News for Friday 041015
By Dave Graichen
Louisiana is about to get really wet as thunderstorms cloud the forecast for the next several days. State Climatologist Barry Keim says a slow moving cold front is pushing through the state today and looks to be hanging around into at least Monday. Keim says as far as rain totals go, the state can expect at least two inches with higher totals in isolated areas.
The Colorado State University forecast team is predicting the 2015 Hurricane season will be below average and about 45 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2014′s tropical cyclone activity was about 75 percent average. The lead author of the report is Dr. Phil Klotzbach who says if the forecast holds true, it would be the third quiet Gulf hurricane season in a row.
State Rep. Lance Harris will again seek to create a regional port for Rapides Parish. Harris says he will file a bill for a regional port authority, which would include the Port of Alexandria.
Last year, Harris’ bill to expand the territorial limits of the Port of Alexandria to all of Rapides Parish died in committee. But he says they have a very good chance to work it out this year.( A Louisiana Economic Development report shows a regional port is needed and the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce and Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance support that concept.) The Port of Alexandria currently handles about 120,000 tons of cargo a year, but it is running out of land for development.
Plans are moving forward to sell the remainder of the state Tobacco settlement money .
If the Legislature approves, the state would raise $300 million from the sale of the settlement sometime before June 30; another $300 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1; and the remaining amount for $150 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016. But, the state won’t be the only one coming into some quick onetime cash if the plan is approved. Lawyers, financial advisors and underwriters will get paid $1.29 million for their efforts.
State Treasurer John Kennedy announces he’ll seek re-election this fall ending long-time speculation that he’d run for governor or attorney general. ULM Political Science Professor Joshua Stockley says this is a good move on Kennedy’s part. Stockley says many people believe Kennedy has his eye on the US Senate seat that could come open if David Vitter becomes Governor.
Higher Education Commissioner Joe Rallo is very concerned about how some universities will be able to operate if lawmakers are not able to come up with a funding solution to the state’s one-point-six billion dollar budget deficit. Rallo says higher ed is facing a potential cut of about 600-million dollars in state funds. Over the next several weeks lawmakers will discuss ways to generate revenue so that the cuts to higher ed are minimal.
Real estate millionaire Robert Durst entered a not guilty plea to a couple of weapons charges in a New Orleans court Thursday. The weapons arrest has kept Durst in Louisiana, although he had waived his extradition to Los Angeles, where he is charged with the 2000 shooting death of 55 year-old Susan Berman.
The 32-year-old Destrehan teacher accused of having sex with a 16-year-old student has reached a plea deal with the St. Charles Parish District Attorney’s office. Under the terms of the deal, Shelley Dufrense avoids jail time, but she’ll have to complete 90 days of treatment at a mental health facility. Dufrense also faces charges out of Jefferson Parish, along with another former teacher, where an alleged threesome took place with the same 16-year-old student.
New Orleans Representative Joseph Bouie files legislation that would transfer regulation of cable and satellite companies to the Public Service Commission. He says currently the Secretary of State’s office is responsible for the certification and regulation of cable and video entities. Bouie says he’s heard many complaints and concerns from people who feel like cable and satellite companies aren’t held to the same rules as their other utilities.
Republican Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson says he plans to amend the religious freedom bill he has filed amid public concerns but gay rights advocacy groups want the legislation pulled altogether. Johnson says he’ll remove a paragraph in the bill that some believed gave businesses the right to deny benefits to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs. Gay rights groups feel this bill legalizes discrimination and are banding together in opposition to Johnson’s legislation
The streets of Ponchatoula will be packed this weekend as the 44th annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival gets underway today. 2015 Festival Chairman Donald Lanier says this is the largest free festival in Louisiana. Strawberries are the focal point of the festival, which runs through Sunday, but there is lots more for people to enjoy. Live music will be featured all weekend long. Of course food is always an attraction plus carnival rides and a parade tomorrow morning.
The LSU Tigers put their six-game winning streak on the line tonight when they host Auburn to begin a weekend set with the War Eagles. Tonight’s game is set to begin at 7 PM, but the forecast doesn’t look good for the weekend as there’s an 80 to 90-percent chance of rain each day.