Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Tue, December 11, 2012


News alert: Tagliabue vacates all discipline against NFL players in bounty case

The NFL says Paul Tagliabue has vacated all discipline against players in New Orleans Saints bounty case. Daily Report PM will have further details.

Tax exemption proposed for B.R. software developers

Logan Leger, CEO and co-owner of app maker NewAperio, set a goal early this year of reaching $1 million in revenue in 2012. Leger says having his business exempted from paying the 2% sales tax to the city-parish—as other professional services firms must do—would help him reach that goal, grow his business and add an employee. "It's good for economic development in Baton Rouge," Leger says. On Wednesday the Metro Council will introduce an ordinance to exclude custom-built computer software makers like NewAperio from the local 2% sales tax. Louisiana already exempts such businesses from paying a portion of the state sales tax. "It's not really a product for sale over the counter," says Councilman Mike Walker, who introduced the amendment. Walker says Leger approached him about amending the city-parish sales tax when he was campaigning for mayor. Walker is termed out, and the Metro Council has only one regular meeting this month. Councilman-elect Buddy Amoroso is also listed as a supporter of the amendment, which will likely go to a vote in January. Joseph Scott, a legislative section chief in the city-parish attorney's office, says the tax amendment will not extend to software or computers bought in a store. "This is strictly for custom-built software," Scott says. He adds that it isn't yet clear whether the amendment will extend to website developers but that the council has the option of ensuring that it does so. The council meets at 4 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall, 222 St. Louis St. The full agenda for Wednesday's meeting is here. —Adam Pearson

Today's poll question: Do you think providing a 2% sales tax exemption to custom-software makers is a good way to spur local growth of the industry?

DDD: Downtown B.R. landed 17 new businesses in 2012

The Downtown Development District says 17 new businesses opened or—as in the case of a new pharmacy planned for the 300 block of Third Street—announced plans to open in 2012. The DDD also counts 23 development projects that made progress during the year, including the River Center expansion and the new residential development at 438 Main Street. DDD Executive Director Davis Rhorer provided a year-end review of the various projects at the DDD Commission meeting today. You can see a report of the 2012 progress downtown here.
Also discussed at today's meeting:
—John Smith of the Downtown Business Association says some business owners are discussing with the city the possibility of a New Year's Eve fireworks display; Smith expects to know if it will happen in the next few days.
—HNTB will begin in January working on the next planning stage for a possible rail connection between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, CPEX President/CEO Elizabeth "Boo" Thomas says.
—A new mural by the BR Walls Project will be unveiled at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the opening of the new Convention Street Park.
—The Crest, the new downtown stage canopy, should be assembled by mid-January, weather permitting, while the Repentance Park improvements could be complete by the end of this month. —David Jacobs

Louisiana tied for last place in health rankings

Louisiana and Mississippi are tied for last place—49th—in new health rankings released today by the United Health Foundation. Vermont holds the rank of the healthiest state for the sixth year in a row. Although Louisiana's low ranking is indicative of high rates of obesity and diabetes among residents, the Bayou State actually moved up one spot in the rankings this year, from 50th place last year. Also, this year's UHF report finds that Louisiana has its share of strengths: a low prevalence of binge drinking and a high rate of immunization coverage. The state's challenges include the high prevalence of a sedentary lifestyle, a high percentage of children in poverty, a high infant mortality rate, a high prevalence of low infant birth weight, and a high rate of preventable hospitalizations. Ranked at No. 49, Louisiana and Mississippi are preceded by Arkansas, West Virginia and South Carolina in the group of the nation's five least healthy states. The states that have shown the most improvement in residents' health are New Jersey, Maryland, Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Rhode Island. Nationwide, 27.8% of the adult population is obese to some degre. In Louisiana, 33.4% of the population is considered obese. However, obesity affects every state. Even in Colorado, considered the thinnest state in the country, obesity affects one-fifth of the population, according to the UHF report. See the complete rankings here.

