News for Tuesday 043013
By Dave Graichen
The House Appropriations committee approves a spending plan for next fiscal year that does not contain any one-time money for recurring expenses. As written, removal of one-time dollars from the state's 24-billion dollar budget, means a 22-percent across the board reduction in funding for all state agencies, including higher education. . Higher Ed Commissioner Jim Purcell says such a reduction in funding for higher education next fiscal year would not be good for the state. The proposed budget for next fiscal year heads to the House floor, and it will be voted on May ninth.
After months of allegations, investigation, arguments and meetings, the Louisiana College Board of Trustees could decide Tuesday on whether Joe Aguillard will remain president of school. The 34-member board is expecting to hear competing motions — one that would terminate Aguillard and another that would that would affirm him as president. The vote is expected to be close.
The state's Legislative Auditor releases a report that finds the overall impact of the state's aggressive film & TV tax incentives are a lot less than many originally believed. For example, the state spent $197-million on tax credits for production projects in 2010 and received $27-million in tax revenue in return. Overall, the state has given up about $800-million in tax breaks for the movies over the past 5 years.
Deputies in Rapides Parish bust a drug suspect, who they say tried to stash his dope on the candy aisle of a convenience store. Sheriff's Lt. Tommy Carnline says officers were watching the area outside the store for drug activity. They saw a transaction and moved in to make the arrest, but the suspected ducked into the
store. Store workers pointed out that the suspect, Donald Hampton, put something on a shelf among the candy. It turned out to be crystal meth rocks.
In response to federal questions, state health officials scaled back their request for blanket approval of the supplemental Medicaid financing included in the private takeover of LSU hospitals. The state Department of Health and Hospitals has submitted only a request for approval of a deal involving Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called CMS, had asked numerous questions about an earlier broad-ranging submission to encompass all potential deals. Among the questions was how the state could propose a November 2012 effective date when no agreements had even been signed at that point.
LSU has released a written statement indicating running back Jeremy Hill has been suspended from the team after his arrest for battery last weekend. Coach Les Miles says he won't comment until the matter plays out through the legal system. Hill was busted after a fight at Reggie's Bar near the LSU campus and charged with simple battery. He was released on $500 bond. Hill was already on probation for a sexual encounter he admitted to with a 14 year old girl.
A House committee has approved a constitutional amendment to make it financially easier to pay one's sharply increased property taxes. Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley, of Lake Charles, authored the bill. He says he did so after hearing from homeowners who were hit with huge property tax increases. Kleckley proposes a three-year phase-in, if the tax increase is 15% or more over the previous year. It will need a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate before it could be sent to voters to
decide on the fall ballot.
The Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee supported a measure to repeal state tax credits for wind energy systems and to phase down tax breaks for solar energy systems. The program has cost far more than originally estimated, and lawmakers have been concerned about the price tag. House Bill 705 by state Rep. Erich Ponti of Baton Rouge, was approved without objection and heads next to the House floor for debate.
A bill aimed at limiting the finance charges on consumer litigation loans sparked heated debate in the state Senate Monday afternoon. State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said he filed Senate Bill 166 because people can end up paying way too much in fees when they borrow money ahead of an expected settlement. The loans have been compared to pay day loans. Critics contend that litigants borrow money that will be repaid once they receive a settlement but often end up paying exorbitant fees. The loans are promoted as a way for plaintiffs to stay in litigation while still paying their bills.
The LSU AgCenter says high prices and record yields for corn and soybeans drove Louisiana's agricultural economy to a record high of $11.4-billion last year. That's about 6.5 percent more than the 2011 amount of $10.7-billion.
News for Monday 042913
By Dave Graichen
Nearly $500 million likely will melt away when legislators start making changes to the proposed state spending plan today. The Louisiana House Appropriations Committee will start tackling the $24.7 billion state operating budget that Gov. Bobby Jindal presented for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The committee will make changes after weeks of testimony that raised concerns about the amount of one-time, or nonrecurring, money piled into the budget. Some changes are certain to please both legislators and the public. The Jindal administration, for example, agreed last week to rethink planned cuts to battered women’s shelters, cancer screenings and a program that helps senior citizens find free or discount prescriptions.
At the State Capitol, the House Appropriations Committee will begin work on the annual state budget by trying to trim a half-a-billion dollars from Governor Jindal's proposed budget plan. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley says the issue is about $500-million of what's proposed by the Governor, that being non-recurring revenue. Last Spring the House adopted the Geymann Rule, authored by Lake Charles Rep. Brett Geymann, which mandates NO use of one-time money on recurring expenditures. Kleckley says that leaves the Appropriations Committee with the unenviable task of finding where to cut the budget to meet the new rule. It may all be for nothing though since the Senate has no Geymann Rule, and could add the one- time money back into the budget bill.
Food banks around the state are lobbying lawmakers to include $5-million in next fiscal year's budget to help their efforts to feed the needy. The Food Bank of Central Louisiana, says hunger is a real issue in our state and state Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain agrees. He'd like to see that $5-million in the budget, to help food banks buy and distribute food to the thousands of Louisiana residents who have trouble putting food on the dinner plate. The House Appropriations Committee begins its work on the state budget today. Currently there is nothing in there for Food Banks.
Legislators who have tried and failed to pass laws that would rein in the runaway costs of TOPS, the state’s merit-based college scholarship, could find broader support by focusing on the program’s academic requirements rather than its financial cost to the state. A survey of nearly 1,000 Louisiana residents has been noticed by officials. Part of the 2013 Louisiana Survey, conducted by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, reported that 78 percent of respondents are against reducing the total amount of money students receive from the program. Another majority, 57 percent of the survey’s respondents, support increasing the academic requirements for the Tops program.
Former state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein exchanged "hundreds of telephone calls and thousands of text messages" with a former employer who was bidding on a claims processing contract with the agency, according to a letter released by the state Division of Administration. Greenstein worked for CNSI before working for the state. The contract was worth $200-million,
but was abruptly cancelled when the seeming impropriety came to light. Greenstein's last day on the job is Wednesday.
A bill to require Internet vendors to charge to all applicable state and local sales taxes on your purchases is moving through the U.S. Senate. Senator Mary Landrieu is in support. She says Louisiana loses out on hundreds of millions in tax revenue yearly. Republicans say this represents a new tax on consumers, but Landrieu
Disagrees, saying it simply enforces collection of a tax already on the books.
LSU running back Jeremy Hill faces an uncertain future after he was arrested outside of a nightclub near campus. Hill faces a simple battery charge after he allegedly punched a victim outside of Reggie's Bar. East Baton Rouge D-A Hillar Moore says Hill may have violated his probation stemming from a previous arrest. The former prep star at Redemptorist in Baton Rouge, pleaded guilty in January 2012 for engaging in a sexual act with a 14-year-old girl in the school locker room. Hill received a suspended six-month prison sentence and placed on probation for 2 years. Moore says Judge Bonnie Jackson will determine if Hill violated his probation. Moore says that could mean ordering Hill to serve his six-month prison .
A new survey report ranks Louisiana among America's Top Five Least- Stressed States. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index report ranks us #2, behind only Hawaii for average stress levels of our citizens. You can read the whole report online at "well-beingindex.com
Preliminary data by the Department of Health and Hospital's Birth Outcomes Initiative indicates babies born in Louisiana are spending fewer days in intensive care. DHH Medicaid Medical Director Dr. Rebecca Gee says this shows the efforts of the 58 birthing hospitals in the state's pledge to end elective deliveries before 39 weeks, is working. Gee says from the time they began in Births Outcomes Initiative in 2010
to 2012, Louisiana's babies have spent 20,000 fewer days in the NICU.
A Lake Charles man known for organizing "Just For Jesus" rallies is facing drug charges. Calcasieu Parish deputies arrested James Bertrand Jr. last week for possession of crack cocaine and drug distribution. Bertrand has been arrested four times before on various charges; one of those was less than two weeks ago at a local casino--for possessing cocaine.
It was a tough weekend for the LSU baseball team. They lost 2 of 3 to South Carolina. Up next, the Tigers welcome McNeese to the box Tuesday night.
News for Friday 042613
By Dave Graichen
An article in today’s Town Talk reports a major Louisiana College donor has announced it no longer will support the college “due to actions of President [Joe] Aguillard.
The Cason Foundation has donated $5 million to the private Baptist college in Pineville over the last 2 1/2 years to fund the Caskey School of Divinity. Edgar Cason, who established the foundation along with his wife, Flo, sent a letter dated April 15 to members of the LC Board of Trustees announcing he was withdrawing all future financial support. A report after an investigation by an independent New Orleans law firm, found that Aguillard had improperly diverted nearly $60,000 in funds donated to the Divinity School for use in LC’s projects in Tanzania, Africa. A separate internal committee composed of five LC board members has issued a report saying Aguillard did nothing wrong.
The Rapides Parish School Board approved a three-year contract for Superintendent Nason “Tony” Authement, who will begin work June 1. The contract includes a $160,000 base salary, an $800 monthly expense account and $3,500 for moving expenses. Authement currently resides in Houma. Former Rapides Parish Superintendent Dr.Gary L. Jones earned $145,000 in the final year of his contract.
US Senator Mary Landrieu believes the strong support that's been on display from the local community could help Fort Polk avoid a reduction in troops. The Army is considering whether to reduce Fort Polk's personnel in half as it looks to reduce its active duty ranks. Landrieu says the Army should not overlook the significant investments that have been made on this base. Fort Polk is among 21 posts nationally that could see a significant reduction in soldiers.
A House committee approves legislation that delays implementing a new performance evaluation system for teachers for a year. The bill is by Minden Rep. Gary Reynolds. He says this is because of fierce opposition from teachers and teachers unions, who feel the new review method is flawed. Reynolds says his bill puts the whole thing
on hold. The so-called Compass evaluation method, also called the Value added
Model, uses student performance on standardized tests as half the teacher's performance evaluation. Reynolds says during the one-year delay, the system can be fine-tuned to satisfy all parties involved.
House Speaker Chuck Kleckley says he doubts legislative attempts to force Louisiana to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid will go anywhere this session. He says a lot of the problem is inconclusive data on what it would mean fiscally for the state to offer Medicaid coverage to about 400-thousand more residents who can't afford their
own health insurance. A House Committee rejected a Medicaid expansion bill this week. Kleckley says other proposed Medicaid bills will likely go nowhere. Governor Jindal says he'll veto any such bill that come to his desk.
In response to Decembers Connecticut school shooting, the House has passed a bill that requires state schools to work with local law enforcement to create a written crisis response plan, and to rehearse that plan as well. The bill goes to the Senate for committee assignment and review.
The House has passed legislation that allows anyone with a concealed weapon carry permit to bring their gun into a restaurant that serves alcohol. Haughton Rep. Henry Burns original bill applied only to off-duty cops, but during committee hearing he successfully amended the measure to include ALL CCP holders. The final vote was 63-25, sending the bill over to the Senate
The Senate Education Committee unanimously votes against a proposal to cap the TOPS scholarship program. The bill by Jennings Senator Blade Morrish faced opposition from the governor's office. Morrish says he filed the bill as a way to preserve the TOPS scholarship because it's becoming too costly for the for the state
to fund, as tuition costs continue to rise. The bill is essentially dead for the session.
