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Governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law legislation that reduces the penalties for simple marijuana possession.  New Orleans State Representative Austin Badon is thrilled his measure was signed into law.  


Badon says this legislation will help a lot of people in Louisiana.
 
"It's going to save the tax payers a lot of money, $15 to $17 million.  We're not going to be just incarcerating people for simple marijuana possession any more for long periods of time."

Under the new law, a first offense of simple possession of less than 14 grams of marijuana would face up to 15 days in jail.  A second conviction drops from a felony to a misdemeanor.  Badon says what he likes about the measure is that it gives people a second chance.

"It keeps people working.  They're not getting a felony conviction on their record, so they still have an opportunity to go out and get a job.  And they get to stay in educational facilities."

The legislation drops the maximum sentence from 20 years in prison to eight.  Badon says people arrested for simple marijuana possession need counseling, not jail time.

"We were putting them in jail with hardened criminals and we were making them better criminals.  So, this is going to help a lot of people." 

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Michelle Southern reporting.
Wal-Mart has apologized for making a cake at its Slidell store with the ISIS flag on it after denying a man's request to design one with the Confederate flag. Chuck Netzhammer originally ordered a "Heritage Not Hate" Confederate flag cake, but the bakery did not honor the request. 


He outlines what happened in a YouTube video.

"I went to go buy a printed cake from [Wal-Mart] the other day, with this [Confederate flag] image on it, and [they] didn't do it. I've got proof," said Netzhammer. "But I went back and managed to get an image with an ISIS flag printed on it."

Netzhammer says he can't fathom why the Confederate flag cake would be denied, but the ISIS image ended up being printed and sold.

"ISIS happens to be somebody who we are fighting right now and who are killing our men and women overseas and beheading Christians," said Netzhammer.

A spokesman for Wal-Mart told ABC News that the store associate did not know what the design meant and it was a misunderstanding. In the video, Netzhammer was asking for an explanation.

"Can you please explain why you are alienating southern Americans with this trash that you allow to be sold in your store," said Netzhammer. "But at the same time the Confederate flag memorabilia is not allowed?"
 
 

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Governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law a bill that establishes a framework for the legal dispensing of medical marijuana. But state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says it could be another two years before anyone can get a prescription for medicinal marijuana filled. Stain says that's because numerous steps need to be accomplished first.

"We have our policy team putting together the overall structure of what the rules and regulations are going to look like. We have people working and getting the rules and regulations from other states and we're beginning to put together a proposed set of rules."
 
Strain says they must start with the Board of Medical Examiners creating a set of rules for the prescription, then the Board of Pharmacy has to adopt a set of regulations and a document that describes the production parameters. He says LSU and Southern's AgCenter's will have first opportunity to grow the weed that will turn into pill for medical purposes.
"We are working to find out from LSU and Southern, again that's going to be a 60 day period before they will tell us if they will be the producers of the product."
 
Strain says the purest and safest form of the drug will only be for people suffering from cancer, glaucoma and some forms of cerebral palsy. He says they are starting from scratch because rules need to be made to obtain seeds or get seeds from other states.
"So we have to get these rules right. We have to make it consistent with the will of the legislature and also in such a manner where the final product is something that will help the patients that are being treated."

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According to a study by Estately.com, Louisiana comes in number 5 for the states with the most couch potatoes per capita. Lead blogger Ryan Nickum says they came up with this ranking by calculating 8 different factors, including hours per day watching TV and Laz-E-Boy retailers per captia.

"Fast food restaurants per capita, frequency of which local people exercise, the obesity rate, number of hours worked per day on average, if they like soap operas and if they like video games.

Nickum says the state came in 5th for hours per day watching TV and saw a correlation with watching TV and the obesity ranking throughout all states. He says this study could open people's eyes and push them to get up and moving.
 
"Well I'm sure this can probably be used for some motivation for maybe turn the TV off and try to get some exercise but there are probably a couple ways to look at it."
 
Nickum says the Louisiana summer heat is a factor on why we have so many couch potatoes. He says his study found that people who live in colder climates, tend to get out more expect for Ohio who ranked number one for couch potatoes per capita.
 
"If you live in Ohio, you should really just get outside and do something. If you live in Louisiana, I mean if you're going to be stuck on a couch somewhere, I'd want to be stuck in Louisiana provided there is air conditioning."

