By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Governor Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache. The administration's latest plan, scheduled to take effect March 1, reduced increases in out-of-pocket costs and deductibles for active employees and did away with those price hikes altogether for retirees. In exchange, premiums for health insurance through the Office of Group Benefits will rise by an estimated 11 percent in the next budget year, about $130 million. The plan reportedly places additional costs on state agencies and school districts. Premium hikes are shared between employees and employers, and retirees and current workers will pay about $36 million more annually for health insurance in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
A Jena man is facing more accusations of timber theft after being charged Monday for the fourth time by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. 39 year-old James Marcus Ainsworth was arrested and was booked into the LaSalle Parish Jail on two counts of timber theft totaling just over $18,600. The charges stem from complaints made by two LaSalle Parish landowners. One, a Jena couple, allege that Ainsworth promised them between $4,000 to $5,000 for timber harvested from six acres, but only received $1,616.49. The second complaint was from a Jena man who said he was told he'd receive $8,500 for timber harvested from six acres, but only received $4,125. In both cases, the timber was cut during August and September 2013. Persons who have done business with Ainsworth are asked to call the Department of Agriculture and Forestry at 225-925-4500.
A Natchitoches Central High School substitute teacher has been arrested in connection with an alleged inappropriate relationship with a student. According to Natchitoches police, 27-year-old Nickol Smith is accused of sending inappropriate photos and messages to a 17-year-old male student. The investigation leading to Smith's arrest was reportedly prompted by a tip from a concerned citizen, which led to a search warrant for both the teen's and Smith's cell phones. Smith was arrested at Natchitoches Central High School, booked on a charge of prohibited sexual conduct between educator and student. Police said she was released on $2,000 property bond, and that she should be in court next month. In a public statement, Natchitoches Parish Superintendent Jesse Skinner indicated that such behavior in the school system will not be tolerated.
Obesity rates of many U.S. states are actually higher than previously thought, according to a new study. The new findings are based on doctors' measurements of people's height and weight, whereas many previous reports were based on people's reports of their own measurements. Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control used a new method for estimating state obesity rates and found that 49 states had an obesity rate of 30 percent or higher. Only Hawaii had an obesity rate under 30 percent, and a few states, including Louisiana and Mississippi, had obesity rates over 40 percent. In contrast, previous reports indicated that most states have rates under 30 percent, and no states had a rate over 40 percent.
Governor Bobby Jindal will shield Louisiana's public colleges from cuts when he reveals his proposal Friday to rebalance this year's budget, which contains a $171 million hole that must be eliminated. The Jindal administration said Tuesday that it will present its deficit-closing plan to lawmakers on the joint House and Senate budget committee within three days, rather than take the full month available to devise its strategy. Despite the emergence of the budget gap, no grim news is expected for Louisiana's public colleges, which, after six years of state funding reductions, escaped the chopping block in Jindal's plan. The Division of Administration confirmed that the same protection will be given to all four public college systems, which have lost $700 million in state financing since 2008, one of the steepest declines for higher education across the nation.
The number of homeless children in the U.S. has reached historic levels, an estimated one out of every 30 children, according to the Huffington Post. The data comes from a new report by the National Center on Family Homelessness that breaks down the problem on a state-by-state basis. Louisiana ranked 35th in the nation, with nearly 40,000 homeless children in 2013, a decrease from almost 45,000 two years earlier. The problem is particularly severe in California, which has one-eighth of the U.S. population but accounts for more than one-fifth of the homeless children with a tally of nearly 527,000. The states with the least amount of homeless children were Minnesota, Nebraska and Massachusetts with Alabama, Mississippi and California coming in at the bottom.
Winn Parish Sheriff's Department Arrest Report:
On Sunday, November 16, the Winn Parish Sheriff's Department arrested Amanda McKosher, of Olla. McKosher was arrested on warrants for failure to appear. On Wednesday, November 19, deputies arrested Timothy Walsworth, of Quitman, for reckless operation, driving under suspension, and no child restraint. On Thursday, November 20, Jarvis Jackson, of Dodson, was arrested for domestic abuse battery, resisting an officer, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Also arrested Thursday was Joshua Finley, of Columbia, on a warrant for failure to appear. On Friday, November 21, Ronald Everett Rials, Jr., of Winnfield, was arrested for criminal trespassing and two warrants for failure to appear. Also arrested Friday was Tommy Lloyd Rushing, of Winnfield, on two warrants for theft by fraud.The Winn Parish School Board will hold its regular meeting Monday, December 1, at 5:30 p.m. in the Winn Parish School Board office. Items of business include the new testing policy, the Executive Committee report, and personnel. LifeShare Blood Center will hold a blood drive at Wal-Mart in Winnfield on Saturday, November 29, from noon until 6:00 p.m. Persons may also donate blood at LifeShare in Alexandri, located at 2051 North Mall Drive. For more information, call 1-800-256-7439. The Winnfield Recreation Department is holding registration for youth basketball now through Friday, December 5. The registration fee is $40.00 per person, and boys and girls age 4 through 15 are eligible. Late registration will be Monday, December 8 through Friday, December 12, with a $10.00 late fee. Tryouts will be held on Saturday, December 13. For more information, contact the Winnfield Recreation Department at 628-3413. The next meeting of the Louisiana Crime Victims Reparations Board will be on Tuesday, December 9, 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
The Juanita Pharr Cancer Support Group meets on the first Friday of each month at 12:00 noon for a dutch treat meeting. All cancer survivors and caretakers are invited. There is a different meeting place each month, and persons may contact Maxine Godman for more information at 628-3858.