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CSU: 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season remains below-average

Michelle Southern reporting.
Colorado State University researchers continue to predict a below average 2014 Atlantic Hurricane season. CSU Report Author Dr. William Gray says they are now calling for a total of 10 named storms with four becoming hurricanes and one to reach major hurricane strength.

He says the storm deterring El Nino is still expected to arrive.
"It's not here yet but it might be coming the next month or so," said Gray. "El Nino's reduce activity in the Atlantic basin."

Gray says the Atlantic Ocean itself has exceptionally unfavorable hurricane formation conditions.

"We have very strong vertical wind shears and the sea surface temperatures are colder than normal," said Gray. "The pressures tend to be higher than normal and it just doesn't look like a very good season."

Gray says they predict this year will be a lot like last year where we had 13 named storms but only 2 minor hurricanes.

He says that doesn't mean residents along the Gulf Coast shouldn't take the usual precautions because you just never know.

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Immediate divorce now allowed for domestic violence victims

Michelle Southern reporting.
Another one of the state's 551 laws that go into effect today would grant an immediate divorce in domestic violence situations. New Orleans Senator JP Morrell says before today, even if you had tons of evidence that you were a victim of domestic violence, you'd still have to wait 6 months to a year before you get a divorce.

"That's obviously problematic because until that divorce is granted, the abuser still has all the rights of a spouse," said Morrell.

Morrell says now if someone has reasonable proof that they've been abused and can show that in court, they will be able to divorce the abuser right away.

"Basically what you'd bring to a court to ask for a restraining order," said Morrell. "Pictures, videos, threatening text messages."

Morrell says also beginning today, abusers under a protective order are prohibited from possessing a firearm and those convicted of domestic abuse are banned from possessing a firearm for 10 years.

He says Louisiana is one of the leaders in the nation when it comes to domestic violence situations that end in death so one of the major goals of the 2014 session was to pass sweeping anti-domestic violence legislation.

"And just basically to give everyone, every possible chance to get out of those kinds of relationships and truly separate from those people for the good of BOTH parties," said Morrell.


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Louisiana tax-free Weekend good for small business

Michelle Southern reporting.
This week's state sales-tax holiday will be a big help to local businesses that have been struggling in this sluggish economy according to the National Federation of Independent Business Louisiana. Spokesman Todd Pack says weak sales continue to be a problem for your shops down the street.
"Our members are really excited about this because tax holidays get people in the mood to shop," said Pack.

The Louisiana Department of Revenue says the state sales-tax holiday, Friday and Saturday, applies to all consumer purchases of tangible personal property up to $2500, other than vehicles and meals.

Pack says this is exactly the shot in the arm small businesses need.

"It's become like the Friday after Thanksgiving," said Pack. "People plan their shopping around the tax free weekend and that's good for families in helping them stretch that dollar, and it's also great for small business."

Pack says when you shop at mom and pops you're helping your friends and your neighbors.

"When you support a locally owned small business you're supporting the people that pump money and create jobs in that community," said Pack.

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No more butt flicking!

Michelle Southern & Eric Gill reporting.
On the same day that smoking is banned from public colleges and universities, motorists could face a much stiffer penalty if they throw a cigarette butt from a car window. The new law increases fines for the intentional disposal of a cigarette from a motor vehicle.
Marrerro Representative Patrick Connick says littering has to stop.

"Cigarette butts are the number one litter problem in the country and people just don't think twice when they throw them out of a window on to the street," said Connick.

The new law increases first offense fines from $250 to $300, plus community service.

Connick says he was inspired to write this legislation after participating in "clean up days" in his district.

"People need to realize that they can't do it and they shouldn't do it and maybe this will become a cleaner state," said Connick.

Under the new law, third and subsequent offense fines jump to $1,500 plus 80 hours of community service and suspension of your driver's license for one year.

Connick says the key to the success of this law is enforcement.

"Along the roads all you see is cigarette butts," said Connick. "People think it's not a problem, but it is a problem."


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First Female Bomb Wing Commander

The Air Force's oldest bomb wing, located in Bossier City, is now being commanded by its first ever female bomb wing commander. Col. Kristen Goodwin is taking command of the 2nd Bomb Wing based out of Barksdale Air Force Base. Retired Master Sgt. and military archivist at LSUS Shawn Bohannon says first and foremost, it's about a qualified officer getting a well earned promotion.

"She is a highly skilled, and highly trained professional, and she has earned this promotion through merit."
The Air Force began training it's first female pilots in 1976, and began training it's first female fighter pilots in 1993. Bohannon says those first graduates are beginning to move into upper level commands.
"The Air Force has a history of allowing women into flying positions, starting in the 1970s. We're starting to see the fruition of the 1970's graduates."
Goodwin is now commanding the dozen squadrons that make up the 2nd Bomb Wing. Bohannon says it's one of the best jobs in the Air Force.
"Over the years, i have worked with many Wing Commanders, and many of them were all fond of saying that holding a wing command in the Air Force is one of the best jobs an officer can hope to have."
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Sales tax holiday starts today

Louisiana's  sales tax holiday starts today. For the next two days, customers will not have to pay the 4% sales tax on the first 25 hundred dollars of each item they buy. Louisiana Department of Revenue spokesperson Byron Henderson says it only comes once a year.

