WRKF News

Participants in the legislative process can easily get sucked into the intensity of a session. BUT Louisiana lawmaking does not take place in a vacuum. It happens in the tallest state capitol building in the United States—a place filled with symbolism.

Built in the first few years of the Great Depression, it was the brainchild of then-Governor Huey P. Long.

“He completed it in just 14 months’ time, at the cost of five million dollars,” explains Capitol tour guide Audrey Fry.

Arrested Development frontman, Speech.
Courtesy of the artist

The Atlanta-based group Arrested Development hit it big in 1992 with its debut album pioneering hip hop with a message.

Arrested Development disbanded for a while, then came back together about 15 years ago. And, as frontman Speech told WRKF's Amy Jeffries when he called in to the newsroom, they’ve been working mostly overseas since then.

They came back from a tour in Japan just in time to perform at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival this Saturday, April 11. Arrested Development will be talking more with WRKF's Amy Jeffries Backstage at Blues Fest at 2:45 p.m.

courtesy LSU

Louisiana’s House Appropriations Committee has been asking every agency to present their worst-case scenario when showing up for budget hearings. Wednesday, the committee got the grim prognosis—full force—from higher education.

“Higher education would be reduced by $600-million. That’s an 82-percent reduction from 14-15,” legislative budget analyst Willis Brewer stated.

It wasn’t a comfortable conversation, as Lake Charles Rep. Brett Geymann — a Common Core opponent — grilled Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White in the House Appropriations committee meeting Tuesday. At issue were plans to purchase new batteries of state standardized tests.


The budget is the big issue when the legislature convenes next week, and the administration is placing heavy emphasis on GEMS initiatives.

“GEMS” is the acronym for Government Efficiencies Management Support”, which is the title of the efficiency report commissioned last year from the consulting firm of Alvarez and Marsal. Although the report wasn’t delivered till the very end of last year’s session, lawmakers were loudly skeptical of the cost of the contract to provide the report, and the savings promised by Alvarez and Marsal.

Out of Prison, Counseling Keeps Mental Health in Check

Apr 6, 2015

While Chiffonda Hampton was serving three years in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, she met Tonja Myles, a Peer Support Specialist with Capital Area Human Services. Myles was offering wellness classes to inmates with mental illness. Those classes taught Hampton how to cope with the anger of being abused as a child and basic life skills she had never learned before. Now that Hampton is out of prison, she continues to check in with Myles at CAHS.

Fifteen million pounds of deteriorating explosives are improperly stored at Camp Minden in northwest Louisiana. The company charged with disposing of them has gone bankrupt. The U.S. Army agreed to destroy the M6 propellant via open tray burning. Area residents said no.

Last week, lawmakers on the House Appropriations committee asked Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Peggy Hatch for an update.

The Louisiana survey takes the pulse of the people every year about major policy issues facing the state. LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab has been rolling out the results of this year’s edition.

Research Director Michael Henderson agrees public opinion is leaving lawmakers between a rock and a hard place when it comes to closing the state budget hole. As for state services, the public gives the colleges and universities particularly high marks. And though a majority still opposes it, there's slowly growing acceptance of same-sex marriage.


Taming TOPS

Apr 2, 2015

It happens every session: lawmakers, seeing the quarter of a billion dollar price tag on TOPS, look for ways to tweak the college scholarship program. This time, they might succeed.

“By establishing a ‘baseline’ tuition, future tuition increases will not be reflected in the state budget,” says Senate Finance committee chairman Jack Donahue, who is the author of Senate Bill 48. “This will allow the legislature to do a better job predicting the overall cost.

The House Appropriations committee combed through the Department of Corrections budget Tuesday, and testimony confirmed what many criminal justice reform advocates have long said: this state has the nation’s highest per capita incarceration rate.

Marrero Rep. Patrick Connick pitched the big question.

“The inmates, in 27 years, have increased 110 percent. And the population of Louisiana has increased 9 percent over the same period. How do you explain that?” Connick asked Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc.

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