Capitol Views: MFP rejected again
The Jindal administration and BESE suffered another setback today when the Senate Education Committee rejected for the second time the Minimum Foundation Program formula. Unless BESE comes back with another resolution fast, there will be no new MFP approved this year, causing the 2011-12 formula to go into effect. The 2012-13 formula was ruled invalid by the state Supreme Court because it missed filing deadlines and was not approved by an absolute majority of the House. Going back to the old formula will cost the state more because it will have to fund eight so-called legacy charter schools and two gifted and talented schools, in New Orleans and Natchitoches, outside of the MFP, with no local funds. The main objection to the new formula, however, came from superintendents and from parents of special education and gifted and talented students. They opposed BESE's proposed new plan to vary funding based on the severity of disabilities for special ed students and the academic performance of gifted and talented students. Currently, school districts receive an equal added amount for each type of student. BESE President Chas Roemer defended the new plan. "We don't believe it is positive to go back to 2012," he said. "This is a step backward." Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, who last year requested BESE consider changes to funding special ed and gifted and talented programs, said he felt more work needed to be done and moved to reject the formula, which the committee did without objection.
—Today may be the Legislature's last debate this session on the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Scheduled for House debate is House Bill 233 by Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, to require that the state implement the so-called Arkansas model whereby Medicaid funds could be used to purchase private health insurance. This bill squeaked through the House Health Committee after similar measures died in that committee and in its Senate counterpart.
—Senate President John Alario jokingly described today's Senate agenda as "John Wayne Day." Up for debate are bills expanding and protecting the rights of gun owners. HB 5 by Rep. Jim Morris, R-Shreveport, would prohibit the enforcement of federal restrictions regarding the ownership or possession of semi-automatic firearms. HB 8 by Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, would prohibit the release of information associated with concealed handgun permits or applications for such permits. Both bills passed the House overwhelmingly. (John Maginnis will publish a daily update throughout the legislative session on
Daily Report PM. The report is also available to
LaPolitics Weekly subscribers on the Subscribers Only page at LaPolitics.com. Registration is available on the homepage.)
Louisiana Public Broadcasting is providing a daily video update featuring highlights of the session, which you can see beginning at 6 p.m. here
Committee recommends 6 focus areas for LSU System research
A committee that's helping create recommendations for LSU's future has identified six core areas of concentration for the system's research efforts: environmental science, including coastal issues; biomedical sciences; energy; arts and humanities; computation and digital media; and natural and renewable resources. The group will refine that list and come up with emphasis areas for each campus, says research and development subcommittee Chairman Jim Firnberg. LSU needs to greatly increase its federal research expenditures and produce more doctorates to be considered "globally competitive," officials say. "We are underfunded," says Christel Slaughter of SSA Consultants, who is leading the LSU Transition Advisory Team meetings. "We are not in the big leagues." She says part of the team's job will be telling the board about how much it will cost to get where the board wants to go. LSU has combined the positions of system president and flagship chancellor, and is working toward making the whole system more cohesive. For example, the academic subcommittee doesn't plan to recommend a single English department function across all campuses, like at Ohio State. But it is discussing creating a common core curriculum across campuses for the first 30 class hours. Campuses might still maintain different admissions standards, however. The Transition Advisory Team has been meeting since January to develop suggestions for the Board of Supervisors, which would have to approve any major changes. The team expects to finish its report over the next month. —David Jacobs
Body Mechanics moving to site off College Drive
After a decade at its Corporate Boulevard location, Body Mechanics Personal Fitness will be relocating later this year to 4550 Concord Ave., off College Drive, in the building that was home to Phil's Oyster Bar for several years in the mid-2000s. Body Mechanics owner Kolby Tullier says though the new location will actually be slightly smaller than his existing 3,800-square-foot studio, the newly renovated space will be more functional and will enable his growing business to offer more services and more types of training. "I'm limited in what I am able to do right now," says Tullier. "I don't have a ball-slamming wall or a climbing wall, for instance. This [renovated] space will be more functional." At its new location, Body Mechanics will have indoor and outdoor training facilities, separate cardio and strength-training studios, a treatment room and offices. Tullier also plans to double the number of trainers on his staff from nine to 18, which will enable him to build his clientele of professional athletes. "I've got PGA golfers and NFL athletes," he says. "I'm expanding my business nationwide and have a lot of plans, so I want to be able to offer them more." —Stephanie Riegel
RDA committee recommends loan approval for Government Street 'model block' project
A $700,000 gap loan for Danny McGlynn to renovate the Darensbourg building on Government Street, as well as upgrade several neighboring buildings on the 2900 block of the Mid City street, will be taken up by the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority board on June 11. An RDA loan review committee today gave McGlynn's plans a favorable review and is recommending the RDA give final approval to the low-interest loan for the project. "It's a loan that will make the project work, and now we just need the full board approval and we're off to the races," says McGlynn, who is calling the project a "model block" project for future Government Street redevelopment. The plan, as Daily Report first reported
in September, calls for Ritter Mayer to move its headquarters from Bluebonnet Boulevard to the currently dilapidated and vacant Darensbourg building. It also calls for a face-lift of neighboring buildings, including those home to the Atomic Pop Shop and Liberty Tax Service, among others. It also includes tearing down one building currently occupied by a tattoo parlor and making room for additional parking, says Susannah Bing, RDA director of finance and economic development. "All of this is contingent on [McGlynn's] getting a parking waiver" from the city-parish, she says, "and they've begun that process." The project was previously awarded tax credits from the RDA in a joint application with McGlynn’s planned addition and renovation of the Circa 1857 property down the street. Those credits ultimately went to another project, and the 'model block' portion of the project is now being pursued separately. —Steve Sanoski
