Healthcare, higher education measures advance to start week 4 of Legislative Session

Healthcare, higher education measures advance to start week 4 of Legislative Session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A hike on cigarette taxes is again moving forward, passing the House Appropriations Committee Monday moments after a separate health-related measure passed.

"These are real dollars. These are real savings," said House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles.

Speaker Kleckley's measure to expand Medicaid comes a week after two other expansion efforts failed.

Kleckley's would require hospitals to help pay for expansion costs and would expire if the state's next governor does not expand Medicaid by next April.

Meanwhile, just down the hall, Louisiana's four college system heads reiterated how dire they say the higher education crisis really is.

"We have about 44,000 students starting final exams this week and they just signed up for courses three-weeks-ago. We gambled and put 2,000 courses out there that we knew we would have to cut in 19 days if June 11th gets here and we haven't solved this

problem," said F. King Alexander, LSU President.

The House Ways and Means Committee that Alexander spoke to passed most of the tax measures they looked at.

But not one in particular that higher education leaders and the governor's office support.

Lawmakers rejected a Gov. Jindal-backed bill to scale back the state's inventory tax, but approved similar measures to cut the credit.

University heads then joined Sen. Jack Donahue on another measure they support.

They had better luck this go around on a bill allowing colleges and universities to set their own fees and tuition.

"It's time for us as legislators to step out of the way and the universities control their own tuition," said Sen. Donahue, R-Mandeville.

The bill passed the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee with an amendment to give colleges and universities the authority to also set their own admission standards.

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