News for Wednesday 022416
By Dave Graichen
The Louisiana Public Service Commission is set to vote Today on whether or not Cleco will be sold for nearly 5 Billion dollars to the investment group Macquarie Infrastructure. Cleco says this merger will not charge utility customers for any costs related to the sale and their rates will not go up. The proposed sale is opposed by PSC member Clyde Holloway who says it’s not worth the long-term risk to Cleco ratepayers. Cleco claims the transaction will result in 143 million dollars in credits to customers over the next 15 years.
It’s was a stormy day yesterday as a cold front worked its way across the state. In South Louisiana numerous tornadoes caused a lot of damage. In St. James parish two people were killed after a twister touched down at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon in Convent. The manager of an RV Park confirmed that hundreds of trailers were damaged and several occupants were injured.
The trials for a Eunice man and woman accused in the death of the woman's infant son have been pushed back to June. Billy Dean Cotten and Michelle Cotten were indicted for first-degree murder in the death of 9-month-old Aiden Wayne Dyson. Dyson, the son of Michelle Cotten and stepson of Billy Dean Cotten, died at a local hospital the day after he'd been brought in by ambulance in March 2014. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The House Ways and Means Committee sent several tax bills to the House floor Tuesday. But the panel used a procedural move to advance the tax hikes without having to vote “yes or “no.” Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Stephen Waguespack says the committee basically punted these revenue-generating pieces of legislation to the House floor.
The full House is expected to vote on Thursday whether or not to increase taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, telephones, rental cars and there’s proposal to raise the state sales tax by a penny.
Governor John Bel Edwards is pushing lawmakers to approve some [of these] tax increases as a way to balance this fiscal year’s budget, which has a 900-million dollar deficit. Many republicans oppose the tax hikes, but Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana budget project, says there are other republican legislators who understand the need for them. Moller expects a fierce debate on the House floor over these tax bills as it will take 70 votes for them to advance to the senate.
The public feud between Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards and Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy continues to ramp up. The Governor released a statement claiming Kennedy is misleading the public when talking about the state’s current budget crisis. Kennedy has pushed for the legislature not to raise taxes as a way to solve a 900 million dollar deficit for this fiscal year. While Edwards has maintained some new revenues are needed to balance the budget.
Today is higher education day at the state capitol. Hundreds of students are expected to rally on the steps of the capitol at noon to protest proposed cuts to public colleges and universities. Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Rallo is glad that college students are voicing their concerns. Under a best case scenario, public colleges and universities are facing a 70-million dollar cut this fiscal year.
A report out of Tulane University finds that students in Louisiana’s voucher program end up scoring drastically lower math. Co-author of the study Jonathan Mills says after one year in the program, they found a large negative drop in both English and language arts and math scores on the Louisiana State assessment test.
State lawmakers are discussing whether or not to file a proposed constitutional amendment in the special session that would give Louisiana residents a chance to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana. Why now, so the state would have the ability to tax it. So far it’s just in the talking stage, nothing has been filed in this special session related to legalizing marijuana.