The Daily Dime: May 2013

The Louisiana Budget Project’s “The Daily Dime” is a morning overview of news regarding state budget issues affecting low and moderate income families, written by policy analyst David Gray. To receive it directly in your inbox email

Friday, May 31, 2013
Senate committee turns constitutional amendments into pilot programs
A set of proposals designed to overhaul Louisiana’s budget process – a linchpin of the conservative “fiscal hawk” agenda – ran into trouble in the Senate on Thursday. Bills that started out as constitutional amendments were reduced to two-year pilot programs by the Senate Finance Committee. The bills (House Bills 434, 435, 436, 437 and 620) would draw a clear line between “discretionary” and “non-discretionary” spending, and limit the Legislature to spending money recognized by the Revenue Estimating Conference. The bills were part of a budget compromise that passed the House earlier this session, and it’s unclear how the Senate changes will be received by the hawks.

New Baton Rouge school district receives House approval
The Louisiana House backed the first part of a contentious plan to create a new school district in the southeastern corner of East Baton Rouge Parish. Senate Bill 199 would shift 10 East Baton Rouge Parish public schools and about 7,100 students into the new school system. But the 57-36 vote for the bill is 13 shy of the two-thirds majority needed to pass a companion measure, Senate Bill 73, which is a constitutional amendment that guarantees funding for the new district. Advocates say the current school district is too large and adversely impacts their students, while opponents claim he bill would hack away at funding for the old district while limiting students’ choice for magnet schools and gifted and talented programs.

Equal Pay for Women Act advances
The House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee approved a Senate-passed measure requiring equal pay for women who work in state government on Thursday. The original version of Senate Bill 153 sought for equal pay requirements in all private sector jobs, but the bill was amended on the Senate floor to apply only to state government. The same committee also advanced House Concurrent Resolution 154, which calls for a study committees to look at all aspects of the equal pay issue in Louisiana. Both measures are now heading to the House floor for debate.

Senate committee blocks 10-percent reductions in state contracts
An attempt to reduce state contracts by 10 percent failed in the Senate Finance Committee for the fourth straight year. House Bill 73 received unanimous support from the Louisiana House and was backed strongly by state Treasurer John Kennedy. But the committee listened to arguments by opponents who said reducing the state contracts would significantly hurt the state’s Medicaid program, where payments to providers are considered contracts.

Cellphone tax to aid the deaf becomes “revenue neutral”
The Senate Finance Committee voted Thursday to approve a bill that raises revenues for a state program providing interpreters and tools to hearing impaired residents, but not before amending the legislation. The amended version of House Bill 238 would lower an existing 5 percent tax on landlines to 1.5 percent and expand the reduced tax rate to cellphones and pagers, generating $1.9 million a year for the Louisiana Commission for the Deaf. With an interpreter translating her hand movements into spoken words, Jackie Broussard pleaded the case for HB 238, saying, “How do we communicate with doctors and nurses? … We have no communication. We’re disconnected from the world.” The measure now moves to the Senate floor for debate.

Committee Watch
The Senate Finance Committee will meet upon adjournment of Senate floor debates to discuss the proposed Tax Delinquency Amnesty Act.

49 – Louisiana’s national ranking for equal pay for women. (Source: Sen. Edwin Murray in The Advocate)

Thursday, May 30, 2013
Senate dramatically changes the state budget
The stage is set for a late-session budget showdown between the House and Senate after the Senate Finance Committee made over 40 pages of major changes to the budget bill, House Bill 1. The committee reversed many of the cuts made by the House as it added  more than $350 million to pay for school vouchers, public hospitals deals, laid off state workers, legal judgments, services for the disabled and other expenses. The latest version of the budget also includes more than $180 million in “one-time” money, which is likely to annoy House “fiscal hawks” who tried to purge such spending. The measure now heads to the Senate floor, which is scheduled to debate it on Saturday.

Sequestration cuts hit Louisiana’s federal grant funding hardest
Louisiana saw the largest drop in federal spending from 2012 to 2013, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. The Pelican State lost $896 million in 2013 federal grants, an 8.5 percent from 2012, due to a combination of sequestration cuts and reductions in federal support for the Medicaid program.

Senate panel kills effort to protect state employees from reprisals
An effort to protect public employees from reprisal if they provide information to the Legislature was struck down by a Senate committee on Wednesday. The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously agreed to shelve House Bill 387, which was opposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. The debate comes shortly after some high-profile instances in which state officials lost their jobs after disagreeing with the Jindal’s administration. Those incidents include former Director of the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs Martha Manuel, who was fired after testifying against a plan to merge her agency in the Department of Health and Hospitals, and Dr. Fred Cerise, who was removed from his position overseeing the state’s public hospitals after bucking the administration on cuts to those hospitals.

No new powers for principals, but new protections for teachers
The House Education Committee struck down legislation designed to expand the authority for public school principals. House Bill 206 would have authorize principals rated as “highly effective” for three consecutive years to craft school budgets and design instructional plans, daily schedules, school calendars, and other tasks. During the same meeting, Education committee members also voted to approve House Bill 129 to prevent public school teachers from facing sanctions before their job evaluations are complete. The bill helps teachers with an “ineffective” rating to complete intensive assistance early in the school year from disciplinary action until the final part of their evaluation is complete at the end of the school year.

Legislature wants a “detailed account” of public-private hospital deals
Members of the House Health and Welfare Committee want Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to provide more details about potential costs or savings resulting from the privatization of the state public hospitals. House Concurrent Resolution 139  passed the committee unanimously on Wednesday, requiring a comparison of the number of employees, along with a comparison of the wages, benefits and retirement benefits.

Committee Watch
The Senate Finance Committee meets at 11:00 a.m. to debate a package of state budget reforms supported by a group of conservative Republicans called the “Fiscal Hawks.” House Ways and Means meets at 12:30 to discuss banning lawmakers from passing legislation for new tax breaks during even-numbered years. The Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs meets at 2:00 p.m. to continue discussions on new tax breaks for specific industries and individuals.

$350 million – The amount of money added by the Senate Finance Committee to the state budget, which will be debated on the Senate floor this Saturday (Source: The Advocate)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Senate approves health care provider fee; Democrats try Medicaid expansion
The Senate passed a pair of constitutional amendments designed to raise more federal dollars for the Medicaid program while giving special budget protection to select groups of health-care providers. Supporters of House Bills 532 and 533 claim the two bills could bring up to $170 million in new federal funds to support state hospitals. But opponents point out the measures would write future Medicaid provider rate increases into the state Constitution, making it difficult to cut them in tough budget years. The Senate passed the bills by comfortable margins after rejecting an amendment by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, that would have added Medicaid expansion to the package.

Maginnis: Jindal will not support tax relief for the deaf
Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes a bill to restore tax revenues for the deaf because the Grover Norquist-led group Americans for Tax Reform considers the measure a tax increase, according to John Maginnis. The measure, House Bill 238, restores funding for the Telecommunications for the Deaf Fund by decreasing a 5-cents-per-month tax on land lines to 2 cents and expanding it to cover wireless lines, which are currently untaxed. Jindal and ATC oppose the measure because the 2-cent levy would result in the deaf receiving about a half million dollars extra. The bill is likely to be amended to replace the money from the tax with another non-guaranteed funding source.

LSU approves privatization contracts, despite missing financial documents     
The LSU Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the private takeover of four more LSU hospitals, although key financial and other details were missing from the agreements. The LSU board action involved LSU hospitals in Houma, Lake Charles, Shreveport and Monroe. The documents before the LSU Board for all the four hospital deals had blanks where financial terms were missing and additions were noted but the attachments were blank pages. After the meeting, LSU Board Chairman Hank Danos said the board gave authority to LSU President William Jenkins to sign documents completing the deals.

Medicaid, education and domestic violence bills heading to Jindal’s desk
The House approved four major bills regarding Medicaid transparency, higher education and domestic violence on Tuesday. Senate Bill 55 would require the Department of Health and Hospitals to submit an annual report detailing the members, eligibility and claims of Louisiana Medicaid Bayou Health and the Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership to the Senate and House health and welfare committees every year. Senate Bill 45 would merge five technical colleges in Baton Rouge with Baton Rouge Community College. Senate Bill 127 would prohibit a school from administering the ACT to a student with disabilities unless the parents opt their child into the testing. Senate Bill 70 would increase the penalties for domestic battery by burning.

Baton Rouge breakaway school district battle brewing
The House Civil Law and Procedure Committee approved one of the bills needed to establish a new school district in southeast Baton Rouge on Tuesday, clearing the way for what will be a lively debate about the state of education in East Baton Rouge Parish. The committee approved Senate Bill 73 yesterday, a constitutional amendment that would give the new school system its funding authority. Its companion bill is Senate Bill 199, which was approved by House Appropriations last week and would establish the new district. The inevitable debate will be between community members who want to run their own school system, lawmakers who say the move is an attempt to remove white students from EBR Parish Schools, teachers unions who say the move is not legal, and others who say funding does not exist for the new system.

Committee Watch
The Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs convened at 10 a.m. to consider a host of tax bills. The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget met at 11 a.m. to discuss the issuance of $900 million in bonds backed by the state tobacco settlement. The Senate Finance Committee will meet after the JLCB adjourns to discuss the state budget.

