Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Thu, July 24, 2014

BESE effort to hire lawyer draws questions from Jindal administration

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration says it needs further details before deciding whether to sign off on the state school board's plan to hire a law firm that would pursue a possible lawsuit against the governor. As The Associated Press reports, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Jindal for his efforts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, whose office reviews state agency contracts, requested more information today from BESE about its contract with a law firm that has agreed to represent the education board for free. In a letter sent to Education Superintendent John White, BESE Executive Director Heather Cope and BESE President Chas Roemer, Nichols says that while her agency "encourages BESE in its efforts to follow the law and comply with procurement code, there are some concerns that must be addressed before the contract is approved." The education board voted earlier this month to hire special legal counsel. But in a complication to the plan, state boards that hire outside lawyers must get written approval from the attorney general and the governor. The attorney general's office approved the BESE contract, and it was submitted to the governor's Division of Administration for review this week. Nichols' letter says the contract is missing standard clauses used in state legal agreements. But in a broader issue, she said she wanted to meet with Roemer and White to talk about "the intent" of the contract. In June, Jindal suspended testing contracts that the state education department planned to use to buy testing material aligned with Common Core for the upcoming school year. Read the full story.

Donelon cautions prospective rideshare drivers to double-check insurance policies

Two weeks after Uber began offering its UberX ridesharing service in Baton Rouge, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon is urging potential drivers to carefully review their insurance policies before signing up with the company or other prospective ridesharing companies. "Drivers should review their policies and talk with their agents regarding their participation in such programs prior to signing up," Donelon says in a written statement issued today. "Virtually all personal auto insurance policies exclude coverage when personal vehicles are used to give rides for fees." Ridesharing companies like Uber contract with individual drivers who use their personal vehicles to transport passengers, and the companies do not provide blanket liability coverage to those drivers in the event of an accident. Donelon says potential drivers may want to contact their insurance companies and inquire about a commercial insurance policy. "Potential drivers should verify the type of liability coverage they must have and the type of liability coverage that is already in place for the benefit of all parties who might sustain damages and injuries from accidents that occur while engaged in the use of the transportation services," his statement says. Uber began operating in Baton Rouge July 11. So far, it is the only ridesharing company in business in the state, though others have expressed an interest in coming here too. So far, Uber has more than 30 drivers in the local market, according to records filed with the city-parish. Several drivers interviewed by Daily Report say they're not concerned about insurance and have been told by Uber the company has an umbrella policy that covers them in the event of an accident. —Stephanie Riegel

Longtime owner, operator of Ivar's selling bar

Come Aug. 1, Ivar's Sports Bar & Grill will be under new ownership, says Pat Quigley, who opened the bar in 1990 and has run it ever since. "I was not seeking this by any means," Quigley says of the purchase offer, the details of which are not being disclosed. "It just kind of happened." Quigley says the new owner, Chad Hugh, plans to remodel Ivar's, which is located at 2954 Perkins Road, under the overpass, but will keep the same name. "I wish him the best, and I hope it's still rocking along 20 years from now," Quigley says. While it'll be difficult to let go, he says he's looking forward to the growth of his other business, a golf enterprise called Green Jackets Sports. "I put my heart and soul into that little place on Perkins Road, and it's going to be a big change come Aug. 1, but it's also a pretty exciting time," he says. "I'm ready to go out and pursue a whole new angle." Quigley's golf company coordinates trips to the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, as well as golf trips to Ireland. "That's what I'm going to concentrate on, 100%." —Rachel Alexander

Entrepreneur: Tess Brunet & Patrick Hodgkins

As the one-year anniversary of Lagniappe Records approached, co-owners Tess Brunet and Patrick Hodgkins were given a chance to relocate and expand their France Street business. "I was very adamant about staying in Beauregard Town, near downtown," Brunet tells Business Report for its new Entrepreneur feature on her and Hodgkins. "I absolutely love it here." So they moved, but not far. The couple had met in New Orleans in 2011 after years of touring separately as professional musicians. She plays drums; he, bass guitar. On roadtrips with their bands, they'd often drop into independent record stores as customers; each also had work experience in these settings. Together they planned and opened an "exclusively vinyl" record store in Baton Rouge, where they could corner the market. Since day one—July 27, 2013—their business has grown "organically," through word of mouth. Hodgkins says, "We've created the record store that we would want to go to." The homey vibe of Lagniappe Records is intentional. "Even just starting out," Brunet says, "it has definitely been more than just a record shop. People really feel comfortable to come and hang out. They don't just get their records and leave. They stay and we talk about music." On France Street they kept 4,000 albums on the floor; the new location, on St. Joseph Street, accommodates 6,000. Read the complete Entrepreneur feature. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

