FILE - 2016 Louisiana flooding

In this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016 file aerial photo, a boat motors between flooded homes after heavy rains inundating the region, in Hammond, La.

State offering $100 million for local anti-flooding plans

The state is accepting pre-applications from local and regional public entities to access $100 million in anticipated federal funds for projects that address immediate flood mitigation needs. 

The funding is part of the state’s proposed Action Plan to spend $1.2 billion in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development must approve. Though the money is not expected to be available until next spring, soliciting pre-applications will help ensure projects are ready for implementation when HUD approves the plan, state officials say.

Eight regional steering committees will select “low-risk, high reward” projects that align with the objectives of the Louisiana Watershed Initiative. Information sessions are planned in each region next month.

Office of Motor Vehicles reopens after cyberattack

The Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles reopened to long lines Monday after a ransomware attack early last week that targeted a number of the state's servers and effectively shut down the OMV.

Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Friday following the incident, allowing several agencies to waive fees and fines for individuals who, for example, were late renewing their driver's licenses as a result of the attack.

The emergency declaration allows the heads of the OMV, Department of Transportation and Development and the Department of Revenue to suspend statutes or regulations that members of the public were unable to comply with due to the loss of online services and the closure of OMV after the attack.

Health department reports second vaping death

The Louisiana Department of Health has reported a second vaping death in the state. Both deaths were reported last week.

A total of 32 cases of e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injuries have been reported in the state. All patients reported using e-cigarette products, and many said they used unregulated e-cigarettes containing cannabinoid products such as THC or CBD, the department says.

Agriculture department schedules hemp orientation meetings

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry is hosting free voluntary orientation meetings for people interested in cultivating, processing and transporting industrial hemp in the state. Topics of discussion will include license requirements, seed acquisition, cultivation, processing and transportation regulations and requirements.

The meetings will be held on Dec. 17 and Dec. 18 with morning and afternoon sessions offered each day at LDAF headquarters on Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge. Additional meetings will be scheduled as needed.

Participants must register to attend. More information is available at LDAF’s website.

Louisiana lawmakers legalized industrial hemp this year. Officials hope the federal government will approve the state’s industrial hemp program by Jan. 1 so they can begin issuing licenses, allowing farmers to begin planting the new crop next spring.

Staff Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.