Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Senator objects to closure of
By MARSHA SHULER
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
A top state Senate leader said Monday she has reservations
about a proposed public-private partnership that would lead to the closure of
State Senate President Pro Tem Sharon Broome, in whose
district the charity hospital sits, made the comment before filing a
resolution alerting lawmakers of a potential deal in the works between LSU
and Our Lady of the
“Right now I cannot put my stamp of approval on this,”
said Broome, D-Baton Rouge. “Certainly this Our Lady of the
One of those alternatives could be use of
“I’m just worried we are giving them (OLOL officials) way more than we will actually gain in the process,” said Broome.
Under the proposed arrangement, LSU medical education
programs, at Earl K. Long, would be moved to the
LSU System Vice President Fred Cerise said he plans to meet with Broome today to discuss her concerns.
“If everybody behaves like everybody indicates they want to behave in this deal, the potential at the Lake is to provide the most services to people and provide the most ability to expand graduate medical education,” said Cerise. But, he said, “It’s a big change, a big leap. I understand it. Believe me.”
Cerise said the specifics — including financing — must be nailed down in a more definitive cooperative endeavor agreement which officials are hoping to have completed by Sept. 30.
Cerise and the
Broome said when she looks at the $129 million that would
still be needed for construction on the
The original new hospital construction plan called for a 200- to 300-bed facility at a cost of $300 million to $400 million, Broome said.
“We have adjusted all of that now and recognize with all these (LSU community) clinics we don’t need that many beds. Perhaps with $129 million we could go back to the drawing board,” said Broome.
After Hurricane Gustav shuttered EKL, operations moved to
One possible alternative is expanding at that location, which would allow LSU to retain its authority, she said.
Broome said she also does not like talk of building a
separate tower at the
“I’m not fully persuaded yet that the graduate medical education will be fully served at OLOL,” said Broome.
Broome said LSU has received national recognition for its residency, or physician in training, programs, and she doesn’t want anything to interfere with that.
At EKL the biggest challenge is not education or quality of care, it’s the facility, she said.
Hospital and graduate medical education agencies have threatened to yank accreditation because of the poor conditions.
Broome said she is proceeding with the resolution because those accrediting agencies are looking for evidence “we are making a good-faith effort to get out of that building.”
“I applaud LSU for trying to take some progressive steps forward, but I don’t want to see us do anything that minimizes the quality of care or medical education.”
Legislature passes 2009-10 state budget; Jindal says he will strip $278 million from budget
Daily Reveille file photo
LSU System President John Lombardi told all academic, health care and research institutions to finalize their plans for deep spending cuts by the end of next week.
Unpredictable and tense — so goes the 2009 legislative session.
Thursday marked the beginning of what’s expected to be a long and drawn-out end to the state’s budget debate, as the Louisiana House voted 69-25 in favor of agreeing with amendments the state Senate tacked on to HB 1 — the state’s $28.7 billion spending proposal. The shocking move sent the bill to Gov. Bobby Jindal and a sense of urgency to LSU’s campuses.
LSU System President John Lombardi told all academic, health care and research institutions on Monday to finalize their plans for deep spending cuts, effective July 1, by the end of next week.
“These cuts are real, and we must begin now to address the
consequences for our students, employees and other commitments to the state
Many expected HB 1 to go into conference committee, where a handful of lawmakers would have ironed out the details of the budget. Instead, the House passed the budget to Jindal for final approval — a move that leaves Senate funding measures included in HB 1 for higher education vulnerable.
Several funding measures for higher education and agriculture the Senate added to HB 1 are contingent on House approval, like SB 335, which would use $118 million generated from the delay of a planned income tax break for higher education. SB 335 and other Senate “contingencies” are not expected to pass, meaning the budget will look like how the House and governor originally had it.
And Jindal said on Monday he plans to veto about $278 million in spending from the budget that is tied to separate legislation, vowing to work with lawmakers to restore some of that money. Included in the $278 million worth of contingencies — money that can only be spent if certain legislation in passed — is SB 335.
That leaves $120 million lawmakers can use to plug holes in the budget, made up of $50 million from a proposed tax amnesty program, and $70 million from an expired insurance fund.
Jindal said his goal is to reduce the cuts to higher education to 10 percent or less, instead of the 15 percent proposed in the original budget. The governor has 12 days to review the budget.
“While the additional financial relief from the Legislature and the governor is much appreciated, it does not eliminate the need for significant budget adjustments,” Lombardi said. “We have to be accountable and effective in acting responsibly for today and the future even if the overall budget cut is reduced.”
