BOUQUETS The state Department of Transportation and Development won a Federal Highway Administration award recognizing a program that uses innovative ideas to save millions of taxpayer dollars. The state agency won the Outstanding Achievement Award for its Value Engineering program, which sought ways to design and build roads and bridges more efficiently. DOTD says the program implemented 30 recommendations last year, saving the state more than $29 million. Christopher Juge, a New Orleans portrait artist and federal administrative judge, had his painting Lincoln chosen for display in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. Curators chose the life-size portrait due to its Òrealistic portrayalÓ of the president and his Òstately, commanding presence.Ó Juge, a founding member of the New York Society of Portrait Artists, is a judge with the New Orleans Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Abita Brewing Co. is highlighted in this monthÕs Stuff magazine, which picked its Turbodog beer as the judgesÕ No. 1 pick of the top 80 American brews. The dark brown ale is one of the five flagship brews made by the Abita Springs brewery, which opened as a small local operation in 1986. Abita also creates several other seasonal or smaller-batch brews and root beer and is now distributed in more than 30 states.
BRICKBATS Louisiana's Medicaid program -- specifically, the division that provides costly specialized wheelchairs to appropriate recipients Ñ faces an overhaul after federal officials questioned why the $14 million program was so bloated. State Medicaid director Ben Bearden admitted the program based its spending on recommendations from the wheelchair industry. Federal officials stepped in after they noticed a similar program in New Mexico spent only $46,000 on customized wheelchairs.