News Alert: Homestead exemption to apply to transit tax
The homestead exemption will apply to the transit tax passed in Baton Rouge and Baker April 21 after all. Before the vote, the public was told the exemption would not apply because the measure was a municipal tax, even though the Capital Area Transit System, which will benefit, is not a municipality. However, the Louisiana Attorney General's office has issued an opinion stating that it should in fact apply. According to estimates received by Together Baton Rouge, an interfaith coalition that supported the tax, applying the homestead exemption will mean a reduction in the amount of dedicated revenue of between $2.5 and $3 million, meaning a total dedicated revenue of about $14.2 to $14.7 million.
Capitol Views by Maginnis: B.R. breakaway school district bill falls short
Backers of a new southeast Baton Rouge school district today fell four votes short of getting the proposal on the constitutional ballot this fall. The House vote was 66-34 on Senate Bill 299 by Sen. Bodi White, R-Denham Springs. Debate was brief, as three Baton Rouge Democrats—Reps. Ted James, Pat Smith and Regina Barrow—spoke against the measure, all citing the damage it would do to the parish school system. Two parish Republicans, Cliff Richardson and Erich Ponti, urged House members to allow people to vote on the question. After the vote, White huddled with Rep. Hunter Greene to go over the vote totals with an eye to bringing the measure up again. All 34 nay votes came from Democrats, while six Democrats voted with all 58 Republicans and two independents who supported the bill. Five Democrats did not vote. Both the Senate and House have approved the statute setting up the district, and the Senate has approved the constitutional amendment. Read the full column here for additional coverage on a bill that was killed today that would have required welfare recipients to take drug tests.
(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.
Woman's campus 'bound to become a specialty hospital'
Though specifics are "impossible to know" at the moment, the 24-acre hospital campus at Goodwood Boulevard and Airline Highway that Woman's Hospital will vacate this summer "is bound to become a specialty hospital," says Glen Duncan, spokesman for The Physicians Alliance Corp. TPAC announced Tuesday that it reached a purchase agreement for the campus with Woman's Hospital, which is moving to a new campus down Airline Highway. "The only dates that seem pretty clear-cut right now are July 11, which is when the sale will close, and August 5, when Woman's moves to its new campus," Duncan says. "When they move, that will really be the first chance we'll have to go in there and assess the building. … There's going to be some kind of remodel and rebuild, but I don't know how long that's going to take." Duncan says the number of physicians who will provide services at the hospital—and what services they'll offer—will be nailed down as discussions continue amongst TPAC's executives and its 3,000 members, most of whom are physicians. "These are local physicians, which we think is important to let the community know," he says, adding that there is "a clear understanding" with Woman's that services currently offered on the campus will not be duplicated by TPAC. Duncan says more details will become available after the sale closes. Read a story from Daily Report on the purchase agreement here. —Steve Sanoski
'225 Weekender': Free first Sunday downtown
Take advantage of the great weather on Sunday to wander downtown and enjoy free admission to the LSU Museum of Art and the USS Kidd. The best of Baton Rouge's museums will welcome visitors free of charge from 1 to 5 p.m. that day. You can read more on this "first Sunday" special and check out the complete 225 Weekender e-newsletter, which debuts today—replacing the 225 Select e-newsletter—for more local events happening this weekend and beyond here. 225 Weekender is being released in connection with the new website for 225. Each Wednesday afternoon, readers will be presented with a host of local events in the arts, music and movie scenes. Those who were already subscribers of 225 Select do not need to re-register to begin receiving 225 Weekender. If you're not already receiving 225 Weekender in your inbox, you can sign up here.
Editor's note: This story has been changed since its original publication.
B.R. foreclosure rate in March hovers near 2.4%
A new report from CoreLogic says the foreclosure rate in Baton Rouge stood at 2.41% in March, down from 2.67% during the same month a year previous but up a scant 0.01% from February. Baton Rouge's foreclosure rate has hovered around the 2.4% mark since last summer, when it fell to that level from a peak high of 2.8% in February 2011. That's put it slightly lower than Louisiana's rate, which was at 2.5% in March, down from 2.85% a year previous but also up from February, a mere 0.02%. The foreclosure rates in both Baton Rouge and Louisiana at large have remained well below the U.S. rate in recent years. Nationwide, the March rate stood a full percentage point higher than Baton Rouge's, at 3.41%. That was down from 3.54% in March 2011 and unchanged from February. The mortgage delinquency rate in Baton Rouge—that is, the percentage of home loans three months past due or more—was at 5.69% in March: almost even with the 5.71% rate in March 2011 but nonetheless lower than Louisiana's rate of 6.26% and the U.S. rate, 7.18%.
