News for Thursday 043015
By Dave Graichen
A bit of fondly remembered history returns to Downtown Alexandria Friday as The Mirror Room lounge of the Hotel Bentley will open to the public at 4 p.m. Hotel owner Michael Jenkins said this is the first stage of the reopening of the 107-year-old hotel that has been closed for 11 years. Jenkins plans to employ "between seven to 10" people in the Mirror Room.
The LSU Alumni Association’s Tiger Advocates is sponsoring a march today on the State Capitol to protest the state’s proposed $600 million budget cut to higher education. LSU officials say these proposed cuts could result in the closing of satellite campuses and drastic losses of academic programs and faculty on the main campus.
The full Senate approves a bill that’s designed to control the cost of the TOPS scholarship program. Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue’s legislation would provide each TOPS recipient with a set amount and it will not automatically go up with the cost of tuition. He says this is about ensuring the future of the program for our kids. Governor Bobby Jindal has already said he opposes the measure. The bill now heads to the House for further debate.
Legislative panels Wednesday killed yet another effort to allow Medicaid expansion in Louisiana. It marks the third straight year Medicaid expansion efforts by Democratic legislators have died at the hands of their Republican colleagues. The Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee voted 5-3 against the legislation which would have provided health insurance to upwards of 240,000 Louisiana residents. The vote was largely, as in past legislative efforts, along party lines with all five “no” votes coming from Republican senators. Down the hall, the House Health and Welfare Committee voted 9-7 against a different measure with the same goal.
New Orleans state Representative Austin Badon is once again pushing legislation that would lessen the penalties for some marijuana possession arrests. Badon says House Bill 149 brings fairness to sentencing for simple marijuana possession. He says the bill will keep current provisions for first convictions, but lowers the penalties for second and subsequent convictions. Badon says this would bring much needed reform to Louisiana’s drug law. He adds that this measure would take simple marijuana possession out of the state’s “Three Strikes You’re Out” law.
Medical marijuana is one step closer to becoming legal in Louisiana as Senate Bill 143 moves out of committee and heads to the Senate Floor. There were many people who spoke in support of the legislation by New Iberia Senator Fred Mills. Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, was the only one who spoke against the bill.
Mills filed similar legislation last year which failed to pass but he says for 2015 he’s addressed many of the concerns such as dispensing, prescribing and cultivation regulations.
Legislation that requires sex education to be taught in seventh through 12th grade in every public schools in Orleans Parish was approved by the House Education Committee Wednesday. New Orleans councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, a supporter of the proposed law, says comprehensive sex education needs to be mandatory. Under current law, sex ed may be offered in Louisiana public schools, but it must promote abstinence until marriage. However, Cantrell says the abstinence message is not working. The bill passed House Ed on an 8-to-6 vote and the controversial topic now heads to the full house for more debate and an uphill battle.
The Louisiana Senate will consider whether to restrict the broad public records exemptions granted to the governor’s office, after claims a six-year-old rewrite of the law has been abused to hide documents that should have been released publicly. Without objection Wednesday, the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee backed a proposal by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, to add significant limits to a governor’s ability to shield records from the public. In hopes of avoiding a possible veto from Gov. Bobby Jindal, senators reworked the bill so it wouldn’t take effect until a new governor, to be elected this fall, takes office Jan. 11.
Senate president John Alario is denying any wrongdoing despite a media report that says federal investigators are looking into how he spent campaign contributions. Apparently the FBI is looking into his campaign records after media reports suggested Alario misreported as much as $20,000. Alario says they have filed all of the reports required and followed all state laws, but they did make a couple of mistakes. Alario says when this is all said he done he is confident that everything will be okay.
State Police is investigating the shooting of an armed teenager in Livingston Parish yesterday. Authorities responded to a 9-1-1 call of a suicidal person and when deputies arrived at the home they found a19-year-old on the front porch with a shotgun raised in the direction of the officers. A Livingston Parish Deputy fired his weapon and struck the teen, who was transported to a hospital in Baton Rouge. He is listed stable condition, with non-life threatening injuries. Police will charge him with attempted second-degree murder of a police officer.
Company officials announced yesterday Bell Helicopter’s decision to cut 1,100 jobs from its global workforce will not affect the company’s plans to hire 115 employees at a helicopter assembly plant now under construction at Lafayette Regional Airport. The job cuts at Bell were announced Tuesday, along with disappointing first-quarter financial results.