The world famous New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival starts today, and local tourism officials are hoping for record attendance. Kelly Schulz, with the Greater New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the 2012 Jazz Fest brought just over 450-thousand visitors, from all over the globe, to the Crescent City. Also this weekend, the festival international continues in Lafayette.
A spokesman with Texas Brine says a seismic survey shows that the subsurface below the sinkhole in Assumption Parish is stable. They say hopefully residents in Bayou Corne will be able to return to their homes in early August. That would be a full year after they were evacuated.
The LSU College of Engineering has received a $15 million gift commitment from Phyllis M. Taylor to go towards the renovation of Patrick F. Taylor Hall and construction of a chemical engineering facility. Rick Koubek (Co-Beck), Dean of the LSU College of Engineering, says this contribution is a game changer. Koubek says this is the largest private donation to the LSU College of Engineering in its history. He says the entire project is $100 million and the state has said it will come up with half if they come up with the other half.
Because of the federal sequestration's severe budget cuts an on-going project aimed at mapping the annual dead zone that forms off our coast each summer maybe dropped. The dead zone is caused by large-scale agriculture being dumped into the Mississippi that feeds into the Gulf. Mapping helps detect if programs created to end the problem are working.
This year's attempt at a law ensuring equal pay for men and women who do the same work has stalled. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee deadlocked with a 4-4 vote. Bill sponsor Senator Ed Murray of New Orleans can try it again in a future committee meeting.
Two of the top baseball programs in the country over the last five years meet in Alex Box Stadium tonight as LSU hosts South Carolina. Aaron Nola will be on the hill for the Tigers. You can hear the entire series on 970 KSYL. Airtime tonight, 6:30.
News for Thursday 042513
By Dave Graichen
An independent investigation, conducted by a new Orleans law firm, looking into the actions of Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard, found he “engaged in falsehoods and misrepresented material information to the Board of Trustees on countless occasions.” However, A special committee of the LC board found Aguillard “has not acted improperly.” That committee is due to report back to the board at a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday on the LC Pineville campus .
Central Louisiana community leaders spent Tuesday and Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon making the case with the U.S. Army for the sustained viability of Fort Polk and its multibillion-dollar annual impact in the state. Baton Rouge economist Loren Scott estimated that Fort Polk has an annual $1.86 billion economic impact, including a $980 million payroll, which makes Fort Polk the largest federal employer in the state. (Scott calculated that a reduction of 5,300 troops would result in an annual loss to the state government of more than $24 million and more than $7 million in local government revenues. Counting families, contractors and more, the troop reduction would mean a total population of more than 20,700 people.)
LSU System President Dr. William L. Jenkins has named a 20-member search committee of faculty, staff and students, as well as community leaders to help select the next chancellor for LSU-Alexandria. The panel that will recommend finalists for the post to the LSU Board of Supervisors, who will ultimately choose the new chancellor to succeed David P. Manuel, who is set to begin serving as chancellor of Drury University in Springfield, Mo., in May.
The House Health and Welfare committee votes down a proposal that would require Louisiana to cover more uninsured people through the state's Medicaid program. An expansion of the Medicaid program is part of the federal health care reforms. Governor Jindal lobbied against it. Supporters of the Medicaid expansion say it will help cover 400-thousand Louisiana residents who currently lack health insurance. But Jindal says the Medicaid Program is inefficient and outdated and it doesn't make sense to expand it.. A Medicaid expansion bill was also heard in Senate Health and
Welfare but was deferred one week.
The controversial bill to allow optometrists to perform eye procedures currently only allowed to ophthalmologists was pulled from House debate today, by its author Monroe area Rep. Frank Hoffman. Hoffman asked to return the bill to the calendar, while he worked on some amendments that would make the measure more
acceptable to ophthalmologists. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors; most optometrists are not.
A proposal seeking to create a seamless network of early childhood education programs and standards for kindergarten readiness cleared the Senate without opposition. Under Senate Bill 130 the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education would oversee all publicly-funded programs that provide education services to children from birth to age 5. The bill would require BESE to establish and implement common standards for kindergarten readiness, assessment and accountability. The system would be in place by the 2015-2016 school year. The bill now moves to the house.
Another attempt to place a cap on TOPS performance based college tuition grants is scheduled in the Senate Education Committee tomorrow. Jennings Senator Blade Moorish is the sponsor. He says he supports TOPS, but it's becoming unsustainable. His bill would cap it at its current level plus ten percent. TOPS costs taxpayers about
$168-million a year, and it's projected to double in cost by 2017.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow residents to apply for a lifetime permit to carry a concealed weapon. The bill is sponsored by freshman Rep. Barry Ivey, of Baton Rouge, who says the measure is simply an option for approved CCP holders at a $500 cost. The House passed the bill by 64-19 vote; sending it over to the Senate.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell announces 9 people have been arrested in the latest undercover investigation targeting child predators across Southern Louisiana. HE says the Louisiana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force works tirelessly to pursue people who exploit and victimize children online. Additional arrests are
possible as the investigations continue.
According to a report by the Council For A Better Louisiana, public schools are still facing "chronic challenges." CABL's review is called the Louisiana Report Card on Major Education Initiatives. CABLE President Barry Erwin says 72.3 percent of high school students graduated on time last year and the number of dropouts has
dramatically declined in recent years. He hopes that policy makers will use the report to understand the urgency in keeping momentum going.
Pointe Copuee Parish deputies are investigating the murder of a 92-year-old woman inside her New Roads home. Sheriff Bud Torres says Buelleur Morris was found beaten to death yesterday by her family. He says whoever killed the elderly woman was let into the home, and did not force entry.
On the heels of last week's tragedy in Boston, a Vermillion Parish company has seen a high demand from law enforcement agencies for their trained bomb-sniffing dogs. US K9 Unlimited owner Roger Abshire says his dogs have been in demand across the country, even locally here in Louisiana.
Legislation aimed at ensuring that women and men are compensated equally for doing the same work stalled Wednesday in the state Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. The panel deadlocked in a 4-4 vote for Senate Bill 153 by state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans. Murray could try to revive the measure at another meeting.
News for Wednesday 042413
By Dave Graichen
Louisiana gets hit with another cold front today, but State Climatologist Barry Keim says the chances for severe weather associated with this front are low. Keim says we will see some rain today though, with the possibility of some areas seeing up to two inches of rainfall, especially in south Louisiana.
At the State Capitol, the House Ways & Means Committee has rejected Monroe Rep. Katrina Jackson's bill, that would have doubled the tax on cigarettes--bringing it up the level of Mississippi's tobacco tax. The bill failed the pass the committee by a vote of 11-7. It seems any efforts to raise the cigarette tax may be dead for the session. Two other tobacco tax bills have been deferred by their sponsors.
The House has approved a bill that would protect the Second Amendment rights of Louisianans from possible future federal gun regulations against owning semi-automatic weapons or having large capacity magazines. Debate was long and heated, with many Democrat House members challenging people's need to own such guns, and questioning the bill's ability to withstand a legal challenge. In the end the bill was approved by a 67-25 vote and will go to the Senate for committee review.
The House also passed Bossier City Rep. Jeff Thompson's bill that would ban any public release of private information on who in the state has a concealed weapon carry permit. Debate lasted over an hour. Thompson says concealed carry information is already private, and his bill would place a $10-thousand fine on anyone who intentionally makes it public, as was recently done by the New York Times in the
wake of the Newtown, CT school shooting. Thompson's bill passed by a 76-18 vote and moves to the Senate.
Public school teachers from across Louisiana are expected at the capitol today as the legislature takes up education matters. The House Education Committee will consider three bills which are already state law, but subject to a court challenge. Part of that removed seniority as the key factor in teacher layoff decisions.
Lafayette's Festival International bringing in music lovers from around the world kicks off today. The annual 5-day festival is always held during the last full week of April. Kelly Strenge with the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Bureau says the free festival is a celebration of diversity in music. She says historic downtown Lafayette is transformed into an entertainment complex featuring six music stages, food court areas, street musicians and more. Strenge says they are expecting between 300 to 350 thousand people to attend the festival through the weekend.
Many of us over the years have tempted fate and slipped around the gates at a railroad crossing to beat the train. It’s not a good idea any time, especially when you are driving a school bus filled with kids. A Lafayette parish school bus driver learned that lesson the hard way. He received a ticket for doing just that. He may also lose his job.
State Police say they'll take part in another national prescription drug take-back day this Saturday. They say it's an effort to help local residents rid their homes of potentially dangerous prescription drugs. Expired, unused, and unwanted medications may be brought for disposal from 10 until 2 Saturday, to any State Police Troop.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill that will allow future drivers of a three-wheeled car to be made in Shreveport to do so without a helmet. Elio Motors will revitalize the old General Motors manufacturing plant in Shreveport to produce the three wheeled car which seats two and gets high gas mileage. The bill now heads to the Senate.
With a boom in business comes an interesting employee perk. The Port of Lake Charles plans to build an "employee village". They are expected to add over 5,000 permanent jobs over the next two years. The $70 million dollar village will include recreation facilities and more. Scheduled completion is set for November of next year.
The Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office says a woman was shot and killed in New Iberia last night. They say she was discovered lying on the street and she had been shot twice. The identity of the 41 year old woman is being withheld until the next of kin can be notified. No arrests have been made.. the investigation is ongoing.
Gruesome testimony was heard in a senate committee yesterday. It involved a bill that adds "burning by fire" in a domestic abuse case as a crime that is punishable by five to fifty years in prison. A woman from Ouachita Parish told the story of her former boyfriend who used an iron to burn her. Senate Bill 70 advances to the Senate floor.
News for Tuesday 042313
By Dave Graichen
The effort to prevent a troop drawdown at Fort Polk continues today in Washington D-C. Seventeen Fort Polk Progress members are in the nation's capitol to make the case the military base should be strengthened. The Department of the Army is considering whether to add or reduce troops at Fort Polk.
Opposition from lobbyists and not enough "Yes" votes on the House Ways and Means committee puts a halt on an attempt to raise the state cigarette tax. Four bills that sought to raise the state tax on cigarettes do not make it out of the House Ways and Means Committee Monday. They only debated one of the measures and that was a proposal to raise the tax on cigarettes from 36-cents a pack to $1.41, but the votes were not there. Governor Jindal said he would veto any cigarette tax increase, unless lawmakers pass another measure that would reduce taxes elsewhere.
A new poll from LSU shows nearly two-thirds of Louisiana feel the big cuts being made to state health care are unnecessary, and that Governor Jindal should accept federal money to expand Medicaid. LSU Public Policy Research Lab Director Kirby Goidel (goy-DEL) says almost 2 out of 3 don't want to see further health care cuts. The House Health & Welfare Committee is scheduled this week to hear three bills pertaining to taking the federal Medicaid expansion money that's part of the President's health care reforms. Goidel says 70% of Louisianans polled say "take the money".
For the 3rd year in a row Louisiana has once again ranked highest in the nation for car insurance rates. Insure.com notes a variety of factors make up the ranking. Including
the number uninsured drivers as well as the number of insurers competing for business, driving conditions, and the way state insurance systems are set up.