Lombardi also called for the completion of the University’s massive realignment plan, which aims to reorganize and rename nearly every academic college on campus. The plan will need approval from the Board of Supervisors before changes can begin and Louisiana Board of Regents approval may also be needed.
While a “transition task force” made up of faculty and administrators was formed to address conflicts with the implementation of the plan, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Astrid Merget said no changes will be made to the plan.
By Jan Moller
BATON ROUGE -- Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday that he plans to strike about $278 million in proposed spending from the state budget bill, but that he will work with lawmakers to make sure some money is restored for higher education through other legislation still pending.
Jindal, who has 12 days to review the $28 billion budget bill after receiving it from the Legislature on Sunday, said he decided to announce the line-item vetoes early to give legislators time to make other arrangements before their June 25 adjournment.
"We don't want to play games with the Legislature. We want to be very clear about what we're doing," Jindal said at a meeting with reporters to discuss his priorities for the week.
The vetoes include money for Medicaid, public colleges and universities, arts programs, tourism promotion, agriculture extension programs and legislators' pet projects. All of the money was included in the budget bill, but tied to the passage of separate bills.
Jindal said the line-item vetoes will free up "at least $120 million" that legislators can plug into spending bills to fill holes in higher education, health care and other programs. He said the top priority for that money should be to reduce the cuts to higher education to less than 10 percent, from the 15 percent cut that Jindal originally proposed.
To meet that target, at least $50 million would have to be plugged in to public colleges and universities, which would still leave them with a cut of more than $140 million.
--- House, Senate divided ---
The governor's announcement came on a day when House and Senate leaders moved to tamp down the rancor that has erupted between the chambers, even as it became clear that the Senate remains far apart from the House and the Jindal administration on how best to patch the remaining holes in the budget.
"We are not at odds . . . on where we want to get. It's just how we get there," House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, said.
Senate President Joel Chaisson II, D-Destrehan, said he was encouraged by Jindal's statement that restorations for higher education should be a top priority. "It is encouraging that Gov. Jindal and House leadership now agree with us that higher education should be the top priority when deciding how to invest taxpayer dollars," Chaisson said in a written statement.
But Chaisson's statement made it clear he still supports the Senate's version of House Bill 1, which finances most government expenses in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The budget bill was sent to Jindal's desk last week with $278 million in "contingencies," or spending tied to the passage of other bills. The contingencies include $118 million for higher education that would come from postponing an income-tax break scheduled to take effect this year, as well as $70 million from an expired insurance fund and $86 million from the state's rainy-day fund.
With those contingency items facing a veto, the focus now shifts to the Senate, where several spending bills could be reworked to add back some of the money.
--- Points of conflict ---
There is little disagreement on using money from the insurance fund, and House leaders also support the use of $50 million from a proposed tax amnesty program to offset cuts.
But the House, with Jindal's
backing, has ruled out any bills they consider to be
a tax increase. And they want to reserve the rainy-day fund for future years,
Sen. Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport, the vice chairwoman of the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee, said the rainy-day fund should be on the table during the upcoming negotiations, as should the tax-cut delay.
One of the key flashpoints could be the fate of $28 million in "member amendments" included in the budget for pet projects in legislators' districts. The earmarks are among the items facing a veto, but House leaders have said they want the money put back into another bill.
By David Dinsmore
Katrina Smith, (right), supervisor of the chemistry lab, teaches Allison Kirkland, 15, a Grant High School student, during the AHEC summer program at Huey P. Long Medical Center.
PINEVILLE -- People can learn a lot of interesting medical
facts by watching reruns of "House" this summer, but some
The program at Huey P. Long accepts 12 students interested in a career in the medical field and places them in rotations at the hospital to learn about the responsibilities of the various departments.
"I thought it would give me good hands-on experience," Buckeye student Kaitlyn Fussell said. "I'll be able to know what I want to do better."
Students rotate through disciplines like pharmacy, surgery, nursing, radiology, biomedical and more, where they observe and practice the duties of the workers in that department, Huey P. Long education director Brenda Ray said.
"We enjoy the kids being here during the summer," nursing director Cindy Vanlangendonck said.
The kids also receive daily lectures on subjects of microbiology, nutrition, social services and even forensic medicine throughout the course, Ray said.
While AHEC provides the course at no cost to the participants, the acceptance process is designed to select only those who will be truly committed to the entire five-week program, Ray said.
