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Louisiana may have been overpaid in tobacco settlement, $17 million too much

In addition to the state’s other fiscal problems, Louisiana now may have to repay, in short order, millions of dollars received in error from a multibillion-dollar settlement with cigarette manufacturers. In a letter delivered late Thursday, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell informed top state officials that because of an accounting error, Louisiana was overpaid and may be on… Continue reading →

Centers for Medicare, Medicaid Services denies LSU hospital financing deal again

The federal health agency has once again rejected use of advance lease payment financing on LSU hospital privatization deals. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called CMS, denied a state appeal in a letter issued Tuesday, but released by Jindal administration officials late Thursday. The state health agency had asked CMS to reconsider its disallowance… Continue reading →

Legislation would raise revenues for Louisiana hospitals

Louisiana House leadership filed legislation late Wednesday setting in motion a voter-approved plan that allows Louisiana hospitals to assess fees on themselves to attract more federal dollars for patient care. But there’s a caveat. The new assessment is conditioned on expansion of Medicaid coverage. The state’s hospitals, like other groups that rely on government health care… Continue reading →

Louisiana lawmakers on House labor committee kill pay equity bill

Two bills aimed at making sure women earn pay equal to their male peers were shot down Wednesday by lawmakers — ensuring, advocates say, that Louisiana will continue to have the worst pay gap between men and women in the nation. The Louisiana House labor committee voted 9-5 against the proposals after a contentious hearing.… Continue reading →

Legislation reining in costs of TOPS scholarship program clears Senate panel

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, and Phyllis Taylor, chairman and president of the New Orleans-based Patrick F. Taylor Foundation, testified Wednesday for legislation that would rein in the cost of the popular TOPs award, which pays college and university tuition for qualified students. Though Taylor, whose late husband founded the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, supports the changes, Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes the bill.

Legislation that would create a mechanism for reining in the cost of Louisiana’s generous TOPS scholarship program won approval from a key Senate committee on Wednesday. Despite opposition from Gov. Bobby Jindal, the full Senate will now weigh Senate Bill 48, which seeks to establish a base amount that students can receive through the Taylor… Continue reading →

Senate Finance approves first revenue-raising measure: bill to repeal business inventory tax

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Senate President John Alario, right, listens Wednesday to testimony about repealing Louisiana's inventory tax in the Senate Finance Committee. State Sens Fred Mills, R-St. Martinville, right to left, Gregory Tarver, D-Shreveport, and Bodi White, R-Central, are members of the committee.

Trust me. That was the message given Wednesday by the Louisiana Senate Finance Committee to skeptical local government leaders when the panel overwhelmingly approved the first revenue-raising measure of the 2015 session, a repeal of the state’s business inventory tax. Sheriffs, parish presidents, assessors, police jurors and school system superintendents all testified against Senate Bill… Continue reading →

Southern University supporters rally at Capitol; senator: 'Absolutely important' school maintained in Louisiana

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The Human Jukebox performs at the beginning of the Southern University Day rally on the State Capitol steps. Students, alumni and administrators were there.

Nearly 300 supporters of Southern University packed the State Capitol steps on Wednesday, rallying for their school and hoping to send a message to Louisiana legislators. Jevante Myers, a sophomore from Opelousas, said he came out to the “We Are Southern” rally because he’s worried that with the threat of budget cuts, the university could be “shut… Continue reading →

Lawsuit: Bobby Jindal administration illegally implemented changes to Louisiana-operated health insurance program

A lawsuit filed in state court claims the Jindal administration illegally implemented changes to the state-operated health insurance program. The lawsuit also alleges poor financial management by the state Office of Group Benefits, which provides coverage to about 230,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents. Six of the affected Group Benefits members want the… Continue reading →

Ratings for LSU credit outlook lowered from positive to stable

Moody’s Investors Service has lowered LSU’s credit outlook from positive to stable. “This puts our flagship university one step away from a negative outlook which could result in a downgrade for LSU’s credit rating. We don’t want that to happen,” Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy said in a statement. “Years of slashing state funding for our public colleges… Continue reading →

Got an opinion about traffic between the bridge and I-10/I-12 split? DOTD wants to hear from you

The state is launching two surveys as part of a feasibility study on possible improvements between the Interstate 10 bridge and the I-10/12 split, officials said Wednesday. Sherri LeBas, secretary for the state Department of Transportation, said the reviews should be finished by the spring of 2016. One of the surveys will be online. The… Continue reading →

