What is the main barrier to broadband access in Louisiana?

Published: April 28, 2022

By: Rosel Flores, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — In the fifth installment of the 2022 Louisiana Survey, released Tuesday, residents say the most common barrier to having broadband internet is the cost of the service.

The survey, sponsored by the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, was based on online and phone responses from 508 Louisiana residents.

The survey found that 75% of respondents already had broadband internet service in their homes.

Another 6% said they subscribe to internet service, but it is a slower dial-up service.

About 20% of respondents stated that they do not have broadband or dial-up in their homes.

Providing greater access to high-speed internet services in rural and lower-income urban areas has been a priority of federal and state officials to support education and economic development, and the survey’s findings help delineate the extent of the problem.

Read more at the Daily Advertiser

About 40% of TOPS recipients come from homes earning $100K a year. A bill seeks to stop income reporting.

Published: April 22, 2022

By: Piper Hutchinson, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — The Senate Committee on Education unanimously advanced a bill Thursday that would stop the reporting of household income for TOPS recipients.

Senate Bill 81, sponsored by Sen. Bodi White, a Central Republican, would eliminate the requirement for TOPS recipients to report their family’s income.

Students who benefit from the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, a merit-based scholarship that covers tuition costs for in-state students, are required to provide significant demographic information.

White’s original bill also would have nixed the requirement for reporting on race and gender. But it was amended to only do away with income reporting.

About 58,000 students took advantage of the scholarship in the 2020-2021 academic year. Of the 15,000 high school graduates who were awarded tops at the end of the 2020 school year, about 40% of them came from households with annual incomes of at least $100,000.

The median household income in Louisiana is $49,000.

Read more at Shreveport Times

$38.6 billion budget clears Louisiana House, includes teacher pay raises

Published: April 22, 2022

By: Piper Hutchinson

Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, R-Houma presents budget bills Thursday in the Louisiana House of Representatives. (Piper Hutchinson/LSU Manship School News Service)

The Louisiana House of Representatives passed a package of budget bills on Thursday, including a proposed $38.6 billion state operating budget with pay raises for K-12 teachers and college faculty.

A separate spending bill for infrastructure projects did not include the full $500 million Gov. John Bel Edwards has sought to lay the groundwork for a new Mississippi River bridge at Baton Rouge.

Republican leaders raised concerns about spending that $500 million immediately, especially when a location for the bridge has not yet been finalized.

Instead, they proposed moving that money into a fund and opened it up to a number of other projects.

Read more at Louisiana Illuminator

LSU Survey: Most Louisiana residents are confident in elections in the state

Published: April 21, 2022

By: Alex Tirado, LSU Manship School News Service

(Nexstar DC photo)

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Service) — While a majority of Louisiana residents are confident in the elections in the state, trust in local news organizations has plummeted.

The fourth installment of the 2022 Louisiana Survey, released Thursday, reports general confidence in election security but a declining trust in local news organizations.

The survey, released in a series of six reports sponsored by the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, was based on online and phone responses from 508 Louisiana residents.

Table showing views on voting rights and election security among political parties in Louisiana. (2022 Louisiana Survey)

The survey found that 88% of respondents were very or somewhat confident that legally qualified individuals who wish to vote are able to in Louisiana.

Read more at KLFY

Senate OK’s support for college students with development disabilities

Published: April 20, 2022

By: Rosel Flores| LSU Manship School News Service

State Senator Gerald Boudreaux addresses the crowd attending the groundbreaking ceremony for the relocation of Basin Arts in the historic church at 710 Jefferson Blvd, in Lafayette on Thursday, March 3, 2022. PHOTO BY ROBIN MAY

The state Senate advanced a bill 36-0 Wednesday that would provide financial support for new and existing post-secondary education programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Louisiana currently offers six higher education programs that allow students with these types of disabilities to enjoy a college experience and grow educationally and socially.

If approved by the House, the fund would help the students increase their social and communication skills, develop employment skills and produce self-sufficient young adults who could become successful employees.

Senate Bill 192 was sponsored by Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette, and was discussed more thoroughly on Monday in the Senate Finance Committee, where a large crowd attended to show support.

Read more at The Advocate

COVID pandemic creates setbacks for HIV care in Louisiana

Published: April 19, 2022

By: Olivia Landry

The number of HIV tests like this one at Crescent Care in New Orleans dropped sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic (Photo courtesy of Crescent Care)

For decades, Louisiana was one of the worst states for HIV transmission, and in 2015, healthcare leaders created a plan to try to end the epidemic.

As they expanded access to prevention tools and health services and pushed to ease the stigma surrounding the human immunodeficiency virus, new diagnoses dropped by more than 20%, and by 2019, Louisiana no longer ranked among the 10 states with the highest transmission rates.

Then COVID hit, forcing immunocompromised people like HIV sufferers to isolate themselves. Many of the more than 22,000 Louisiana residents with HIV or AIDS lost in-person access to health providers, and newly diagnosed patients did not get the treatments that can keep them from transmitting the virus. Testing sites also administered far fewer tests, and five years of progress evaporated.

