News for Tuesday 020216
By Dave Graichen
The Louisiana Public Service Commission voted Monday to adopt a service quality plan for Cleco. That action "insures the current level of Cleco employees will remain even if the proposed sale is not approved by the commission later this month. The decision may be a moot point, the investor group looking to buy Cleco Corp. has already promised to maintain the company's employee headcount if the proposed sale is approved.
Rapides Parish police jurors voted unanimously yesterday to oppose Clean Harbors Colfax’s permit request to increase its open-burning operations. While Clean Harbors Colfax is located in Grant Parish, the jurors were convinced the harmful effects of increasing open burning could reach Rapides and other surrounding parishes. John Martel, who lives by Nantachie Lake in Grant Parish, is co-chair of the Central Louisiana Coalition for A Safe and Healthy Environment, which was formed to rally opposition to the permit request. He told jurors residents within a 40-mile radius of the site near Colfax are “most at risk” of health dangers from airborne contaminants from the open burning. He also pointed out the Rapides Parish Courthouse is only 23 miles from the site.
Standards Review Committee Monday announced Louisiana educators have changed 21 percent of the academic standards for math and English. Regina Sanford, chair of the Committee, told the media they have created these standards to fit the needs of our Louisiana students and they hope the changes will empower teachers. Many changes are geared toward giving teachers more flexibility, making standards clearer and ensuring standards are appropriate for students’ ages and grade levels.
A new report by the Violence Policy Center found gun deaths outpaced vehicle fatalities in the District of Columbia and 21 states, including Louisiana during 2014. According to the report vehicle-related deaths are on the decline as a result of decades of injury prevention strategy, but firearm deaths continue unabated. Louisiana had a total of 896 gun deaths compared to 807 motor vehicle deaths in 2014.
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says new revenues, possibly from an additional one-cent increase to the state sales tax, are needed to stave off big cuts to public colleges and health care services. Dardenne says they are being honest with the public when they say, just cutting the budget will not solve this fiscal year’s 750-million dollar shortfall. Dardenne says they are proposing to use some one-time money, rainy day funds and there are some proposed budget cuts to help with the budget crisis for this fiscal year. But he says additional revenue is also needed to avoid big cuts. Governor John Bel Edwards will call a three-week long special session later this month and at that time, he’ll ask lawmakers to raise taxes.
In an effort to perhaps win favor with the state republicans, Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards attended a Republican legislative retreat Monday in Lafayette. GOP lawmakers met to discuss plans to deal with the state’s budget crisis.
A report from the state inspector general and legislative auditor finds former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David LaCerte mismanaged his department. LaCerte resigned unexpectedly in October during the investigation by Inspector General Stephen Street and Legislative Auditor Darryl Purpera. Street says they found improprieties at several Veterans homes across the state. The report also claims LaCerte used over $27,000 in federal funds, earmarked for a veterans cemetery, to purchase an SUV for department use and paid $44,000 to some law school classmates for professional services without documentation of what they did. LaCerte’s attorney says these allegations are false and part of a character assassination.
A study out of LSU Health Shreveport finds radiation is being over used to treat elderly woman with breast cancer. Lead researcher Dr. Quyen (Quinn) Chu says woman 70 and older with stage 1 breast cancer shouldn’t be treated with radiation and should talk with doctors about taking another treatment route. Chu says their research shows that 2/3 of women in this category are still receiving radiation. He says radiation treatment can cause many different complications in patients. He says the reason radiation is still being used is likely because doctors are set in their ways of treating patients.
The Attorney General’s Office has announced six more arrests of people involved in the Lafayette D.A. bribery scandal. A-G Jeff Landry says the corrupt practices that were being dismissed in this office were ignored by the previous Attorney General, Buddy Caldwell. He says it’s disturbing that action wasn’t taken earlier. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has already sentenced and convicted 5 others in connection with this case. He says the six people arrested here are some of the ones that have been prosecuted in the federal investigation and are now facing a variety of charges from the state.
The US Army Corps of Engineers closed the last open bays of the Bonnet Carre Spillway yesterday. The spillway opened early last month to divert rising Mississippi River floodwaters from New Orleans. Spokesperson Ricky Boyette says about 290 of the 350 bays of the Bonnet Carre were opened during the operation.
Impairment is suspected in a weekend head-on collision in Calcasieu Parish that police say claimed three lives. Cops say a car, driven by 22-year-old Alejandro Delgado of Sulphur, crossed the center line and collided with an SUV with two occupants inside. All three succumbed to their injuries. The investigation is ongoing.
Thibodaux Police have identified the two Napoleonville men who shot and injured each other during a parade on Sunday. They believe 20-year-old Ryan Harris got into an argument with 33-year-old Quincy Johnson, when Harris came back to the scene in body armor and shot Johnson in the chest. Johnson returned fire and struck Harris in the left side. The men are both in stable condition.
A Texas man accused of raping a woman he met on Tinder in 2014 was acquitted Monday by an East Baton Rouge Parish jury. 24-year-old Jacob Witz, of Bellaire, Texas, was indicted on the charge in January 2015. If found guilty, he could have served up to 40 years in prison on the forcible rape charge.