WRKF News

Pennington Experiments with House Calls for Nutrition

Jun 8, 2015

Researchers at Pennington Biomedical know that in order to get kids eating well, they’ve got to get to the parents. As part of a new study, Pennington Interventionist, Allison Davis, is experimenting with going into the homes of families with young children -- ages two to six. She’s showing parents and their kids how to eat better and move more.

Both the House and Senate worked over the weekend. Yet even Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield – the governor’s point man on tax increases and tax offsets -- notes the two chambers do not appear to be working together.

“There’s a lot of people posturing and a lot of politics right now,” Barfield observes, “So I don’t know what will happen in the end.”

The rift centers on the SAVE plan, creating a college fee that students won’t pay, offset by tax credits paid to higher education. After House Ways and Means killed the bill last week, its author, Senate Finance chair Jack Donahue, resurrected it. He did so by amending the language from his SB 284 onto three other tax bills, each authored by House Ways and Means chairman Joel Robideaux.

24 years after the legislature authorized the prescribing of medical marijuana, the House has approved the Senate’s bill to set up a system for filling those prescriptions.

“So that it can finally be dispensed in a safe, secure, and responsible manner,” explained New Orleans Rep. Helena Moreno, who was handling SB 143 on the House floor for Sen. Fred Mills.

As one might expect, there were objections and counter-arguments. Bossier City Rep. Mike Johnson worried about the state’s image, if the bill passed.

Amy Jeffries / WRKF

As many as twenty-two states have budget shortfalls for the next fiscal year. Louisiana is dealing with one of the biggest — $1.6 billion.

As lawmakers wrestle with the problem, they essentially have two choices: cut spending or raise taxes.

But, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s ambitions for higher office are complicating the debate.

 


The bill that was supposed to save the budget from Governor Bobby Jindal’s veto pen sank in House committee Wednesday.

Jack Donahue’s SB 284, known as the SAVE bill, would have created a fee on college students. Students wouldn’t actually pay it; instead, just by registering for classes, they would assign the tax credit for that “fee” over to higher education’s Board of Regents.

“This, to me, just seems like it’s a gimmick,” Gonzales Rep. Eddie Lambert said of the scheme. “Why are we doing this?”

Remember that children’s game—Barrel of Monkeys? The House appears to be playing it, as they link tax bills together by amendments, trying to preserve some control over the budget.

It starts with Senator Bob Adley’s SB 93, which cancels the $25 education credit parents can claim on income tax returns, if they also take the income deduction for paying private school tuition.

“All it does is stop a double-dip on the private side,” Adley says.

And it would save the state $2.3 million a year. Simple idea, until House Ways and Means amended SB 93, tying its approval to the passage of two other bills.

State Treasurer John Kennedy says when it comes to fixing the state budget, the legislature is doing it all wrong.

“Your goal ought not to be, ‘We need to get some more cash in this place.’ Your goal really ought to be, ‘Let’s make a tax system that looks like somebody designed it on purpose’,” Kennedy told the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday.

Lawmakers have advanced bills for temporary fixes, like suspending sales tax holidays, limiting film tax credits, and taking 20% off the top of the refundable business inventory tax credit. Kennedy said he’s disturbed by the lack of an organized plan to actually cure the state’s fiscal problems long-term.

When a woman in Louisiana has a mammogram or breast ultrasound, she typically waits for a phone call from her doctor. She’ll either get the all-clear, or -- if something is spotted -- be told to come in for further tests. One Louisiana breast cancer survivor is asking state lawmakers for women to get more information up front.

In what’s become a sad tradition, the folks in yellow shirts came to the capitol again Saturday. It was their last chance this session to beg for more funding for the help they need caring for disabled family members at home.

The litany of their waiting and hoping for help was heartbreaking.

“Kiera has already been on the waiting list for waiver services for 6 years now.”

“Marcus has been on the waiting list since 2001.”

“If we have to continue to wait for waiver services, Riley may not be here to receive them.”

“Our children are disabled. Waiver slots need to be filled and the wait list needs to stop.”

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is considered to be one of the most influential lobbies at the state capitol. But this year, with a looming $1.6 billion budget shortfall, business interests are on shakier ground than usual.

Stephen Waguespack, President of LABI, says there's been no appetite for pension or spending reform. Instead lawmakers have focused on reducing tax breaks that benefit business.


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