News for Thursday 031716
By Dave Graichen
The National Weather Service is concerned about continued flooding in north Louisiana. Meteorologist CS Ross says the Red River crest which has devastated south Bossier moved through the Coushatta area yesterday. He says it will pass through central Louisiana later this week and into the weekend. At that time we can expect near record flooding. 23 parishes are now declared federal disaster areas, but the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness expects more will be added once damage assessments are complete.
The rising Red River is causing problems for residents in Avoyelles Parish now. Avoyelles parish officials report residents in the areas of Brouillette, Fifth Ward, Moncla and Vick are seeing several inches of water building near their homes. Joey Frank, homeland security director, said those areas could see a couple more feet of water before the Red River crests. He said as of Wednesday night that more than 20 families had evacuated their homes.
The commitment is now official.. The company that plans to build an aluminum plant in Pineville that could employ more than 1,000 people has bought property for the project.
Revolution Aluminum Propco LLC secured the property that formerly housed Pineville's International Paper mill. The company plans to build its own mill on the property. Plus, Several other partner companies that will support the mill's operations are also expected to locate on the property.
Union Tank Car announced yesterday, that due to market conditions, they plan to cut production by approximately 50 percent at its Alexandria facility. The manufacturing facility at England Airpark is one of Alexandria's major employers, with an estimated 500-600 employees. The release said workforce will be reduced, but the company is not saying at this time how many workers will lose their jobs.
LSU President F. King Alexander tells the House Education Committee budget cuts are impacting enrollment, faculty and research. Alexander says the university has been receiving more money from the federal government than they have from the state. He says research funding originally for LSU is now going to universities in other states because we don’t invest in higher education. Higher education is facing a 27 million dollar cut in state funding this fiscal year but that number is expected to grow once a new round of cuts are announced.
Higher ed got more bad news yesterday. The Revenue Estimating Conference said there is now a $70 million dollar hole in the current financial year budget which means more cuts to colleges and healthcare. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says they are on a time crunch, but over the next several days they will sit down and decide how to make the cuts in the best possible way to minimize the damage. Next fiscal year’s projected shortfall is now $750 million.
The governor has signed into law a bill that raises the state sales tax by a penny beginning April 1. Gina Rachel, Treasurer for the Society of Louisiana CPAs, says people who are planning to make a big purchase might want to do it before the higher tax takes effect.
Rachel says some things like food for home consumption, gas, and prescription meds are still excluded from the state’s sales tax. She says shoppers will probably not even notice the increase when they make ordinary purchases. Rachel says the legislature has also temporarily ended the sales tax exemptions companies received for utilities and equipment.
Wednesday President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to be a Supreme Court justice after the death of former justice Antonin Scalia. Republican US Senator David Vitter believes with the next president coming into office soon, we should let the voters decide the new justice. Vitter is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and says he will not vote to advance the nomination. Vitter says He hasn’t done much research on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.
Interstate 10 at the Louisiana-Texas line remains closed as a result of flood waters from the Sabine River, which is covering the interstate on the Texas side. Louisiana State Troopers are encouraging residents to use either I-20 or US 190 as alternative routes to get into the Lone Star state.
Bills that lawmakers are expected to talk about during the regular session include one that would allow a religious organization or clergy member to refuse participation in a same sex marriage. Author of the Pastor Protection Act, Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson, says the bill simply protects an individual’s religious belief. The bill is expected to receive opposition from lesbian and gay rights groups.
Another is a bill filed by New Orleans Senator Wesley Bishop that would establish the Louisiana Expectant and Parenting Students Act. Bishop says the number one cause of females dropping out of high school is pregnancy. He says the ultimate goal is to help keep students in school while pregnant and following birth.
Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson will undergo up to five hours of questioning during a deposition in his lawsuit to oust his daughter and her grandchildren inheriting the franchises, a federal magistrate decided today. Benson’s lawyers successfully argued any longer would be too taxing on the 87-year-old’s health. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson scheduled the deposition to start March 24 and to last two days.
Schools in the LHSAA are not satisfied with the current state of affairs in Louisiana, so Paul Rainwater and others are proposing a new option, the Louisiana High School Sports Cooperative. Rainwater says it will take 60 schools’ commitments to form a new organization, which would be open to both public and private schools. He says this group would not have annual feels, outside of the initial fee to join. Rainwater would be the Executive Director of the newly formed LHSSC. He says they are looking into the option of holding many of their championship events at LSU.