Panel kills measure
The Senate Finance Committee late Tuesday killed legislation under which Louisiana would be authorized to set up health insurance exchanges as part of President Barack Obama’s health-care revamp.
The committee sidelined the measure on an 8-1 vote that had cleared the Senate Insurance Committee.
The action occurred after state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein opposed the legislation.
“We would be bearing the risk and costs that come with it,” Greenstein said. “We would become agents of the federal government.”
Senate Bill 744’s sponsor state Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, said the legislation is “about Louisiana taking the appropriate step” to help its uninsured identify health insurance options available once the federal revamp kicks in. She said federal grant funds are available to set the exchange up and the state can assess fees on participating health insurers for its operation.
Fannin pulls bill to merge LSU-S, La. Tech
A push to fold LSU-Shreveport into the University of Louisiana System, and then merge the institution with Louisiana Tech, sputtered and then ran out of gas on the House floor Tuesday.
The bill’s supporters acknowledged they didn’t have the two-thirds majority, or 70 votes needed to advance the bill.
House Bill 964, sponsored by state Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, was advertised as a way to expand many of Louisiana Tech’s academic programs into the Shreveport-Bossier community.
Fannin said he sponsored it because he believed it would save the state money by cutting out duplication of facilities and staffing between two areas about 70 miles apart.
“Financially, this makes sense for the people of Louisiana,” Fannin said.
State Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, called the bill a way to save postsecondary education in an area with around 400,000 people, but with a university enrollment of about 4,000 students or less. “Our institution may very well be teetering on a death spiral,” he said.
At the end of a lengthy debate, Fannin pulled the bill from consideration before it came up for a vote saying there wasn’t enough support to move it forward.
Employee pension bill
moves to Senate floor
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposal to move new state employees to a 401(k)-type pension plan cleared another legislative hurdle Tuesday night.
The Senate Finance Committee, without objection, sent House Bill 61 to the Senate floor for debate.
The committee vote came when the administration and the legislature’s retirement system actuaries gave conflicting testimony and reports on the financial impact of the change.
The administration’s Boston-based actuary predicted savings to the state and less exposure to new pension liabilities.
The Legislature’s actuary said there would be state costs and could leave state employees without sufficient retirement income to last throughout their lives.
The Louisiana State Employees Retirement System opposes HB61 — the so-called cash balance plan, its executive director, Cindy Rougeou, told the panel. It had previously not taken a position.
“Significant risk is shifted to the employee,” Rougeou said.
Bill denying Facebook
access to inmates OK’d
Legislation to ban certain convicted sex offenders from using Facebook and other social networking websites is on its way to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The House voted 93-0 Tuesday to give final legislative passage to House Bill 620 by state Rep. Ledricka Thierry, D-Opelousas. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.
The legislation is an updated version of a 2011 law limiting the Internet use of convicted sex offenders whose crimes involved children.
A federal judge rejected the previously passed law, declaring it a “near-total ban on Internet access” and unconstitutionally broad.
Under the reworked version of the proposal, sex offenders would have to commit “intentional use” of a social networking site by creating a profile or attempting to contact other users on the site.
Bill on sale of dog, cats
on highways rejected
The House on Tuesday rejected Senate changes to a bill outlawing the sale of dogs and cats along state highways and by-ways and other public places.
Bill sponsor state Rep. Anthony “Tony” Ligi, R-Metairie, disagreed with Senate deletion of sales at flea markets as well as on commercial or retail property.
Ligi asked the House to send the measure, House Bill 231, to a conference committee of three representatives and three senators to iron out differences.
Panel advances bill
on habitual offenders
A bid to make habitual offenders eligible for parole is nearing final passage after zipping through a state Senate committee Tuesday.
The Senate Committee on Judiciary B voted without objection to advance House Bill 543 by state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge. The proposal now moves to the state Senate floor.
Under the bill, certain offenders would become eligible for parole after serving part of a life sentence. The bill would not apply to violent offenders or those convicted of sex crimes.
The bill would apply to:
- Inmates who have served at least 25 years after being sentenced between the ages of 18 and under 25.
- Inmates who have served at least 20 years after being sentenced between the ages of at least 25 and under 35.
- Inmates who have served at least 15 years after being sentenced between the ages of at least 35 and under 50.
- Inmates who have served at least 10 years after being sentenced when they were 50 years or older.
Panel approves bill
to close museums
A House committee decided Tuesday that Secretary of State Tom Schedler should have the power to close museums under his control because of budget cuts.
The House and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Senate Bill 268, which also would require Schedler to work with communities in which the museums are located to see if there are local options for keeping facilities open.
Schedler’s office manages 17 museums, ranging from the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge and the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport to smaller museums such as the Garyville Timbermill Museum and the Delta Music Museum in Ferriday.
“Currently, the law does not offer the secretary of state any latitude at all to literally close museums,” Schedler said. He said that ability is especially important since the museums have been targets for budget cuts.
The legislation would allow Schedler’s office to accept private contributions, funding from local government and other public entities to help keep museums open.
the Capitol news bureau