Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Fri, July 25, 2014

Faculty and staff at LSU's flagship campus get pay raise second year in a row

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander's announcement today that faculty and staff at the flagship campus will get a 3% merit raise in the coming 2014-15 academic year is getting high marks from those inside and outside the university. "This is really good news," says Barry Erwin, president of the Council for A Better Louisiana. "After so long, with universities feeling beat up, morale has been very low at LSU in particular. This will certainly help with morale and retention." Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope cautions that LSU still won't be as competitive as it needs to be on faculty salaries, even with the raise. But he says it's another good step that builds on the momentum created by last year's pay bump, which was a 4% merit increase. "We had already fallen further behind in terms of rewards and compensation than would be made up by this pair of raises," Cope says. "But it is now absolutely clear that the first raise was not a fluke." He adds that he hopes and expects the new round of merit raises will be more evenly distributed than the last one. While the pay increase represents an aggregate 3% increase, individual raises will be based on merit. In his letter to the faculty and staff, Alexander doesn't detail where money for the raise will come from, but notes that "after having one of our strongest legislative sessions in many years and what appears to be another enrollment boost this fall, we felt that it is imperative to recognize your hard work and dedication…" Says Erwin: "Last year was a good start for him and this will certainly help … and create some sense that even though things have not been great, you have a leader who's thinking of you." —Staff reports

CABL says Common Core saga represents "disturbing" use of gubernatorial power

In commentary released today by Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, residents of Louisiana are urged to understand that the Common Core debate has gone far beyond a difference of opinion on how Louisiana's children should be educated and has "morphed into a new debate that should prompt everyone who believes in some semblance of the democratic process to raise serious questions about how state government is supposed to work." The real question, CABL says, is "do we want a governor—any governor—to wield authority in such a way that it usurps the processes on which most people believe our country was founded." CABL acknowledges that Gov. Bobby Jindal is well within his rights to change his mind on the subject of academic standards, "but it is not right to then seek to impose that will on the entire state, despite the overwhelming votes of the constitutionally created Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Legislature to the contrary." Read the entire CABL commentary here.

Sarepta Homes purchases lots in Burbank subdivision for $586,200

Local construction company Sarepta Homes Inc. has purchased 10 vacant lots of the third filing of University Villas, a subdivision on Burbank Drive between Lee Drive and Staring Lane, for approximately $586,200, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. The individual lots ranged in price from $50,000 to $60,000, and a legal description of the land declares that homes on the lots shall each have a minimum living area of 1,600 square feet and include a two-car garage or carport. University Village Development LLC, represented by Arthur Lancaster, was the seller in the deal. In two separate transactions in 2012, Sarepta Homes purchased 10 lots from each of the first two filings of the subdivision for $500,000 each and has been building homes on the lots since then, according to Sarepta owner Bonnie Ferrell's professional website. Earlier this month, Ferrell acquired land on Stumberg Lane for $925,000 for a new subdivision called Stumberg Villas. Calls to Ferrell for further comment on the purchase were not returned in time for publication this afternoon. —Rachel Alexander

'Daily Report' Week in Review: BR business executives speak out on both sides of anti-discrimination ordinance, council creates new attorney position, merger of Business First and American Gateway to create largest locally based community bank and more

Among the dozens of proponents and opponents of the proposed ordinance amendment to prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing on the basis of veteran status, gender identity and sexual orientation at the Metro Council meeting Wednesday evening—which ended before the council could vote on the proposal—were business executives who weighed in on each side of the issue. Officials from Albemarle, Lamar Advertising, Chase Bank and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber asked the council to pass the ordinance in order to help businesses recruit employees from around the nation and globe to come to Baton Rouge, while small business and property owners expressed concerns about excessive litigation. The public hearing lasted for over three hours before the meeting adjourned at 8:30—the latest a council meeting can last according to the plan of government—automatically deferring the council's discussion and vote to the next meeting on Aug. 13. Also at this week's meeting, the council voted 9-2 to create a new attorney position for the city-parish Employees' Retirement System to serve as in-house special legal counsel to the system's board. Though council members say they created the position at the request of the retirement system, Councilman John Delgado says he expects embattled Parish Attorney Mary Roper—for whom the position has reportedly been created—to take the new position. Meanwhile, Baton Rouge-based banks Business First and American Gateway this week merged to create what is expected to be the largest locally headquartered community bank. It will also bring together a leading business banking institution and one that has a long-established personal banking portfolio. —Rachel Alexander Read the complete Daily Report Week in Review.

