Capitol Views by Maginnis: Differences on 'legacy' suits aired
Discussions have taken place behind closed doors, in Capitol hallways and at legislative crawfish boils, but the high-stakes issue of oilfield contamination claims, or "legacy lawsuits," got its first public hearing of the session today at a meeting of the Joint Natural Resources Committee. No specific bills were considered at the information hearing, at which representatives of oil companies and attorneys for landowners laid out their differences over how to settle the mass of litigation and to clean up land and water that were polluted decades ago. After two and a half hours, Committee Chairman Sen. Gerald Long, R-Natchitoches, urged the parties to continue trying to reach a resolution.
Both sides agree on the goal of enabling the responsible party, often a major oil company that held a lease decades ago, to accept responsibility for cleanup while allowing plaintiffs to pursue claims for damages separately. The sticking point has been industry's insistence that the Department of Natural Resources develop a cleanup plan that can be introduced as evidence in the trial for damages. Jimmy Faircloth, attorney for landowner Roy Martin, objects because he believes that the understaffed Office of Conservation would be unduly influenced by executive lobbying to grant variances to regulatory cleanup standards. He only wants the department's report admitted if the state decides to intervene in a suit, which, industry claims, would not happen often to relieve the glut of lawsuits. Read the full column—which also touches on an unrelated debate at the Capitol today over the constitutionality of increasing the retirement age for state employees—here.
(John Maginnis will publish a daily update throughout the legislative session on Daily Report PM. The report is also available to LaPolitics Weekly subscribers on the Subscribers Only page at LaPolitics.com. Registration is available on the homepage.)
Louisiana Public Broadcasting is providing a daily video update featuring highlights of the session, which you can see beginning at 6 p.m. here.
EBR retail spending continues upward trend in February
Sales tax collections in East Baton Rouge Parish were up 8.3% in February compared to the same month a year ago, according to a new report out today by the city-parish Finance Department. The 2% sales tax dedicated to the general fund generated $13.4 million in February, up from $12.4 million in 2011. It was the highest February collection total since 2008, when $13.4 million was also collected. Mayor Kip Holden credited the U.S. Bowling Congress Open Championships—which began in February and are expected to draw more than 60,000 bowlers before concluding in July—with generating some of the increase, as well as continued growth in movie production projects. Collections inside the city limits were up 10.2% on the month, while those outside the city limits were up 5.5%. Two months into 2012, sales tax revenue in the city-parish totaled $26.6 million, an increase of 7.6% compared to last year. See a complete breakdown of figures here.
Executive Spotlight: Jim Rigot
Trenton, N.J., native Jim Rigot recently relocated to Baton Rouge to take over as general manager of Hollywood Casino. Rigot says he's looking forward to catching LSU and New Orleans Saints football games, as well as next year's Mardi Gras, but he's not as excited about the heat and humidity of his first Southern summer. Like many newcomers to southern Louisiana, Rigot says he was immediately taken by the warm hospitality and incredible food. Though the gaming industry and the economy at large have not fully recovered from the recession, Rigot says he pays close attention to the economic indicators and believes "there are some encouraging signs that we may be starting to turn the corner. I am hopeful that better days will soon be here." Read the full Q&A with Rigot here. Here's a sample:
What is something that you can't live without?
"Money, women, liquor and gambling, not necessarily in that order."
NBA awards 2014 All-Star Game to N.O.
The NBA is awarding New Orleans the 2014 All-Star Game, now that Saints owner Tom Benson has agreed to buy the Hornets and sign a lease extension at New Orleans Arena. NBA Commissioner David Stern, who made the announcement in New Orleans with Benson and Gov. Bobby Jindal this afternoon, says the 2014 All-Star Game is a reward to the city and state for efforts to secure the Hornets' long-term future in Louisiana. Stern had already pledged that New Orleans would get an All-Star game once a new owner and lease extension were in place. Because of potential conflicts with Mardi Gras in 2015 and 2016, awarding the game in 2014 made the most sense. The 2013 game will be played in Houston.
'Business Report' planner: Realtors' Spring Conference kicks off Tuesday … Learn how to use Pinterest for social media Thursday … Slaughter to close out LSU MBA spring speaker series on Friday
Tuesday-Thursday — The Louisiana Realtors' Spring Conference at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center will feature industry speakers, legislative activities, networking opportunities and the annual state Realtors Awards Luncheon. Complete information and registration are available here.
Thursday — BRSocMe will discuss how to use Pinterest to build your social media brand at its monthly meeting from noon to 1 p.m. at the Louisiana Tech Park, 7117 Florida Blvd. Jessica Miller-Merrill is the guest speaker. Admission is free for members, $10 for guests; lunch is provided.
Friday — Christel Slaughter, a principal in SSA Consultants, is the final speaker in the spring edition of the LSU Flores MBA Program Distinguished Speaker Series. Her talk begins at 9: 30 a.m. and takes place at the LSU Energy, Coast & Environment Building on campus. The event is free and open to the public. Professional attire is required. For more information click here.
For the full list of upcoming events, click here.
Public gets a turn to voice ideas on La. budget
Hundreds of people have packed rooms and hallways at the Louisiana Capitol asking lawmakers to reverse budget cuts planned for next year. Today, the House Appropriations Committee began two days of hearings for the general public to testify about programs people support and want to see protected from cuts currently proposed in Gov. Bobby Jindal's spending plans for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. A group of district attorneys and education officials from around the state asked lawmakers to restore funding for a truancy program, while others sought to undo cuts that could close rural museums and shrink spending on arts grants. Well-known Louisiana Chef John Folse asked for more dollars appropriated to tourism advertising, for an industry that is one of the state's largest.
News roundup: American Jim Yong Kim is chosen to lead World Bank … Tigers top new baseball rankings; set to face No. 2 Kentucky … More shakeups in Jazz Fest lineup
Going global: Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth College, has been chosen to be the next president of the World Bank. His selection extends the United States' hold on the top job at the 187-nation development agency. Kim, a surprise nominee of President Barack Obama, was selected today in a vote by the World Bank's 25-member executive board. He'll succeed Robert Zoellick, who's stepping down after a five-year term. Developing nations waged an unsuccessful challenge to Kim, 52, a physician and pioneer in treating HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in the developing world. Kim's selection marks a break from previous World Bank leaders, who were typically political, legal or economic figures. Get the full story from The Associated Press here.
Slugging it out: Following its sweep of Alabama over the weekend, the LSU Tigers are ranked No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball newspaper poll released today. The Tigers (30-7) have won 13 of their last 14 games, including the last six in a row, and are tied for first place in the SEC standings with No. 2 Kentucky—whom they face this weekend for a three-game series in Lexington. The 2012 club becomes the third LSU team to be ranked No. 1 during the six-season tenure of coach Paul Mainieri. "We're certainly very proud of the No. 1 ranking," Mainieri says. "It brings a lot of notoriety, but it also brings a lot of responsibility." Read more at the LSUsports.net website here.
Musical chairs: Two more artists were dropped from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival lineup today—Reggae legend Bunny Wailer and Levon Helm, the drummer of The Band fame who was to perform with Mavis Staples as a guest. Warren Haynes Ziggy Marley will take Wailer's Friday, May 4, spot on the Congo Square Stage, while jam band guitar hero Warren Haynes will appear in the Blues Tent on Saturday, May 5, in place of Helm. Already this year, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam fame has canceled and been replaced by Jimmy Buffett, while Cee Lo Green is replacing Jill Scott. John Mayer also canceled early on, but instead of being replaced, Bruce Springstten & the E Street Band were given a 2.5-hour set. See the full lineup and more at the Jazz Fest website here.