AHEC summer program participant Jessica Jefferson, 16, (left), from Grant High School, is taught about physical therapy by therapist Angela Spears at Huey P. Long Medical Center.
Students must have a 2.0 grade point average, have a letter of recommendation from an education professional and write a personal essay, Ray said. Those who complete this process then undergo an interview process conducted by organization and hospital officials.
Those who get into the program, the students receive great opportunities to see what life is like for health care workers, make valuable connections, receive advice about schooling and also earn one-half of a high school credit, Ray said.
If you're looking for what you want to do in the medical
field, this is a good place to start,"
Programs like A-HEC of a Summer and others through the organization have yielded some impressive results, Cenla AHEC health careers coordinator Joy Gilhousen said. For instance, about 70 percent of students who have participated in various AHEC programs have gone into a health care profession.
"We think it's a good idea to catch them while they're young," Gilhousen said. "Our hope is that they will come back to their hometowns after school and practice."
By NANCY ARMOUR, AP National Writer
But for much of the day, the gym doubles as a cafeteria where the school's 1,800-plus students are offered breakfast and lunch.
There's another gym on the fourth floor, but it's so old it has basketball hoops attached to ladders. Time and space limitations mean each class gets physical education just once a week for 40 minutes.
In the fight against childhood obesity, getting kids
moving is one of the most effective ways to combat the problem. But only
"I understand the funding issue. I understand the space issue," said Betty Hale, one of two P.E. teachers at Eberhart. But "our children are getting shortchanged."
But those rules have not prevented
Nationwide, an estimated 32 percent of American kids ages 2 to 19 are overweight, including 17 percent who are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The state does not monitor schools to ensure they are meeting the daily P.E. requirement, and there are no penalties for not doing it. The Illinois General Assembly even gives waivers to districts that have financial issues or want more classroom time.
But it's the health of the kids that tells the full depth of the problem.
When Hale arrived at Eberhart 10 years ago, most kids could run a mile in 13 or 14 minutes. Now only a few can.
"What really hurts me is they never have that euphoric feeling I had as a child of riding their bike down the street. They just don't have the stamina to do it," said Sothern, a former gym teacher.
Physical fitness "is just so not valued today. And it's what would turn this thing around."
Health experts recommend 30 minutes of daily physical education for elementary school students, and 45 minutes for those in junior high and high school.
But in a recent CDC study, less than 4 percent of elementary schools, less than 8 percent of middle schools and just over 2 percent of high schools required daily P.E. for all students for the entire school year.
At Eberhart, the weekly 40-minute period passes quickly.
By the time a class of fifth-graders settled down and did their warm-up calisthenics recently, more than five minutes had passed. It took another five minutes for Hale to split the class into teams and give them a quick refresher on how to play kickball, and there were still more interruptions during the game to explain the rules.
With no money for new equipment, the kids use a ball worn to the point of crumbling, and the floor is soon strewn with little bits of yellow foam. The wooden pins for bowling look like something out of the school's time capsule.
The facilities are lacking as well — and not simply because the one gym can only be used part-time. Hale's classes were kicked out of the older gym the previous week because of a space camp, and leftover garbage still cluttered one corner: two black plastic bags stuffed to the brim, a blue plastic barrel, a Styrofoam cooler and two cardboard boxes — one with a crumpled Doritos bag inside.
Having P.E. "even twice a week would make a world of difference," Hale said. "These kids need to move. Exercise is just as important as sitting down and learning their math, their science, their reading."
Some educators complain that physical education — along with art and music — has been squeezed out by No Child Left Behind, which prods schools to boost the performance of low-achieving students. With annual math and reading tests, many schools are trying to find extra teaching time wherever they can.
But doing it at the expense of physical education is
misguided, said Russell Pate, associate vice president for Health Sciences at
In fact, the breaks could help.
"I'm all for holding schools to high standards with regard to academic outcomes," Pate said. "But we need to have some balance. We need our schools to be healthy places for kids."
That's the approach at the elementary and middle schools
in District 64 in
There are no vending machines with candy or soda at any of the schools, and the food service at the middle schools gives students healthy choices.
Elementary classes have P.E. for a half-hour four days a week, and gym-like activities at recess on the fifth day. Middle school students have P.E. for 40 minutes each day. The curriculum is designed to get students moving and appeal to everyone, regardless of athletic ability. There are units on everything from softball to wrestling to field hockey.
Grades are based on kids' preparation for class — being on time and in uniform — as well as written tests on the sports they learn. There are fitness tests twice a year, but instead of telling kids they must run a mile in a specific time or do 50 sit-ups, progress is measured against previous results. The results are not counted in their grades.