'Live After Five' announces fall lineup

The fall lineup of Live After Five is once again packed with local and regional talent, promising another season of great family entertainment in a venue that is perfect for kicking back and taking in the best of downtown. Marc Broussard, who opened the Miss USA pageant, kicks things off Sept. 5 with his Louisiana-laced lyrics delivered in old-school Southern soul style. Jason Martin opens. Chris LeBlanc, long a mainstay on the Louisiana music scene, brings his rich, bluesy music to the Galvez Plaza stage on Sept. 12. New Orleans' Flow Tribe shows up on Baton Rouge's doorstep on Sept. 19. Flow Tribe has been described as playing funk-rock with the delicacy of a sledgehammer. Dulac Smack opens. The balance of the fall season is Werewolf and AM/FM on Sept. 26; Foret Tradition (swamp pop, soul, funk, Motown and country) on Oct. 3; After 8 (the LSU Jazz Ensemble Horns) on Oct. 10; Perkins Road featuring Cam Pyle on Oct. 17; and Colin Lake on Oct. 24 with opening act Startisan. All shows are free, and the show will go on, rain or shine. No pets, no ice chests. All shows begin at 5 p.m.

'225': Meet the local guys who make live music sing

Sound guys are an essential part of the city's music talent, reports 225, which introduces readers to three of them in a feature in the July issue. Michael Pinter, John Tulley and Mike Russo are just three of a small group of local professionals who run sound at venues that include Manship Theatre, Varsity Theatre and Chelsea's Cafe. But the three sound technicians all differed in their journeys to become integral parts of the Capital City's local concert scene. Pinter says he learned backwards. "I learned on crummy systems and learned all about the problems involved with sound engineering," he says. Though he now works full time as sound engineer for Manship Theatre, he began running sound for the now-defunct bar The Bayou in 2000. His past has helped shape his ability to solve problems on the spot. At Manship, he's worked with artists such as Randy Newman and the folk band The Punch Brothers. Tulley works part time at Manship, primarily connecting stage setups, such as monitor boards and mics. He also runs sound at Chelsea's, Spanish Moon and Red Star from time to time. When Tulley works, he pays attention to three things—making the band comfortable, helping the band communicate their vision to the audience and being a steward for the venue. Russo owns and operates a recording studio in Celtic Media Centre. "I love being in the studio," Russo says. "I love the experience of recording a record, making the band feel good about it and sharing it with an audience." Read the full story.

Paul Ryan's new report recommends dismantling La.'s florist occupational license requirement, among others

A "discussion draft" from the U.S House Budget Committee calls unnecessary state and local occupational licensing regimes like Louisiana's law requiring licenses for florists—a requirement no other state imposes—"rules and regulations that can hurt low-income families," New York Times blog The Upshot reports. The 73-page draft—written by Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who chairs the committee—was released Thursday and includes recommendations to reduce poverty and improve social mobility by making changes in state and local policy in education, sentencing, parole and occupational licensing. The draft says unnecessary occupational licensing requirements—like Louisiana laws that forbid monks to sell coffins because they're not licensed funeral directors—can drive up consumer prices and make it more difficult for low- and middle-skill workers to find jobs. The report urges a reduction in the number of jobs that require a license, but because this is a state function, the report has no recommendation for congressional action. "State and local governments should begin to dismantle these barriers to upward mobility," it says. Read the full story.

News roundup: La. weekly rig count up six … LSU the leader in underclassmen lost to NFL draft … Investar’s Q2 earnings fall

On the up and up: The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in Louisiana is up six this week. In its latest weekly report, released this afternoon, Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs in the U.S. rose by 12 to 1,883, with 1,562 exploring for oil and 318 for gas. Three were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,776 active rigs. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, California, New Mexico and Oklahoma were each up four, and West Virginia increased by one. Alaska lost three rigs, Pennsylvania and Texas were down two apiece, and Ohio dropped one.

Empty nest: The Southeastern Conference has become the most popular jumping-off point for underclassmen looking for a head start on NFL careers, creating more spots to fill around the league with preseason camps approaching, The Associated Press reports. No league has had nearly as many players leaving early to pursue NFL careers over the past eight years, and LSU has had the most of any program two years running, losing 18 underclassmen to the draft over the past two years. Since the league's title run began in 2007, the SEC has had nearly as many early departures drafted (109) as the next two leagues combined. The Pacific-12 (57) and Atlantic Coast Conference (54) rank second and third, according to research by STATs Inc. Read the full story.

Taking a tumble: The parent of Investar Bank says its second-quarter earnings fell to $1.1 million or 26 cents a share from $1.7 million or 44 cents a share in the same period a year ago, The Associated Press reports. Baton Rouge-based Investar Holding Corp. said the year-ago results included a $900,000 one-time gain booked after the acquisition of First Community Bank. Investar CEO John D'Angelo says the company recorded growth in loans and deposits during 2014's second quarter, ending June 30. Deposits during the quarter rose to $578.7 million. The bank issued $564 million in loans during the quarter.
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