LSU sports teams suffer steep financial losses following COVID-19 restrictions

LSU Athletics lost $81 million in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic and is looking to get back on a profitable footing (Photo courtesy of LSU).

Published: June 22, 2021

By: Adrian Dubose | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE–LSU’s football and other sports programs lost $81 million in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the school cannot use federal aid funds to reduce that deficit.

The athletics department has offset some of the losses through salary reductions and job cuts. It has received $23 million in relief money from the Southeastern Conference, and it has tapped reserve funds from profitable years to try to close the rest of the gap.

It also is counting on its private fundraising arm, the Tiger Athletic Foundation, to keep bringing in major donations. The foundation just hired a new leader, Matt Borman, who had led athletic fundraising at the University of Georgia.

The lost revenue came after parts or all of the seasons for many sports, including men’s basketball and baseball, were canceled in spring 2020 and attendance at football games was limited to 25% of Tiger Stadium’s 102,000-seat capacity.

That came after a banner year for a sports program that usually brings in among the highest revenue and profit totals in the country.

The national championship football team led by quarterback Joe Burrow took in $95 million in revenue in 2019-20 and earned a profit of $53.7 million.

But all that changed in March 2020 when LSU had to send students home, switch to online learning and curtail its athletics programs.

Read more at BRPROUD

LSU Board of Supervisors votes to urge La. health leaders to mandate COVID-19 vaccines at public colleges

(Source: WAFB)

Published: June 18, 2021

By: Adrian Dubose | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU) – The LSU Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 Friday to urge the Louisiana Department of Health to add COVID-19 shots to a list of mandated vaccinations for college students once federal regulators give full approval to the vaccines.

The vote came after the board adopted an amendment to notify students that they could opt out of a mandate for health, religious or other reasons.

Students have long had the ability to opt out of other required vaccines, such as for measles or mumps, but few have realized that or done so. Faculty members fear that notifying students that they can ignore any COVID-19 requirement will undercut the school’s efforts to increase vaccination rates as more dangerous variants of the virus spread.

Tom Galligan, president of the LSU system, said 73% of the faculty and 57% of staff at the flagship campus in Baton Rouge have reported being vaccinated against COVID-19. However, only about 27% of the campus’s 35,000 students have reported being vaccinated.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 522 college campuses around the country have required the vaccine, with 221 of them being public institutions. Private universities in Louisiana, including Tulane, Loyola, Dillard and Xavier, say they will require their students to receive vaccines before the fall semester starts.

The Louisiana Legislature passed a bill recently banning state agencies, including public universities, from discriminating against people based on their vaccination status while the vaccines are still approved only for emergency use.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has expressed concern about the bill but has not said if he would veto it.

Pfizer and Moderna, two of the main COVID vaccine makers, have applied for full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, but that is not likely to come before school resumes in August.

Read more at WAFB9

A look at some bills, budget changes Louisiana legislators passed this session

Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state is in a good financial position after the budget crises of the past. (Photo by Catherine Hunt/LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: June 11, 2021

By: Matthew Bennett, Adrian Dubose and Ryan Nelsen | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE–Buoyed by billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief aid, Louisiana legislators took on several big issues this spring and made progress in simplifying the tax code, supporting education and expanding criminal-justice reform.

Some public-interest groups praised the tax changes as important steps toward strengthening Louisiana’s economy, while others expressed concern that some of the changes could lead to a budget crunch down the road.

The Council for a Better Louisiana viewed the main changes—lowering state income tax rates for individuals and corporations and eliminating deductions for what they pay in federal income taxes–as “a positive step forward,” while noting that it was only the beginning of righting a complicated, messy system.

Gov. John Bel Edwards indicated after the legislative session ended that he would support this swap in the source of state tax revenues as long as it does not cost the state much in the short run. The changes would require adjustments to the state Constitution, and if he signs the bills, residents will have to vote on them in October.

The Public Affairs Research Council said that if voters approve, the state’s tax structure will become “simpler, fairer, more competitive, and better-ranked nationally.”

But the Louisiana Budget Project, which researches how state policies affect the poor and the working class, issued a statement warning that lawmakers were relying too heavily on federal relief dollars that will soon be gone.

The group’s executive director, Jan Moller, supported the “excellent premise” of the tax swap, but bemoaned the way it was executed.

Read more at BRProud

La. lawmakers agree police need to change policies

Published: June 11, 2021

By: Kathleen Peppo, LSU Manship School News Service

crime scene tape

BATON ROUGE, La. — The chance to change police practices in Louisiana did not seem very good when Rep. Ted James presented a resolution to study them shortly after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

James had to agree in advance to demands from Republicans to remove Floyd’s name from the resolution.

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Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge

One Republican, Rep. Tony Bacala of Prairieville, was not privy to that conversation. And when the resolution came up for debate on the House floor, Bacala, a former chief sheriff’s deputy in Ascension Parish, said language in the resolution about blacks being three times more likely to be killed by law enforcement officers than whites addressed only one side of the issue.

Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville

“If we’re going to talk, let’s talk,” Bacala said. “Let’s don’t limit what we’re willing to speak about to things that only some people want to speak about,” he said. “Of 800,000 law enforcement officers in this country, in that same period of time, 584 were killed in the line of duty, which means that the rate that cops die in the line of duty is 40 times higher than blacks.”

“Tony,” James responded, “I was pepper sprayed in handcuffs by a police officer. A white one.”

James also described being questioned by law enforcement officers for standing with four other black men outside of a barber shop in Baton Rouge. The questioning only ended when James handed the officer a card that identified him as a state legislator.

