Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Wed, July 23, 2014

HPC approves restoration plans for Spanish Town apartments

The Historic Preservation Commission this morning granted a historic designation for one of the two Dupree Apartment buildings in Spanish Town. Also at its meeting this morning, the commission OK'd a certificate of appropriateness for both of the Dupree buildings—located at 607 and 609 Spanish Town Road, one of which will be restored while the other will be demolished and rebuilt—says HPC Vice Chairman Bill Huey. Owners Robert Lay and Ben Stalter acquired the two 2,500-square-foot, two-story apartment buildings—built in 1924 but badly damaged in a December 2009 fire—late last year. Last month, they submitted an application to the city-parish Planning Commission and HPC to demolish and reconstruct one of the buildings, which was damaged beyond repair, and to restore and seek historic designation for the other, which remains salvageable. The certificate of appropriateness issued this morning allows Lay and Stalter to proceed with their plans to renovate the restorable building into four 600-square-foot, one-bedroom units and rebuild the fire-damaged building to mirror the exterior of its predecessor and contain two 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom units inside. With historic designation secured for the first building, Lay and Stalter can also now apply for historic tax credits for its rehabilitation, as Lay previously told Daily Report they would. —Rachel Alexander

Honore redesigns plans for speculative residential project on College

Lt. Gen. Russel Honorť, who emerged on the national scene after coordinating relief efforts along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has more recently become a leading advocate for environmental causes in the region, is redesigning his plans for a speculative residential development on College Drive near Jefferson Highway. Honorť, who said in early 2013 that he was planning to break ground soon on a development of four single-family homes, says his plans got delayed due to his environmental work and a book tour but that the project is back on track with a new design of six homes instead of four. "There is a market in Baton Rouge for homes with less yard and more common social space," he says. "So instead of having four houses that front College Drive, we'll have six houses that face a common green area so everyone will have less yard to cut." Honorť says the homes will still average around 2,200 square feet, as originally planned, but that the lots will be slightly smaller than first envisioned—about 45-by-70 square feet. "These will be single-family homes, not investment property," says Honorť, who purchased the College Drive lot in 2010 with hopes of selling it, but later decided to redevelop it. He hopes to begin construction by the end of the year. —Stephanie Riegel

More than 60 Capital Region businesses benefit indirectly from Ex-Im Bank, report says

Slightly more than 60 small and mid-sized businesses in the Capital Region “indirectly benefit” from the Export-Import Bank, according to a report by The Coalition for Employment through Exports. Congress is currently debating whether or not to reauthorize a charter for the Export-Import Bank, which provides U.S. exporters with billions in financing each year, including export credit insurance, to sell their products and compete in the global marketplace. The bank's lending cap, currently at $140 billion, along with its charter, must be authorized by Congress before it expires on Sept. 30. Local businesses benefiting from the bank, according to the list released today, include H&E Equipment Services, Orion Instruments and Ferrara Fire Apparatus Inc., among many others. LSU and the LSU AgCenter are also on the list, which was highlighted today in a news release issued by Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is supporting reauthorization of the bank. As previously reported, Louisiana lawmakers are largely divided on the issue. The report released today does not specify how the businesses benefited from the bank, or by how much. The Associated Press reports the bank has helped 159 Louisiana companies since 2007 with $2 billion worth of exports, citing bank data, with 64 Louisiana companies directly using the bank last year. Earlier this week, Landrieu released a list of 143 Louisiana businesses that have received direct support from the bank since 2007. —Steve Sanoski

La. the nation's fourth-largest casino employer in 2013

Louisiana's 19 commercial casinos employed 15,706 workers last year, paying out an estimated $603 million in wages, benefits and tips. According to new figures released today by the American Gaming Association, that ranks Louisiana fourth in the nation for casino employment in 2013, trailing only Nevada (169,908 employees; $7.7 billion in wages), New Jersey (32,427; $775 million) and Mississippi (22,770; $831 million). But while the top three states all saw declines in total casino employment last year, compared to 2012, Louisiana posted an increase of nearly 700 jobs. Total wages, benefits and tips, however, fell in Louisiana last year by about $28.1 million from the year previous. Also, Louisiana has seen its total casino employment fall from a recent peak of 17,610 jobs in 2009. Nevada, New Jersey and Mississippi have also all seen their total casino employment fall from recent highs recorded in 2009. Last year, the casinos in Louisiana generated $587 million in tax revenue, according to AGA. Baton Rouge is home to three riverboat casinos: L'Auberge Casino & Hotel, The Belle of Baton Rouge and Hollywood Casino. —Steve Sanoski

Jindal outlines his reasons for fighting Common Core

In his latest guest column, Gov. Bobby Jindal outlines why he's fighting against Common Core in a battle that has frayed the governor's relationship with Superintendent of Education John White, as well as the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education—and resulted this week in the filing of two lawsuits in as many days regarding the national education standards. "We believe parents and teachers are our best educators, not government bureaucrats," Jindal says in the column. "To use a football analogy, we think the best strategy on education reform is to hand the ball off to parents and teachers and empower them to improve education quality for our children." The governor cites rising graduation rates in the state, a reduction in the number of failing schools and higher ACT scores as evidence that the state's strategy on education is working. "We are moving Louisiana forward by enabling teachers and parents to make the best decisions about how to educate our children," Jindal writes. "So, when parents and teachers began to speak up in opposition to the one-size-fits-all nature of the Common Core standards and the tests that came with it, we listened." Jindal, who once supported Common Core, says the initiative started out as a well-intentioned attempt to promote education quality, but "has morphed into a scheme by Washington to take over education policy from states and local governments." Read the full column.

Insurance rate hikes sought in federal marketplace

Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could reach double-digits. The Associated Press reports more than 50,000 policyholders who get health insurance through the individual marketplace—which was expanded by the federal Affordable Care Act—are in line for rate increases topping 10% on Jan. 1 if they keep their current policies. That's according to paperwork filed with Louisiana's insurance department. Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says the average rate increase planned in the state's individual market for health insurance next year is about 12% to 13%. Insurance officials say the increases are larger than the type of price hikes enacted annually before the federal health care law was put in place.

News roundup: IMF projects weakest US growth since recession … Senate bill targets companies that move overseas … GM issues 6 more safety recalls

By the numbers: In its annual report on the U.S. economy, released today, the International Monetary Fund projects growth will be just 1.7% this year, down from a 2% estimate in June. That's below last year's 1.9% pace and would be the slowest annual rate since the recession ended in June 2009. But the global lending organization nonetheless says that it still thinks growth resumed in the April-June quarter and will remain healthy in the second half of this year and next. The Associated Press has the full story.

Bringing it all back home: The Senate voted today to advance an election-year bill limiting tax breaks for U.S. companies that move operations overseas. But big hurdles remain. The Senate voted 93-7 to begin debating the bill, which would prevent companies from deducting expenses related to moving operations to a foreign country. The bill would offer tax credits to companies that move operations to the U.S. from a foreign country. The Associated Press reports GOP senators are unlikely to support final passage of the bill without significant changes. The AP has the full story.

Taken for a ride: General Motors issued six more recalls today, bringing its annual total to 60 recalls covering almost 30 million vehicles. The latest recalls cover nearly 823,000 cars, trucks and SUVs, mostly in North America but including a small number of exports. GM's spate of recalls comes after trial lawyers discovered that the company knew about a deadly small-car ignition switch problem for more than a decade, yet failed to recall the cars until this year. The company says 13 people have died in crashes linked to the switches, which were in 2.6 million older small cars, but lawmakers and lawyers say the death toll is closer to 100. The Associated Press has the full story.
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