The Louisiana Senate has overwhelmingly agreed to a new abortion restriction that would require doctors to be present when the abortion pill is administered. Senators voted 32-2 Monday for Senate Bill 90, which would prohibit doctors from remotely administering the pill via video hookup, a process criticized as “telemedicine abortion.”
The abortion pill works during the first nine weeks of pregnancy, causing an embryo to detach from the uterine wall.
A Senate panel Monday killed legislation that would have reduced the pension benefits of many current state employees, teachers and others in some state or statewide system retirement systems. The Senate Retirement Committee voted 4-2 against passage of the legislation which state Sen. Barrow Peacock said he sponsored to improve the financial health of the pension plans. Opponents said the legislation had the same constitutional problem as pension revamp efforts Gov. Bobby Jindal failed to pass last year changing current employee’s contracts with their employers.
The fiscal hawks, a group of Louisiana House Republicans, take flight this week with a package of bills aimed at changing the state budget process. With income tax repeal likely dead for the session, the focus shifts to a state operating budget that funds health care, education and other public services. The hawks want to rein in the use of one-time, or nonrecurring, dollars for expenses that must be met year after year. Gov. Bobby Jindal did little to appease their concerns by proposing a $24.7 billion state spending plan that relies on more than $400 million in one-time money to fund the state’s public colleges and universities.
A bill that would ban employers from demanding access to personal social media and email accounts of potential employees or students passed in House Commerce and is now headed to the full House for further debate. Baton Rouge Representative Ted James says under his bill an employee who refused to show their boss their Facebook Page couldn't be punished unless the information could harm the employer.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's office says 5 people, three children and two women, were shot this Monday morning in Harvey. They say the shooting happened around 4:30 while all the victims were sleeping. Four suspects were arrested. Four of the victims injuries appear to be non-life threatening and one child is in critical condition.
The gas prices continue to drop. The current statewide average for a gallon of regular in Louisiana is $3.30 according to the American Automobile Association. That's down 22 cents from a month ago.
The Mississippi River at Vicksburg has been re-opened to vessel traffic after barges hit the U-S 80 railroad bridge yesterday morning. Lt. Ryan Gomez, with the US Coast Guard says a barge sank into the river as a result of the collision but it's been determined other vessels can still safely pass through. Gomez says the barges contained petroleum coke, but there are no environmental concerns at this time.
Trial begins today in Lafayette for a man accused of a 1989 murder. In 2006, DNA evidence connected Daniel Harmon to the rape and murder of Christina Wood. Jury selection in his trial starts tomorrow. Harmon was tried previously, but a mistrial was declared on a technicality.
Shreveport Police are, again this year, cracking down on cruising--which they define as large groups of vehicles driving up and down local streets very slowly, and parking and loitering in parks and parking lots. Complaints about cruisers run from obstructed traffic flow, to loud music and noise, to public intoxication & underage drinking, to suspected drug activity. Cruising patrols lasted well into summer last year in Shreveport.
A House committee has found favorable a bill that would let parish governments choose if they wish to post bilingual traffic signs. The bill is aimed for areas of Louisiana where folks still speak Cajun French. That bill will go forward to the House floor for debate.
Hundreds of public school teachers are expected at the State Capitol on Wednesday as lawmakers renew arguments over the same education changes that sparked bitter debates last year. The focus is the Louisiana House Education Committee, which meets at 9 a.m. and is set to consider three overhaul bills that are already state law but also the subject of a court challenge. Backers contend the bills will serve as insurance if the Supreme Court strikes down a 2012 law that trimmed the authority of local school boards, removed seniority as the key factor in teacher layoff decisions and revamps salary schedules.
State Senate President Pro tem Sharon Broome said she will seek funding for demolition of LSU’s Earl K. Long Medical Center during the current legislative session .
Broome said the hospital is antiquated and there are not many options available for its continued use because of its age and deterioration. The north Baton Rouge hospital closed April 15.
Three years after the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster, Baton Rouge wants more than $35 million in lost taxes and other expenses the city alleges are the responsibility of oil giant BP and several of its contractors. The city’s civil suit was filed late last week.
News for Monday 042213
By Dave Graichen
The House Ways and Means Committee will consider legislation this morning that would raise tobacco taxes. Monroe Representative Katrina Jackson proposes to increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 36-cents to 68-cents. Jackson is moving forward with her bill, even though Governor Jindal has said he'll "veto" any bill that raises taxes. Jackson says her proposed cigarette tax increase would bring in 129-million dollars a year in additional revenue. She says that's much needed money for a state that has a large revenue shortfall for next fiscal year.
The Louisiana Workforce Commission reports 31 consecutive months of jobs growth in the private sector; meaning a record of nearly 2-million people currently employed in Louisiana. LWC Executive Director Curt Eysink says the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the state with a March unemployment rate of 6.2-percent; significantly lower than the national average.
A political battle is brewing between the Governor and state lawmakers over privatization of state hospitals. Both the House and Senate have passed resolutions saying privatization plans for state hospitals now run by LSU should be approved by a Joint Budget Committee, but Mr. Jindal says those resolutions do not carry the weight of law. Governor Jindal says he'll consider a bill that would change state law where his hospital plans are concerned, but so far one hasn't emerged.
Nearly a year after Gov. Bobby Jindal declared that Louisiana wouldn’t tap into billions of federal dollars to expand Louisiana’s Medicaid program, lawmakers will take their first vote on whether to challenge his stance. Political squabbling over the federal health care law championed by President Barack Obama will be the nearly sole focus of Wednesday’s House Health and Welfare Committee hearing. Five measures on the agenda, all sponsored by Democrats, seek to enact the Medicaid expansion under the law. Similar proposals await debate in the Senate.
Saturday marked three years since the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf, which began a months-long struggle to contain the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Governor Bobby Jindal says about 200 miles of Louisiana marshes and beaches still have oil, sheen and tar balls. He says there have been measurable impacts on sea life in the Gulf as well. The Governor says BP needs to stop saying they'll make it right in commercials, and actually put up the money to get the job done.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Louisiana ranks 17th in the nation for the number of infants who are immunized by two years of age. State Immunization Director Dr. Frank Welch says 75-percent of two-year olds in Louisiana are up-to-date on their shots. Welch says this week is National Infant Immunization week and the goal is to encourage parents to make sure their child's immunizations are up to date. Also this week, The Louisiana Shots for Tots Coalition is sending reminder cards to parents of children who are behind on their shots.
A University of New Orleans study says Super Bowl 47 had a 480-million dollar economic impact for the region. John Williams, Dean of U-N-O's College of Business Administration, says that's a higher dollar figure than expected. He says it helped that the fans of the Super Bowl teams had to fly in and spent several nights in a hotel. The study also shows Super Bowl 47 generated 21 million dollars in state tax revenue and local governments in the greater New Orleans area received nearly 14-million dollars.
Governor Jindal threatens to veto proposed legislation that would add a 2-cent fee to all cell phone bills, and dedicate it to services for the hearing & speech-impaired. Mr. Jindal says, as written, he can't back it because it means extra tax revenue when the goal is revenue neutrality. Shreveport Rep. Patrick Williams, the bill's sponsor, says an existing 5-cent monthly fee on land lines to fund services for the deaf brings in less each year, as more people move to cell phones. Mr. Williams says by reducing that fee to 2-cents, and adding it to all cell phone accounts, $1-million yearly will be raised for the LA Commission for the Deaf.
The Eunice Police Department says a 30-year-old woman is under arrest after her pit bulls attacked and injured a mailman. Nicole Courville is booked with cruelty to animals, negligent injury and dogs running loose. Authorities say when officers responded one of the officers was attacked and that's when shots were fired. He said one dog was shot dead and two others were captured by animal control.
The Coast Guard closed the Mississippi River at Vicksburg after barges hit a railroad bridge there and about 30 barges broke free from the towboat “Captain Buck Lay.”
Petty Officer Ryan Tippets says nine towboats with 134 barges were waiting to get through Sunday evening. Every barge was accounted for, but the river remained closed with no word on when it might reopen. Tippets says three barges carried grain and the rest held coal. Tippets says one barge sank in the traffic channel. He did not know whether it must be removed before the channel can reopen.
The LSU Tigers completed spring practice on Saturday with the white team blanking the purple team 37-0. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns and Odell Beckham led all receivers with six catches for 202 yards and two TDs. Coach Les Miles told the press, he liked what he saw.
In LSU tiger baseball, the boys took 2 from Alabama over the weekend. The Tigers lost for just the second time in 20 games, falling to 37-4 overall and 15-3 in Southeastern Conference play. LSU remains atop the SEC West standings, four games ahead of second-place Arkansas. A huge SEC homestand begins Friday against South Carolina.
News for Friday 041913
By Dave Graichen
Alexandria police report an apparent home invasion took place early yesterday morning on 14th street in the city. According to police, Two suspects forced their way into the home, shooting one person in the leg and firing at another. The suspects then fled the scene. Police say their investigation has developed a person of interest.
The Rapides Parish Sheriff's office says a 30-year-old man is under arrest on one count of first degree murder, armed robbery and obstruction of justice for allegedly stabbing his mother to death then taking her car. They say Jeffery Bell was booked into the Rapides Pairhs Detention Center and is being held without bond.
Citizens of Pineville are closer to being able to vote on whether to allow restaurants in their city to sell alcohol. SB 116, that would allow the city to call an election on the “restaurant only” option cleared the Louisiana Senate by a 24-0 vote Thursday.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives and, if it passes there, to Gov. Bobby Jindal for his signature. City officials are hoping to get a proposition on the ballot in October.
State Police say a man from Hessmer died yesterday morning after crashing his truck in Avoyelles Parish. They say 36-year-old Joey Henderson lost control on a highway near Hessmer and hit a driveway causing his truck to overturned several times. It then became engulfed in flames. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Governor Jindal says he won't support legislation to raise cigarettes taxes, as a path to higher state revenues. The House Ways and Means Committee will review four tobacco tax bills Monday. Mr. Jindal says he won't back any of them if they're not "revenue neutral".
Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday he won’t seek legislative approval of his administration’s LSU hospital privatization agreements, though both the House and Senate have voted that they want such decision-making authority. Jindal said he believes the legislative resolutions that have received support requiring budget committee backing of the lease agreements don’t carry the force of law.
A Colfax lawmaker drafts legislation that would require the LSU Board of Supervisors to offer incoming freshman tickets to every LSU home game. Representative Terry Brown says it's a shame that new tiger freshman are only given the chance to buy tickets after
upperclassmen and members of the public and are often left out.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell issues an opinion that says a company out of New York can't sell its wine ice cream in Louisiana. Mercer's Wine Ice Cream is sold in at least 14 states, but Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Troy Hebert says Louisiana A-G's office has determined that state law does not allow for it to be sold here. A bill before the legislature may change that.
The state Senate overwhelmingly agreed Thursday to let inmates in parish jails work on churches and other religious buildings. Senate Bill 8 by state Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, was approved in a 29-1 vote. It heads next to the Louisiana House. SB8 would include religious buildings to the list of places that sheriffs can use inmate work crews.
Tomorrow marks the 3rd anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf, which killed 11 men and triggered the largest man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history. State Coastal Protection and Restoration director Garrett Graves says fully 100% of the Gulf Coast areas still covered in oil are IN Louisiana. He says over 200 miles of Louisiana coastal marshes and sands are still oily...as cleanup work continues. He says BP has not lived up to their promise of making things right.
