News for Friday 053113
By Dave Graichen
Federal investigators say they are now looking into three letters, laced with the toxin ricin, that were all postmarked from Shreveport. One was sent to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another to his DC-based gun control group and the third was sent to President Obama. Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover says police and city
offices are cooperating fully with the FBI's investigation of the potentially deadly letters.
Tweeting while driving will now be against the law in Louisiana. Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Thursday his signature on Senate Bill 147. The bill nixes posting on Facebook and accessing other social network sites while behind the wheel.
The governor also signed House Bill 265, which creates a lifetime concealed weapons permit. The permit costs $500 and requires training and education every five years.
Governor Jindal has signed legislation giving residents the option of having the words "I'm a Cajun" emblazoned on their driver's license. Another bill still moving through the legislature would set up "I'm Cajun" specialty license plates.
Another bill headed to the Governor's desk will increase the penalties for acts of domestic violence that involve the victim being burned. Monroe Senator Bob Kostelka sponsors the legislation, which makes domestic violence with burning a felony punishable by 5 to 50 years with or without hard labor.
The state House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would expand technical education in all corners of the state. The 88-11 vote in favor of the community and technical college construction bill marks one of the last steps for a piece of legislation that has been roundly criticized by the state treasurer, the state Board of Regents and the people who run Louisiana’s four-year schools. The bill now heads back to the Senate for approval of technical changes made in the House. Then the measure goes to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk for signing into law.
A state Senate committee clipped the fiscal hawks’ wings Thursday on a package of bills aimed at revamping the state budget process. Amendments to the bills marked the second day in a row that the Senate Finance Committee spurned significant portions of the Louisiana House’s approach to the state spending plan. The committee refused to embed the hawks’ proposals into the state constitution, choosing instead to turn them into a pilot program that could fade away in a few years.
The Senate Education Committee has denied a compromise intended to spare Louisiana teachers from glitches in the state's evaluation program that could affect their employment status. Senators voted 4-3 against approving House Bill 160 The bill sought to delay for one year the Compass system’s determination that a teacher is incompetent so flaws in the system could be worked out.
It a great argument for wearing your seatbelt. Two Slidell police officers were injured when their patrol car hit a cement culvert and flipped during a chase. The officers were buckled up and suffered minor injuries. The person they were chasing was
It’s a case of a man’s past coming back to haunt him. State Police arrest a Lafayette man on aggravated rape charges. L-S-P says they were able gather enough information to arrest 66-year-old Joseph Thibodeaux even though the encounters occurred 40 years ago.
Legislation requiring state government to pay men and women equally who perform similar jobs is close to final legislative passage. The House Labor Committee has endorsed the Senate approved bill and it heads to the House floor for more debate. The bill will give employers the ability to pay one gender more than the other if the pay structure is based on seniority, education or experience.
A former Angola prison guard pleads guilty to covering up the beating of an inmate. Prosecutors say the guard witnessed the beating but filed a false report denying the assault happened. With his guilty plea he could face up to 25 years in prison himself. A sentencing date is yet unknown.
After her Senate floor tirade this week, declaring that anyone opposed to the Medicaid Expansion contained in Obamacare is a racist, New Orleans Senator Karen Peterson is now dodging questions. A Baton Rouge TV crew asking about the comments, was ignored by Peterson as she rushed into the Capitol. Peterson said Tuesday that opposition to the expansion "comes down to the race of the President". Peterson is also chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party.
The Baton Rouge regional gets underway today with LSU taking on Jackson State at 2:00 and then UL Lafayette will battle Sam Houston State at 7:00. If the Tigers and Cajuns win, they'll face each other on Saturday night.
The Alexandria Aces cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Rio Grande Valley Whitewings before 290 fans at Bringhurst Field last night.
News for Thursday 053013
By Dave Graichen
The Senate Finance Committee has approved House Bill 1, the state budget for the fiscal year that starts in July. However, as in past years, the committee restored about $350-million that was cut in the House. There is just one week left for the Senate to pass it, and for the House to concur on Senate changes.
A vote by residents to allow the sale of alcohol in restaurants in the city of Pineville is one hurdle away from reality. Senate Bill 116 passed the House of Representatives by a 87-6 vote earlier this week, after passing out the Senate on a 24-0 vote. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for his signature.
Hurricane season doesn't even officially start until June but Forecasters are already tracking Tropical Depression 2-E in the Pacific Ocean. Computer models show the system could enter the southwestern part of the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the week. However they doubt it will develop into anything more but if it
should they predict it will move toward South Florida rather than Louisiana.
A mother and her two toddler sons are dead after a early morning apartment fire in Lake Charles. State Fire Marshal Butch Browning says it will take time to
determine the cause of the apartment blaze yesterday morning. But, preliminary indications show there were no working smoke alarms at the time of the fire.
State Police say the woman who crashed head-on into oncoming traffic in St. Charles parish Sunday - killing three people - was driving while drunk. Though they haven't released 40-year-old Jennifer Englade's blood alcohol level, they say it was above the legal limit. Englade in still being treated for her injuries in the crash. Englade has three prior DWI convictions.
The state Department of Education says student participation in Advanced Placement college prep courses was up 33% for this school year. Education Superintendent John White says over 23-thousand were enrolled this year, up from about 17-thousand the previous year. Advanced Placement courses offer students the chance to earn college credit while still in high school.
LSU Football Coach Les Miles is scheduled to raffle off a 24-story building in downtown Baton Rouge today in an effort to raise adoption awareness. Miles is one of several local celebrities and elected officials who will participate in the "Over the Edge for Adoption" challenge.
The House has passed a bill to reduce sentences for those convicted of simple possession of marijuana. The bill is sponsored by New Orleans Rep. Austin Badon, who says the intent is to spend less taxpayer money feeding and housing prison inmates who've committed no violent crime. Badon's bill passed by a vote of 54 yeas to 38 nays. 13 House members did not vote. It goes next to a senate committee, with just one week left in the session.
Louisiana's judges and sheriffs will get a pay raise as a result of a bill that's moving closer to final legislative passage. The measure would give Supreme Court justices a five-point-five percent pay increase on July 1st. Appeal Court judges, district court judges and sheriffs will see their pay go up four-percent.
The New Orleans Saints are still silent on the DWI arrest of wide receiver Joe Morgan over the weekend. State Police say they found him on the side of a Jefferson Parish expressway early Saturday, with a flat tire and asleep behind the wheel. Troopers say his blood alcohol level was nearly three-times the legal limit.
Louisiana ranks at the bottom of another list for healthcare, this time for the growing senior population. The United Health Foundation's inaugural Senior Report ranks the Pelican State 48th. Dr. Rhonda Randall, senior advisor with the United Health Foundation, says there are several key reasons why Louisiana ranks
so low, including a high number of seniors who live in poverty, a high prevalence of seniors who smoke and of course the big “O”, obesity.
Alexandria Police say they busted the ice cream man for possessing pot. Officers say the driver of the ice cream van failed to signal a turn and was mighty nervous about being stopped. They found a small amount of weed in his possession and took him to jail.
Police in Ponchatoula, in Tangipahoa Parish, say they've made an arrest in the city's first murder in over 5 years. Authorities say robbery appears to be have been the motive.
