News for Wednesday 040313
By Dave Graichen
Wet weather has arrived across much of the Bayou State today as a result of a large storm system that's developed in the Gulf of Mexico. State climatologist Barry Keim says the system will track slowly along the Louisiana coastline. The heavy rains will linger into Thursday.
Cleco has made some major progress in restoring power to customers who went off line during that Sunday afternoon thunderstorm. During the noon hour Tuesday, more than 2,000 customers were still with power in Rapides and Grant parishes. Today, that number is less than 10.
A Southern Media and Opinion research poll released yesterday shows Governor Bobby Jindal's approval rating has slipped once again. In the spring 2013 survey Jindal received an approval rating of 38 percent -- compared to 51 percent last October. Jindal's tax reform plan was particularly unpopular with just 27% of respondents supporting it. The survey funded by Lane Grigsby also shows that President Obama has a higher approval rating among Louisianians than Jindal at 43%. The Governor told the media yesterday he was not interested in poll data.
That same poll shows three-term democratic senator Mary Landrieu with an approval rating of 56-percent. There's been one announced challenger so far. Baton Rouge Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy made his candidacy official today with a video message to his supporters. Minden Congressman John Fleming and a couple of other republicans could also enter the race.
Substitute teachers in Rapides parish got an a rather hefty pay raise Tuesday. The school board increased the daily pay rate to $125 for certified subs, that increase is almost double the previous pay rate of $65 Non-certified teachers with a degree will now receive $65 a day. That’s an increase of $4. Interim Superintendent Gerald Woodard said a look at other districts showed rates at about $100 with the maximum being about $125. This raise also applies to retired teachers who return to work as substitutes.
The Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office says four juveniles are facing charges related to the theft of dozens of iPads and equipment from Mary Goff Elementary school. They say the thefts were discovered Friday, four arrests made Monday and more arrests may be coming.
More than 700 employees of the LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center and its clinics will lose their jobs in two weeks as a result of action taken Tuesday by the state Civil Service Commission. The seven-member commission voted 4-2 in favor of a public-private partnership deal, in which Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, called the Lake, becomes home to the LSU public hospital’s in-patient care and medical education programs, effective April 15. The Lake also takes over management of the LSU hospital’s out-patient clinics the same day.
State lawmakers will again discuss changes to tenure for public school teachers. Teacher tenure reform passed last year, but a state judge ruled it was unconstitutional, because it contained too many components. In response to that ruling, Senate Education Chairman Conrad Appel says multiple bills have been filed this year, addressing teacher tenure. Appel says the teacher tenure reform effort is not designed to scare public school teachers. He says tenure should be reserved for the best educators and the rule changes help to make sure quality teachers are in the classroom.
Retaliation can be costly. A recent public records search shows that State agencies here in Louisiana have paid more than $800,000 in the case involving former LSU coastal researcher Ivor van Heerden to defend themselves against claims that he was fired after publicly blaming the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for most of the flooding in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Documents show that LSU paid a Baton Rouge law firm more than $457,000 over a 30-month period to argue the university’s case. Which it lost. The state Office of Risk Management paid van Heerden a $435,00 settlement last month. In total, state agencies have spent $892,000 on van Heerden’s case.
The chairman of the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee expressed concern yesterday over The state Department of Education’s lack of scrutiny when it comes to the many contracts it relies upon each year. rather than doing the work in-house merits scrutiny. State Rep. Jim Fannin told the committee “I am wondering where the oversight comes. The issue, which Fannin has raised in the past, surfaced during a budget review of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which sets policies for more than 700,000 public school students statewide. How many contracts and what they total for the current financial year is unclear.
An environmental group says almost three years after the B-P Deepwater Horizon disaster, dolphins and sea turtles continue to die in high numbers. National Wildlife Federation senior scientist Doug Inkley says this is a sign the Gulf of Mexico is still feeling the effects from the 2010 oil spill. Statistics show dolphin deaths in the oil spill area have remained above average every month before the spill began.