Read more at westcentralsbest.com

Bill to shift some state funding over to roads, bridges advances to Gov. Edwards

(Source: KALB)

Published: June 10, 2021

By: Adrian Dubose, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Wire) – A bill that would gradually move $300 million annually to roads and bridges moved to the governor’s desk Thursday as the legislative session came to an end.

House Bill 514 by Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, passed the House 87-13.

The bill was originally authored as a sales tax bill for marijuana but turned into an infrastructure bill.

The bill dedicates the existing tax on the sale and lease of motor vehicles to a state construction fund. The bill will shift $300 million from the state’s general fund to transportation projects.

Read more at KALB

Louisiana could end $300 federal unemployment boost after last-minute deal

House Bill 183 by Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, would raise the state’s unemployment wage by $28 a week, starting next year.

Published: June 10, 2021

By: Ryan Nelson, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. — In the final hour of the session Thursday, the Legislature passed a bill that could slightly raise the state’s unemployment benefits, but only if the Governor ends participation in the federal COVID-19 aid program that pays more.

House Bill 183 by Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, would raise the state’s unemployment wage by $28 a week, starting next year. But Gov. John Bel Edwards must choose to end the extra federal unemployment benefits, which equates to $300, on July 31.

It is not clear if Edwards, a fellow Democrat, will sign the bill into law.

Read more at 4WWL

Legislature passes 3 tax bills involving personal income tax, corporate tax deductions

Credit: WAFB

Published: June 10, 2021

By: Matthew Bennett, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Wire) – The Legislature passed three tax bills involving personal income tax and corporate tax deductions on the last day of the session Thursday, including one that lowers personal income tax brackets.

The tax overhaul will allow individual taxpayers and corporations to lower their income tax rates while giving up the right to deduct federal tax payments on their state returns.

Legislators backing the bills believe that the so-called “tax swap” would simplify the tax code without changing taxpayers’ balances significantly. Republican leaders expect the state to bring in roughly the same amount in tax dollars if the new laws are implemented, while other analysts suggest some short-term loss of revenue.

The bills, which were a major priority for Republican leaders, received final passage in the Senate just hours before the legislative session was due to expire. They will now move to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk.

If he approves them, they will be placed before the state’s voters in October.

The three bills joined four other bills that lawmakers had passed earlier in a sweeping effort that Republican leaders pitched as making the state more attractive to businesses and investment.

The bills were not without opposition, with Sen. Karen Carter Peterson D-New Orleans, speaking out against one of the bills, SB159 by Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, which reduced the maximum allowable personal income tax rate from 6 percent to 4.75 percent.

“The problem that I have with the bill is that it goes into the Constitution,” Peterson said. “This is appropriate for statutory law but not Constitutional law. Every time we ever want to touch the income tax rate again, we have to go back, pass it in the Legislature and pass it again with the people. I think that this is a bad policy decision for the state.”

Read more at KALB

Domestic violence bill withdrawn after verbal altercation

Published: June 10, 2021

By: Adrian Dubose, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La – Democratic Rep. Malinda White of Bogalusa tearfully withdrew her domestic violence bill Thursday, a day after a verbal altercation with Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, on the House floor.

House Bill 159 would have expanded the definition of domestic abuse to include coercion and control by the abuser.

“I come today with a lot of heartache,” White said. “I’m disappointed we have to let down victims of domestic violence.”

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Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa
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Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport

White promised victims of abuse that she would bring the bill back up next year in an improved version.

Seabaugh raised questions about what the bill meant and did during the debate that led to the confrontation.

Read more at westcentralbest.com

Lawmakers OK bill banning discrimination on COVID vaccination status

Published: June 10, 2021

By: Adrian Dubose, LSU Manship School News Service

John Bel Edwards
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards receives his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.Pool footage courtesy of Louisiana Public Broadcasting

BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana lawmakers gave final passage Thursday to a bill banning discrimination by state agencies based on an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status, sending the bill to the governor’s desk.

House Bill 498 by Rep. Kathy Edmonston, R-Gonzales, passed the House 71-28.

The bill prohibits government agencies from refusing to issue licenses, permits and degrees to someone who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The bill also prohibits state agencies from barring access to public facilities or colleges to anyone who has not received a COVID-19 vaccine.

The ban would remain in place until the COVID-19 vaccinations have received full authorization from the U.S. Federal Drug Administration.

Hundreds of LSU faculty members have called on the university to require students to get the vaccines before coming to campus in the fall. Vaccination rates in Louisiana lag behind those in most other states, and professors also would like to see the university maintain its mask mandate and reduce the number of students in each classroom to keep faculty members and students safe.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported that 488 college campuses plan to require students to get the vaccines. They include several private universities in Louisiana, including Tulane, Loyola, Xavier and Dillard, that are not subject to Edmonston’s bill.

It is not clear whether Gov. John Bel Edwards will veto the bill. LSU President Tom Galligan said university leaders speak to state officials about policies and concerns but does not lobby them.

Read more at KTBS3

Bill to increase compensation for people wrongfully convicted of crimes clears Legislature

(Source: Associated Press)

Published: June 10, 2021
By: Adrian Dubose, LSU Manship school News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Wire) – A bill to increase the amount paid to people who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes in Louisiana cleared the Legislature Thursday.

House Bill 92 by Rep. Joseph Marino, I-Gretna, increases compensation for people wrongfully convicted of crimes from $25,000 annually with a cap of $250,000 to $40,000 annually and a cap of $400,000.

The bill also would extend the deadline to file for the compensation.

At first, Marino asked for $50,000 per year, but the chambers agreed to $40,000 with the $400,000 cap.

The increased compensation would go into effect on July 1, 2022. Filers on or after the new effect date have the option to receive a lump sum payment of $250,000 instead of receiving $40,000 per year.

Many states – including Texas, Alabama and Florida – offer money to the wrongfully convicted.

Read more at KALB