$1,000,000 – The amount of revenue restored to the Telecommunications for the Deaf Fund by reducing a 5-cents-per-month tax on land lines to 2 cents and expanding it to cover wireless lines, which Jindal opposes as a tax increase (Source:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
House bills jeopardize state’s ability to fund basic health services
A new analysis from the Louisiana Budget Project shows that House Bill 532 and House Bill 533 would compromise Louisiana’s ability to fund basic services in the future by insulating select groups of Medicaid providers from budget cuts. The bills, which are awaiting a vote on the Senate floor, create a mechanism for the state to draw down more federal Medicaid dollars by setting up a hospital provider fee. At the same time, they set a “rate floor” that protects large institutional health-care providers from budget cuts and mandate annual rate increases. The net effect would be to reduce the Legislature’s discretion over state spending, and make unprotected areas of the budget more vulnerable. The Public Affairs Research Council makes similar arguments in an analysis released this morning.

Much to do as session enters final two weeks
The Louisiana Legislature has much work to finish before this year’s legislative session ends on June 6. As Michelle Millhollon with The Advocate writes, “The to-do list includes funding vouchers, debating a new school district in Baton Rouge, finalizing new gun laws and bridging differences over the $25 billion state budget proposal.” Medicaid expansion is still on the minds of many Democrats. Despite failing to pass several bills that would require Louisiana to extend coverage for low-income adults, supporters will continue to hold rallies around the issue and attempt to attach it to other legislation.

Not expanding Medicaid leaves many ineligible for subsidized insurance
The refusal by Louisiana and several other states to expand Medicaid will leave millions of poor people ineligible for government-subsidized health insurance while others with higher incomes receive federal subsidies to buy insurance, according to The New York Times. Starting next month, people with incomes from the poverty level up to four times that amount ($11,490 to $45,960 a year for an individual) will receive an average of $5,000 in federal tax credits to subsidize the purchase of private health insurance. But many people below the poverty line will be unable to get tax credits, Medicaid or other help with health insurance.

AP: Lawmakers don’t follow their own rhetoric
Associated Press correspondent Melinda Deslatte writes that while many lawmakers have taken strong philosophical positions on budget issues, they sometimes sidestep their own rhetoric. Deslatte says that lawmakers are protecting more state funds despite concerns of having few places to cut during budget woes; backing a proposal to maneuver around the state’s debt ceiling so community and technical colleges can borrow $250; and using some of the same types of uncertain financing assumptions that they’ve criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal for incorporating in his budget.

Senate Finance Committee works through Memorial Day
The Senate Finance Committee held a very active meeting on Memorial Day, taking action on several major issues before a packed audience. The committee killed legislation designed to create more details on privatization contracts and legislation that would create more roadblocks on implementing provisions of the Affordable Care Act in Louisiana. The committee also delayed action on creating a centralized debt collection agency in state government amid concerns about which accounting column to put the collections in. The finance committee did approve a bill to increase permitting fees for restaurant and other establishments that sell food. The new revenue would be used to pay for improved food inspection services from the Office of Public Health.

Bill breaks promise to repay savings
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is working with legislative allies to quietly to fill the state’s current budget shortfall using $87 million from a 2011-12 budget surplus. But as Tyler Bridges writes in The Lens, Senate Bill 226 violates an agreement reached last year to use any surplus dollars to replenish the state’s rainy day fund. Last year’s decision to use surplus funds to replenish the rainy day fund came after the state Legislature pulled $204 million from the fund to balance the 2012-13 budget.

Louisiana is becoming more off limits to the public
Robert Mann’s debut as a columnist looks at the lack of transparency in state government. Mann cites the secrecy surrounding LSU’s search for a new president, and reports that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s top aides used their personal email accounts to discuss state business.

Committee Watch
The House Appropriations Committee convened at 9 a.m. to consider bills regarding pay raises for judges and money deposited into the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly. The House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure meets at 11 a.m. to consider bills regarding creating a new school district in Baton Rouge and prohibiting bills authorizing sales tax rebates from being considered in even-numbered years. The Senate Committee on Judiciary B convened at 10:30 a.m. to consider a bill requiring the Department of Public Safety and Corrections to study the feasibility and cost effectiveness of transferring certain elderly and infirm inmates to nursing home facilities.

$5,000 – The average per person value of a federal tax credit to help individuals and families above the poverty line purchase federal health insurance. (Source: The New York Times)

Friday, May 24, 2013
Privatization increases costs for LSU hospitals
The total cost of operating the LSU public hospitals will be higher under a privatized model than under the current state-run system, The Advocate reports. But Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said the state will propose amendments next week to the state budget to fill an approximately $375 million gap between what’s needed and what’s currently been budgeted. She did not spell out exactly how the gap will be closed, but said higher-than-expected lease payments from the new private operators, along with newly recognized state dollars, will be part of the mix. The public-private partnerships are expected to handle most of the care for Louisiana’s uninsured, who will not be helped by the federal dollars made available to help expand Medicaid coverage, which the governor is rejecting.

Constitutional amendments put state budget in jeopardy
The Advocate looks at how a pair of constitutional amendments designed to help hospitals and other institutional health-care providers would take away flexibility from state budget writers to manage future shortfalls. The bills, which face final passage on the Senate floor on Monday, would authorize a new hospital provider fee to draw down federal Medicaid dollars but would also put more than 40 percent of the state Medicaid budget off-limits to future cuts. That could make unprotected areas like higher education even more vulnerable when the state faces money troubles in the future. LBP analysis of the bills reached a similar conclusion.

The Lens dissects tax-swap failure
Mark Moseley of The Lens continues his autopsy of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s failed tax-shift plan, which was the centerpiece of the governor’s session agenda but was shelved in its opening hour as it became clear it had no support. The latest installment looks at the national conservative activists and donors who are pushing similar plans around the country with mixed success: “In short, the tax swap and income tax repeal ideas weren’t a policy response to a grassroots groundswell. They were part of an artificial, top-down, national tax-cut effort that Jindal tried to impose on constituents, many of whom were more worried about state budget cuts to schools and hospitals. Louisiana led the way in resisting this manufactured policy ‘wave.’ I guess Pelicans are counter-revolutionaries who hate prosperity.”

Grand jury to review Medicaid contract process
A state grand jury has been impaneled to review whether crimes were committed in the awarding of a $200 million Medicaid contract in 2011 that prompted the resignation of former Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein. The contract was given to CNSI, Greenstein’s former employer, but canceled by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration after it was discovered that Greenstein was involved to a far greater extent than previously disclosed.

Times-Picayune adds columnist
The opinion pages of The Times-Picayune will get a little more balanced and interesting beginning on Sunday, when Robert Mann’s political column makes its debut. Mann holds the Manship Chair in journalism at LSU, is a distinguished author and served as a senior advisor to former U.S. Sen. John Breaux and former Gov. Kathleen Blanco. He will add a progressive voice to a page that has seen two of its most prominent longtime columnists — Stephanie Grace and James Gill — sign on with The Advocate in recent days. In addition to his teaching and writing duties, Mann writes a blog that has become a must-read for people who care about state politics.

Times-Picayune commends Peterson’s efforts to expand health coverage
The Times-Picayune editorial board urged lawmakers to accept federal money to expand health coverage to 400,000 Louisianans, and commended Sen. Karen Carter Peterson’s efforts to tie the expansion to other bills. Peterson’s bill, which would have used federal Medicaid dollars to help low-income individuals purchase private insurance, died in committee. A similar bill was also voted down on the House floor. But,” wrote the editorial board, “here’s the bottom line: Expanding Medicaid is the best way for thousands of Louisiana residents to get access to a doctor — and, ultimately, to have a chance to be healthier.”

Committee watch
Only one committee is meeting at the Capitol today: The Senate Finance Committee, which is hearing public testimony on the state budget before it makes amendments next week and moves it to the full Senate for consideration. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. and it’s the last opportunity for members of the general public to weigh in on the state’s spending priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.

$375 million – The difference between what is currently budgeted and what is needed to run the LSU hospital system under a privatized model (Source: The Advocate)

Thursday, May 23, 2013
BRAC releases higher education and TOPS funding report
A new report by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber highlights several problems with funding for Louisiana’s higher education systems, which has declined over the past several years and is among the lowest in the South. Among the changes recommended in the report is controlling the cost of the  TOPS scholarship program by raising standards and capping awards. Those recommendations echo the findings of a 2011 report by LBP, which called for similar changes.  The BRAC report also recommends giving the state’s higher education boards authority to mange their own tuition and fees, but a bill to accomplish that goal was withdrawn yesterday because it does not have enough support from lawmakers. The BRAC report also recommends increasing academic standards for TOPS awards.

