Content tagged “Government”

Mid City business owners plan area improvements

An outdoor stage, green space and splash pad are in the works for the unused triangular-shaped median on Eugene Street between Boudreaux's Catering and Baton Rouge Magnet High School. The Mid City Merchants are pushing the project. Community Development Committee Chairman Coleman Brown said at a meeting this morning that the project will complement the state's plans to slim Government Street to three lanes. Brown said the area, which may be called Mid City Plaza, is projected to be 14,000 square feet. The group is also pushing several other projects, including returning Main Street and North Street to two-way roads east of Interstate 110; establishing a pedestrian crosswalk, similar to the golf cart crossing at Webb Park, where Capital Heights Avenue crosses North Foster Drive; constructing a roundabout at the intersection of Lobdell Avenue, Independence Boulevard and Government Street; and widening the entirety of Airline Highway from four to six lanes. Most of the Airline project...

St. George proponents making final push to get incorporation issue on December ballot

Organizers of the city of St. George incorporation effort have scheduled what they say will be their final fundraiser to "help finish up getting the last signatures we need and then helping us transition from a signature drive to a campaign," says St. George spokesman Lionel Rainey III. The group has 17,700 signatures on its petition for a ballot referendum on the incorporation effort, Rainey says, adding he believes that will be enough to get the measure on a December ballot. Previously, the group estimated it needed to collect roughly 18,000 signatures, but that figure was based on the number of residents who live within the boundaries of the St. George Fire Protection District. Rainey says the group has since learned that the St. George fire department serves several areas that are actually outside the boundaries of what would be included in the proposed city of St. George. "The upshot is, there are more registered voters in their fire district than there are in what would be the...

Mastering the master plans

Several firms are in the midst of redesigning areas of the city in ways that are a long time coming.

Influx of child immigrants straining La. courts

For the 1,071 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the southwest border this year and ended up in Louisiana, the path to a future in the U.S. runs through a courtroom on the 24th floor of an office tower in the heart of New Orleans. As Time reports, it's in this courtroom that a rotating detail of judges determines the fate of the immigrant children streaming across the border and into the state. As they arrive in record numbers, the New Orleans Immigration Court is buckling under the strain. During the first six months of 2014, the court has taken on 450 juvenile immigration cases, according to government records obtained by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). That number puts the court on pace to shatter last year's total of 540 cases. Three years ago, it had 71. New Orleans' struggle is part of a pattern. Nationwide, immigration courts have become choke points in the border crisis. Overburdened and underfunded, they are sagging under...

The numbers game

Since 2008, Baton Rouge Area Foundation has been surveying residents about quality of life in the city, using the findings to put together an annual CityStats report.

Talking Points: David LaCerte

Gov. Bobby Jindal in June elevated David LaCerte from deputy secretary to secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. LaCerte replaces former Congressman Rodney Alexander, who stepped down after less than a year. While LaCerte, a former Marine Corps infantryman, does not supervise the federal Veterans Affairs system, he does hold strong opinions about what the scandal-plagued VA must do to establish trust with veterans and the rest of the American people.

Looking back, looking forward

As Baton Rouge continues to look at ways to reshape its infrastructure to fit a complete streets model, it might be helpful to look back at how the city grew to where it is today. The US Geological Survey has historical maps of the city dating back to 1908, when areas like Southdowns and along Highland and Perkins roads were little more than swamplands and fields.

St. George proponents say annexation of L'Auberge wouldn't derail petition, budget

Although L'Auberge Casino & Hotel officials haven't requested the River Road site be annexed into the City of Baton Rouge, proponents of the city of St. George incorporation effort say they're prepared for such a request eventually now that a company with 630 acres near the casino has filed a petition for annexation. "As long as the law is followed, we will not protest if the L'Auberge Casino would like to be included inside the city limits of Baton Rouge," says Lionel Rainey III in a prepared statement. For any parcel of land in the unincorporated portions of East Baton Rouge Parish to be annexed into Baton Rouge, it must border land that is already within the city limits. While the 630 acres up for annexation consideration at the Metro Council's July 23 meeting is not directly connected to the L'Auberge property (

In Conversation: William Daniel

William Daniel is Mayor Kip Holden's top administrator. He also has directed the Department of Public Works, which recently lost Director David Guillory to the private sector. Guillory could end up being the last DPW director in city-parish history if the long-discussed department reorganization is approved.

