Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Mon, April 23, 2012

Capitol Views by Maginnis: Proposed breakaway school district boundary restored

The eastern boundary of the proposed new school district in southeast Baton Rouge has been moved back to Interstate 10, as originally proposed. Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, who had written the amendment that sliced away the area between I-10 and Airline Highway, offered the amendment in Senate Finance Committee to restore the original boundary as drawn in Senate Bill 563 by Sen. Bodi White, R-Central. Claitor said he moved to put back the area between I-10 and Airline after reviewing attendance statistics. According to White, the district as proposed would hold about 6,800 students, more than 50% of whom are black. The bill, which has passed the Senate Education Committee, currently is being reviewed in Senate Finance before going to the Senate floor. The committee is hearing testimony from supporters and opponents of the bill.

—Today marks the halfway point of the 85-day legislative session, but most of the activity will be on the golf course and at the Republican delegation's annual Elephant Stomp party tonight at the Country Club of Louisiana. Only three committee hearings were scheduled today, with both houses coming in for short sessions this afternoon. After that, a busy week awaits legislators, who will be taking up controversial retirement bills in both houses. Read the full column here for additional coverage of a Department of Transportation and Development plan to study widening an I-10 bridge exit ramp in downtown Baton Rouge.

(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.

Company files suits to delay Nucor project

The owner of an export grain terminal adjacent to the Nucor steel plant site in St. James Parish has filed suits in federal and state courts seeking to stop construction of the Nucor project until the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality conducts a new review of all permits for the project. Zen-Noh Grain Corp. alleges DEQ has not fulfilled its duty to protect the region's air quality. Friday's filing in the Eastern District of Louisiana says the federal court should order Nucor to stop constructing the project's first phase, a direct reduced iron facility, because Nucor has not obtained a preconstruction permit necessary to prevent a significant deterioration of air quality. The filing in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge asks the state court to stay all the permits for the facility until DEQ issues a unified preconstruction permit that assures the facility will not violate national air quality standards. In a response last month to an earlier petition from Zen-Noh, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson asked DEQ to explain why it failed to combine Nucor's preconstruction permits into a single permit that includes both the DRI facility and the planned pig iron plant, which the state considers two separate projects, although they're both planned to be located at the same site. A statement issued by DEQ today does not mention Zen-Noh's suit directly, but says EPA has not identified any Clean Air Act violations and has not asked for the permits to be modified. However, EPA has asked for more information, which DEQ says it plans to provide. —David Jacobs

BRAC named a top 10 economic development organization in U.S.

Site Selection magazine has today named the Baton Rouge Area Chamber among the nation's top 10 economic development organizations in 2011. It marks the third year in a row BRAC has been recognized by the magazine with this distinction. The list, which does not designate specific rankings, is based on four objective criteria—new jobs, new jobs per 10,000 residents, new investment amounts and new investments per 10,000 residents—as well as subjective criteria including innovation, leadership and customer services. In 2011, BRAC reports assisting on 14 project wins, securing 949 jobs, generating $44.6 million in payroll and roughly $244 million in new capital investments. BRAC will be featured in the May issue of Site Selection along with other organizations on the list, as well as those named top deals of the year. "Maintaining BRAC's position on this list proves that our efforts have been targeted, consistent, and focused on excellence," says BRAC President/CEO Adam Knapp in a prepared statement. "Our regional economy is strong, and the Capital Region is one of best places in the country for starting new business activity." Meanwhile, in the March edition of Site Selection, Baton Rouge is featured as the top metro area for economic development projects in 2011 among those with 200,000 to 1 million residents, and you can check out that feature here.