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There is some concern that the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in the United States could potentially lead to lawsuits against churches.  Louisiana Baptist Convention President Steve Horn says it's his understanding that the ruling gives protection to churches and pastors.  


But he says that doesn't mean the issue could not come up in the future.
 
"I know people would say, 'You can't be afraid about that.'  But, I guess, in light of some recent activity, it's hard not to be at least watching what's going to happen in the future, in that regard."

He says, as he reads the ruling, lawsuits are not something that should overly concern churches.  But Horn says the Supreme Court ruling sort of negates ultimate protection for churches who refuse to perform or host same-sex marriages due to their religious beliefs.

"The state of Louisiana has indicated that they're not going to issue licenses and now we're being told by the Supreme Court we have to.  So, how we arrive at that ultimate protection, I think, is anybody's guess right now."

But Horn, who pastors at First Baptist Lafayette, says the four dissenting Supreme Court Justices seemed to be concerned about lawsuits against churches when they wrote their dissent.

"If they're concerned about it, I guess there is some degree of concern." 

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One of the first same-sex marriage licenses in the state went to Scott Kirkland and Kenneth Parker. They arrived at the East Baton Rouge Clerk of court's office shortly before 2 PM on Monday. Louisiana was the last state to start issuing licenses and Kirkland says it was frustrating when they couldn't get one after the Supreme Court ruling on Friday.


"Gosh, last weekend we almost eloped to Florida, because we were tired of waiting," Kirkland said. "(Kenneth) talked me into waiting, to see if the decision would come out and sure enough it did."
 
The Louisiana Clerks of Court initially advised parish clerks to wait 25 days before issuing the licenses. But many parishes starting issuing them on Monday, knowing that it was unlikely for the nation's highest court to reverse its decision that legalized gay marriage. Kirkland says it was important for them to get a license in Louisiana.
 
"The whole point of wanting our license here was so that our friends and family can come here (for a wedding reception)," Kirkland said. 
 
Sarah Jane Brady, executive director for the Forum for Equality, is thrilled that clerks of court around the state are allowing same sex couples to get married.
 
"It's an amazing moment," Brady said.  

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The National Weather Service is now calling for the Red River in Shreveport to crest Tuesday at 31-feet. Hydrologist C.S. Ross says this revised forecast puts the crest a few inches lower than what was previously expected.

 
"We lowered it from 32.5, a few days ago, to 31 feet as of this morning."
 
Ross says the projected 31-foot crest is six feet lower than the crest in mid-June. He says impact from flood waters will be minimal.
 
"We don't think there will be any home flooding at this time with the 31 foot crest in Shreveport." 
 
Ross says the Red River will likely fall back below flood stage on July 2nd, but remain high through the Fourth of July Holiday Weekend.
 
"The Red River will remain some 25 to 26 to 27 feet, depending on how the upstream reservoir releases shake out through at least late August." 

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An associate professor at LSU has been fired after using foul language and telling sexually-themed jokes to students.  Teresa Buchanan was terminated after school administrators stated her language and humor created a hostile learning environment.  


Professor Kevin Cope, LSU Faculty Senate President, says this incident stems from a false sense of the protection of students.
 
"Students need to be exposed to all kinds of ideas and all kinds of teaching styles and to try to put them in some cocoon where they'll never hear anything nasty is not going to be productive."

Buchanan was dismissed even after a five faculty member committee in March recommended she keep her job.  Buchanan taught elementary education at the school.  Cope says there is a big difference in using bad language and targeting bad language.  He says if you call someone a so-and-so, that's something that would require discipline.

"If on the other hand you say here's an example of the kind of language you're going to hear when you're in an impoverished school district or dealing with troubled youth, that's a different matter, altogether."

Buchanan says she will fight her termination in court.  LSU has no comment pending potential litigation.  Cope feels Buchanan has a strong case and a good chance of having this decision reversed.  Cope says if the school is going to take this attitude on foul language, it should extend beyond the classroom.

"We need to go into the football program and clean up the act of all the coaches." 

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The US Supreme Court rules a controversial drug called midazolam can be used for lethal injections. Gary Clements, an anti-death penalty lawyer in New Orleans, is disappointed with the ruling, because the sedative did not perform like it should have in executions in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma.


"Five justices on the Supreme Court say the (plantiffs) didn't make a good enough case that this drug would be harmful, I don't think that makes a whole lot of sense," Clements said.
 
