LAFAYETTE — Lafayette Parish School Superintendent Pat Cooper is proposing a $540 million revenue package to go before voters in November to fund facility improvements and school initiatives across the district.
The proposal, which must be approved by the school board, calls for reinstating a 10-year, 15.5-mill property tax that was allowed to lapse in 2007. The package would generate about $26 million per year, with the money helping to fund initiatives in Cooper’s “100 Percent In, 100 Percent Out” turnaround plan.
The school board is set to discuss the proposal at its meeting Wednesday.
Transocean plea deal hearing set
NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge in New Orleans has scheduled a Feb. 14 hearing to decide whether to accept the Justice Department’s criminal settlement with Transocean Ltd. over the company’s role in the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Transocean, which owned the rig that sank after an explosion killed 11 workers and spawned the spill, agreed last Thursday to pay $400 million in criminal penalties and plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act. The Switzerland-based company also agreed to pay $1 billion in civil penalties.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo only presides over the criminal settlement. A different judge will decide whether to accept Transocean’s civil settlement with the federal government.
Transocean can withdraw from its plea deal if Milazzo rejects it.
Troopers arrest allegedly drunken school bus driver
DeQUINCY — State police stopped a speeding and weaving, empty school bus Monday in Calcasieu Parish, and determined that the driver was intoxicated.
Sgt. James Anderson said a trooper saw the bus operating left of La. 27’s centerline, about six miles south of DeQuincy, shortly before 8 a.m. Monday. When he stopped it, Anderson said the trooper determined the driver, Matthew O. Richard, 26, of Sulphur, was intoxicated. A breath sample found Richard’s blood-alcohol level at .211 percent — more than 2½ times the legal limit, Anderson said.
Richard, of Sulphur, was booked into the parish jail on charges of DWI with child endangerment, speeding 75 in a 55-mile per hour zone, improper lane usage, possession of an open alcoholic container in a motor vehicle and theft under $500.
No children were on the bus at the time of the traffic stop. However, Anderson said an investigation revealed that just a short time earlier 49 children under 12 years of age were on the bus. Those children were dropped off to area schools. No injuries were reported.
Further investigation revealed that an open bottle of alcohol found in Richard’s possession was stolen from an area supermarket earlier in the day.
Dow reopens Hahnville plant
HAHNVILLE — Dow Chemical Co. has successfully restarted its St. Charles Olefins 2 Plant near Hahnville after three years of inactivity.
The plant has been producing ethylene, which is used in alcohol- and plastic-based products, since Dec. 25. Dow said it expects the plant will add $150 million to earnings before interest, depreciation and amortization.
The company said restarting the plant is the first major milestone in Dow’s Gulf Coast investment strategy. Dow can reduce the amount of ethylene it buys, lowering its production costs.
Dow’s U.S. strategy involves increasing its competitive advantage by producing more ethylene and propylene at its Gulf Coast plants, which use low-cost natural gas from shale formations as a feedstock.
Jeanerette man dies in crash
JEANERETTE — State police are investigating a two vehicle crash on La. 85 which claimed the life of a 33-year-old Jeanerette man.
Troopers say a car driven by Wilbur Alexander was northbound Monday when his car struck a loaded sugarcane cart.
Trooper Stephen Hammons says Alexander, who was not restrained, was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.
Dead horse found near B.R. airport
BATON ROUGE — East Baton Rouge Parish animal control officials are investigating the discovery of a dead, malnourished horse on Metro Airport property.
Animal Control Director Hilton Cole said the 700-pound or so black horse appeared severely malnourished, to the point of emaciation.
He said the horse, a gelding, looked 300 pounds or so underweight.
Cole said he thinks the horse was already dead when it was dropped off on the property.
He said the horse had a micro-chip placed inside that has connected the horse to a previous owner in the Tangipahoa Parish area.
Commission seeks raises for judges
BATON ROUGE — The state Judicial Compensation Commission has recommended a multiyear pay raise plan for Louisiana’s judges.
The plan would this year increase Supreme Court justices’ pay by 5.5 percent, appeals court judges by 3.7 percent and general trial court judges by 4 percent.
The raise would cost an estimated $1.7 million.
The plan approved Monday now advances to the Louisiana Legislature for consideration.
La. teacher certification declines
BATON ROUGE — Just 54 teachers in Louisiana achieved certification in 2012 from a well-regarded national teaching organization.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced the results Monday. The totals are down from 102 in 2011 and 148 in 2010.
Louisiana’s peak for nationally certified teachers was 250 teachers in 2005.
The downward trend is likely to continue, at least in Louisiana.
Michelle Accardi, director of state policy and outreach, said the number of new Louisiana applicants for certification for 2013 is down 60 percent from where it was a year ago.
Accardi said the poor economy has probably made it harder for teachers to afford the $2,500 fee associated with national board certification.
Lafayette inmate seeks to void guilty pleas
LAFAYETTE — Brandon Scott Lavergne has asked a judge to void his guilty pleas in August to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Mickey Shunick and Lisa Pate.
Lavergne entered the pleas less than two months after his arrest in a high-profile investigation that began May 19, when Shunick, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette student, disappeared while riding her bicycle home from downtown Lafayette.
The Shunick case revived an older investigation into the 1999 death of Pate, and Lavergne, who had long been a suspect in the older killing.
Lavergne has filed hand-written court motions seeking to void the pleas and the life sentence.
Lavergne now alleges he felt pressured to plead guilty because he faced a possible death penalty.
From The Associated Press.