City-parish: Mall, hospital annexations in effect despite lawsuit

The Metro Council's May 16 annexation of portions of the Mall of Louisiana and other nearby properties owned by Baton Rouge General Hospital and Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center is effective as of last Friday, June 13, city-parish department heads have been informed in a memo by chief administrative officer William Daniel.

Companies cashing in on tax-credit arms race

U.S. states are digging deeper into their pockets, offering businesses lucrative tax credits for everything from brewing beer to renovating buildings, in an effort to spur economic growth and create jobs. As The Wall Street Journal reports, companies are finding the new state tax credits especially alluring because many of their biggest federal tax breaks expired at the end of last year. What's more, an increasing number of the state credits are refundable or transferable, meaning they can guarantee a company cash regardless of the size of its state tax bill. Some 46 states, including Louisiana, now offer such tax credits through more than 200 different programs, compared with only a handful of states a decade ago, and exchanges are popping up to help businesses trade them. States should "start a new reality show and call it 'Tax Credit Wars,' " says Paul Gevertzman, a partner in accounting firm Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP. Companies in industries targeted by the states can...

Rise of the drones

The drones are coming.

EPA and the cost of carbon

if you read the reports on how the Environmental Protection Agency's new rule limiting carbon emissions by electric utilities will affect the national economy, you may have gotten the impression that it won't amount to much and could even have health benefits. Either that or the rule will usher in the end of life as we know it.

Jindal signs bill to kill levee board oil and gas suit

Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed a bill aimed at killing a Louisiana levee board's lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies, despite warnings from legal experts that it could also affect state and local government litigation over the 2010 BP oil spill. Jindal announced the signing in a mid-day press release today, saying: "This bill will help stop frivolous lawsuits and create a more fair and predictable legal environment, and I am proud to sign it into law." The levee board suit, now in federal court, says drilling and dredging by oil, gas and pipeline companies are partially to blame for the degradation of coastal wetlands that serve as a natural hurricane buffer for New Orleans. The bill by Sen. Bret Allain would retroactively scuttle the lawsuit. Opponents say the law will likely be challenged in court. Jindal and his top lawyer say they do not believe the law would affect state and...

Fregonese to discuss FuturEBR implementation issues at open houses

John Fregonese, the Portland, Ore.-based planner whose firm was the architect of the FuturEBR master plan, will present proposed new design standards for the city-parish at three FuturEBR Implementation open house events set to take place on Wednesday and Thursday. As part of the presentation, a few property owners from different parts of the city-parish will demonstrate how the new ordinances will affect development on different properties, Fregonese says. Fregonese will also discuss several options for the Nicholson Drive corridor, including a streetcar, bus rapid transit service and bus corridor. The streetcar is "kind of the sentimental favorite," Fregonese says, "but to go through a process where you're going to be eligible for public funding, you need to seriously consider the other two options." Fregonese will also present a Complete Streets policy, a parishwide policy on how streets are to be developed in the future. "The idea is to make streets that are more compatible with...

Reconnecting

For more than a decade and a half, Jeff Fluhr became a well-known fixture downtown, encouraging development of the city's center while working for Executive Director Davis Rhorer.

A time for change

East Baton Rouge Parish is losing its public works director just as it's gaining a planning director.

10 Questions: Time for a new DPW?

Appraiser Tom Cook spoke for many local builders and developers in April when he called out the East Baton Rouge Parish Department of Public "Does-Not-Work" from the stage at the annual Trends real estate seminar.

Merit selection: Not an option

"Judges are not politicians," U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts declared during his 2005 confirmation hearing.

Playing with fire

I guess i shouldn't be be so surprised that a state whose mantra is "Get Government Off Our Backs" doesn't really mean that for a minute.

'Times-Pic' turns up the heat in war of words with the 'Advocate'

While a bill that would allow The New Orleans Advocate to compete for lucrative government classified ads in Orleans and Jefferson parishes is steamrolling its way through the Legislature, The Times-Picayune—which is fighting the proposed legislation—is ratcheting up the rhetoric in its ongoing battle with the daily. In a letter sent yesterday to The Advocate's general manager Dan Shea and shared with members of a legislative committee as well as the Louisiana Press Association, The Times-Picayune's Associate Publisher David Francis challenges testimony Shea gave before a legislative committee earlier this week while making the case for why his paper should be allowed to compete for the classifieds business. During the testimony, Shea cited the growth of The New Orleans...