This case originated in Oklahoma over concerns that it violated the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Louisiana's lethal injection protocol allows for midazolam, but has never used it. And Clements wonders if Louisiana ever will.
 
"They've also indicated that they are out of it at this point, and they were looking at other options," Clements said.
 
Last week, a federal judge in Baton Rouge put on hold any execution in Louisiana until July of 2016, so the state can determine how they will carry out a death sentence. Clements says despite today's 5-4 decision, there is hope that one day any form of capital punishment will be prohibited. 
 
"Two justices in their dissent, Justice Stephen G Bryer and Bader Ginsburg, essentially said that in their opinion that the death penalty is categorically unconstitutional," Clements said.  

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Louisiana clerks of court who turn away gay couples seeking a marriage license could face lawsuits for refusing to do so.  Chairman of the Forum for Equality, Chris Otten, says they have sent a letter to the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association putting them on notice.


"That if clerks continue not to follow the Supreme Court's ruling they're opening themselves up to both personal and public liability under 1983, which is a civil rights protection statute under federal law."

The Jindal Administration has stated that they are waiting on a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Louisiana's gay marriage law before complying with the Supreme Court's decision.  Otten is hopeful the court will rule soon and officials will immediately begin issuing licenses.

"But to the extent that there is a delay in the ruling by the court and state officials use that as an excuse or even if there is an immediate ruling and state officials continue to delay, then I think they're going to face some significant problems."

The Jefferson Parish clerk-of-court began issuing same-sex marriage licenses today. Otten says, although his organization is prepared to go to court over this, the challenge doesn't have to come from them.

"Any individual in the state that applies for license and is denied could conceivably do that." 
 
Calcasieu Parish also plans to begin issuing licenses. Sarah Jane Brady with Forum For Equality Louisiana says she hopes to see all parishes getting on board.
 
"And look at this and say this is the moment where we all need to look at what's happening in our country and start respecting the same sex couples that love each other and wish to be married," said Brady.


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A report by Yahoo says Louisiana has the second most lightning strikes a year in the country. Louisiana trails Florida but is just ahead of Mississippi. State Climatologist Barry Keim says we average about 827,000 strikes a year and lightning has caused 142 fatalities since 1959, or about 2.5 deaths a year.

"We have an abundance of thunderstorms obviously, as do all the other states along the Gulf coast and we also spend a whole lot of time outdoors."
 
Keim says Louisianians spend most of our time hunting, fishing, and participating in other outdoor activities which increases our vulnerability to lightning strikes. He also debunks a myths about what happens when lightning hits.
"A lot of people think the rubber soles on their shoes will protect them from lightning, well they don't. Most people get their shoes blown off their feet when they get struck by lightning."
 
According to State Farm, Louisiana ranks 4th in the nation for lightning claims. In 2014, State Farm paid 6.5 million for more than 13-hundred insurance claims related to lightning stikes in Louisiana. Keim advises people to get in a car or go inside if lightning gets bad during a thunderstorm and no matter what, don't hide under a tree. He says be careful when touching metal objects when lightning can be seen. Keim advises people to get in a car or go inside if lightning gets bad during a thunderstorm and no matter what, don't hide under a tree. He says be careful when touching metal objects when lightning can be seen.
"Go inside, you really need to get into a sturdy building where you have walls all around you. That is the safest place to be."

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According to 247 sports, LSU's 2016 football recruiting class is number one in the country. With national signing day still several months away, the Tigers have 17 verbal commitments, including two five-star prospects, cornerback Saivion Smith from Florida and St. Thomas Aquinas DT Edwin Alexander from Hammond.
 
247 sports, Shea Dixon, says recent assistant coach hires from Coach Les Miles are paying off. 
 
"Obviously, (Defensive Line coach Ed) Orgeron and (Defensive Coordinator) Kevin Steele, but also (Special Teams and Linebackers coach) Bradley Dale Peveto has proved to be pretty valuable for them on the recruiting trail this spring," Dixon said. "There's a lot of talent in Louisiana, a lot of talent in east Texas and they got their quarterback early on, Feleipe Franks, and he's number one guy in the country."
 
Dixon says not only is LSU receiving verbal commitments from some talented football players, they are also filling positions of need, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
 
"They had to get some defensive linemen, they've done that so far, locking up four or five guys, and they had to get linebackers, and they've already been stocking up on guys who can play outside and inside linebacker."
 
Ten of LSU's commitments are from Louisiana. Dixon says the Tigers are also doing the well in Texas, as four of their verbal pledges are from the Lone Star state.
 