The "no social networking while driving" legislation known as the "Tweet Bill" passed in the Senate yesterday 25-9. The measure now heads to The House. The proposal is by Livingston Senator Dale Erdy who says it would prohibit people from posting to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram while behind the
wheel. If the bill becomes law, violators would face a fine of up to $175 on a first offense and $500 for second offense.
A bill that would allow students who get an undergraduate degree out of state to use the popular TOPS grants for graduate work here in Louisiana has passed the House Education Committee, by a 13-2 vote. The bill is sponsored by Baton Rouge Rep. Hunter Greene. It goes to the House floor next.
The 13-acre Assumption Parish sinkhole got a little bigger today. The Parish Police Jury reports there was a "burp" followed by another slough-in on the eastern side of the hole. Unknown as yet how much land fell off into the hole. Residents nearby are negotiating with Texas Brine, who owns the salt cavern beneath the hole, to buy out their properties.
A proposed bill to create a breakaway school district in the southern part of East Baton Rouge Parish has been approved by the Senate Education Committee. This is the second time around for the bill; it cleared the Senate but was squashed by House members last year. Baton Rouge area Senator Bodi White feel there's less
objection to his bill this year, and hopes for better fortunes. Up next, a debate and vote on the Senate floor.
LSU holds its spring football game on Saturday. It's the first chance Tiger fans will have at watching new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron direct the offense. You can hear that game on 970 KSYL starting at 2pm.
With the end of the 2012-2013 NBA regular season comes the New Orleans basketball team's new name, "The Pelicans." Communications VP Harold Kaufman says the new website is www.pelicans.com and you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the name "pelicansNBA". He says they believe the Pelicans name and new brand is a good representation of what The Big Easy stands for.
News for Thursday 041813
By Dave Graichen
The world’s largest wood pellet plant is coming to Urania. German Pellets is expected to begin construction soon on a $300 million plant that will create an estimated 500 jobs. The company is the leading manufacturer of wood pellets in Europe. The plant is scheduled to be operational in the spring of 2014 and produce one million tons of wood pellets per year. It will be located on the site of the Georgia Pacific plant in Urania that closed in 2002.
The rapides parish sheriff’s department reports A body found last month in the ruins of a Wardville structure fire has been identified. Dental records and DNA were used to identify the remains of 27 year old Jonathan Sartin of Pineville. Detectives have ruled the death a homicide. A suspect, 44 year old John Purvis was arrested March 19 and is being held in the Rapides Parish Detention Center.
The Alexandria City Council approved an agreement Wednesday with Alexandria Sports Equities that will allow the group to field a professional baseball team at the dilapidated Bringhurst field. Under the terms of the agreement , which runs through Sept. 30, the team’s owners will pay the city $12,000. Team owners have the option to extend the agreement for an additional year. As part of the agreement, team owners will also prepare a feasibility study to renovate and reconstruct Bringhurst, which has serious structural issues.
Louisiana lawmakers advanced a batch of bills Wednesday they say are aimed at pre-empting any stricter gun laws that could make it out of Congress. In heated exchanges the House Criminal Justice Committee approved an array of “state’s rights” gun regulations, including bills that would: Prohibit the enforcement of any federal restrictions on owning semi-automatic weapons. Another bill would Make it a felony to release or publish the names and addresses of people who own or have applied for concealed handgun permits. Plus another bill that would Create the “Louisiana Manufactured Firearms and Ammunition Act” was moved to the full house. That bill would allow gun buyers to circumvent any federal gun laws as long as the guns were manufactured in Louisiana.
The U.S. Senate has rejected a federal bill to expand background checks for more people buying guns. The measure failed by a 54-46 vote. Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu voted for additional background checks; Senator David Vitter voted against
A measure to allow optometrists to perform eye surgery advanced in the House Health and Welfare Committee today and heads to the full House for more debate.
The House Education Committee advances a bill requires public schools to have a written crisis response plan; written in cooperation with local law enforcement. The bill also requires all parties involved rehearse those crisis plans. The bill was conceived following the tragic Newtown, Connecticut school massacre.
A bill that would allow students who get an undergraduate degree out of state to use Louisiana’s popular scholarship program for graduate work here passed the House Education Committee on a 13-2 vote. The measure, House Bill 612, next faces action on the House floor. It may also be reviewed by the House Appropriations Committee.
The full state Senate is scheduled to debate Livingston Parish Senator Dale Erdey's bill that would make it illegal to Facebook or Tweet while driving. The bill also applies to a host of other frequently used social network sites. The bill would make that a moving violation and subject to being pulled over and ticketed.
In Tangipahoa Parish yesterday, a suspicious briefcase left in a trash can outside a Mandeville Post Office brought out the bomb squad. Mandeville cops say a janitor discovered it and notified his boss, who - in light of Monday's events in Boston - called police right away. The briefcase was destroyed by the bomb squad. It turned out
to be filled with miscellaneous trash. No one was hurt.
The Senate Insurance Committee advances a bill to require lawmakers' approval before the state's last resort property insurer can make big rate hikes. St. Mary Parish Senator Brett Allain sponsors the legislation. He says Louisiana Citizens raised coverage rates for his constituents by 170% recently. His proposed legislation would
rein that in. Allain's bill passed committee vote and goes to the full Senate to debate.
A Carencro man was arrested after allegedly making a bomb threat at the Evangeline Downs Casino in Opelousas. Louisiana State Police Trooper Stephen Hammons says Russell Cormier told casino employees he had allegedly left a bomb inside the casino. The entire property was searched, but nothing was found.
Dressed in bright red colors on a windy day, legislators and others gathered on the State Capitol steps Wednesday in a show of support for a state tobacco tax increase.
The likely fate of their efforts is unclear. The House Committee on Ways and Means will start looking at various proposals next week. The proposals include increases of 24 cents, 32 cents and $1.05 in the state tax on a pack of cigarettes.
A bid to give lawmakers more oversight of privatized health care programs created by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration appears on track to passage this year after being vetoed twice before by the governor. However, this time, Jindal said he supports the bill. The state Senate Health and Welfare Committee backed the measure without objection Wednesday, sending it again to the full Senate.
A Baton Rouge man is charged with murder for the death of an 18-month old child. East Baton Rouge Parish authorities says the little girl was found unresponsive on Monday, and was pronounced dead at the scene. Deputies suspected foul play, which was quickly confirmed.
Last night the LSU Baseballers shutout Grambling 4 to nothing. The tigers begin a three game series tomorrow night at Alabama. You can hear the entire series on 970 KSYL.
Also Saturday afternoon at 2, it’s the LSU spring Football Game. That game will also be carried on 970 KSYL.
The L-S-U Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal from the athletic department to name the baseball field after Tigers legendary coach Skip Bertman. Associate athletic director Herb Vincent says the idea has been in the works for quite a while. Vincent says the athletic department plans to dedicate the field on Friday, May 17th when L-S-U takes on Ole Miss. The ceremony will be in conjunction with a 20-year reunion of Bertman's 1993 national championship team. Bertman says it is a tremendous honor.
News for Wednesday 041713
By Dave Graichen
State Sen. Rick Gallot sid yesterday Residents of the City of Pineville should be allowed to decide whether they want restaurants to serve alcohol. The Senate Judiciary B Committee agreed Tuesday and unanimously sent SB116 sponsored by Gallot, to the full Senate for a vote. The Pineville City Council voted unanimously on April 9 to pursue an election. Residents defeated a 1981 proposal to open the sale of alcoholic beverages but that included more than restaurants. If Gallott’s bill passes the full Senate it would go to the House for consideration. It is not expected to receive much opposition in the Legislature.
The Alexandria City Council gave the go ahead to Mayor Jacques Roy on Tuesday to execute agreements with vendors and bands participating in the upcoming AlexRiverFête. The event, scheduled for May 9-11, is actually a combination of several existing events — including Louisiana Dragon Boat Races, Dinner on the Bricks and ArtWalk — with some live entertainment as well. City officials hope it will grow into the signature event for the city.
Central Louisiana officials believe they made a good impression in front of U-S Army decision makers, who were here to gather information about Fort Polk. The Army is considering whether to reduce or increase the number of troops at the military base. Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce President Deborah Randolph says the Army officials took an impressive tour of Ft. Polk. Randolph says political and community leaders also addressed the department of the Army officials at a church in Leesville. A decision on Fort Polk's future could come as early as May.
Gas prices have dropped another penny overnight. The American Automobile Association says the current statewide average for a gallon of regular is $3.34 which is also six cents less than it was last month.
The House Committee on Criminal Justice will spend much of today hearing proposed gun bills. Committee Chairman Joe Lopinto, of Metairie, says twelve bills providing for gun ownership or gun carrying are scheduled for his group. But the bottom line, Lopinto says the committee isn't likely to support stricter gun ownership legislation.
The Louisiana Senate approved a resolution Tuesday afternoon requiring deals for private operation of LSU hospitals to receive the blessing of its budget panel. The Senate approved, without discussion, a resolution bestowing the authority on the Senate Finance Committee. The resolution’s passage came as the LSU Board of Supervisors prepared to vote Today on cooperative endeavor agreements involving LSU hospitals in New Orleans and Lafayette.
The full House has approved legislation that will lower the monthly fee all home and business phone customers pay for communications services for the deaf and speech impaired. The same bill places a small fee to cent monthly fee on every cell phone account as well. Baton Rouge Rep. Patricia Smith says it will raise about a million bucks yearly to pay for special technology to allow hearing and speech impaired people to use phones to communicate. The bill passed by a unanimous vote.
The US Marshal's Office says Acadiana's Most Wanted Man, Wade Lohse, was arrested in Philadelphia at approximately 1:10pm central time today. They say the man who walked out of his vehicular homicide trial in March was spotted walking out of a bar. He will face a judge there then be extradited back to Lafayette.
Shreveport's Elio Motors clears a legal hurdle in marketing its low-cost, high mileage three-wheeled car. A House committee today approved a bill that would exempt drivers of the three-wheeler from the state's mandatory helmet law. Elio's car has a full cabin, with roll cage and air bags.
A House committee has advanced a bill that will require pickup truck drivers to have any pets in the truck bed secured in kennels or cages while on busy Interstate highways. Kenner Rep. Tom Wilmott sponsors the legislation aimed at reducing the number of animals killed when they're thrown from the backs of moving vehicles. That
bill now goes to the House floor for debate.
Police in Slidell say a man who auditioned for the X-Factor in New Orleans on Sunday, stole a car at a gas station Monday because he said he needed to get back home to Florida. They say 20-year-old Orrion Wilson led police on a high-speed chase before being apprehended. He faces many charges.
A Monroe lawmaker Tuesday temporarily shelved his proposal to ban the state’s social services department from trying to collect child support from people who haven’t been proven to be parents through a paternity test.
State Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, said he’d continue to discuss the idea with the Department of Children and Family Services, which raised concerns about House Bill 459. He agreed to defer his proposal in the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee for at least a week while the two sides talk. But it’s unclear if they can reach a compromise. State Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Suzy Sonnier said Hunter’s proposal would put Louisiana in direct conflict with federal law and could jeopardize the state’s ability to receive more than $200 million in federal social services money annually.