"We want them to gain an appreciation of being
active, to enjoy being active," said Aaron Schauer,
who teaches at
The facilities are top-of-the-line, starting with a 26-person P.E. department for the eight schools. Each school has ready access to green space, and there's enough room outside to hold six soccer fields.
When students at Emerson want to track their heart rates while running or walking, they can use one of 32 Polar monitors, which retail for $60.
"Physical education cannot be expected to solve society's obesity problems," said Pate, a past president of the National Coalition on Promoting Physical Activity.
"But I do think it's realistic to expect P.E. to help solve the problem."
By MICHELLE MILLHOLLON
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
Louisiana House leaders spoke of harmony Monday while state senators pointed to deep divisions over the budget with nine days left in the session.
The House wants to reinsert in the budget “member amendments,” many of which are legislators’ pet projects and often are derided as “slush funds.”
The Senate wants to increase revenue for higher education, health care and other state government services hit hard by the governor’s budget cuts.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, for his part, said Monday that he warned lawmakers that he planned to veto Senate plans for raising money for a budget that is expecting $1.3 billion less in revenue this year.
The House paved the way for the governor’s vetoes by sending him the budget rather than working with the Senate on a compromise.
The battle now moves to the remaining House appropriations bills, all of which are awaiting action on the Senate side. The House wants the Senate to use the bills to settle differences over the budget.
Legislators have until June 25 to resolve their differences on the $28 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The biggest sticking point seems to be the $30 million in “member amendments,” which Jindal plans to remove from House Bill 1, the budget legislation.
House leaders want the Senate to amend other legislation to include money for roads, community organizations, museums and other projects important to lawmakers’ individual districts.
The Senate leadership said the state has more pressing needs than funding “member amendments.”
The House and the Senate also are divided on how to soften the heavy cuts that Jindal proposed for health care and higher education.
The Senate wants to delay a tax break and to tap the state’s “rainy day” fund.
The House and the governor oppose those proposals, preferring to take $50 million from a proposed tax amnesty program and using that money for higher education.
Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Monday he plans to veto $278 million in spending from HB1.
Some of his proposed vetoes deal with contingencies, since the spending relies on legislation that is unlikely to pass. With the governor’s actions, the House and the Senate would have $124 million to spend.
The available money includes the balance of a dormant insurance fund and the proceeds of a proposed tax amnesty program.
Louisiana House leaders said higher education, legal judgments and legislators’ projects should be priorities.
State Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, predicted it will be hard to justify spending money on projects in legislators’ districts.
He said he is more concerned about finding additional funds for higher education.
“The Senate is looking at any and all options,” Michot said.
Jindal said he would red-line provisions that use some “rainy day” funds and tap dollars remaining in a special insurance fund for specific purposes.
Those two actions would then allow lawmakers to appropriate — through other bills — a potential $120 million or more to higher education.
But Jindal also said he wants higher education to come up with plans to restructure and operate more efficiently. He noted one-time funds would be freed up and financial problems would continue in the next budget year too.
“This is one-time funding that gives them some time,” said Jindal. “It’s important that we have a plan.”
House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, said he favors using the “rainy day” fund in three years, when the state still is expected to be grappling with financial problems.
The “rainy day” fund, formally known as the Budget Stabilization Fund, was set up to tide the state over during a budget deficit.
State Sen. Lydia Jackson, who proposed delaying the tax break, told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that the piecemeal approach to resolving the state’s budget problems seems to be contrary to the Jindal administration’s push for efficiency and transparency.
“It’s a budgetary nightmare,” she said.
The budget as it stands now, she said, is the governor’s original proposal.
“It’s a budget that everybody says is unacceptable … to
the House, to the Senate, to the business community,”
Michot said a case can be made for using the state’s “rainy day” fund.
He said the Senate spoke once and will more than likely speak again to reduce cuts.
House leaders insist the storm clouds are just beginning to gather and the time is not ripe to use the rainy day fund.
State Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, predicted that in the end the budget cuts will be minimal.
He said legislators should see how the cuts work before tapping the “rainy day” fund.
The fight over the state’s limited finances is stalling other legislation.
The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee spent more than two hours Monday mostly debating and then deferring bills that were never expected to get out of committee because of the relatively large costs associated with many proposed tax credits.
In all, only seven bills of the nearly 40 on the agenda were heard, with two of little fiscal consequence being the only ones approved, despite a packed room of lobbyists and some legislators waiting for bills to be heard.
