Louisiana at 12 p.m. on Thursday
Good afternoon, Louisiana editors.
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COASTAL PROTECTION LAWSUITS
METAIRIE— The committee that nominates members for the board of a south Louisiana flood control authority meets Thursday and will likely discuss Jindal administration-backed legislation that would increase the governor's hand in the process — a reaction to the flood board's controversial lawsuit against scores of oil and gas companies. By Kevin McGill. UPCOMING: 450 words by about 4 p.m.
BATON ROUGE — The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education considers whether to revamp Louisiana's career-track diploma as sought by the state education superintendent, who wants a greater focus on job skills certification for high school students who don't intend to go to a four-year college. By Melinda Deslatte. UPCOMING: 500 words by about 2:30 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Federal forecasters predict a warming of the central Pacific Ocean this year that will change weather worldwide. And that's good news for a weather-weary United States. The warming, called an El Nino, is expected to lead to fewer Atlantic hurricanes, more rain next winter for drought-stricken California and southern states, and even a milder winter for the nation's frigid northern tier next year. Elsewhere in the world, it can mean an even hotter year coming up, with billions of dollars in losses for food crops. The National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration Thursday issued an official El Nino watch. NOAA Climate Prediction Center director Mike Halpert said the warming should be in place this summer. By Seth Borenstein.
AP Photo CAANR501-0325980000
ANGOLA — Rapper Lil' Boosie has been released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where he had been serving an eight-year sentence on drug charges. Warden Burl Cain says the 31-year-old rapper — whose real name is Torrence Hatch — left the prison just after 7 p.m. Wednesday. Cain said Hatch remains on supervised parole until 2018. Hatch first arrived at Angola in 2009 after pleading guilty to a third-offense marijuana possession charge. Since then, he's faced numerous accusations, including a highly publicized murder trial in the 2009 killing of Terry Boyd. Hatch was acquitted of first-degree murder in Boyd's death in May 2012. The warden said the time and date of Hatch's release wasn't made public "just to keep everything calm." SENT: 271 words.
LAFAYETTE BOARD SECURITY
LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board has voted to allow its board president to hire security to provide order and crowd control at future meetings. Board President Hunter Beasley said he and the executive committee would meet soon to draft a policy for the board's consideration. Prior to the vote, board member Greg Awbrey cited recent meetings where audience members spoke out from the crowd and it was difficult to maintain order in the board room. Awbrey suggested the board consider giving its president the discretion to hire security on an as-needed basis. Mark Babineaux, a former board president, said unexpected issues would sometimes prompt emotional responses from some audience members. SENT: 327 words.
SORRENTO — Sorrento is having trouble collecting from its utility customers and from drivers who receive tickets issued from a now largely idled police department. A new audit for the 2013 fiscal year says the town had not collected $19,400 in delinquent utility bills and $53,000 in fines from tickets the department issued. The findings are part of at least a multiyear trend that has been the subject of repeated findings by town auditors at least since fiscal 2010. First-term Mayor Mike Lambert said Wednesday that he is only now beginning to fully grasp the problems with the town's utility and police finances. SENT: 281 words.
PORT ALLEN — An effort to recall Port Allen Councilman-at-Large R.J. Loupe has failed. Residents seeking to recall Loupe had until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to submit a petition containing 1,285 signatures from the city's qualified voters to the West Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters Office. The deadline expired without the recall petition being filed. The recall effort against Loupe was launched on Sept. 4 by residents who supported former Mayor Demetric Slaughter. The group had 180 days — until March 4 — to collect the 1,285 signatures. That deadline was extended until Wednesday since government offices were closed Tuesday for Mardi Gras. SENT: 183 words.
CENTRAL — The Central School Board wants to make it much harder for people who live outside the school district to send their children to Central schools illegally. The school board's policy committee voted Wednesday to send a new "evidence of domicile" policy to the full board for consideration. It is to be introduced at the board's meeting Monday and will come up for final approval at a meeting on March 24. Under the new policy, the parents of new students in the school system who own their homes will have to produce a certified copy of documents recorded with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court's Office showing ownership of the home or a property tax bill or homestead exemption for the most recent tax year. SENT: 330 words.
GRETNA — To fight the eyesores of high grass and safety hazards of abandoned buildings, Jefferson Parish now has a department solely devoted to the task and a new hire to head it. Catherine Toppel has been appointed interim director of the Department of Property Maintenance Zoning/Quality of Life, an office newly separated from the Department of Inspection and Code Enforcement in an effort to speed the sprucing up of problem properties. Monday marked the first day for the new department, and Toppel's first day on the job, at $82,000 annually. Her appointment is subject to Parish Council approval, perhaps as early as this month. Toppel will oversee weed control and the inspection and enforcement of codes regarding private properties. SENT: 216 words.
BASTROP — Morehouse Parish School Board members are expected to receive a plan at Tuesday's board meeting that will detail the district's ideas for reconfiguring the district. It could include closing schools to save money. Plans are running a little behind schedule. The superintendent was to have presented his plan for reconfiguration on Feb. 28, followed by an opportunity for community input on the plan before the board would vote on March 15. Instead, Board President Mike Stephens said the board will have a meeting on March 11 where it will receive Superintendent George Noflin's plan for how to address the district's money issues. The board could call a special meeting to accept Noflin's plan or to present an alternate plan that Stephens said the board is creating. SENT: 256 words.