The L-S-U baseball team is back in action tonight, seeking their second straight win, as they host Grambling State. Airtime 6pm on 970 KSYL..
The New Orleans Hornets finish out their season tonight in Dallas. Airtime 7p on Alexandria’s ESPN 1410.
News for Tuesday 041613
By Dave Graichen
Attempts to repeal the state income tax in Louisiana could be dead for this legislative session. The Ways and Means Committee was set to hear several income tax repeal proposals Monday, but Chairman Joel Robideaux of Lafayette asked all bills that would get rid of the state's income tax to be deferred. As of right now, there are no plans to reschedule them. During the short committee hearing, Robideaux read off cards in opposition to proposed legislation to repeal income taxes.
A large running group from Baton Rouge says all of their members are safe and accounted for after yesterday's bombing at the Boston Marathon. Chase Batty with Varsity Sports in the Capitol City says they sent 18 runners to the race. He says there was a scare at first but thankfully most had already finished the race. Batty says the Baton Rouge group was celebrating at a local pub when the bombs went off.
A Baton Rouge man pleaded guilty Monday to calling in a bomb threat that closed LSU’s main campus for more than 12 hours on Sept. 17th of last year. 43 year old William Bouvay Jr. faces a prison term of 13 to 28 years under the terms of a plea agreement.
The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is on alert as a result of the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon. GOHSEP Director Kevin Davis says their "fusion" center is receiving intelligence information from Boston and they are disseminating that info to local law enforcement throughout the state. Davis says there are no plans for extra security personnel at large public areas in Louisiana, like airports the state capitol or Wednesday night's LSU baseball game. But he says that could change based on the intelligence information they receive from their federal partners.
Now that a House committee has deferred all discussion of bills to repeal state incomes taxes, where does that leave Governor Jindal's top agenda item? Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat says Mr. Jindal's tax reforms are "on life support". Pinsonat says ending personal and corporate income taxes was at the top of the Governor's legislative wish list. However, he says House and Senate members generally feel that a balanced, fiscally responsible state budget is MOST important. Pinsonat feels the rest of the legislative session will focus on the state budget, and how to balance it without using large amounts of one time revenues for recurring expenses.
State Police say a teenager from Many is dead after crashing an ATV. They say 16-year-old Justin Brevelle was traveling on a road Sunday in Sabine Parish when he lost control of his ATV, ran off the road and hit a ditch embankment. He was ejected from his ATV and killed instantly.
State Police say an Opelousas Police Officer is dead following a Sunday morning crash on Highway 31. Trooper Stephen Hammons says 50-year-old Assistant Warden Peggy Sylvester was not restrained as she was driving her Ford police unit and attempted to pass a car. Hammons says it was raining at the time of the crash which may have been a factor.
A Haynesville man is dead after leading police on a high speed chase through Webster Parish Sunday night. Minden Police were trying to pull 44-year-old Tony Burns for reckless driving. He ran. They chased. He lost control, ran into an embankment and rolling his vehicle several times. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The House Transportation Committee met yesterday, on the agenda a bill aimed at accommodating Shreveport's Elio Motors, which will build three-wheeled autocycles". The bill, by Shreveport Rep. Barbara Norton would exempt drivers of these autocycles from the state's mandatory motorcycle helmet law. Elio Motors' autocycle will have a completely enclosed cabin, with a roll cage and airbags.
The U-S Senate could vote as early as today on legislation that would expand background checks for gun buyers. Republican Senator David Vitter has already said he opposes the proposal, but it's unclear how Democratic Senator Landrieu will vote. U-L at Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross says it's a difficult vote for Landrieu. Landrieu recently released a statement that says she supports the Second
Amendment, however the country is plagued by gun violence and our state sadly has the nation's highest death rate per capital by gunfire. Cross says a vote for legislation to expand background checks will be used by republicans, who seek to defeat Landrieu in next year's election.
Authorities arrested a 15-year-old East Baton Rouge High School student on campus Monday after finding a loaded gun in his sock. The eighth-grade student was booked into the Juvenile Detention Center on one count of illegal carrying of a weapon on school property. The student gave no reason for having the weapon.
News for Monday 041513
By Dave Graichen
The Internal Revenue Service has some useful tips for last-minute federal income tax filers. The deadline to file your taxes is today, and IRS spokesman Michael Dobinsky says you MUST have your taxes filed by midnight tonight. You can do that electronically online or by getting it postmarked at the post office. Keep in mind though, no all post offices are open late. Just dropping it in the box doesn’t count. Dobinsky says, if you're not finished with your 2012 return, you can file an extension and have more time to get your tax return together. However, he says you must send the IRS some money today, if you're going to owe.
Governor Bobby Jindal vows to veto any legislation that attempts to cap funding for the TOPS scholarship. Because of the growing cost associated with the state scholarship program, there's a senate bill that would cap how much tuition the state would pay for a TOPS recipient. TOPS will cost the state 168-million dollars this fiscal year. The House
Fiscal Division projects the program could cost as much as 340-milllion in 2017, if tuition keeps rising at the current pace.
The first week of the legislative session is in the books and Governor Jindal's message to lawmakers has not changed. The governor wants to see the legislature pass legislation to eliminate the state income tax. How to replace the revenue lost, if the income tax is repealed is a big question. Jindal say he's not putting any limitations on legislators.
The House Ways & Means Committee starts hearing state lawmakers' proposals for eliminating the state income tax today. Baton Rouge Rep. Hunter Greene says his House Bill 272 would slowly phase income taxes out over a ten-year span. Greene says lawmakers will need to look for ways to offset the revenues lost, even with an incremental phase-out of income taxes. Greene says he and other conservatives at the Capitol felt the Governor's plan was too much, too fast.
The Department of the Army is in Leesville today as it decides whether to add or reduce troops at Fort Polk. Mayor Robert Rose says a meeting will be held at 5 this evening for the department to gather additional information from the community concerning the Army 2020 Force Restructure decision. The meeting is being held at the United Pentecostal Church in Leesville and Rose says they are encouraging concerned citizens to line the streets with flags and signs of support that show just how far Fort Polk's impact is felt.
Lafayette Rep. Nancy Landry has dropped from consideration this session legislation that would have established a voucher program for children with disabilities to attend regional schools where they could receive specialized care. HB642 sought to identify and designate schools that offer the best special education or to create new ones. These schools would be allowed to charge tuition to offset the high cost of educating disabled students but parents , not just those with low incomes, could apply for vouchers. Numerous private schools participate in the state-funded voucher program but many don’t have the necessary staffing or facilities to properly educate disabled students who need the most attention.
State employee and teacher retirement systems are opposing bills filed in the current legislative session that would require their members to pay more and others that would reduce benefits. The boards of the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System and the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana cite constitutional problems that plagued Jindal administration efforts last year. Unlike last year’s push, the retirement revamp legislation is sponsored by individual legislators, not the administration.
Authorities are investigating an apparent child abuse case that led to the death of a two-year-old girl from Oberlin. Allen Parish Sheriff Doug Hebert says the little girl suffered from third-degree burns. Hebert says they believe the mother's boyfriend, 29-year-old Bobby Davis Junior is responsible for the child's death. Davis has been arrested. Hebert calls it the worst child abuse case he's ever seen. Hebert says for some reason Davis burned the little girl with an electric heater.
Baton Rouge area Manda Fine Meats has expanded its tainted meat recall from a little more than 20,000 pounds to about 468,000 pounds. The products that may be affected are roast beef, ham, turkey breast, tasso pork, ham shanks, hog-head cheese, corned beef and pastrami. The suspected tainted meats were all produced at the company’s Baker facility. No illnesses have been reported associated with the tainted meats
The Louisiana Department of Transportation broke ground Friday in Shreveport on another segment of Interstate-49 north. DOTD spokesperson Susan Stafford says they are getting closer to finishing this much anticipated transportation project. which will extend I-49 from Shreveport to Arkansas State line. The ground breaking ceremony on Friday is for segment J, which is about four miles long and it will cost nearly 50-million dollars.
Right fielder Sean McMullen delivered a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th inning for the go-ahead run as top-ranked LSU recorded a 5-3 victory over No. 10 Arkansas at Baum Stadium. LSU improved to 34-3 overall and 13-2 in the SEC as the Tigers won two of three of the three games played over the weekend. LSU plays host to Grambling State at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Alex Box Stadium. You can hear that game on 970 KSYL.
News for Friday 041213
By Dave Graichen
The building in Shreveport that was meant to house Louisiana College’s Law School, The former Joe D. Waggonner Federal Building, has been put up for sale. The town talk reported today that building is expected to list for about $4 million. It’s believed LC, has slightly more than that invested in the building.
An investigation into possible drugs at an Alexandria residence resulted in five people being arrested. The Alexandria/Pineville Narcotics Unit found suspected marijuana, Ecstasy, LSD and several types of designer drugs Wednesday at a house in the 1800 block of Dartmouth Street. The five arrested, ranged in age from 19 to 23. All were booked and released on bond.
A report from the Legislative Fiscal Office says a ten-year phase-out of state income taxes will cost the state nearly $24-billion to implement. The report is in response to Baton Rouge Representative Hunter Greene's bill, which would lower income tax rates by 10% a year, starting in 2014. The report says the state
would lose $78-million in revenue that first year. Louisiana currently brings in a little over 2 & a half billion dollars in revenue from income taxes .
House Speaker Chuck Kleckley says he endorses a ten-year income tax phase-out. Kleckley says, however, that SOMETHING has to replace that lost revenue; perhaps higher tobacco tax or eliminating certain tax exemptions. Though he favors the ten-year phase-out, Kleckley says he'd like to delay starting it for at least two years. The
House Ways & Means Committee will begin hearing proposed income tax phase-out bills next week.
Lawmakers have given final approval to plans to shut down the LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center, in Baton Rouge. The vote came after two hours of oft-times heated discussion of the Jindal administration's privatization of public teaching and charity hospitals. The hospital will shutter on Monday. Almost 780 people are losing their jobs; fewer than 300 have been hired by other facilities.
A plan designed to rein in the cost of TOPS, the state’s merit-based college scholarship, appears doomed at the State Capitol before debate over the program could begin. Senate Bill 83 would cap the popular merit-based scholarship at current tuition levels plus 10 percent. Because much of the money for the TOPS program comes from the state general fund, many legislators said they were open to finding a way to better control the program’s steadily rising costs. Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday he would not sign legislation that limited TOPS awards. The governor called TOPS a good investment for the state.
A Louisiana House committee approved legislation Thursday morning that would require some parents of developmentally delayed children to help pay for therapy and treatment from the state. The House Committee on Health and Welfare advanced without objection House Bill 375. The measure now heads to the full House of Representatives for consideration.HB375 would allow the state to receive a co-pay for services provided by the Early Steps program.
Today, as you know is Friday. That means the House and Senate have the day
off, as is the tradition until much later in the session. Their work
will resume Monday.
Governor Bobby Jindal announces Louisiana's graduation rate has reached an all-time high. Jindal says 72-percent of freshmen who started high school in 2008, completed high school in four years. The governor says the graduation rate is on the rise, because the state eliminated ineffective dropout prevention programs, rigorous standards are in place to prepare students for college.