Committee chairman Rob Marionneaux recessed the committee for lunch without setting a time to reconvene. He closed by recessing with an ominous, “until further notice.”
Jordan Blum and Marsha Shuler of the Capitol news bureau contributed to this report.
By Caroline Moses
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Governor Jindal announced Monday he plans to cut all proposed legislative solutions out of the budget bill, which means the House and Senate only have two weeks to find another bill to fund some of higher education's needs.
There is some political play and even some "smack talk" between the House and Senate at the state Capitol. "We have done all we can on the House side," said House speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown. "I would like to say the senate has been the champion of higher education from day one," said Senate president Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan.
Governor Jindal seems to be playing referee. He says he plans to veto all members' pet projects out of the budget he was given Sunday. He'll also cut the proposed solutions to higher education and health care funding gaps. Jindal says the solutions come in one package deal and to reject one would kill them all. Instead, he's leaving any new plans up to the legislature. "There's still time for another appropriations bill for the legislature to add money back to higher education," said Jindal.
Jindal suggests lawmakers use money from either the proposed tax amnesty program or the "rainy day" fund. He still objects to any tax increases, even the tax break delay approved by the Senate. The one thing both chambers and the governor do agree on is restoring about $70 million to higher education. They have two weeks to put aside any chamber rivalry and decide if and how they can make that happen.
"We're hopeful that the Senate will work with us in fixing this in committee or on the Senate side," said Tucker. "It's not about liberal, Democrat, or Republican. It's about saving higher education," said Chaisson.
If the House and Senate can't come up with a solution the governor likes, then health care and higher education may not see the money they say they need. Governor Jindal has 11 more days to officially file budget vetoes.
By JORDAN BLUM
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
The Louisiana House rejected legislation Monday that would have raised taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
The vote was 45 for and 55 against the measure, which would have dedicated about $100 million in tax proceeds to health care.
During the 90-minute debate, about a dozen supporters, including some smokers, spoke in favor of the measure while only state Rep. Joseph Lopinto, R-Metairie, publicly opposed House Bill 889.
Lopinto argued that legislators need to “tighten our belts” in state spending before hiking up taxes.
He apparently had 54 others silently backing him up. The bill needed 70 votes, or two-thirds House approval, and fell 25 votes short.
Smokers pay 36 cents in state tax on a pack of cigarettes. The proposal would have increased the tax to 86 cents a pack. The national average is about $1.20. Taxes on cigars and smokeless tobacco also would have increased.
The bill’s sponsor, House Speaker Pro Tem Karen Peterson, urged her colleagues to follow their moral compasses.
“It (HB889) will lower the tax burden on people who work hard every day so they don’t have to pay that $627 a year,” Peterson said.
Half of the money from the increased tax would have been
used to pay health-care providers who treat Medicaid patients. The rest of
the money would largely be committed to cancer research and prevention
The tax increase was expected to generate about $100 million a year.
Gov. Bobby Jindal opposed the legislation, calling it an unfair tax increase on citizens during a recession. He vowed to veto it.
Some smokers such as state Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, spoke in favor of HB889.
“I’ve already had two angioplasties, and I’m still a heavy smoker,” Ritchie said. “I don’t know if 50 cents will help me quit, but I think it’ll help other people quit.”
State Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, talked about how cigarettes — “the most destructive consumer product on the face of the Earth today that’s legal” — took his father’s life.
“If I thought I could tax them out of existence, that’s
what I’d do,”
State Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, said the tax argument was empty.
“This anti-tax rhetoric is simply a pretext to support big
tobacco,” Leger said. “You can go with Joe Camel and the Marlboro man or you
can go with the people of
The state is facing a $1.3 billion drop in revenue for the fiscal year that starts July 1. To address the shortfall, Jindal proposed heavy cuts to health care and higher education. The Legislature is trying to reduce some of those cuts.
Funds from HB889 could have offset some cuts to health care.
The bill initially proposed raising cigarette taxes by $1 a pack. It died in committee.
Peterson then cut the tax in half and refiled the measure.
Last week, opponents tried and failed in three separate parliamentary moves to scuttle the legislation without directly voting on HB889.
Here’s how the House voted when it killed HB889 that would have increased tobacco taxes:
VOTING FOR the tax (45): Reps. Abramson, Anders, Arnold, Aubert, A. Badon, Baldone, Barrow, Brossett, Burrell, Carmody, Carter, Chaney, Danahay, Dixon, Doerge, Downs, Edwards, Ellington, Ernst, Franklin, Gallot, Hardy, Harrison, Henderson, Hill, Hines, Hoffmann, Honey, G. Jackson, M. Jackson, R. Jones, LaFonta, Lambert, LeBas, Leger, Norton, Peterson, Richmond, Ritchie, Roy, G. Smith, P. Smith, St. Germain, Stiaes and Williams.
