Louisiana news briefs
First-time unemployment insurance claims fall
BATON ROUGE (AP) — First-time claims for unemployment insurance in Louisiana for the week ending Jan. 18 decreased from the previous week’s total.
The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Monday that initial claims fell to 2,726 from the previous week’s total of 3,330. There were 3,850 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013.
The four-week moving average, which is a less volatile measure of claims, increased to 2,505 from the previous week’s average of 2,468.
Continued unemployment weeks claimed for the week ending Jan. 18 increased to 24,476 compared to 24,266 the previous week. The four-week moving average for such claims increased to 24,208 from the previous week’s average of 24,186.
ordered to return fees
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. may have to return $16 million to homeowner customers who, for years, were charged a $65 application fee without their knowledge.
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon ordered the application fees returned Dec. 12, saying Citizens broke state law because it didn’t list the charge on its policyholders’ declaration page which includes the basics of a policy, such as coverage limits and cost.
Donelon isn’t sure how many years Citizens collected the fee but $16 million amounts to about 246,000 application fees.
Citizens is appealing the ruling in state district court in Baton Rouge. Donelon says the agency has posted an $8 million appeal bond to do so.
Donelon’s ruling is the latest development in a class-action lawsuit originally filed in 2008.
Jindal budget uses ideas from $4M savings study
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A consultant hired to devise money-savings ideas for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration has generated recommendations that would pay for the $4 million cost of its contract, the governor’s top budget adviser assured lawmakers Friday.
Lawmakers have questioned the administration’s deal with Alvarez & Marsal, asking whether the contract was a waste of money or would generate politically unfeasible ideas that don’t translate into real savings.
But Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said the governor’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes $4 million in health care savings tied to recommendations from the consulting firm.
She said she expects many more ideas to come.
“We’ve already covered the cost of the contract,” Nichols told the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.
Among the savings ideas included in the governor’s spending plan are eliminating the duplicative claims processing in health care programs and using a computerized verification system to check billings for in-home care services, Nichols said.
After lawmakers criticized the contract, the administration amended its agreement to require the firm to find $500 million in savings ideas. Nichols had said those were the agreed-upon terms in negotiations with the consulting firm, but the requirement wasn’t included in the original contract.
Its recommendations are due by mid-April, after four months of work.
Nichols said if Alvarez & Marsal doesn’t reach the savings target, the state can withhold $600,000 of the $4.2 million contract payment.
for La. seafood law
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is seeking public input on proposed changes to the state Wild Seafood Certification Program.
A public meeting on the proposal will be held Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. at the agency’s headquarters, 2000 Quail Drive in Baton Rouge.
The changes involve product registration requirements for retail packages, supply chain verification process and guidelines for logo use.
The proposals can be viewed at www.doa.louisiana.gov/osr/reg/register.htm.
Lafourche to collect hazardous materials
MATHEWS (AP) — Authorities in Lafourche Parish will collect household hazardous materials March 1 at the Mathews Government Complex.
Collection times are 8 a.m. to noon.
Residents can turn in products such as corrosive cleaners, cleaning solvents, bleach, paints, automotive products, lawn and garden products, batteries and flammables.
Ammunition, explosives, fireworks, appliances, furniture, power tools and other non-hazardous waste will not be accepted, officials say.
More information is available by calling 985-573-7603.
Clinic worker arrested
in prescription drug scheme
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Baton Rouge police have arrested one man accused of being part of a prescription drug ring in which more than 200 fraudulent prescriptions for the powerful pain-killing drugs oxycodone and hydrocodone from a Baton Rouge clinic.
Benjamin Landry, 40, of Plaquemine, was booked Friday on counts of racketeering and distribution and manufacturing of Schedule II drugs.
According to the arrest warrant, Landry and eight other people filled 232 forged prescriptions and exchanged the drugs for money.
The investigation began when a local pharmacy faxed a copy of a prescription to the clinic for verification on Dec. 2. The warrant says the doctor at the clinic realized he never wrote that prescription.
considering hotel taxes
LAFAYETTE (AP) — Scott and Carencro are both eyeing hotel taxes and are following in the footsteps of Youngsville, where voters last year approved a 4 percent tax on hotel and motel bills.
The state Legislature would need to approve the tax elections, but both cities have filed formal notices of intent to seek legislative approval in the session that begins in March.
There are three hotels in Scott, and Mayor Purvis Morrison said a tax of 5 percent on hotel bills there would generate about $100,000 a year.
The Carencro City Council voted last year to move forward with a hotel tax proposal, but Mayor Glenn Brasseaux said there is no firm timeline for an election should the Legislature give its approval.