"Eric Monroe (Houston,Texas) is the number one safety in the country, Erick Fowler (Manor, Texas) is a top 100 linebacker, so hey had offers from anywhere," Dixon said.   
 
 

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In Louisiana Radio Network's ongoing gubernatorial Q&A, we asked the four major candidates about agriculture. We asked, if elected, would you propose a budget that keeps funding levels for the Department of Ag and the LSU and Southern AgCenters at least at their current level?

Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne says it's important to keep funding these entities because agriculture has a $12 billion economic impact on the state.

"From big farming operations that spread out over thousands of acres, to smaller family farms. They're all a vital part of our economy and our culture." 

Democratic Amite Representative John Bel Edwards says he's commited to maintain funding to the AgCenters. He says, since 2008, state funding for the LSU AgCenter has been cut 23-percent and Southern's AgCenter funding has dropped by 30-percent.

"It is imperative for Louisiana's future that we turn the corner and start investing in our AgCenters. This is because agriculture and forestry make a significant contribution to our state's economy."   

US Senator David Vitter says it's important to stabilize the budgets for these entities. He says since 2008, the number of full-time employees at the LSU AgCenter has decreased by 31-percent.

"That leaves high priority research and food safety programs among others, understaffed. So we need to reverse that and I will reverse that." 

Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle says he's committed to continue funding at current or higher levels. He says as as goes Louisiana's farming, in a lot of ways, so goes Louisiana's economy as a whole.

"When our farmers thrive, I believe we all thrive. I believe in the family and I believe in the Family Forum. Therefore, agriculture will play a vital role in my administration's economic development plan." 

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According to a UCLA Williams Institute study, same sex marriages in Louisiana could mean a 28 million dollar boost to the economy over the next three years. Study author Lee Badgett says many businesses will thrive if this estimate proves true.

"So that includes the people who are going to come from out of state, and maybe staying in hotels and spending money while they're waiting for the wedding to happen. Cakes, and caterers and florists."
 
Badgett says there are about 4,000 gay couples living in Louisiana and it is expected that half will get married within the next three years. She says they used the US census to calculate the economic impact these marriages could have on the state.
 
"We multiplied by the typical wedding spending in bi-couples and sort of cut that down a little bit to adjust for different factors. "
 
Badgett says this will also increase the amount of jobs available in the wedding fields. She says the state government will find sales tax revenue from hotels and restaurant meals.
"In this particular case really everybody wins. The businesses win, the government wins, and the same sex couples are very happy to have the right to get married and to have that right in front of their friends and family."

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Despite a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, Louisiana is still not recognizing same-sex marriages. The Jindal Administration has said they are waiting on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on a case involving Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban. Loyola University law professor Dane Ciolino says the state is fighting an uphill battle.
(Pic of Buddy Caldwell)
 
"It's really just a matter of days before lower federal courts will ultimately order Louisiana to recognize gay marriages and to start issuing marriage licenses," Ciolino says. 
 
The Louisiana Clerks of Court Association say they are waiting for a 25-day period to end where Supreme Court rulings can be challenged. State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is advising city and parish clerks to also wait before issuing marriage licenses. Ciolino says this statement sends the message Louisiana intends to fight the federal government over a civil rights issue.
 
"Why the attorney general has decided to pick this highly technical battle is, perhaps, baffling," Ciolino says.
 
Ciolino says the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will move forward with its case on gay marriage. The ruling by the appeals court will mostly be a formality and Ciolino says the state won't have to wait long for its decision.
 
"And I would expect that's going to happen in a matter of days or weeks," he says.

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On the heels of the Supreme Court's landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage, Clerks of Court offices in Louisiana are initially holding off issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.  Louisiana Clerks of Court Association Executive Director Debbie Hudnall says they will not issue licenses until the Supreme Court challenge period is over.


"Rule 44 of the Supreme Court says that any petition for rehearing of any judgement of decision of the Court shall be filed within 25 days after the judgement of decision."

Hudnall says clerks are going to do what they're legally required to do, but for right now, same-sex couples are not able to get a marriage license in Louisiana.

"Based on the advice of counsel, I am advising the clerks that we should wait the 25 days for that delay before issuing any license."
 