VOTING AGAINST the tax (55): Speaker Tucker and Reps. Armes, B. Badon, Barras, Billiot, Burford, H. Burns, T. Burns, Champagne, Chandler, Connick, Cortez, Cromer, Dove, Fannin, Foil, Geymann, Gisclair, Greene, Guillory, Guinn, Hazel, Henry, Howard, Hutter, Johnson, S. Jones, Kleckley, LaBruzzo, Landry, Ligi, Little, Lopinto, McVea, Mills, Monica, Montoucet, Morris, Nowlin, Pearson, Perry, Pope, Pugh, Richard, Robideaux, Schroder, Simon, Smiley, J. Smith, Talbot, Templet, Thibaut, Waddell, White and Willmott.
NOT VOTING (4): Reps. Katz, Ponti, Richardson and Wooton.
By Amber Sandoval-Griffin
On the side of a white clinic on wheels, Magic Johnson's
smiling face stood 8 feet high in the
The slogan beside the pearly whites of the HIV-positive retired pro basketball player was clear and simple.
"Safe. Easy. Free."
Next stop: a parking spot beside Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter.
During its first-ever tour across the United States, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation/Magic Johnson Caravan is traveling to 14 cities in three weeks in an effort to raise AIDS awareness and offer free testing for HIV, the immunity-damaging virus that leads to AIDS.
After stops in
According to a 2007 report from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, 1.1 million people in the country were living with
HIV/AIDS and 1.8 percent of all U.S. confirmed AIDS cases, or 18,612, were
found in Louisiana. A report by the CDC in August 2008 showed there had been
a 40 percent increase in HIV infection cases in the
"Half of those new patients are in the South," said Azul Mares-Delgrasso, field services manager for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "From what we've heard from our (agency) partners is that there is still a lot of stigma in the South regarding HIV and AIDS. So we decided to reach out to the agencies in the South and draw attention to those agencies by having this mobile unit out here."
The mobile vehicle, which arrived at the
"That is five people that normally wouldn't come in
here and get tested on a Monday morning," said JoAnna
Bruster, a clinical health educator and ourtreach coordinator at the
By the end of the day, 44 people were tested at the
AIDS Healthcare Foundation coordinators roamed blocks near
the two service locations, handing out cards to let people know about the
free, 20-minute oral swab test offered nearby. The health care foundation, a
21-year-old nonprofit based in
Frank McCoil Jr., one of those
"Most people walk around and don't really think about it," he said. "It gives them a chance to consider the testing and think about it. I probably wouldn't have come here today if I didn't see it."
The caravan will stop today in Jackson, Miss. Its national
tour is expected to end in
By Mike Hasten
BATON ROUGE — Almost all of the work the Louisiana Legislature has done on the state budget proposal the past two months has been erased.
That's the opinion of Sen. Lydia Jackson, vice chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, after Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday he will line-item veto all provisions in House Bill 1 that rely on passage of other legislation to provide funds.
"The budget before us now is pretty much the
executive budget" as originally presented by the governor,"
Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro,
chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and author of House Bill 1,
said he's unwilling to go as far as
Jackson said she doesn't see it that way because the governor says he will strip from the budget $278 million in spending tied to other pieces of legislation, including numerous projects House members wanted and other spending that was inserted.
The House version restores some of the cuts to higher education, health care, the arts and tourism. The Senate put those items and some other planned restorations in sections to be funded if a controversial delay of income tax credits, stripping of an insurance fund and legislation authorizing drawing from the budget stabilization, or rainy day, fund are approved.
But "the Legislature still has time to add funds back for higher education" utilizing House-passed legislation in the Senate Finance Committee, the governor said.
Jindal said he will keep his pledge to his predecessors in the governor's office to reduce higher education cuts from the proposed 15 percent — $219 million — to "below 10 percent." Since the higher education budget is $1.42 billion, it would be a cut of less than $142 million.
To many lawmakers' surprise, the House agreed to the Senate changes but without approving the funding sources needed to implement them.
"I wanted them to agree,"
She said she is disappointed the House decided to "throw up our hands and let the governor decide. That's not what I'm going to do as long as I'm a legislator." Senators are working on ways to use the House bills to fund what they believe are the state's priorities, she said, including higher education, health care and important services to the state.
