Daily Report

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

Together Baton Rouge not keeping up with quarterly CATS evaluations

It has been more than one year since Together Baton Rouge issued a quarterly report card on the performance of the Capital Area Transit System. Despite assurances from the citizens-based group when it campaigned in early 2012 for the dedicated CATS tax that it would closely monitor the bus system’s performance, TBR has not issued a CATS report card since mid-2013. TBR officials explained that it decided not to evaluate CATS during the latter half of last year because of all the management changes then taking place. Former CATS CEO Brian Marshall resigned in May 2013, and was replaced by Bob Mirabito, who served as interim CEO until August, when his appointment was made permanent. In the meantime, several CATS board members resigned and several staff changes were made. TBR was due to issue a 2014 first quarter report earlier this year but decided against it because at that time a new route system was being put in place. A second quarter report was due in June, but TBR officials say they were then preoccupied with other projects, specifically food deserts and pay-day lending. TBR’s Edgar Cage says the group has not held off in evaluating CATS in an effort to protect them from a negative review. “We’ll never whitewash anything, because our credibility is on the line,” he says. “We’ll call it like we see it.” Another TBR organizer, Brod Bagert, says the organization expects to have a report on CATS some time in August and that it will be based on a newer and more comprehensive scorecard system. —Stephanie Riegel

Executive Editor: Metro Council should OK anti-discrimination ordinance tonight

Noting that his professional instincts tell him never to talk publicly about religion, Business Report Executive Editor David Dodson says there’s simply nothing else that can explain the politics of Baton Rouge's long-standing antipathy toward equal rights for its gay residents. “It certainly isn't based on science. Nor do I think it is based on popular culture,” Dodson writes in his latest column. “It can't be based on experience. What has a gay person ever done to diminish my rights, even in the face of the city of Baton Rouge's continued refusal to acknowledge those rights for them?” But as the Metro Council considers this evening an ordinance that would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, Dodson says the council members should not be swayed by religious sentiment. “When they took their oaths of office, Metro Council members did not swear to be custodians of a specific religious text or interpreters of Scripture at all,” Dodson says. “Instead, they swore to uphold another document, the Constitution, which is also crystal clear on certain points, including the notion that we all have certain rights as citizens. Now is the time for the council to do the right thing and acknowledge that all God's children are welcome in Baton Rouge. It's overdue.” Read the full column. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

Two warehouses on South Choctaw sell for $600,000

Dallas-based Purvis Industries, the parent company of several industrial service companies, has acquired two office warehouses on South Choctaw Drive, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. The property—located at 13224 and 13234 South Choctaw—encompasses approximately 20,300 square feet, according to a third-party online listing, and sold for $600,000. The seller in the deal was Ruston-based Hogan Holdings LLC. Purvis Industries includes seven business units: Purvis Bearing Service, CapCorp Total Belting Solutions, Triad Industrial Automation, American Keyed & Custom Shafts, U.S. Conveying Systems & Equipment, National Mechanical Power Systems and HydraAir Fluid Power Products. Although the company has approximately 60 locations in the U.S. and Canada, it currently only has one location in Louisiana. The sole Louisiana site—called Belt-Tech—is a division of CapCorp and is located in Shreveport. Calls to Purvis Industries for further comment on the purchase were not returned in time for publication this morning. —Rachel Alexander

La. adds manufacturing jobs for third straight year; BR leads state

For a third straight year, manufacturing employment in Louisiana has risen. According to data collected by Evanston, Illinois-based Manufacturers’ News Inc., Louisiana manufacturers employed 200,851 workers in the state as of May, a 1% increase over May 2013 figures—or the addition of 1,896 jobs. Baton Rouge led the state for total manufacturing employment, with 15,855 workers and a 2% increase over the past year through May. Second-ranked Houma is home to 11,673 jobs, up 1%, while Lafayette accounts for 10,205 manufacturing jobs, up 6.7%. New Orleans manufacturing employment was unchanged over the year, with the fourth-ranked city home to 9,878 jobs, and Shreveport accounts for 9,455 jobs, down 5.3%. According to MNI, gains were led by the state’s oil and gas extraction sector, which saw a 6.3% jump in employment and is now the state’s largest industrial sector by number of jobs, surpassing both industrial machinery and chemicals manufacturing. The MNI report release coincides with the release of a separate report by the NAIOP Research Foundation, which says Louisiana led all U.S. states for industrial construction value in 2013, with nearly $4.9 billion in direct industrial construction. That more than doubled spending in second-place Iowa, which recorded just over $2 billion in spending. Also in the NAIOP report, Louisiana is ranked No. 23 in the nation for office construction value in 2013; No. 26 for warehouse construction value; and No. 12 for retail and entertainment value. Overall construction spending in Louisiana last year totaled $5.5 billion, placing it No. 2 behind Texas, which recorded $5.8 billion in spending, says the NAIOP report. —Steve Sanoski

House GOP calls for reduced emergency spending on border

House Republicans want to slash President Barack Obama's emergency spending request for the border, speed young migrants back home to Central America and send in the National Guard. The Associated Press reports that proposals released this morning amount to a rebuke of Obama's proposed solution to the crisis on the southern border. They put the House on a collision course with the Democratic-run Senate, and increase the likelihood that congressional efforts to address the crisis on the southern border, where unaccompanied kids and teens have been showing up by the tens of thousands, will end in stalemate. Moreover it is not clear if the House will be able to approve the proposal rolled out today by a working group established by Speaker John Boehner. Conservative lawmakers voiced objections, and Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana says Boehner told Republicans he was undecided about bringing the plan to the floor because he doesn't know if there are enough votes to pass it. Several GOP lawmakers said the House plan would cost about $1.5 billion, compared to Obama's original $3.7 billion request for more immigration judges, detention facilities and other resources to deal with unaccompanied kids. A plan by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski would cost $2.7 billion. But the biggest conflict between the House and Senate is not over costs, but policy instead. Read the full story.

News roundup: Loupe removes gun ban from Metro Council agenda … LNG export legislation unlikely before Senate recess… No more arguments in La. gay marriage case

Scratch that: Metro Councilman Chandler Loupe requested Tuesday afternoon that an item he had placed on tonight's Metro Council meeting agenda introducing an ordinance banning guns from City Hall be removed. Loupe did not respond to requests for further comment this morning on why he pulled the item from the agenda and whether or not he intends to bring the issue before the council in the future. The ordinance would not have applied to law enforcement officials but would have barred the public from carrying firearms in the entire City Hall complex. The council convenes at 4 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall, 222 St. Louis St. See the full agenda.

On deadline: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is unlikely to consider legislation that would accelerate the permitting process for companies that want to export liquefied natural gas before the Senate takes its summer recess, Politico reports. World events have added urgency to a popular notion in Washington, D.C., that energy exports can be a tool for foreign policy. Critics of Sen. Mary Landrieu say this shows her lack of clout as chair of the committee. Landrieu counters that the problem is with the calendar. “Time is the enemy. We're leaving in 10 days,” Landrieu says. Read the full story. (subscription may be required)

Heard enough: A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who has already heard arguments regarding Louisiana's refusal to recognize the unions of gay couples legally married in other states, issued an order this week stating that he has studied the briefs in the case and found that no further briefs or arguments are needed. The Associated Press reports he gave no indication when he will rule. At the end of the initial hearing earlier this month, Feldman asked for briefs on related issues—including whether the state's refusal to let same-sex couples marry in Louisiana is constitutional.

Today’s poll question: Do you think the passage of an ordinance by the Metro Council barring discrimination based on sexual orientation would benefit Baton Rouge’s business community?

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