News for Wednesday 030916
By Dave Graichen
The Storm Prediction Center says much of Louisiana is under the threat for severe weather today. Donald Jones with the National Weather Service says the threat for severe weather includes rounds of heavy rainfall. Jones says there is an area of low pressure stuck over eastern Texas that is causing the severe weather and heavy rain. He says it’s pumping Gulf moisture into Louisiana. Jones says the big flood threats begin today and carry into Thursday.
The special legislative session ends tonight at 6pm, and lawmakers are still trying to address the state’s huge fiscal deficit through a combination of budget cuts and tax increases. We’re waiting to see what legislation will come out of the special session. Jeremy Alford with la-politics-dot-com says the certainties in this session include taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, and car rentals, but he says more bills still have to be approved. Alford says the current state sales tax is 4-cents, but Governor John Bel Edwards is pushing for an additional clean penny. He says some legislators are pushing for even more, and there’s a proposal to remove several exemptions from the existing four-cent tax.
A state senate committee approved legislation that would remove some tax exemptions for businesses, and that measure now heads to the Senate floor. Louisiana Association of Business and Industry president Stephen Waguespack argues that businesses and taxpayers should share the burden and each take a “middle of the road” hit. But New Orleans Senator Troy Carter says LABI continues to push bills that lead to higher taxes on consumers but doesn’t result in businesses contributing to the higher tax burden. Alexandria Senator Jay Luneau says LABI needs to start coming to the table with their own ideas.
Cleco Corp. and the investor group that has been looking to buy it have requested an immediate rehearing of the Louisiana Public Service Commission's recent decision to reject the sale. Cleco and its prospective buyers have asked for a rehearing at the commission's March 16 meeting "to fully present the transaction's benefits for Cleco Power customers, employees and communities Cleco serves, and to correct a number of inaccurate claims made during the Feb. 24, meeting.
A young Pineville man will have to register as a sex offender for life after he pleaded guilty on Monday in a case where he kidnapped and tried to rape a woman who tried to give him a ride to school. 18 year old Mataeo Chaney withdrew his not guilty pleas to charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery and attempted forcible rape in the 9th Judicial District Court. He then pleaded guilty to amended charges of second-degree kidnapping and second degree battery, as well as the attempted forcible rape charge. Chaney was 17 at the time of the crime.
Lawmakers think they have found a way to tap into more money for Louisiana’s Medicaid program, without more taxes. A little-noticed financing maneuver added to legislation Monday night by senators is estimated to bring in at least $250 million more annually for Medicaid.
The maneuver, sponsored by Republican Sen. Fred Mills, would allow insurance companies that manage medical care for thousands of Medicaid patients to pool more of their money and draw down additional federal Medicaid dollars to compensate them for caring for the poor.
Mills says the financing plan, which won final passage Tuesday from the House, needs approval from federal Medicaid officials.
Small business optimism has fallen to a 2-year low, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. State Director of the NFIB, Dawn Starns, says state specific data is not available, but Louisiana small businesses also lack optimism, especially with all of the money problems the state is facing. According to the report, spending and hiring plans and earning trends all weakened, and more firms reduced prices than raised them, indicating that small business are absorbing higher costs without affecting customers. The report also shows that sales trends have declined and small business owners do not plan to increase hiring or spending as expectations for future business conditions remained negative.
St. Joseph residents are pleading with the state government to get cleaner water. Garrett Boyte of St. Joseph says the water there has been yellow or murky brown for over a decade. Boyte and others from the town met with Governor John Bel Edwards and state legislators to discuss raising the standards for water in Louisiana. Boyte says manganese has been linked to adverse health effects, especially for infants, and it is found in St. Joseph’s water at alarmingly high amounts.. Boyte says 400 water systems in the state are facing similar issues.
LSU Health Shreveport has received a 1.6 million dollar National Institutes of Health grant to research the connection between light alcohol consumption and ischemic stokes. Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases and Sciences Dr. Chris Kevil says drinking one to three alcoholic beverages a week has been found to increase protection to an ischemic stroke. The study will attempt to define how light alcohol consumption actually protects from ste stroke.
A new NFL league year begins today, which means the start of the free agency period. NFL analyst Mike Detillier says with the increase in the salary cap, the Saints will have enough to bolster their roster and add veteran players at key spots.