Agency puts hold on La. Medicaid pharmacy payments

The federal health agency has rejected Louisiana’s latest plans for Medicaid reimbursement of pharmacists for prescription drugs. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently notified Louisiana officials of its objection to the payment methodology. On Thursday, Louisiana Medicaid Director Ruth Kennedy received notice that the federal agency is deferring payment of … Continue reading →

Legislators OK mid-year budget cut plans

 Jim Fannin

Louisiana legislators made some minor changes Thursday but otherwise approved the Jindal administration’s plan to fill an unexpected hole in revenue collections and rebalance this year’s $25 billion state budget. About 160 vacant jobs were eliminated outright, and others won’t be filled for the remainder of the budget year, which ends on June 30. Nobody will be … Continue reading →

Molina contract extension approved

The Jindal administration received legislative approval Thursday for a $40 million, one-year extension of the state’s Medicaid claims processing contract. The Molina Medicaid Solutions contract, scheduled to end Dec. 31, already has cost the state more than $420 million over the past 10 years. And legislators heard that this contract extension request … Continue reading →

Louisiana's Public Service Commission refuses to sell vehicles that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration want for $1.4M

The Louisiana Public Service Commission refused Wednesday to sell half its vehicles, as ordered by the Jindal administration, to help fill a hole in the state budget. The five elected commissioners said they represent sprawling districts and need the automobiles to perform their duties. Besides, their cars already are paid for and they would have to rent … Continue reading →

Group Benefits reports enrollment

Nearly 95 percent of state Group Benefits members will get health insurance through a Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan offering next year, the agency reported Tuesday. Some 135,000 households representing about 230,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their families have enrolled, slightly more than last year. The new benefit plans offered have not … Continue reading →

Audit cites welfare agency lapses

Some welfare recipients may be improperly receiving benefits because of record-keeping lapses at the state agency administering the program, according to a legislative auditor’s report released Monday. The auditor also noted improper financial controls that allowed theft of more than $150,000 by former employees of the agency’s audit division, as well as five employees who received $43,529 … Continue reading →

LOUISIANA GOVERNMENT

Dropping oil prices continue to impact state budget

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Aerial of the new State Capitol building and grounds.

The continuing drop in the price of oil likely will require state government to change its spending plan for a second time to balance this year’s budget. And for next year’s budget, which is being drafted now, the collapsing oil prices are added to an already monumentally large shortfall in revenues. “We’re going to have to make … Continue reading →

State Rep. Herbert Dixon resigns House seat

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Rep. Herbert B. Dixon, D-Alexandria

Citing health reasons, Alexandria state Rep. Herbert Dixon, who chairs the Louisiana House Labor Committee, resigned. Dixon is the fourth state representative to vacate a seat in the 105-member House in recent weeks. Dixon has been undergoing chemotherapy at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. “It became clearer and clearer to me this is a time … Continue reading →

Joined by nationwide religious leaders, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal pumps up prayer rally coming to Baton Rouge

Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal shared his story about his faith with religious leaders from across the country Monday at the Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge, according to a KTBS report. Besides telling others about his religious life, Jindal reportedly used the time to promote a prayer rally called "The Reponse" that's coming to the Maravich Center on … Continue reading →

Jindal administration claims to be on track with savings

The Jindal administration is two-thirds of the way toward achieving the savings called for in the state’s $25 billion budget for the current fiscal year, officials told a legislative committee Monday. Of the $75.6 million in savings required to keep this year’s budget balanced, the Division of Administration has come up with $50.17 million. The budget year … Continue reading →

Film incentive review panel needs help making its deadline

Advocate staff photo by ANDREA MABRY -- Sen. J.P. Morrell

The panel charged with coming up with fixes to the state’s entertainment tax credit program needs help to hit its deadline for developing reform legislation. “We don’t seem to be on a pace to present any legislation, which is problematic,” J.P. Morrell, the state senator who chairs the Entertainment Industry Development Advisory Commission, said Monday. … Continue reading →

Champagne resigns House seat

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Rep. Simone Champagne, R-Erath, asks questions as the House Education Committee considers bills to repeal or revamp Common Core academic standards in this April 2014 Advocate file photo.

