News for Wednesday 033016
By Dave Graichen
As two large weather systems move through the state, the national Storm Prediction Center says Louisiana is one of several states at risk for severe weather today and tomorrow. Forecasters say heavy rain, damaging wind, hail and tornadoes are possible.
The Department of Transportation says roadways have suffered nearly 20 million dollars’ worth of damage due to the recent flooding. DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson says it will take a lot of time and effort to fix and maintain the damaged roads. He says they’re currently working to assess the damage and find out how many miles of roadway need to be repaired. Wilson says the state already has nearly a 13-billion dollar backlog on road repairs before the massive flooding created more damage.
The chief financial officer for the state’s health department says the expansion of Medicaid would save the state 124-million dollars next fiscal year. Jeff Reynolds says that would help avoid some cuts as a result of a 750-million dollar revenue shortfall, but there’s still a concern about the future of privatized LSU hospitals.
A new poll shows Governor John Bel Edwards’ approval rating is at 52-percent. The poll was paid for by Rebuild Louisiana, which is a pro-Edwards organization. The poll also asked respondents about issues the governor is supporting in the regular session. It found nearly 90-percent of respondents favor equal pay for men and women. Additionally, 73-percent support raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour.
Two bills regarding abortion are expected to be heard in the House Health and Welfare Committee today. One of the measures would extend the waiting period for a person seeking an abortion from 24 to 72 hours.
Starting on April 1st, smokers will pay a $1.08 tax on a pack of cigarettes. A new tax brings the cost of a pack up 22 cents. It’s expected the increase will generate 11 million dollars between April 1st and June 30th.
Beginning April 1, the state tax will increase on all types of alcohol by one to two cents per serving. Executive Director of the Beer Industry League of Louisiana John Williams says although the state tax on beer in Louisiana has not been increased since 1948, Louisiana has always had a relatively high alcohol tax. This tax hike is permanent, and it does not have an expiration date like other similar bills that were passed in the special session. The new tax is expected to bring in nearly $5 million between April 1 and June 30
Gas prices jumped another penny this week. The current statewide average price at the pump is $1.87, up more than 7 cents from the same time last week, according to AAA.
A 60-year-old man from northeast Texas was killed after he was accidentally run over by a dragster driven by his own brother at the Thunder Road Raceway in Gillam. Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Cindy Chadwick says the two were part of a racing crew that was conducting test runs at the park.
The US Coast Guard says its investigating the cause of an oil spill from a tank into Bayou Teche in St. Mary Parish early this morning. Some residents were told not to leave their homes following the spill, but the order was lifted hours later. It is not clear at this time how much oil was spilled, but rescue crews deployed more than 200 yards of boom to contain the slick in the water.
At the Capitol Monday, a bill that would limit the amount of money the state can spend on art for public buildings received overwhelming approval from the full House and now heads to the Senate. The measure would cap a program that requires 1 percent of the total amount of a construction project go towards art inside or on the ground near the site.
State police report a 17-year-old died Tuesday afternoon after being ejected in a crash on La. Highway 372, about five miles south of Oakdale. Derek Dejesus of Oakdale was driving a 2004 Chevrolet Impala when he drove off the road and hit a driveway. The car then flipped, ejecting Dejesus who was not wearing a seatbelt. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Troopers say he most likely would have survived the crash if he had been wearing a seatbelt.