Louisiana news briefs
Court upholds hiring
of outside counsel
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Attorney General Buddy Caldwell acted within his authority when he approved the hiring of outside legal help in a lawsuit filed by the Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against almost 100 oil and gas companies for aalleged damage to coastal wetlands.
State District Judge Janice Clark issued the ruling on Monday in Baton Rouge.
A lawsuit filed in December 2013 by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association alleged the levee authority is a state agency that operates under the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
The lawsuit argued the levee board did not have the authority to hire outside counsel and instead should be represented by the attorney general.
Clark’s ruling signaled the court recognizes the levee board as a political subdivision like a parish and has the authority to hire outside attorneys, said Lori Mince, who represented the levee board.
In a statement, the oil and gas association said is strongly disagree with Clark’s ruling and plans to file an appeal.
Lawmakers open hearings
on $25B state budget
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A day after opening their annual legislative session, lawmakers are starting their work on the state’s operating budget.
The House Appropriations Committee today begins combing through the recommendations of Gov. Bobby Jindal for how to best spend state dollars in the new fiscal year that begins July 1.
Jindal offered a $25 billion budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
But some lawmakers criticize the piecemeal funding he’s using to balance the spending plans. They say it will perpetuate a cycle of budget uncertainty because Jindal included dollars that aren’t certain to reappear year after year.
after shots fired into house
THIBODAUX (AP) — Authorities in Lafourche Parish are searching for a suspect who fired shots into a Thibodaux house on March 2.
Investigators said police were called to the 1300 block of Midland Drive after multiple gunshots were reported at about 5:45 a.m.
The house was damaged but several people in the house at the time were not hurt, officers say.
The suspect was believed to be driving a dark-colored SUV.
Detectives are offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest.
Fisheries forum set in Houma
HOUMA (AP) — The LSU AG Center will hold its annual Louisiana Fisheries Summit for commercial fishermen on Wednesday and Thursday at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center.
Topics will include fisheries and seafood industry status updates, marketing, refrigeration, shipping and boats and motors.
The summit will also include demonstrations on innovative handling and processing equipment. There also will be a trade show.
Registration can be made online at www.bayoulog.com/louisiana-fisheries.
Nonprofit seeks to start Lafayette charter school
LAFAYETTE (AP) — A nonprofit group has submitted a charter school application to the Lafayette Parish School Board to open a career and technical high school in 2015.
Kingdom Builder Community Development Corp. has proposed a high school for grades 9 to 12 in Lafayette Parish that provides students the opportunity to earn industry-based certification in high-demand, high-wage fields.
The concept of the school — Kingdom Collegiate Academy of Excellence — appears to be in line with the Louisiana Department of Education’s emphasis on “Jump Start,” a statewide revamp of career and technical education in high schools.
Auditor lists problems
in Jeanerette city operations
JEANERETTE (AP) — The state legislative auditor says Jeanerette has widespread accounting problems, including a failure to reconcile bank statements for more than a year, a lack of controls over the use of fuel and not requiring all employees to use time sheets.
The advisory report — a list of problems and recommended fixes — found no wrongdoing but cited 15 areas of concern, mostly dealing with poor accounting practices.
Many of the problems outlined in the report released Monday have been touched on in prior audits and pre-date Mayor Aprill Foulcard, who has held the post for less than a year.
She was appointed interim mayor in July following the death of Mayor Tim deClouet, who died two years into his first term.
Reward up to $20K in whooping crane shooting
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Information about the shooting of two endangered whooping cranes in Jefferson Davis Parish could be worth $20,000.
The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced the new reward Monday, pushing it up from the $15,000 offered last month for a tip leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.
Wildlife and Fisheries spokesman Adam Einck says two endangered whooping cranes were found shot on Feb. 7 in Jefferson Davis Parish near Compton and Radio Tower Roads north of Roanoke.
He says one of the birds was dead when discovered.
The other crane initially survived but later died at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, where it had been taken for treatment.
Volunteers to clean
Bayou Lafourche Saturday
HOUMA (AP) — More than 1,000 people will spend this weekend picking up trash Saturday along Bayou Lafourche, the primary drinking-water source for Terrebonne and Lafourche.
It’s Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program’s third annual Bayou Lafourche Clean Up.
Alma Robichaux, BTNEP’s education coordinator, said Bayou Lafourche provides drinking water for 85 percent of Terrebonne and all of Lafourche. Despite the waterway’s importance to the community, the bayou is often littered with trash.
Robichaux said the group has cleaned up more than 30 tons of garbage during the past two Clean Up efforts.
DeRidder amends budget after $1M shortage
DERIDDER (AP) — The DeRidder City Council has voted to amend its operating budget for the fiscal year after spending more than $1 million than originally anticipated when it was approved in October 2013.
City Finance Director Ginny Brand said Monday the $1 million change was necessary due to unforeseen circumstances.
Brand says things are either costing more or they were not reported in the original budget.
The amended budget comes with some revenue gains, however: $32,500 in intergovernmental revenue in its utility fund thanks to state grants and $150,000 in capital project revenue after an unanticipated increase in sales tax transfer.