When will sports betting be allowed in Louisiana? It may not happen this year.

Published: February 10, 2021

By: Ryan Nelsen, Matthew Bennett and Mahogani Counts, LSU Manship School News Service

Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, sponsored the bill to legalize betting on sporting events in Louisiana.
Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, sponsored the bill to legalize betting on sporting events in Louisiana.
Photo credit: Sen. Ronnie Johns

BATON ROUGE — Voters in most parishes supported the legalization of sports gambling last Nov. 3, but it may be 2022 by the time bettors are legally allowed to wager in Louisiana on football and other games.

With 55 of the 64 parishes voting in favor of the proposal, legislators will use this spring’s session to set tax rates and create a plan for betting on sporting events.

The Louisiana Gaming Control Board will then create a regulatory model for gamblers and bet takers to use. Mike Noel, the chairman of board, said he expects the rules to be similar to ones that the board recently approved for fantasy sports betting.

Noel said the State Police’s gaming enforcement division will begin taking applications from fantasy sports operators after the rules are published on Feb. 20.

In 2018, voters in 47 parishes approved betting on daily fantasy games in which users create virtual rosters of real athletes and hope they record better statistics than the groups assembled by other players. The gaming board decided last year that it would levy an 8% tax on the net revenue from fantasy gambling to help fund early childhood education. Louisiana was one of only seven states that did not allow fantasy sports betting in 2020.

Louisianans eager to bet on real sports hope that legislators and the board will not take as long to create the rules this time. Sen. Ronnie Johns, R- Lake Charles, sponsored the bill that legalized sports betting, and he expects lawmakers to have a plan before the Legislature gathers in April for a two-month session.

“I will assure you that we will have an agreement between all parties before the legislature in April with the final proposal,” Johns said. “There is absolutely a lot of discussion going on right now, among all parties involved.”

As Louisiana struggles to finance its operations given the economic effects of COVID-19, sports gambling could provide the state with extra revenue and jobs. While a legislative fiscal note written in 2018 estimated fantasy sports betting would generate $375,000 in tax money in the first year, sports gambling could create more.

Read more at houmatoday.com

‘CONCUSSIONS ONCE SEEMED LIKE A PHANTOM INJURY’

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Eric Hill, a former LSU and NFL linebacker, said that concussions caused by head-to-head tackling were common when he played football. Photo credit: Jessica Speziale, LSU Manship School News Service)

Posted: January 27, 2021

By: Jessica Speziale and Henry Weldon, LSU Manship School News Service

This is the second story in a two-part series from the LSU Manship School News Service about the dangers of concussions in high school football games in Louisiana and efforts at schools, universities, and the NFL to make the sport safer.

Back when Eric Hill played linebacker for LSU and in the NFL, every tackler had the same mindset: “You kill the head, you kill the body.”

Hill, who retired from football in 2000, remembers coaches at every level telling him to use his helmet as a weapon. That created a greater risk of concussions for both players. But the NFL was like “the wild, wild West” then, he said, with few safety rules, and concussions seemed like “a phantom injury” since few people were aware of the serious effects.

If a player got his bell rung, he had ammonia packs in his sock to sniff and keep playing.
“You could just grab one, and ‘all right, I’m good,’” Hill said. “That’s how we did it.”

Hill played 11 seasons in the NFL, mostly for the Cardinals in St. Louis and Phoenix. He also was a captain of LSU’s SEC Championship team in 1998. He had seven documented concussions in the NFL, but he suspects he might have had up to 100 throughout his career.

One sticks out in his mind. His team was facing the New York Giants when he scooped up a fumble. Another player came in and hit him on the side of the head. He dropped the ball and then instinctively headed back to the huddle.

“To this day, they were saying it was, like, three plays where I had no idea what I was doing,” Hill said.
The concerns about concussions surfaced after the first case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was found in 2005 in the brain of Mike Webster, a former center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they have since prompted efforts to make tackling–and football itself–safer at every level, from youth and high-school leagues on up through college and the pros.