The Ouachita Parish teenager who was convicted of killing his parents is going to be re-sentenced. Dalton Fletcher, who was 15 when he committed the crime, was sentenced in February 2012 to two life sentences without the possibility of parole. But the latest ruling comes in light of the fact that the Supreme Court ruled last year states can't impose mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole on juveniles convicted of murder.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's office says a 48-year-old man shot his wife, then shot and killed his step-daughter before turning the gun on himself. They say the wife, who survived the ordeal, called 9-1-1 screaming that her husband, William Benham, had gone crazy. When deputies arrived the step-daughter was alive long enough to say what had happened before she died inside the house.
Senator Mary Landrieu's latest campaign finance reports show she's raised over a million dollars so far this year. That's about twice as much as her only declared challenger, Baton Rouge Congressman Dr. Bill Cassidy.
A Louisiana meat processor is recalling over 20-thousand pounds of roast beef deli cuts tainted with bacteria. Baker-based Manda Packing says the beef cold cuts may contain listeria. They were shipped, under different brand names, to eight states.
Looking for something to do this weekend? The French Quarter Festival is on - rain or shine - in New Orleans. In Tangipahoa Parish, the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival starts today. And there's the Baton Rouge Blues Festival this weekend. Expect great blues music on multiple stages in Baton Rouge.
A run of the mill car accident on I-49 was what brought police on the. But as a St. Landry Parish Sheriff Deputy arrived a naked 22-year-old Byron Simon of Ville Platte charged him, entering the officer's vehicle. Then when a trooper arrived a short time later he discharged his weapon to draw Simon's attention. A Taser was finally used to subdue the naked man who has been taken to a hospital for treatment. He now faces several charges.
Registration begins today for The X Factor Auditions being held at the UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on Sunday. Executive Producer Andrew Linares (Lin-Air-Ess) says they'll begin distributing wristbands this morning and tomorrow, then auditioners will be asked to return Sunday. He says the competition is open to one and all.
The top ranked LSU baseball team faces a big test this weekend as they visit 10th ranked Arkansas. The Tigers have won 9 consecutive SEC games and they are 11-and-1 in the league. The Razorbacks are 8-and-4 in the SEC and LSU Coach Paul Mainieri says this series will go a long way in deciding the Western Division. You can hear the entire series this weekend on 970 KSYL.
News for Thursday 041113
By Dave Graichen
By a 5 to 4 vote, the Rapides Parish School made it decision on who will be the new school superintendent. In the end the choice was Nason “Tony” Authement of Houma. Authement was picked from a group of three finalists, including Rick Williams of McKinney, Texas and Karl Carpenter, principal at Pineville High School. Contract details still need to be worked out. But, it’s expected Authement will start the job in early June.
It’s the case of a chief, but, no Indians. The town of Boyce has a new police chief but no police department , yet. Boyce has been without a police department since September 2012. The first step to getting a department was to elect a chief. 60 year old Eddie Washington, is that man. He defeated Steve Stokes in Saturday’s election. Washington will be sworn in April 17.
A strong weather front moving across Louisiana has us waking up to temperatures much cooler than yesterday. Forecaster Chris Nuttall with the National Weather Service in Shreveport says grab a jacket and perhaps an umbrella before leaving home today.
Nuttall says we can expect the rains to begin moving out to the east by
the middle of the day.
The annual Colorado State University hurricane forecast team predicts the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season will be above-average. Dr. Bill Gray's report calls for 18 named storms during the hurricane season. He says that's due primarily to the lack of an El Nino event. The report says of the 18 named storms, they predict nine will
become hurricanes and four of those will be major hurricanes.
The first week of the 2013 Legislature is, for all practical purposes, over. The Senate has adjourned until Monday. House members meet Today for some committee meetings and required ethics training.
House Appropriations Committee members have heard two days of public testimony of areas of the state budget they feel should be left uncut. Representatives of the state's food bank used empty plates to illustrate their need. They ask for $5-million in the budget that starts July 1st. Tourism officials & domestic violence programs also
made earnest pleas for adequate state funding. Lawmakers must deliver a balanced $25-billion budget before the session ends on June 6th.
Many cellphone users would pay a few cents more a month under legislation that cleared a House committee Wednesday. House Bill 238 by state Rep. Patrick Williams would add long distance, pager and wireless lines to the list of telecommunications lines taxed to generate money for the deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired. Williams, who is from Shreveport, said the addition is needed because people are dropping their land lines and switching to wireless phones.
President Obama wants to nearly double the federal tax on cigarettes. In the 3.8 trillion dollar budget for next fiscal year, the President proposes to increase the cigarette tax by 94-cents per pack. It's unclear how much support their is for a higher state cigarette tax.
Zoo officials in Acadiana are looking for an exotic bird that was one of three stolen Thursday morning. They say the suspect fled police and crashed his car then later died at a local hospital. A sky-blue Indian Ringneck was spotted flying away from the burning car after the crash, a parrot escaped with a broken leg and another parrot is
A bill that would prohibit people from accessing, reading or posting to a social networking site while driving passed in committee yesterday and is headed to the Senate floor for further debate. Livingston Senator Dale Erdy says his bill is specific to sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. That loophole he says is what he wants to close with this bill.
The reward for the missing elementary school teacher in Jefferson Parish has increased again. Crime stoppers says thanks to supporters in the community who have contributed, the reward for information regarding the whereabouts of Terrilynn Monette is now $20,000.
A new poll shows a high percentage of voters in Orleans Parish approve of the job Mayor Mitch Landrieu is doing as he completes his third year in office. UNO Assistant Professor of Political Science, Ed Chervenak, says according to a survey conducted by the University of New Orleans, Landrieu's approval rating is 70-percent.
Former L-S-U All-American golfer John Peterson is set to tee off today in his very first Masters Tournament. Peterson will be playing at Augusta after qualifying for the tournament by tying for fourth at the U-S Open last June. Peterson says he's played the course at Augusta before but he's not sure what to expect for this weekend's tournament.
News for Wednesday 041013
By Dave Graichen
The Pineville City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday backing legislation that would allow the city to hold an election on the “restaurant only” option to sell alcohol in the city. . Senate Bill 116 has been pre-filed for the state legislative session that started Monday. The people of Pineville could get a chance to vote as early as October on the matter.
The Jindal administration says if lawmakers pass a bill to phase out state income taxes, the loss of revenue does not have to be entirely offset. Revenue Department spokesman Tim Barfield told Senate Revenue & Fiscal Affairs Committee members yesterday that such a bill would not HAVE to be "revenue neutral' for the Governor to sign it. The Governor said Monday, he's putting his own tax swap plan on hold, tossing that ball to legislators to handle.
The state's Democratic Party says the legislature should not address tax reform legislation at all this year. House Democratic Caucus chairman John Bel Edwards, of Amite, says the bigger priority should be passing a state budget that won't result in more mid-year budget cuts. However, The state's Republican Party urges residents to tell their local legislators if they want an end to state income tax. Louisiana GOP
director Jason Dore' suspects a majority would like those taxes to go away.
Tuesday, the Louisiana Hospital Association endorsed Medicaid expansion. John Matessino, president of Louisiana Hospital Association, said it is “critically important for Louisiana to take advantage of the significant federal resources available to expand health care coverage.” According to Matessino, increasing the number of individuals who have health care coverage will help to offset the cost of uninsured care, help stabilize insurance premiums and ebb cost-shifting to the private insurance market. Governor Jindal’s administration insists the state will not go along with the Medicaid Expansion.
President Obama will reveal today his federal budget plan, which is expected to contain significant cuts in Social Security benefits, something Louisiana retirees dread. AARP Louisiana spokesperson Denise Bottcher says annual cost of living increases would be calculated using the so-called "chained" Consumer Price Index to reduce spending. The White House says doing so will reduce federal spending by $130-Billion over ten years. Bottcher says that'll be disastrous to Louisiana retirees, who collect, on average, about $13-thousand a year from Social Security. She hopes Louisiana congressional delegates are paying attention
A bill that would create an "I'm Cajun" license plate has passed in committee and is headed to the House Floor. The bill is by Breaux Bridge Representative Mike Huval who says fees generated from the prestige plate would be used to help fund scholarships to France for students who want to teach French Immersion programs in Louisiana. And no.. you don’t have to be a pure blooded Cajun to purchase one..
A Livingston Parish man accused of stabbing his wife and ripping an unborn fetus from her womb has changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. 31-year-old Jeffery Reynolds' initial plea was not guilty. The sheriff's office says Reynolds told detectives he smoked herbal incense and began having visions when he allegedly cut the fetus
from his wife last October.
Lottery officials say a woman from Greensburg had to dig an old Powerball ticket out of her trash when she realized she hadn't checked the numbers that ended up being worth $10,000. Joyce Womack's ticket was for the March 23rd drawing.
A new fence and netting system has not helped contain the black dust being released by the Industrial Carbon Services Company in Lake Charles. So now an investigation by DEQ is looking into the possible health hazards that could occur from breathing it in. City leaders are also checking into zoning issues and other possible violations. The black dust has been a concern of residents since last summer.
Bossier Parish Sheriff's investigators say a Princeton woman swindled her own grandmother out of over $100-thousand; used to buy cars, computers and more without the elderly woman's knowledge. 35-year-old Allison Jones is charged wth money laundering, identity theft, felony theft and racketeering. She's now in the Bossier Maximum Security Facility, pending a $130,000 bond. Jones says she
didn't steal anything.
Shreveport PD is asking for the public's help in locating a "Craigslist Bandit" who posts fake stuff for sale then collects money wired to him. The suspect never produces the items and pockets the victims cash -- at times as much as $850. $500.00 reward being offered.
Officials in Terrebonne Parish will vote today on a proposal that would ban saggy pants. If passed, anyone who wears pants in public that hang below the belt line could be punished. Neighboring Lafourche Parish has already passed an ordinance that makes it illegal to reveal underwear in public.
Former U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry is staying in the political spotlight by launching a conservative super PAC on Tuesday to help support more far-right Republicans in congressional races nationally and in Louisiana. Landry’s new “Restore our Republic” political action committee comes a few months after the one-term congressman’s defeat in a congressional race against U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, and while Landry, R-New Iberia, was mulling a challenge of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in 2014.
News for Tuesday 040913
By Dave Graichen
Governor Bobby Jindal took a lot of people by surprise Monday afternoon when he addressed the opening session of the legislature. Seems he's changed his mind about doing away with the state income tax and replacing it with high sales taxes. Jindal told lawmakers he's "parking" his tax plan for now, but wants legislators to come up with their own ideas on how to do away with income taxes in Louisiana. The governor's address was extremely short. He made no suggestion as to how to replace the nearly $3-billion in state revenue raised by income taxes.
The governor stands behind his contention that eliminating the income tax will make Louisiana more business-friendly and give most households more pocket money. He says the states with the highest jobs growth in America are those that have no state income tax. The session ends on June 9th. Lawmakers have over 900 bills to review
Natchitoches Parish deputies are investigating the parish's first homicide of 2013. A couple in their car alerted officers to a body lying in roadside field near the town of Natchez, LA. The man has been identified as 32 year old Derrick Wayne Howard of Natchitoches. Detectives have not said what the cause of death was, but do say it is being handled as a homicide case. A post-mortem is scheduled to determine cause of death.
