Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Mon, February 11, 2013

Bernhard worried about employees as Shaw sale closes Wednesday

Baton Rouge will lose its only Fortune 500 company this week, when the $3 billion sale of The Shaw Group to CB&I closes. And as Shaw Group founder and CEO Jim Bernhard packs up his office today, he tells Daily Report he is concerned about the future for many of the company's employees. "Folks at Shaw are very concerned, which is normal," Bernhard says, adding that CB&I has done little to assuage worries about employees' job security. "Communications with the new company could have been better. Hopefully, that will improve as they move forward." The sale of Shaw to CB&I, a Netherlands-based corporation with U.S. headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas, is slated to close Wednesday. Bernhard says he hopes many local employees will be given the opportunity to remain with the new company, which will use the CB&I name. "I hope a lot of them remain on the team," he says. Bernhard and several other top executives cashed out their stock in the company late last year, and many from the executive suite have already relocated to Texas. As Bernhard looks to the future, he says he is committed to Louisiana and to making a positive difference in the Baton Rouge community. Though Bernhard confirmed last week that he's in the running for the position of U.S. Energy Secretary, he was noncommittal today about his interest in the Cabinet post. "My priority is Louisiana," he says. "I'm Baton Rouge committed. I suspect that will continue." Bernhard was recently announced as the 2013 Business Hall of Fame Laureate by Business Report and Junior Achievement. —Stephanie Riegel

Proposals for 'one-time money' questioned

Using so-called one-time money to patch holes in the budget might not be the ideal way to fund a government, says Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project. But "there's one-time money in the budget every year," he says, and proposals that would further limit the use of such funds are a "prescription for more budget cuts in a budget that has already endured five straight years of cuts." "Every year we have a certain amount of one-time revenue," says CABL President/CEO Barry Erwin. "Do you cut off your nose to spite your face and say we're not going to use any of that?" Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, the leading spokesman for the Budget Reform Campaign, says he has no problem spending the leftover balance of a statutorily dedicated fund for general recurring expenses, if there's a historical pattern that the additional money is likely to show up again. Otherwise, the money can still be spent, he argues, but for certain constitutionally permissible goals, such as paying down debt, and not operating expenses. "We're not saying, 'Don't spend the money,' " he says. "We're saying, 'Spend it on how you're supposed to be spending it.' " —David Jacobs

B.R. gas prices continue to climb

Another week, another nickel. After spiking 13 cents the week previous, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Baton Rouge rose by another 5 cents over the past week. As of this morning, Baton Rouge motorists are paying about $3.38 a gallon. That's 17 cents more per gallon than they were paying one month ago, but it's still 6 cents cheaper compared to last year at this time. Baton Rouge's average price is now just a penny below the state average of $3.39—which is also up 5 cents on the week. The state average is also lower than the national average of $3.58, up 6 cents over the past week. U.S. average prices have climbed 27 cents over the past month and are 8 cents higher this morning than they were one year ago. You can check out the complete AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report here for gas price information from every state and major metro area in the country.

New commission to tackle 'food deserts' in EBR

Later this week, Together Baton Rouge and Mayor Kip Holden will lay out plans for a new 13-member commission they are jointly forming to address food access issues in East Baton Rouge Parish. The Food Access Policy Commission will work over the next 10 months to examine the causes of "food deserts"—that is, vast stretches of residential neighborhoods lacking nearby grocery stores; it will also determine best practices for addressing food deserts and develop a concrete set of policies and practice recommendations for the city-parish to remedy food access issues. The Food Access Commission is being funded through the Fresh Beginnings project of the Mayor's Healthy City Initiative. Together Baton Rouge officials and the mayor will lay out further details during a news conference at 10 a.m. Thursday, to be held at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, 9700 Scenic Hwy. Commission members will include: Southern AgCenter Vice Chancellor for Research Adell Brown Jr.; EBR Redevelopment Authority Vice President of Administration and Programs Chip Boyles; Associated Grocers Director of Business Development Clint Caldwell; Louisiana Budget Project Policy Analyst David Gray; Ed Johnson, Wal-Mart representative; Together Baton Rouge Food Access Team Co-chair Edgar Cage; BRAC Director of Economic Development Jared Smith; LSU AgCenter Dean Kenneth Koonce; Liberty Bank Vice President Leroy Watts; Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank President/CEO Mike Manning: Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Jesse Bilberry; Pennington Biomedical Research Center Assistant Professor Stephanie Broyles; NAI/Latter & Blum Commercial Real Estate agent Ty Harvison.