A 12-year-old boy has been arrested for making a bomb threat earlier this month at a Lafayette middle school. The threatening message was scrawled on a restroom wall. The school was evacuated; no bomb found. The child has been released to his parents' custody and removed from the school.
A constitutional challenge to a state law that makes it a felony for non-citizens to drive without proof they are legally in the United States has attracted the attention of three national civil rights groups and four foreign governments. At issue is Louisiana’s “operating a vehicle without lawful presence” statute, which carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
People who donate money to public schools may soon be eligible for a tax break after a vote by the state House of Representatives Wednesday. House Bill 324 would authorize a tax rebate of up to 75 percent of the donation given to a public school. The law requires that the donations be used by the school for purchasing instructional materials, maintaining tutorial and in-school child care programs and for school-based health clinics. The bill passed on a 61-34 vote. It heads to the Senate next for further consideration.
A bill that would provide an income tax break for certain taxpayers making less than $50,000 per year failed by a large margin in the state House of Representatives Wednesday. House Bill 699, sponsored by state Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, would provide an overtime wages tax credit up to $500. On the House floor, Wednesday, Thompson said the bill was his way of helping people who make less than $50,000 keep more of their money. The bill failed on a 26-71 vote.
The DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office is searching for three suspects in the theft of about $1 million in copper wire from a Frierson company. The thefts happened in six separate incidents from the Trinidad Drilling Co. DeSoto Parish Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information that result in the suspects’ arrests. Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers or contact the Desoto Parish Sheriff's Office
News for Wednesday 052913
By Dave Graichen
The 2013 Memorial Day weekend was a deadly one. State Police investigated 6 fatal crashes resulting in 8 deaths. This is up from last year's 4 fatal crashes resulting in 4 deaths last Memorial Day weekend. They report says failure to use a seat belt contributed to most of the 8 fatalities; driving while drinking was also a factor in some of the crashes.
The Military is reporting a Louisiana solider was killed in Afghanistan. The family of Chris Drake of Tickfaw was notified on Sunday night about Drake's death. Drake was reportedly 20-years-old and graduated from Independence High School. As of Tuesday, May 28, 2013, at least 2,092 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count.
A planned contract to allow a partnership between Rapides Regional Medical Center and Christus St. Francis Cabrini Hospital to take over Huey P. Long Medical Center has been delayed because details have yet to be worked out. One of the things apparently holding up the contract is a plan to move the hospital’s functions to the England Airpark in Alexandria, a process that began a year ago but was halted by hospital budget cuts. The LSU Board of Supervisors Tuesday did approved contracts to privatize four more of its public hospitals, in Houma, Lake Charles, Monroe and Shreveport. The board ignored pleas from lawmakers and local residents in Monroe & Shreveport to delay action until a more complete contract — one that shows cost estimates and personnel actions — could be developed.
The state Senate deflected another attempt to make voters decide whether Louisiana should accept Medicaid Expansion money in the White House health care reform. Governor Jindal has rejected the expansion as being unsustainable once the federal money runs out. Supporters say it'll bring health coverage to over 250-thousand of
the state's working poor. An attempt was made to tack that onto a hospital debt bill by Bogalusa Senator Ben Nevers. The amendment failed by a 15-23 vote.
A national business magazine ranks Lafayette first in the country for economic strength and year-over-year growth indicators. Lafayette Economic Development Agency President Gregg Gothreaux says being ranked number one overall is a big deal for the city. Area Development Magazine, a site selection and facility planning publication, ranked 380 metro areas in 21 different economic and workforce measures over the last five years.
Two gun bills were heard on the House floor Tuesday. One received it final passage; another was sent to a conference committee to hash out differences over an amendment. John Schroder's HB 6 allows off-duty cops to carry their weapons onto school campuses. That bill now goes to Governor Jindal's desk. The other, HB 8 from Bossier City Rep. Jeff Thompson would penalize anyone who publicly releases names or personal information on the state's concealed weapon permit holders. Thompson objected to an amendment tacked on in the Senate to allow said information release IF the CCP holder commits a crime. A conference committee was assigned to try to resolve that disputed amendment.
The state House of Representatives approved final passage Tuesday of a bill that would exempt students with disabilities, and who are not pursuing a traditional high school diploma, from taking the American College Test, commonly known as the ACT. Senate Bill 127, which passed on a 101-4 vote, provides that schools accountability scores won’t be affected by students who opt out of taking the test.
LSU’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to appeal 19th Judicial District Judge Janice Clark’s ruling that the university illegally denied The Advocate and other news outlets the names and other information related to LSU’s search for a new president. LSU general counsel Shelby McKenzie told the board the university followed all applicable public records laws and would be willing to take its case to the Louisiana State Supreme Court, if necessary. The judge issued a one-paragraph ruling April 25, saying the documents requested by The Advocate and the Times-Picayune should have been surrendered by LSU.
This sounds like a joke waiting for a punch line, There are snakes in the Louisiana State Capitol and this is not a political jab. Apparently baby water snakes have been found in the basement committee rooms curled up in closets, slithering across the
carpet, and in a bathroom corner. Workers are installing weather stripping to help keep the snakes out. A wildlife official say they are water snakes and are completely harmless to humans.
State Police say a Ragley man is charged with 3rd offense DWI, hit & run and other offenses, after crashing his pickup truck into a home in Moss Bluff. Troopers say Brian K. LeBlue rear-ended a car...then left that accident scene. He later ran a stop sign and smashed into the house; stopping partially in the living room. The two persons
inside were not injured.
Police in Eunice say a man who used a glass coffee pot as a weapon to rob a local casino has been apprehended. Officers say 32-year-old John Guillory allegedly took over $800 from the register and stole an employee's smartphone before fleeing on foot. They say using the coffee pot as a weapon gave them additional grounds to arrest Guillory.
LSU's Aaron Nola has been named SEC Pitcher of the Year and shortstop Alex Bregman has received SEC Freshman of the Year honors. Nola has won ten games for the top ranked Tigers, while Bregman leads the team in hitting.
News for Tuesday 052813
By Dave Graichen
A bill that would ban publishing names or addresses of those who apply for, or have been granted, concealed weapon permits could clear its last legislative hurdle today. Bossier City Rep. Jeff Thompson says the bill was triggered by the New York Times printing CCP holders' addresses. Some of those folks were burglarized afterward; their guns stolen. The bill has already been passed in the House and the Senate. It's scheduled today on the House floor for concurrence on changes made in the Senate. After that it goes to the Governor's desk.
Legislation designed to create more details on privatization contracts effectively died Monday afternoon in a state Senate committee. The Jindal administration opposed House Bill 240, arguing it would curtail efforts to turn state government functions over to the private sector. HB240’s sponsor, state Rep. Kenny Havard, told the Senate Committee on Finance that he just wants to ensure that the deals save taxpayers money. Legislators complained that Havard’s 12-page bill was complicated.
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission says pickup truck drivers and passengers have the lowest level of seat-belt use at 72%. That's despite state law that requires all passengers in vehicles to wear a seat belt. Executive director, Colonel John Leblanc, notes that's especially important in pickup trucks. Over 150 un-belted people riding in pickup trucks were killed in accidents in 2011.