NCAA regional baseball games at Alex Box to be televised
Exclusive TV rights for the Baton Rouge NCAA Baseball Regional at Alex Box Stadium that begins Friday were today awarded to Cox Sports Television and Jumbo Sports Network. All games will be produced by Jumbo Sports Network and will air on Cox Sports Television and Comcast Sports Southeast. Games on Friday and Saturday are set for 2 and 7 p.m., with Sunday's games at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Monday's "if necessary" game is set for 6:30 p.m. Joining top-seeded LSU in the Baton Rouge regional is No. 2 Oregon State, No. 3 Belmont, and No. 4 University of Louisiana-Monroe. The Tigers will play their first game of the regional at 7 p.m. Friday against ULM. See the complete regional schedule and details at the LSUsports.net website here. Calling all of the games of the Baton Rouge regional on CST will be Lyn Rollins, who will be joined by former LSU pitcher and Jumbo Sports Network Executive Producer Ronnie Rantz. The Baton Rouge regional is one of 16 four-team tournaments that will take place throughout the country this weekend. The winner of the Baton Rouge regional will advance to face the winner of the Miami regional, which is comprised of Miami, UCF, Missouri State and Stony Brook.
AP analysis: Oil stats belie tough enforcement talk
In the three years since President Barack Obama took office, Republicans have made the Environmental Protection Agency a lightning rod for complaints that his administration has been too tough on oil and gas producers. But an Associated Press analysis of enforcement data over the past decade, released today, finds such claims don't reflect the Obama administration's record. In fact, the EPA went after producers more often in the years of Republican President George W. Bush—a former Texas oilman—than under Obama. Also, the agency's enforcement actions have declined overall since 2002 and reached their lowest point last year, the review found. Accusations of EPA overzealousness peaked in April. That's when a regional administrator resigned after a two-year-old video surfaced in which he compared enforcement of oil and gas regulations with how the Romans used to conquer villages: apprehending "the first five guys they saw and they'd crucify them." GOP critics publicized the video of Al Armendariz, who headed the region that includes Texas and other major oil- and gas-producing states, as an example of what was wrong with an agency that Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney calls "completely out of control." "We have a genuine concern that his comments reflect the agency's overall enforcement philosophy," six Republican congressmen from Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma said in a joint statement the day Armendariz stepped down. Get the particulars of the AP analysis in the full story here.
News roundup: Nonprofit honoring Dunn for charitable work with children … Jindal signs 10-year tax break for Hornets … Obama calls Romney to congratulate him on securing GOP nomination
Won and Dunn: Baton Rouge native and former NFL star running back Warrick Dunn is being honored by the nonprofit A Little Hope for his charitable contributions and work with the Betty's Hope Children's Bereavement Program, a new initiative of Warrick Dunn Charities Inc. Dunn will be recognized at an event in New York City on June 7. A Little Hope was founded in early 2002 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; it aims to raise money to advance the growth of children's grief support and to expand bereavement centers for children. Learn more about Dunn's charitable work in the full news release here.
Buzz biz: Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed into law a 10-year, $37 million tax break for the New Orleans Hornets, part of the state's deal to keep the NBA team in Louisiana. Jindal announced the signing Tuesday, in a list of bills that he agreed to enact into law. The bill by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Jefferson, extends an existing tax break that saves the Hornets $3.7 million a year through Louisiana's Quality Jobs Program. The rebate will be extended through the 2024 NBA season. You can read the full bill here.
Let the games begin: They've been talking about each other for months, but as The Washington Post reports, President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spoke to each other for the first time today since the general election campaign has begun in earnest. According to the White House, Obama called Romney just before noon to congratulate him on securing the Republican presidential nomination after he won the Texas GOP primary on Tuesday.