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How will these union issues impact labor issues in Louisiana?
An Ohio bill that would restrict collective bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers was headed Wednesday to a vote by the GOP-led Senate after leadership ousted from a key committee a fellow-Republican who had expressed his disapproval of the measure.The chamber was expected to take up the bill Wednesday afternoon after it passed out of the Senate
Landrieu and Minority Access
– United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, will hold a hearing Thursday, March 3, 2011 entitled “Closing the Gap: Exploring Minority Access to Capital and Contracting Opportunities.” This hearing will highlight challenges facing minority owned businesses trying to get venture and other forms of capital funding, and the role entrepreneurial training can play in helping these firms survive and flourish. In addition to minority access to capital, the hearing will focus on the important role that government contracting can play in enabling small businesses to grow and expand. Finally, the hearing will highlight the wealth disparities in this country and ways the Committee and the Small Business Administration (SBA) can work to close these gaps and tighten these disparities through targeted business education and training.
Louisiana Insurance Online
Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon announces that the 2010 online auto and homeowners rate comparison guides are now available for viewing on the Department of Insurance Web site at www.ldi.la.gov.
“The rate guides provide premium quotes from top carriers of auto and homeowners insurance in our state,” said Donelon. The automobile quotes reflect various rating situations such as driver and vehicle age, location and driving record. The homeowners quotes reflect rating situations such as location and the age and price of the home. “It is important to remember that these rates are only for comparison purposes,” Donelon added. “The examples given may not precisely reflect your individual circumstances, and you may find that a company not listed in the guide can best offer the coverage and service you need.”
To access the guides, visit www.ldi.la.gov, click on Media located at the top of the home page,then click on Consumer Publications. Once you have accessed the guides and compared the various companies, you can continue your search by clicking on each individual company listed to access the company Web site. The department can provide information on the national rating of each insurer and the number of complaints, if any, that have been filed against a company. If
you would like further guidance, contact the Department of Insurance at 1-800-259-5300.
Committee passes Ohio bill to ban worker strikes
An Ohio bill that would restrict collective bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers was headed Wednesday to a vote by the GOP-led Senate after leadership ousted from a key committee a fellow-Republican who had expressed his disapproval of the measure.
The chamber was expected to take up the bill Wednesday afternoon after it passed out of the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee on a 7-5 vote. All four Democrats and one...
Oil Spill Health Effects To Be Studied By National Institutes Of Health
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. National Institutes of Health has launched a massive, long-range health study of people who helped clean up last year's BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The study aims to check for possible health effects on 55,000 clean-up workers and volunteers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Participants will be followed for up to 10 years, NIH said in a statement.
The study was launched on Monday, the same day U.S. regulators granted the first deepwater drilling permit since the massive BP spill last April prompted the Obama administration to impose a drilling moratorium.
Government overlap costs taxpayers billions, GAO reports
by Ed O'Keefe (excerpt)
With Congress and the White House set to debate the merits of massive spending cuts, federal auditors have identified hundreds of overlapping government offices and programs that if merged or eliminated could save taxpayers billions of dollars.
The U.S. government has, for example, more than 100 programs dealing with surface transportation issues, 82 that monitor teacher quality, 80 for economic development, 56 for "financial literacy," 20 offices or programs devoted to homelessness and 17 grant programs for disaster preparedness, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday. Among other redundancies, 15 agencies or offices handle food safety, and five agencies are working to ensure that the federal government uses less gasoline. "Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services," the GAO said.
The study, ordered last year as part of legislation raising the federal debt limit, quickly earned the attention of lawmakers eager to identify potential spending cuts.
Thirty-seven percent (37%) of American adults think labor unions have “too much influence on American life and politics today,” according to a recently released CBS News/New York Times poll. Only half as many (19%) believe that unions have too little influence. Twenty-nine percent (29%) say the level of influence is about right, while 15% are not sure. The survey of 984 adults was conducted February 24-27, 2011.
