News for Tuesday 022316
By Dave Graichen
Much of Louisiana could see severe weather today, including the potential for tornadoes. State Climatologist Barry Keim says it will be a bumpy ride over the next 24 hours or so as result of cold front that’s moving through the state. Keim says cities like New Orleans, Houma, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Alexandria are under an enhanced threat of severe weather. The severe weather threat will diminish Wednesday morning, then we should feel much lower temps.
The city of Alexandria held a press meeting yesterday to announce plans for this year’s Alex RiverFête, which will take place May 5-7 in downtown Alexandria. The anchor event, Louisiana Dragon Boat Races, will take place on the last day of the festival May 7th. City officials unveiled details about the musical lineup and information on a new activity at the festival – “a costumed bicycle parade”. A complete list of events can be found in today’s Town talk. Various other “Fêtes” will join in the festivities of RiverFête, including ArtFête, CarFête and KidsFête, as well as Dinner on the Bricks.
22 year old Daniel Verzwyvelt of Boyce will serve 10 years in prison for the Easter Sunday 2014 crash that killed a Pineville man on Bayou Rapides Road. Verzwyvelt, was sentenced on Monday morning by 9th Judicial District Court Mary Lauve Doggett after he changed his plea on one count of vehicular homicide with drugs to guilty. Doggett sentenced Verzwyvelt to 20 years at hard labor, with 10 years suspended.
Today could be a pivotal day in the special session that’s been called to eliminate a $900 million deficit this fiscal year. The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to vote on various proposals to increase taxes, including a measure that would increase the state sales tax from 4-cents to 5-cents. Jeremy Alford, publisher of la-politics-dot-com, says the sales tax bill is a key revenue raising measure that the Edwards administration is pushing for. Alford says many republicans could vote for an increase in the sales tax, but they want the governor to commit to some long-term spending cuts. The committee has also heard bills that would increase taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, rental cars, phone lines, internet sales and hotels.
The House Appropriations Committee approved a series of bills today aimed at reducing or cutting down on number of state contracts, which supporters say will save the state some much needed dollars. Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy says there are dozens if not hundreds of contracts that the state spends money on that are NOT needed. Some of the examples Kennedy named include contracts for tutoring students and providing adult education to prisoners.
According to experts at the International Energy Agency, oil prices will not rebound until next year. David Dismukes, Executive Director at the LSU Center for Energy Studies, says this is disappointing news to the oil industry, after hearing reports about a production freeze in the Middle East. But Dismukes doesn’t see a cutback in production by oil producing countries.
Oil prices have plummeted 70% in the last two years, leading to layoffs in the oil industry and supporting businesses. Today the price of US oil is trading around $30 a barrel.
Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera has released an annual report that points out areas where state government can do a better job of protecting taxpayer dollars. Purpera says on multiple occasions his auditors discovered the Department of Health and Hospitals didn’t do what was needed to receive payments from third parties for medical services provided for Medicaid patients. Purpera says nationally, nearly 6 percent of Medicaid claims are subject to abuse and the number could be even higher in Louisiana.
Early voting for the Louisiana Presidential Preference Primary continues today through Saturday. Secretary of State Tom Schedler says this primary is costing Louisiana $3.5 million during tough budget times. He says switching to a caucus format would save the state that money, because a caucus is paid for by the political parties. Schedler says he has proposed caucus voting to the legislators, but it takes a vote by the legislature to make that change.
St. Landry Sheriff Bobby Guidroz is asking Captain Clay Higgins to tone down in crime stopper videos after more groups are coming forward expressing anger over the latest viral Crimestoppers video. The so called, “Cajun John Wayne” is coming under fire for some of the terminology he used to refer to the Gremlins Gang suspects. National Action Now president, Reverend Raymond Brown, doesn’t like that Higgins called these individuals ugly names. Guidroz says this gang has been terrorizing Acadiana for a long time.
The LSU men’s basketball team is at Arkansas tonight in a game that is a must have for the Tigers who are on the wrong side of the bubble when it comes to making the NCAA Tournament. LSU will play the game without senior shooting guard Keith Hornsby, who re-aggravated a sports hernia injury that forced him to miss several games earlier this season. Coach Johnny Jones says it’s too early to say if Hornsby will miss the rest of the season as some reports suggest.