Former state film industry chief calls for changes to program
The former head of the state office that oversees the state film industry is calling for changes to the taxpayer subsidies that have helped lure Hollywood filmmakers to the Pelican State at a growing cost to Louisiana taxpayers. “At some point we have to determine whether the taxpayers are investing in an incentive program that is building a homegrown, self-sustaining industry as the legislation requires, or if it is simply subsidizing Hollywood,” Sherri McConnell, now a consultant, writes in a letter to The Advocate. “It appears that the Legislature is not prepared to address this issue yet. To pull the rug out from the Louisiana businesses and thousands of film industry workers with a hastily developed quick fix is not prudent. But to ignore the growing cost of the program, its diminishing return on investment, and the industry’s tax-credit dependency in perpetuity is not in the best interest of Louisiana taxpayers or its entertainment industry.”

Bill for community college construction projects proceeds
The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill to give Louisiana’s technical and community colleges an additional $251 million for construction projects. Senate Bill 204 by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, would allow the issuance of bonds outside of the capital outlay system, the $3 billion list of construction projects approved annually by the state Legislature. It also would require a 12 percent match from a private business. State Treasurer John Kennedy did not support the bill, saying it would bust the state’s self-imposed debt ceiling and create a dangerous precedent.

New pension plan for state employees delayed
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to steer new state workers into a 401(k)-style retirement plan has been postponed for one year. House Concurrent Resolution 2 by Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, comes as the new retirement plan awaits a ruling by the state Supreme Court on whether it required a two-thirds vote for approval. . The IRS is also reviewing the new plan to determine whether it provides a benefit that is equivalent to Social Security. Failing this test would require the new state employees to be enrolled in Social Security, increasing costs of both employees and government agencies.

Bill authorizing fees for Early Steps program advances
The Senate Health Committee approved a bill supported by Gov. Bobby Jindal that would authorize the state Department of Health and Hospitals to charge middle- and upper-income parents a fee for the occupational, speech and other therapy services their children receive through the Early Steps program. House Bill 375  by state Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, would allow the department to charge any family with an annual income above 300 percent of the federal poverty level — $67,056 for a family of four — a portion of the cost of services through Early Steps. The change is estimated to generate $1.2 million for DHH next year and $1.6 million annually thereafter.

Breakaway school district in Baton Rouge receives committee support
A constitutional amendment to create a new breakaway school district in East Baton Rouge Parish faces a showdown vote on the House floor next week The proposed new district in southeast Baton Rouge, between Interstates 10 and 12, would have about 7,100 students and 10 schools. Senate Bill 199 sponsor Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, R-Central, said the community wants to run its own school district like those in Baker, Central and Zachary. Opponents counter that the new district would face a $6 million deficit and $102 million in unpaid obligations, while also taking some of the best performing schools out of the current district.

Committee Watch
The Senate Committee on Finance will convene upon adjournment to consider a bill that extends the sunset date for historic preservation tax credits to Jan. 1, 2018. The Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs will convene upon adjournment to consider bills that alter the telecommunications tax for the deaf, alter the solar energy tax credit, and extend the sunset date for musical and theatrical production base investment tax credits.

$10,867 – The amount of funding for four-year academic institutions in Louisiana per full time student, compared to the Southern average of $14,189 (Source: BRAC)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Construction proposal could bust state debt limit, hurt credit rating
A $250 million proposal to fund construction at Louisiana’s community and technical colleges has the potential to bust the state’s self-imposed debt limit and imperil its hard-earned credit rating, Tyler Bridges reports in The Lens. As State Bond Commission director Whit Kling tells the website: “The belief that you can do this without affecting your debt credit is misguided,” he said. “It tells the rating agencies and the finance community we have a debt management plan, but we don’t. It’s like you keep saying you’re going to go on a diet but never go on it.”

Health coverage expansion dies on House floor
The effort to extend basic health coverage to 400,000 low-income Louisianans died on the House floor Tuesday. The 37-59 vote was mostly along party lines and came after just one opponent spoke against the measure (House Bill 233 by Rep. Patricia Smith). The vote appears to end any chance that Louisiana will take advantage of the opportunity to expand private insurance coverage using federal Medicaid dollars made available through the Affordable Care Act. On a brighter note, the House also rejected an unconstitutional constitutional amendment by Rep. Paul Hollis, which sought to nullify the landmark federal health-care law that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

LSU needs more funding to reach elite status
Lack of funding and the departure of star professors for greener pastures are among the reasons why Louisiana’s flagship university is nowhere close to achieving elite national status, a transition advisory team reported this week.  The main campus is only receiving about half as much federal grant money as an elite university should, said one member of the team, which recommended that LSU focus its research in six key areas: environmental science and coastal research; biomedical sciences; energy; arts and humanities; computation and digital media; and natural and renewable resources.

Public school funding formula rejected by Senate Education Committee
State funding for Louisiana’s public schools will be handled through the 2011-12 Minimum Foundation Program formula after a new formula for the 2013-14 fiscal year was rejected by the Senate Education Committee. The change will have no effect on parents and students but does add to the sense of disarray surrounding Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education changes that were rushed through the Legislature last year. The education debate continues today at the Capitol, when a Senate committee will take up legislation to delay the impact of a change to teacher evaluations by one year.

$323,000,000  – Four-year savings to the state budget from using federal Medicaid dollars to buy private coverage for low-income Louisianans. (Source: Louisiana Legislature)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Health coverage expansion hits roadblock
The effort to use federal Medicaid dollars to buy private health coverage for 400,000 low-income Louisianans hit a major roadblock on Monday, when the Senate Finance Committee voted 7-3 to set aside Senate Bill 125 by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, almost certainly killing it for the session. The issue remains alive — barely — on the House side, where Rep. Patricia Smith’s HB 233 is scheduled for a floor vote this afternoon. Prospects for final passage are slim, as there doesn’t appear to be anywhere near the 70 votes needed to override a promised veto from Gov. Bobby Jindal. While prospects for passage in the current session appear dim, Louisiana could still elect to take advantage of this coverage opportunity at any time. All it would take is a change of heart by Jindal, who has supported expanded Medicaid coverage in the past.

Times-Picayune shows support for coverage expansion
The Times-Picayune continues to argue the merits of expanding coverage, pointing out that it would bring in nearly $16 billion in federal financing over 10 years that would support thousands of Louisiana jobs in health-care and elsewhere. It also would save the state money over the next four years in addition to accomplishing its most important goal: providing health security to hundreds of thousands of working adults who don’t earn enough to pay for private coverage on their own.

Health care provider bills move toward passage
A pair of constitutional amendments designed to protect select groups of health-care providers from future budget cuts appear to be on their way to easy passage after the Senate Finance Committee gave its approval by a lopsided margin. House Bill 532 would create a hospital provider fee that would be used as state match to draw down more federal Medicaid dollars. A companion bill, House Bill 533, would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature before Medicaid reimbursement rates could be cut for hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies and group homes for the developmentally disabled. It also would require that rates go up every year according to a yet-to-be-written inflation factor. Critics of the measures, including the Louisiana Budget Project, said the bills would lock away even more parts of the budget from cuts when the state faces a downturn, making public colleges, public safety services and unprotected Medicaid providers uniquely vulnerable.

Legislature to consider tuition bill
Louisiana is the only state in the country that requires a two-thirds vote by the Legislature before public colleges can raise tuition — one reason students in the Pelican state pay less than their counterparts in most other places. But that restriction would go away under a pair of bills up for passage this week, The Advocate reports. College leaders say tuition flexibility is critical at a time when state support for higher education is at its lowest level since the 1950s.

Lawmakers approve $45 million subsidy for real estate project
State lawmakers may not be in much of a mood to help poor people afford health care, but they voted overwhelmingly to give away up to $45 million in future sales-tax proceeds to a suburban Baton Rouge real-estate project. The money would be used for a development that includes retail stores, hotels, restaurants and homes — things that people build all the time in other places without taxpayer subsidies.

Committee watch
The Senate Finance Committee meets after the chamber adjourns to consider, among other things, House Bill 118, which would require that any fines collected from the Deepwater Horizon disaster be used for coastal restoration. The Senate Education Committee met this morning to consider a revised version of the Minimum Foundation Program formula, which was thrown out by the state Supreme Court earlier this month.

$16 billion – the amount in federal financing Medicaid expansion would bring into Louisiana (Source:  The Times-Picayune)

Monday, May 20, 2013
Backlog of repairs leaves Louisiana public colleges at a disadvantage
Louisiana’s public colleges have a growing backlog of repairs – more than $1.7 billion worth – after years of budget pressure in which schools have received some money for new construction while being forced to skimp on day-to-day upkeep. The result, LSU System President William Jenkins tells the Advocate, is that some high schools now have better lab equipment than Louisiana’s flagship university. Higher education Commissioner Jim Purcell says he fears the increasing disrepair is putting Louisiana at a disadvantage in competing for top students.

Ethics board asks for changes, receives silence
Officials from the state Ethics Board said they need changes in order to properly enforce rules against conflict of interest, nepotism and campaign finance laws. The officials said they asked the Legislature and Gov. Bobby Jindal for a scaled-down list of fixes, but no bills were filed. According to the Advocate: “Some of the measures that did get filed in the 2013 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature are contrary to the recommendations the Ethics Board had established.” Some of the requested changes included disclosure of information to those accused of wrongdoing, the definition of “public employee” and rules defining prohibitions on personal use of campaign funds.