40 million Americans have errors on their credit reports

Whether we like it or not, we live in an age where much of what goes on in our daily lives is monitored, collected and sold to interested parties. That includes information from our driving records, our medical history, our Internet traffic and, most importantly, our credit reports. According to a story that aired Sunday on CBS's 60 Minutes, a new government study being released today indicates as many as 40 million Americans have a mistake on their credit reports. Twenty million have significant mistakes. A mistake on your credit report can cost you money. It can increase the interest you pay on loans, and prevent you from getting a mortgage or buying a car, landing a job or getting a security clearance. 60 Minutes' investigation of the credit reporting industry shows that those mistakes can be nearly impossible to get removed from your record. Consumer credit reporting is a $4 billion a year industry dominated by three large companies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. They keep files on 200 million Americans and traffic in our financial reputations. They make their money gathering information from people we do business with and selling it to banks, merchants, insurance companies, and employers; and they use it to make judgments on our creditworthiness and reliability. But now the reliability of the industry is being questioned in the eight-year Federal Trade Commission study being released today. You can check out the complete video segment here; or read the transcript here.

Today's poll question: How often do you check your credit reports for errors?

Louisiana Political Hall of Fame welcomes new members

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland and the late longtime state Sen. Charles Barham of Lincoln Parish are among those most recently inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum's Hall of Fame in Winnfield. Others in the 2013 class include: former Grant Parish Sheriff L.R. "Pop" Hataway; former Bossier City Mayor George Dement, who welcomed casino gambling to the city; Angelo Roppolo, a behind-the-scenes political icon from Shreveport-Bossier; Raymond Strother, who is said to have "invented" the political consultant; and members of the Chabert family. Leonard Chabert Sr. served as state representative from 1972 to 1980 and as state senator from 1980 to 1991. Marty J. Chabert served as state senator from 1992 to 1996. Norbert "Norby" Chabert was elected state senator in a special election in 2009 and was re-elected unopposed in 2011, holding the seat once occupied by his father, Leonard, and by his brother Marty.

News roundup: Dell looks to calm shareholder concern over $24.4B buyout … Millennials feel more stress than older generations, study says … Mountain Dew introduces a breakfast drink

Computation: Dell is trying to reassure shareholders about its proposed $24.4 billion acquisition by a group led by its founder, saying it considered a number of strategic options before agreeing to the deal. Dell Inc. laid out the advantages of the transaction in a regulatory filing this morning, three days after a major shareholder ridiculed the buyout as a rotten deal that undervalues the business. Read the full story here.

In the midnight hour: With decades ahead of them in the job market, more than half of Millennials stay awake at night chewing over all manner of worries, according to a new study. As the Los Angeles Times reports, 18- to 33-year-olds actually stress out more than older generations, according to the American Psychological Association study. Slightly more than 50% said that overwhelming worries disrupted their sleep in the past month. The full story is here.

Walk me out in the morning dew: PepsiCo Inc. says it is rolling out a new drink called Kickstart this month that has Mountain Dew flavor but is made with 5% juice and vitamins B and C, along with an extra jolt of caffeine. The company is hoping to boost sales by reaching Mountain Dew fans at a new time of day: morning. PepsiCo says it doesn't consider Kickstart to be an energy drink, noting that it still has far less caffeine than beverages like Monster and Red Bull and none of the mysterious ingredients that have raised concerns among lawmakers and consumer advocates. Read the full story here.

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