'Real Estate Weekly': New fundraising effort for Lincoln Theater restoration begins
Those behind a years-long effort to bring the Lincoln Theater in Old South Baton Rouge back to its former glory are gearing up for a new run at raising enough private funds to finally restore the historic theater—with a long-term goal of expanding the property to make room for the Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame Museum. A "Restore the Lincoln" fundraising campaign kickoff reception is being held Friday by the black history hall of fame and Foundation for Historical Louisiana. Attendees of the event will be shown plans for the first two phases of the restoration and asked to lend their support—and more important, their money. The first phase includes readying the property for a full renovation and making it environmentally safe, which means removing lead piping and paint, asbestos and mold. The second phase would restore the theater, which was built in 1950 and served as the premiere entertainment venue in Old South Baton Rouge. "This would bring the Lincoln Theater back to how it originally looked and make it operable," says Brenda Perry Dunn, founder of both the Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame and Lincoln Theater Foundation Board. And then there's the third—and by far the most ambitious—phase of the project, which would see the property expanded for the two-story Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame Museum. This portion of the project is estimated to cost between $12 million and $15 million, Dunn says. Friday's campaign kickoff event will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the American Legion at 1132 Eddie Robinson Sr. Dr., just across the street from the theater. —Steve Sanoski
Access the full story and see renderings of phase three of the project in the new Real Estate Weekly
Shifting tobacco funds to TOPS incites debate
The Jindal administration and Treasurer John Kennedy are again at odds, this time on the topic of whether to refinance outstanding tobacco settlement bonds to benefit the TOPS program. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols sent out a press release lauding the passage of a motion today by the Tobacco Settlement Finance Corp. to restructure the settlement bonds to provide nearly $143 million to the TOPS program over the next three years. The move is a part of Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget proposal. "Because of out-year risk associated with declining tobacco consumption trends, the upfront savings approach is a smart financial plan that's also in the best long-term interest of the state," Nichols says. "By law, tobacco bond proceeds are directed to support the TOPS program, and I'm happy that today's action will take advantage of historically low interest rates to help fund TOPS scholarships for Louisiana young people." Not long after, Kennedy sent out his own opinion column
to news outlets saying the budget maneuver will hurt TOPS. While Kennedy agrees that refinancing the bonds is a good idea, he says the Jindal administration's plan for doing so is not the best one. "It's unfortunate that TOPS and taxpayers will end up shortchanged by the refinancing method chosen in order to balance the budget with more one-time money," he says.
Metro Council to consider driver safety course, old Woman's Hospital buy
The Metro Council is set to take up a measure at Wednesday's meeting that would require all employees operating city-parish vehicles—except those in the police and fire departments—to complete a four-hour driver safety course. Councilman Buddy Amoroso says he's proposing the policy change in an attempt to reduce the number of accidents involving city-parish vehicles. The council takes up settlements on accidents at nearly every meeting, Amoroso says. On Wednesday, the parish attorney's office is asking the Metro Council to allocate almost $50,000 to settle claims in three different accidents, involving two Baton Rouge police officers and a Department of Public Works employee. Read a previous story from Daily Report
on the proposal here
. Also Wednesday, the council will consider:
• A proposal to appropriate $11 million so the city-parish can purchase the old Woman's Hospital complex on Airline Highway, to use as a public safety complex. Daily Report
has more on that issue here
• A provision to establish a $50,000 budget for the Lafayette-Main Economic Development District, which was initially approved in 2011 for the new Hampton Inn & Suites but has been inactive while the downtown hotel was under construction.
The Metro Council meeting begins at 4 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall, 222 St. Louis St. You can find the full agenda here
News roundup: Danos to build new headquarters in Gray … Adams and Reese expanding to South Carolina … Cohn Turner officially becomes Perlis store
Danos & Curole Marine Contractors has selected a site in Gray, La., to build a new $10 million corporate headquarters, company officials and Gov. Bobby Jindal announced today. In addition, Danos announced it is evaluating multiple Louisiana port locations to choose where it will build a new $20 million manufacturing and fabrication facility. Construction of the headquarters facility will begin by late summer, with the manufacturing site to be selected within three months and construction of that facility to begin before the end of 2013. Both new facilities are expected to be complete by the end of 2014. Jindal has more on the announcement at his website here
.Going to Carolina:
New Orleans-based law firm Adams and Reese announced today a merger with Ellis Lawhorne, effective June 1, which will lead to the addition of 23 attorneys in Columbia, S.C. Following the deal's completion, Adams and Reese says it will have over 340 attorneys and advisers working in 16 offices across seven states throughout the Southern U.S. and Washington, D.C. The firm has an office in Baton Rouge. More on today's announcement is found at the firm's website here
.It's crawfish season:
After 53 years in business, Cohn Turner today becomes Perlis Clothing. The Perlis family acquired the Baton Rouge store at 8366 Jefferson Highway in November. "Over the past few months, we have spoken with many customers and residents of Baton Rouge about the future of the Jefferson Highway location and Perlis' role in the city," says David Perlis, company president, in a prepared statement. "Those discussions confirm a Perlis store in Baton Rouge is best for our valued customers. We saw this as a perfect opportunity to act on our desire to contribute something new to a city which we have long aspired to be a part of."