News for Monday 042913
By Dave Graichen
Nearly $500 million likely will melt away when legislators start making changes to the proposed state spending plan today. The Louisiana House Appropriations Committee will start tackling the $24.7 billion state operating budget that Gov. Bobby Jindal presented for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The committee will make changes after weeks of testimony that raised concerns about the amount of one-time, or nonrecurring, money piled into the budget. Some changes are certain to please both legislators and the public. The Jindal administration, for example, agreed last week to rethink planned cuts to battered women’s shelters, cancer screenings and a program that helps senior citizens find free or discount prescriptions.
At the State Capitol, the House Appropriations Committee will begin work on the annual state budget by trying to trim a half-a-billion dollars from Governor Jindal's proposed budget plan. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley says the issue is about $500-million of what's proposed by the Governor, that being non-recurring revenue. Last Spring the House adopted the Geymann Rule, authored by Lake Charles Rep. Brett Geymann, which mandates NO use of one-time money on recurring expenditures. Kleckley says that leaves the Appropriations Committee with the unenviable task of finding where to cut the budget to meet the new rule. It may all be for nothing though since the Senate has no Geymann Rule, and could add the one- time money back into the budget bill.
Food banks around the state are lobbying lawmakers to include $5-million in next fiscal year's budget to help their efforts to feed the needy. The Food Bank of Central Louisiana, says hunger is a real issue in our state and state Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain agrees. He'd like to see that $5-million in the budget, to help food banks buy and distribute food to the thousands of Louisiana residents who have trouble putting food on the dinner plate. The House Appropriations Committee begins its work on the state budget today. Currently there is nothing in there for Food Banks.
Legislators who have tried and failed to pass laws that would rein in the runaway costs of TOPS, the state’s merit-based college scholarship, could find broader support by focusing on the program’s academic requirements rather than its financial cost to the state. A survey of nearly 1,000 Louisiana residents has been noticed by officials. Part of the 2013 Louisiana Survey, conducted by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, reported that 78 percent of respondents are against reducing the total amount of money students receive from the program. Another majority, 57 percent of the survey’s respondents, support increasing the academic requirements for the Tops program.
Former state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein exchanged "hundreds of telephone calls and thousands of text messages" with a former employer who was bidding on a claims processing contract with the agency, according to a letter released by the state Division of Administration. Greenstein worked for CNSI before working for the state. The contract was worth $200-million,
but was abruptly cancelled when the seeming impropriety came to light. Greenstein's last day on the job is Wednesday.
A bill to require Internet vendors to charge to all applicable state and local sales taxes on your purchases is moving through the U.S. Senate. Senator Mary Landrieu is in support. She says Louisiana loses out on hundreds of millions in tax revenue yearly. Republicans say this represents a new tax on consumers, but Landrieu
Disagrees, saying it simply enforces collection of a tax already on the books.
LSU running back Jeremy Hill faces an uncertain future after he was arrested outside of a nightclub near campus. Hill faces a simple battery charge after he allegedly punched a victim outside of Reggie's Bar. East Baton Rouge D-A Hillar Moore says Hill may have violated his probation stemming from a previous arrest. The former prep star at Redemptorist in Baton Rouge, pleaded guilty in January 2012 for engaging in a sexual act with a 14-year-old girl in the school locker room. Hill received a suspended six-month prison sentence and placed on probation for 2 years. Moore says Judge Bonnie Jackson will determine if Hill violated his probation. Moore says that could mean ordering Hill to serve his six-month prison .
A new survey report ranks Louisiana among America's Top Five Least- Stressed States. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index report ranks us #2, behind only Hawaii for average stress levels of our citizens. You can read the whole report online at "well-beingindex.com
Preliminary data by the Department of Health and Hospital's Birth Outcomes Initiative indicates babies born in Louisiana are spending fewer days in intensive care. DHH Medicaid Medical Director Dr. Rebecca Gee says this shows the efforts of the 58 birthing hospitals in the state's pledge to end elective deliveries before 39 weeks, is working. Gee says from the time they began in Births Outcomes Initiative in 2010
to 2012, Louisiana's babies have spent 20,000 fewer days in the NICU.
A Lake Charles man known for organizing "Just For Jesus" rallies is facing drug charges. Calcasieu Parish deputies arrested James Bertrand Jr. last week for possession of crack cocaine and drug distribution. Bertrand has been arrested four times before on various charges; one of those was less than two weeks ago at a local casino--for possessing cocaine.
It was a tough weekend for the LSU baseball team. They lost 2 of 3 to South Carolina. Up next, the Tigers welcome McNeese to the box Tuesday night.