Louisiana sinks to 40th in review of roads

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Interstate 10 through Baton Rouge, including the Horace Wilkinson Bridge, also known as the New Bridge, over the Mississippi River, remains closed Wednesday morning due to ice accumulation from Tuesday.

Louisiana’s highway conditions plummeted to 40th in the nation and pavements on urban interstates are better than only two other states, according to a report released Thursday. The state also ranks 44th in its highway fatality rate, 41st in the condition of rural interstate pavements and 39th in the number of deficient bridges. The findings are … Continue reading →

Bayou Health report questioned

Kathy Kliebert

A report legislators ordered up to help evaluate how goes the privatization of the government-run health insurance program is full of errors and inconsistencies, the legislative auditor said Wednesday, an assessment with which the state’s medical chief disagrees. State Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said the report “fully complies” … Continue reading →

WellSpot program promoted

State health officials Monday promoted 35 WellSpots across Louisiana, including a variety of worksites and restaurants, that have made changes to make it easier for Louisiana residents who want to improve their health. The state Department of Health and Hospitals also announced the launch of a new website at WellAheadLa.com that makes it easy for users … Continue reading →

Wall Street Journal: Technological advances extend energy boom

The U.S. energy boom has already lasted longer than expected because technological advances have made oil and natural gas-wells more productive, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. The “unrecognized but potent trend” should keep production flowing even though the number of drilling rigs working nationwide remains flat, the article says. The energy … Continue reading →

Accident shuts down natural-gas pipeline off Louisiana coast

Chevron Pipe Line Co. shut down a natural-gas pipeline off the southeast coast of Louisiana after one contract worker was killed and two others were injured while doing maintenance work, according to The Wall Street Journal. The pipeline carries natural gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico to Louisiana’s Henry Hub in Erath, a critical storage and … Continue reading →

Louisiana drivers ranked 12th-rudest in survey

Louisiana drivers ranked 12th-rudest in the nation and are most hated by drivers from Texas, according to a new survey by online insurance website Insure.com. Insure.com surveyed 2,000 licensed drivers, half women and half men, to measure rude behavior: weaving in and out of traffic, laying on the horn and “saluting with an upright digit.” Idaho … Continue reading →

In Toon With Walt: We have a winner!

Wow! When it comes to politics you folks really get it! With over 180 entries, I believe these were some of the best punch lines we’ve seen since we started this contest. Short, punchy, witty, clever and Fuuuuuuny! This time, there were several clever, mini song parodies as well as jokes about BP money, mud … Continue reading →

Officials expect minimal traffic snarls during I-10 bridge painting

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  A sign warning motorists of Mississippi River Bridge lane closures flashes around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014.  The sign heralds 18 months of periodic work the bridge for painting and rust removal.

Traffic problems should be minimal during a $10 million, nighttime paint and rust removal project that is underway on the Interstate 10 Mississippi River bridge, officials said Thursday. “What we are doing is called spot painting,” said Danny Tullier, bridge preventive maintenance program manager for the state Department of Transportation and Development. “Portions or zones of … Continue reading →

N.O.-BR high-speed rail line still an option

Despite opposition, New Orleans and Baton Rouge leaders continue to meet with the federal government to develop a passenger rail link between the two cities and allow workers easier access to the new and expanded plants along the Mississippi River. “We don’t have a fast train between here and Baton Rouge and here and Lake Charles. So, … Continue reading →

Lane on I-10 to be closed on Tuesday night

The righthand lane of Interstate 10 will be closed between the Acadian Thruway on-ramp and the I-10/12 split starting at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, state officials announced. Two lanes along the same route will be closed between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Wednesday, according to the state Department of Transportation and Development. The closures are … Continue reading →

BR I-10 bridge lane closings start Wednesday

Advocate staff file photo by Richard Alan Hannon -- The Interstate 10 bridge over the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge

The first of 18 months of nighttime lane closures on the Interstate 10 Mississippi River Bridge will start on Wednesday, state officials said. On Wednesday, the eastbound right lane of the bridge will be closed from 8:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m, according to the state Department of Transportation and Development. On Thursday, the inside left lanes … Continue reading →

State Police chief loses enhanced benefits

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards backed the Louisiana State Police Retirement System in rejecting Thursday additional pension benefits for Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson. He appeared as did state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, seated behind him to the right.