Times-Picayune helps readers follow bills in the Legislature
With less than three weeks left before adjournment, the Times-Picayune provides a helpful status update of the major bills of the session, including the state budget, the capital outlay bill and the panoply of education bills that are still working their way through the process. Curiously omitted from this lengthy rundown is any mention of the governor’s “parked” tax-shift package or the package of bills (House Bills 532 and 533) that would establish a provider fee for Louisiana hospitals and provide protection from budget cuts for select groups of health-care providers.

Varney: Republicans fail to address conservative issues columnist James Varney doesn’t need to wait for the session to adjourn on June 6 before giving his beloved Republicans a failing grade for their work. Varney is miffed that GOP legislators are proposing to hike the salaries of assessors, judges and others while mostly leaving tax credits alone instead of trimming them the way Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed before the session. And he’s not impressed by the attempt to replace the “one-time” money in Jindal’s proposal with cash from a tax-amnesty plan. “I believe I’ve examined that from every side and repeatedly arrive at the same point: that’s one-time money,” Varney writes. “And wholly estimated one-time money at that! Alas, I can’t claim any sort of economic wisdom from reaching this conclusion, as it appeared Friday that the Revenue Estimating Conference would do the same.”

‘Robo-calls’ kill bipartisan budget compromise
The Advocate’s Mark Ballard explains how “robo-calls” by the state GOP and allied tea-party groups helped doom the bipartisan effort in the House to raise more than $300 million in new revenue by trimming tax exemptions and other incentives used by business. The calls spawned enough nervousness among conservatives that the plan was hastily rewritten in a way that protects virtually all tax breaks and instead relies mainly on a dubious tax amnesty plan to raise an estimated $200 million.

State can’t afford hospital privatization
From Friday: The state doesn’t appear to have enough money on hand to make those LSU privatization deals work as advertised. So far 94 percent of the funding has been swallowed up by just three partnership deals, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office. That doesn’t leave enough for the five state hospitals that are still supposed to be turned over to private control by July 1. The whole thing is leaving some senators “uncomfortable,” given that the session is three weeks from adjournment. Interim Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said she is working on contingency plans on the off chance that the privatization plans aren’t finished on time.

Committee Watch
There are no committee meetings scheduled in the House today. The Senate Finance Committee met at 9 a.m. to discuss a plan to expand Medicaid and two bills establishing a Hospital Stabilization Fund to help hospitals draw down more federal dollars.

$1.7 billion – the amount estimated for repair projects that Louisiana public colleges have put off due to budget cuts. (Source: The Advocate)

Friday, May 17, 2013
Senate begins reviewing House budget package
Members of the Senate Finance Committee begin reviewing the House’s budget package on Thursday. The House plan largely relies on several revenue measures generating more than $280 million. Some items were contentious, like a dubious tax amnesty program and new severance taxes for inactive wells. The Legislative Fiscal Office was unable to estimate how much revenue would be generated by the tax amnesty program, and one state senator compared the severance tax proposal to a payday loan, as it would generate money for the state in the short term but benefit oil and gas companies in future years.

Maginnis: New money timely for Jindal and Senate
The Revenue Estimating Conference’s official forecast for the current and upcoming fiscal years provides “a welcome break from the bad fiscal news that has preceded budget debates since the 2008 onset of the national recession,” according to John Maginnis. In his weekly newsletter, Maginnis highlights the growing list of needed funding for which the extra money can be used. This list includes $43 million for terminating public hospital employees, $42 million for the medical school in Shreveport, $30 million to repay public school districts after the funding mechanism for voucher schools was ruled unconstitutional and $3 million for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

School funding considered next week
The Senate Education Committee will take time next week to consider a public school spending plan submitted by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, announced his decision to schedule the item one day after the committee rejected a different BESE-proposed spending plan that included language conflicting with last week’s ruling by the state Supreme Court, which struck down how the state financed vouchers. BESE officials emailed Appel later in the day saying the rejected proposal inadvertently included language never considered by the board. Disputes are now beginning to arise on whether the Legislature has enough time to pass the spending plan, and whether tweaks to $3.5 billion in public school aid need to be reviewed by BESE before going to the Legislature.

House approves $50 million tax credit program
Members of the House voted Thursday to approve a new $50 million tax credit program that would provide incentives for private businesses to invest in low-income rural and “emerging urban” communities. The New Markets Jobs Tax Credit created under House Bill 726, sponsored by Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, could be claimed against the insurance premium tax. It would only kick in after the state sees $110,000 of private investment in low-income community businesses. The credit would cost the state $49.5 million over four years, according to the bill’s fiscal note, with the first $8.3 million affecting the state budget during fiscal year 2016-17.

Committee Watch
The Joint Legislative Committee on Budget convened at 9:30 a.m. to receive the state’s fiscal status statement and five-year baseline budget. The Senate Committee on Finance convenes upon adjournment of the Joint Legislative Committee on Budget to consider the state budget and supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 2012-2013.

$42 million – The fiscal year 2014 budget deficit faced by the Shreveport medical school (Source: John Maginnis)

Thursday, May 16, 2013
Debate on Medicaid expansion delayed
The House debate on a bill that expands health coverage for low-income adults was postponed until Tuesday. House Bill 233 would create the Louisiana Health Care Independence Program, and aims to use federal Medicaid dollars to buy private health insurance for up to 400,000 adults. A companion bill by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson – Senate Bill 125 – is set for a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on Monday. If either bill becomes law, the expansion population would buy coverage through the federal Health Insurance Exchange that will launch early next year. Both bills include a 2017 sunset date and provisions that the state may withdraw at any time, including if the federal government backs out on promises to fund the program.

Public school funding goes back to BESE
The Senate Education Committee wants the state’s top school board to rework the funding formula for public schools in light of last week’s ruling by the state Supreme Court that said private-school vouchers cannot be financed through the Minimum Foundation Program. The move came on a day when Gov. Bobby Jindal addressed hundreds of children and caregivers on the Capitol steps, who rallied in support of shifting taxpayer dollars from public to private schools. In a related development, state Superintendent of Education John White said Louisiana faces an unexpected $30 million expense this year because of last week’s court ruling, with about $12 million of the charge stemming from dollars owed to local school districts as part of the costs for vouchers.

Measures to suspend new state retirement plan move forward
An effort to delay implementing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s 401(k)-type pension plan for new state government hires is one step away from final legislative passage. The House Retirement Committee on Wednesday approved a Senate-passed resolution suspending the “cash balance” law until July 1, 2014. A state Senate panel has already approved a similar measure. The law creating the new pension plan has been challenged in the Louisiana Supreme Court and an IRS ruling is pending that could require the state and employee to begin making Social Security contributions.

Senate committee approves 1 of 2 TOPS bills
The Senate Education Committee approved one of two bills expanding TOPS eligibility on Wednesday. The approved bill, House Bill 243 by Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, would extend TOPS eligibility to students who completed high school-level International Baccalaureate programs overseas, regardless of whether their program is accredited. The rejected bill, House Bill 612 by Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, would have extended TOPS to Louisiana residents who completed undergraduate programs in other states but wished to return for graduate school. Some senators on the committee expressed concern that the bill might encourage students to go out of state to pursue an undergraduate education.

Changes to Road Home could free more aid
The state agency overseeing the Road Home program announced several policy changes to free up more federal aid, but these changes will not take effect unless approved by federal authorities. The policy changes by the Office of Community Development would offer new grants of up to $150,000 for Road Home participants to pay off private construction loans; provide some relief for homeowners who couldn’t rebuild because of fraud, theft, bad drywall or the fine print of their mortgages; and spare other owners the pain of returning home elevation grant money that they were forced to spend on rebuilding rather than raising their homes. The new rules are designed to relieve families that didn’t meet the program’s benchmarks of the burden of returning the grant money, and saving the OCD from having to track misspent money down.

Committee Highlights
The Senate Committee on Finance  meets after adjournment to get an overview on the budget changes made by the Senate. The House Committee on Appropriations convenes upon adjournment to hear a presentation by the Department of Revenue on tax issues.

$30 million – The amount Louisiana owes to local school districts after unconstitutionally reducing public school funding to pay for the state’s school voucher program (Source:


Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Revised forecast pumps $284 million into state budget
The state budget picture – beset by gloom and doom for much of the last five years – grew a bit brighter this morning when the Revenue Estimating Conference revised the official forecast for the current and upcoming fiscal years by a combined $284 million. The four-member state forecasting panel said the current-year FY13 budget will have an extra $129 million available, while next year’s operating budget will get an extra $155 million. Most of the money will not be available for new spending, however, as the House already has plugged $90 million into the budget bill that was sent over to the Senate, while the current-year collections will be needed to plug shortfalls.

Perhaps most notable: The budget boost was due mainly to higher-than-expected collections of income taxes, which have begun growing steadily now that the state and national economy has begun to fully rebound from the Great Recession. But sales tax collections are on the decline compared to earlier forecasts – providing yet more evidence why Gov. Bobby Jindal misguided tax-shift scheme was a terrible idea whose time should never come.