Though still over two years away, prospective candidates for Governor in 2015 are already fundraising. With no official announcements, both David Vitter and Jay Dardenne are scheduling events with, and for, financial backers. Senator David Vitter has appearances scheduled for political action groups who support him in state and federal races. Secretary of State Jay Dardenne is also engaged in fundraising appearances and events. Neither man has declared his plans to run for the office. Although, Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne has said on several talk shows he would like to do so.
State Police say a suspected impaired driver ran across the median and head-on into a another car early Sunday morning on U.S. 61 in St. Charles Parish--killing three people. The driver and two passengers in the other vehicle were pronounced dead. A toxicology test is ordered for the motorist who lost control.
A 32-year veteran of the U-S Air Force is challenging democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. Rob Maness of Madisonville is a retired Air Force colonel, who has never run for political office. Maness says while serving in the Armed Forces he took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and he says Congress is not living up to
that same oath. Maness joins Baton Rouge Congressman Bill Cassidy as the two
announced republican challengers to Landrieu. The election will be held in the fall of next year.
Organizers of the Bayou Country Superfest in Tiger Stadium this weekend say they WILL be back for a 5th anniversary BCS next year. The Zac Brown Band closed the two-day show late Sunday night, to the delight of thousands of fans who crowded into Death Valley. The city of Baton Rouge says the festival brings an estimated $30-million in economic impact.
With over a week to go in the legislative session, Governor Bobby Jindal has signed a handful of bills into law that were approved by lawmakers. One of those bills makes it illegal to possess or purchase the different chemical compounds needed to make the synthetic drug known as 25-I. The bill was sponsored after a Little Rock
resident died after taking 25-I at last year's Voodoo Fest in New Orleans.
Work to raise the funds needed to build a National Hurricane Museum in Lake Charles continue to move forward. Gray Stream is chairman of the museum's board of directors. He says talks with corporations have gotten the project off to a good start towards their $70-million goal, raising about $14-million, in mostly corporate donations, for the museum. The museum will be built near the Lake Charles Civic Center, where it can be easily seen and accessed from Interstate 10.
Someone purchased a Powerball ticket in the New Orleans area that matched all six numbers from Saturday night's drawing. The jackpot was 50-million dollars, which will be split three ways as winning tickets were also sold in Florida and Delaware.
LSU Baseball will play Jackson State Friday afternoon to open up the Baton Rouge Regional. U-L Lafayette and Sam Houston State are the other two schools in the regional. The Tigers and Cajuns will play each other on Saturday night if they both win on Friday. LSU is a national four seed, even though they just won the SEC Tournament. But Coach Paul Mainieri says the important thing is that they are a top eight national seed and will have the opportunity to host a super-regional.
News for Friday 052413
By Dave Graichen
On Saturday and Sunday the state is offering a state sales tax holiday on items residents need for the upcoming hurricane season. Louisiana Department of Revenue spokesperson, Byron Henderson, says during the next two days, consumers will not have to pay the state's 4-percent sales tax on items like flashlights, batteries and generators. Henderson says the exemption applies to the first 15-hundred dollars of
the purchase price of each item. Henderson says a complete list of the items exempt from the state's sales tax on Saturday and Sunday can be found on the Department of Revenue's website.
Fewer people are expected to take trips this Memorial Day weekend. Louisiana AAA ("triple A") spokesman Don Redman says just under 35- million Americans will travel 50 or more miles for the holiday; a dip of about 1% below last year. He says highway travelers will likely not notice any difference.
The state Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols announced Thursday, The total operating expense associated with the privatization of nine LSU hospitals will hit $1 billion during the new fiscal year. That’s more than is in the current year’s budget of $955 million for the state to operate the charity hospitals. And substantially more than the $626 million Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed for private companies to operate the public hospitals in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Nichols said the administration would submit amendments to the state Senate Finance Committee to close the funding gap, recommending using some money from hospital leases as well as other state and local revenues.
A plan to privatize operations at Huey P. Long Medical Center, which could close the Pineville hospital and move operations to England Airpark in Alexandria, will be considered Tuesday. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said Thursday that operating agreements are expected to be signed by the end of next month for private and public hospitals or foundations to take over nine hospitals currently operated through the LSU Health System. Rapides Regional Medical Center and Christus St. Francis Cabrini Hospital will be providing medical care at the airpark facility While the effective transfer date for the Monroe and Shreveport hospitals is Oct. 1, Huey P. Long’s transfer won’t be complete until October 2014. The hospital will continue providing care in Pineville, through most of next year until the Airpark facility is ready.
The state Attorney General's Office says a special grand jury has been selected to look at possible criminal activity in the awarding of a $200-million Medicaid contract by the Jindal Administration. The contract holder, CNSI is the former employer of former Health & Hospitals head Bruce Greenstein, who resigned when the seeming impropriety came to light. The state abruptly cancelled the CNSI contract as well.
An amendment to the federal Farm Bill to deny food stamp benefits to convicted rapists, pedophiles and murderers, has been added by Senator David Vitter. He notes in Louisiana alone, from 2010 through 2012 over a million dollars’ worth of food stamp benefits were issued to people who were in prison. This would be a lifetime ban that no state could opt out of it. While Vitter's amendment passed, the Farm Bill itself is still under debate.
The state Legislative Auditor is requesting financial documents from the Louisiana Republican and Democratic Parties, but the state GOP is questioning whether the request is politically motivated. Auditor Darryl Purpera says he asked for the financial documents after learning state law requires both parties to file yearly reports. Louisiana Republican Party executive director Jason Dore says the request came after the state republican party fought against proposed tax increases that House members were discussing. He says they already file campaign finance reports with the state ethics board and the federal elections commission. Purpera says there's no political agenda at play. The State Democratic party submitted the requested paperwork.
Louisiana's Congressional delegates are attempting to stave off big impending rate hikes for the National Flood Insurance Program. Metairie Congressman Steve Scalise says he and New Orleans Congressman Cedric Richmond are co-sponsoring a bill to delay those premium increases for three to five years. Scalise says the 2012 Flood Insurance Reform Act would mean rate hikes of up to 20% a year over a four-year span, in an effort to keep the program well-funded. Scalise says those proposed increases are unrealistic.
A bill allowing clerks of court to receive a 4 percent pay raise zipped through the state Senate Thursday. The Senate voted 27-7 in favor of House Bill 174, giving the proposal final legislative passage. To be eligible for the pay increase, clerks would have to complete annual certification updates and other education requirements. State Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, said the pay boosts would not cost the state anything. He said the money would come from the clerks’ budgets.
Attempts to stop AGL Resources from expanding its salt mine in Lake Peigneur (Pin-your) has been defeated in the state senate. The company has requested a permit that would allow them to use up to 5-million gallons of water every day. The bill would have called for an Environmental Impact Statement first.
Fire officials in Lafayette say nine horses are dead after the barn they were in caught on fire. They say upon arrival the smoke was already venting through the sides of the barn and the flames were too intense for firefighters to make entry and it was too late for the nine horses inside. It is believed the blaze started from a lightning strike.
It’s not nice to fool with the IRS.. 42-year old Roderick Dewitt Aguillard the Third has pleaded guilty to not filingt income tax returns over a four year period. The former Denham Springs resident reportedly earned 2.3 million dollars during that four year period. He was sentenced to eight months in federal prison.
