WRKF News

The deadline for pre-filing bills for the 2016 legislative session is just 30 days away. But where does the track for a bill actually start?

Louisiana House Clerk Alfred “Butch” Speer says the process starts with a member’s idea, which is then brought to one of the 80 people who work in the House Legislative Service Division.

At first, it seemed as though everyone was breathing a sigh of relief, as the 2016 executive budget proposal unveiled last week did not slash higher education as deeply as expected.

“The true reduction to higher education is $211.3 million,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols told the Joint Budget Committee last Friday.

But Nichols went on to admit that number is built on “ifs” and “maybes” that include capping the business inventory tax credit, as well as asking college students to pay what the administration is calling an “excellence fee”.

Wallis Watkins

After the nearby charity hospital, Earl K. Long, was shut down, Baton Rouge General’s Mid-City Emergency Room took on more patients. And, in 2013, LSU Health’s Urgent Care Clinic in North Baton Rouge opened. But, the sign on the urgent care clinic’s door reads, “NO EMERGENCY ROOM.”

One component of the Jindal administration’s 2016 budget proposal, revealed Friday, involves holding the line on spending in the public-private hospital partnerships. The private partners in the LSU hospital deals had asked for an additional $142-million in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“What we funded these hospitals for was level funding, effectively,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols detailed to the Joint Budget Committee. “And some of the hospitals are projecting growth above level funding. That’s the point of discussion that we are going to have to work through in this process.”

A couple of years ago, law enforcement in Baton Rouge decided to try a different approach to tackling violent crime.

The Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project — or BRAVE — is premised by the idea that social influence can be a driver for amplifying or suppressing criminal behavior. That’s how Tracey Rizzuto — psychologist, researcher, and associate professor at LSU — got drawn into it.

She’s aiding the BRAVE project with social network analysis. And she’s going to be talking about her work tomorrow at TEDxLSU.

The Jindal administration unveils its budget proposal today for the next fiscal year. What solutions to the $1.6-billion deficit will be proposed?

“Until we see it, we don’t really know,” says Lafayette Rep. Joel Robideaux.

Even House Speaker Chuck Kleckley admits he has been kept in the dark.

“I know nothing,” Kleckley told us earlier this week. “I don’t know anything more than you know, or what I read in the press.”

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry will push lawmakers to lower the state’s uniquely high threshold for civil jury trials in the upcoming session. LABI president Stephen Waguespack says current law violates your constitutional right to trial by jury.

“You — as a citizen — can’t get a jury unless you’re sued above $50,000,” Waguespack explains. “If you’re sued for $35-, $40-, $45-thousand, then you better hope you’re going to get assigned to the right judge, because it’s the only choice you’re going to get here.”

We know their public personas, but what do Louisiana’s statewide elected officials do when they’re off the clock?

“Collecting sports memorabilia and Louisiana history stories have been my passions, as of late,” says Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne. He loves to recount those stories he’s learned of the characters and quirks that have made the Bayou State both strange and wonderful. One of his favorite tales involves former state Senator Dudley LeBlanc of Abbeville.

“It’s horrible. It’s as bad as we’ve seen, for sure.”

Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, says the budget cuts looming ahead for Louisiana’s public colleges and universities are nothing short of brutal.

“We’re talking about three, four, five hundred million—they’re saying—in one year? That is an insurmountable obstacle for these schools.”

Erwin attended Monday’s meeting between governing board members for all of the state’s higher education systems, and some influential lawmakers. With the governor’s budget proposal due to be unveiled Friday, all are asking the same question: How bad will it be?

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The MRI machine in Dr. Owen Carmichael's lab blares as it scans a subject's brain.  Carmichael, Director of Biomedical Imaging at Pennington Research Center, studies those scans trying to understand how the brain ages.

Carmichael explains that "what you'll see on the MRI scan is the amount of brain tissue.  And all of that brain tissue is part of that electrical circuitry that makes it possible for you to think."  As we age, our brains tend to shrink.  And as that tissue goes away, the harder it becomes to think.

He describes the young brain as a grape that's just been pulled from the vine, while "the elderly brain looks more like a raisin, in that it's deflated and smaller in size.  And the person with Alzheimer's, that 'looking like a grape' goes even further, it's extremely shriveled up."

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