LSU Economist: Tax amnesty proposal is one-time revenue
LSU economist Jim Richardson, who sits on the REC, told The Lens that a tax amnesty plan passed by the House is one-time money, and cannot be counted on to flow into the treasury year after year. That could mean bad news for the House budget plan, which relies on $200 million in amnesty proceeds from tax scofflaws to balance next year’s budget.

Another Medicaid expansion bill fails
The House Health and Welfare Committee rejected House Concurrent Resolution 8, which would have directed the state Department of Health and Hospitals to file papers with the federal government to implement Medicaid expansion. The measure by Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, was an attempt to circumvent Gov. Bobby Jindal’s threatened veto by amending the rules governing the state’s Medicaid plan. Although state law grants the Legislature this right, Jindal’s executive counsel Thomas Enright told legislators that it would not have the effect of law.

House committees act on hospital privatization
A resolution to stop the privatization of public hospitals was voluntarily deferred in the House Committee on Health and Welfare. Meanwhile, the House and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill giving the Legislature power to reject privatization efforts. House Bill 240 by Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, would require the governor to submit efforts to contract out-of-state work to legislative committees and the Legislative Auditors Office for approval.

Stage set to debate Baton Rouge breakaway school district
A plan to set up a new school district in southeast Baton Rouge is inching closer to the House floor, where a similar plan died last year. Senate Bill 199 and Senate Bill 73, both by Sen. Bodi White, R-Baton Rouge, both need just a procedural approval before reaching House floor. The key issue during the final stage is whether the ballot measure can receive the approval of a two-thirds majority — 70 votes. The boundaries of the new district would generally extend from the Interstate 10/12 split, south of I-12 and east of I-10 to the parish lines.

CNSI seeks state records in court
Client Network Services Inc. filed a petition in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge on Tuesday to force the state to produce records related to the cancellation of its nearly $200 million Medicaid claims processing contract. State attorneys recently denied a CNSI attorney’s public records request, based on the Louisiana attorney general asserting “his law enforcement privilege.” The Jindal administration fired CNSI in March after a news report that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed documents related to former state Department of Health and Hospitals secretary Bruce Greenstein’s involvement in the contract award.

Committee Watch
The House Committee on Retirement convened at 9 a.m. to consider a bill regarding capping interest earnings under the controversial cash balance retirement plan. The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare met at 9:30 a.m. to consider a concurrent resolution directing the state Department of Health and Hospitals to submit a waiver to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services that creates funding pools to replace upper payment limit payments. The Senate Committee on Senate and Governmental Affairs convened at 9:30 a.m. to consider a bill that requires legislation involving tax rebates, tax incentives and tax abatements to be introduced or considered during regular sessions convening in odd-numbered years. The Senate Committee on Education convenes at 1 p.m. to consider the MFP formula for FY 2013-2014 and one that awards TOPS scholarships to out-of-state or out-of-country high schools.

$155.2 million – Growth in FY14 revenue collections, above the December forecast. (Source: Revenue Estimating Conference)


Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Administration continues to oppose Medicaid expansion
Department of Health and Hospitals Undersecretary Jerry Phillips said the federal government’s decision to cut “disproportionate share hospital” payments, which finance hospital care for the uninsured, strengthens the Jindal administration’s belief that expanding Medicaid is not in the best long-term interest of the state. The cuts to the federal program are a part of the Affordable Care Act and are intended to offset the costs of Medicaid expansion. While cuts to Louisiana are relatively minor in the initial years, they eventually become much steeper in latter years. Advocates for Medicaid expansion say the growing costs would jeopardize the state’s deals to turn over operation of the public hospitals to private, non-profit hospital companies.

LSU’s Shreveport Medical School faces $42 million deficit
LSU’s Medical School in Shreveport is in financial trouble due to budget cuts. LSU Health Sciences Center’s vice chancellor Hugh Mighty told the Senate Finance Committee that hospital funding that helps support the school is running $42 million short in the FY14 budget. Between $22 million and $32 million has gone to fund the school from hospital operations in past years. But there’s been a major drop-off in funding for the hospital. Even if there’s restoration to take care of hospital needs, Mighty believes “we still would not be able to reach the school as far as its deficit.”

Bill cuts state contracts by 10 percent
The House Appropriations Committee unanimously supported a bill that reduces the number of state contracts by 10 percent. State Treasurer John Kennedy supported the measure, House Bill 73. Kennedy testified to the committee that the state doesn’t have the ability to audit each of the state’s 9,000 contracts. Many committee members also complained that they didn’t have the ability to oversee the contracts. The Jindal administration appeared unsupportive of the measure. Steven Procopio, chief of Staff for the Division of Administration, said committee members were trying to solve a budgetary problem through a contracts review process.

House to consider bill authorizing legislative oversight of privatization
The Committee on House and Governmental Affairs will meet Tuesday to consider a bill that grants the Louisiana Legislature greater oversight of state efforts to privatize public hospitals. House Bill 240 by Rep. Kenneth Havard, R-Jackson, would apply to contracts costing $5 million or more per year, excluding engineering or design services contracts. Havard supports privatization efforts, but said his bill allows legislators to tell their constituents that they’ve vetted a contract and concluded it’s the best option for the state. The Jindal administration does not support Havard’s bill and also objects to a similar one, House Bill 519, by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie.

New York Times Editorial Board: No time to cut food stamps
The New York Times said Congress should not approve new cuts to food stamps. While cuts are already scheduled to occur in November when increases approved in the 2009 economic recovery act expire, Congress is considering up to $20 billion in additional cuts over the next decade. These cuts will disproportionately affect struggling families and children, which the New York Times Editorial Board describes as “the wrong position fiscally and morally.” More than 20 percent of Louisianans receive food stamps.

Committee Watch
The House Committee on Education convened at 9 a.m. to consider bills regarding the proposed breakaway school district in Baton Rouge. The House Committee on Health and Welfare convened at 9 a.m. to consider another Medicaid expansion bill. The House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs convened at 9:30 a.m. to consider a bill giving the Legislature oversight of privatization efforts. The Senate Committee on Judiciary B convened at 10 a.m. to consider a bill regarding the creation of a statewide mapping and planning system for certain schools. The Senate Committee on Judiciary C convened at 10 a.m. to consider a bill creating the Louisiana Manufactured Firearms and Ammunition Act.
21 percent – The percent of Louisiana’s population receiving food stamps (Source: Wall Street Journal)

Monday, May 13, 2013
House passes budget proposal Friday
The House declared its independence on Friday, approving a $25 billion budget proposal after first agreeing to a number of tax measures aimed at replacing about $525 million in one-time money included in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s original proposal. The bottom line remains unclear, however, after the House tacked on a number of amendments to the bill. Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, warned his colleagues that the budget might be out of balance because new spending was added without corresponding cuts. There is also the question of whether $200 million that legislators expect to get from a tax-amnesty program will materialize. The Legislative Fiscal Office has its doubts, saying the “impact of the bill is uncertain.”

Compensation for laid off LSU workers around $42 million
A report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor said the LSU hospital system will have to pay a high price for firing workers as the system is privatized. According to the report, LSU will owe $29 million in “termination pay” to more than 5,000 employees who will be laid off, and could have to pay out another $13 million in unemployment costs. The fired employees will no longer make contributions to the state employees’ retirement system, which may affect the retirement system’s ability to pay benefits of active retirees.

Voucher funding still uncertain
The AP’s Melinda Deslatte looks at the governor’s “What, me worry?” approach to last week’s voucher ruling, and concludes that the “the reality’s quite a bit messier than the spin.” The decisive loss leaves the Jindal administration and Superintendent of Education John White scrambling for dollars to continue the program in a year where lawmakers are less than friendly to administration suggestions. The ruling (also) leaves parents with children in the program wondering if the kids can stay in their schools next year.

Health clinics fight for Medicaid expansion
Officials at health centers around Louisiana say not accepting federal Medicaid expansion could result in reduced services and foregone jobs. New Orleans’ Health Commissioner Dr. Karen DeSalvo told legislators last week that a decision not to accept Medicaid expansion would leave city officials and clinic representatives scrambling to provide healthcare coverage for 60,000 people in the New Orleans area alone. In addition to the medical benefits of expansion, health clinic representatives also said the expansion would be a financial boon for the state’s non-profit federally qualified health centers, allowing them to add 1,400 jobs.

Early childhood education bills advance
Two Senate bills that are the cornerstones of Jindal’s attempt to restructure early childhood education and to create uniform standards for kindergarten readiness sailed through the legislature last week. Senate Bill 130 by Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, would create a coordinating clearinghouse for all service providers and name the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education as overseer, and Senate Bill 222 by Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, sets new licensing guidelines and definitions for day care centers and facilities.

The Advocate: Louisiana children facing crunch
The Advocate Editorial Board wrote that Louisiana’s children are the most vulnerable to state budget cuts for social services, and neglecting their needs could harm this state for generations. The Editorial Board’s comments are based on the results from a report by the LSU/Tulane Early Childhood Policy and Data Center, which showed 55 Louisiana parishes scored “high” on at least one of 11 risk factors for poor early childhood outcomes. Sixty-two parishes scored “moderately high” on at least one risk factor. “At a time when public resources for children are under threat, targeting help where it’s most needed should be an even greater priority,” the newspaper writes.