The head of Louisiana State Police lost his enhanced retirement benefits Thursday when the panel charged with overseeing pensions refused to pay the extra money and a Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary order blocking the payment of the benefits. The Louisiana State Police Retirement System decided not to contest any lawsuit aimed at overturning a last-minute … Continue reading →

La. insurers won’t pay for early elective births

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and Louisiana Medicaid are no longer paying for medically unnecessary births before the 39th week of pregnancy. State medical leaders cited infant health as the reason for the decision during a formal announcement at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge on Wednesday. “We know this change will help reduce … Continue reading →

Food trucks rolling onto La. campuses

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- LSU mass communication junior Riley Dickens orders lunch Thursday, August 28, 2014, at Taco Churro's, a new food truck on LSU's campus.

The booming food truck craze has hit college campuses in Louisiana, as schools look to meet the ever-evolving demands of picky students. LSU in Baton Rouge and Tulane University in New Orleans have debuted their own food trucks this fall — merging the ongoing expansion of on-campus dining services with the restaurants-on-wheels phenomenon. “It’s about … Continue reading →

State employee insurance changing

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols calls it a “right-sizing of benefits to costs.” But many state employees, retirees and their dependents say the changes they’ll be asked to start making next month translate to increases in out-of-pocket expenses for their health care. About 230,000 enrollees in the state’s Group Benefits program will be deciding in October … Continue reading →

Distracted teen drivers raise alarms

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Driving instructor Jack Shoemaker talks with student driver Jacob Little, 15, before going out on a training drive Thursday.

Teen drivers account for an inordinate number of fatal crashes involving distractions, according to a national report. However, there are signs of progress in Louisiana, and recent state laws have enough teeth to make a difference, said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. The study, titled “Distracted & … Continue reading →

Brees reveals new daughter’s name

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees and wife Brittany have named their baby girl, Rylen Judith Brees. WVUE-TV reports the name was announced publicly Thursday during the CST broadcast of the Saints’ final preseason game. Brees’ wife, Brittany, gave birth Tuesday. Rylen has three older brothers: Baylen, Callen and Bowen. The Saints were facing off … Continue reading →

La. pension systems post big gains

Louisiana’s teacher and state employee pension systems registered investment gains approaching 20 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, nearing record growth levels. The Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana led the way with a market return — net of fees — hitting 19.49 percent. “We are very pleased with our investment performance. TRSL … Continue reading →

BR General, Jindal administration reach deal to keep ER open

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Baton Rouge General's Mid-City campus

Baton Rouge General Medical Center reversed plans Wednesday to close its Mid City emergency room, which would have left much of the city without close access to treatment for life-threatening medical calamities, after the Jindal administration agreed to come up with funding to cover the uninsured patients entering its doors. “We began this day with heavy hearts, … Continue reading →

House Group Benefits meeting pushed

Chuck Kleckley

The House Democratic Caucus chairman wants the Louisiana House to look into major changes planned to the program that provides health insurance to about 230,000 state employees, retirees and their dependents. Democratic Caucus Chairman John Bel Edwards, a state representative from Amite who is running for governor in 2015, on Tuesday asked House Speaker Chuck Kleckley to … Continue reading →

Child support taken from winnings

Before gamblers can collect their winnings, if more than $1,200, casinos first must fill out paperwork and check a database for back child support. The casinos subtract the arrears from the winnings and send the money to the state Department of Children and Family Services. Through June, casinos intercepted for the state $2.05 million from … Continue reading →

Kennedy continues quest for more pension info

State Treasurer John Kennedy

State Treasurer John Kennedy continued pressing Monday for information about the circumstances surrounding the last-minute legislative passage of a pension boost for State Police Col. Mike Edmonson. Kennedy also requested key players in the benefit becoming law appear at the Sept. 4 meeting of the Louisiana State Police Retirement System board, including Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive counsel … Continue reading →

Panel set to look for ways to fix Louisiana roads, bridges

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Traffic slows to a crawl on westbound I-10 freeway in Gonzales on Thursday morning, Dec. 27, 2012 after a tanker overturned at the La. Hwy 30 exit, backing up traffic for at least four miles. 12/27/12 MAGS OUT / INTERNET OUT/ONLINE OUT/NO SALES/TV OUT/FOREIGN OUT/LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC. OUT/GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT OUT/225 OUT/10/12 OUT/IN REGISTER OUT/LBI CUSTOM PUBLICATIONS OUT/MANDATORY CREDIT THE ADVOCATE/ ADAM LAU

