Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

“Ban the box” in Baton Rouge; Tuition still increasing in Louisiana; LSU Hospital fight continues and; Experts talk transportation

“Ban the box” in Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge may soon join hundreds of cities and 19 states in instituting a “ban the box” policy. Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle is introducing a Fair Chance in Hiring Policy ordinance that would remove questions about criminal history from job applications for city-parish government. City government could still conduct background checks on applicants as needed. The Baton Rouge Business Report has the story:


“We’re sending people to jail and they’re getting skill sets,” Marcelle says. “Why are we doing that if they can’t use that skill set when they get out?”… One of her supporters is Councilman Ryan Heck, who is a co-sponsor of the item and says this will help spur economic development by getting people back into the workforce. “We’ve got to get folks into the workforce. If someone has committed a misdemeanor and paid their debt to society, that debt is paid,” Heck says. “We’ve got to get these folks in the economy and supporting their families.”Heck says while he vehemently opposes the government trying to force the change on private businesses, he says he hopes some will voluntarily make the change. Heck owns a concrete business and says he has hired three men with criminal histories, calling them some of his best workers.


Tuition still increasing in Louisiana
A report by The College Board shows that nationally the trend of college and university tuition dramatically increasing year after year is slowing as states continue to recover from the recession. Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of  The Washington Post has highlights:


Published tuition and fees for four-year public colleges and universities this fall average $9,410 for in-state students, a 2.9 percent annual increase after inflation. By comparison, public colleges saw a 9.5 percent increase in prices for the 2009-2010 academic year, the height of the economic downturn, according to the report.


Unfortunately for Louisiana students, the trend doesn’t hold in Louisiana. Between 2014 and 2015, Louisiana led the country in tuition hikes, with an increase of nine percent. That comes out to $600. Since 2008, Louisiana has increased tuition by 67 percent, more than all but three states. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, that’s an extra $3,000 in tuition at four-year schools.


LSU Hospital fight continues
The Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana (BRF) asked a judge Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by LSU for breach of contract.  BRF took over the management of LSU hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe as part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to privatize the charity hospital system in Louisiana. So far it seems to be a blame game that could have implications for the state budget and healthcare delivery in the region. Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press reports:


LSU sued the research foundation, known as BRF, in September, claiming the foundation was in breach of its hospital management contract and failed to promote the hospitals’ academic mission. The foundation responded that LSU’s lawsuit was improperly filed and doesn’t establish the basic facts needed to show breach of contract. In an assessment of the ongoing legal dispute, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office warned this week that the “dissolution of the partnership raises numerous questions and concerns regarding the financial stability of the two northern hospitals, as well as the medical academic program at LSU Health Science Center-Shreveport.”… The university system formed a new nonprofit corporation to take over hospital leadership during the search for BRF’s replacement if the LSU lawsuit is successful, but hasn’t said who will be on the corporation board. The Legislative Fiscal Office said LSU hasn’t answered a list of questions about the budget implications of the management transfer.


Experts talk transportation
Transportation experts and advocates gathered at the annual Smart Growth Summit in Baton Rouge to talk about the future of transit in Louisiana. Timothy Boone of the Advocate reports that topics ranged from using streetcar lines in mid-size communities to spur economic development to ensuring that highways, airports and rail lines don’t carve up neighborhoods and are lifelines as opposed to barriers. Passenger rail was also a hot topic:


Efforts to bring passenger rail to the region are gaining momentum. Both state Rep. John Bel Edwards and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, the two candidates for governor, have said they would support a rail line connecting Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Ross said there’s a study about extending Amtrak service from New Orleans to Orlando, Florida, and talk about creating a line along the Interstate 20 corridor linking Dallas-Fort Worth with Meridian, Mississippi. “So many of our cities are losing air service, they’re at a competitive disadvantage,” Ross said. Rail service allows communities to tie themselves to a larger metro area like New Orleans, Dallas or Orlando. John Spain, executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, said a play book has been developed to help Edwards or Vitter establish rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans during their first term as governor. “We have an opportunity,” he said.


Number of the Day

$2,939 –  Increase in tuition at Louisiana’s four-year colleges between 2008 and 2015, a jump of 67 percent (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)