The city of Alexandria has an agreement with the principals of the newly formed United Baseball League to place a team in Alexandria, pending approval from the City Council. The council introduced an ordinance Monday authorizing Mayor Jacques Roy to execute the agreement and will vote on the ordinance on April 17. Bringhurst Field is still in need of major renovations. However, those renovations have been put off until a later time. If all goes according to plan, the team will start training May 16 and open its season on May 23 at Bringhurst Field.
The Pineville City Council could decide Tuesday to explore allowing limited alcohol sales in the city. On the agenda for the 6 p.m. meeting tonight is a resolution asking for the introduction of legislation that would allow Pineville to hold an election to allow restaurants to sell alcohol. Alcohol sales are currently not allowed in Pineville, but there has been a recent push to explore at least allowing it in restaurants. Supporters of loosening the restrictions say it would spur development.
Second Amendment supporters rallied on the Capitol steps yesterday, to show support for defending individual gun ownership rights. Bossier City Rep. Jeff Thompson anchored the rally, and says legislation aimed at law-abiding gun owners is not the answer to reducing gun violence." Thompson has two bills this legislative session; one to keep information on who has concealed carry permits private. Another to
allow concealed carry permits to be issued by parish sheriffs for persons to carry weapons ONLY in their parish of residence, and in parishes with which they have reciprocal agreements with other sheriffs.
Food banks across the state are currently experiencing extreme shortages. northeast Louisiana Food Bank program director Stacy Guidry says the federal government has cut off its food distribution due to sequestration and it's wreaking havoc on their food supplies.
The first A-10 Thunderbolt jets to be re-positioned by U.S. Air Force reorganization and budget cutting have left Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport-Bossier. Most of the A-10's will be re-stationed in Arizona. The remaining jets will be gone by year's end.
Lafayette Parish's Most Wanted Fugitive makes a YouTube video to explain why he walked out of court last month just as his vehicular homicide trial was set to begin. Lafayette Police say Wade Lohse was impaired when he crossed the center line in June 2012 and killed 29-year-old Cacie Barras. Lohse believes he's being falsely charged by prosecutors. Authorities say Lohse was in a wooded area when he made the video.
LSU sits atop the latest Collegiate Baseball Poll. The Fighting Tigers own the number one ranking after improving their record to 30-and-2, with a sweep of Kentucky over the weekend. LSU will have five games this week. Mainieri and the Tigers will face Southern in the Wally Pontiff Junior classic tonight. You can hear that game on 970 KSYL. LSU is at 10th ranked Arkansas this weekend.
The Bolton bears have found their new head football coach and he reportedly will hit the ground running today. Principal Misty Slater announced that Chris Kuykendall is the new Top Bear. Coach Kuykendal is originally from Oklahoma. He spent the last three years at Natchitoches Central High School as the offensive coordinator. Kuykendal replaces Reynolds Moore, who resigned last month to take the head coaching job up at Benton.
News for Monday 040813
By Dave Graichen
As the 2013 Louisiana State Legislature convenes today, Governor Jindal is expected to make his strongest case for lawmakers to get behind his tax reform plan. The Governor wants to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes, while raising state sales tax by two and a quarter percent. He says the plan will be good for Louisiana. The tax swap plan, which Mr. Jindal says will be revenue neutral, is his top priority item for the session. Louisiana Public Broadcasting will broadcast Gov. Bobby Jindal's opening address to the Legislature on Monday. Starting at 1pm.
A prison guard at the maximum-security federal prison in Pollock is recovering at an Alexandria hospital after he was beaten by inmates. Officials say other officers, armed with pepper spray, came to Cory Barron's aid, but not before the young officer suffered serious injuries. The attack occurred during a security check.
Two Baton Rouge men have been charged by federal prosecutors for allegedly working together to fraudulently obtain at least one-point-two million dollars in film tax credits that they should not have received. In a bill of information the men have been identified as Daniel Garcia, who owned and operated D-M-G Holdings and Louisiana Film Finishers and Matthew Keith, who owned and operated Dirty District Entertainment. Louisiana taxpayers are listed as the victims of the alleged conspiracy.
The consulting firm, Ernst and Young, has released report that says it would be a bad idea if Louisiana started taxing services that are a part of a business' regular expense, such as accounting, computer programming and advertising. Taxing those type of services are part of Governor Jindal's tax reform plan that would eliminate income
taxes in exchange for higher sales taxes.
The Federal Aviation Administration is delaying closure of 149 air traffic control towers across the U.S. until June. The closures were dictated by the federal budget sequestration earlier this year. Shreveport Downtown Airport is the only Louisiana tower slated to close. It WAS all set to shut down Sunday, then came the
The ongoing civil trial in New Orleans that will determine liability for 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill begins an important chapter today. BP will begin presenting its defense in Judge Carl Barbier's courtroom. It's up to Judge Barbier to determine how much BP, Transocean and Halliburton are to blame for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion. The fines could exceed 20-billion dollars. A BP lawyer told Judge Barbier they will call their last witness to the stand sometime between April 18th and the 23rd.
A new report shows Louisiana has seen a dramatic increase in the number of businesses owned by women. According to the third annual State of Women-Owned Business report, there's been an 84-percent increase in the number of women-owned companies in Louisiana since 1997. That's the fourth largest increase in the country.
Louisiana State Police have been recognized as having the best uniforms out of all state agencies in the nation. That's according to the North American Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors Best Dressed Public Safety Award. This is the second time L-S-P has received this recognition.
A 29-year-old Duson man is facing a vehicular homicide charge after he was allegedly driving drunk when involved in a fatal crash in Lafayette on Thursday night of last week. State Police Trooper Stephen Hammons says Gerard Richard ran a stop-sign on Highway 724 and West Congress Street, striking another vehicle. A passenger in Richard's vehicle, 21-year-old Harold Arnold of Duson, died from his injuries sustained in the crash.
A Crowley man was killed in a shootout with Acadia Parish Sheriff deputies early Saturday morning. State Police say two deputies responded to a domestic disturbance complaint at a home south of Crowley. When the deputies arrived, they found 41-year-old James A Trahan armed with a shotgun. Investigators say Trahan fired his gun, striking a deputy in the leg, the deputies returned fire killing Trahan. The deputy shot underwent surgery and is recovering.
Tulane University has won a big grant for the study of possible new treatments for depression. Molecular Biology and Neuroscience professor Benjamin Hall says typical anti-depressant medicines can be ineffective for many patients. His research is looking into the drug ketamine, which produces fast results, but with troubling side effects.
The second ranked LSU Baseball team put together a dominating performance over the weekend. The Tigers easily won all three games to sweep 7th ranked Kentucky. The final score on Sunday was 11-to-4. Coach Paul Mainieri told the LSU Sports Radio Network's he's proud of his team, which has a record of 30-and-2.
News for Friday 040513
By Dave Graichen
Minden Congressman John Fleming has announced he will not run against US-Senator Mary Landrieu, but he still wants her replaced in 2014. In a statement Fleming says he doesn't want to risk a contest between two Republicans which would potentially split votes and give Landrieu a better chance of winning. He goes on to say the New
Orleans Senator has turned her back on Louisiana.
The control tower at Shreveport's Downtown Airport will close this Sunday. The tower was one of 149 forced to close due to budget cuts forced by the sequestration earlier this year. The airport will remain open, despite the tower closure.
Higher education Commissioner Jim Purcell tells members of the House Appropriates Committee he's not pleased with the governor's proposed budget for next fiscal year. Purcell says 490-million dollars of their budget is tied to other things happening, like property sales, legal settlements and certain bills passing the legislature. If the so-called contingency dollars do not show up, it will result in a massive 19-percent cut in funding for higher education.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley will lead an effort to allow universities, community and technical colleges to set their tuition at the Southern Regional Average without legislative approval. But he says cost controls for TOPS should be part of the discussion to give colleges more freedom to raise their tuition rates. Kleckley says it will cost the state about 204-million dollars to fund the TOPS program.
Voting booths will be open across Louisiana at 7 tomorrow morning as several local issues are on the ballot in 38 different parishes. There are two tax propositions on the ballot in Rapides Parish regarding road maintenance and related items. One for ward one the other ward 11. Election officials are expecting a small turnout.
A survey conducted by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab shows nearly half of Louisiana residents feel Governor Bobby Jindal's tax swap plan is a bad idea. Director Kirby Goidel says they also found that many people don't know how to feel about the tax proposal just yet. The say they just don’t know enough about it. Another interesting part of the survey found that 70% of Louisiana residents feel the current tax system is fine. Their biggest concern, some people who get away without paying their fair share.
State Treasurer John Kennedy supports proposed legislation to aid the state in collecting more of the massive outstanding debt owed Louisiana, at a faster pace. Kennedy says the bill would replace the state's current inefficient method of collecting debts, which will only collect $26-million of over a billion owed the state during the next five years. Kennedy says House Bill 629 would contract with a private technology firm to collect for the state. He says the bill has bipartisan sponsorship.
A Gonzales city cop has been suspended after his weapon went off while he was in the men's room at a strip club. The off duty officer was reportedly adjusting an ankle holstered gun, when it discharged. Gonzales PD has a policy about off-duty officers carrying guns into bars. The strip club reported a gunshot hole in the restroom door.
In a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the Lafayette Parish School System, the father of a 6 year old boy who was dragged to death by a school bus in March 2011 has been awarded $300,000. . Attorneys for the school district argued Marcus Miller was an absentee dad and only had an interest in the boy after he died. Miller also filed the suit against the now-retired bus driver and their insurance companies. He was seeking $2.3 million
A businessman was sentenced today to a year and a half in prison for fraudulently billing BP for roughly $1.4-million for use of a helicopter after the 2010 Gulf oil spill. Bay Ingram owned Southeast Recovery Group. He's been ordered to repay over $460-thousand to BP as well. Ingram pleaded guilty to the charges of bilking and overbilling the oil company last year. He could have received up to five years in prison.
A top ten match-up in on tap at the Box this weekend as second ranked LSU hosts seventh ranked Kentucky. The Wildcats are 22-and-6 and they are the toughest test that LSU has faced this season. LSU is entering the second half of its season with a 27-and-2 record. Airtime 6:30 tonight on 970 KSYL.
News for Thursday 040413
By Dave Graichen
We’re coming down to the wire in the search for a new Rapides schools superintendent. Today the three finalists for the position spend the day in the district. All three candidates, Nason Authement of Houma, David Carpenter of Pineville and Rick Williams of McKinney, Texas will receive a second interview with the Rapides Parish School board and then visit several schools in the district. The public will have a chance to meet the candidates from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Instructional Resource Center on Beauregard St., in Alexandria. That meet and greet will be followed by a public forum beginning at 6 p.m. at the Media Center. The School Board is expected to select the new superintendent next week.
Governor Jindal was in Alexandria yesterday, speaking before the Alexandria Rotary Club, to tout his tax reform plan. But it appears now that plan may be dead for this upcoming legislative session. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley said Wednesday that the governor’s tax package is on hold until economic experts can clear up the confusion surrounding the plan’s numbers. Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said he wants the Legislative Fiscal Office to review the bills, an exercise that likely will delay debate on the governor’s initiative for weeks. Kleckley went on to say, if the plan has a negative impact on small businesses in the state, he would have a hard time supporting it. The Jindal administration already said the proposal would shift a $500 million tax burden from individuals to businesses.