The survey also finds a fairly even divide when it comes to assessing the motives of those “governors and state legislators” who “try to reduce the benefits of public employees.” By a narrow 45% to 41%, a modest plurality believes the primary motivation is to reduce budget deficits. A similar plurality finds that American adults prefer spending cuts over tax hikes as a way to reduce state budget deficits. Given a list of four options, 45% say their top choice is a reduction in spending, while 40% pick a tax hike. The spending options include 22% who pick a decrease in benefits for public employees, 20% who would rather see a decrease in funding for roads and three percent (3%) who opt for decreased funding for education.
Earlier polling by Rasmussen Reports found support for reducing the total state payroll by 10% over 10 years. Additionally, 61% believe that state employees should pay the same share of their income for benefits as private sector workers.
More than 200 residents and local officials gathered at the Monroe Convention Center Tuesday to voice concerns and give opinions where political lines should be drawn. The public forum on redistricting was one of nine meetings held throughout the state to gather citizen input. State Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, chairman of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, and state Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe, chairman of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, led the meeting, which included a brief lecture about redistricting and why it has to be done.
One of the biggest issues facing the state will be how to draw Louisiana's new congressional districts, which will be reduced from seven to six because of the state's slow population growth during the last decade. Other entities affected by redistricting include the House and Senate, Public Service Commission, State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and courts. "I think the public comments have been very good," Gallot said. "People throughout the state have been very engaged and that will help us."
Some people who attended the meeting said they want to see northeast Louisiana join with the Shreveport area to form a congressional district, while others asked the committee to keep two districts in northeast Louisiana to allow residents in the northern region to have representation.
19,500 Louisiana residents are owed money on 2007 taxes
by Bruce Alpert - Times-Picayune (excerpt)
WASHINGTON -- Refunds totaling $20.3 million may be awaiting 19,500 Louisiana residents who failed to file tax returns in 2007, according to the IRS. The potential refunds, according to IRS (www.irs.gov) estimates, average $663. The IRS says that taxpayers have only until April 18 to file their 2007 returns and collected any owed refunds. Why haven't the taxpayers filed? The IRS says for some people it might be because they didn't make enough income to pay taxes, and figured there was no reason to file -- even though they had some taxes withheld that year.
Former state Rep. Charlie DeWitt regaled Alexandria Rotarians with tales of the Legislature on Tuesday, the way things used to be when he was in the state House of Representatives. Then he issued a warning at the end of the luncheon.
DeWitt, a Democrat from Lecompte who served in the House from 1980 until 2008, said to keep an eye on what happens to merger talks that could lead to combining the University of New Orleans and Southern University at New Orleans, which DeWitt called a "good thing." Both schools have low graduations rates and sit just a few miles from each other on the south bank of Lake Pontchartrain.
But a UNO-SUNO merger also could lead to stripping Louisiana State University at Alexandria of its four-year university status, DeWitt said. "The worst thing that will happen is we go back to a two-year school," he said.
Two hospital and one physician group announced Tuesday they are withdrawing from a coalition formed over concerns about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed health-care delivery system for the poor. The groups cited changes made that make Jindal’s original plan more palatable as their reason for resigning from the Coalition to Protect Louisiana’s Healthcare. Staying in the coalition are groups that represent pediatricians, obstetricians and family practice physicians, who provide most of the care in the Medicaid system Jindal wants to change.
Jindal’s plan affects two-thirds of the state’s 1.2 million Medicaid recipients — 686,000 of them children. Under the plan, private insurance companies or other entities would be responsible for delivering health care through what is called “coordinated care networks” of physicians, hospitals and other providers.
The Louisiana Hospital Association, the Metropolitan Hospital Council of New Orleans and the Louisiana State Medical Society said they dropped their objections to Jindal’s plan to privatize taxpayer-funded health care for the poor. However, the Medical Society added that an alternative plan developed for the coalition involving a state-based partnership with providers and patients should be considered as a third option.