B.R. to get second Twin Peaks restaurant

Twin Peaks Restaurants today announced it has inked multiple development deals that will result in 19 new restaurants across four states, including one each in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, as well as five in the New Orleans area. Other states marked for expansion of the franchise include Indiana, Arizona and Texas. The first Twin Peaks in Louisiana opened on Siegen Lane in January. A company spokesperson says an exact location has not been determined for the second Baton Rouge location, nor any of the others in Louisiana. C & L Enterprises, headed by local real estate developers Jim Clark and Cotton Lloyd, will open the Baton Rouge and Lafayette locations. SBC Restaurants will open the New Orleans area restaurants. Twin Peaks says its annualized average restaurant volumes have hit a record high, $4.3 million: an increase of more than $1 million over 2011. Currently the company has 20 restaurants open, with plans to add 10 locations this year.

'Business Report' planner: Leads for lunch in Livingston Wednesday … BRAC hosts its 2012 shareholders meeting Thursday … Creative Louisiana has Kenneth Brown Friday

Wednesday — The Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce hosts a leads for lunch event from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Greystone Country Club, 9214 Greystone Dr., in Denham Springs. Cost is $16. Online reservations can be made here.

Thursday — The Baton Rouge Area Chamber hosts its 2012 shareholders meeting from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Renaissance Hotel, 7000 Bluebonnet Blvd. Martin Jacques, best-selling author and expert on China and the global economy, will be the featured speaker. Tickets are $20, or $150 for a table of 10, and can be purchased here.

Friday — Creative Louisiana, a monthly lecture series for creative types, will hold its April meet-up from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Baton Rouge Gallery, 1515 Dalrymple Dr., featuring guest speaker Kenneth Brown. There is no cost to attend. For more information, click here.

For the full list of upcoming events, click here.

Influential Women in Business tickets go on sale

Tickets for Business Report's 2012 Influential Women in Business Awards luncheon, set for Tuesday, June 5, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, are now on sale and can be purchased online. The luncheon will feature internationally recognized speaker and author Lisa Johnson, who helps organizations accelerate growth by applying the latest techniques in storytelling to common business challenges including leadership, sales, innovation and marketing communications. Tickets are $40 each, or a table of 10 for $400. Get yours here. This year's honorees have yet to be announced, but will be featured in the May 29 issue of Business Report. See a list of all the past winners here.

News roundup: Shrimp processors object to BP settlement terms … Jindal to Speak at AFC National Policy Summit in N.J. … Facebook buys AOL patents from Microsoft for $550 million

All a part of the process: A group of Gulf Coast shrimp processors is asking a federal judge to hold off on preliminary approval of portions of BP's proposed class-action settlement of economic damage claims spawned by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The deal calls for BP to pay $2.3 billion for certain seafood-related claims, but a court filing today by the American Shrimp Processors Association argues its members are unfairly excluded from that part of the settlement. The group says the settlement is more favorable to shrimp harvesters and boat captains than processors, even though they are in the same industry and have nearly identical future economic risks. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier scheduled a hearing Wednesday on the request by BP and the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee for his preliminary approval.

The power to talk: Gov. Bobby Jindal will reflect on Louisiana's recent school choice expansion and stress the importance of continuing to increase educational options during a speech at the American Federation for Children's third annual National Policy Summit, to be held May 3-4 in Jersey City, N.J. "Governor Jindal serves as an example of how strong leadership and a bipartisan approach can improve the lives of children, and we can't wait to hear how he will inspire other governors across the country to stand up for children," says AFC Chairman Betsy DeVos in a news release. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will also speak at the summit, about which you can learn more here.

Bargains galore: Microsoft, which just bought patents from AOL for $1 billion, is now turning around and selling most of them to Facebook for $550 million. Facebook announced today it is buying about 650 of the 925 AOL patents and patent applications from Microsoft. Facebook will also get a license to use the rest of the AOL Inc. patents that Microsoft bought; similarly, Microsoft will get a license to use the patents Facebook is buying. This part of the arrangement amounts to an agreement between Facebook and Microsoft not to sue each other over any of the AOL patents. The companies are not saying what the patents cover. Read the full story from The Associated Press here.

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