"There are a whole lot of
interesting chess moves going on in the budget process,"
In a separate news conference, Fannin and House Speaker Jim Tucker, D-Algiers, said they also consider "member amendments" — local projects for lawmakers' districts — important for the Legislature to fund.
"We are hopeful the Senate will work with us," Tucker said. "We are not at odds" as to where the state needs to go. "It's just how we get there."
One of the differences is in using the budget stabilization fund. The Senate leadership believes the Legislature needs to draw down the one-third legally available and spread out its use over three years. The House leadership agrees with the governor that the state should wait two more years before drawing money out of the fund.
However the funding problems are worked out, it must be done by Monday, the last day the Legislature can pass bills this session. Only concurrence in amendments and conference committees can occur on the final three days.
The Associated Press
The organization Change Congress is attacking the New Orleans Democrat for her opposition to forming a government health insurance program that would compete with private insurance companies, an option favored by President Barack Obama.
Change Congress suggests that her position is influenced by $1.6 million in campaign contributions from health care and insurance interests.
"Sen. Landrieu makes policy decisions based what is
best for the people of
Change Congress cites a June 9 article in the online Huffington Post in which Landrieu is quoted as saying she is "not open to a public option" and that she backs a bipartisan proposal that doesn't include such an option.
"Sen. Landrieu supports a predominantly private system that features a federal backup plan that serves as a safety net," Saunders said Monday.
He added: "As the debate proceeds, Sen. Landrieu is open to compromise in a comprehensive legislative package, and is focused on appropriate consumer protection and patient-centered care."
Change Congress is a nonpartisan group that lists as its founders Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School who advised Obama's campaign on technology issues, and Joe Trippi, a political consultant who has worked for several high-profile Democrats.
The group's CEO, Adam Green, said Monday that Change
Congress uses pressing domestic issues to demonstrate the potential influence
of monied special interests on policy makers in
Landrieu was targeted on the health care issue because, Green said, "Those who appear to be most at odds with their constituents on this issue are Democrats who are opposing that public option. That's what's driving our strategy at this point."
Green said Change Congress would begin its campaign with
advertisements on Web sites aimed at Internet users in
The Louisiana House of Representatives bewildered everyone, even some of its own members, Thursday when it voted to concur with the Senate version of HB1, the fiscal 2010 state budget.
The bewilderment comes from the fact that the Senate
version is based on revenue enhancements, including use of the "rainy
day" fund and a delay for an income tax break, that the House will
almost certainly reject. So the budget is out of balance, an eventuality
Why would the House take such action, if that's the word? The answer is easier to see if we cast the problem the way an economist would. First, we'll assume a lack of backbone.
By now, everyone who follows state government is only too familiar with the overall problem. Falling energy prices, slowly rising unemployment and other factors are depressing state government revenue.
Faced with a potential $1.3 billion drop in state income during the budget year that begins July 1, Gov. Bobby Jindal submitted a budget that lopped $450 million from health- care spending and $219 million from higher education.
In response, the Senate voted to delay provisions that
The pressure to avoid such drastic health-care and higher-education cuts had been building for weeks.
College administrators sounded the alarm first, saying their institutions would lose talented faculty members and jobs. Health-care providers chimed in. Finally, on Thursday, the morning of the House vote, four former governors urged Jindal to go easier on higher education.
There are many solid reasons to complain about Gov. Jindal's proposed cuts. But he found a problem and tried to fix it, even though his solution isn't popular.
The Senate can be mocked for delaying a tax cut as the state begins to suffer from the national recession. But the Senate found a problem and tried to fix it, even though its solution isn't popular.
The House dithered for a while, and then punted, avoiding hard votes, dodging any effort that might have contributed to a solution, ducking the wrath of influential people in health care and higher education, and putting Louisiana in budget limbo.
It was a cowardly thing to do.
By Jeff Sadow
We’ll find out shortly whether the resolve of Gov. Bobby Jindal pays off with bills to restructure the state’s fiscal budgetary procedures.
A criticism of the mechanisms placed into law and the Louisiana Constitution is that, in times such as these when forecasted budget deficits cause significant restructuring of state spending patterns, inflexibility leads to sub-optimal policy choices. Specifically in this cycle, disproportionate chunks must be taken out of health care and higher education due to these strictures.
The recognition basically has sunk in. The
But all of this agony may have a larger political point. The Jindal Administration spawned a large number of bills addressing these kinds of matters, many of which will surface in front of the House Appropriations Committee today. They are designed to increase budgetary flexibility.
