KSYL Local News

News For Thursday 05/19/11


NEWS FOR THURSDAY 051911
BY DAVE GRAICHEN

THE HOUSE BILL THAT WOULD MERGE SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY-NEW ORLEANS WITH ITS NEIGHBOR UNO IS APPARENTLY DEAD. ON THE HOUSE FLOOR, THE BILL'S SPONSOR HOUSE SPEAKER JIM TUCKER SAYS HE WAS UNABLE TO MUSTER UP THE 70 VOTES NEEDED TO PASS THE BILL WITH A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY. THE MERGER OF SUNO AND UNO WAS PART OF GOVERNOR JINDAL'S LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE, BUT FACED STRONG OPPOSITION FROM MANY BLACK LAWMAKERS WHO FEEL IT THREATENS MINORITY EDUCATION IN NEW ORLEANS. TUCKER SAYS HE'S DISAPPOINTED, AS THE MERGER WOULD'VE BEEN AN IMPROVEMENT.

THE STATE REVENUE ESTIMATING CONFERENCE HAS DROPPED THE STATE'S REVENUE FORECAST BY $77 MILLION THIS YEAR. WHILE THE PANEL AGREED WEDNESDAY TO LEAVE NEXT YEAR'S ESTIMATES ALONE, THE DROP IN THIS YEAR'S PROJECTIONS WILL HAVE RIPPLE EFFECTS INTO NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET. HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN JIM FANNIN SAYS HE EXPECTS TO GET PROPOSALS FROM THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE ABOUT HOW TO HANDLE THE MONEY DROP. THERE ARE EXTRA FUNDS LAWMAKERS COULD USE FROM THIS YEAR TO FILL THE GAP AND OFFSET CUTS, BUT LEGISLATORS HAD PLANNED TO USE THOSE DOLLARS TO FILL A SHORTFALL IN NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET.

STATE OFFICIALS SAY THE MODIFIED BUDGET PLAN BEING DRAWN BY THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE MEANS THEY WILL HAVE TO CUT SERVICES AND LAY OFF EMPLOYEES FAR BEYOND WHAT THEY HAD PREVIOUSLY PLANNED. THERE IS A REAL POSSIBILITY THE AVOYELLES CORRECTIONAL CENTER IN COTTONPORT AND J. LEVY DABADIE CORRECTIONAL CENTER IN PINEVILLE COULD BE SHUT DOWN. THE GOVERNOR’S ORIGINAL PLAN CALLED FOR THE FACILITIES TO BE PRIVATIZED. ACCORDING TO LOUISIANA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY STEPHEN MORET, MAJOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN CENTRAL LOUISIANA AND ELSEWHERE COULD BE LOST BECAUSE OF THE COMMITTEE'S DECISION TO ELIMINATE $81.8 MILLION IN EXISTING FUNDING FOR LOUISIANA'S MEGA-PROJECT DEVELOPMENT FUND.

THE ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS SAID 16 OF 125 BAYS WERE OPEN ON WEDNESDAY AT THE MORGANZA SPILLWAY UPRIVER FROM BATON ROUGE, SENDING WATER FROM THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER INTO THE SWAMPY SPILLWAY AND ON TO THE ATCHAFALAYA RIVER AT A RATE OF 108,000 CUBIC FEET PER SECOND. THE TOTAL WAS UP 1 BAY FROM TUESDAY MORNING. FARTHER SOUTH AT THE BONNET CARRE SPILLWAY UPRIVER FROM NEW ORLEANS, THE CORPS SAID 330 OF 350 BAYS WERE OPEN FLOWING WATER AT A RATE OF 316,000 CUBIC FEET PER SECOND TOWARD LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN.

OFFICIALS IN ST MARTIN PARISH HAVE ISSUED A MANDATORY EVACUATION ORDER FOR BUTTE LA ROSE, HAPPYTOWN AND SHERBURNE IN THE ATCHAFALAYA BASIN. ST MARTIN PARISH SHERIFF'S SPOKESPERSON MAJOR GINNY HIGGINS. SAYS SEVERE FLOODING IS EXPECTED FROM THE ATCHAFALAYA RIVER STARTING THIS MORNING. ONCE THE RIVER CRESTS, IT'S EXPECTED TO REMAIN AT RECORD LEVELS FOR SEVERAL DAYS. HIGGINS SAYS THEY ARE EXPECTING BETWEEN 5 AND 20 FEET OF WATER IN PORTIONS OF ST MARTIN PARISH. HIGGINS SAYS PEOPLE IN THE AREA ARE TAKING THIS VERY SERIOUSLY...:

LEGISLATION IS SCHEDULED TO BE HEARD IN THE SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE TODAY THAT WOULD CAP THE TOPS SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM. THE BILLS AUTHOR, MORGAN CITY SENATOR BUTCH GAUTREAUX, BELIEVES TIMES ARE TOO TIGHT BUDGET-WISE TO CONTINUE PUTTING MORE MONEY INTO THE TOPS PROGRAM. GAUTREAUX SAYS HIS LEGISLATION WOULD SAVE THE STATE $14 MILLION DOLLARS. HE SAYS HE'S NOT TRYING TO GET RID OF THE POPULAR SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM, BUT SIMPLY LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF RESOURCES PUT TOWARDS IT. GAUTREAUX SAYS HIS BILL WOULD REQUIRE TOPS AWARDS TO PAY FOR 90% OF THE TUITION CHARGED BY A PUBLIC UNIVERSITY.