La. Senate backs ban on drones in certain locations

Louisiana Senators have agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in the state. The Associated Press reports the 35-1 vote on Monday by the Senate now sends the proposal by Republican Sen. Mack "Bodi" White, of Baton Rouge, to the House for consideration. White's bill includes exemptions for government officials and property owners. Violating the ban would carry a prison sentence of up to six months on a first offense and of up to one year on subsequent offenses, along with hefty fines. Meanwhile, a proposal by Republican Sen. Dan Claitor, also of Baton Rouge, scheduled for a Senate committee hearing, would criminalize the use of drones to photograph people on private property without their permission, with exceptions.

Changing landscape

By now, many of us have heard that the state is finally handing over the keys to Government Street to the city. The Mayor's Office and many local officials seem to be fully behind the idea of putting the street on a “road diet" by bringing its four lanes down to two travel lanes with a center turning lane and possibly adding some bike paths.

Annexation's new twist

LSU President F. King Alexander is mulling a request from unnamed parties to petition the city of Baton Rouge to annex two large tracts of university-owned property that are outside the city limits. Included in the targeted package is 2,269 acres of farmland on Ben Hur adjacent to L'Auberge Casino. As first reported in Daily Report, the potential annexation would clear the way for L'Auberge—one of the parish's biggest sources of sales tax revenue—to also apply for annexation. It would be a significant development in the battle over the proposed incorporation of a new city of St. George.

EBR schools superintendent calls White's bill to create new districts 'lunacy'

State Sen. Mack "Bodi" White's decision to pre-file a bill that would create four semi-autonomous school districts in East Baton Rouge Parish is drawing sharp criticism from EBR Schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor. "This is lunacy … it's sadder than sad," says Taylor. "We are making improvements. We are making academic progress. Financially, we couldn't be more stable. … But it's still not good enough. The real issue is that the people want certain kids to only go to school with certain kids and it's time to put this out on the table." White, R-Central, submitted the bill to be pre-filed earlier today. He says the sole intent of his proposed legislation is to decentralize a school system that isn't performing. "We have to fix education," he says. "We're going to get one shot at this in history. This is the time." White's bill would create four sub-districts—including the southeast district that was created but never funded by the 2013 Legislature—each with a...

La. debt collection agency being pieced together

Louisiana's revenue department has been working for months to create a new debt collection office, but its chief says it will be years before state government has a comprehensive system to attack delinquent accounts. Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield says Louisiana is on track with the way other states rolled out similar efforts, describing the detailed work required to build an integrated and automated debt collection system across 200 state agencies. "If you can get to a steady state (of collection) at a two- or three-year period, you'll have been excellent compared to other states, so that's what we're driving to," he said while delivering a report Thursday to the Cash Management Review Board, a panel of state officials that asked for a progress update. Lawmakers established the Office of Debt Recovery last year, seeking to generate new money for the state treasury by bolstering efforts to collect back-owed debts. They top $1 billion across state government. The office has the...

Prominent Livingston Parish businessman arrested on drug charges

A prominent Livingston Parish businessman, tourism official and political contributor to several high-ranking government officials is facing drug charges after allegedly buying the opiate oxycodone in an undercover Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office sting operation. Narcotics detectives arrested Shannon Mack, 44, the owner of oilfield contracting firm SamMackCo. and a member of the Livingston Parish Convention and Visitors Board, according to an arrest report obtained by Daily Report. Sheriff's office spokeswoman Lori Steele says a little more than a week ago, Mack allegedly ordered oxycodone through a confidential source. He was arrested and has since been released on $25,000 bond. According to campaign finance records on file with the Louisiana Board of Ethics, Mack has contributed thousands of dollars to top public officials in Livingston Parish—including Parish President Layton Ricks, to whom he, his company and his family have given more than $10,000. Mack is also a...

Two cents: Public-private partnerships set the stage for growth

As John Davies, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, was leaving the podium following last week's Baton Rouge Business Report 2014 Leadership Power Breakfast, I stopped to thank him for filling in at the last minute for a speaker who couldn't make the event. Davies looked at me and said: "You know, nobody does public-private partnerships like Baton Rouge. Nobody." This seemed an unusual realization from an individual who as much as anyone has fostered the notion that governments and private entities can and must work together to make things happen that neither could do alone. Davies explained that even though he has been living and breathing public-private partnerships for more than a decade, the truth that Baton Rouge is a leader in that regard suddenly hit him as he catalogued the major developments downtown and along Nicholson Drive all the way to the gates of LSU. The evidence is there, and Davies laid it out passionately and comprehensively. A tough act...

