Louisiana news briefs

From The Associated Press.

Lafourche School Board spending flagged in audit
THIBODAUX (AP) — A state audit finds the Lafourche Parish School Board failed to follow federal regulations in seeking public bids on $150,000 in services and supplies.
The audit said federal money was used to purchase special education curriculum software in all parish schools, but the school district didn’t take bids every two years as required.
Board Business Manager Don Gaudet said the school board didn’t advertise for public bidding because it wasn’t aware of the requirement when using federal money.
The board was also given a recommendation to monitor its $9.5 million health insurance fund that finances employees’ health care costs. State officials say that amount may be considered excessive.
The audit recommends steps be taken to reduce the fund or to not increase health insurance costs for employees.

Houma fire victim still homeless
HOUMA (AP) — A single mother and her four children who were displaced by a fire that destroyed her public housing unit still doesn’t have a place to call home, even after federal officials ordered the Houma-Terrebonne Housing Authority to provide her a place to live by Saturday.
Lyons’ low-income housing unit in Senator’s Circle burned Jan. 4, and according to her lease, the Housing Authority is responsible for providing other accommodations.
Housing Authority Executive Director Wayne Thibodeaux could not be reached for comment.
The housing agency originally didn’t plan to give her a place to stay, but changed its course after an order came down from the federal level last week.
Thibodeaux had said the agency had no plans to give the family shelter until after Houma Fire officials determine who was responsible for the blaze. Until that happens, he said, “I have determined that we don’t have an obligation. She has family.”

Judge won’t dismiss ex-ATC commissioner’s lawsuit
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A state district judge Monday refused to throw out former Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Murphy Painter’s claim that the state Office of Inspector General defamed him in a scathing 2011 report.
Judge Janice Clark refused to dismiss the lawsuit. Two years ago, Clark also rejected the state’s request to dismiss Painter’s wrongful-termination claim but the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal reversed her last year and tossed that claim.
Painter contends Street and the OIG defamed him in a February 2011 report by alleging he stalked and sexually harassed Kelli Suire Votaw, his one-time administrative assistant. The report also accused Painter of using his official position at ATC to illegally obtain information on judges, the governor’s staff, Votaw and her attorney, U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s wife and others over a five-year period.
A federal district court jury acquitted Painter on Dec. 20 on 29 counts of computer fraud and false statements to the FBI. He had been accused of using confidential law enforcement databases to look up information on people who were not tied to any criminal investigations.
Some of those allegations first surfaced in the OIG report.
“From the very beginning, Mr. Painter has objected to the OIG’s investigation,” Robert said outside Clark’s courtroom. “Judge Clark is going to give us a chance to get into those allegations.”

Grand jury delays probe
of BESE member Walter Lee
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A DeSoto Parish grand jury scheduled Monday to probe allegations of illegal activity by a member of the state’s education policy-making board has been postponed until Friday.
The panel was set Monday to hear a case involving Walter Lee, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The grand jury will look into allegations raised in an audit that Lee broke state law and violated the Louisiana constitution during his 13-year tenure as superintendent of the DeSoto Parish School Board.

Tenure law ruling rejected
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — At least one of two state district court rulings declaring changes to the state teacher tenure law unconstitutional will have to be reconsidered, the state Supreme Court has ruled.
The court concluded the Attorney General’s Office wasn’t given enough advance notice about a hearing in Monroe in August that led to a ruling against the tenure changes, approved by the legislature in 2012.
A Baton Rouge judge also has ruled against the 2012 education overhaul that included the tenure changes. Judge Michael Caldwell last week said the legislation unconstitutionally bundled together too many items spanning Louisiana’s education laws.

La. voters skew away
from mainstream parties
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The number of registered Democrats continues a steady decline as 2014 Louisiana elections approach and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu runs for re-election.
A decade ago, registered Democrats represented 56 percent of the state’s then 2.87 million voters. Today, the number sits at 47 percent — 1.38 million voters out of 2.9 million registrants.
More than 250,000 white voters have left Democratic ranks during the past 10 years, about 150,000 since Landrieu last ran in 2008.
“The biggest story is the shift. We have not seen a change in total (voter) numbers; it’s pretty much back to pre-Hurricane Katrina. The big thing has been the shift of party affiliation,” away from the Democratic Party, but not wholesale to the GOP, said Secretary of State Tom Schedler.
Schedler said the high number of voters opting for “no party” affiliation is significant. With 809,753 registered voters, Republicans now account for 28 percent of the state’s total voting population. Twenty-five percent, 724,643, are registered with another party or no party.
“The nonaffiliated voters will be the ones who decide. They have become the key,” he said. “If I was running in that (Senate) race, I would be targeting that other party affiliation. Those are the people who are going to put people over the top.”
Political consultant Elliot Stonecipher, of Shreveport, said the election fight will ultimately come down to 10 percent of the vote. “The rest is pretty forecastable,” he said.
About 45 percent of Louisiana voters align themselves with the Democrats and another 45 percent align with Republicans, Stonecipher said. “The rest are the 10 percent who really don’t know what they are going to do,” he said.
New Orleans demographer Greg Rigamer said the person who is registered Republican is a pretty predictable GOP vote, just as African-Americans are pretty consistent Democratic votes. “The African-American vote and the Republican vote negate each other (in numbers), and then you have this big white Democrat, other party, other race” vote, said Rigamer, whose clients include the state elections agency and Landrieu.
Political consultant Elliot Stonecipher, of Shreveport, said the election fight will ultimately come down to 10 percent of the vote. “The rest is pretty forecastable,” he said.
About 45 percent of Louisiana voters align themselves with the Democrats and another 45 percent align with Republicans, Stonecipher said. “The rest are the 10 percent who really don’t know what they are going to do,” he said.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

Franklin Banner-Tribune
P.O. Box 566, Franklin, LA 70538
Phone: 337-828-3706
Fax: 337-828-2874

Morgan City Daily Review
P.O. Box 948, Morgan City, LA 70381
Phone: 985-384-8370
Fax: 985-384-4255

Follow Us