education and other public services. The hawks want to rein in the use of one-time, or nonrecurring, dollars for expenses that must be met year after year. Gov. Bobby Jindal did little to appease their concerns by proposing a $24.7 billion state spending plan that relies on more than $400 million in one-time money to fund the state’s public colleges and universities.
A bill that would ban employers from demanding access to personal social media and email accounts of potential employees or students passed in House Commerce and is now headed to the full House for further debate. Baton Rouge Representative Ted James says under his bill an employee who refused to show their boss their Facebook Page couldn't be punished unless the information could harm the employer.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's office says 5 people, three children and two women, were shot this Monday morning in Harvey. They say the shooting happened around 4:30 while all the victims were sleeping. Four suspects were arrested. Four of the victims injuries appear to be non-life threatening and one child is in critical condition.
The gas prices continue to drop. The current statewide average for a gallon of regular in Louisiana is $3.30 according to the American Automobile Association. That's down 22 cents from a month ago.
The Mississippi River at Vicksburg has been re-opened to vessel traffic after barges hit the U-S 80 railroad bridge yesterday morning. Lt. Ryan Gomez, with the US Coast Guard says a barge sank into the river as a result of the collision but it's been determined other vessels can still safely pass through. Gomez says the barges contained petroleum coke, but there are no environmental concerns at this time.
Trial begins today in Lafayette for a man accused of a 1989 murder. In 2006, DNA evidence connected Daniel Harmon to the rape and murder of Christina Wood. Jury selection in his trial starts tomorrow. Harmon was tried previously, but a mistrial was declared on a technicality.
Shreveport Police are, again this year, cracking down on cruising--which they define as large groups of vehicles driving up and down local streets very slowly, and parking and loitering in parks and parking lots. Complaints about cruisers run from obstructed traffic flow, to loud music and noise, to public intoxication & underage drinking, to suspected drug activity. Cruising patrols lasted well into summer last year in Shreveport.
A House committee has found favorable a bill that would let parish governments choose if they wish to post bilingual traffic signs. The bill is aimed for areas of Louisiana where folks still speak Cajun French. That bill will go forward to the House floor for debate.
Hundreds of public school teachers are expected at the State Capitol on Wednesday as lawmakers renew arguments over the same education changes that sparked bitter debates last year. The focus is the Louisiana House Education Committee, which meets at 9 a.m. and is set to consider three overhaul bills that are already state law but also the subject of a court challenge. Backers contend the bills will serve as insurance if the Supreme Court strikes down a 2012 law that trimmed the authority of local school boards, removed seniority as the key factor in teacher layoff decisions and revamps salary schedules.
State Senate President Pro tem Sharon Broome said she will seek funding for demolition of LSU’s Earl K. Long Medical Center during the current legislative session .
Broome said the hospital is antiquated and there are not many options available for its continued use because of its age and deterioration. The north Baton Rouge hospital closed April 15.
Three years after the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster, Baton Rouge wants more than $35 million in lost taxes and other expenses the city alleges are the responsibility of oil giant BP and several of its contractors. The city’s civil suit was filed late last week.