Nearly 2% of all personal income in EBR is state pension money, report says

The 13 defined-benefit pension systems for Louisiana's state and local government retirees don't just have an economic impact on the roughly 150,000 retired teachers and state workers who benefit directly from them. According to a new report released today by the Louisiana Budget Project, the pensions pay out more than $3 billion in benefits to retirees and their families every year—an amount equivalent to 1.7% of all personal income in the state—and represent "a key economic driver that supports households and businesses in every city, town and parish of the state." In East Baton Rouge Parish, the report says, there are roughly 15,000 state pension recipients receiving approximately $358.7 million each year—or the equivalent of 1.94% of the parish's total personal income. The report notes that the economic impact of the pension systems is even more pronounced in rural areas of the state, in which pension payments account for as much as 3% of all personal income.

War of the words

Mayor Kip Holden spent much of his annual "state of the city" address Jan. 8 making a passionate plea for unity, just as the effort to incorporate St. George is ramping up.

Key NSA surveillance reforms said to be hampered by complications

Several of the key surveillance reforms unveiled by President Barack Obama late last week face complications that could muddy the proposals' lawfulness, slow their momentum in Congress and saddle the government with heavy costs and bureaucracy, legal experts warn. Despite Obama's plans to shift the National Security Agency's mass storage of Americans' bulk phone records elsewhere, telephone companies do not want the responsibility. And the government could face privacy and structural hurdles in relying on any other entity to store the data. Constitutional analysts also question the legal underpinning of Obama's commitment to setting up an advisory panel of privacy experts to intervene in some proceedings of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the NSA's data mining operations. Obama has asked Congress to set up such a panel, but senior federal judges already oppose the move, citing practical and legal drawbacks. The secret courts now operate with only...

St. George proponents set first fundraiser; Holden to address incorporation effort today

On the same day that Mayor Kip Holden is set to deliver his annual State of the City address—in which the mayor has said he will make a definitive statement on the city of St. George incorporation effort—those behind the push for a new city have announced their first fundraiser. In an update sent via email, St. George proponents also say they have reached the halfway mark in their effort to collect the roughly 18,000 signatures—25% of the registered voters in the unincorporated area—needed to get the issue on a ballot. Holden, who has said little about the controversial incorporation effort, told Daily Report back in early December, "There is no way you can magically create a city and have all the things they are promising to have. But I want to make sure before I start spouting off figures that we have done all the research and have all the facts."...

Delgado: No formal requests for annexation so far

It's been almost a month since Metro Councilman John Delgado announced his plans to sponsor an ordinance to annex the unincorporated properties of those wishing to join the City of Baton Rouge, but Delgado says no one has yet filed a formal request to be annexed. Celtic Media Centre declared intentions to request annexation, he says, but the company has yet to initiate the process with the Parish Attorney's Office so that the proposal could be placed on the Metro Council agenda. After property owners apply through the office of the parish attorney, the Parish Tax Assessor's Office must review the request, Delgado says. He has met with Patrick Mulhearn, director of studio operations at Celtic, but says it may be a few more weeks before Celtic is ready to initiate the process. Despite...

Smart growth in the new year

The year behind us included several huge announcements for developments in Baton Rouge, and all of these projects look to improve the urban core of the city in 2014. We take a look at the stats on some of these projects below:

Budget bill moves toward final passage in Senate

A bipartisan budget bill that would ease some but not all of the painful budget cuts that would otherwise affect the Pentagon and domestic agencies passed a pivotal test in the Senate this morning. The Associated Press reports the Senate advanced the measure over a filibuster threshold on a 67-33 vote that ensures the measure will pass the Democratic-led chamber no later than Wednesday and head to the White House to be signed into law. Top Senate Republicans opposed the bill but didn't try to engineer its defeat. It won sweeping GOP support in the House in a vote last week. The measure would ease some of the harshest cuts to agency budgets required under automatic spending curbs commonly known as sequestration. It would replace $45 billion in scheduled cuts for the 2014 budget year already underway, lifting agency budgets to a little more than $1 trillion, and it also would essentially freeze spending at those levels for 2015. It substitutes other spending cuts and new fees to...