Committee Watch
The House Committee on Appropriations meets at 9 to consider a bill that would require state departments and higher education boards to provide annual reports to the Legislature on legislation with significant fiscal impacts. The House Committee on Ways and Means will look at several bills regarding tax credits and tax exemptions. The House Committee on Commerce convened at 9 a.m. to consider a bill regarding consumer credit loans. The Senate Committee on Finance convened at 9:30 a.m. to consider a bill that prohibits the expenditures of tax refunds, tax credits, pay rebates or transferable tax credits through incentive contracts unless they are budgeted and appropriated. The Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs convenes at 1 p.m. to consider a slate of tax exemption bills.

$42 million – The amount LSU would have to compensate laid off employees as the public hospital system moves into private care (Source: Legislative Auditor)

Friday, May 10, 2013
House debates state budget today
After a week of fits and starts, the House today will debate the budget compromise proposal that was announced Thursday by a bipartisan coalition of legislators. The latest budget blueprint proposes to replace the one-time money in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive budget with a mix of new spending cuts, proceeds from a tax amnesty program and the scaling back of a few business subsidy programs.

Fiscal Hawks flip-flop on use of one-time money
After spending months criticizing the governor for using “short-term fixes and gimmicks,” to balance the budget, the fiscal hawks themselves put forth a plan that uses one time revenue to balance the budget. The new plan projects raising $200 million a year through a tax amnesty program. House leaders claim the amnesty dollars should not be regarded as “one-time” money because they want to keep the program going for three years. But a fiscal note for the amnesty program suggests all proceeds would be recognized as “non-recurring,” and says the “impact of the bill is highly uncertain.”

Louisiana colleges at lowest level of funding since 1950s
Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell told the Senate Finance Committee that state support for public colleges and universities, when measured as a share of personal income, is now at its lowest levels since the Eisenhower administration. The news comes after years of budget cuts that have seen general fund support shrink by 80 percent since 2008, only a portion of which has been replaced by higher tuition. Meanwhile, The Advocate’s Koran Addo contrasts the political panic that ensued when legislators proposed a 15 percent cut to business subsidies, with the blasé attitude about far bigger cuts to higher education.

Three more LSU hospital contracts nearing completion
LSU System health chief Frank Opelka also testified in the Senate Finance Committee Thursday, telling lawmakers that the state is on track for a June 24 private takeover of LSU public hospital operations in Houma, Bogalusa and Lake Charles. Opelka said the documents should be completed between May 21 and May 24, receive approval from the LSU Board of Supervisors on May 28 and be presented to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget on May 29. Hospital employee layoff plans are set to go before the state Civil Service Commission on June 5.

State scrambles to fund current voucher schools
State Superintendent of Education John White said Thursday that officials are trying to decide how to finance this school year’s final $6 million payment for vouchers after the state Supreme Court ruled the prior funding system unconstitutional. Some plaintiffs in the case question how any final payments to current voucher schools can be made in light of the court ruling. Others say schools that received voucher payments should be forced to return the funding. White says the state will find a way to fund the program, and that a final $6 million allocation for the current school year is due this month.

480,000 – The number of flood insurance recipients in Louisiana (Source:

Thursday, May 9, 2013
New House budget deal takes surgical approach to tax reform
With some Republicans getting cold feet over a plan to cut tax-code spending by 15 percent across the board, House leaders have crafted an alternative plan that takes a more surgical approach to reducing the subsidies that Louisiana gives to film producers, big box retailers and other favored industries. Jeff Adelson at got the details of the new proposal, which aims to raise $329 million in new revenue while purging the state operating budget of one-time cash. The revenue generating ideas include several things that were part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s original tax-shift plan, such as capping the subsidies paid to out-of-state actors, reworking the Enterprise Zone program to exclude some big box retailers, and more aggressive efforts to collect sales taxes for online purchases. Republicans and Democrats are expected to huddle separately on Thursday to discuss the new plan, which will be debated on the House floor Friday.

House committee approves Medicaid expansion
The effort to extend health coverage to the working poor gained unexpected momentum on Wednesday, when two Republicans on the House Health and Welfare Committee joined eight Democrats to approve a bill that would expand Medicaid under a private insurance-based model. House Bill 233, which was amended during the committee meeting to echo legislation from the Arkansas Legislature, mirrors legislation that cleared a state Senate panel last week. Several studies by state departments and independent groups show Medicaid expansion would improve healthcare coverage for about 400,000 residents and save the state millions of dollars over the next five years. The vote surprised supporters and opponents of the bill, as similar legislation was bottled up in the committee earlier in the session. One of the two GOP members to switch sides –  Rep. Rogers Pope of Denham Springs – told the Associated Press that he didn’t mean to vote for the bill and “just pain messed up.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu fights to delay higher flood insurance rates
Sen. Mary Landrieu is building support from communities across the nation to delay the implementation of higher federal flood insurance rates authorized by a 2012 flood insurance reauthorization bill. The new law phases out insurance discounts and authorizes rate increases by 20 percent per year for five years. Landrieu and other members of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation argue that the new law ignores millions of dollars spent to upgrade local levees that now provide substantial protection from storms. Senators from New York and New Jersey expressed their support for Landrieu’s initiative Wednesday, noting that delayed implementation would benefit some residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

The saddest bill of the session – so far
Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, had a bill that would give Louisiana’s public colleges and universities a one-time fee increase in 2016 if they were able to drive their graduation rates to the Southern regional average. But Carter scrapped his own plan when it became clear that no Louisiana schools could achieve that goal. “Louisiana schools are substantially below the Southern average,” Carter said. “This bill is not any good. It’s not any good because our institutions of higher learning can’t meet the Southern average within three years.”

Bill overhauling early childhood education advances in House
The House Education Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would spell out details of a 2012 law to overhaul early childhood education. The measure, Senate Bill 130, next heads to the Legislative Bureau. The 2012 law calls for early learning performance guidelines for those from zero to age 3 and academic standards for 3- and 4-year-olds. It also assigns letter grades to pre-kindergarten centers and schools, which will be linked to state aid. The changes are scheduled to take effect in the 2015-16 school year.

Government Accountability Office: State Fiscal Outlook Bleak
The state and local governments will continue to face near-term and long-term fiscal challenges, according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The report cited rising health costs as the primary driver of the sector’s long-term fiscal challenges, and says state and local revenues, including non-Medicaid federal grants, are projected to decrease as a percentage of GDP.

Committee Watch
The Senate Committee on Finance convened at 9 a.m. to discuss the FY 2013-14 Executive Budget for higher education and the Department of Education.
$1.758 billion – Backlog of construction and repair needs at Louisiana’s public colleges and universities (Source: Board of Regents)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013
House budget compromise beginning to unravel
Some Republican lawmakers appear to be getting cold feet about a compromise plan crafted by conservative Republicans, the Legislative Black Caucus and Democrats that would use a mix of reduced tax breaks and some cuts to balance Louisiana’s budget. According to, “House Republicans have been talking about altering the plan and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Joel Robideaux, who has been negotiating on behalf of a conservative group called the fiscal hawks, said changes might be necessary to keep the coalition together. Robideaux hopes a final proposal can be presented to the entire House in time for Thursday’s floor debate, but says crafting a plan with everyone’s agreement is just as hard as passing Jindal’s “parked” tax shift plan.

Jindal’s “love-hate relationship” with lobbyist
Robert Mann, the director of LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, described how the governor’s treatment for special interest groups has flipped-flopped in the past two months. Jindal attacked loopholes for these lobbyists in March while pushing his tax shift plan, which would have increased business taxes by $500 million. Also, the Jindal-backed “Believe in Louisiana” group ran television ads attacking the loopholes. The governor’s tone is now different. Jindal held an hour-long press conference Tuesday, flanked by special interest lobbyists, to denounce a plan by the House that would reduce tax breaks and generate $92 million in revenue on the backs of businesses.

Federal database reveals hospital costs disparities
The Federal Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services launched a detailed database today on how much the vast majority of American hospitals charge for the 100 most common inpatient procedures billed to Medicare. The database shows that even within the same metropolitan area, hospitals charge prices that differ by staggering degrees for the same procedures. For example, a patient arriving at Touro Infirmary with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, faces an official price tag of $47,337. A few miles away, Oschner Baptist Medical Center charges $17,803 for the same treatment.

Funding for school vouchers is unconstitutional
The Louisiana Supreme Court declared Tuesday that the way Louisiana finances its school voucher program is unconstitutional. The court also nullified the way the Legislature authorized roughly $3.4 billion in student funding for this school year, much of which has already been spent. The court’s decision did not strike down the legislation authorizing vouchers, allowing the Jindal administration to find another way to pay for the approximately 8,000 students who are promised vouchers for the fall.

Louisiana Senate passes bills for new school district near Baton Rouge
The Louisiana Senate approved two bills Tuesday that will create a new school district in southeast Baton Rouge. Senate Bill 199 is a proposed constitutional amendment that creates the Southeast Baton Rouge Community School Board and school system, and Senate Bill 73 spells out details of the new school system. The two bills now head to the state House, where a similar proposal died last year over concerns of retirement costs and disparities along racial and socioeconomic lines. The proposed district would extend from the Interstate 10/12 split, south of I-12 and east of I-10 to the parish lines.

