News for Monday 051214
By Dave Graichen
Mother Nature cooperated over the weekend as large crowds filled the streets in Downtown Alexandria for Alex River Fête and the Louisiana Dragon Boat Races. Kelli West of the Alexandria/Pineville Convention and Visitors Bureau said. “The organizations involved really stepped up their game. The event, which was in its second year, is poised to become Alexandria’s premiere festival.
A poll conducted on the 5th District Congressional race shows state Senator Neil Riser as the leading Republican candidate, while Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo would be the top pick for the Democrats. The telephone survey was conducted by pollster Darrel Glascock of Pineville and paid for by a pro-gun lobby out of Washington, DC. Riser and Mayo have yet to officially announce whether they will run. So far there's only two announced candidates, former Grant Parish district attorney Ed Tarpley, who is a Republican and Libertarian Clay Grant of Boyce.
Voter registration week 2014 begins today. Secretary of State Tom Schedler says they are joining Registrars of Voters across the state with activities aimed at registering eligible citizens to vote. He
says Louisiana is already third in the country with 84% of eligible voters registered. Schedler says not only can you easily register to vote online at geauxvote.com , you can also go to your local Registrar of Voters office.
Louisiana’s top school board plans to hold a special, and possibly fiery, meeting Today to amend its $3.6 billion spending request and resurrect the proposal in the Legislature. The key change would prevent automatic education increases in the future, which Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, cited when his committee killed the initial plan on May 2. However, superintendents, school board leaders and teacher union representatives may argue that funding increases of at least 2.75 percent are needed annually, even if the Legislature fails to agree on a plan, because of rising retirement, health insurance and other costs.
The issue at dispute is called the Minimum Foundation Program, which is the key funding source for nearly 700,000 public school students statewide for the 2014-15 school year. Just over two years ago, the state employee health insurance program had a half-billion dollars in reserves. Now, the fund balance available to help cover medical claims is half that amount. While the reasons for the precipitous decline are in dispute, it occurred as the Jindal administration reduced insurance premiums and claims payments grew, eating into reserves. More than 250,000 state employees, their dependents and retirees as well as some school system employees rely on the Group Benefits program.
It seems that the nursery industry in Louisiana is booming this spring. The unusually cold winter damaged landscapes and now home gardeners and landscapers are replacing those plants. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings says this is great for business. He says retail and wholesale sales are up 10 to 20 percent from this time last year.
The state department of environmental quality says the air quality in the capital city has improved and they're pushing for EPA to declare the five-parish Baton Rouge area as attaining the health-based ozone standard. Michael Vince with D-E-Q says currently Baton Rouge is labeled as non-attainment, which hurts economic development efforts.
The FBI and the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's office is seeking the person or persons responsible for hanging a noose-like knot from a willow tree along the Mississippi River in Belle Chasse. The
words "White Power" were also found written on the cement levee embankment.
Former Gibsland Mayor Odell Key has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to malfeasance in office. Second Judicial District Court Judge Glenn Fallin sentenced Key to three years at the Louisiana Department of Corrections - two years suspended, and an additional two years of active supervised probation upon completion of his jail sentence. He was also fined $5000.
The Saints drafted six players during the NFL draft, 2 offensive players and four on the defensive side of the ball. The headliner is first round pick wide receiver Brandin Cooks from Oregon State. Coach Sean Payton likes Cooks athleticism, work ethic and character. The Saints selected two players from the Southeastern Conference. Strong safety Vinnie Sunseri from Alabama and Florida outside linebacker Ronald Powell. Payton says both players suffered knee injuries in college, but should be able to play right away, especially on special teams.
The sixth ranked LSU Tigers sat around and watched it rain more than they played baseball this weekend. Because of lightning and heavy rain in Baton Rouge, the Bayou Bengals only played two games. Both of them were on Saturday. They won the first game 2-0 behind another stellar pitching performance by Aaron Nola. But the Tigers lost the nightcap 5-1. That second game didn't start until 10 PM because of weather.