News for Thursday 090717
By Dave Graichen
Major refineries in Texas are starting to come back online, and gas prices across the nation are finally starting to level off. Patrick Dehaan, Senior Petroleum Analyst with GasBuddy.com, says Louisiana saw a 16 cent increase over the last week. Today’s statewide average is $2.39.
A task force examining all aspects of the TOPS scholarship met for the first time Wednesday at the state capitol. Senate Education Chairman Blade Morrish says the purpose of today’s meeting was to get a general overview of the taxpayer funded scholarship program. The task force will issue a report in February.
Governor John Bel Edwards is urging Congress to clear a road block that has touched thousands of homeowners who flooded in Louisiana over the past year, and could also impact Texans as they recover from Hurricane Harvey. Currently, residents are blocked from using federal assistance money to pay off SBA loans that they take out after disasters. But Edwards says removing that restriction would provide badly needed relief for people rebuilding their lives.
Tomorrow the Louisiana Board of Ethics decides the fate of Thibodaux Representative Dee Richard, who gambled $37-thousand in campaign funds between 2012 and 2015. He says he was never a gambler before he started taking medication for Parkinson’s, and the drug was later linked to gambling addiction. He says he’s prepared to pay back the money, but he’d like to finish out the remaining two years of his last term.
The woman accused of shooting a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries agent was sentenced to 20 years in prison on separate charges. Amethyst Baird of Monroe got 10 years for possession of stolen items and 10 more for a second methamphetamine possession charge. Baird is also accused of shooting LDWF Agent Tyler Wheeler five times during a traffic stop in January.
Many Louisianans have likely noticed a serious uptick in the amount of lovebugs we’re seeing. LSU-Shreveport Associate professor of Biological Sciences Beverly Burden says the relatively mild summer can be to blame for this. She says these last few months are wetter and cooler than we typically see this time of year. Burden says while the lovebugs are a major nuisance she expects the population to decline in the next 10 to 14 days.
Rural parishes in Louisiana are struggling more than major cities to combat the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. Linda Meredith is the research and development manager for the advocacy group HEROES. She says rural regions account for 15 percent of the HIV/AIDS cases in the state. Meredith adds the mortality rate is 1.6 times higher in northeast Louisiana than near major cities. Addressing the epidemic has been difficult because funding is tight, especially in the poorest corner of the state. Louisiana ranks first in the country for new HIV infections.
A third sperm whale has been found stranded off the Louisiana coast. State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Mandy Tumlin says they are working to determine the cause of the increase in dead animals washing onto Louisiana beaches. She says an autopsy will soon be conducted on this mammal found beached on Grand Isle. This latest sperm whale is a female and is one of five of the endangered species found in the northern Gulf of Mexico over the past year.