Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Mon, December 31, 2012


DA says dearth of indigent defenders poses problems for his office

As District Attorney Hillar Moore III looks to the year ahead, one of the biggest challenges his office will face, ironically, is a funding shortage in the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Defender's Office, which provides free attorneys to criminal defendants unable to afford their own attorneys. Moore says it's a real problem because the local public defender's office has just three (out of 40 or so) attorneys who are qualified to represent defendants in death penalty cases. What's more, the Louisiana Public Defender Board, which provides support to the district defender offices, doesn't have enough money to pitch in and help out. As a result, Moore's office has several death penalty cases on hold and is unable to bring any additional cases in kind forward. "Basically, right now a number of our cases are stalled because the local public defender and the Louisiana Public Defender [boards] are filing these motions and letters saying they don't have enough people qualified to handle cases and don't have enough money to hire private counsel," he says. "I object to that." Moore says the local public defender's office does a good job, but he wants to better understand how much money it has, how its funds are spent, and how to secure additional funds for indigent defender programs at the local and state levels. A Daily Report call for comment to the East Baton Rouge Public Defender's Office was not returned. —Stephanie Riegel

Vivid Ink expanding operations in New Orleans

Local graphic designer and printer Vivid Ink Graphics purchased a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in downtown New Orleans last week for $1.3 million, a deal that will enable the company to continue its expansion into the New Orleans market. The 13-year-old company, which has 28 employees in its Baton Rouge office and 18 employees in the Crescent City, designs and prints banners, decals and other graphics for corporate clients throughout the region, including Raising Cane's, CC's, Capital One, and IberiaBank. Vivid Ink Graphics also counts among its clients the Nokia Sugar Bowl and Super Bowl XLVII. "We are a subcontractor for a California company that has the contract to do a lot of the offsite graphics around downtown—large cutouts of the players, graphics and signs that people will have at parties," says company founder and owner Stephen St. Cyr. "We are also doing big banners that go on the side of buildings, like 20-by-30-foot banners." St. Cyr says the new New Orleans location will enable his company to better compete in the events market, a sector into which Vivid Ink wants to move vigorously. Says St. Cyr: "We'll be right next to the Superdome, so it's a perfect fit." —Stephanie Riegel

Editor's note: This story has been clarified from its original version. Vivid Ink is not the only Louisiana company doing signage for the Super Bowl. Crystal Clear Imaging of New Orleans is a subcontractor for Sports Graphics, an Indianapolis, Ind. company that has the NFL contract to produce the wrap around the Superdome, as well as other Superbowl-related graphics.

Donelon's new industry role a plus for La.

Few outside the insurance industry may have given much thought to last week's announcement that Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon will take over as president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, effective tomorrow. But those in the industry say the move has positive implications for Louisiana and signals a big change in the way the rest of the industry views the state. "It shows that the rest of the regulatory industry looks to Louisiana as a leader," says Tom Clark, an insurance regulatory attorney with Adams and Reese. "We're not backwards. We're not corrupt. We're where we need to be." That's especially important given the recent history of Louisiana, where three successive insurance commissioners in the 1980s and 1990s were convicted on federal charges. Clark says former Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley began to turn the state's image in this area around in the early 2000s but that Donelon, who became commissioner in 2006, "has really kicked it up a notch." In a statement last week, Donelon says his role will not be merely ceremonial but will enable him to "engage in the insurance debate on a leadership level, and place Louisiana at the forefront in the study and development of insurance regulation." The role of the NAIC is to help state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, coordinate their regulatory oversight, and have a critical role in the implementation of those measures as they impact the insurance markets and consumers across the nation and beyond. —Stephanie Riegel

House won't vote before Monday on "cliff" deal

The U.S. House of Representatives will miss the midnight Monday deadline lawmakers set for voting to avoid the "fiscal cliff." According to The Associated Press, House Republicans notified lawmakers that the chamber will vote Monday evening on other bills. They say that will be their only votes of the day. President Barack Obama and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said earlier today they are near a deal to avoid wide-ranging tax increases and spending cuts—the fiscal cliff—that take effect with the new year. Both men said they were still bargaining over whether—and how—to avoid $109 billion in cuts to defense and domestic programs that take effect on Wednesday. It remained unclear whether the Senate would vote Monday. Congress could pass later legislation retroactively blocking the tax hikes and spending cuts.