Preliminary data suggests that after a multi-year decline, new HIV diagnoses increased by about 33%, from 722 in 2020 to 960 in 2021, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

“We don’t know exactly why that was the case,” said Sam Burgess, the STD/HIV program director at the health department. “We certainly know there was a lot less testing in 2020 and 2021. There were a lot of calls out to the public to avoid routine medical visits, so I think a lot of people delayed their screenings for sexual health. Some of the folks who probably would have been diagnosed in 2020 were diagnosed in 2021.”

Testing is picking up again with the recent lull in COVID cases, but the totals are not reaching pre-pandemic numbers.

Testing efforts at Crescent Care, one of the main HIV/AIDS treatment centers in New Orleans, were cut in half over the last two years. The clinic administered almost 8,000 HIV tests in 2019. Because lockdowns limited many patients to telehealth visits, the number decreased to 4,000 in both 2020 and 2021.

“The most effective means of HIV testing is getting out in the community and testing people,” said Dr. Jason Halperin, an infectious disease specialist at Crescent Care. “In lockdowns and social distancing, all of that testing has stopped.”

Read more at Louisiana Illuminator

Louisiana residents worry about storm losses and eroding coastline’s impact, survey says

Published: April 19, 2022

By: Allison Kadlubar, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — Louisiana residents are concerned about damage from hurricanes and fear the unsettling reality of the state’s eroding coastline.

According to an LSU survey released Tuesday, 40% of respondents who have insurance said they filed property damage claims since 2020.

Hurricanes Ida, Laura, Delta and Zeta left Louisiana residents with billions of dollars in damages, especially people in South Louisiana and metro New Orleans.

The respondents who had filed insurance claims were evenly divided in assessing how the companies handled their claims, with 47% satisfied and 47% dissatisfied.

But more than half of the respondents with homeowner’s insurance said their premiums have increased.

Read more at the Daily Advertiser

ON DAY FOR HEALTHY MATERNITY, LA. HOUSE VOTES FOR DEPRESSION SCREENING

Published: April 13, 2022

By: Lura Stabiler, LSU Manship School News Service

Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, sponsored a bill to provide for perinatal mood disorder screening, specifically for postpartum depression.
/LSU Manship School News Service/Sarah Gamard

BATON ROUGE—On Black Maternal Health Advocacy Day Wednesday, the House voted 101-0 to pass a bill to provide for perinatal mood disorder screening, specifically for postpartum depression and awareness.

Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, authored the mental health bill, House Bill 784, to help deal with Louisiana’s alarming maternal and infant mortality rates. Louisiana has the highest maternal death rate in the country and the second-highest infant death rate.

At a House Health and Welfare Committee meeting earlier this month, Robin Gruenfeld with the March of Dimes said, “One in seven women experience symptoms of depression during their pregnancy and the 12 months following delivery. These women are more likely to give birth preterm or experience the loss of an infant.”

The bill requires healthcare providers who offer postnatal care to screen patients for signs of postpartum depression or related health disorders. The healthcare provider will likely be the new mother’s obstetrician or their child’s pediatrician.

Read more at St. Mary Now

Lawmakers want to help retired teachers return to work

Published: April 13, 2022

By: Margaret DeLaney, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE–The Senate Retirement Committee advanced a bill to make it easier financially for retired teachers to come back to work to help ease statewide shortages.

Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, the sponsor of the bill, said it addresses the shortage of teachers and other personnel. Mathematics, science, English, language arts and special education have all been identified as areas with shortages that require certified teachers.

Current law suspends retirement benefits for many teachers who return to work depending on when they retired.

Fields’ bill would expand the number of certified teachers in any subject area who could return without losing retirement pay. That would include any who retired before July 1, 2020.

Meanwhile, the House Education Committee advanced a bill Wednesday to maintain a database with training courses and requirements teachers must complete to become certified. The new database would allow new and experienced teachers to keep track of new regulations for professional certifications.

Read more at Lafourche Gazette

Anti-vaccine bills stall in the Louisiana legislature amid concerns of enforcement

Published: April 13, 2022

By: Piper Hutchinson and Allison Kadlubar, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — Three anti-vaccine bills ran into trouble with lawmakers Tuesday during lengthy debates.

Rep. Larry Bagley, a Stonewall Republican, had proposed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor crime for government agencies and schools to discriminate against people based on their vaccine status.

The bill, House Bill 54, was aimed at blocking requirements for people to be vaccinated to access the premises. Bagley ended up returning the bill to the calendar, which means it will not be taken up again unless two-thirds of the House votes to reconsider it.

“I had hundreds of calls, as most of you did, too, in the past year… Friends… losing jobs,” Bagley said on the House floor. “I fully believe that you as an individual could have the right to choose.”

But other lawmakers pointed out problems with the bill concerning enforcement, charges and freedom of speech.

Read more at the Daily Advertiser