Louisiana House passes bill to fund community hospitals
The Louisiana House approved a proposed constitutional amendment Tuesday that will create a new fund for hospitals to draw more Medicaid money to pay for the care they deliver to the poor. House Bill 532 creates a Hospital Stabilization Fund into which hospitals place money to draw down more Medicaid funds. A formula used to determine how much Medicaid payments each hospital receives would have to be approved annually by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature initially and by a majority vote thereafter. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said his bill would allow the hospitals to “pull down more dollars from the federal government to help with the cuts they have sustained over the last several years.”

Committee Watch
The House Committee on Education convened at 9 a.m. to consider bills regarding conditions for the establishment of new school systems and performance-based scores and letter grades assigned to public schools and school districts. The House Committee on Health and Welfare convened at 9 a.m. to consider a series of bills regarding Medicaid expansion. The Senate Committee on Education convened at 9 a.m. to discuss the methodology utilized to calculate School Performance Scores.

$92 million – The amount of revenue the House budget proposal would raise from businesses, compared to $500 million in Jindal’s tax shift plan (Source: Robert Mann, Director of LSU’s Director of LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Details of House budget deals released
A showdown over the state budget looms on the House floor this week after an unlikely coalition of conservative Republicans and Democratic leaders released details of their plan to purge $525 million in one-time money from Louisiana’s budget. The plan calls for raising $329 million in new revenue through a 15 percent rollback in certain tax credit programs. It also calls for $133 million in new budget cuts, and includes $45 million in revenue that is expected to become available after the Revenue Estimating Conference updates the official forecast in the coming days.

Jindal criticizes tax plan
The compromise plan brought immediate criticism from Gov. Bobby Jindal, who surrounded himself with lobbyists and a smattering of GOP House members at a Monday afternoon press conference to denounce the deal. The governor described the plan as a massive tax increase, and said he will veto any measures that increase the amount of money the state brings in from taxes. The speech capped a remarkable turnabout for the governor. Just weeks ago, he was denouncing state subsidy programs as “loopholes for lobbyists” and fighting for their repeal or modification as part of his plan to shift the tax burden onto middle-class taxpayers and businesses.

Evidence still favors Medicaid expansion
As the Legislature gets ready for a new round of debate about Medicaid expansion this week, a new blog post by LBP policy analyst Steve Spires looks at some of the arguments being made by opponents – and why they don’t hold up to scrutiny. The report was prompted by a recent essay by the Pelican Policy Institute and a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Jindal’s “arms-length relationship” with legislators
Jindal’s distant relationship with the Legislature is beginning to cause problems for the governor, according to The Lens. “Jindal’s arms-length approach appeared to work well during his first term, when he enjoyed public approval ratings above 50 percent and succeeded in passing most of his relatively unambitious legislative agenda… But power is clearly shifting away from Jindal.” The Lens noted the governor was able to fend off challenges to his budget a year ago, but the momentum behind the House’s budget proposal is partly due to months of lawmakers feeling out-of-the-loop with the governor and his staff.

Congress one step closer to helping states collect Internet sales taxes
The U.S. Senate voted 69-27 Monday on a bill that helps states collect Internet sales taxes by forcing online retailers with more than $1 million in out-of-state sales to collect sales taxes on states’ behalf. Congressional estimates show the state could gain as much as $808 million a year in sales tax revenue if the law passes. Prospects for the bill passing the U.S. House remain iffy, with some Republicans labeling the bill as a “tax increase.” Despite supporting the measure as part of his tax shift proposal, Jindal now opposes the bill and calls it a tax increase.

State Auditor: Half of TOPS students lose award
A new report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor found that nearly half of the college students awarded the TOPS college scholarship between 2002 and 2008 lost their award, costing the state about $165 million. Students generally lose their TOPS scholarships for poor academic performance, and more than half of those who lost their award did so in the first year of school. The report puts into focus a several-year-old debate about capping the TOPS awards at a certain dollar amount or increasing its academic requirements. The Legislature has consistently rejected both of these ideas. TOPS supported 45,000 students last year at a cost of $168 million.

Medicaid contract awardee sues state
Client Network Services Inc. filed a lawsuit Monday over the Jindal administration’s decision to cancel a $200 million contract for state Medicaid claims processing. The lawsuit, filed in 19th Judicial District Court, alleges “bad faith breach of contract” and seeks financial damages, including for harm to the Maryland-based company’s reputation and business losses. The Jindal administration canceled the contract in March after a federal grand jury began investigating communications between former state health secretary Bruce Greenstein and CNSI, his former employer. The investigation alleges that Greenstein helped his former firm qualify and win the state’s contract.

Committee Watch
The House Committee on Education convened at 9 a.m. to consider bills regarding funding for teacher retirement and charter schools. The Senate Committee on Judiciary A convened at 9:30 a.m. to consider a bill regarding the Louisiana Home Protection Act. The Senate Committee on Judiciary C convened at 9:30 a.m. to consider a bill regarding lifetime concealed handgun permits. The Senate Committee on Judiciary B convened at 10 a.m. to consider a bill that reduces the types of offenses that qualify families for Families in Need of Services court proceedings. The Senate Committee on Senate and Governmental Affairs convenes upon adjournment to consider a bill that requires early filing for bills that reduce state revenues by at least $10 million.

$808 million – The amount of revenue Louisiana could receive if Congress passes a bill requiring Internet retailers with at least $1 million annual profits to collect sales taxes (Source:

Monday, May 6, 2013
Legislative session reaches midpoint
Monday marks the midpoint of the annual legislative session, with no bills yet reaching final passage, budget negotiations at a critical point and a series of proposals already on the trash heap, the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports. Debate continues on expanding Louisiana’s Medicaid program, loosening gun control laws and giving college systems the ability to raise their own tuition rates. Proposals to enact term limits on statewide elected officials and put limits on the TOPS free college tuition program are dead for the session. The uncertainty surrounding the state budget is leaving some to wonder if the Legislature will be forced to enter into a special session after June 6.

Gov. Jindal’s hard stance on the state budget
The Associated Press reports Gov. Bobby Jindal appears inflexible in budget negotiations with Democrats and fellow Republicans. The AP wrote, “Gov. Bobby Jindal’s rigid stance on budgeting and taxes has worsened the Republican governor’s relationships with lawmakers and made it more difficult for the Legislature to reach a compromise on next year’s $24 billion budget. House members are seeking to forge ahead on spending plan negotiations without including the Jindal administration because the governor has seemed unwilling to bend or consider their concerns.”

Louisiana business group opposes House budget making process
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry lambasted the budget negotiations in the Louisiana House because. In a Friday editorial, LABI President Dan Juneau said the budget deals being discussed, which are aimed at replacing about $490 million in one-time money with a mix of cuts and tax increases, would create increase taxes on businesses. “A month has passed, but nothing has changed regarding the policy position that LABI has maintained not just for the past month but for the last several decades,” he said. “LABI will apply that policy to the proposals put forth by the Legislature, just as we did with the governor’s proposal — and again, LABI will act accordingly.”

Tim Barfield says Legislature is not transparent
The point man on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tax-shift plan took the Legislature to task for trying to craft a budget plan behind closed doors. Tim Barfield, executive counsel for the state Department of Revenue, said the use of a procedure called “committee of the whole” allows lawmakers to avoid the typical committee meeting process. “This removes the voice of the people from knowing exactly what these elected representatives are doing with their tax money,” Barfield wrote.

Former Louisiana Health Secretary investigated for perjury
The Louisiana Inspector General, the state Attorney General, the FBI and a federal grand jury are conducting separate investigations into remarks made by former Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein under oath in his 2011 confirmation hearing. Greenstein told members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that he had limited involvement with a $200 million contract to process Medicaid claims for the state. However, files show that Greenstein made hundreds of phone calls and sent thousands of text messages to a company he previously worked for that was seeking a lucrative agency contract. The state has since terminated the contract with Client Network Services Inc., sparking a legal battle between the state and the private company. Expanding Medicaid is crucial
The Editorial Board reasserted its claim that Medicaid expansion is crucial for Louisiana residents. The board cited a long list of experts, advocates and analysts as proof that there is value in Louisiana expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. Included is this list are New Orleans Health Commissioner Karen DeSalvo and former Louisiana health secretaries David Hood and Fred Cerise. also cites reports from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the state’s own Legislative Fiscal Office and the governor’s own Department of Health and Hospitals showing that the state would experience savings from Medicaid expansion.

Committee Watch
The House Committee on Ways and Means convened at 9 a.m. to consider bills regarding sales tax increases, cigarette tax increases and extensions of tax exemptions. The House Committee on Appropriations convened at 9 a.m. to consider bills that would give the Legislature oversight for privatization contracts. The Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs convenes at 1 p.m. to consider bills that regard tax credits and exemptions.