Louisiana has the highest rate of gun violence in the country, according to a new state-by-state analysis of gun violence released Wednesday by the Center for American Progress. The report, released at an event in Baton Rouge and other cities, compares the 50 states on 10 key gun-violence indicators such as firearm deaths among children, firearm homicides among women, and law-enforcement agents feloniously killed with a firearm, among others. The report says Louisiana has the highest rate of gun violence of any state and the state has the highest rate of women murdered by guns in the 10-year period from 2001 through 2010.
A new poll conducted by researchers at LSU finds a majority of Louisianans feel the state is headed in the wrong direction. Dr. Kirby Goidel heads the LSU Public Policy Research Lab. He says 52% feel state leaders are doing a poor job, with few confident state government can fix big issues. He says the poll shows less residents
believe the economy and education are the biggest problems facing the state. Goidel says last year at this time, only 39% felt the state was headed in the wrong direction.
A new Southern Media & Opinion Research poll indicates a majority of Louisianans want term limits for statewide elected officials, like the secretary of state, state treasurer, ag commissioner and others. Legislators are limited to three 4-year terms, and governors are limited to 8 years in office. Bill sponsor, Rep. Simone Champagne,
of Erath, says she'll try to pass term limits for other offices again this year...her third attempt.
A federal report says almost $700-million in development grants, given to Louisiana to elevate and reinforce homes to make them more hurricane resistant, is missing. The report from HUD says over 24-thousand got the grants but haven't done the work. The state Office of Community Development, who administered the grants, says they're working to bring all homeowners who got the funds into compliance.
The state Legislative Auditor says Louisiana's Recovery School District, for failing public schools that have taken over by the state, is missing over $2-million in equipment and property. The report says over 1600 items, mostly computers and audio/video equipment has been lost, strayed or stolen for nearly four years.
The RSD says 70% of the items ARE still present in the schools, but have been tagged with incorrect location codes.
The Winnsboro woman who claimed she was the victim of a racial attack and set herself on fire, but it was later determined her story was fabricated, has plead not guilty
to charges of terrorizing and filing a false police report. The district attorney prosecuting the case, Mack Lancaster says he's not looking to send Sharmeka Moffitt to prison for a long time...as she has suffered enough, with burns over most of her body.
Ouachita Parish school officials confirm two West Monroe High school students were killed this morning in a fire. The two were inside a mobile home that caught fire. Firefighters were unable to save them.
Texas Brine, the company that owns the underground salt cavern thought responsible for the Assumption parish sinkhole at Bayou Corne, says gas has been detected under the slabs of two nearby homes. The company is negotiating with many residents in that area to buy out their properties, so they can move on. Many have lived in evacuation since last August.
News for Wednesday 040313
By Dave Graichen
Wet weather has arrived across much of the Bayou State today as a result of a large storm system that's developed in the Gulf of Mexico. State climatologist Barry Keim says the system will track slowly along the Louisiana coastline. The heavy rains will linger into Thursday.
Cleco has made some major progress in restoring power to customers who went off line during that Sunday afternoon thunderstorm. During the noon hour Tuesday, more than 2,000 customers were still with power in Rapides and Grant parishes. Today, that number is less than 10.
A Southern Media and Opinion research poll released yesterday shows Governor Bobby Jindal's approval rating has slipped once again. In the spring 2013 survey Jindal received an approval rating of 38 percent -- compared to 51 percent last October. Jindal's tax reform plan was particularly unpopular with just 27% of respondents supporting it. The survey funded by Lane Grigsby also shows that President Obama has a higher approval rating among Louisianians than Jindal at 43%. The Governor told the media yesterday he was not interested in poll data.
That same poll shows three-term democratic senator Mary Landrieu with an approval rating of 56-percent. There's been one announced challenger so far. Baton Rouge Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy made his candidacy official today with a video message to his supporters. Minden Congressman John Fleming and a couple of other republicans could also enter the race.
Substitute teachers in Rapides parish got an a rather hefty pay raise Tuesday. The school board increased the daily pay rate to $125 for certified subs, that increase is almost double the previous pay rate of $65 Non-certified teachers with a degree will now receive $65 a day. That’s an increase of $4. Interim Superintendent Gerald Woodard said a look at other districts showed rates at about $100 with the maximum being about $125. This raise also applies to retired teachers who return to work as substitutes.
The Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office says four juveniles are facing charges related to the theft of dozens of iPads and equipment from Mary Goff Elementary school. They say the thefts were discovered Friday, four arrests made Monday and more arrests may be coming.
More than 700 employees of the LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center and its clinics will lose their jobs in two weeks as a result of action taken Tuesday by the state Civil Service Commission. The seven-member commission voted 4-2 in favor of a public-private partnership deal, in which Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, called the Lake, becomes home to the LSU public hospital’s in-patient care and medical education programs, effective April 15. The Lake also takes over management of the LSU hospital’s out-patient clinics the same day.
State lawmakers will again discuss changes to tenure for public school teachers. Teacher tenure reform passed last year, but a state judge ruled it was unconstitutional, because it contained too many components. In response to that ruling, Senate Education Chairman Conrad Appel says multiple bills have been filed this year, addressing teacher tenure. Appel says the teacher tenure reform effort is not designed to scare public school teachers. He says tenure should be reserved for the best educators and the rule changes help to make sure quality teachers are in the classroom.
Retaliation can be costly. A recent public records search shows that State agencies here in Louisiana have paid more than $800,000 in the case involving former LSU coastal researcher Ivor van Heerden to defend themselves against claims that he was fired after publicly blaming the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for most of the flooding in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Documents show that LSU paid a Baton Rouge law firm more than $457,000 over a 30-month period to argue the university’s case. Which it lost. The state Office of Risk Management paid van Heerden a $435,00 settlement last month. In total, state agencies have spent $892,000 on van Heerden’s case.
The chairman of the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee expressed concern yesterday over The state Department of Education’s lack of scrutiny when it comes to the many contracts it relies upon each year. rather than doing the work in-house merits scrutiny. State Rep. Jim Fannin told the committee “I am wondering where the oversight comes. The issue, which Fannin has raised in the past, surfaced during a budget review of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which sets policies for more than 700,000 public school students statewide. How many contracts and what they total for the current financial year is unclear.
An environmental group says almost three years after the B-P Deepwater Horizon disaster, dolphins and sea turtles continue to die in high numbers. National Wildlife Federation senior scientist Doug Inkley says this is a sign the Gulf of Mexico is still feeling the effects from the 2010 oil spill. Statistics show dolphin deaths in the oil spill area have remained above average every month before the spill began.
News for Tuesday 040213
By Dave Graichen
According to figures released Monday by the Louisiana Workforce Commission, The number of nonfarm jobs in the state as a whole increased from February 2012 to February 2013. Louisiana gained 29,500 jobs over the year, or a 1.5 percent increase, putting the statewide total up to 1.9 million. Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette, Lake and Houma-Thibodaux saw strong job growth. While Shreveport-Bossier, which has been hard hit by the shutdown of the General Motors plant, lost 3,100. Alexandria had a 600-job decrease over the year.
The fiscal only session starts next Monday and it promises to be a busy one. By Friday's deadline, lawmakers had pre-filed 900 bills including 650 in the House of Representatives. Each legislator is restricted to only five non-fiscal bills for the upcoming session.
The state lawmaker who will lead the effort in the legislature to pass Governor Jindal's tax reform plan admits the proposal will be hard to pass. But the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Joel Robideaux of Lafayette says Governor Jindal's tax package is not dead on arrival as some critics have suggested. And he says the legislative fiscal office is reviewing the proposal to see if it will be revenue neutral as Jindal has promised.
Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein will leave his post on May 1st. Greenstein is being investigated by a federal grand jury into whether or not he awarded a huge Medicaid contract to a former employer by using his authority. John Maginnis of LaPolitics.com says this resignation is coming at a bad time. He says the DHH budget is the largest component of the state's spending plan and Greenstein is a major player in an effort to privatize parts of the state's public hospital system.
A prime candidate to run LSU hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe pulled out Monday, citing potential anti-trust challenges. James K. Elrod, president of the Shreveport-based Willis-Knighton Health System, announced the decision in a news release. Hospital system officials had no further comment. The LSU Board of Supervisors last week approved a memorandum of understanding with the Biomedical Research Foundation to work out a deal for the management and operation of the two hospitals, which are key to LSU medical education efforts.
If you haven't filed your taxes yet, it's about that time. The deadline is two weeks from midnight tonight. Louisiana IRS spokesman Michael Dobzinsky encourages citizens to file electronically because it's easier, faster, more convenient and you could get your refund in as little as 21 days. He says tax payers should also be aware of
credits they may be eligible for. Dobzinsky says statistics show that at least 25% of all tax payers wait until the last two weeks to file.
A Juvenile Court judge ruled Monday that a 15-year-old Baton Rouge boy charged with murder in a deadly home invasion last year should stand trial as a juvenile, denying a request by prosecutors that he be tried as an adult. After two days of testimony, Judge Pamela Taylor Johnson found Darien Bailey has “borderline” intelligence and the mind of about a 10-year-old, though he was 14 when he was arrested. If convicted, Bailey could be held in a state juvenile facility until he is 21
The Advocate and LSU’s student newspaper filed public records lawsuits against the LSU Board of Supervisors on Monday, seeking documents related to LSU’s search for a new president of the state’s flagship university. That search, conducted largely in secret, yielded F. King Alexander, president of Cal State University in Long Beach, California, as the sole finalist for LSU’s top post. In recently announcing Alexander as the sole finalist for LSU’s presidency, search committee chairman Blake Chatelain said LSU officials identified 100 people, narrowed that list to 35 active candidates, then cut the list to six or seven people, some of whom were interviewed face to face.
Rep. Bill Cassidy on Monday touted raising more than $500,000 in campaign funds thus far this year, although he still trails the war chest of his potential election opponent, incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu. Cassidy has not yet announced he will challenge Landrieu, D-La., next year, but he is already pushing his fundraising totals about two weeks before they are publicly released by the Federal Election Commission.
A whistleblower who sued Shaw Environment & Infrastructure Inc. of Baton Rouge for alleged retaliation has been awarded more than $3.4 million by a federal court jury in Anchorage, Alaska. Paul Blakeslee was 71 when he wrote corporate parent Shaw Group headquarters in Baton Rouge on Sept. 19, 2008, that a Shaw project manager in Alaska had defrauded both Shaw and the federal government by having millions of dollars in equipment leased at above-market rates from a firm in which the manager held an interest. Seventeen days later, the Shaw project manager informed Blakeslee that his position had been eliminated. Shaw officials and attorneys denied the retaliation allegation at trial last month.
In sports there's a couple of big Louisiana stories today. LSU's Mason Katz has for the second time in three weeks been named the Collegiate Baseball National PLayer of the Week and SEC Player of the week. Also former Louisiana Tech star quarterback Luke McCown has signed a one year deal with the Saints.
The No. 2 LSU Baseball team --- now 26-2 overall, 8-1 in the SEC and off to the best start since 1986 --- will face Alcorn State at The Box tonight. You can hear that game on Talkradio 970 KSYL beginning at 6.
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