Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Tue, September 30, 2014

Councilman Heck going into the concrete business

Metro Councilman Ryan Heck is laying the foundation for a new business: Concrete. Heck and partner Steven Cheatham have formed a new company, Cajun Ready Mix, that will specialize in light commercial work, though it will also do residential and industrial jobs. Heck and Cheatham are equal partners in the business, which they formed to take advantage of the building boom underway in the Capital Region. "We're excited to grow as Baton Rouge grows," Heck says. "This area will experience tremendous growth over the next few years, and we want to be a part of it." Cajun Ready Mix is starting out with 17 employees but has an aggressive growth plan that calls for capturing 30% of the local market share over the next four years. Heck, who has a bachelor's degree in construction management and a master's of business administration, worked as a senior procurement specialist at Albemarle Corp. from 2010 until 2013. He was elected to the Metro Council in Nov. 2012. Cheatham is an investor and entrepreneur. He previously owned The Recycling Foundation, which was acquired in 2012 by Progressive Waste Solutions. —Stephanie Riegel

Alford: Louisiana may need more politicians

In a state where politics is theater, columnist Jeremy Alford says we may be running short on thespians. "Candidates failed to sign up for 24 different races during qualifying in August, creating empty elections across the state," Alford notes in his latest column. "More than 100 candidates also withdrew or were disqualified from other contests this cycle, which is an unprecedented and troubling figure. Plus, a majority of the judgeships on the November ballot were won outright without an election due to a lack of challengers." The two dozen races that remain blank may be the most surprising part of this trend, Alford says. "While it might sound like a dream come true to those who want less government and fewer professional public servants, it puts several local communities in a pinch," he writes. "No one wanted to be accountable for tax dollars or oversee important functions of government in these election districts. That's regrettable." What's more, Alford says, is it runs counter to the bigger picture election officials saw in late August following qualifying. "They reported then that there were more politicians signing up for races this year than in any other time in recent memory," he writes. "It just so happened that these 24 races in question had no takers whatsoever." Read the full column.

(Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.)

Gallup: More Louisianans identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans

A new poll released this morning by Gallup says more Louisianans now identify themselves as or lean Democratic than they do Republican, marking a shift from the past three years during which Republicans have held a slight edge. The poll, which is based on a survey of 1,396 Louisiana residents and has a margin of error of plus/minus three percentage points, says 45% of residents are Democrats, while 41% are Republicans. Although Democrats are said to outnumber Republicans in the state, Gallup notes Louisianans are still most likely to describe their political views as conservative (45%), rather than moderate (34%) or liberal (17%). Gallup says Louisiana is "among the six most conservative states in the country and has the distinction of being one of four states whose residents are more likely to identify as conservatives than they are as Republicans." Gallup says the declining number of self-identified Republicans but high number of self-identified conservatives suggests "right-leaning Louisianans may be voting along ideological rather than partisan lines." See the complete survey results. —Steve Sanoski

Today's poll question: A new Gallup survey says there are slightly more Democrats than Republicans in Louisiana, but that voters are still more likely to identify themselves as "conservative." Where do you fit in?

'inRegister' readers to select which local nonprofits receive $25K in donations from magazine

In honor of the magazine's 25th anniversary, inRegister will be donating $25,000 to local nonprofits—$5,000 each to five organizations—and the magazine is inviting its readers to select which groups receive the money. The five organizations that get the most online votes between now and Wednesday, Nov. 19, will be selected to receive $5,000 and will also be featured in the January issue of the magazine. Get complete details and cast your vote. The magazine is asking that you encourage local nonprofits to contact their members, volunteers and advocates to get involved and vote online. Voting is limited to one vote per person. Nonprofits must be located in East Baton Rouge Parish, but voters from all nine parishes in the Capital Region are qualified to vote. Be sure to check out the expanded 25th anniversary issue of inRegister, which looks back at the history of the magazine, as well as how Baton Rouge's arts scene, social events, cuisine, landscape and Junior League have all evolved since the publication was launched in 1989.

Port Allen restaurant nets national attention with discount for gun-toting diners

It hasn't taken long for a local story about a Cajun eatery offering a discount for diners who bring a gun into the restaurant to go national. Picking up on an original report by local NBC affiliate WVLA-TV late last week, Time magazine and The Huffington Post are the latest national news outlets highlighting the 10% discount being offered to gun-toting diners at Bergeron's Restaurant in Port Allen. Restaurant owner Kevin Cox tells The Huffington Post that the deal was first offered a few weeks ago to encourage law enforcement officers to visit the restaurant but has since been broadened to welcome all gun carriers. "It makes us all feel better when state patrol, police and sheriff's department [deputies] come in and have lunch here because you know when they're here, we're safe," Cox says. "And I realized that we have a lot of good people that carry a firearm in Louisiana—my cousins and relatives included—and I'm equally as safe when they're here, and I need to encourage that." Advocates for open-carry gun policies have recently forced some chain restaurants and retailers to clarify their policies on guns. Chipotle and Target adopted no-gun policies after gun rights activists flaunted their weapons in the stores. Cox says he's giving out about 15 or 20 of the discounts each day. —Steve Sanoski

American consumer confidence decreases to four-month low

Confidence among U.S. consumers unexpectedly declined in September to a four-month low as Americans' views of the labor market deteriorated. As Bloomberg reports, The Conference Board's index decreased to 86 this month, weaker than the most pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists, from an August reading of 93.4 that was the strongest since October 2007, the New York-based private research group says today. The median forecast called for 92.5. The monthly decline was the biggest since October, when a partial shutdown of the federal government weighed on confidence. Sentiment may have trouble advancing to higher levels without faster income growth that's sustained over time, one part of the labor market that has been lagging behind. At the same time, gains this year in payrolls and higher stock prices will probably help keep household spending, which makes up almost 70% of the economy, from faltering. Read the full story. On Monday, economists lauded August's boost in consumer spending as an indication that the economy is on more solid footing heading into the final quarter of the year. The Commerce Department reports spending was up 0.5% in August from the previous month, which was stagnant after another 0.5% in June.

News roundup: Libertarian Party celebrates hitting 10K registered voters in La. … Entergy customers in line for one-time refund … Lafayette company nets $9.7M on sale of Texas shale assets

It's a party: The Libertarian Party of Louisiana says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state. The Associated Press notes that's a tiny sliver of Louisiana's 2.9 million registered voters, but Libertarian leaders take it as a sign that people are growing more dissatisfied with the current two-party system and are looking for new options. Libertarian candidates are showing up on more ballots as well, with candidates registered for the U.S. Senate race and in five of the state's six U.S. House races.

All charged up: Customers of Entergy Louisiana can look forward to a refund on their power bills as the result of a victory by the Louisiana Public Service Commission in its long-running fight to equalize the costs of generation on the Entergy System. Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell says the typical residential customer is in line for a one-time refund of about $8 on an upcoming bill. The LPSC will consider the refund issue at its meeting Wednesday in New Orleans. The Shreveport Times has the full story.

It's a deal: Lafayette-based PetroQuest Energy Inc. says it has completed the sale of its Eagle Ford assets for a net proceed of $9.7 million. The company estimates the operating cash flow from the Texas shale assets during the first six months of this year totaled $2 million on average daily production of approximately 195 barrels of oil equivalent per day. PetroQuest did not reveal who the buyer of the shale assets is. The company has more details on the announcement.

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