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Legislative Roundup: Local projects included in capital outlay bill

Last Modified: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 6:28 PM

By Jim Beam and John Guidroz / American Press

BATON ROUGE — Improvements to higher education facilities, water and sewer system upgrades and road construction are some of the proposed local projects included in the capital outlay bill for the 2014 fiscal year.

House Bill 2 was submitted to the Legislature on Monday. Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a Tuesday news release that investing money for these projects shows “our commitment to moving Louisiana forward so that our state is the best place in the country to live, work and raise a family.”

The funds are given a priority, with Priority 1 money usually being distributed during the fiscal year. Priority 2 projects are intended for working on project plans and designs, and Priority 5 projects can get non-cash lines of credit or eventually be moved to a higher priority.

One of the larger investments includes $20.8 million in Priority 5 funds and $2.5 million in Priority 2 money for the McNeese State University Health/Human Performance Education Complex.

Additional McNeese projects listed in the bill: $3 million to renovate the Shearman Fine Arts Building; $2 million to renovate and repair Frazar Memorial Library; $1 million for upgrades related to the American with Disabilities Act; and $900,000 to renovate Alpha Hall.

The measure also includes $6.5 million to renovate Sowela Technical Community College’s Morgan Smith Campus in Jennings. Most of the funding is listed as Priority 5.

Water, sewer

The water and sewer improvements include $9.53 million in Priority 2 and 5 money to pay for a planning and building a wastewater treatment plant in Calcasieu Parish.

Additional projects include $8.9 million for gravity sewer trunk mains and pumping stations at South Ward 3 and South Ward 4 and $7 million in infrastructure improvements within Calcasieu Parish.

The measure also includes $425,000 to pay for planning and construction of a water well in Westlake.

Other investments

Another big project includes $20 million in Priority 5 funding for plans and construction and improvements to the Cove Lane interchange.

Here is a list of additional projects listed in the bill for Calcasieu:

$350,000 for planning and construction and $2.75 million in Priority 5 funding for the New Air Cargo Facility.

$260,000 for planning and construction and $1.825 million in Priority 5 funding for the New Aviation Hangar and Ground Support Equipment Facility.

$1.5 million for planning and construction for Community Center Phase 2 Event Center.

$1.305 million for land acquisition and rehabilitation of an existing bulkhead.

$1.125 million for improving Ellis and Linda Drive in Westlake.

$1 million for relocating railroad tracks along Sallier Street.

$500,000 for construction of the new administration building at the Port of Lake Charles.

$400,000 for renovations to Lake Charles-Boston stadium.

$250,000 for dredging of Berth 8 City Docks.

Medicaid reporting bill has legs

The third time appears to be the charm for a bill sponsored by Southwest Louisiana legislators that is designed to shed some light on the state’s new Medicaid program. Medicaid is a federal-state health care delivery system for the state’s poor and low-income residents.

Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed two earlier bills, but said he isn’t going to veto Senate Bill 55 by Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur. It is up for consideration at the current legislative session.

The Johns measure is similar to one that was vetoed by Jindal the last two years after being approved unanimously by the House and Senate. The governor said the Johns bill is OK because DHH has had ample time to get a new Medicaid delivery system up and running.

Jindal said he vetoed a 2011 bill by former state Sen. Willie Mount because it would have terminated the new program. However, it did provide for reauthorization by the Legislature in 2014. The 2012 Johns bill was vetoed by the governor because it required “duplicative and unnecessary reporting requirements...”

Mount, D-Lake Charles, sponsored the first attempt to open the new program to public scrutiny of three Medicaid programs supervised by the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

The three programs that the Johns bill would make more transparent are the Medicaid Bayou Health Program, the Behavioral Health Partnership and the Coordinated System of Care. The governor in 2011 had DHH turn those programs over to private insurance companies.

DHH describes Bayou Health as the new way most of Louisiana’s Medicaid and LaCHIP (Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program) recipients receive health care services. The Behavioral Health Partnership manages care for state-provided services like mental health care and addiction treatment. Coordinated Care is for the state’s at-risk children and youth with behavioral health challenges.

Jindal said two years ago the Coordinated Care Networks would provide a medical home for 800,000 state Medicaid recipients, providing better access to primary and preventative care, improved health outcomes and savings of over $135 million in the current fiscal year.

Mount was chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare at the time. The reports she and Johns requested would have been submitted to the House and Senate health and welfare committees.

Johns and Mount said they wanted regular reports because of the sweeping changes being made to the Medicaid program involving billions of state and federal dollars. The Johns bill wants the care networks to be identified, information on the patients receiving care, the number and types of claims being denied, health outcomes and savings estimates.

The proposed legislation also says DHH “shall make available to the public on the department’s website all Medicaid state plan amendments and any related correspondence within 24 hours of submission to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”

Dogs in the bed of pickup trucks

A House committee on Monday backed a measure that would require dogs to be placed inside a secured crate or cage while riding in the bed of a pickup truck on interstate highways.

The House Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works reported House Bill 470, by Rep. Thomas Willmott, R-Kenner, favorably. It heads to the House floor for consideration.

Willmott said he removed a provision from a similar bill filed last year that required dogs and cats to be in a crate while riding in truck beds on roads with a speed limit of 40 mph or greater. The transportation committee rejected last year’s legislation with a 12-2 vote.

He said the current measure applies to dogs only and also requires that the crates be ventilated. Violators could face a fine of $150 for one dog that is not properly secured and a $50 fine for each additional dog.

“This is a safety bill,” Willmott said.

Jeff Dorson, director of the Humane Society of Louisiana, said dogs that are not secured in the bed of a truck can distract drivers and cause serious injuries if the animals fall out.

John Long, president of the German Shepherd Dog Club of Louisiana, talked about seeing a dog fall out of the bed of a pickup truck. He said the dog was tethered to the truck.

If the measure is approved, the provision would apply to nearly 900 miles of interstate highways in the state.

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