Louisiana lawmakers completed their special session on taxes Thursday after raising $263 million more for the stateís operating budget, lessening gaps in health and education programs. The House and Senate fell far short of the revenue goal set by Gov. John Bel Edwards to raise $600 million more for the $26 billion budget that starts July 1. But on top of taxes boosted earlier this year, they had raised about $1.5 billion to shrink holes in the spending plan. The largest tax measures passed in this latest special session will boost the taxes charged on health care organizations known as HMOs and lessen inventory tax breaks for businesses. Lawmakers also crafted a multibillion-dollar construction budget and removed sales taxes unintentionally charged in the earlier special session on items such as school athletic event tickets, firefighting equipment and prosthetic devices. The budget deal struck gives the safety-net hospitals that care for the poor the full amount sought by the Edwards administration, though the hospital operators say thatís not enough to fully cover services. Lawmakers agreed to cover only 70 percent of tuition costs for students in the TOPS program.
A Jena man faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to possessing unregistered silencers, which he also constructed and sold. According to U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley, 34 year-old Robert E. Durham, of Jena, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen L. Hayes to one count of possession of an unregistered firearm. The plea will become final once accepted by U.S. District Judge Robert G. James. Durham was recorded setting up a sale of silencers with an undercover agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Durham met the agent on May 10, 2016, in Winnfield, and the undercover agent purchased three silencers. Silencers and silencer parts and kits are defined as firearms according to federal law and are required to be registered. The illegal silencers Durham possessed were not registered. Durham faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $10,000 fine. Sentencing is set for October 5.
Participation in the federal food stamp program is increasing in Louisiana, even as it's dropping nationwide. Almost 19 percent of Louisiana's 4.6 million residents participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services said there was a 9 percent jump from April 2015 to April 2016. Part of the increase has to do with unemployment, and part of the increase is due to a better sign-up system. But the increase is largely a combination of Louisiana's poor economy and a large workforce that earns less, on average, than the rest of the nation. Some parishes saw dramatic increases in food stamp enrollment during the year: 37 percent in Jefferson Parish; 26 percent in St. Martin; 13.5 percent in Lafayette; and 90 percent in Cameron.
Two Winnfield men pleaded guilty last Wednesday to possession of stolen firearms. According to U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley, 33 year-old Ashton Howard and 26 year-old Aaron Thomas, both of Winnfield, pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a stolen firearm in a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen L. Hayes. Thomas also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. Their pleas will become final when accepted by U.S. District Judge Robert G. James. According to the guilty pleas, Howard and Thomas received and possessed 14 firearms, ammunition and other items from a Winnfield firearm seller on March 22, 2015. Each defendant faces up to 10 years in prison, one to three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date of September 12 has been set.
A bill that would have reduced the amount of deductions for state income taxes was killed by the House Sunday night. The move narrows the options for new revenue in the remaining days of the special legislative session. House members voted 55-46 against House Bill 38, which after amendments would have prevented deductions of previous year state income taxes and sales taxes. It would have raised $88 million and affected taxpayers who itemize. Bills that have cleared both the House and Senate have raised $222 million, but Governor John Bel Edwards had hoped for $600 million to close the gaps. The special session will end by midnight on Thursday.
Winn Parish Sheriff's Department Arrest Report:
On Tuesday, June 21, the Winn Parish Sheriff's Department arrested Darnelious Brown, of Winn Correctional Center. Brown was charged with aggravated second degree battery. Also arrested Tuesday were Melanie Carter, Taylor Sevario, and Christopher Winters, all of Winnfield, on warrants for failure to appear. Chandler Jordan, of Winnfield, was arrested Tuesday for disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. Richard Alan Jordan, an inmate at the Winn Parish Jail, was charged with second degree battery.
The Winnfield City Council will hold a special meeting Monday, June 27, at 4:00 p.m. in Winnfield City Hall. Items of new business include authorizing the Mayor to execute the Sensus Meter Contract and to accept the Sensus Proposal for integration with the Logics financial software. Other items of new business include insurance savings, vehicle repair, and the City Prosecutor.
The Winn Parish School Board will hold committee meetings Monday, June 27, at 5:00 p.m. in the Winn Parish School Board Office. The Finance and Budget Committee will discuss ad valorem taxes and declare surplus property. The Personnel and Salary Committee will go over staffing for 2016 through 2017.LifeShare Blood Center will hold a blood drive at Wal-Mart in Winnfield Saturday, June 25, from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. There will also be a blood drive at Wal-Mart in Winnfield Monday, June 27, from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., and at Wal-Mart in Jonesboro Wednesday, June 29, from 3:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. The Village of Dodson will hold a public hearing Tuesday, July 5, at 6:45 p.m. at 205 East Gresham Street in Dodson. The hearing will be held to consider levying additional or increased millage rates without further voter approval, or adopting the adjusted millage rates after reassessment, and rolling forward to rates not to exceed the prior year's maximum. The estimated amount of tax revenues to be collected in the next year from the increased millage is $8,418.00, and the amount of increase in taxes attributable to the millage increase is $38.27.
Congressman Ralph Abraham has announced satellite office hoursfor 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, July 12, 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