LOUISIANA IN BRIEF
Editors: The following brief items moved Thursday on AP's Louisiana wire and may be of interest for your Friday editions.
BATON ROUGE — Gov. Bobby Jindal's former chief of staff, Paul Rainwater, says he's opening his own lobbying and consulting firm. Rainwater left the Jindal administration this week after serving most recently as chief of staff. Prior to that job, he had worked for the Republican governor as his commissioner of administration and his hurricane recovery adviser. SENT: 98 words.
NATCHITOCHES — A Baptist minister says he's making a run for governor in the 2015 gubernatorial election. Rev. Jeremy Odom, a Democrat from Natchitoches, says he has enough support to get his name on the ballot for the election scheduled Nov. 3, 2015. SENT: 130 words.
ALEXANDRIA — A Rapides Parish grand jury has indicted Dorothy Vanasselberg of Elmer and 39-year-old Kyle Hauenstein of Pineville on hundreds of sex charges. The Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office arrested Vanasselberg in July 2013 after detectives investigated a complaint of possible sexual contact between Vanasselberg and a juvenile. SENT: 128 words.
ALEXANDRIA — A 25-year-old Boyce man convicted in the death of an 18-month-old child has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by state District Judge Patricia Koch. Jaymes L. Harris was found guilty of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice. SENT: 122 words.
LAKE CHARLES — Officials say a 10-year, 0.62-mill property tax renewal, one of several items on the April 5 ballot, is necessary to continue funding operations at Lake Charles Regional Airport. Heath Allen, the airport's executive director, said the tax accounts for about 30 percent of the airport's yearly budget and that it would generate nearly $690,000 a year. SENT: 92 words.
PRAIRIEVILLE — State police have arrested the driver of a pickup involved in a fatal accident in Ascension Parish. Troopers say a two-vehicle accident happened on Feb. 6 on La. Highway 42. SENT: 86 words.
GRETNA — A Marrero teenager who was convicted last month of shooting a 2-year-old boy in the face when opening fire on the child's father has been sentenced to 60 years in prison. Carl Baham must serve the time at hard labor, state District Judge Scott Schlegel said in handing down the punishment on Thursday. SENT: 127 words.
MERRYVILLE — A state audit finds a typographical error and an administrative oversight led the town of Merryville to collect nearly six years' worth of sales taxes that voters hadn't renewed. The report, released by the state Legislative Auditor's Office, says Merryville had been collecting two 1-cent sales taxes that expired in June 2007. The report blames changes of administration for the oversight, which led to more than $600,000 being collected. SENT: 129 words.
LAKE ARTHUR RAISES
LAKE ARTHUR — The Lake Arthur Board of Aldermen will consider pay raises for the next mayor and slate of aldermen after a public hearing to be held on April 2. The board introduced an ordinance Wednesday increasing the salaries of the mayor and aldermen nearly 85 percent effective with the next term of office, which begins January 2015. SENT: 115 words.
LAKE PROVIDENCE — State police have arrested a Lake Providence police officer on one count of malfeasance. Troopers say investigators looked into reports that 52-year-old Lee Antwine falsified a police report in reference to a crash that occurred Feb. 16 in Lake Providence. SENT: 73 words.
MONROE — A 33-year-old Monroe man has been arrested after his brother was investigated for child pornography. On Wednesday, investigators with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office Special Victims Unit arrested David Allen Boland on one count of video voyeurism of a juvenile. SENT: 102 words.
ST BERNARD-RATE INCREASES
CHALMETTE — The St. Bernard Parish Council has introduced a proposal that would increase water and sewer rates by 34 percent to help improve infrastructure in a water system that has been scrutinized since a brain-eating amoeba was found in the system last fall. Councilman Ray Lauga says the water and sewer funds have been running a near $3 million deficit. SENT: 125 words.
BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Lottery Corporation says nobody won the two major jackpots in the Louisiana Lotto and multistate Powerball drawings on Wednesday night. SENT: 108 words.
GULF OIL SPILL-FLORIDA
PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Florida has joined a multistate lawsuit stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, seeking to hold British oil company BP accountable for damage to the state's natural resources. The complaint was filed Wednesday in Panama City federal court by the state's secretary of environmental protection and the head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It's separate from a lawsuit Florida's attorney general filed against BP last year over economic losses related to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Along with BP, the new complaint lists minority partner Anadarko and rig owner Transocean as defendants responsible for harm the spill caused to Florida's ecosystems and wildlife. BP spokesman Geoff Morrell says the company is reviewing Florida's lawsuit and continues to evaluate potential spill-related environmental damage. By Jennifer Kay. SENT: 496 words.
BUSINESS IN BRIEF
LAFAYETTE — Lafayette home health provider LHC Group reported fourth-quarter earnings dropped to $5 million, or 29 cents per share, compared with $7.4 million, or 43 cents per share, a year earlier. LHC's fourth-quarter revenue grew 2.1 percent to $165.3 million. SENT: 100 words.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt Commodores wrap up their home schedule Thursday night against the LSU Tigers. By Teresa M. Walker. Tip-off 6 p.m. UPCOMING: 700 words. With AP Photos.
DULUTH, Ga. — No. 10 seed LSU will face No. 7 seed Alabama as the teams have a rematch of their final regular-season game in the SEC tournament on Thursday night. Alabama beat LSU 78-60 on Sunday. Tip-off 5 p.m. By Charles Odum. UPCOMING: 150 words. With AP Photos