Proposed residency ordinance contrary to EBR plan of government, Delgado says

Five Metro Council members' proposed residency ordinance, which would require city-parish employees to live within the city or the unincorporated part of East Baton Rouge parish, is not without precedent, says Councilwoman Tara Wicker. "We are just lining ourselves up with other cities and municipalities that have done the exact same thing and have had these policies in place for a long time," Wicker says, referencing New Orleans. But Councilman John Delgado says there's a crucial difference between EBR's city-parish government and New Orleans's city-parish government: the city of New Orleans and the parish of Orleans share the same boundaries, whereas EBR parish encompasses Baton Rouge, Baker, Central, and Zachary. To exclude citizens of the city-parish from working for the city-parish would be contrary to our plan of government, Delgado says. "In a metropolitan government, I believe that it violates equal protection to treat one class of citizens within that government differently...

Proposed residency ordinance wouldn't apply to mayor, council

The Parish Attorney's Office says a proposed ordinance that would impose residency requirements on city-parish employees would not apply to the mayor or members of the Metro Council. In the latest salvo in the battle over a proposed breakaway municipality, five council members Wednesday introduced an ordinance that would require all new hires in the city-parish to live inside the city limits or in the unincorporated East Baton Rouge Parish—meaning those from Baker, Central, Zachary or the proposed city of St. George would be excluded from consideration. In an email sent earlier today to First Assistant Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson, Councilman Buddy Amoroso questions whether the proposed ordinance would affect council members and the mayor. In her response, Batson says the Plan of Government provides that members of the Council must be qualified voters and residents of the parish and their respective districts. It also provides "that the Mayor must be a qualified voter and...

St. George battle long in the making

There is a lot of debate, anger and finger-pointing regarding the proposal to create a new City of St. George. There are studies being commissioned and secret meetings to figure out the impact and how to stop the movement. But the breakaway effort is not the problem or the cause of the problem—it is just a symptom and inevitable reaction to a larger problem this community and its elected officials have failed to address for decades: poor schools.

10 Questions: Kevin Couhig

In his 20s, Kevin Couhig worked in political campaigns. But the former state economic development official and founder of Source Capital, now 62, never planned to run for office himself.

New La. debt collection office to begin work Jan. 1

A new office aimed at collecting state government's back-owed debts will be up and running by the start of the new year. The Associated Press reports Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield outlined plans today for creating the Office of Debt Recovery, saying the agency will begin work in January. Lawmakers established the office in the last legislative session. Under the law, the Office of Debt Recovery can revoke and suspend state-issued licenses, offset tax refunds, intercept accounts payable and take dollars from some bank accounts to pay off debts. Agencies will be required to refer delinquent accounts to either the attorney general's office or the debt recovery office for collection. Barfield says he doesn't yet have an estimate of how much money he expects to recover in the current budget year, which runs through June 30.

Duany: Vitality of youth should drive development

Cities looking to revitalize need to cut red tape and allow young people to "make it cool" and "get things done," says prominent planner Andrés Duany. Duany, best known locally for his role in Plan Baton Rouge 15 years ago, spoke Monday at the opening night of the 2013 Smart Growth Summit. "If you don't make it cool first, then you have to do public-private partnerships, because the developers who are coming in are coming in too early," he said. While such partnerships and tax incentives once were abnormal, now developers have "all this government largesse lined up before they even look at the project," Duany said. "Is that how we built America? … Public-private partnership is a symptom of not allowing the vitality of youth to come in and do the work." According to Duany, "Detroit is the coolest place of all," because the city doesn't have the wherewithal to enforce expensive...

The big fix

Traffic in Baton Rouge is bad. It's not a figment of our collective imagination. It's not an opinion. It's a fact, well documented and supported by data.

Automatic U.S. spending cuts would bite more in 2014 than this year

The first year of automatic, across-the-board budget cuts didn't live up to the dire predictions from the Obama administration and others who warned of sweeping furloughs and big disruptions of government services. The second round just might. The Associated Press reports several federal agencies found lots of loose change that helped them through the automatic cuts in the 2013 budget year that ended Sept. 30, allowing them to minimize furloughs and maintain many services. Most of that money, however, has been spent. The Pentagon used more than $5 billion in unspent money from previous years to ease its $39 billion budget cut. Furloughs originally scheduled for 11 days were cut back to six days. The Justice Department found more than $500 million in similar money that allowed agencies like the FBI to avoid furloughs altogether. Finding replacement cuts is the priority of budget talks scheduled to resume this week, but many observers think the talks won't bear fruit. Agencies that...