Given the state of Louisiana's renewed interest in selling its prisons to private firms, it's worth looking over the shoulder to see how we got here. In 1985, more than a quarter-century ago, the Legislature authorized contracting with private companies as an economic-development strategy. At the time, the state's oil-and-gas-dependent economy was in a state of free-fall, its credit rating was in the tank, and its prison population was soaring. Why not get into a "growth" industry?
Contracting with companies to build and run prisons seemed to be a smart move to a majority in the Legislature and to many people, especially in the rural parishes, who desperately needed jobs.
The underlying argument -- one that continues to be floated and bought today -- is that private companies can do the job cheaper than the state, primarily because they are not bound by Civil Service employment rules that bring higher salaries, more benefits and pensions.
As state lawmakers prepare to redraw boundaries for Louisiana’s top school board the Baton Rouge area district will play a key role. The District 6 seat held by Chas Roemer, of Baton Rouge, has 25 percent more people than the targeted figure because of population gains in the past decade.
Roemer said Tuesday he figures his district will undergo major changes so that legislators can hammer out an acceptable map for all eight members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Where it comes from and who it goes to, I don’t know,” Roemer said of boundary changes needed to meet equitable district sizes.
BESE sets state policies for an estimated 668,000 public school students statewide. Eight of the panel’s 11 members are picked by voters. Boundaries for those eight are about to be redrawn, and each seat is up for grabs this year.
Jindal puts $12 million in state money into BP oil spill restoration efforts
by Mark Schleifstein - Times-Picayune (excerpt)
Gov. Bobby Jindal today announced that the state will spend $12 million to restore wetlands and rebuild oyster beds that have been damaged as a result of the BP oil spill and will bill the company for repayment. Jindal said the step was needed because BP has not responded to the state's request for money to pay to put out oyster spat in beds where oysters were killed after the state opened freshwater diversions to block oil from moving into wetlands. The states request for BP to rebuild wetlands oiled during the uncontrolled release of crude from the Macondo well has also gone unanswered. "We urge BP to follow our lead, replenish these funds as quickly as possible and take other steps to restore our coast," Jindal said.
Testimony and arguments ended Tuesday in the racketeering and bribery trial of White Castle Police Chief Mario Brown and his brother, former Mayor Maurice Brown. Jurors are scheduled to receive the case Wednesday morning from U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson. “This is not a case about an apple and a wily serpent,” Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Patricia Jones told the jury Tuesday.
Jones said the two men used their positions to serve the interests of a pair of corrupt businessmen, who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent and a paid operative for the bureau.
Because of those choices, Jones said of the Brown brothers, they received a combined total of more than $10,000 in cash, tickets to New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Hornets games and other things of value. “Both of the defendants, when they knew they were caught, confessed,” Jones added.
William Jefferson's appellate lawyer has cancer, asks for delay in oral argument
by Bruce Alpert - Times-Picayune (excerpt)
WASHINGTON -- Former Rep. William Jefferson's appellate lawyer has lymphoma and will be convalescing from a stem-cell transplant and high-dose chemotherapy in May when the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is tentatively scheduled to hear oral arguments in the former congressman's public corruption case. Lawrence Robbins, the well-known Washington D.C. appellate lawyer, requested that oral arguments be delayed until September and said federal prosecutors don't oppose the delay. Lymphoma is a cancer in the lymphatic cells of the immune system.
Two killings that occurred Tuesday in Baton Rouge bring the total number of homicides for the first two months of the year in East Baton Rouge Parish to 21. There were seven homicides during the same time period in 2010, according to data compiled by The Advocate.
At 6 a.m. Tuesday, police officers thought they were responding to a traffic accident, but instead discovered the body of person who had been shot in the driver’s side of a car in the 1700 block of Scenic Highway, police spokesman Sgt. Don Stone said.
The identity of the victim is being withheld until family can be notified, Stone said in a news release.