Federal agency has questions about hospital deals
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal's revised financing plan for six LSU hospital privatization deals is running into questions from federal health officials who rejected a previous version.
The state health department on Wednesday released the three-page question letter from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.
Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU hospitals without waiting for federal officials to sign off on financing arrangements that rely on millions of federal Medicaid dollars.
In May, CMS rejected the plans for six hospital deals, saying the agreements don't meet federal guidelines. So, the state Department of Health and Hospitals sent a new proposal.
DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert says the questions are a typical part of the process and "positive sign" the revised financing plan could be approved.
Bench trial in endangered frog habitat suit
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal judge is considering the claim that federal wildlife officials made an illegal land grab by listing 1,500 acres of private land in Louisiana as critical habitat for an endangered burrowing frog: the dusky gopher frog.
District Judge Martin Feldman told lawyers for landowners, the U.S. government and an environmental group Wednesday that he'll rule as soon as possible.
Feldman told the lawyers his biggest concerns include whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service followed proper procedures, and the agency's estimate that the designation could cost landowners up to $33 million.
Justice Department attorney Mary Hollingsworth says that's an unlikely extreme if the owners wanted to develop the timberland.
Weyerhaeuser Co. attorney Zach Hiatt says that's not out of the question, since the land is near a developed area.
Landrieu and Cassidy qualify on opening day
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her main Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, have officially signed up for Louisiana's Nov. 4 election.
The three-day qualifying period opened Wednesday and runs through Friday. Contenders vying for any elected office have to pay fees and sign paperwork.
Landrieu, a Democrat seeking a fourth term, talked of her seniority and leadership position, saying Louisiana voters shouldn't give up that clout.
Cassidy described his effort to oust Landrieu as crucial to returning the U.S. Senate to GOP control. He repeatedly linked Landrieu to President Barack Obama, who is highly unpopular in Louisiana.
Republicans showed up with "Air Mary" signs, a dig at the scrutiny Landrieu has faced for billing private chartered planes to her Senate office when she used the flights to attend campaign fundraisers.
Judge rules against Jindal in Common Core lawsuit
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A state judge has ruled against Gov. Bobby Jindal in a lawsuit filed by Common Core supporters, lifting a contract suspension Jindal enacted to derail the multi-state education standards.
Judge Todd Hernandez issued a written ruling Tuesday.
He said Jindal's suspension of contracts the education department planned to use to buy testing material aligned with Common Core is causing harm to parents, teachers, administrators and students.
The contract suspension has stalled standardized testing plans for third-grade through eighth-grade students in Louisiana's public schools.
Jindal Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin says the governor will appeal Hernandez's ruling, calling it "wrong on the facts and the law."
Parents, teachers and a charter school organization sued Jindal after he suspended the contracts, alleging he violated constitutional separations of authority over education policy.
SHREVEPORT AIRPORT SHOOTING
Shreveport airport guard on leave after shooting
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Shreveport police detectives are investigating a shooting involving a security officer at the Shreveport Regional Airport.
Police say patrol officers responded to the airport just before 10:15 p.m. Tuesday after receiving a call about an airport security officer firing his gun.
At about the same time, police received a call from a cab driver reporting that a security guard had shot out a tire on his cab.
Police say no one was injured.
Cpl. Marcus Hines says detectives believe there was some sort of dispute between the cab driver and an on-duty security officer.
Hines says the airport employee was placed on administrative leave with pay as the investigation continues.
Police did not identify the officer or the cab driver.
Democratic women teaming up in key Senate states
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Democratic women are teaming up to raise campaign cash in key states that will help decide the Senate majority.
Incumbent senators and hopefuls formed the Blue Senate 2014 joint fundraising committee on Aug. 13.
The candidates involved are Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, Natalie Tennant in West Virginia and Michelle Nunn in Georgia.
In 2012, President Barack Obama lost four of the women's five states. Obama won New Hampshire by about 6 percentage points.
Republicans need to pick up six Senate seats to take the majority from Democrats.
Hagan has been the best fundraiser of the bunch. She raised $12.7 million and had $8.7 million in her campaign account through June. Hagan faces Republican challenger Thom Tillis, the North Carolina House speaker.
State analyzes ACT average
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Average composite ACT scores for students in Louisiana were the same or slightly down from 2013 to 2014, depending on the way they were calculated.
However, state education officials note that more students are taking the college preparatory test, which affects the average. Also, more are scoring well enough to qualify for state TOPS awards.
Louisiana began requiring all public high school students to take the ACT test last year, regardless of whether they planned to attend college.
The education department notes in a Wednesday ACT score analysis that students can take the test more than once. When students' best scores are considered the state average score is 19.1, unchanged from 2013; when the "most recent" scores are averaged, the average is 19.2 for 2014, down from 19.5 in 2013.
MONROE SCHOOLS-FOOTBALL STADIUMS
Monroe school turf construction hits new delays
MONROE, La. (AP) - Field turf construction at football stadiums in the Monroe City School District has once again hit a snag.
When construction began at Neville, Carroll and Wossman High Schools back in June, it was supposed to be done by the time the teams played their jamborees.
The News-Star reports now the completion dates for each field have been pushed back even further.
Neville and Carroll are now anticipating a date of Sept. 14, while work at Wossman will wrap up on Sept. 28. The three schools were forced last Tuesday to move their jamborees set for Aug. 29 to Louisiana-Monroe's Malone Stadium.
To compensate for the delays, Hellas Construction replaced the work crews that had been assigned the project and brought in crews from other completed jobs.
TRUCK STOP CASINO SHOOTING
Former LSU tight end pleads guilty in shooting
PORT ALLEN, La. (AP) - A former LSU football player is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to three counts of attempted second-degree murder in a 2011 shooting at a Port Allen truck stop.
The Advocate reports 32-year-old Demetri Robinson, of Port Allen, entered his plea Monday, a day before he was to stand trial for shooting several employees at the Cajun Circus Casino truck stop on Sept. 18, 2011.
Robinson will be sentenced Nov. 5. He faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.
Authorities say Robinson shot a cashier then fired shots at two other employees after he was asked to leave the casino on U.S. Highway 190.
Robinson, who played tight end on the 2003 LSU National Championship football team, fled the casino after the shooting.
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