News for Thursday 031016
By Dave Graichen
Heavy rainfall will continue to pound Louisiana today. State Climatologist Barry Keim says a frontal boundary is stuck bringing in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. He says the northern part of the state was hounded with thunderstorms and floods, but it should shift down into central and southern Louisiana today and Friday. Keim says although the storms are shifting, rain can fall anywhere in the state. He says our biggest risk with this weather is flash flooding and river basin flooding. The good news, the rain should start to clear west to east on Saturday.
Cleco has asked state regulators for another hearing on the utility company’s proposed sale to a foreign investment group for almost $5 billion. Public Service Commission chairman Clyde Holloway says he is not in favor of another hearing. Cleco’s attorney says the commission’s vote was flawed because it wrongly decided on the merits of the transaction. Holloway says the commission and an administrative law judge has already heard enough testimony from the company. Holloway says he is concerned about a tax scheme related to the deal that would allow the investors to pocket taxes collected from the monthly rates. He also has suspicions about the future of the company.
Charges are pending against a Natchitoches man, 48 year old Patrick Johnson, after state police report he lost control of his vehicle on LA 486 yesterday morning and struck another vehicle head on killing the occupant. 76 year old Iva Curtis of Campti died a short time after the accident.
Due to a continuing effort to recruit qualified police officer recruits, The city of Alexandria is boosting the pay of starting police officers to among the highest levels in the state. The cost is minimal, $40,000 the balance of this (fiscal) year and $150,000 next year, but according to Councilman Harry Silver, in relation to how we stand up against the rest of the state, only the city of New Orleans and Lafayette are ahead of the Alexandria Police Department. The “base pay” for starting police officers was increased from about $31,000 to about $34,000.
Despite a flurry of votes in the final minutes of the special session, including a bill that increases the state’s four-cent sales tax by a penny, the state is still facing a 30-million dollar deficit for this fiscal year and a shortfall that could be as much as 800-million dollars next fiscal year. When the special session started three and a half weeks ago, lawmakers were facing a 940-million dollar deficit for this fiscal year and two-billion shortfall for the next fiscal year. For now, legislators were able to pass enough revenue generating bills to stave off deep cuts to colleges and health care services.
Governor John Bel Edwards has signed into law the bill that raises the cigarette tax from 86-cents to $1.08. Randy Hayden, Consultant with the Invest in a Healthy Louisiana Campaign, says the legislature should’ve increased the tax on all tobacco products not only on cigarettes and millions of dollars have been left on the table. He says when states increase the cigarette tax they are increasing revenue, while decreasing health care costs in the future.
In the northern part of the state roads are closed and homes are flooded as about a foot of rain has fallen in some areas along I-20. In Bossier parish, they are calling for a mandatory evacuation of 3,500 residents because of rising flood waters. In Ouachita parish, Glenn Springfield with the sheriff’s office says evacuations are also underway there. Several parishes have declared a state of emergency. Extensive flooding has also been reported in Natchitoches and Vernon Parishes.
A USA Today investigation into teacher screening systems across the country found fundamental defects in several states, including Louisiana. The group's audit of state procedures and practices resulted in a rating system in which each state received a letter grade. Louisiana rated among 12 states that received F's for their system for background checks for educators.
The black bear will be formally removed from the endangered species list today at a press conference in Tensas parish. Robert Barham, former Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries which oversaw efforts to grow the black bear population, says the black bear was once on the brink of extinction.