VooDoo BBQ opening a Perkins Rowe location

In a move to establish the New Orleans-based barbecue chain's third restaurant in Baton Rouge, VooDoo BBQ & Grill has signed a deal to open a location in Perkins Rowe. Company executives say Brad Smith and Joe Scardino, who own the Drusilla Lane location, will open the Perkins Rowe restaurant in a space next to the Cinemark movie theater. "We expect we'll do really well," says Scardino, adding that they're aiming to open the chain's new location at the end of February. "People who want to eat before the movie or right after will be able to walk right out of the theater and right into our VooDoo." The Perkins Rowe restaurant will be Voodoo's 12th location in Louisiana. The chain has also expanded in recent years to Florida and South Carolina. "We've been aggressively expanding in other states this year, but this is a great move to shore up our solid foundation in our home state," says VooDoo BBQ CEO Tony Avila. Along with its Baton Rouge restaurants, VooDoo has other Capital Region locations in Denham Springs and Zachary.

Explo Systems faced scrutiny before evacuation in northwest La.

The explosives recycling company that recently caused the evacuation of a northwestern Louisiana town has come under scrutiny for explosions and its handling of dangerous materials before—and it was so far behind on its rent that the Louisiana National Guard refused to lease it more space. Explo Systems Inc. was cited for safety violations by the federal government in 2007 for its use of old Army explosives in mining operations in West Virginia, where a blast with "outdated deteriorated military ordnance" injured one worker and exposed others to toxins. And the company had fallen hundreds of thousands of dollars behind on its rent at a Louisiana National Guard base even as it processed an Army contract to demilitarize hundreds of thousands of propelling charges used for artillery. The company's most recent problems began with an explosion in October at a Louisiana facility near the small town of Doyline. In late November Doyline's 800 residents were put under a voluntary evacuation order that ended Friday. Authorities investigating the blast found an estimated 6 million pounds of a propellant called M6—used for artillery rounds—haphazardly stored. Some boxes were stacked in buildings, some were packed into long corridors that connect the buildings and still more were found stashed outside. Some of the containers were spilling open. The company, which has not yet responded to requests for comment from the media, is now under a criminal investigation for its storage of the materials, which are being secured. The full story is here.

Report: Fracking could drain OPEC's power to set gasoline prices

The success of American drillers in coaxing fossil fuels from shale rock via hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—has the potential to boost production so much that it may deny OPEC the power to set global oil and gasoline prices, an intelligence advisory panel concludes in a new report. Bloomberg reports that rising domestic production from hydraulic fracturing is expanding U.S. supplies, which in time would shift the balance of power in global energy markets, according to a new report by the National Intelligence Council. The council, an adviser to the director of national intelligence, publishes a report every four years to aid policymakers' long-term planning. As the U.S. adds supply, OPEC's influence over prices would wane. "In a tectonic shift, energy independence is not unrealistic for the U.S. in as short a period as 10-20 years," the report states. The 12 nations of OPEC, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Venezuela, produce more than 40% of the world's oil, a volume that gives its production decisions influence over the crude prices, the single largest contributor to gasoline costs. In the report's projections, total global crude output would exceed demand by more than 8 million barrels a day, at which point OPEC would lose price control and crude oil prices would collapse. The intelligence analysis says concern about the environmental impacts of fracking is the technology's "greatest obstacle." The full story is here.

News roundup: U.S. trade deficit grows to $42.2B in October … Delta buying 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic for $360M … Treasury sells its remaining shares of AIG

Red ink: The U.S. trade deficit increased in October because exports fell by a larger margin than imports, a sign that slower global growth could weigh on the U.S. economy. The trade deficit grew 4.8% in October from September to $42.2 billion, according to a Commerce Department released this morning. Exports dropped 3.6% to $180.5 billion. Sales of commercial aircraft, autos and farm products all declined. More details can be found in the full story here.

On a wing: Delta Air Lines announced this morning its plans to buy almost half of Virgin Atlantic for $360 million as it seeks a bigger share of the lucrative New York-to-London travel market. Delta intends to form a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic, in which the two airlines would share money from the flights operated under the partnership. In order to coordinate their schedules, the two airlines will need antitrust approval from U.S. and European regulators. The full story is here.

Out of the vault: The Treasury Department says it has sold all of its remaining shares of American International Group Inc., a move that wraps up the government's biggest bailout of the 2008 financial crisis. The Treasury reports having received $32.50 per share for its 234.2 million remaining AIG shares, which represented a 16% ownership stake in the giant, New York City-based insurance company. Click here for the full story.

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