Hurricane season begins in 10 days, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts a highly active season. NOAA expects 13 - 20 named storms, 7 - 11 hurricanes. three to six of those could be major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher. The season officially begins June 1st and ends November 30th...though storms have occurred both before and after those dates in recent years.
The Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness launches a new smartphone app to let you receive emergency alerts as they happen. GOHSEP director Kevin Davis says the Alert FM app is a free download for iPhone or Android systems. The app receives special alerts sent out by GOHSEP, which could be related to disasters, weather emergencies and even Amber Alerts. It can be downloaded free at the online Apple store, or from GooglePlay.
Governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law a bill that will assist and encourage Louisiana military servicemen and women to come home to the Bayou State. House Bill 312 does that by extending the time allowed for returning military to renew any state or professional licenses they may have had before going into active service. New Orleans Rep. Nick Lorusso's bill met no opposition in the House or the Senate.
After losing to Arkansas yesterday 4 to 1. The LSU Tigers will face Alabama again today in the SEC baseball tournament. Airtime 2:30p
News for Thursday 052313
By Dave Graichen
State Police say a 76-year-old man from Pollock is dead after crashing his truck late Tuesday night. They say Coy Kirtland was northbound on Hwy 165 in Grant Parish when he left the roadway and slammed into two culverts before over turning. Kirtland was not wearing his seat-belt and was pronounced dead on scene.
The House Appropriations Committee approves a Senate-passed bill calling for $263-million in construction of community and technical college buildings. The bill is sponsored by Benton Senator Robert Adley, who says enrollment at Louisiana's 2-year schools has doubled in recent years. Adley's bill calls for selling bonds to finance the building plan. The committee passed the bill--sending it to the House floor for
what could be final passage.
Plans to wrestle tuition-setting authority away from lawmakers and put it in the hands of educators fizzled and died in the state House of Representatives this week, representing a major blow to Louisiana’s higher education community. Currently, two-thirds of the state Legislature must sign off before colleges and universities can raise tuition. It is the toughest threshold in the country to overcome. At the same time, Louisiana is near the bottom nationwide in funding colleges while keeping tuition at some of the lowest rates in the country.
Good news for Louisiana public school education as this year's LEAP and iLEAP test results show an increase of students in grades 3 through 8 performing at or above their grade level. State Superintendent of Education John White says this reduces the number of students performing below grade level by nearly 5000.
In Central Louisiana, Evangeline Parish was listed as one of the most improved districts in the state, while Vernon Parish ranked as one of the top performing districts. Overall the performance of the voucher-supported students in private schools in the state scholarship program improved by less than a percentage point.
Legislation is moving through both chambers of the state legislature that attempts to make it difficult for Planned Parenthood to build a new facility in New Orleans. Metairie Senator Danny Martiny has a resolution that was passed by the Senate, which urges the state not to provide any tax incentives for the construction of the four
million dollar building. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spokesperson Julie Mickelberry says the new health center in New Orleans is not just a place where women
can receive assistance to terminate their pregnancy. She says women and men will also be able to receive reproductive health care, including breast exams and cancer screening. Planned Parenthood doesn't currently operate an abortion clinic in
A watered-down “Equal Pay for Women” measure cleared the Louisiana Senate on Wednesday. The state Senate voted 23-13 for the legislation after making it apply only to women who work for state government. Senate Bill 153 originally applied to women whether they worked in the private or public sector.
The Louisiana Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a year’s delay in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s new pension plan for future state employees. The Senate voted 35-0 for a Louisiana House-passed resolution suspending the law scheduled to go into effect July 1. The Jindal administration originally opposed the delay, but reversed course with the filing of the special resolution that can suspend a law without the governor’s approval. The administration has filed what it calls a “clean up” bill to fix flaws.
Louisiana’s judges would get steady pay raises over the next five years under legislation approved late Wednesday by the Louisiana Senate. The Senate voted 27-9 to accept the recommendation of the Judicial Compensation Commission which is embodied in Senate Bill 188. The bill now heads to the House for debate.
Consumers looking to pick up meat for this weekend's cook-out will see beef prices are higher than normal at the grocery store. LSU AgCenter livestock economist Ross Pruitt says that's because wholesale beef prices are at historically high levels. Pruitt says beef is not the only meat seeing higher prices this year, the same can be said for chicken and pork as well.
A federal court has approved a class-action lawsuit for the people effected by the Assumption Parish sink-hole. The now 15-acres sinkhole apparently caused by work performed by Texas Brine has left about 350 people forced out of their homes for nearly a year with no buyouts offered. WAFB is reporting a spokesman for the company said
they only just found out that their insurance carriers were not in support of the buyout process.
Another suspect in the fatal shooting of two St. John Parish sheriff’s deputies has pleaded guilty. Derrick Smith is the third suspect to enter a guilty plea in the
case. He agrees he is guilty of accessory after the fact to attempted first degree murder and possession of a firearm by an convicted felon. The suspected gunman
Brian Smith, Derrick's older brother and Kyle Joekel are both charged with first degree murder.
Deputies in Lafourche Parish have charged a Mexican national - in the country illegally - with 2nd degree murder for the death of his girlfriend's 20-month-old son. Sheriff Craig Webre says the baby died from being shaken. 24-year-old Emmanuel Hernandez is being held pending a million dollar bond. The investigation into the baby's death is ongoing.
A bill that would consider coercing a minor-aged girl into having an abortion a form of child abuse has moved closer to final passage. Denham Springs Rep. Valarie Hodges' bill has already passed the House and this week was approved by a Senate Judiciary Committee. She says her bill is to protect young mothers who want to carry their baby to full term. That bill now goes to the Senate floor.
LSU shut out Alabama yesterday in the SEC tournament. Today, they’ll be facing the razorbacks at 4pm.
Once again the LSU/Arkansas game will be played on its traditional Friday after Thanksgiving time slot in 2013. The Southeastern Conference and CBS made the announcement today. LSU Sports Information Director Michael Bonnette says since Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992, the Tigers and Razorbacks have played 21 times with 16 of those games coming on a Friday. He says some of the other dates announced also makes it look like the LSU/Bama game in Tuscaloosa on November 9th will be in prime-time.
News for Wednesday 052213
By Dave Graichen
Roy O. Martin announces a $20-million expansion at its Chopin (Sho-pan) plywood facility in Natchitoches Parish. The project will retain nearly 700 jobs at the plant and produce 80 new direct and indirect jobs. Company president Roy O. Martin III says
during this expansion, they'll upgrade their drying equipment and add a production line. Martin says construction will begin this summer, with the majority of hiring taking place shortly before production begins on the new timber line next year.
The Rapides Parish School Board voted 7-2 Tuesday to approved a plan brought, forward by Incoming Superintendent Tony Authement, that will restructure the school district. The restructuring plan calls for the elimination of 44 central office positions. But, the creation of 36 positions, plus changes to some existing positions. Authement says the plan accomplishes three things, streamlines the district, places “intense focus” on support for schools and provides targeted professional development opportunities for all schools. The plan’s initial cost to the district’s budget is an overall increase of about $680,000. The school board gave it’s stamp of approval to the plan at a special meeting last night.