Smart Growth Summit: Why you should care

In a city and state that seem perpetually on the verge of something big, the Louisiana Smart Growth Summit gets people talking about how to do it the right way.

Social Security benefits increase among smallest in 40 years

Social Security benefits for nearly 58 million people will increase by 1.5% next year, the government announced this morning. The increase is among the smallest since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975, according to The Associated Press. It is small because consumer prices haven't gone up much in the past year. The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is based on a government measure of inflation that was released this morning. The COLA affects benefits for more than one-fifth of the country. In addition to Social Security payments, it affects benefits for millions of disabled veterans, federal retirees and people who get Supplemental Security Income, the disability program for the poor. The amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes is also going up. Social Security is funded by a 12.4% tax on the first $113,700 in wages earned by a worker, with half paid by employers and the other half withheld from workers' pay. The wage threshold will increase to $117,000 next...

Breaking away

In the past year and a half, Baton Rouge has seen efforts to create a breakaway chamber of commerce, a breakaway school district and a breakaway city. Now, a conservative nonprofit has been created, reportedly, to challenge the one organization that is trying to bring Baton Rouge together.

Think different at city hall

Last week the City-Parish Total Compensation Study was released to the Metro Council. The study was long on information and figures that can be interpreted a variety of ways.

Battle over HPC escalates overnight; councilman calls for resignations

Metro Councilman Ryan Heck is calling for the resignation of three members of the city's Historic Preservation Commission—and is also threatening to bring legal action against the commission—for what he claims is a violation of the state's open meetings law. Tensions between the councilman, who is behind an effort to take HPC's authority to issue certificates of appropriateness away for one year while a committee studies its effectiveness, and several HPC members have been building for weeks and escalated sharply overnight. At 12:30 a.m., Heck officially notified commission member Bill Huey in a scathing email that he is calling for his resignation, as well as those of longtime HPC members Carolyn Bennett and John Sykes. "There really isn't anything wrong with the ordinance governing the HPC," Heck said in the email. "If you three clowns weren't on the HPC, granting favors to friends and punishing those you don't like, there would be no issue. But the fact of the matter...

Minimal impact

One of the more curious aspects of the partial shutdown of the federal government is how little it is affecting life in the Capital Region thus far.

A day of reckoning

Since this column was first published on Tuesday, Oct. 15, the government shutdown has finally ended. As I originally wrote this column, we had seen 10 days of less government. Our business hadn't been affected one bit. Was yours?

La. continues WIC despite federal budget battle

Louisiana will continue operating a nutrition program for more than 140,000 low- to moderate-income women and children even though the federal government is in the midst of a partial shutdown. The Department of Health and Hospitals says Louisiana's Women, Infants and Children Program, commonly called WIC, will be funded until the end of October, using money set aside from the prior fiscal year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture previously advised DHH the money was unavailable during the federal government shutdown. On Wednesday, the USDA contacted DHH and said the funds would be reallocated for use in the current fiscal year. As a result, DHH says it will provide WIC participants with a full month of benefits for October—not a partial month as participants were previously told. Those who received partial benefits earlier this week will have to return to their local WIC office to receive the rest of their October benefits. Additionally, the program will be able to accept new...

Exxon to offer benefits to same-sex couples in U.S.

Exxon Mobil Corp. announced today that it will begin offering benefits to legally married same-sex couples in the U.S. for the first time starting next week. The company says it will recognize "all legal marriages" when it determines eligibility for health care plans for the company's 77,000 employees and retirees in the U.S. That means if a gay employee has been married in a state or country where gay marriage is legal—which does not include Louisiana—his or her spouse will be eligible for benefits with Exxon in the U.S. as of Oct. 1. Exxon, which is facing a same-sex discrimination lawsuit in Illinois, says it is following the lead of the U.S. government. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which had allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states. In recent months, federal agencies have begun to offer benefits to legally-married same sex couples. "We haven't changed our eligibility criteria. It has...