Republican state Rep. Simone Champagne of Jeanerette is resigning her legislative seat Dec. 31 to join the leadership team of Mayor-elect Ken Ritter of Youngsville. “I am honored to have served the citizens of District 49. I have, however, notified the Speaker of the House that as of Dec. 31 I will leave the District 49 … Continue reading →

Group Benefits sign-up lagging

Enrollment in new state insurance plans offered through the Office of Group Benefits is lagging as a Sunday deadline approaches. The Jindal administration reports that 61 percent of active employees and 42 percent of retirees had enrolled in one of the five new plans as of Tuesday. The plans offer more coverage options, but usher in higher … Continue reading →

Special report: Louisiana offers millions to lure major industries, but record of success is mixed

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER --Federal City in Algiers occupies the site of a former Navy base. The ambitious Federal City project has been the largest recipient to date of money from Louisiana's

Mobile and tablet users: Click here to read the story. … Continue reading →

Bids to demolish the Earl were received by state government

Demolition of the abandoned LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center in north Baton Rouge is on track for early 2015. The state Office of Facility Planning and Control received bids late Wednesday from seven companies seeking the business. The contract is scheduled to be awarded in December and work should begin soon after the first of … Continue reading →

Early voting ends Saturday for Dec. 6 election

Saturday is the last day of early voting in advance of the Dec. 6 elections featuring the U.S. Senate race and two congressional runoffs. Before a two-day holiday break, nearly 175,000 people had voted, according to elections statistics through Wednesday. “That’s far more than we saw in the last congressional election in 2010 in which approximately … Continue reading →

Changes to State Capitol traffic plan put on hold

Advocate Photo by MARSHA SHULER -- Visitors to the State Capitol this holiday season are in a construction zone with chain-link fences, ripped up pavement and materials stacked all around. It's part of a $4.37 million project.

Major traffic pattern changes planned as part of a State Capitol security upgrade are being delayed, the state’s construction manager said. The Louisiana Legislature begins its 2015 session in April, and there is a concern that the road work would not be completed in time, State Office of Facility Planning and Control Director Mark Moses said. Rather … Continue reading →

Mobile pet shelter coming

Construction is expected to begin in December on a mobile pet shelter which will be ready for use by the 2015 hurricane season, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain said Monday. “The benefit of a mobile pet shelter is immediate onsite sheltering and care of pets affected by a disaster, the ease of safe transport of … Continue reading →

LOUISIANA GOVERNMENT

Vacant jobs eliminated to help balance the state budget

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

The Jindal administration eliminated 167 vacant positions and found some extra dollars to balance the budget halfway through the fiscal year. “None of the positions that were taken were filled,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief budgetary adviser, said Friday. “The bottom line is we protected higher ed. We protected health care. There were … Continue reading →

Diabetes costly for Louisiana

Associated Press file photoA diabetic tests his blood-sugar level in 2009.

Direct and indirect costs of diabetes in Louisiana hit $5.4 billion annually, which an economic impact study released Thursday by the American Diabetes Association called alarming. The new statistical data puts the national price tag at $322 billion associated with medical costs and lost productivity — 48 percent higher than just five years prior. … Continue reading →

Tax Amnesty gathers $142 million

Louisiana’s tax amnesty program has brought in $142 million for the sagging state budget this year — several million more than expected. The state budget relied on at least $100 million coming in through the monthlong effort, which gave thousands of tax scofflaws a chance to pay the taxes they owed with discounted interest and without penalties. … Continue reading →

LSU expands urgent care into MidCity

LSU Health Baton Rouge will open its second urgent care clinic Dec. 15 at MidCity Clinic, officials announced Thursday. The center, 1401 N. Foster Drive, will be open seven days a week. The hours will be 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday. Weekend hours will be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Patients will not need … Continue reading →

State bond refinancing yields savings

The refinancing of $228.54 million in state general obligation bonds saved taxpayers $12 million, state Treasurer John Kennedy said Tuesday. “We refinanced to generate savings on money that was borrowed to fund construction projects across Louisiana,” Kennedy said in a prepared statement shortly after completion of the refinancing. “Just like homeowners refinance their mortgages, we … Continue reading →

Judges’ pay panel keeps status quo

The state Judicial Compensation Commission decided Tuesday that it won’t propose new pay raises for Louisiana judges for at least the next two years. Louisiana judges already are in line for annual 2.1 percent pay increases each July 1 through 2017 under a commission-proposed, five-year plan adopted by the Legislature. “We are in year two of … Continue reading →