With budget cuts threatening service reductions, LSU partnership hospitals lobby for funding

The private managers of LSU hospitals talked Tuesday night of successes since their takeover as they lobbied for legislative help in coming up with nearly $600 million to fund operations. The newly-created Alliance of Partnership Hospitals took its case to the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee, with hospital officials talking about the dire consequences of failure… Continue reading →

Defining rape, sexual assault crimes would be altered under House Bill 139

Louisiana lawmakers are considering whether to change the terms used to describe the crime of sexual assault. Authorities currently use “simple rape”, “forcible rape” and “aggravated rape” to describe the varying degrees of sexual assault charges. Under House Bill 139 backed by the House criminal justice committee Tuesday, those terms would be changed to third-degree rape,… Continue reading →

Nursing home industry's resistence to privatization stalls bidding process to Gov. Bobby Jindal's Medicaid long-term care plan

Louisiana’s nursing home industry is trying to exempt itself from the final phase of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Medicaid privatization. The industry’s objection is stalling release of initial steps in the bidding process — called request for proposals or RFP — that would seek a private company to take over management of long-term care programs for the… Continue reading →

Louisiana Senate to try again on inventory tax repeal

Legislative leaders on Tuesday turned to Plan B on how to raise revenue for next year after vigorous lobbying by local government officials derailed their initial plan on Monday before the state Senate tax-writing committee. The new approach calls for the spending committee — Senate Finance — on Wednesday to hear the main revenue-generating measure, which as before… Continue reading →

Louisiana House bill would make distributing 'private image' photos a crime

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, spoke Tuesday in support of legislation that would make it a crime to disclose a personal photo without permission.

It’s a big issue for starlets in Hollywood. In Louisiana, disclosing “a private image” could soon be a crime. A legislative committee on Tuesday advanced a measure that would create the crime of of “nonconsensual disclosure.” State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, said that in age of increased technology, cell phones with cameras are ubiquitous.… Continue reading →

House committee backs veteran-friendly campus designation

A key House panel has endorsed legislation that would create a new designation for colleges that that implement extra support measures for student veterans. Under House Bill 485, colleges and universities will be able to apply annually to the state Board of Regents to receive the “Governor’s Veterans Friendly Campus Designation.” Louisiana Department of… Continue reading →

Lawmaker: Marijuana growing, meth making are often ex-inmates' only options; bill would make it easier to have a 'decent job'

A state lawmaker made a pitch for her bill Tuesday morning by saying it would pave the way for former convicts to land solid employment, not growing marijuana or joining a meth lab. State Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek, made the comment during committee testimony on her plan to help former inmates start over. Hill… Continue reading →

Bill offers option of blood type on driver’s license

Motorists could have their blood type added to their Louisiana driver’s license under a bill approved Tuesday morning by the House Transportation Committee. The proposal, House Bill 37, next faces action in the full House. State Rep. Terry Brown, No Party-Colfax, emphasized that the information would be voluntary. No additional charge would be added.… Continue reading →

Capitol security supporters say traffic system working; see a video here of the barriers in action

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Security bollards are a part of the new Capitol parking system...lowering when a car with a valid permit is scanned and rising again after the vehicle has moved past. Several accidents involving the security barriers have occurred since the start of the Legislative session.

The first week of the 2015 session of the Louisiana Legislature began and ended with parking lot accidents involving the new State Capitol security system. But the incidents aren’t prompting supporters of the security project to pursue any changes. Motorists just need to be more careful, they say. The system is working as designed.… Continue reading →

Plugging state budget deficit causing pain from the get-go as centerpiece inventory tax bill already running into problems

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, said Monday his committee would not hear any revenue-raising bills Tuesday because a state Senate panel sidelined a measure that would have repealed the inventory tax.

On Day One of the effort to raise more money to plug a massive budget deficit, state legislators learned Monday that the job will be tougher than they had imagined. State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, had to defer consideration Monday of a bill that would repeal the state’s business inventory tax, a measure that is the centerpiece of… Continue reading →

Unpopular at home, Bobby Jindal getting little traction for his 2016 presidential effort

Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Nashua, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s focus on states important in the presidential campaign is drawing lots of criticism at home and doing little apparent good for his 2016 prospects. Lost — at least for now — in a pack of better-known White House contenders, Jindal is taking heat in Louisiana for a $1.6 billion budget shortfall that threatens… Continue reading →

Supporters wanting to decriminalize marijuana meet at Louisiana State Capitol

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Breston Youngblood, a Columbia farmer, advocated Monday for Louisiana legislators to approve bills that would legalize marijuana.

