Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Fri, June 01, 2012


Capitol Views by Maginnis: Breakaway school district bill fails again

The debate was much briefer today, but the end result was the same, as the House refused to approve a constitutional vote on the breakaway school district for southeast Baton Rouge. The vote was 60-35, six less than the vote earlier this week. After two votes, the bill is dead for the session. Despite renewed lobbying, supporters were not able to turn Democrats who voted no or didn't vote last time. In addition, four Republicans who voted for the bill earlier were absent for today's vote. "Those people deserved a vote," the bill's author, Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, said following the final vote. "They worked for over a year on this." They will have to wait until next year. Read the full column here for additional coverage on the narrow approval today of the Minimum Foundation Program for school funding.

(John Maginnis is publishing 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.

Lobbyist says breakaway district supporters may be back next year

Getting 70 votes in the House in a year in which the Legislature already has passed controversial education measures was always going to be difficult for supporters of a breakaway school district in southeast East Baton Rouge Parish, says Jesse McCormick of Capitol Partners, who was the lead lobbyist for the bill that died today. McCormick says he wouldn't be surprised if supporters try again next year. He adds that he hasn't been privy to conversations about trying to establish a municipality in the southeast portion of the parish, but wouldn't be shocked to see residents move in that direction. "The opposition [to the breakaway district] used the municipality argument over and over again," he says. "I tried to tell people: Don't push these people to incorporation, because they'll try." East Baton Rouge Parish School Board President Barbara Freiberg says the idea of creating more independent school districts in the parish may have merit, but says the concept is best examined by looking at the parish as a whole, not by breaking off one piece at a time. The school board is considering options, such as creating semi-autonomous zones within the district and giving individual schools more budgeting authority, that might appeal to those who support smaller districts. "We've had some excellent conversations about some real changes that can be made in this district," Freiberg says. "I hope that we would give our new superintendent [Bernard Taylor] a chance to bring some of those changes." —David Jacobs

B.R. makes 'highways from hell' list

In what will likely come as no surprise to anyone in Baton Rouge, a stretch of the city's notoriously congested roadways is included on The Daily Beast's annual list of "America's highways from hell." At No. 24 on the list, a 5.8-mile span of Interstate 12 eastbound between Essen and O'Neal lanes experiences its heaviest traffic between 5 and 6 p.m. on Thursdays, according to the list. The extra wait time during rush hour, according to the list, is 6 minutes; and 18 minutes on Thursdays between 5 and 6 p.m.—which probably sounds a little low to those who regularly traverse that stretch of the interstate. Daily Beast says it used new research from traffic-tracking firm INRIX, which collects data from more than 100 million vehicles across the country, to compile the list. "Specifically, we sliced and diced the INRIX Traffic Index, a score that accounts for the amount of extra time it takes to drive through a particular corridor of highway during rush hour, and the length of that corridor," the publication says. "We first ranked each city based on these scores, totaling the INRIX Index for each gridlocked corridor in each city, and then we highlighted the worst corridor in each city." The INRIX report shows a 30% drop in traffic across the country over the past year. The reasons, according to INRIX's Jim Bak, include rising fuel prices, relatively few jobs created in urban areas, and the completion of stimulus projects resulting in less road construction. A stretch of Interstate 10 in New Orleans also made the list, at No. 17. See the full story and list here.

'225': Different by design

Forty acres is a long distance to run, but the boundaries of the family rice farm jutting against Bayou Plaquemine outside of Crowley rarely satisfied Valerie Trahan's young son. "Don't go play in the water!" she would call after him, her words chasing small, swift footsteps on thick summer gusts. "You'll end up in the bayou with the currents." He speaks softly, but often. Victor F. Trahan III likes to say people's names while talking with them. He likes to connect and thinks buildings should do the same. Everyone, even family, calls him Trey. Maybe it's the Cajun in him, but he's a storyteller, and his conversations are peppered with quotes. A local priest, an ex in Austin, Frank Lloyd Wright, his grandfather—the dairy farmer, the first Victor F. Trahan: Each gets equal airtime, sometimes within the same conversation. To draw a parallel to his architecture, Trahan's wardrobe relies on a look of simplicity, consistency and contrast. Pick any given workday, and Trahan can be found in a dark blazer, slacks and a crisp white point-collar shirt. No tie. No colors. "It requires the least thought in the morning," Trahan says. Makes sense. He has had his share of other things to think about in the past year. Read the full cover story in the new issue of 225 by Editor Jeff Roedel here.

