- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Jury questionnaires will be kept hidden from the public, if Gov. Bobby Jindal agrees to the public records exemption that received final passage Wednesday with a 96-1 House vote.

Under the bill (Senate Bill 353), the public can’t see the questionnaires, but any licensed attorney in Louisiana still will be able to access them.

During committee testimony, Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Shreveport, said he offered the bill to make sure jury service doesn’t violate privacy rights. He said the questioning during jury selection in a case still will be open to the public.

The loophole for attorneys was crafted as part of a compromise to get Senate backing for the bill.

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Gov. Bobby Jindal’s top budget adviser said she hopes to give lawmakers a copy of the final money-savings recommendations from consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal by Friday.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols provided an update to the House and Governmental Committee on Wednesday about the work done by the consulting firm, hired by the Jindal administration in December. The firm has a $5 million contract.

Bill Roberti, with Alvarez & Marsal, said the draft final report has 72 recommendations that exceed the target of $500 million in savings ideas, though many of those are long-term proposals that could take several years to reach the full savings expectation.

The 2014-15 budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1, which is nearing final passage, assumes more than $70 million in savings will be reached from the consultant’s plan.

The company was hired in December to look at ways to make state government programs more efficient without cutting services and to devise ideas for raising state revenue or tapping into existing federal financing streams without raising taxes.

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The House has agreed to let students at poor-performing schools have the possibility of switching to higher-performing schools.

Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, said the Senate-approved measure (Senate Bill 61) by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, would offer choice to public school students, like the state has offered through the taxpayer-funded voucher program.

The proposal would start with the upcoming 2014-15 school year, in school districts that agree to participate with a majority vote of the local school board members.

Parents would be able to enroll their children in the public school they choose if the student was assigned to a school that was graded with a D or F in the state’s school grading system. The school that a parent chooses must be rated at an A, B or C level - and it must have the space to take the student.

If parents enroll their children in schools outside of their school system, they could be charged a fee for the transfer.

The House voted 73-15 for the measure, sending it back to the Senate for consideration of changes.

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In other legislative action:

-Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed into law a bill that expands the justifications for the use of force as self-defense. The measure (House Bill 325) by Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, adds the use of force or violence as justifiable when used to prevent a person from unlawfully entering a home, business or vehicle and used to compel an intruder to leave.

-A bill that would extend the time for renewing drivers’ licenses received backing from the House in an 81-19 vote Wednesday. Under the proposal (Senate Bill 582) by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, drivers would have to renew their licenses every six years rather than four years. The proposal goes back to the Senate for consideration of House changes.

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Online:

Louisiana Legislature: www.legis.la.gov

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