As more brains of deceased NFL players were examined, nearly all came back with the same result: CTE. Many of the players suffered from severe mood swings, and some committed suicide. Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murder and, at 27, hung himself in his jail cell in 2017. Researchers determined that he had one of the most severe cases of CTE for someone his age.

Read more at eunicetoday.com

‘I couldn’t move my legs’ The concussion danger in Louisiana youth football

Lance Garafola was treated in a hospital after a concussion left his legs numb. He continued to play football for two more years after his injury. Photo credit: Lance Garafola

Published: January 17, 2021

By: Hunter M. McCann, Keith A Fell Jr., Anthony J. Mocklin, LSU Manship School News Service

The following is a two-part series from the LSU Manship School News Service about the dangers of concussions in high school football games in Louisiana and efforts at schools, universities, and the NFL to make the sport safer.

Chapter One: “I couldn’t move my legs.”

Lance Garafola lay on the turf of a high school football field wondering what had happened and where the feeling in his lower body had gone. The crowd and both sidelines fell silent as trainers rushed onto the field. 

Garafola was a sophomore at St. Michael the Archangel High School in 2016 when a Loranger High player blind-sided him on an onside kick. Paramedics were brought in when Garafola said he couldn’t feel his legs, but they were hesitant to move him because of the possible severity of his injury. Silence and fear hung in the air for over an hour before they raised him onto a stretcher and Garafola threw up his thumb to let his teammates and fans know he was conscious.

He was taken to a local hospital and diagnosed with a concussion. The loss of feeling in the lower half of his body, which lasted for a little over 5 minutes, was created by the concussion and the shock from the hit to his head. 

Nearly every football fan knows that concussions are a serious problem in the NFL and in college games, but less attention has been paid to the dangers facing younger athletes. Experts say high school players also face some degree of risk every time they step on the field. 

The hits are not usually as hard in high school as the one that left Garafola temporarily paralyzed, but medical surveys indicate that 67,000 concussions are diagnosed nationwide among high school football players each year, with many more occurring without being evaluated.

One concern is that few high schools can afford the kinds of sophisticated safety measures that NFL and college teams now take. Garafola and others also say that many high school players are reluctant to report concussions, even when they cause problems like short-term memory loss, for fear of being sidelined for good.

Read more at 4WWL

State leaders adopt cautious revenue forecast for 2022

Photo by Sarah Procopio, LSU Manship News Service

Published: January 19, 2021

By: Sarah Procopio, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE–A cautious revenue forecast was adopted by a panel of state leaders Tuesday as they set income projections used to create the state’s budget.

While the forecast for fiscal year 2022 adopted by the Revenue Estimating Conference predicted a slow economic recovery and more money into the state coffers, it also predicted there will be $228 million less for the state than previously forecast.

Tax collections from the next fiscal year, which starts June 30, will increase by almost $115 million from the projected total for this year. However, that will not be enough to offset the loss of almost $800 million in federal funds. In addition, $90 million from the state rainy day fund used to patch up holes in the previous budget will not be available.

The panel has four members: Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, Senate President Page Cortez, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and independent economist Stephen Barnes of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

“This has been a historically tumultuous time for the state,” said Barnes. “We’re still looking at a lot of uncertainty.”

Some of that uncertainty involves how the latest federal coronavirus relief package, which will provide Louisiana with at least $2 billion in aid, can be used to fill in the budget. The panel is awaiting rules on how that money and an upcoming relief bill proposed by the incoming Biden administration can be used.

Read more at Houma Times

Despite our differences, I saw the best of our country while working the polls

LSU professor Will Mari served as a poll worker on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Baton Rouge.
LSU Professor Will Mari served as a poll worker on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Published: Nov. 7, 2020

By: Will Mari, LSU Manship School News Service

The skin behind my ears was burning.

I put some tissue paper behind the cutting elastic holding my mask on tight, and that reduced it to a dull ache. I had been sitting for nearly eight hours and had four hours to go before the polls closed. And I was loving it.

Let me explain.