A $3.5 billion spending plan for public schools was rejected by a Senate committee Tuesday morning, which may kill the measure for the session. The proposal, Senate Concurrent Resolution 23, was sharply criticized for proposed changes in how the state would fund special education students. A move to shelve the proposal won approval in the Senate Education Committee without objection. Unless there is a sudden change, the action means that the state’s 2011-12 public school financing plan will be in effect for the 2013-14 school year. That aid package did not include any changes in special education.
A 34-member Cleco team is expected to arrive today in Oklahoma City to help Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company get their system back online. Cleco spokeswoman Robbyn Cooper says (OGE called to request help because they believe their entire electric grid was destroyed by the massive deadly tornado. Cooper says Cleco is a member of the Southeastern Electric Exchange's mutual assistance program where member utilities offer power restoration assistance after major weather events. She says) OGE serves 801,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas but at this time it is impossible to say exactly how many people are without power.
Teams of volunteers from the Red Cross in Louisiana left yesterday to help those affected by the tornado in Oklahoma. Red Cross spokeswoman Nancy Malone says their workers will help distribute food and supplies to the storm victims and first responders and are prepared to stay for at least two weeks..
Proposed gun bills met with mixed success on the Senate floor. A House bill to assure that concealed weapon permit holders' identities remain private won Senate passage. The bill was amended to allow publishing a name, if the CCP holder commits a crime with a handgun. The bill passed and goes back to the House for amendment concurrence. The Senate delayed voting on a House-passed bill that would defy any possible future federal ban on semi-automatic weapons. But,one gun bill is on its way to Governor Jindal's desk. HB 265 would allow concealed weapon permit holders the option of buying a lifetime permit, rather than renewing every five years.
Law enforcement statewide is increasing patrols and checkpoints through June second as part of the state's largest-ever concentrated effort to increase seat belt usage through the "Click It or Ticket" campaign. Colonel John LeBlanc with the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission says the campaign coincides with the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend. LeBlanc also reminds motorists all occupants of the vehicle must wear their seat belts. Not just the front seat passenger.
The bill that would prohibit drivers from posting to Facebook or Tweeting while behind the wheel gets final legislative passage Tuesday in the Senate. Also heading to the Governor's desk for his signature is the bill by Shreveport Representative Barbara Norton that says drivers of Elio, the three wheeled vehicle to be manufactured in
Shreveport won't have to wear helmets.
The state revokes Explo Systems license to operate in Louisiana after the company failed to properly store millions of pounds of a military propellant. Explo was renting out space at Camp Minden, a Louisiana National Guard Base in Webster Parish to dismantle military propelling charges. State Police Lt. Julie Lewis says all the improperly stored material is now in appropriate storage magazines at Camp Minden and Explo has surrendered its keys to the facility.
State Police say a 10-year-old child is dead after a car driven by her unlicensed 15-year-old sister crashed on their way to baseball practice in Tangipahoa Parish. Spokesman Nick Manale says the 15-year-old was driving the car with her three siblings: ages 9, 10 and 12. The 10-year-old died from her injuries; the driver and the other two juvenile passengers suffered minor to moderate injuries.
The LSU Tigers face Alabama this afternoon in the SEC Tournament. The Tigers took two out of three from the Crimson Tide during the regular season.
News for Tuesday 052113
By Dave Graichen
After tornadoes ripped through northwest Louisiana last week, the National Weather Service says the area could be faced with severe conditions once again today. State Climatologist Barry Keim says the front that produced destructive tornadoes in Oklahoma yesterday could spawn more twisters in north Louisiana today. Keim says there is a slight chance for severe weather in the northern third of the state, and a moderate chance for severe weather in the northwestern part of the state. He says Louisianians should take these forecasts seriously and be prepared for anything.
The state Senate Finance Committee on Monday advanced two proposed constitutional amendments that opponents said would protect more areas of the budget from cuts.
The propositions, contained in House Bills 532 and 533, would provide more financial stability for hospitals, nursing homes, intermediate care facilities and pharmacists through constitutionally protected funds. The committee voted 9-1 to approve the measures. The bills now move to the state Senate floor.
A proposal for Louisiana to tap into federal healthcare overhaul funds available for expanding Medicaid has been stalled in the state senate. The Finance Committee rejected the bill yesterday with all but one Republican voting against expansion. A similar proposal is slated for house action later this week.
Homeowners who use solar power and provide electricity for utility companies are watching a vote that is expected to take place at today's Public Service Commission meeting. Those solar customers are eligible for credits on their utility bill, but P-S-C member Clyde Holloway is proposing smaller credits for those homeowners. Holloway says the proposed change would level the playing field for those utility customers who don't have solar panels. Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell opposes Holloway's attempt to change the rules with the solar program. Because he says they would be breaking its promise to solar customers.
Governor Jindal has ordered a review of Texas Brine's permits to operate in Louisiana. The Governor says has lost patience with the Houston company, for dragging its feet on property buyouts for residents near the 15-acre Bayou Corne sinkhole. However, Texas Brine is blaming their insurance carrier for the holdup in buying property near the sinkhole. Damage estimates from the massive hole in the ground are estimated at some 40-million dollars. Some folks living near the sinkhole have been evacuated for over nine months
The Senate Finance Committee quickly signed off Monday on multi-year, 4 percent pay raises for Louisiana clerks of court. Under House Bill 174, the clerks could opt for 4 percent pay raises in each of four years. The money to cover the raises would have to come from self-generated funds. State Rep. Jeff Arnold of New Orleans, said the raises are optional and would be the first opportunity in seven years for a pay increase.
The bill now heads to the state Senate floor.
A bid to give judges five years of annual pay raises easily received the backing Monday of the state Senate’s budget committee, after it was changed to require money for the salary hike to come from the annual judicial budget. Judges haven’t had a raise since 2010. The proposal now goes to the full Senate for debate.
The grand opening of the Margaritaville Resort in Bossier City has been set for the July 4th week. Officials say the entire event will include fireworks, live music and more. They are hoping Jimmy Buffett will be able to make an appearance at the grand opening and they say the expectation is high.
News for Monday 052013
By Dave Graichen
The Jindal administration has proposed privatization deals with eight LSU hospitals, but lawmakers have learned there's only enough money in next year's budget to fully fund three of them. Department of Health and Hospitals Undersecretary Jerry Phillips says they are aware of the problem and they believe there may be other funding
sources out there to get these deals done.
He doesn’t officially start his new job until June 1st. but, Incoming Rapides Parish schools Superintendent Nason “Tony” Authement is planning to create four “school turnaround teams” as part of a restructuring of the school district’s central office.
The School Board will consider Authement’s restructuring plan Tuesday at a special meeting, which will begin after the regularly scheduled committee meetings that start at 5 p.m. The school turnaround will be charged with helping to improve the district’s 17 schools that were graded as a D or F by the state Department of Education.
The state Senate settles in this week to begin its work with the proposed $24-billion budget for the fiscal year that starts in July. The House passed that bill out over a week ago. Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, who is a veteran of the legislature, says he's pleased with how the House handled tax incentives for the film & TV industry. Dardenne says the budget bill passed by the House makes some cuts to the departments he oversees, tourism, culture, state parks and most museums but they are cuts he feels he can work with.
