An attempt by the Lafayette Parish School System to correct salary inequities of its support staff backfired last week when the school board was presented with pay adjustments that would have resulted in what board member Mike Hefner described as a "windfall" for some employees. As a result, the board halted the plan, and employees protested that the raises promised to them were being delayed. The pay adjustments would have resulted in several employees getting raises of less than $1,000 a year, while at least one stood to gain $21,000 ' a 42 percent pay raise.
The board ordered the staff committee to rework the pay plan. According to Hefner, most of the drastic increases resulted from the committee's decision to factor in prior experience of employees before they joined the school system, which bumped many employees' salaries above standard levels. "I think the board did the right thing," Hefner says. "It was tough coming back and saying, 'Well, the money you thought you were going to get, you may not be getting.' I feel for the employees for putting them in this position but we have to fix this thing." ' Nathan Stubbs
MORE TROUBLE FOR STONE
The parties that issued bonds to Stone Energy in the past have sent the Lafayette company a series of noncompliance notices for failing to file reports and financial statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This comes fresh on the heels of Stone announcing it was being investigated by various entities for overestimating its natural gas reserves by $1.4 billion ' meaning the company reported overly generous and incorrect financial information to the federal government and investors ("Stone Cold," Feb. 8.)
In a press release, Stone says updated reports will be filed in mid-March, "which would resolve the issue" for its bond holders. Under an unlikely worst-case scenario, the bond holders could demand a lump sum payment from Stone, which could cause the company to sell assets or pursue other dire measures. ' Jeremy Alford
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR EVACUEES IN LAFAYETTE HOTELS
Evacuees living in Lafayette hotels and motels received a last-minute extension from FEMA last week that extended the March 1 deadline for FEMA hotel payments to March 15. An estimated 400-500 rooms are still occupied by evacuees, according to the latest survey conducted by the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. LCVC's Gerald Breaux says the survey only covers the number of rooms occupied by evacuees, not the number of evacuees per room. If the March 15 deadline holds, a number of evacuee families could be homeless.
Acadiana Outreach Center has set up a housing hotline to try and connect evacuees with property owners. Landlords or families with rental properties should call Acadiana Outreach at 234-6993. ' Scott Jordan
ACADIANA C.A.R.E.S. AND ROSELAWN PROPERTIES LAWSUIT TRANSFERRED
Acadiana C.A.R.E.S.' eviction fears have been temporarily halted by a ruling from Judge Glennon Everett in the 15th Judicial District Court. C.A.R.E.S. filed a lawsuit in May 2005 asking for injunctive relief and damages against its landlord, Roselawn Properties Inc., owned by Kathy Ashworth, who threatened C.A.R.E.S. with eviction, claiming the nonprofit HIV/AIDS agency was in default of its lease ("Homeless for the Holidays," Dec. 29.). Roselawn filed a lawsuit to evict C.A.R.E.S. on Feb. 1. In the Feb. 21 hearing, Judge Everett refused to hear Roselawn's case, transferring the eviction proceedings to Judge Byron Hebert, who has already been assigned C.A.R.E.S.' damages suit. The ruling is a temporary victory for C.A.R.E.S.
"The judge gave us the relief that we requested ' having the eviction suit heard in the original lawsuit so that there weren't two different lawsuits," says C.A.R.E.S. attorney Charles Kreamer. Roselawn now must refile its eviction proceedings in Judge Hebert's court. Roselawn attorney Hank Perret declined to comment. ' Mary Tutwiler
VITTER CLEARS THE AIR
After Gov. Kathleen Blanco suggested that Louisiana's junior senator actively lobbied against her plan for a housing trust, Sen. David Vitter fired off a rebuttal. "This sort of partisan blame-throwing helps no one, least of all those still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," Vitter wrote to Blanco. The "actual and precise facts" he offers are that he told a group of lawmakers the state plan wasn't "terribly important, but that the substance of the plan itself was."
Vitter also told the governor that details for the plan's footprint need to be determined soon, thus defining where rebuilding will and will not take place. Since he holds some of the highest approval ratings of any other elected official in the state, Vitter can make such bold statements to the state's CEO. Still, Vitter wrote in another letter to supporters last week that he won't be leaning on that popularity to make a bid against Blanco in next year's gubernatorial election. ' JA
THE FORGOTTEN COMMITTEE
If there were ever a time for a Select Committee on Coastal Restoration and Flood Control in the Legislature, it would be now. But the panel, created by Gov. Kathleen Blanco and others in 2004, hasn't met in roughly a year. Meanwhile, various lawmakers during the recent special session floated the idea of forming a new standing committee for homeland security and hurricane protection.
Sen. Reggie Dupre, D-Bourg, chairman of the Select Committee on Coastal Restoration, will propose a compromise in the regular session that convenes next month. Dupre wants to make the coastal committee permanent, folding in homeland security issues rather than forming yet another panel in the Legislature. "There's not enough room for another committee, and I'm willing to join forces," Dupre says.
There are political ramifications. By creating a new committee for these areas, oversight would have to be pulled from six separate chairmen in both chambers. "That'll be the tricky part," Dupre says. ' JA
National coverage of the recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita continues, with The New York Times and Washington Post providing the most regular (and aggressive) coverage of ongoing challenges in Louisiana. A special-edition Feb. 27 issue of U.S. News & World Report features a 31-page special report on New Orleans, and even some unlikely outlets are weighing in: Popular Mechanic's current issue features a controversial cover story that purports to debunk Katrina-related engineering myths. ' SJ
THE LAND GRAB BEGINS
The state took its first real step earlier this month toward the acquisition of land needed to start the rebuilding process. Through an executive order, Gov. Kathleen Blanco has called for the commandeering of private property around the 17th Street Canal, largely near Lake Pontchartrain. The order was requested and recommended by a slew of agencies, including the Corps of Engineers, Jefferson Parish and the Attorney General's Office. In the order, Blanco states the grab is in the "best interests of the citizens of the state."
Three plots are identified in the order, as are 10.2 acres of land extending north into Lake Pontchartrain; affected businesses include landmark restaurants Sid-Mar's and Brunings. The properties will be used for levee and floodwall construction. Owners will be "identified and compensated in accordance with the terms of the Cooperation Agreement between the United States of America and the Orleans Levee District," according to the order. ' JA
NEW DEMOCRATIC CHAIR PICKS UP THE PACE
Ever since Chris Whittington took over as the new chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, press releases and political hits have become more frequent and pointed. He's taking shots at Republican congressional candidates, poking holes in levee bills proposed by GOP lawmakers and of course sticking up for the party's embattled governor.
In the latest dispatch, Whittington applauds Gov. Kathleen Blanco for her "hardball tactics" in the fight for more federal hurricane money ' specifically, the additional $4.2 billion proposed for housing by President Bush. That stance is hogwash to Richard Baker supporters. (For a related story, read "The Man with the Plan" on P. 9.) ' JA
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a 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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.