Field says he won't seek re-election to PSC

Public Service Commission Vice Chairman Jimmy Field has announced he will not seek re-election to his post representing the commission's 2nd District and will retire when his term ends on Dec. 31. Field, who is 72, made the announcement in a letter released today. He says he won't seek another term this fall so that he can spend more time with his family and law practice. "The time required to continue to serve as a leader on the commission, to run an effective campaign, to be a loving husband to Laura, my wife of 51 years, to be a father to four grown children and grandfather to 15 grandchildren, as well as continue my part-time law practice, has forced me to re-evaluate my plans," Field writes. The five-member PSC regulates utilities, trucking and telecommunication. The 2nd District covers a swath of southeastern Louisiana from East and West Feliciana parishes south to the coastal parishes of Iberia, St. Mary, Terrebonne and Lafourche and includes parts of Lafayette and East Baton Rouge parishes. Field replaced Kathleen Blanco on the commission in 1996. Blanco left the post to run for lieutenant governor, a race she won before going on to serve as governor. "Stepping down is never easy, but I have always admired those who have left at the top of their game," Field's letter concludes. "By making the decision at this time, [I] will give others who wish to serve ample time to campaign for the position. My campaign will refund contributions made during this election cycle."

The rate of CEO turnover on the rise, study says

If it seems like the revolving door at the top of Corporate America is spinning faster these days, it is. Consulting firm Booz & Co. has just released its 12th annual study on CEO succession, and as The Washington Post reports, it shows that 14.2% of the world's 2,500 largest companies replaced their CEOs last year. That number is up from 11.6% in 2010, and the increase brings the level of CEO turnover back up to historical averages. It also may say something about how boards of directors are feeling about the economy, says Gary Neilson, a senior partner with Booz. During a recession, boards focus on "hunkering down and getting through it," he says. But once the business environment appears a little brighter, they start to think more about making changes. The study, which looks at average CEO tenure, the performance of insider and outsider CEOs, and how many CEOs also hold the chairman's title, examined the differences between turnover rates in large versus small companies for the first time this year. As one might expect, the study found that the largest 250 companies examined had a slightly higher level of turnover than the smaller ones. "There's a lot of public scrutiny for these large companies," says Neilson. That's just one piece of evidence that the pressures on boards of directors by shareholder activists and other investor watchdogs are having an effect. Here's another: The number of CEOs being appointed to combined CEO-chairman roles has dwindled to just 18% of new CEOs. Check out the full story here for more findings in the Booz study.

News roundup: La. first-time jobless claims increase … Visit Baton Rouge name change official … Former NBA player Orlando Woolridge dead at 52

Workingman's blues: First-time claims for unemployment insurance in Louisiana for the week ending May 26 increased from the previous week's total. The state labor department figures released Friday show the initial claims increased to 4,285 from the previous week's total of 3,547. For the comparable week a year earlier, there were 4,936 initial claims. The four-week moving average, which is a less volatile measure of claims, increased to 3,588 from the previous week's total of 3,342. Continued unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 26 totaled 31,957, just short of the previous week's total 31,959. The four-week moving average for such claims decreased to 31,976 from 32,065.

The name game: Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed House Bill 414 into law, meaning the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau will henceforth officially be known as Visit Baton Rouge. The name has been used unofficially by the agency since 2006. Visit Baton Rouge says the name change reflects best practices in the tourism industry and gives the public a better understanding of what the agency does. "It's a lot easier when we are answering the phones, and it's a lot more direct-impact on what we are trying to do. And it tells more what we do: Visit Baton Rouge, the official source of travel and information," says Visit Baton Rouge CEO Paul Arrigo.

Gone too soon: Former NBA standout and Bernice-native Orlando Woolridge has died at his parents' home in Mansfield. He was 52. DeSoto Parish Chief Deputy Coroner Billy Locke says Woolridge died Thursday night. He had been under hospice care for a chronic heart condition. Woolridge was a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bulls in 1981 and played in the NBA for 13 years. He was a star at Mansfield High School before going on to play for Notre Dame. He played for the Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Detroit; he also coached the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. Read more about his life and career from The Associated Press here.

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