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Motorists to enjoy low gas prices over the Holiday period

Gas prices are about 75-cents lower than a year ago as we head into what should be a busy two weeks of traveling during this holiday period. Gregg Laskoski, with gas-buddy-dot-com, says with the statewide average at about $2.30 a gallon, it should help consumers pay for other expenses.

"More presents for the family, it might be on a little bit more food, it could be on better accommodations as they travel greater distances," Laskoski said. 
Laskoski says gas prices have been on a sharp decline since October and this trend should continue into next year. He says the US Department of Energy is projecting a national average price of $2.60 a gallon for 2015. 
"If they are accurate, what that suggests also is that crude oil prices will remain well below $80 a barrel for a long, long time."
Laskoski says this Christmas gift of lower gas prices is the result of a decline in global crude oil prices.  
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58% disapprove of Governor Jindal's job performance

A new Southern Media and Opinion Research poll shows 58-percent of Louisianians disapprove of Governor Bobby Jindal's job performance as he heads into his final year in office.  600 likely Louisiana voters were surveyed.  

Pollster Bernie Pinsonat says you probably won't see the Governor's popularity increase very much as he ends his term.
"Cuts to the budget - teachers, teachers unions, state employees - all of those groups have been affected by some of his reforms and the people who don't like him have piled up."

But Pinsonat points out that the poll shows 70-percent of Republicans give the governor a positive job rating.  With both houses of the state legislature being controlled by Republicans, Pinsonat doesn't see these poll numbers changing the way Jindal will do business in his last year.

"Jindal can not do anything he wants, but he's still got support in there by the Republicans because they've got to pay attention that Jindal's popular with 70-percent of their voters."

Pinsonat says Jindal has a job approval rating of just over 50-percent among white voters.  He doesn't think these poll numbers will factor into Jindal's decision to run for President in 2016.  But Pinsonat says this could be something that could potentially hurt him.

"At the present time, Jindal's doing well enough with Republicans and some whites where he can get away with it.  If it gets any worse, and he starts losing Republicans and then is unpopular with whites, then it will definitely hurt him." 
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Rain coming to Louisiana today

Some much needed rain will be hitting Louisiana today.  State Climatologist Barry Keim says this rain is coming at a great time as the state has been rain deficient over the last two months.  

Keim says there is a coastal storm forming off the coast of Texas this morning.
"Which is going to track from west to east along Louisiana's coast today all the way through Saturday morning."

He says rainfall amounts with this storm could be anywhere from a half inch up to four inches of rain.  Keim says there is the possibility of severe weather depending on the track of the storm.

"But, right now, the chances are very, very low as they have the storm tracking right along the coast.  But if the storm actually ventures inland a little bit, it could increase the chances for severe weather."

Keims says the entire state is teetering right on the edge of drought with everything east of the Atchafalaya Basin experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions.  Keim says the precipitation will be short lived with conditions clearing by Saturday morning.

"Leading to an absolutely beautiful weekend with high temperatures in the 50s in the northern half of the state and highs in the 60s in the southern half of the state." 
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Reward offered for St. Rose hit and run driver

Michelle Southern reporting.
Louisiana State Police is offering a $2500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for allegedly running over and killing a pedestrian in St. Rose on Thanksgiving morning. Spokeswoman Melissa Matey says the crash took place on La 626 in St. Charles Parish.

"We've been working on this case and obtained surveillance video," said Matey.

Matey says 25-year-old Christin Allday was walking across the road at 1:30am and did not yield to the oncoming vehicle when she was struck. The victim sustained fatal injuries as a result.

Matey the vehicle did not stop or return to the scene of the crash and they now have surveillance video.

"It's from in and around the neighborhood at the time of the crash," said Matey. "They believe they have a suspect vehicle but we do need help from the public."

The suspect vehicle is believed to be a dark colored truck or SUV. Matey says callers do not have to give their name or testify to receive the cash reward. 

The Crimestoppers Hotline is 504-822-1111.

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SMOR Poll has Vitter with a double-digit lead in horse race for 2015 governor's race

A new poll on the 2015 governor's race shows republican senator David Vitter with a solid lead over three other opponents. Southern Media and Opinion Research pollster Bernie Pinsonat says Vitter benefits from high name recognition and because he's a vocal critic against President Barack Obama.

"Most voters are reeling against the national policies coming out of Barack Obama and the national democrats, and who benefits from that of course is Senator David Vitter," Pinsonat said.  

Southern Media and Opinion Research surveyed 600 likely voters and 36-percent support Vitter. Pinsonat says Vitter is leading the field of three other opponents in the governor's race, even though 40-percent of the poll respondents disapprove of Vitter's job performance. 
"He's always had high negatives with a certain segment of voters, probably about 30%, but it's not a concern for him until he gets into a runoff."
Democratic state representative John Bel Edwards finished second in the race horse poll, receiving 26-percent, followed by republican Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne at 19-percent. Pinsonat says Edwards benefits by receiving most of the African-American vote. 
"He only needs a few white (votes) for him to get into a runoff and there are enough low-income whites that will vote for him that pretty well assure himself into a runoff spot," Pinsonat said.  
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What does resumed trade with Cuba mean for Louisiana?

Now that the United States and Cuba have announced plans to renew diplomatic relations and resume trade, what does that mean for Louisiana?  Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says resumed trade would be a big benefit for the state, especially the Port of New Orleans.

"Prior to 1961 about 65 percent of all the imports and exports to Cuba went through the port of New Orleans."

Cuba was the Port of New Orleans' largest trade partner, prior to the embargo.  Governor Jindal opposes the President's plan to "normalize" relations with the Communist nation calling it a disservice to those in Cuba who wish to be free and who live in fear of a dictatorial regime.  However, Strain says other non-democratic countries enjoy normal trade relations with the US.

"We've normalized trade with China and with Vietnam.  And, of course doing this with Cuba, we'll do this in a step-by-step fashion, but I think now it is time."

A 2005 visit to Cuba by then Governor Kathleen Blanco established limited trade between Louisiana and the island nation.  Strain says Cuba needs what Louisiana can provide, especially rice and poultry.  But he says food will not be the only thing being exported there.

"It's also going to be able them to buy small types of agricultural equipment, small tractors and that sort of thing." 

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One week till Christmas: Try to keep your cool

Michelle Southern reporting.
Christmas is one week from today and many people would call the next 7 days the most stressful of the year. LSU AgCenter Life specialist Diane Sasser says it's a good idea to get plenty of rest and if you're too tired -- slow down. 

She says it's important to keep smiling and stay positive because getting too easily irritated is unproductive.

"Or everything else you do is just shot down the drain because you're SO stressed out about it you forget what this is really about," said Sasser.

Sasser says you'll be doing yourself a big favor if you get solid plans in place now so there isn't a big scramble next week. She says trying to achieve the "perfect" Holiday can cause worry and tension.

"Because of mom is unhappy, then dad is unhappy and the whole family gets that way," said Sasser. "Talking it out will help everyone understand the way you feel."

Sasser says if you're lonely or missing a loved one, attending a community holiday event may brighten your spirits. She says it's always good to stay on budget and keep a list of everything if at all possible.

"If you think you're going to get a certain number of things at X amount, stick to it," said Sasser.


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