Gulf shrimpers seek relief from foreign imports

Gulf of Mexico shrimpers have filed petitions with the federal government seeking relief from subsidized shrimp imports, according to a report on nola.com. The move comes several weeks after Gulf shrimpers hailed a House bill that included a provision to increase U.S. Customs and Border Protection's powers to combat illegal imports. The Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries late last week filed the petitions, which seek "countervailing duties"—duties imposed to offset subsidies by foreign governments—on shrimp from China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The coalition states that the duties are needed to counteract the unfair trade advantages currently held by these countries. The petitions will be investigated by the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce. To read the complete story, click here.

Towing company offers free rides, tows to prevent drunk driving

New Year's Eve revelers who overindulge have a no-cost option for getting themselves—and their vehicles—home safely. It comes courtesy of Guy's Towing, which is offering free rides and tows to would-be drivers who are inebriated in Baton Rouge, Broussard and Lafayette, where the 25-year-old towing company is headquartered. "We've been offering this service during the holiday season for as long as we've had the company," says Roxanne Street, business manager for Guy's Baton Rouge office. "We do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week." So far this season, Guy's has towed home seven drivers, according to Street, who expects several more calls between now and Wednesday, when the Tow for Life service ends. "I hope we do a lot of it and keep [drunk] people off the road," she says. To get a ride, call Guy's central dispatch number toll-free at 800-237-GUYS (4897). —Stephanie Riegel

'Business Report' planner: Holden's inauguration ceremonies set for Friday … BRAC welcomes online learning expert … BBB to host luncheon

Jan. 4 — Mayor-President Melvin L. "Kip" Holden will be sworn in to his third term of office with inaugural activities that include an interfaith service, an inaugural ceremony and an evening reception. All events are open to the public. The interfaith service will be held at 8:30 a.m. at St. Joseph Cathedral on the corner of Fourth and Main streets downtown. At 10:30 a.m., the Inauguration Ceremony will be held in the River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts at 220 St. Louis Street. From 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. a formal reception will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Jan. 8 — BRAC hosts an investor luncheon featuring Caroline Wood of Louisiana Connections Academy, who will discuss how online learning can change the face of public education. The luncheon is preceded by an 11:30 a.m. networking session, with the program to run from noon to 1 p.m. The event will take place on the seventh floor of II City Plaza, 400 Convention St. Cost is $15 for BRAC investors, $20 for guests. Complete details and registration are available here.

Jan. 8 — The Better Business Bureau hosts a business to business luncheon at the Marriott Baton Rouge, 5500 Hilton Ave., from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is open to all businesses in the 12-parish Capital Region; cost is $18 for BBB accredited attendees, $25 for those without accreditation. Complete event details and registration are available here.

The Business Report planner is open to events of general interest to the Capital Region business community. Items must be submitted no later than noon the Friday before the event occurs. Email ssanoski@businessreport.com with information.

For the full list of upcoming events, click here.

News roundup: Galatoire's Bistro names GM … GOP states warming to Obamacare … Longhorn Network coming to La.

Familiar face: Galatoire's Bistro has named its new general manager: Lucas Molbert, a veteran of the local fine dining industry, who previously served as GM of Ruth's Chris Steak House and as dining room and beverage manager at the Baton Rouge Country Club. Galatoire's Bistro is scheduled to open in the Acadian Village Shopping Center on Perkins Road sometime in January.

Under pressure: Cracks are growing in the near-unanimous Republican rejection of the Affordable Care Act, which was a central tenet of the GOP's political messaging for the last two years. Five Republican-led states—Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah—are pressing ahead with state insurance exchanges. Ongoing monitoring by The Associated Press shows that another five Republican-led states are pursuing or seriously considering a partnership with Washington to help run the new markets.

More media: Charter Communications and The Walt Disney Co. today announced a comprehensive long-term distribution agreement to deliver Disney's robust lineup of sports, news and entertainment content to Charter TV customers across televisions, computers, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and Internet-enabled televisions. As part of the multiyear deal, The Longhorn Network will launch in some systems in Texas and Louisiana in time for the 2013 football season.

Editor's note: In observance of New Year's Day, Daily Report will not be published on Tuesday.

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