News for Monday 022216
By Dave Graichen
Early voting started Saturday for Louisiana’s March 5th Presidential Preference Primary. Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Democrats must choose a Democrat and Republicans choose a Republican, but everyone should vote in local elections. He says early voting runs through this Saturday.
The Louisiana Public Service Commission is expected to vote on whether to approve or reject the proposed sale of CLECO at its meeting in Baton Rouge this Wednesday. Pineville-based Cleco agreed in October 2014 to a sale proposal of nearly $5 billion from an investment group. The deal was approved by Cleco shareholders and has received other regulatory clearance, leaving the final decision in the hands of the Public Service Commission.
The first week of the special legislative session is now behind us and we are still waiting for the first significant piece of legislation to make it out of the House Ways and Means Committee. The panel heard testimony all week on various proposals to increase taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, personal income, businesses and there’s a bill to raise the state sales tax by a penny. The budget must be balanced by June 30th and the special session is set to end by March 9th.
A new poll from Invest in a Healthy Louisiana and Public Opinion Strategies finds increasing the tobacco tax is favored by seven out of 10 voters. The Invest in a Healthy Louisiana Coaltion is advocating a $1.25 per pack increase in the tobacco tax. So far, only a 22-cent increase has been discussed by the legislature. Pollster Glen Bolger says the poll asked people about three different tax levels and found no statistical difference between the options.
Recent polls have shown the public is opposed to the legislature increasing taxes as a way of solving the state’s fiscal crisis. But Michael Henderson, Director of LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab, says these surveys might not tell the whole story, because the polls do not ask the respondents about potential consequences if revenues are not raised. Henderson, who puts together the annual Louisiana Survey, says the public always opposes proposals to increase taxes. But voters also oppose spending cuts to education or transportation.
Henderson says legislators should take these polls with a grain of salt, because the poll questions don’t take into account what could happen if certain taxes are not raised
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has awarded a 2.1 million dollar loan to assist an Avoyelles Parish water system improve its drinking water. State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry says the money comes from the state‘s Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund, which helps improve infrastructure to ensure drinking water stays safe. Guidry says the project calls for a new pump stations, new ground water storage tank, a new well and chlorination facility at the Yellow Bayou Pump station
In another blow to Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson, his estranged daughter has taken over their family’s estate in Texas. This was under a settlement agreement approved by a judge. Benson cut his heirs out of his will when the feud began, and a settlement on the lawsuit over the ownership of the sports franchises in New Orleans is scheduled for a hearing next week. Renee Benson argues that her father is not competent to handle his affairs.
The last member of the Angola three was released from prison Friday. 69 year old Albert Woodfox plead no contest to the manslaughter and aggravated burglary charges he’s facing in the death of a 1972 prison guard. Woodfox has spent most of his prison life in solitary confinement. Attorney General Jeff Landry says they will NOT seek to try Woodfox for a third time.
Supermodel Pamela Anderson suggests to Governor John Bel Edwards that Louisiana’s budget could benefit from serving all-vegan food to prisoners. That’s according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA spokesperson Dan Matthews says Anderson has visited other jails around the country that save hundreds of thousands of dollars by not serving meat. Anderson is the “honorary director” of PETA and she wrote a letter to Governor Edwards saying enormous savings on freezer costs and prisoners’ healthcare would be made by serving healthy, colorful vegan meals. Matthews says Louisiana taxpayers would save over $620,000 a year by offering inmates beans, rice, lentils, pasta, potatoes and other vegetables.
Dozens of students marched to the state capitol Friday in efforts to protest the proposed cuts to higher education to offset the massive budget deficit. The students say they want to make legislators pay attention and stop these drastic measures. Higher Ed Commissioner Joseph Rallo says under the best case scenario, public colleges would receive a 70-million dollar cut this fiscal year.
The ACLU of Louisiana has responded to the latest Crime Stoppers video by St. Landry Parish’s Captain Clay Higgins that’s gone ridiculously viral. Higgins is looking for wanted members of the Gremlins Gang and says they each have a $2500 bounty on their head. ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman feels like all this does is exacerbate the problem of a public who feels cops are the bad guys.
24 year old Dewayne Calloway of Columbia died early Sunday morning in a Grant Parish single vehicle crash. State police report Calloway lost control of his vehicle on Highway 165, ran off the road and struck several trees. Calloway was not wearing his seat belt and was ejected. Troopers believe excessive speed was a factor in the crash.
Early voting for the Louisiana Presidential Preference Primary is underway, and polls remain open until Saturday. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are battling for the Democratic nomination. Former US Senator Mary Landrieu supports Hillary Clinton. Landrieu says Clinton has the skills necessary to be an effective leader. Landrieu says Sanders is not as well equipped to handle the presidency. However, Sanders’ supporter Gilda Reed, a psychology professor at UNO, says she is “feeling the Bern.” She says he can make crucial changes in the country. Reed says Sanders is capturing the hearts of everyday Americans and energizing the youth because of his progressive ideas.