Business as usual? State ethics officials pushed a limited legislative agenda this year, but even that scaled-down approach got nowhere. No bills were filed, although Louisiana Ethics Board members says they sought legislative fixes from the Legislature’s leaders and from Gov. Bobby Jindal. Some of the measures that did get filed in the 2013 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature are contrary to the recommendations the Ethics Board had established. The Ethics Board asked for help with a handful of challenges it continues to encounter in enforcement of conflict of interest, nepotism and campaign finance laws. Some of the disputes have led to lawsuits and others concern about creating some big holes that could allow ethical misconduct.
A new report on poverty shows that the number of poor people living in the Baton Rouge suburbs increased by 31.8 percent from 2000 to 2011. But, the good news in the report is that 31.8 percent figure is less than half of the average percentage change reported for the nation’s largest cities. Nationally, the number of poor people living in suburban areas in the 100 largest cities went up 63.6 percent from 2000 to 2011, from just over 10 million to nearly 16.4 million.
The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's office announces an arrest has been made in a murder that happened in 1962. Seventy-three-year-old Felix Vail was arrested in Canyon Lake, Texas and booked into the Calcasieu Parish jail last night. Investigators believe Vail killed his wife Mary Horton Vail, who was found dead in the Calcasieu
River. Felix claimed it was a boating accident. The Mississippi native is also a suspect in the deaths of a girlfriend and another wife.
Marksville police captured an inmate from the Avoyelles Parish Detention Center who was on the run. Authorities say 21-year-old Christopher Roy escaped while on work detail. He was found early Saturday morning at a home in Marksville. Roy has been in prison since November and he was scheduled for release in 2015.
Congratulations to Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson. Who on Saturday received the Buford Pusser National Law Enforcement Award for his efforts to promote partnerships among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The award is given annually to “deserving officers who have exhibited both heroism and leadership in law enforcement.
A state lawmaker will look into whether legislation is needed to allow parents track their children with G-P-S devices while at school. Mandeville Representative Tim Burns says there's rules on the books against electronic devices in the classroom like phones, so legislation might be needed for parents to track their kids at school. Burns says he's asking the state legislature to approve a study resolution this year to get a better idea on what schools have to say about GPS devices in the classroom. He says they'll also look into the available technology and possibly propose legislation next year.
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services is seeking new foster families. The state currently has about two-thousand foster homes that serve four-thousand foster children. But D-C-F-S Secretary Suzy Sonnier (SAHN-yay) says they are in need of families willing to take large sibling groups or children with special needs. Sonnier says parents can learn more about becoming a foster parent by visiting the department of children and family services website. Sonnier says foster parents take in children who had to leave their family because of abuse or neglect. She says the goal is to eventually reunite those children with their birth parents, relatives or family members.
Whitney and Hancock banks, which operate some 250 full-service bank branches in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are expected to close 40-45 area branches this year in all five states in which they operate, including Louisiana. The specific branches that will be closed — and how many employees might be laid off — will not be released until later. Most of the closings will occur Aug. 30 and all closings will be completed by year’s end.
Sports….After a record-breaking regular season, the second ranked LSU baseball team can focus on the postseason. The Tigers will begin play in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama on Wednesday. LSU will play Against the winner of Tuesday's game between 10th seeded Auburn and seventh seeded Alabama. The Tigers will need to win four games this week to win the SEC Tournament. Hear Those Games On 970AM KSYL.
News for Friday 051713
By Dave Graichen
Governor Bobby Jindal declares a state of emergency in response to potential flooding along the Mississippi River. Flood warnings are posted along the river from Arkansas City, Arkansas to Baton Rouge. The National Weather Service says the main flooding concern is with those areas not protected by the main levee system.
State senators cracked open the Louisiana House’s version of the nearly $25 billion state spending plan Thursday and immediately raised questions. Members of the state Senate Finance Committee focused their concerns on a planned tax amnesty program, severance tax adjustments and the TOPS program. State Sen. Fred Mills characterized one piece of the plan that the House advanced as almost looking like a pay day loan, referring to a transaction in which someone gets immediate cash but eventually loses money on the deal. The committee will continue to look at the budget today.
Legislation prohibiting future teacher union employees from receiving state retirement benefits cleared the Louisiana House Thursday after fierce debate. House Bill 727 would not allow employees hired after Sept. 1 to belong to the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana. State Rep. Herbert Dixon, D-Alexandria, denounced the proposal as a union busting measure. The House voted 57-40 in favor of the legislation, which now moves to the state Senate.
A bit of a scare yesterday in Alexandria. Police blocked off the streets surrounding the courthouse at about 10:20 a.m. after a suspicious package was found. Just after 2 p.m., Louisiana State Police bomb technicians and FBI agents determined what was in it. Police retrieved some electric hair clippers and two pocketknives. Sheriff William Hilton said in a news release. "In this day and time, you can never be too careful when something like this is found, especially in light of recent events.
One day after rejecting a public school $3.5 billion spending plan, lawmakers said Thursday, they will consider a slightly different version submitted by the BESE board.
The panel on Wednesday rejected BESE’s initial proposal in light of last week’s ruling by the state Supreme Court, which struck down how the state financed school vouchers. The money was first planned to come from the $3.5 billion. But later in the day BESE officials said the rejected proposal inadvertently included language never considered by the board. The corrected version included language aimed at keeping the resolution intact if the court tossed out the voucher funding method, which it did.
Lawmakers have given final legislative passage to a bill requiring public schools to formulate a crisis response plan with local lawmen, and rehearse that plan at least once a year. The bill, received no opposing votes on the Senate floor today. It's now headed to Governor Jindal's office, where he can either sign it, veto it or allow it to take effect without his signature.
Lafayette Republican Charles Boustany will be involved in a Congressional hearing today looking into the allegations that Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status. Boustany says those responsible may have committed civil rights violations. Boustany is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is holding today's hearing. Steven Miller, who resigned earlier this week as acting IRS Commissioner, is scheduled to testify.
There were no big winners in Wednesday night’s Powerball drawing so the estimated jackpot climbs to an estimated $550 million which is the 2nd largest of all time. The next Powerball drawing is Saturday night.. By the way, The Mega Millions drawing for tonight is also up there.. it’s at $190 million.
Louisiana State Police say a teenager who was not buckled up died in a Calcasieu Parish crash Thursday morning. Three teenage girls were in a car that allegedly ran a stop sign and crashed into another vehicle. All three teenagers were unrestrained in the crash. One died from her injuries, the other two are in critical condition.
New Orleans Police have arrested the brother of the man accused of opening fire on a crowd of people on Mother's Day, for his part in the shooting spree. Akein Scott was arrested Wednesday for 20 counts of attempted murder. His bail set at $10-million. Yesterday, the NOPD says brother Sean Scott will face the same charges. Four others have been arrested as well for harboring the suspects. Scott allegedly shot and
injured 20 people Sunday; three are still in critical condition.
The ban on social networking while driving bill passes 94-0 on the House Floor. The bill by Livingston Senator Dale Erdy would prohibiting drivers from using sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram on a mobile device while operating a motor vehicle.
The bill has to go back to the Senate for final passage.
