Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014

Jindal administration asks to amend flawed contract; Lawmaker ponders Medicaid detour around governor; Executive budget to be released Friday; State transportation department uses ads to pay for operational costs; Lawmaker wants discussion on solitary confinement; and LBP hosts free screening of “Inequality for All,” featuring Rob Reich. 10 – The percent decline in high-paying manufacturing jobs since the start of the recession (Source: State of Working Louisiana 2013)

Jindal administration asks to amend flawed contract
After telling legislators and the public that a controversial $4 million consulting contract with a global management firm included specific language to save the state $500 million, the Jindal administration admitted that neither the contract nor the original 80-page job description included the specific savings benchmark as a condition for payment. The governor’s top officials promised Saturday that the contract would be amended to ensure at least $500 million in savings are identified before the consulting firm, Alvarez and Marsal, receives final payment. Originally, the $500 million benchmark appeared only once in the hundreds of pages of contract documents. That document was a cover letter signed by Alvarez and Marsal, which the Jindal administration defended as legally binding.

Lawmaker ponders Medicaid detour around governor
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s staunch opposition to expanding Medicaid in Louisiana – which would enable nearly a quarter-million poor Louisianans to get health coverage — has led state Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, to propose two constitutional amendments aimed at bypassing the governor and putting the issue before voters.  While constitutional amendments don’t require the governor’s signature, Nevers still faces an uphill battle because two-thirds of lawmakers and a majority of voters must support the measure. Still, Stephanie Grace writes that the public at large might be open to the idea. A recent LSU Public Policy Research Lab poll found 70 percent of respondents supported Medicaid expansion, and the state’s reliance on federal funding for uncompensated care will likely decline in coming years — forcing the state to accept federal assistance through Medicaid expansion.

Executive budget to be released Friday
Gov. Jindal will unveil his spending priorities for the 2014-25 fiscal year when he presents his budget proposal on Friday. As The Associated Press reports, the executive budget sets the stage for fiscal debates that are likely to last the entire legislative session, which begins on March 10 and ends on June 2. Among the key questions to be answered include how the governor wants to spend $200 million in unallocated cash, how he opts to close another shortfall in the state’s operating budget after years of cuts, and how much one-time money will be used to pay for recurring expenses. The governor has been uncharacteristically quiet about his spending priorities heading into the political season.

State transportation department uses ads to pay for operational costs
Louisiana motorists can expect to see more advertisements in rest areas, ferry terminals, roads and bridges as the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) explores raising new revenues by selling advertisements. DOTD officials say they must find new ways to raise money because state funding has stagnated over the past several years. Currently, DOTD is collecting $250,000 per year for three years from State Farm in exchange for the insurance company attaching its name and logo to Motorist Assistant Patrol trucks and employee uniforms. Now the state department is seeking advice from consultants on ways it can expand the ad program. This isn’t the first time DOTD has taken out-of-the-box steps to raise funds. Officials attempted to auction a ferry for $200,000 in August 2013.

Lawmaker wants discussion on solitary confinement
State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, says Louisiana is long overdue for a discussion about the use of solitary confinement in state jails and prisons. As Nola.com reports, every aspect of solitary confinement is up to the discretion of the warden or sheriff because this practice is not mentioned in Louisiana law. The use of solitary confinement in Louisiana’s jails and prisons has sparked several headlines in recent months — including the cases of Robert King (who was incarcerated in solitary confinement for 29 years before he was released in 2001 after agreeing to a plea deal), Herman Wallace (who died of liver cancer in October just three days after being released on humanitarian grounds from a correctional center near Baton Rouge) and Albert Woodfox (who is seeking release after 42 years in solitary confinement). All three were arrested on murder charges, which they said was retaliation for their involvement with the Black Panthers.

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.

10 – The percent decline in high-paying manufacturing jobs since the start of the recession (Source: State of Working Louisiana 2013)