News for Thursday 051613
By Dave Graichen
Residents in the city of Pineville could, in the not too distant future, have a chance to give a yea or a nay to the sale of alcohol in restaurants in the dry city. With a unanimous vote the House judiciary committee Wednesday morning sent Sen. Rick Gallot’s Senate Bill 116 to the House floor for a final vote.
New Orleans Police late Wednesday arrested 19-year-old Akein Scott, the alleged gunman in a Mother’s Day shooting that injured 19 people Sunday. Four people remain hospitalized, three in critical condition and one in stable condition. Scott has a long criminal record.
A state Senate panel Wednesday rejected a $3.5 billion funding request for public schools, further muddling an already confused picture on how classrooms will be funded. The Senate Education Committee approved a resolution, without objection, that asks the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to submit a new request in light of last week’s ruling by the state Supreme Court. The court’s 6-1 decision held that the state cannot use the Minimum Foundation Program, the key source of state aid for public schools, to also finance vouchers for some students to attend private and parochial schools. Gov. Bobby Jindal has said state aid for vouchers will continue but exactly how remains unclear.
Louisiana Education Superintendent John White said Wednesday that a court ruling throwing out funding vouchers through the public school funding formula will result in school systems receiving a $12 million refund for loss of the local shares contributed to vouchers. Local school officials have complained that the department was essentially using local funds to pay for vouchers because it deducted from each district's state allotment an amount equal to what local governments pay to educate students.
The $12 million is part of a $30 million payment that White said will have to be refunded to schools.
The state construction budget zipped through the Louisiana House Wednesday after millions of dollars were added for maintenance projects on public college and university campuses across the state. The House voted 100-0 in favor of advancing House Bill 2, the capital outlay budget, to the state Senate. House Bill 3, the spending engine for the construction budget, also cleared the House chamber.
Louisiana lawmakers learned yesterday they'll have an additional 155-million dollars to spend in the fiscal year budget that starts July 1st. It's the result of higher than expected individual income tax collections. The Senate finance committee will begin its examination of the House-approved budget next week.
The Louisiana Senate on Wednesday narrowly rejected an “Equal Pay for Women” law.
The Senate voted 19-18 for the measure, one vote shy of the 20 needed for passage.
A bill that would allow colleges and universities to impose a host of new fees onto students, including one that could cost up to $2,500 per semester for LSU’s digital media students, easily advanced in the Louisiana House Wednesday on an 80-18 vote.
Most of the discussion on the House floor centered on a provision within House Bill 671 that would allow public institutions around the state to charge a fee of up to $48 to help schools keep up with building maintenance.
An effort to delay implementing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s 401(k)-type pension plan for new state government hires is one step away from final legislative passage. The House Retirement Committee on Wednesday approved a Senate-passed resolution suspending the “cash balance” law until July 1, 2014. The law has been challenged in the Louisiana Supreme Court and an IRS ruling is pending that could prove costly. If the IRS decide Jindal’s fails to provide a benefit equal to Social Security, both the state and the employee would have to pay more. A state Senate panel passed a similar House-passed resolution. Now, all that’s needed is for either chamber to pass one of the instruments that would suspend the law until 2014. Suspension resolutions cannot be vetoed by the governor.
Legislation that would create a Department of Elderly Affairs in state government cleared the Louisiana House Wednesday. The House voted 102-0 in favor of House Bill 352 , Which would abolish the Office of Elderly Affairs within the governor’s office and create a new state department devoted to senior citizen issues, such as funding for councils on aging, senior centers and meals on wheels. The bill now moves to the state Senate.
Minden Congressman John Fleming is calling on Congress to audit the Internal Revenue Service, after alleged misconduct by the tax agency surfaced. Fleming says he's filing legislation this week; calling first for a Congressional audit of the IRS. Yesterday, President Obama announced he's accepted the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, after it came to light the agency had targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny in their applications for tax-exempt status.
The National Hurricane Center has released its list of names for Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms this season. The list starts with Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin and Fernand. One name we won't see again is Sandy. That name was retired after last year's east coast disaster.
The Louisiana House on Wednesday approved legislation aimed at protecting public employees from retaliation if they provide information requested by a legislator or legislative committee. The House voted 100-0 for House Bill 387, which is opposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. Administration officials testified in committee that they found the bill was too broad and could have unintended consequences. State Rep. John Schroder, R-Mandeville the sponsor of the bill, said public employees could wage complaints with the Louisiana Board of Ethics, which would investigate and “offer its remedy.” The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s waterway resources bill that is intended to expedite U.S. Army Corps of Engineers processes, set aside more dollars for river dredging and speed up flood-protection projects like southern Louisiana’s Morganza to the Gulf plan in Terrebonne Parish. The bipartisan Water Resources Development Act, sponsored by Vitter and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer won out with an 83-14 vote. The legislation, a version of which has not passed Congress since 2007, next moves to the U.S. House for consideration, although House members are currently working on their own version of the bill.
The state Department of Ag and Forestry says Louisiana is at less risk for wildfires this year than other states who are dealing with serious drought conditions. The US Drought Monitor shows that as of last week, there were no drought conditions in 93% of the state.
The story of the case of a white family who was allegedly beat up by black suspects for "being in the wrong neighborhood" in Baton Rouge is receiving national attention -- and now BRPD says the FBI may step in. They say currently the incident does not meet the hate crime statute but federal laws could be different.
Legislation that would add an amendment to the state constitution that removes the mandatory retirement age for judges clears another committee. Currently the constitution states a judge cannot remain in office past the age of 70 unless they are severing a term. The proposed amendment by Ville Platte Senator Eric LaFleur has
already made it through the upper chamber and now heads to the House Floor for final passage. If passed, the matter would head to the voters for the November 4th, 2014 election.
The House Bill that would require dogs to be crated in truck beds on Interstates cleared Senate Transportation and now heads to full Senate for possible final legislative passage. Tthe primary purpose of the bill is to reduce the number of accidents caused by dogs who jump out of truck beds. The fine for violating the proposed law would be $150 plus $50 for each additional dog.
Today marks the beginning of the final three game series for the second- ranked LSU baseball team. The Tigers host the Ole Miss Rebels, with the team celebrating senior day this weekend.