Louisiana news briefs
Louisiana tax amnesty program nears its final week
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana’s delinquent taxpayers have about a week left to seek a reprieve from penalties in paying their back-owed taxes, with state officials needing strong participation in the amnesty program to keep the budget balanced.
Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield wouldn’t provide specific numbers about dollars already paid through the program, but he said his department has received thousands of applications and the trends suggest the state will hit the $200 million it expected to collect.
The big-ticket negotiations tend to go down to the final days of an amnesty program, as lawyers, accountants and taxpayers haggle over the larger debts owed to the state.
“Really this week and next week are the two big weeks,” Barfield said.
The amnesty program began in September and runs through Nov. 22.
People and businesses can apply to get caught up on their tax bills without any penalties and with only half the interest charges they would otherwise owe on the debt. The program covers most taxes administered by the Department of Revenue.
Lawmakers assumed the collection of $200 million from the amnesty period this year, and they plugged the money into the state’s $25.4 billion operating budget. Without that cash, they’d face a hefty hole in planned spending for health care services, because the dollars are used to draw down federal Medicaid matching dollars.
387 health insurance
signups completed in La.
BATON ROUGE(AP) — Fewer than 400 Louisiana residents were able to sign up for health insurance last month through the federally run online marketplace created under President Barack Obama’s health revamp, according to data released Wednesday.
Website problems left many people unable to enroll for coverage despite repeated attempts.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released enrollment figures for October, showing fewer than 27,000 people had completed the full process to get coverage across the 36 states using the federal website.
In Louisiana, the number was 387.
“Things have not picked up that much since October on the exchange. We’re pretty disappointed in the performance of the federally-facilitated marketplace,” said John Maginnis, spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, which is offering plans on the website.
Applications seeking coverage for more than 14,100 people in Louisiana have been filed. About 13,600 of those have been deemed eligible for insurance through the marketplace, but they haven’t yet decided if they’ll buy a coverage plan, according to the federal data.
La. releases ‘Most Wanted’ poster of deadbeat dads
BATON ROUGE(AP) — Louisiana’s social services department has put out a “Most Wanted” list of 18 parents who owe at least $20,000 each in child support.
Combined, the men owe nearly $866,000 to their children. They haven’t paid child support in six months or more.
The poster, released Wednesday by the Department of Children and Family Services, includes photos, last known addresses and amounts owed — along with a hotline to call with tips for tracking the men down.
The poster is viewable at: www.dcfs.la.gov/MostWanted .
Top on the list is Richard Miller, a 53-year-old electrician last known to live in Missouri. He’s topped the “Most Wanted” list since 2009 and owes more than $128,000 to his children.
There are more than 166,000 cases of unpaid child support in Louisiana.
Port Allen council fails
to override budget veto
PORT ALLEN (AP) — The Port Allen City Council has failed to override Mayor Demetric Slaughter’s veto of the council’s $8.5 million 2013-14 fiscal year budget after it was unable to muster the two-thirds majority required to reverse the mayor’s decision.
The city is nearly five months late approving a new spending plan for 2013-14.
The city has been operating on 50 percent of the revenue from the 2012-13 fiscal budget, which officials said previously will start running out next month.
In her veto message, Slaughter said she rejected the council’s amended version of her budget because it stripped her spending plan of funding needed for several capital outlay projects to repair, maintain and improve the city’s infrastructure.
Bus driver accused
of choking 7-year-old
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A public school bus driver has been arrested following accusations that she choked a 7-year-old boy before arriving at Highland Elementary, an incident that was caught on video by surveillance cameras on the bus.
East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies said 58-year-old Sandra Henderson was booked on Tuesday on counts of cruelty to juveniles. She was released after posting a $5,000 bond.
Domoine Rutledge, general counsel for the school system, said Henderson has not been fired, but was placed on paid administrative leave following the incident.
Detectives questioned Henderson and they watched the video together.
She said when she saw the 7-year-old standing over his brother, who was crying, she grabbed the boy to stop them from fighting.
It was unclear whether Henderson has an attorney.
St. Bernard stylist:
Clients hate high chlorine
CHALMETTE (AP) — A St. Bernard Parish hair stylist says she’s getting lots of complaints about the chlorine added to the parish water to kill deadly amoebas found in the system.
Clients say the chemical dries their hair and skin, and makes hair dye fade faster, Krystal Seruntine, a stylist at Pure Envy Salon, said.
“I just have a lot more people calling and telling me that their color isn’t staying as long or asking, ‘What can I do? My hair is really dry,’” she said, adding that a colleague who does facials is getting much more business than usual.
The rare brain-eating amoeba called Naegleria fowleri was found in treated water in both St. Bernard and DeSoto parishes water after the death of a child who apparently was infected during a visit to St. Bernard parish. In 2011, there were deaths from the amoeba in both of those parishes.
So chlorine levels in those two were boosted to 1 milligram per liter, and statewide to half that level.
“We get some complaints about the amount of chlorine, the taste, the smell. We explain to them it’s a necessity, and we’re under an administrative order” from the state Department of Health and Hospitals, Parish President Dave Peralta said.
Once water throughout the system has been at that level for 60 days, it will be reduced to half a milliliter per liter, under a new state guideline to keep the pipes amoeba-free.
The emergency rule requiring higher disinfectant levels and to increase the number of sampling sites followed discovery of the amoeba in treated water in both St. Bernard and DeSoto parishes.
Peralta encouraged residents to let the water run for 10 to 15 minutes before drinking or bathing to help clear out chlorine.
Seruntine recommended that her clients use more conditioning or oil treatments to help with the dryness and wash their hair less often to keep their color longer.
“It’s not fair to our clients that they’re paying all this money for professional stuff, and the water is causing it to fade out before it’s supposed to,” she said.