Louisiana News Briefs

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Cassidy: Barksdale base getting $5 million federal appropriation

Barksdale Air Force Base in north Louisiana is getting a $5 million federal appropriation to support the Air Force Global Strike Command headquartered there, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said.

Air Force Global Strike Command is responsible for the nation’s three intercontinental ballistic missile wings; the Air Force’s entire bomber force, including the B-52 and the Long-Range Strike Bomber Program; the Air Force Nuclear Command; Control and Communications systems; and operational and maintenance support to organizations within the nuclear enterprise, according to Cassidy’s office.

Cassidy said he requested the money to expand Global Strike Command’s institutional capacity to develop future operational concepts and capabilities, establish operational requirements, evaluate technology opportunities, build prototype systems and conduct proof of concept demonstrations.

“This funding supports our national security strategy and keeps our nation safe by establishing an innovation hub here in Louisiana,” Cassidy said.

State education department plans to spend $2 million to provide free ACT tests

The Louisiana Department of Education plans to use $2 million in federal pandemic relief dollars to pay for vouchers students in grades 10 and 12 can use to take the ACT college entrance exam, the department announced Wednesday.

High school juniors in Louisiana have been able to take the test for free since 2013. The new money will allow more high school students to take the ACT at no cost to themselves, their families or their school system, the department said.

“This use of pandemic relief funds removes financial barriers and opens doors for our students,” State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said. “This additional testing opportunity could be life-changing for some students. An improved ACT score can make college more affordable and expand a student’s post secondary options.”

Edwards’ administration seeks public input on climate plan

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Climate Initiatives Task Force is soliciting ideas from the public about ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through April 30.

Ideas will be reviewed for possible inclusion in a report due next February. Edwards wants Louisiana to be on the path to be carbon neutral by 2050.

“By asking for climate actions from the public, we are able to hear from those most directly impacted by the effects of climate change; from academics who may have studied this issue for decades, to chemical engineers with years of on-the-job experience, and any member of the public with an idea or an interest in being a part of the solution to one of the world’s biggest challenges,” Edwards said.

proposal template is available on the governor’s official website.

Misclassification task force requests extension

A task force considering possible changes to how Louisiana handles the misclassification of employees as independent contractors agreed Wednesday to ask legislative leaders for a one-month extension.

Their report to the Louisiana Legislature is due March 1. The group is asking to push the deadline to April 2.

Some lawmakers and stakeholders say unscrupulous companies use misclassification to duck taxes that pay for unemployment benefits, which allows them to outbid companies that follow the law and forces those companies to take on more of the tax burden. Business advocates, who pushed to kill an effort to get tougher on the practice last year, want to avoid punishing companies that make honest mistakes and don’t want to stifle the “gig economy.”

Louisiana is the only state in the nation with a misclassification statute that lets first-time offenders off with a warning. Jim Patterson with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, a task force member, has said his organization would be willing to drop its opposition to issuing fines for a first offense if the penalty is waived for companies that get into compliance with the law within 60 days.