New LABI president dismisses criticism that he's too close to Jindal

After spending about six years in Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration—leaving as chief of staff in 2012—Stephen Waguespack today was named the next president of one of the most influential and powerful lobbying organizations in the state: the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. While some have raised concerns that his connections to the Jindal administration could be a little too cozy for the new role he'll take on beginning Sept. 16, Waguespack dismisses such criticism. "That's a bunch of nonsense," he tells Daily Report. "I've worked in D.C. for 10 years, I've worked here for seven, and during that time I've made a long list of good friends and relationships with a wide range of policy-makers. I look forward to using all of that experience to move this organizations forward and push a reform-minded agenda." Waguespack takes over LABI during one of...

La. named among top 10 most tax-friendly states for retirees

Boasting "a bayou full of tax breaks to retirees," Louisiana once again has been included on Kiplinger's list of the top ten most tax-friendly states for retirees. Social Security, military, civil-service, and state and local government pensions are exempt from state income taxes in Louisiana, the magazine notes, as well as a maximum of $6,000 per person of annual retirement income. Homeowners who are 65 and older with adjusted gross incomes under $65,891 can also freeze the assessed value of their homes as long as they own and reside in them. Add to that low personal income and property tax rates, and the Louisiana heat maybe isn't so bad after all. Louisiana was also on Kiplinger's list of the top 10 tax-friendly states for retirees last year. Earlier this year, Forbes magazine listed Baton Rouge as one of America's "25 Best Places to Retire...

Col. Edmondson: Louisianans will not need a passport for domestic flights

Louisiana's refusal to comply with a national identification law has state officials grappling with whether that decision might make it more difficult for state residents to fly without a passport or other federal ID. Louisiana lawmakers enacted a prohibition against the federal REAL ID law in 2008, rejecting the added security requirements as too intrusive. But as The Associated Press reports, questions have been raised about whether Louisiana residents soon will need passports to fly domestically—or face intense questioning from airport security—because their licenses or other state-issued ID don't comply with the federal standards. Since 30 states have refused to obey the federal law that was passed in 2005 as an anti-terrorism measure, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security repeatedly has pushed back the compliance deadline for REAL ID for air travel. The head of Louisiana State Police, Col. Mike Edmonson, told a state task force looking at the issue today that...

The tipping point

Louisiana has long been known for public corruption. But you have to engage in some really serious extortion to raise the ire of the general public, much less grab the attention of federal or state prosecutors.

A few surprises

How would you like it if the federal government required everyone in America to buy your industry's product? Sounds pretty sweet, right?

Obama confident Congress will vote to strike Syria

President Obama told reporters this morning that he believes Congress will vote to authorize military action against Syria, and that he is willing to work with lawmakers on the wording of a specific resolution. "We have high confidence that Syria used—in an indiscriminate fashion—chemical weapons that killed thousands of people, including over 400 children," Obama told reporters before meeting with members of Congress at the White House. Some lawmakers say a proposed resolution authorizing force is too open-ended; Obama says he is willing to work on the wording as long as it preserves the mission of sending "a clear message" to the government of Bashar al-Assad, "degrading his capabilities to use chemical weapons, not just now but also in the future." Asked if he's confident about votes in Congress later this month, Obama replied: "I am." A congressional vote could be close. Some lawmakers have said the United States should not get involved in Syria; others question...

Administration lays groundwork for U.S. intervention in Syria

In a speech today, Secretary of State John F. Kerry left little doubt that a military strike against the Syrian regime is in the offing, The Washington Post reports. Kerry made clear that President Barack Obama will make his own decisions about the next step, despite the growing number of U.S. lawmakers demanding an opportunity to vote on the issue. Kerry says U.S. intelligence has "high confidence" that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack last week that rebels and Kerry say killed about 1,400 people. He says American credibility is at stake in insisting that Assad be held accountable for using chemical weapons, and rogue states and terror groups are "watching to see if Syria gets away with it." As Kerry spoke at the...

Scalise hedges on government 'shutdown' to defund Obamacare

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, along with his Louisiana Republican colleagues John Fleming and Bill Cassidy, recently signed a letter urging their party's leadership to "affirmatively de-fund the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress, including any continuing appropriations bill." Some conservatives argue Congress should allow a partial government shutdown Oct. 1 rather than continue to fund the Affordable Care Act. But when speaking to the Baton Rouge Press Club today, Scalise stopped short of saying he wouldn't vote for any bill that contained funds for the ACA. "I'm not going to say what I'd do on a bill until I saw it and read it," he said. Scalise says conservatives will file a replacement for the ACA when Congress returns to work in September. He says the alternative legislation would eliminate health...