$490 million – The amount of one-time money lawmakers in the House seek to replace through a mix of tax cuts and tax increases (Source:

Friday, May 3, 2013
House close to budget deal
House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, announced Thursday that the lower chamber is close to reaching a deal on the state budget. The details of the proposal are still being hammered out between conservative Republicans, known as the fiscal hawks, and Democratic lawmakers, but both sides said they could have a plan ready by early next week. The fiscal hawks want fewer one-time revenues in the budget, while Democrats want to reduce spending on tax exemptions. But any deal would likely need to pass muster with Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has promised to veto any revenue-raising measures that aren’t offset by a tax cut of equal value. The Louisiana Republican Party is already raising hackles, which suggests that any move to curb tax breaks could face a difficult road to passage.

House Ways and Means considers sales and cigarette tax increases
While budget negotiations continue behind closed doors, the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee is preparing for what could be a marathon day on Monday. The panel’s agenda includes 37 bills, including some of the measures that were part of the governor’s original tax-shift proposal: House Bill 653 would raise the state’s sales tax from 4 percent to 6.25 percent and tax new services; House Bill 574 would raise the cigarette tax from 36 cents per pack to $1.41 per pack; and House Bill 571 would create new income tax rebate programs for the poor, elderly and military veterans. Also on the agenda are bills to cut back Louisiana’s film-subsidy program and to cap the lucrative tax deduction for federal income taxes.

Study: Medicaid access increases use of care
New results from a landmark study released on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that low-income residents who received Medicaid coverage spent more on healthcare and made more trips to doctors’ offices than those who did not. The Oregon Health Study also reported significant improvements in diagnosing depression and diabetes among the Medicaid recipients they tracked. The new analysis confirmed earlier results from this study, which is often described as the “gold standard” for research.

Controversial “cash-balance” plan stuck in committee
The Louisiana House Retirement Committee refused to approve “clean up” legislation to fix problems with the state’s “cash-balance” retirement plan, which is under constitutional challenge and IRS review. House Bill 68 would limit the interest employees could earn through the new 401(k)-type accounts, delay a planned July 1 implementation and exempt new judges from mandatory participation. Those who oppose the cash-balance plan say it does not offer an equivalent benefit to Social Security, which would force the employee and employer to pay the cost to enroll in Social Security on top of state pension contributions.

Crescent City Connection toll vote this weekend
Voters in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes will have another chance to determine the fate of the Crescent City Connection tolls in a special election tomorrow. This second election for the bridge tolls issue was called for after a judge nullified the Nov. 6 election results — in which voters renewed the tolls by a razor-thin margin of 36 votes — because of alleged voting irregularities.  Voters will decide whether tolls on the bridge should be renewed for another 20 years.

There are no legislative committee meetings today. The House Committee on Appropriations meets at 9 a.m. Monday to consider bills that would give the Legislature oversight for privatization contracts. The House Committee on Ways and Means also convenes 9 a.m. Monday to consider bills regarding sales tax increases, cigarette tax increases and extensions of tax exemptions.

36 – The vote margin in the original Crescent City Connection toll renewal election, which was suspended after the discovery of voting irregularities. (Source: WWLTV).

Thursday, May 2, 2013
New Orleans top health care official: Dire need for Medicaid expansion
New Orleans Health Commissioner Karen DeSalvo warned that primary care and mental health services for the working poor could face serious cutbacks if the state doesn’t expand Medicaid. Speaking before the City Council’s Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday, DeSalvo said that New Orleans-area clinics that were created after Hurricane Katrina are counting on the Medicaid expansion to provide a permanent source of funding. Closing the clinics would impact nearly 45,000 people in the New Orleans area.

Debate on breakaway school district in Baton Rouge on Tuesday
The state Senate will debate a plan to establish a new school district in southeast Baton Rouge on Tuesday. Senate Bill 199 is a state law that creates the school district and Senate Bill 73 is a constitutional amendment to grant the new district the same rights to state funding as current districts. A similar plan fell just short of passage last year due to concerns about retirement costs for teachers and the demographic changes a new district may cause.

8,000 students receive vouchers, despite funding lawsuit
Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Wednesday that nearly 8,000 students had been matched with voucher seats in the first round of applications. A second round will run from May 6 to 24. A Baton Rouge district court judge ruled in December that it was unconstitutional for the state to divert public schools’ per-pupil funds to private schools. If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s decision, Jindal said he will call the Legislature into a special session to authorize the funding.

House committee rejects regionally-managed hospitals
The House Health and Welfare Committee rejected a proposal to move LSU’s public hospitals under regionally-based, state-created human service districts Wednesday. Five committee members voted for House Bill 284, while nine voted against it.

Where does Jindal go from here?
Tyler Bridges of The Lens takes a lengthy look at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s national aspirations and whether they affected his slumping poll ratings in Louisiana. Jindal “always seemed to be engaged in an upward climb, seeking his next goal, reaching for his next job” Bridges writes. But that was before a series of recent setbacks that included legal setbacks for education law, a burgeoning scandal at the Department of Health and Hospitals and the collapse of his tax-shift plan. While it’s not clear where the governor goes from here, Bridges writes, he still has one major advantage: The “unwavering support” of Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards addresses Legislature
Former Gov. Edwin Edwards visited the state Legislature on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to pass a balanced budget and focus on programs for the poor. Adding that he knew he would be called “a flaming liberal,” Edwards said, “I just hope that in some way you can end this session with a balanced budget and hopefully take care of the needs of the sick and the poor and the indigent.”

The House Committee on Judiciary convenes upon House adjournment to consider bills regarding the establishment of a State Tax Court. The House Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations convenes upon House adjournment to consider a bill creating the Equal Pay for Women Act. The House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs convenes upon House adjournment to consider a bill regarding voter approval for traffic tickets captured by traffic cameras. The Senate Committee on Finance convened at 9 a.m. to discuss the fiscal year 2013-14 executive budget for several state departments.

8,000 – The number of students currently matched to receive state vouchers, despite uncertainty about the program’s funding. (Source:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Senate committee approves Medicaid expansion bill
The effort to expand Louisiana’s Medicaid program to cover 400,000 low-income adults – left for dead last week after being rejected by a House committee – gained new life in the Senate on Tuesday evening. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee narrowly approved a Medicaid expansion plan tailored after the “Arkansas model” that seeks to use Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance. The changes to Sen. Karen Carter Peterson’s Senate Bill 125 were proposed by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, who said it would be unconscionable for the state to reject the federal dollars that come with expansion. While the bill heads next to the Senate Finance Committee, the opponents start regrouping today when Gov. Bobby Jindal meets behind closed doors with Senate Republicans to discuss the issue.

House members will debate state budget
A group of unlikely bedfellows that includes conservative GOP “fiscal hawks,” members of the Legislative Black Caucus and other Democratic leaders gave themselves considerable leverage over the state budget by stripping an amendment from the budget bill that eliminated “one-time” revenues from the executive budget. The move means the budget bill will likely require a two-thirds majority to leave the House and thwarts a plan cooked up by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, and Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, who were trying to get around a rule that restricts the amount of non-recurring revenue that can be used for ongoing expenses. The rebel factions are reportedly working on a plan to raise new revenues by eliminating some tax exemptions, while also cutting spending below the levels sought by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Higher education tuition bills move through House committees
Two state House committees on Tuesday took initial steps toward giving Louisiana’s public colleges and universities tuition-raising authority. The House and Governmental Affairs Committee approved House Bill 87 without opposition. This constitutional amendment would exempt tuition from Louisiana’s unique requirement that tuition increases get a two-thirds vote in the Legislature. Meanwhile, the House Education Committee approved House Bill 194, which would allow public colleges to raise tuition to the Southern regional average.

Judge says LSU can withhold presidential candidates’ names
Baton Rouge District Judge Tim Kelley ruled Tuesday that LSU is not required to reveal the names of 35 candidates considered for the job of school president. The ruling against LSU’s student newspaper, the Reveille, comes five days after Judge Janice Clark ordered LSU to turn over the names of the candidates to and the Advocate in a similar case. LSU is expected to appeal Clark’s ruling, and the Reveille is also considering an appeal, meaning it’s likely this issue will be decided by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

House committee allows Jindal to protect records from public
The House and Governmental Affairs Committee rejected a bill to require more transparency in the Governor’s Office. House Bill 19 would have repealed a broad “deliberative process” exemption that allows the administration broad discretion to maintain secrecy in his office and the other executive branch agencies that the public supports with its tax dollars.

The House Committee on Education convened at 9 a.m. to consider bills on student discipline, instructional materials for elementary and secondary schools, and school reporting requirements. The House Committee on Health and Welfare convened at 9 a.m. to consider a bill that transfers control of LSU hospitals from the state to human service districts. The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice convened at 9:30 a.m. to consider bills regarding penalties for marijuana use and parole eligibility standards for juveniles convicted of homicides. The House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs convened at 9:30 a.m. to consider bills regarding state employment discrimination based on sexual identification, term limits for certain statewide elected officials and ethics training requirement exemptions. The Senate Committee on Education convened at 9 a.m. to consider a bill that requires a statewide election of the state superintendent of education.

60 percent – the portion of public university budgets that came from state funding in 2008, but now comes from tuition paid by students (Source: The Advocate)

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