Capitol Views by Maginnis: Panel backs rebates for public school donors
If the state is going to offer rebates to donations for private school tuition, it only seemed fair to offer a similar break for contributions to public schools. The House Ways & Means Committee passed along House Bill 1106 today, which would give a rebate worth 75% of the donation to an "F"-rated school and 50% for gifts to a "D"-rated school. The bill by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, was filed in response to a bill that would give rebates on contributions to nonprofit organizations offering private school scholarships to low-income public school students. That bill is in conference committee. "We felt it was something we could do for public schools," said committee Chairman Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette. The measure was amended to specify donations be used for instructional materials, tutorial programs, in-school childcare programs or remediation programs for failing schools. The bill passed without objection. "I wish you would hear all my bills," Jackson told the committee. Read the full column here for additional coverage on the capital outlay and budget bills.
(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.
Feds make first arrest related to BP oil spill
A BP engineer intentionally deleted more than 300 text messages indicating the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico was much greater than what the company later reported—and that BP's efforts to control the spill were failing—the U.S. Justice Department alleged today in bringing its first criminal charges related to the deadly explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig. Kurt Mix was arrested today and charged with two counts of obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying evidence sought by federal authorities. The charges come a day before a federal judge in New Orleans is slated to consider a motion granting preliminary approval of a $7.8 billion civil settlement between BP and a committee of plaintiffs in a civil case—and more than two years after the oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 and triggering the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Criminal penalties could be levied against BP and its partners in the operation based in part on estimates of the amount of oil that spilled from the Macondo well. In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, BP declined to comment on the case, but says it is cooperating with the Justice Department and other investigations into the oil spill. Mix, 50, of Katy, Texas, was scheduled to appear in federal court in Houston this afternoon. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count. Read the full story here.
State police, FBI conduct probe of Saints' alleged wiretapping
A joint Louisiana State Police and FBI task force is investigating allegations the New Orleans Saints set up general manager Mickey Loomis' booth in the Superdome so he could listen in on opposing coaches. State police Col. Mike Edmonson confirmed the joint effort today after discussing the matter with Dave Welker, special agent in charge at the FBI's New Orleans field office. "I thought that was an excellent opportunity to share resources to see if federal or state wiretapping laws were in fact broken," Edmonson says. "It's important for the public to know these are allegations at this point. We will thoroughly, expeditiously, but fairly look into whether any laws have been broken. If they have, we'll sit down with the district attorney in that area to determine how to proceed." Loomis and the Saints have called the allegations "1,000 percent false" and have said they are reviewing legal recourse following an ESPN report Monday in which anonymous sources described a setup that would have allowed the general manager to eavesdrop on opponents from 2002 to 2004. ESPN could not verify the system was used. Still, the alleged actions would violate NFL rules, if not state and federal laws. Read the full story by The Associated Press here.
Miles: No hangover from BCS title game loss
LSU coach Les Miles says his team is looking forward to the 2012 football season as a makeup for its disastrous performance in the 21-0 BCS title game loss to Alabama, but declined to characterize it as a hangover. "There's an understanding we had the best record in college, 13-1," The Times-Picayune quotes Miles as saying during the SEC coaches spring teleconference today. "We won the conference, won the Western Division, and frankly beat the national champions at their home stadium." Before being manhandled in a rematch in the BCS title game, the Tigers got a 9-6 overtime victory in November against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. "They [LSU players] recognized that they achieved greatly; they didn't play well in their last game. There's a real hunger and want to start the season. Anytime you finish a season on a negative note, you return to the opener in the beginning of next season with a real anxious want. That's very much the case here," Miles says. "I've never been 13-1. I certainly enjoyed it for a long stretch. We were the No. 1 team in the country for 11 straight weeks and answered that bell well. It's hard for me to talk about coming off a season of great achievement with a hangover." Miles also talked about the effect quarterback Zach Mettenberger will have on the LSU offense as he takes over to start his junior season. Read the full story here.
Maginnis: Thorny path ahead at the Capitol
Clearing the halfway point of the legislative session on Monday, few governors have been as successful as Bobby Jindal. Yet the first may have been his better half, given the trouble lying ahead with pensions, prisons and—scariest of all—a budget teetering out of balance. Regardless of how one judges his education agenda, passing so many major changes in so short a time with so few compromises was a feat of executive willpower over the legislative branch, which more resembled a twig. Reordering the public retirement system, however, is proving to be a thornier affair. Then there's the budget, questionably balanced as it is; the Legislature could find itself short by another $200 million unless sluggish tax collections rally. Regardless, the administration avers that the budget will be balanced without tax increases, which can't be considered in this session anyway, according to the constitution. Here's Jindal's deeper problem. Since before he was first elected, the Republican mantra has been that Louisiana does not have a revenue problem, but a spending problem. We have not heard him disagree. If this budget has to be balanced with more deep cuts to higher education and health care, on top of those made last term, the question will be asked: If Jindal has controlled both revenue and spending for five years now, what—or who—is the problem? Read the full column here.
(John Maginnis publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com.)
'Real Estate Weekly': B.R. realtor named Louisiana Realtor of the Year
David McKey, broker-owner of Coldwell Banker One in Baton Rouge, has been named the Louisiana Realtor of the Year by Louisiana Realtors. His reward? "They doubled my salary … to exactly zero dollars," McKey jokes. "Actually, I was given a very, very nice award, and the greatest honor is just to be recognized by your peers." McKey is a former president of the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors and the current president-elect of Louisiana Realtors, meaning he'll take over the helm of the state association next year. He was presented with the award at a banquet that was part of Louisiana Realtors' Spring Conference in Baton Rouge last week. McKey says he's following in the footsteps of his wife, Andrea, a fellow broker and business partner, who was named the Louisiana Realtor of the Year in 2005 and was president of the state association in 2007. The McKeys have owned and operated Coldwell Banker One for 18 years, and have five children. "I believe in the association and what it does for the issues realtors and homeowners face," McKey says. "I feel the need to be active and volunteer and give back as much as I can because this industry has given us so much." McKey is also active with the National Realtors Association and will be the vice president of the Texas and Louisiana region in 2014. Get the rest of this story and all of this week's Real Estate Weekly e-newsletter here.
News roundup: Cancer programs at OLOL, Baton Rouge General lauded … LBTC's Keller wins SBA national award … B.R. advertising chapter nets club, president of the year distinctions
At the top: Cancer programs at a pair of Baton Rouge hospitals are among 106 such programs across the country being recognized with a 2011 Outstanding Achievement Award from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons. The cancer programs at Baton Rouge General Medical Center and Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center—whose program operates in conjunction with the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center—are two of four being recognized in Louisiana. Established in 2004, the awards recognize the top programs striving for excellence in providing quality care to cancer patients. You can check out the full list of award winners here.
Talking tech: Roy Keller, director of the Louisiana Technology Transfer Office at LSU's Louisiana Business & Technology Center, is one of six individuals honored today by the U.S. Small Business Administration with a Tibbetts Award for "the critical role they play in research and development for the government and for their success in driving innovation and creating new jobs." Eighteen small businesses in the United States are also receiving an award. Businesses recognized are participants in the SBA's Small Business Innovation Research program, and the individuals honored are those who support it. For the complete list of award winners and more info, click here.
North of South: The American Advertising Federation–Baton Rouge club has been named the best in a regional division consisting of all clubs from Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee for the second year in a row. Baton Rouge club President Connie McLeod, who is also senior graphic designer for Woman's Hospital, was named the division president of the year, also for the second straight year.