News for Monday 021014
By Dave Graichen
The CDC have confirmed that two more children have died from the flu in the state, bringing the total number of 4 pediatric deaths this year. The kids were from Southeast and Southwest Louisiana.
Closing arguments are today in former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's corruption trial. The prosecution had witnesses testify that Nagin took thousands of dollars in bribes, which included trips and granite for a family-owned granite business. Loyola University Law Professor Dane Ciolino says Nagin's defense team will try to discredit that testimony. Nagin, who served as mayor of New Orleans from 2002 to 2010, faces a 21-count indictment. The charges include bribery, money laundering, conspiracy and filing false tax returns.
Jennings State Senator Blade Morrish has pre-filed a bill for the 2014 legislative session that would cap the popular TOPS scholarship program. The bill would cap award increases at 10% per year per student. Morrish his bill would require the program to stay in line with a higher education price index to keep price increases down. He says the program is costing almost 200 million more now than when it first started in 1998.
We're one month away from the 2014 legislative session and major issues are taking shape. The Governor has already presented a proposed budget for next fiscal year and Lapolitics.com publisher John Maginnis says unlike previous legislative sessions, lawmakers will not have to deal with a budget crisis. Maginnis says this year's session will feature previously discussed legislation like expanding Medicaid and teacher tenure. The 2014 regular legislative session begins March 10.
Gas prices in Louisiana have been flat this year but the American Automobile Association warns motorists to expect to see the price at the pump go up soon. AAA Fuel Analyst Don Redman says that is because refineries will soon shut down so they can produce a summer blend of gasoline. Louisiana's current statewide average is $3.12. That is 27 cents lower than a year ago. Redman says there is not always a certain way to tell how much gas will go up from winter to spring but it is usually a 50 cent increase.
Last year, public-school teachers won a surprise, late-session state-funded pay raise. This year, they may be out of luck. Gov. Bobby Jindal unveiled his $25 billion operating budget last month for the financial year that begins July 1, including $3.5 billion in state aid for public schools. The plan features a continuation of the $69 million that lawmakers approved last year, half of which they required to be used for teacher pay hikes. However, most of the signs this time suggest school districts will be allowed to use the $69 million without any strings, including mandates to boost teacher pay. The state has about 48,000 public-school teachers.
The organizer of a super PAC formed to support U.S. Sen. David Vitter argues that it should not be subject to Louisiana campaign contribution limits because it is operating independent of Vitter. But the organizers of the super PAC, the Fund for Louisiana’s Future, have a direct tie to Vitter’s political operations. Two of the people paid to raise money for the super PAC are also paid by Vitter’s campaign operations to raise money for the candidate. It’s an arrangement that some elections experts say could invite a review by the Federal Elections Commission