KVCL Local News

The Louisiana House has narrowly approved a $27 billion state operating budget for next year that could shutter health care services and would leave the TOPS program short of full financing. Lawmakers voted 55-47 for the spending plan for the financial year that begins July 1. Nearly all Democrats opposed the proposal. Thursday's vote was a win for House Republican leaders who pushed for passage of a budget rather than wait to craft something in a special session. Louisiana has a $648 million budget gap next year, and Edwards wants lawmakers to replace some expiring temporary taxes in a special session. Republicans who supported the budget say gaps could be filled later in the special session.

Entergy Louisiana customers will see a series of rate reductions over the remainder of 2018 under an agreement approved Wednesday by the Louisiana Public Service Commission. The first reduction will occur in May as a result of $210 million in federal tax reform-related savings, $105 million of which will be returned to customers over the next eight months, with the remaining half of these savings returned to customers over the following four years. As a result, a typical residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month will see a roughly $4.20 decrease on monthly bills from May through December of this year. A second reduction of about $2 per month on residential bills will occur in September as a result of additional credits tied to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act approved by Congress in late 2017. Customers will see significant savings in October when recovery of storm restoration costs associated with hurricanes Katrina and Rita roll off bills.

Louisiana House Republican leaders have given priority to the TOPS college tuition program in next year's budget, choosing to shield the awards from cuts while making steep reductions across health services for the poor and disabled. House Appropriations Committee members Monday rewrote the spending plan for the financial year that begins July 1. The majority-Republican committee decided to make the majority of cuts to close a $648 million shortfall in the health department. TOPS would be fully financed, but higher education campuses would take $22 million in reductions. With a 17-6 vote, the committee sent the budget proposal to the full House for debate. All but one Republican backed the spending plan, while all Democrats voted against it. The full House is expected to debate the bill Thursday.

The size of Louisiana's budget shortfall has dropped to $648 million. Louisiana's income forecasting panel Thursday revised revenue projections for the upcoming budget year that begins July 1. The budget gap previously had been pegged at $994 million, but changes largely tied to the impact of the federal tax overhaul lessened the hole by $346 million. Most of the changes had been expected, though the bottom line is slightly better than anticipated. Still, lawmakers trying to craft next year's spending plans will have to make $648 million in state financing cuts to keep things in balance. The shortfall is caused by expiring temporary taxes. Governor John Bel Edwards wants to hold a special session to fill the gap with replacement taxes.

With more than a year away from the Louisiana Governor's race, U.S. Senator John Kennedy says that he's thinking seriously about challenging current Governor John. Bel Edwards. Kennedy said that he is "considering" a run for governor, but he made clear that the decision has not yet been made. Kennedy said that he's thinking very seriously about running, but that he has not made a decision. Kennedy said that he does not think Edwards has been an effective governor, criticizing Edwards' position on illegal immigration, criminal justice reform and taxes. Kennedy’s term in the U.S. Senate will end in 2022.

Louisiana has more state-created boards and commissions than any other Southeastern state. A Legislative Auditor's Office review found Louisiana had 464 boards and commissions for the financial year that ended June 30. The auditor's office says the panels spent $1 million in board member per diem expenses, $1.6 million on salaries and $1.5 million for travel. Much of the money comes from fees or other dedicated sources.The annual audit found the number of boards is down from 485 panels recorded in 2013. Nineteen boards were deemed inactive. The boards that paid the most in salaries were the Public Service Commission, the Tax Commission, the Gaming Control Board, the Louisiana Lottery Corporation Board of Directors and the Board of Tax Appeals.

Winn Parish Sheriff's Department Arrest Report:

On Thursday, April 12, the Winn Parish Sheriff's Department arrested Charles Meche, of Joyce. Meche was charged with disturbing the peace, public intoxication, possession of marijuana, illegal carrying of a weapon in the presense of a CDS, resisting an officer, and illegal carrying of a weapon. On Friday, April 13, deputies arrested Randall Reeves, of Bossier City, for theft and possession of drug paraphenalia and Nicholas Davidson, of Montgomery, for criminal damage to property and theft. On Monday, April 16, Jacori Watkins, of Winnfield, was arrested for possession of marijuana and Kimberly Dempsey, of Winnfield, was arrested for domestic abuse battery.

The 2018 Annual DARE Fair is scheduled for Saturday, May 5, at the Central Louisiana Technical Community College. Activities will be from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. There will be demonstrations by the WPSO K-9 teams, Team Kick, Teen Challenge, gun safety, the Winnfield Fire Department, and more. There will also be games, free food and drinks, and informational booths about the services available in our community. Everyone is invited to come and enjoy a fun-filled, educational day for the entire family.

The annual Downtown Garage Sale is scheduled in Winnfield Saturday, May 5, in the large parking area between the Pea Patch and the Winnfield Post Office. Set-up is free, and everyone is invited to bring a table, a chair, and their treasures and join the fun. Church groups, civic clubs, and schools are encouraged to do a booth or concessions of any kind. For more information, contact Gail Shelton at 628-3560 or the Winn Chamber of Commerce at 628-4461.

The Food Bank of Central Louisiana will be available to assist with food stamp applications on the first Thursday of each month at the Winnfield First United Methodist Church from 8:30 a.m. until noon. Assistance will also be available for child care assistance, child support, family independence temporary assistance, kinship care subsidies, and disaster supplemental nutrition assistance. For more information, persons may call 318-792-4036.

The Winn Ranger District of the Kisatchie National Forest will host the 16th Annual Youth Fishing Derby Saturday, June 9, at the Bombing Range Pond near the Gum Springs Recreation Area on Hwy. 84 West. All children age 2 through 12 are invited, and each child who attends will leave with a prize. The Youth Fishing Derby is held each year to provide a fun, exciting, and educational fishing experience for area youth. Donations are also needed, and those making donations should make checks payable to the Winnfield Bass Club, and send them to Ginger Cummings at the U.S. Forest Service, 12319 Highway 84 West, Winnfield, LA 71483.

Winn Parish residents now have access to a new emergency alert program called Nixle which sends alerts to cell phones to notify people of emergencies in our area as they happen. In order to receive alerts, persons must first sign up by text message. To sign up, persons need to text winnparish (one word) to 888-777, and enter their zip code. To get the most localized alerts, persons may register online at www.nixle.com and enter their home address and landline telephone number. For more information, visit www.nixle.com.

Congressman Ralph Abraham has announced satellite office hours for Central Louisiana parishes. Office hours for Winn Parish will be in the Winn Parish Police Jury meeting room at 119 West Main Street, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month. Constituents are encouraged to visit the staff during these hours if they need help with any federal agency. Staff members are also available during business hours at the Central Louisiana District Office in Alexandria, which can be reached at 318-445-0818.

The next meeting of the Louisiana Crime Victims Reparations Board will be on Tuesday, May 8, at 9:00 a.m., at the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement Office, at 602 North Fifth Street in Baton Rouge. The public is invited to attend this meeting, and assistance will be provided to those who need special accommodations in order to attend this meeting. For more information, persons may call 225.342.1500