A few months ago, I was reading a news story about how our local election officials in Louisiana were worried about finding enough people to work as poll commissioners — commonly called “election workers” — due to the pandemic. I’d been wanting to do something to serve my community, “even” something small, and volunteered, taking the online test with the Louisiana Secretary of State and contacting the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court office.

Many other young people had the same idea, and a number answered the call for help. Last Friday, I got a phone call from Fred Sliman, who works for the Elections Department as a spokesman.

He had received my application and asked where I wanted to work — anywhere close to my precinct in Mid City, in Baton Rouge, I told him, would be great, nervously adding that I was a newbie at all this.

Read more at daily advertiser

Lawmakers reach agreement on bill aiming to lower car insurance rates

Published: June 30, 2020

By:  Catherine Hunt, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE – Republican lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards agreed Tuesday to make changes to the state’s civil justice system that could limit damages in personal injury cases in an effort to lower car insurance rates.

The deal, on an issue that was a high priority for Republican leaders, came hours before the special legislative session ended Tuesday.

Both the House and the Senate quickly passed the bill, which was sponsored by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales. It was one of several “tort reform” bills written to replace a major Republican-backed bill by Sen. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, that Edwards vetoed.

Edwards will sign the new bill into law, said Matthew Block, Edwards’ executive counsel.

Republican lawmakers, backed by business groups and the insurance industry, pushed hard for what they call tort reform, saying that Louisiana’s litigious climate is why drivers in the state pay the second highest auto insurance premiums in the country, after Michigan.

Democrats, backed by lawyers and judges, opposed the Republican measures to change the legal system, noting that some accident victims will receive less in damages and that there is no guarantee that the legal changes will lead to lower insurance premiums.

Democrats supported legislation that would have prohibited insurance companies from determining rates based on a drivers’ gender, age, credit score or marital status. These bills were killed in committee.

Schexnayder’s was one of several bills that sought to find a compromise between the two sides. It passed in the House 84-16 and in the Senate 35-4.

Read more at WBRZ2

 

Lawmakers finalize $34 billion state budget on final day of session

Published: June 30, 2020

By: Kathleen Peppo, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE–Lawmakers agreed Tuesday on a $34 billion state budget that provides hundreds of millions for businesses hurt by the COVID-19 shutdown but freezes $60 million in pay raises for state employees and cuts funding for colleges that also are struggling financially.

As a 30-day special session was nearing an end, the House agreed to a Senate proposal to temporarily set aside the pay raises for state employees and review in November whether tax collections had rebounded enough to provide them.

If the economy remains stagnant or depressed, the money will be used to fill holes in the budget.

In addition to nearly $800 million in federal coronavirus aid money and the money saved on pay raises, lawmakers also will use $90 million from the state’s rainy-day fund to plug budgetary holes.

Still, the budget, which covers the fiscal year that starts Wednesday, includes cuts in state spending on higher education.

Leaders of the various university systems have said that their costs and lost revenues associated with the coronavirus far exceed the amount of direct aid that they are receiving from the federal government, leaving them in a difficult position.

Read more at houmatimes.com

Bill to provide $250 stipends to front-line workers heads to Gov. Edwards’ desk

Rep. Sam Jenkins, D-Shreveport, sponsored a bill to provide $250 stipends to front-line workers during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Rep. Sam Jenkins, D-Shreveport, sponsored a bill to provide $250 stipends to front-line workers during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Published: June 29, 2020

By: Kathleen Peppo, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Service) – Legislators voted Monday to provide one-time payments of $250 to front-line workers during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order and to protect schools and colleges against lawsuits that could arise if students or staff-members contract the virus. The $250 stipend passed by unanimous votes in both chambers. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sam Jenkins, D-Shreveport, now makes its way to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has already voiced his support.

Under the bill, up to 200,000 public and private workers will be eligible to receive a check. To apply, the worker must make $50,000 a year or less. He or she also must have worked at least 200 hours in an essential job, such as in a grocery store or a nursing home or as a first responder, while the stay-at-home order was in effect from March 22 to May 14.

The bill will use $50 million of the state’s $1.8 billion in federal coronavirus aid funds.