 "This is the annual sales tax holiday, that applies to most of what we call tangible person property
The tax exemption only applies to the state sales tax of 4%. Henderson says any other taxes will still apply.
"Sales tax exemption only applies to the 4% state sales tax, so any local sales taxes will still apply"
Not all items and services will be up for the tax holiday. Henderson says many bigger purchases and popular services are not on the list.
"What is not covered are vehicles subject to title, and meals prepared on the premises. There is also a list of other things."

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Concealed weapons now allowed in restaurants

Starting today, individuals with a concealed carry permit are allowed to bring a concealed firearm into restaurants that serve alcohol. The HB 72, sponsored by Metairie representative Joe Lopinto, is now in effect, along with a host of other bills that were passed in the last legislative session. Bossier City representative Jeff Thompson says the bill clears up a conflict in the law.

"We resolved that conflict to allow those that have a lawfully issued concealed carry permit into a class A establishments, that have the majority of their revenue from food, and not alcohol sales."
One of the biggest concerns with the law was that people may start bringing guns into bars. Thompson says that's not in the bill.

"In no way is this intended to interject firearms into bars, or other situations where someone is being irresponsible with alcohol."
The bill increases the growing number of places that citizens with licenses are allowed to enter with their concealed weapons. Thompson says the intent was to protect responsible concealed carry holders and their families.

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No more smoking on campus after today

Michelle Southern reporting.
Today is the last day that anyone will be allowed to smoke at public college campuses in Louisiana. In 2013 the state legislature passed a law requiring all public institutions of higher education to go smoke free by August 1st, 2014. Many schools have chosen to go tobacco free like LSU according to Vice Chancellor for student life Kurt Keppler.

"Governor Jindal created a Well Spot initiative recently indicating he wanted all institutions to be considered such a spot go tobacco free," said Keppler. "So that's what we've decided to do."

Keppler says these tobacco free policies that campuses are adopting all throughout the state rely on the courtesy, respect and cooperation of all members of the university community.

He says the ultimate goal of the implementation of the smoke free policy is to change people's behavior.

"We're not caught up in trying to fine or sanction or punish people," said Keppler. "We're trying to get other people to get people to stop..so we'll be using signage to help with that."

Keppler says these smoke-free policies are becoming a national trend as colleges want to send the message that smoking cigarettes are chewing tobacco is seen as a habit they're trying to stop.

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Common Core: Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne says keep Washington politics out of Louisiana

Michelle Southern reporting.
Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne says of the Common Core debate that it's very unfortunate teachers and students are left hanging so close to the start of school. He calls the situation between the Jindal Administration and BESE and the Department of Education a Washington D.C. style political game that does not belong in Louisiana.

"Here at the last minute before school starts, we're embroiled in this legal debate and the question about what standards and tests should be in place," says Dardenne. "It's very unfair to the students and teachers of Louisiana."

Dardenne says whether you agree with Common Core or not, children and teachers should not be used as pawns in a political chess match. He says from his point of view the legislature has already said they want to keep Common Core which, in his mind, is the right thing to do.

"The legislature has spoken and we're in the process of trying to implement these standards and to make the test consistent with those standards," said Dardenne. "To have all of this discussion before school starts is very unfortunate."

Both sides of the dispute will have hearings in mid August.

Dardenne says Jindal's act of trying to do away with the will of the legislature with an executive order is wrong.

He says three weeks before school starts is not the time to start using political games to change the course of the Louisiana education system and lawmakers have spoken.

"They've made, in my view, the right decision going forward with the standards that have been in place," Dardenne said.

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AAA reminds drivers to be cautious as school nears

With summer coming to a close, school will be back in session in a few short weeks.  The American Automobile Association reminds drivers to be especially cautious before and after school hours as kids head back to the classroom. 

AAA's Don Redman says the obvious first safety reminder is to slow down, not only in school zones but in your neighborhood, too.
"A pedestrian struck by a vehicle going about 25 miles per hour is nearly two-thirds more likely to survive that than someone who is hit 10 miles per hour faster.  So, make sure you obey those speed limits in those residential areas and certainly around a school area."
AAA launched their "School's Open - Drive Carefully" awareness campaign in 1946 to help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries.  Redman says other recommendations to help keep kids safe include coming to a complete stop at stop signs, keeping an eye out for bicycles, and eliminating distractions.
"That means put the phone down.  Don't even touch the phone, especially when school's in session.  So just turn it off, keep it off, and eliminate all the distractions in the car itself."
Redman says nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during after-school hours between 3PM and 7PM.  He says if you are the parent of a teen aged driver it is important for you to remind them of their responsibilities on the road and limit the number of passengers they have in their car.
"For every teen passenger that your teen gets into the car with them, doubles.  And if you get three or more teens in a vehicle with a novice driver, you're talking about quadrupling the risk of a fatal crash."

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