A computer issue recently resulted in the disclosure of personal health information about 8,330 LSU Health Shreveport patients. Spokeswoman Meg Willett describes the release as unintentional and says those affected patients are being informed via notification letters sent out Wednesday. "No Social Security numbers, birthdates or financial account numbers were disclosed; so officials do not believe any financial information has been compromised.
The LSU Baseballers won game one of their three game series against Ole Miss last night with a 7 to 1 victory. Game two is tonight at 6:30. Tomorrow’s game is at 11:30 in the morning..
News for Thursday 051613
By Dave Graichen
Residents in the city of Pineville could, in the not too distant future, have a chance to give a yea or a nay to the sale of alcohol in restaurants in the dry city. With a unanimous vote the House judiciary committee Wednesday morning sent Sen. Rick Gallot’s Senate Bill 116 to the House floor for a final vote.
New Orleans Police late Wednesday arrested 19-year-old Akein Scott, the alleged gunman in a Mother’s Day shooting that injured 19 people Sunday. Four people remain hospitalized, three in critical condition and one in stable condition. Scott has a long criminal record.
A state Senate panel Wednesday rejected a $3.5 billion funding request for public schools, further muddling an already confused picture on how classrooms will be funded. The Senate Education Committee approved a resolution, without objection, that asks the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to submit a new request in light of last week’s ruling by the state Supreme Court. The court’s 6-1 decision held that the state cannot use the Minimum Foundation Program, the key source of state aid for public schools, to also finance vouchers for some students to attend private and parochial schools. Gov. Bobby Jindal has said state aid for vouchers will continue but exactly how remains unclear.
Louisiana Education Superintendent John White said Wednesday that a court ruling throwing out funding vouchers through the public school funding formula will result in school systems receiving a $12 million refund for loss of the local shares contributed to vouchers. Local school officials have complained that the department was essentially using local funds to pay for vouchers because it deducted from each district's state allotment an amount equal to what local governments pay to educate students.
The $12 million is part of a $30 million payment that White said will have to be refunded to schools.
The state construction budget zipped through the Louisiana House Wednesday after millions of dollars were added for maintenance projects on public college and university campuses across the state. The House voted 100-0 in favor of advancing House Bill 2, the capital outlay budget, to the state Senate. House Bill 3, the spending engine for the construction budget, also cleared the House chamber.
Louisiana lawmakers learned yesterday they'll have an additional 155-million dollars to spend in the fiscal year budget that starts July 1st. It's the result of higher than expected individual income tax collections. The Senate finance committee will begin its examination of the House-approved budget next week.
The Louisiana Senate on Wednesday narrowly rejected an “Equal Pay for Women” law.
The Senate voted 19-18 for the measure, one vote shy of the 20 needed for passage.
A bill that would allow colleges and universities to impose a host of new fees onto students, including one that could cost up to $2,500 per semester for LSU’s digital media students, easily advanced in the Louisiana House Wednesday on an 80-18 vote.
Most of the discussion on the House floor centered on a provision within House Bill 671 that would allow public institutions around the state to charge a fee of up to $48 to help schools keep up with building maintenance.
An effort to delay implementing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s 401(k)-type pension plan for new state government hires is one step away from final legislative passage. The House Retirement Committee on Wednesday approved a Senate-passed resolution suspending the “cash balance” law until July 1, 2014. The law has been challenged in the Louisiana Supreme Court and an IRS ruling is pending that could prove costly. If the IRS decide Jindal’s fails to provide a benefit equal to Social Security, both the state and the employee would have to pay more. A state Senate panel passed a similar House-passed resolution. Now, all that’s needed is for either chamber to pass one of the instruments that would suspend the law until 2014. Suspension resolutions cannot be vetoed by the governor.
Legislation that would create a Department of Elderly Affairs in state government cleared the Louisiana House Wednesday. The House voted 102-0 in favor of House Bill 352 , Which would abolish the Office of Elderly Affairs within the governor’s office and create a new state department devoted to senior citizen issues, such as funding for councils on aging, senior centers and meals on wheels. The bill now moves to the state Senate.
Minden Congressman John Fleming is calling on Congress to audit the Internal Revenue Service, after alleged misconduct by the tax agency surfaced. Fleming says he's filing legislation this week; calling first for a Congressional audit of the IRS. Yesterday, President Obama announced he's accepted the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, after it came to light the agency had targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny in their applications for tax-exempt status.
The National Hurricane Center has released its list of names for Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms this season. The list starts with Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin and Fernand. One name we won't see again is Sandy. That name was retired after last year's east coast disaster.
The Louisiana House on Wednesday approved legislation aimed at protecting public employees from retaliation if they provide information requested by a legislator or legislative committee. The House voted 100-0 for House Bill 387, which is opposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. Administration officials testified in committee that they found the bill was too broad and could have unintended consequences. State Rep. John Schroder, R-Mandeville the sponsor of the bill, said public employees could wage complaints with the Louisiana Board of Ethics, which would investigate and “offer its remedy.” The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s waterway resources bill that is intended to expedite U.S. Army Corps of Engineers processes, set aside more dollars for river dredging and speed up flood-protection projects like southern Louisiana’s Morganza to the Gulf plan in Terrebonne Parish. The bipartisan Water Resources Development Act, sponsored by Vitter and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer won out with an 83-14 vote. The legislation, a version of which has not passed Congress since 2007, next moves to the U.S. House for consideration, although House members are currently working on their own version of the bill.
The state Department of Ag and Forestry says Louisiana is at less risk for wildfires this year than other states who are dealing with serious drought conditions. The US Drought Monitor shows that as of last week, there were no drought conditions in 93% of the state.
The story of the case of a white family who was allegedly beat up by black suspects for "being in the wrong neighborhood" in Baton Rouge is receiving national attention -- and now BRPD says the FBI may step in. They say currently the incident does not meet the hate crime statute but federal laws could be different.
Legislation that would add an amendment to the state constitution that removes the mandatory retirement age for judges clears another committee. Currently the constitution states a judge cannot remain in office past the age of 70 unless they are severing a term. The proposed amendment by Ville Platte Senator Eric LaFleur has
already made it through the upper chamber and now heads to the House Floor for final passage. If passed, the matter would head to the voters for the November 4th, 2014 election.
The House Bill that would require dogs to be crated in truck beds on Interstates cleared Senate Transportation and now heads to full Senate for possible final legislative passage. Tthe primary purpose of the bill is to reduce the number of accidents caused by dogs who jump out of truck beds. The fine for violating the proposed law would be $150 plus $50 for each additional dog.
Today marks the beginning of the final three game series for the second- ranked LSU baseball team. The Tigers host the Ole Miss Rebels, with the team celebrating senior day this weekend.
News for Wednesday 051513
By Dave Graichen
New Orleans Police say they are looking for 19-year-old Akein Scott who they say is a suspect in the mother's day parade shooting that injured 20 people. Three of the victims remain in critical condition after the brutal attack Sunday. Officials say Scott has been arrested many times in the past.
A Senate judiciary committee Tuesday approved a bill aimed at getting around possible future federal gun regulations, by creating a Louisiana-made firearms and ammunition classification. Under the Legislation, as long as the guns or ammo are manufactured within the state, they would not fall under the federally-regulated commerce clause. That bill has already passed the House. It now goes to the Senate floor for what could be final passage.