FOR THE THIRD TIME IN THE PAST FOUR YEARS, ALEXANDRIA AND PINEVILLE HAVE BEEN NAMED WINNERS OF THE LOUISIANA GARDEN CLUB FEDERATION'S CLEANEST CITY COMPETITION. IT WAS THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW THE TWO CITIES HAVE WON, AND THEY ALSO EACH WON IN 2008. ALEXANDRIA WON THE SECOND-LARGEST CATEGORY, DEFEATING OTHER FINALISTS KENNER, LAKE CHARLES AND MONROE. PINEVILLE, THE WINNER IN THE FOURTH-LARGEST CATEGORY, FINISHED AHEAD OF FINALISTS ABBEVILLE, DENHAM SPRINGS AND EUNICE. JUDGES FROM THE LOUISIANA GARDEN CLUB FEDERATION VISITED ALEXANDRIA AND PINEVILLE LAST WEEK.

A HOUSE COMMITTEE HAS SIDETRACKED A PROPOSAL TO REQUIRE LICENSED ATHLETIC TRAINERS AT JUNIOR HIGH AND HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL GAMES. SUPPORTERS OF ALEXANDRIA DEMOCRAT CHRIS ROY'S BILL SAY IT WOULD PREVENT INJURIES AND DEATHS OF TEENAGE PLAYERS. SOME COMMITTEE MEMBERS OBJECTED, SAYING IT WOULD IMPOSE AN UNFUNDED MANDATE ON LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS, MANY OF WHICH ALREADY STRUGGLE TO PAY FOR TEACHERS. THE COMMITTEE AMENDED THE BILL TO EXCLUDE ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOLS. THE HOUSE HEALTH AND WELFARE COMMITTEE SENT THE BILL TO THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE, RATHER THAN TO THE FLOOR FOR DEBATE.

CANE RIVER LAKE WILL CLOSE MONDAY BECAUSE OF LOW WATER. PROPERTY OWNERS SHOULD REMOVER THEIR BOATS FROM THE LAKE BEFORE THIS. THE LAKE WILL REMAIN CLOSED UNTIL SAFE WATER IS REACHED. DURING THE CLOSURE, NON-POWERED VESSELS AND VESSELS USING ELECTRIC TROLLING MOTORS WITHOUT ANY OTHER MOTOR ABOARD WILL BE PERMITTED.

A PROPOSAL TO PLACE A TEN COMMANDMENTS MONUMENT AT THE LOUISIANA CAPITOL HAS RECEIVED PASSAGE FROM A SENATE COMMITTEE, AFTER SPARKING DEBATES ABOUT THE ROLE OF RELIGION IN LAWMAKING. THE SENATE AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE AGREED WEDNESDAY TO ADVANCE THE PROPOSAL TO THE FULL SENATE. BAPTIST PASTOR MIKE HOLLOWAY CALLED THE DISPLAY A WAY TO SHOW THE STATE'S SPIRITUAL HERITAGE. HE SAYS THE COUNTRY'S LAWS WERE DEVISED FROM THE CONCEPTS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. THE MONUMENT'S COST WOULD BE PAID BY PRIVATE ENTITIES. SIMILAR MONUMENTS HAVE DRAWN LEGAL CHALLENGES AROUND THE COUNTRY.

THE SENATE HAS REJECTED A GOP BID TO SPEED UP AND EXPAND OFFSHORE OIL DRILLING IN THE FACE OF $4-A-GALLON GASOLINE PRICES. A PROCEDURAL VOTE FAILED WEDNESDAY, 57-42, ON A GOP BID TO SPEED DECISION-MAKING ON DRILLING PERMITS AND FORCE THE GOVERNMENT TO CONDUCT PREVIOUSLY SCHEDULED LEASE SALES IN THE GULF OF MEXICO AND OFF VIRGINIA'S COAST. THE SALES WERE SUSPENDED AFTER THE BP OIL SPILL. THE VOTE COMES DAYS AFTER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA DIRECTED HIS ADMINISTRATION TO RAMP UP U.S. OIL PRODUCTION BY EXTENDING EXISTING LEASES IN THE GULF AND OFF ALASKA'S COAST AND HOLDING MORE FREQUENT LEASE SALES IN A FEDERAL PETROLEUM RESERVE IN ALASKA. BOTH PARTIES SAY THEY WANT TO ALLOW RESPONSIBLE OIL AND GAS DRILLING, BUT THEY APPEAR FAR APART ON DETAILS.

AUTHORITIES SAY THE BODY OF A 19-YEAR-OLD WELSH MAN WHO WENT MISSING OVER THE WEEKEND WAS FOUND UNDERNEATH THE INTERSTATE 10 BRIDGE AT LAKE CHARLES.
POLICE SAY STATE DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES AGENTS LOCATED THE BODY OF RAY LEE VITAL ON TUESDAY. VITAL, WHO WAS VISITING NORTH BEACH WITH FAMILY, WAS REPORTED MISSING SATURDAY. FAMILY MEMBERS TOLD POLICE THAT VITAL, WHO COULDN'T SWIM, LOST HIS GRIP ON A RAFT AND DISAPPEARED UNDER THE WATER.




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