News for Thursday 021816
By Dave Graichen
The RPSO reports an altercation between two men yesterday led to one of the men being stabbed in the abdomen. 46 year old James Roberts of Pineville was arrested a short time later and has been charged with aggravated second-degree battery and a probation violation. He remains in the parish detention center awaiting a $100,000 bond.
A judge ruled Wednesday that the proposed sale of Cleco Corp. is not in the public interest, a week before the Louisiana Public Service Commission will decide whether to approve the transaction. An investor group has agreed to buy Pineville-based Cleco for nearly $5 billion. The Public Service Commission is expected to vote on the issue at its meeting Feb. 24.
In her ruling, Administrative Law Judge Valerie Meiners joined commission staff in recommending against the sale as currently structured.
The House Ways and Means Committee began hearing various tax bills today that would raise revenue to close a massive budget deficit. One of the measures would increase the state sales tax on a pack of cigarettes by 22-cents per pack. Bill Shepherd, owner of Churchpoint Wholesale, says if this bill passes Louisiana smokers could save money by purchasing cigarettes across the state line and Louisiana would then collect less revenue. The panel ended its day by talking about raising taxes on beer, wine and alcohol to the southern regional average. The panel did not vote on any of these measures that will occur in the near future.
Alcohol taxes in Louisiana have not been raised since 1948, but that could soon change. State Representative Kenny Cox of Natchitoches is proposing a higher tax on alcohol as a means for closing the state’s huge budget deficit. The proposed bill would raise Louisiana’s alcohol tax to the Southern regional averages. Under this bill, taxes would increase $3 per gallon for hard liquor and 34-cents per gallon for wine. The tax would go into effect April 1, although it is unclear how much revenue it would generate. Unlike other taxes proposed during this special session, this increase would be permanent.
The first independent poll on the 2016 US Senate race has Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy as the favorite. In the Southern Media and Opinion Research Survey of 500 likely Louisiana voters, Kennedy received 22% of the vote that’s 12% more than Republicans Charles Boustany and Scott Angelle. Republicans John Young, Rob Maness, and John Fleming each have less than 8% of voters’ support. Pollster Bernie Pinsonat says Kennedy is the favorite to make the run-off.
Republican Representative Chris Broadwater of Hammond, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, says lawmakers are taking a hard look at the Edwards Administration’s proposed one cent sales tax increase. He says the reason it’s such a pivotal issue is because they are trying to close a massive $950ish million dollar gap in the current fiscal year budget. Broadwater says there is concern about whether or not the one penny sales tax hike would be utilized as a short term approach, or if it would stay long term. Broadwater says it remains to be seen if lawmakers will decide to make this part of the solution to the budget crisis.
Metairie Senator Conrad Appel has written a letter to Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Rallo calling on the Board of Regents to construct a plan for organization reform. Appel says funding for higher education in Louisiana is pretty much stagnant as far as we can see in the future. He says it’s the duty of the Board of Regents to plan the big picture strategy and decide what actions need to be taken.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has delayed the scheduled execution of Daniel Blank, who was convicted of beating and stabbing a 71-year-old woman to death while robbing her home in 1997. The state corrections department said Monday that it doesn’t have the necessary drugs for Blank’s execution. Blank was accused of killing 6 people in 1996 and 1997.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, despite objections from the state. Owners felt the designation, though prestigious, could delay maintenance and improvements. A student from Tulane nominated the Superdome in December, and the National Parks Service announced the structure was listed earlier this month.