A statement from the Attorney General's Office said that it has found nothing in today's decision that makes the Court's order effective immediately.  Therefore, there is not yet a legal requirement for officials to issue marriage licenses or perform marriages for same-sex couples in Louisiana.  The AG's Office will be watching for the Court to issue a mandate or order making today's decision final and effective and will issue a statement when that occurs. 

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Same sex couples across Louisiana are celebrating today's historic Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriages in every state. Matthew Patterson, with Equality Louisiana, says it's hard to put into words what this decision means to gay and lesbian couples.

“My hands are shaking when I read this opinion. I didn’t know I would be this profoundly affected by it until it actually happened,” Patterson said. 

But Gene Mills, with the Louisiana Family Forum, says the Supreme Court has stripped all Americans of the freedom to debate and decide marriage policy through the democratic process.

“According to (Justice Antonin) Scalia, they did what only congress or legislatures in power to do. They made law. That’s a very poor way to conduct policy,” Mills said.  

Patterson says the Supreme Court made the right decision in this case, because individual liberties should not be left up to individual voters or states to protect.

“And the court, obviously in my opinion, correctly found that the freedom to marry is a fundamental liberty, protected by the constitution, for any couple that wishes to be married,” Patterson said. 

Mills says the Supreme Court has created a litigation rich environment, because there will be churches who will seek to stand by their religious belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

"Which is why we’re encouraging nonprofits, churches, and schools to prepare," Mills said. "Get your bylaws in orders. Define what your terms are so you can be prepared for this next wave of litigation.”

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It is now illegal in Louisiana to post or share nude images of people on the internet without their consent. Governor Bobby Jindal signed Kenner Representative Julie Stokes' "revenge porn" bill into law.

Stokes says she is not surprised the governor signed the measure.
 
"He's always been a champion of human trafficking and issues like this and the prevention of things like this."

The new law makes it a crime to share an explicit image of someone on the internet without their permission.  Stokes says she's read and heard about many people who have had this happen to them.

"After the relationship's over the picture gets forwarded and people have attempted suicide based on how these pictures get used against them and the exploitive nature that they're used."

She says there are numerous cases of "revenge porn" that has caused irreparable damage to victims.  Violators of the law could face up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.  Stokes says this legislation sends a strong message.

"It's not your right to cause someone, sometimes, irreparable emotional harm just because you're mad at them, or want to get back at them, or want to get back at them, or want to cyber-bully them.  I just think we have to draw the line somewhere."

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The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is taking part in Operation Dry Water this weekend. The operation calls for increased patrols on the water to check for boaters driving while drunk. LDWF Spokesperson Adam Einck says they've participated in this federal event since 2009.

"It's basically a weekend where we focus more on DWI enforcement on the water. WE're looking for impaired operators of vessels and then if we do find them then they will be getting a citation for DWI."
 
Einck says we're getting close to the 4th of July and the boating season is in full force. He says LDWF's boaters safety course has helped to keep fatalities on the water lower than ever.
 
"That's really helped drive these numbers down. Last year we have 18 fatalities and so far this year we've had 9. So we're hoping to keep it under 20 this year and I think we're on pace to do so. "
 
Einck says patrols will be checking the hot spots for drinking this weekend. He says many people aren't aware that DWI laws on the water are the same as if you were driving a car.
 
"You're looking at losing your drivers license up to a year, a thousand dollars in fines, having your insurance go up, the whole nine yards."

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Michelle Southern reporting.
As temperatures continue to rise this summer it's a good idea to remember your pets require special care to avoid heatstroke. The LSU Veterinary School says they have already seen two fatal cases of heatstroke this month. 


Associate professor and veterinarian Dr. Kirk Ryan says dogs can't tolerate scorching temperatures and extreme exercise.

"It's unfortunately not very uncommon that we see animals that are out for a good time with their owners during hot weather that become victims of heat related illness," said Ryan.

Ryan says dogs cannot tell us when they feel hot, and it's our responsibility to ensure that our pets have sufficient shelter from the sun. He says one of the most important things you can do is always make sure your pet has plenty of water.

"It's such a basic thing but it gets neglected all the time," says Ryan.

Ryan says puppies, kittens, older dogs and cats and animals with short snouts or muzzles such as pugs and bulldogs are at increased risk. 

He says heatstroke is an absolute emergency and needs to be treated immediately by cooling off with a water hose and going to a vet.

"External cooling is good, but they need to go to a veterinary clinic and usually get IV fluids," said Ryan. "We want to cool the surface of the dog, but we also want to cool internal organs as well."


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