BR casino winnings down 4.7% in June

Baton Rouge's three riverboat casinos collectively won about $22.5 million from gamblers in June, about $1.1 million, or 4.7%, less than they took in during the month last year. According to figures released today by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, two of the three Baton Rouge casinos posted a decline in winnings in June, compared to the month last year. L'Auberge won about $11.8 million, down a scant 0.3% from a year ago. Hollywood Casino won $5.6 million, a decline of 17.1% from the $6.7 million it won a year ago—accounting for essentially the entirety of the total market decline last month. The Belle of Baton Rouge, meanwhile, won just under $5.1 million, which was a 1.5% increase from the $5 million it won last year during June. Louisiana's 21 casinos took in $203.5 million statewide in June, edging up one-half of a percentage point from a year earlier. State gambling revenues totaled $202.4 million in June 2013. Revenues rose at just six of the 14 riverboat casinos. Revenues fell over the year in every market except Lake Charles, where the two riverboat casinos posted a collective 13.5% increase in winnings. Access the complete report from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. —Steve Sanoski

Regional soccer tournament boosts BR hotel revenue by 41%

Revenue for Baton Rouge–area hotels jumped by more than 41% during one week last month when the 2014 U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Championship tournament was held in the city, according to figures tracked by lodging industry firm Smith Travel Research. Visit Baton Rouge released the figures, which show that from June 19 to June 26, local hotels collected $6.7 million in revenue, compared to $4.8 million during the week in 2013. The first day of the tournament saw the largest spike in hotel occupancy, at more than 43% over the same day in 2013. The tournament was held at the Burbank Soccer Complex and drew thousands of soccer players, fans and families from 11 Southern states, according to the VBR news release. Last week, VBR announced that local hotels took in a record $3.4 million during the fifth annual Bayou Country Superfest over Memorial Day weekend and saw a modest increase in occupancy—between 8% and 17%—for the Miss USA Pageant in June. "The tournament was a perfect bookend to the success of this year's Bayou Country Superfest and the Miss USA pageant," says VBR President and CEO Paul Arrigo in the release. "We knocked a homerun every time." —Rachel Alexander

News roundup: La. hot sauce demand on fire … States against EPA rule on carbon pollution would gain economically, study finds … Banks set to sign $7.5B loan for Cameron LNG project

Some like it hot: Louisiana, the U.S. capital of hot sauces, has exported its culinary obsession for the capsaicin-laden condiment to consumers throughout the country. The U.S. hot sauce market has grown by 150% since 2000, according to a story by Atlantic Media's Quartz. As The Shreveport Times reports, that's more than mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup and barbecue sauce—combined. "We've become a nation of chili heads," explains Mike Coullard, president and chief executive of Panola Pepper Corp. in Lake Providence. "And once you become a chili head, you never go back to bland." Market research firm IRI says U.S. hot sauce sales have increased 6% annually for the past 10 years. Read the full story.

One thing leads to another: As The New York Times reports, a study being released today by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Rhodium Group concludes that proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules on carbon pollution would cut demand for electricity from coal—the nation's largest source of carbon pollution—but create robust new demand for natural gas, which has just half the carbon footprint of coal. The study says that the demand for natural gas would, in turn, drive job creation, corporate revenue and government royalties in states that produce it, including Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas—states in which lawmakers and industry leaders have been most vocally opposed to the EPA regulations. Read the full story.

Financing for the future: About 30 banks are set to sign a $7.5 billion loan early next month for a shale gas project in Louisiana that could offer Japan imports from fracking, three people familiar with the matter tell Bloomberg. Japan's three biggest lenders are among banks that will supply $5 billion to the Hackberry, Louisiana-based Cameron liquefied natural gas development. The rest will be extended by state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation, they say. The Cameron LNG project may give Asia's second-largest economy an alternative source for fuel after a nuclear industry shutdown following the 2011 Fukushima disaster forced it to boost energy imports, resulting in a record run of trade deficits. Read the full story.
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