Regions Bank terminates its the payday loan program
Regions Bank announced Wednesday it will terminate its “deposit advance” product, which essentially operates as a payday loan and traps Regions’ customers in long term cycles of debt. In its place will be The Regions Savings Secured Loan, a $250+ installment loan secured by a savings account or certificate of deposit. LBP recently launched a website detailing facts about the payday lending industry in Louisiana. For example, there are four times as many payday lenders in Louisiana as McDonald’s Restaurants, and Louisianans paid between $181 million and $196 million in fees to payday lenders in 2011. Furthermore, a statewide survey conducted by AARP in 2013 determined a majority of Louisianans want stronger consumer protection laws to prohibit excessive annual interest rates for payday loans.
Terminally ill patient motivates state to change Medicaid law
Kelvin Hudson had colon cancer. At 61-years-old, the terminally ill patient had only one request — to die at home. But a state law prohibited Hudson’s doctors from filing the discharge papers because his Medicaid plan did not cover both personal care and hospice care. After several attempts, Hudson finally received an exemption from the governor’s administration. He was released from the hospital and passed away in October. Following Hudson’s plight, the state Department of Health and Hospitals issued an emergency rule that now allows terminally ill Medicaid patients to receive services at home, where that they can spend their last days surrounded by family and friends. DHH officials say the temporary rule — which also saves $600,000 annually — will remain in effect until the Legislature approves a permanent solution.
Jindal administration plugs $35 million budget shortfall with tax amnesty dollars
While state economists agree that Louisiana’s budget will face a sixth consecutive mid-year shortfall, Gov. Jindal’s administration said it will spend extra dollars raised through the tax amnesty program to avoid mid-year budget cuts. Lawmakers on the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference adopted the Office of Budget and Planning’s revenue forecast — predicting a $35 million shortfall — over a second forecast generated by the state’s chief economist and revenue forecaster — predicting an $87.1 million shortfall. Slower-than-anticipated corporate tax collections and relatively flat sales tax collections were to blame for the budget gap.
Republican lawmakers criticize Jindal’s $4 million efficiency study
Republican lawmakers interviewed by The Associated Press expressed discontent with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to hire out-of-state consultants Alvarez & Marsal to spend four months seeking ways that the state can cut at least $500 million in spending. Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville and chairman of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, said a PowerPoint by a consulting firm would not be enough to reduce spending, and Rep. Greg Miller, R-Norco, says the contract contradicts the governor’s goals of reducing waste. Alvarez & Marsal will present their findings in April, and any additional work conducted after that point would cost the state in addition to the $4.2 million contract.
Public schools need up to $20 million in tech upgrades
State Superintendent of Education John White told lawmakers on Wednesday that 22 school districts need technological upgrades in order to meet the state’s minimum requirements for administering tests tied to Common Core. White pegged the bill at $6 million to $20 million. The Department of Education has brought many school districts into technological compliance over the past year. As of this month, 47 of state’s 69 school districts meet the minimum standards, which is up from 38 in July and just 17 a year ago. Of the remaining 22 districts that do not meet minimum technological standards, 11 struggle with Internet access. White noted the needed financial support can come from several sources, including increased appropriations from the state or dipping into federal funds.
LBP hosts free screening of “Inequality for All,” featuring Rob Reich
LBP invites you to attend a free screening of the film “Inequality for All” on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at the Baton Rouge Kress Gallery (447 3rd St., Baton Rouge). The film (you can view the trailer here) is narrated by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and discusses how the massive consolidation of wealth by a few has a devastating impact on our economy and on the foundation of American democracy itself. With the 2014 legislative session fast approaching, this is a unique opportunity to discuss solutions to one of the most pressing issues of our time. The film will start promptly at 5:30 p.m., followed by a post-screening Q&A. Seating is limited and available on a first come first serve basis. Please RSVP here so we can provide an adequate amount of refreshments. Note that an RSVP does not ensure a seat at the event.