Proponents of loosening the state’s restrictive criminal laws on marijuana use and purchase argued from the State Capitol steps Monday that legalizing the herb would help raise revenues for the state while providing some patients with a less expensive way to treat pain and the side effects of chemotherapy. Breston Youngblood, a farmer near the northeast Louisiana… Continue reading →

Authorities say Claiborne Building safe after earlier bomb threat

State Police gave an “all-clear” mid-afternoon Monday at a downtown state office building which had been evacuated earlier because of a bomb threat. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols announced the closure of the Claiborne Building in the State Capitol Complex shortly before noon Monday. “There wasn’t much to it. We treated it like there was.… Continue reading →

Film incentives bills ready for its Louisiana legislative close-up

Associated Prees photo by /Matt Sayles -- Cast member John Malkovich arrives at the premiere of "Secretariat" in Los Angeles, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010.  Scenes from the movie were shot at the Evangeline Downs in 2009.

Lights. Camera. Action. But not of the kind favored by Louisiana’s film and television industry. Instead, the state Legislature will begin to take action next week on bills that would pare and perhaps even phase out tax subsidies that have cost taxpayers $1.3 billion over the past seven years while making Louisiana a more… Continue reading →

Nurse fined for violating state nepotism laws

The former director of nursing at Villa Feliciana Medical Complex and her son have agreed to pay $3,000 in fines for violation of the state nepotism laws. The Louisiana Board of Ethics signed off a consent opinion Friday ending the case against Linda Williams and her son, Clint, who worked as a nurse supervisor at Villa… Continue reading →

First tax bill to be considered by Louisiana Legislature would repeal inventory tax

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- State Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Chairman Neil Riser, R-Columbia, during a 2012 hearing.

A bill that would produce big savings to the state treasury — but that gives big heartburn to local government officials — will be the first tax measure heard by the Louisiana Legislature this year when the Senate tax-writing committee convenes Monday. Senate Bill 85 would repeal the state’s business inventory tax. To make sure everyone… Continue reading →

Louisiana Law Institute spent half million for New Orleans meetings, projected to spend $140,311 this year on meetings

A Baton Rouge agency of the Louisiana Legislature spent more than $500,000 during the past three years to hold meetings at The Monteleone Hotel in the New Orleans French Quarter. The expenses have been chalked up by the Louisiana Law Institute as its decision-making council met six to eight times a year over… Continue reading →

Privatization deals leave schools stuck with ‘legacy costs’

LSU’s medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport are struggling to pay millions of dollars in insurance, retiree and maintenance costs left to them from the privatization of the state’s charity hospitals, state senators were told Thursday. The chancellors of the two medical schools outlined more than $56 million in “legacy costs” they face in the fiscal… Continue reading →

Cigarette tax increase looks like a possibility this session

Louisiana’s health advocacy groups see an opportunity this legislative session to get a long-sought cigarette tax hike in a state that has one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the country. As lawmakers look to raise new money to plug a $1.6 billion budget hole, at least 10 tobacco tax measures have been filed for debate.… Continue reading →

Louisiana regulators promise refund

State regulators promised Thursday to refund to the state’s utilities customers money the Louisiana Legislature took to help balance the state budget should they win a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the practice. “They paid it and they should get it back,” Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill, said after emerging from an… Continue reading →

Louisiana legislators protest raiding a roads fund

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Sen. Jack Donohue, R-Mandeville, questions highway officials Wednesday about the need to take money from a trust fund to pay for unexpected expenses.

The Louisiana highway department got its money but not before a handful of legislators forced a vote to protest the routine raiding of the state’s chief transportation fund. Following the usual procedure, the state Department of Transportation and Development asked to tap a trust fund for highway maintenance to pay $2,149,289 for expenses, such as de-icing… Continue reading →

Louisiana legislators to start vetting revenue raising bills next week

Senator Neil Riser

Measures that would raise more revenue to help plug the state’s $1.6 billion projected budget deficit will get their first hearing in the Louisiana Legislature on Monday before the Senate tax-writing panel, its chairman said Wednesday. State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, who chairs the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, said he won’t decide until Friday which… Continue reading →