Interestingly, there is non-trivial opposition to such measures. Some argue that certain functions are too important not to be protected, while others point out that the increased flexibility could allow government to transfer funds put into account directly from the non-government sector to benefit the donors. Several ardent opponents of these measures appear to be on the committee. However, the stark reality of the costs of the inflexible system are being loudly trumpeted by the most prominent victims of it, higher education and health care, putting pressure on the Legislature to pass these measure for Jindal’s signature.
Unfortunately, one outstanding measure, HB 738 by state Rep. Joel Robideaux which would require review of funds every four years to see whether they should continue with special protections that reduce flexibility, is not being considered along with the other flexibility bills of Senate Pres. Joel Chaisson SB 1, SB 2, and SB 34. It would do considerable service if the committee would amend its provisions onto one of these other bills.
Successful passage of these bills not significantly altered out of this committee probably assures they will be made into law. Hopefully that proper outcome will occur today.
by Robert Travis Scott, The Times-Picayune
BATON ROUGE -- The House of Representatives this afternoon defeated a bill that would increased tobacco taxes by a vote of 45-55, which was 25 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
An intense lobbying effort by supporters and opponents led Monday's House floor vote.
Gov. Bobby Jindal had pledged to veto the legislation, which had become a rallying point for lawmakers seeking revenue for state health care programs in an era of deep budget cuts.
"The evidence is clear -- our people are hurting. The jury's in, and if we don't do anything soon, it will only get worse," said bill author Rep. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans. "We've got to start someplace."
A block of House members were against any tax increase in principle and favored budgetary restraints.
"Let's call it what it is: a tax. Can they justify this? Absolutely," said Rep. Joseph Lopinto, R-Metairie, the only lawmaker who spoke on the House floor against the bill. "But we are here to change the status quo, and I don't believe that should be to raise new taxes. My problem is, my citizens in my area voted for me to come up here and tighten our belts."
Called the Louisiana Healthier Families Act, House Bill
889 calls for a 50-cent-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes and an increase
in taxes on other tobacco products. If passed, it would raise an estimated
$92 million in new state revenue the first year and more than $100 million in
subsequent years, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office. If smoking
declined more than expected in
The federal cigarette tax increased from 39 cents to about $1.01 per pack on April 1.
A $1.41-per-pack tax on cigarettes in
The legislation has had a hard journey this session. The Ways and Means Committee killed the first version of the bill, for a $1-per-pack increase, on the second day of the session.
Peterson brought a new version of the bill to the committee on May 12 at a 50-cent rate. The panel could not gather enough members to form a quorum for a meeting as two members holed up in the governor's office.
Peterson, whose grandmother died of lung cancer, finally got a committee hearing last week and came away with an 8-7 favorable vote. On the House floor last week, opponents fell short in efforts to derail the measure with procedural moves to shift it into more committee hearings.
Opponents to the bill included tobacco companies and trade associations for product sellers, who argued that it would put a severe tax on an already decreasing number of tobacco users who make up about 22 percent of the population.
A bevy of supporters included the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Louisiana. They said the higher tax would deter young people especially from smoking and provide better resources for health care services and research.
Had the bill passed, it would have gone to the Senate, where a friendlier reception might have been expected. The proposal could reappear as an amendment to some other bill in the Senate.
By Jessica Zigmond
A majority of Americans—61%—say they believe health reform is more important than ever, given the nation’s serious economic problems, according to a June health tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Also, six in ericans say the nation’s healthcare system could be reformed without spending more money to do so. In a news release about the poll, Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman said that view might be unrealistic.
“With all of the talk of inefficiencies in the system and achieving future savings, the public may confuse the potential for long-term savings with the need for short-term outlays and think that healthcare can be reformed for free,” Altman said. “This could make policymakers’ jobs tougher when the price tag for legislation comes out.”
Meanwhile, 55% of Americans reported that they or another member of their household have put off some medical care—such as not filling a prescription or skipping a recommended test—in the last 12 months due to cost. A healthy majority, 70%, said they liked the idea of insurance exchanges, an element of the legislation now being drafted on Capitol Hill, as a way to help people purchase insurance on their own. Also, a little more than half (54%) of Americans say they oppose taxing the employer-sponsored health benefits of those with the most generous plans, while about 67% say they are against across-the-board increases on income taxes.
The survey was conducted from June 1 through June ong a nationally representative random sample of 1,205 adults who were 18 years of age or older.
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