In response to the financial crisis created by the COVID-19 shutdown, Republican lawmakers slated $300 million of the federal relief dollars to provide grants for Louisiana businesses and $565 million to provide aid to local governments.

Read more at KALB

La. Senate passes 2 proposed compromise bills to lower auto insurance rates

The Senate passed a proposed compromise bill by Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville to lower auto insurance rates.
The Senate passed a proposed compromise bill by Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville to lower auto insurance rates.

Published: June 29, 2020

By:  Catherine Hunt, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Service) – With the special session nearing an end, the Senate passed two possible compromise bills Monday aimed at lowering auto insurance rates and winning support from Gov. John Bel Edwards, who vetoed a major Republican-backed tort reform plan. The Senate voted 30-8 to approve a bill by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzalez. Another bill, by Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, passed 35-3, with seven Democrats voting in support. The House passed Nelson’s bill 82-9 last week, with 21 Democrats voting for it.

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder
House Speaker Clay Schexnayder

Stephen Waguespack, head of the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry, told The Advocate/The Times-Picayune that his group was fine with either Nelson’s or Schexnayder’s bill.

The vetoed bill was proposed by Sen. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge. It would have limited damages awarded to plaintiffs in personal injury cases in an attempt to lower auto insurance premiums.

Louisiana has the second-highest car insurance rates in the country, after Michigan.

Republicans have not been able to muster the votes to override Edwards’ veto, and have focused on passing replacement bills or resolutions while negotiating with Democrats, who want greater assurances that rates would go down and that accident victims would not be unfairly treated.

Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, and Sen. Robert Mills, R-Minden, have filed three identical resolutions that follow Talbot’s methods to lower insurance rates and could be implemented without Edwards’ consent.

The session must adjourn by 6 p.m. Tuesday, and House and Senate leaders must decide whether to send one of the bills to Edwards or proceed with the resolutions.

Read more at KALB

Another tort reform measure passed by the Louisiana Senate

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As masked Senate staff watch, Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, asks a question from the social distance microphone, right, of Sen. Patrick McMath, R-Covington, left, during debat on HB66, a tort reform bill, during legislative action Monday June 29, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. HB66 enacts the Citizens’ Premium Reduction Act and passed 35-3.

Published: June 29, 2020

By:

With the special session nearing the end, the Louisiana Senate passed Monday possible compromise legislation aimed at lowering auto insurance rates by limiting lawsuit options in state district courts for people injured in car wrecks.

House Bill 66, sponsored by state Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, advanced on a vote of 35-to-3, with seven Democrats voting in support. The House last week passed Nelson’s measure, 82-9, with 21 Democrats voting for it. The legislation returns for the House to consider amendments added in the Senate.

The special session, which began minutes after the regular session adjourned June 1, must end by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Unlike Talbot’s bill, it would reduce the default number of jurors to six from 12 to try to lessen the burden on courts and jurors. Judges expressed concerns that Talbot’s bill would overwhelm courts with jury trials and that rural areas could have trouble finding enough jurors for personal injury cases.

In another compromise, Nelson’s bill includes a mandatory rate reduction and a sunset provision that would repeal the law if rates did not decrease by at least 15% after three years. Democrats opposed Talbot’s bill because it did not mandate rate reductions, and Republicans refused to include language that would repeal the legislation if the changes did not result in lower premiums.

Unlike any other legislation on this issue, Nelson’s included comparative fault language that would prevent injured plaintiffs from recovering damages if they are found by courts or juries to have been more than half at fault for the injuries. Twenty-three states have comparative fault, said state Sen. Patrick McMath, R-Covington, who handled HB66 in the Senate Monday, and 14 states with low car insurance rates have the same provision.

Nelson’s bill also would prohibit insurance companies from setting rates based on a driver’s gender if they are over the age of 25.

Democrats sponsored bills that would have tried to lower insurance rates by prohibiting insurance companies from determining rates based on age, gender, marital status, and credit score, but faced opposition from Republicans. Edwards has said he supports these measures and that he believes “discriminatory practices” need to end in order to lower rates.

Read more at The Advocate