Despite steep odds, a special panel is about to launch a study of ways to boost state aid for Louisiana’s often-criticized road and bridge system. The Transportation Funding Task Force, which includes legislative leaders and others, was authorized by the Legislature earlier this year and is set to hold its first public hearing on Sept. 10 in … Continue reading →

LSU gets partial payment in hospital partnership dispute

FILE - This June 21, 2014, file photo shows Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as he speaks during Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority event in Washington. The Associated Press has tracked the movements and machinations of more than a dozen prospective presidential candidates including Jindal. (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)

The private operator of LSU’s Shreveport and Monroe hospitals responded Friday to an LSU payment demand but with less than the $25 million allegedly owed. Meanwhile, Gov. Bobby Jindal continued to laud the success of public-private hospital partnerships around the state. In a statement issued by his office, Jindal said LSU leadership has assured that they are … Continue reading →

Clinics, doctors challenge anti-abortion law

Advocate file photo -- The Louisiana state Capitol building in Baton Rouge.

The constitutionality of a new state law requiring abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital is being challenged in federal court. Attorneys for abortion clinics in Metairie, Shreveport and Bossier City and two physicians filed a lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in the Middle District in Baton Rouge to … Continue reading →

LSU sends collection letter to hospital manager

Page 1 of a letter LSU sent demanding payment on $25.3 million owed by the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana.

LSU sent a collection letter this week to the research foundation running its hospitals in Monroe and Shreveport, saying the foundation owes the university system $25.3 million and accusing it of using LSU like its “personal piggy bank.” The Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana took control of the two hospitals in October 2013, as part of … Continue reading →

LSU hospital deals run into snag under federal scrutiny

Kathy Kliebert for KECK GONE 1-5.mes

The Jindal administration’s revised plan to finance privatizing the state’s charity hospitals has run into a new snag. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called CMS, notified state officials Tuesday that it had “stopped the clock” on review of the plan and wanted the state to answer more questions about its features. The federal … Continue reading →

Gov. Jindal favors repeal of Edmonson benefit law

La. Gov. Bobby Jindal; State Police Col. Mike Edmonson

Gov. Bobby Jindal wants the Legislature to repeal a state law he signed that provides State Police Col. Mike Edmonson with enhanced retirement benefits. Jindal’s press secretary on Tuesday released a statement outlining Jindal’s position. “We did not know the legislation affected only two people. The Legislature shouldn’t have handled this issue this way. … Continue reading →

State Farm sued over auto repairs

Advocate staff photo by MARSHA SHULER -- Attorney General Buddy Caldwell (left) and aide Randy Ishee hold up a substandard auto part during a Tuesday news conference. The state has filed a lawsuit against State Farm involving auto repair work.

State Farm, the state’s largest automobile insurer, is accused of engaging in a pattern of unfair and fraudulent business practices involving car repairs in a state lawsuit filed Tuesday. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell sued, alleging the company “created a culture of unsafe business practices in which consumer vehicle repairs are performed with cost-savings as the primary goal … Continue reading →

Education website shut down

AP Photo by MELINDA DESLATTE -- Superintendent of Education John White speaks after his meeting with Gov. Bobby Jindal about public school testing last week.

The website for the state Department of Education was shut down for part of Monday because of the state’s refusal to make payments, Superintendent of Education John White said. But the office in the Jindal administration that pays the bills said the website closing was unintentional and not part of a heated dispute between White and the … Continue reading →

Auditor: Bayou Health report flawed

The Jindal administration’s positive report to the Legislature on the status of Medicaid privatization lacks information supporting “global assertions” of cost savings and improved health outcomes, the legislative auditor said in a report issued Monday. Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said the report, covering July 2012 through June 2013, is largely based on data provided by … Continue reading →

Traffic problems defy quick solutions

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Congestion on the Mississippi River Bridge connecting East and West Baton Rouge Parishes begins to accumulate around 3pm, Friday, July 25, 2014. ORG XMIT: BAT1407251812452652

Despite increased traffic and lane closures, sweeping changes on and near the Interstate 10 bridge in Baton Rouge are unlikely anytime soon because of political and financial hurdles, officials said. Kam Movassaghi, former secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, noted that a $200 million plan to widen I-10 from the bridge to Essen Lane … Continue reading →

Former City Court clerk pays ethics fine

A former Baton Rouge City Court employee has agreed to pay a $2,500 fine to end an ethics case against her involving the receipt of bribes. Ingrid Simon signed a settlement with the state Board of Ethics, which had charged her with improperly benefiting from the public job she held. The consent opinion signed by Simon … Continue reading →