The Jindal administration’s budget does not contain $42 million in termination pay and unemployment costs for the 5,000-plus state employees losing jobs because of its privatization of LSU hospitals, according to a report issued Monday. The report also notes that there are another $26 million in annually reoccurring “legacy” costs to cover retiree health and life insurance. The legislative auditor’s report looked at various effects of the privatization of hospitals in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette, Houma, Bogalusa and Lake Charles.
Today is the final day for Louisiana citizens to submit their 2012 state tax returns. Department of Revenue spokesperson Byron Henderson says they've processed 1.5 million state returns this year, after processing just over two-million the year before. Henderson says taxpayers who waited until today, should file electronically. Henderson says for those who still mail in their returns, the envelope must have today's date as the postmark. He says if a taxpayer needs more time to complete their 2012 state income tax return, they can request an extension to avoid late-filing penalties.
Tonight's Powerball jackpot is up to an estimated $360 million dollars which is the third largest in the game's history. The cash value of tonight's jackpot is a whopping $229.2
A Louisiana House committee refused Tuesday to advance legislation criminalizing sexual contact between psychotherapists and patients. State Rep. Dalton Honoré angered a woman by questioning whether legislation next would be filed to forbid a telephone repairman from dating a client.
Forging motor vehicle safety inspection stickers would be a crime under a House-backed bill approved Tuesday by a Senate committee. State Public Safety officials told the committee that bogus stickers are on the rise. The bill would levee a $5000 fine and up to 5 years in prison for a conviction of counterfeiting inspection stickers.
Next stop: the full Senate for debate and vote.
The Greensburg man who pleaded guilty to driving drunk and killing seven people in a car crash had his prison sentence reduced from 80 years to 35 years today. The lawyer for Brett Gerald fired the motion and asked the judge to consider his client's "extreme remorse" and "lack of intent to cause harm."
The National Transportation Safety Board suggests lowering the allowable blood alcohol level from .08 percent to .05 percent for drivers. The NTSB's study indicates dropping the BAC could cut down on the nearly 10,000 drunk driving related deaths nationwide. Louisiana Highway Safety Commission Col John LeBlanc agrees. However, LeBlanc says the last time the NTSB made a recommendation to lower the BAC standard, it took 21 years for all 50 states to comply. Louisiana made the switch to .08 for drivers in September of 2003.
A bill that would protect a minor-aged girl's right to choose whether or not to have an abortion has been passed by the state House. The legislation provides for intervening between child and parent, if the girl wants to have her baby. The bills sponsor Denham Springs Rep. Valarie Hodges say it would make coercing a minor-age girl into having an abortion an act of child abuse.
A House committee has rejected a bill that would require legislative approval of large rate hikes for the state's property insurer of last resort, Louisiana Citizens. St. Mary Parish Senator Brett Allain's bill has already passed the Senate. In the House Insurance Committee, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon argued that, by law,
Citizens' rates must remain at least 10% higher than the private market. He feels Allain's bill - requiring lawmaker approval of rate hikes of 25% or more - will undo that. The committee voted 9-4 against the bill, which kills it for the session.
A congressional effort to delay upcoming flood insurance rate increases for many thousands of Louisiana residents, and others nationwide, was defeated Tuesday by a single senator who threatened to bring this week’s U.S. Senate floor action to a screeching halt. The proposal, by Sen. Mary Landrieu, with the backing of Sen. David Vitter, R-La, was an amendment to Vitter’s water resources infrastructure bill. The amendment would have stalled premium increases of 20 percent or more annually for some residents in the National Flood Insurance Program. But Sen. Pat Toomey, a republican from Pennsylvania, used a procedural move to block all the proposed amendments to the bill from receiving votes, unless Landrieu withdrew her proposal. She did in order to avoid gridlock. Landrieu said afterward that she will file a standalone flood insurance bill that she will push to move quickly.
A state House panel Tuesday endorsed the creation of special courts to divert non-violent offenders with mental health problems into treatment programs instead of prisons. The Administration of Criminal Justice Committee, without objection, approved Senate Bill 71. The legislation would authorize district courts to create divisions that would deal with offenders who have mental health problems, much like there are drug courts today. The mental health courts would be established by rule by each district court. They would not be mandatory. The bill now heads to the House floor for debate.
Louisiana seafood industry leaders and state officials announce the official launch of the state's Seafood Certification program. The program is aimed at boosting confidence in the quality of seafood for retailers, restaurateurs and consumers by allowing easy recognition of products as being from Louisiana. Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board director Ewell Smith says the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will have oversight. Television ads for "Louisiana Certified Seafood" are already on the air.
Wade Lohse is finally back in a Lafayette Parish jail and authorities don't expect he'll have a chance at freedom for quite some time. Lohse became Acadiana's Most Wanted after he walked out of his vehicular homicide trial in March.
The Dalai Lama will visit Louisiana this week. The Tibetan holy man will make public appearances in New Orleans Friday and Saturday, and will speak at Tulane University's commencement in the Superdome.
State Sen. Gary Smith and his wife went out of state to have their biological children born using a surrogate mom. On Monday, the Montz legislator got a House committee to advance legislation that would regulate the practice if other married couples want to do the same thing in Louisiana. The House Civil Law Committee voted 9-1 for the Senate-passed measure, which was opposed from both ends of the political spectrum. Gay rights advocates complained about exclusion and the Louisiana Family Forum and Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops objected on ethical and moral grounds. Senate Bill 162, which cleared the Senate 30-4, now moves to the House floor for debate.
In a sign that the GOP is rallying around Rep. Bill Cassidy as its choice for the 2014 Senate race, all of the Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation are supporting Cassidy at a June fundraiser in Washington. The Republicans want a one-on-one race between Cassidy and incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. The invitation for June 11 fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in Washington suggests minimum donations of $500 and touts “special guests” in Sen. David Vitter, and Reps. Rodney Alexander of Quitman, Charles Boustany, of Lafayette; John Fleming of Minden; and Steve Scalise of Jefferson.
News for Thursday 050913
By Dave Graichen
The Louisiana House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today on a 24-billion dollar budget for next fiscal year. Many lawmakers do not like the governor's budget because of the use of one-time dollars, but insiders say the votes are not there for an alternative plan that would reduce state tax credits as a way to raise revenues. A group of republican lawmakers known as "fiscal hawks" were working with democrats on a proposed budget that the Jindal administration criticized as a tax increase on businesses. But that plan fell apart when the governor put pressure on republican legislators.
Senator David Vitter has introduced legislation to end the free cell phone program for the poor. The Senator says the Lifeline Program, introduced in 1984, was originally about expanding land line phone service to rural areas and low income households--at a relatively low cost to taxpayers. But, the Lifeline Program has somehow become a dispensary of free cell phones that currently costs taxpayers over $2-billion a year.
According to a new survey, Louisiana is the second best state in the nation to retire. The study by Bankrate.com says besides jazz and beignets, our state offers retirees an excellent combination of low taxes and balmy weather. Analyst Chris Kahn says people like to retire in places where it's warm. Kahn says popular places with warm weather, beaches and other major attractions are great places to visit, but they don't make good places to retire due to overall tax rates and high cost of living.
The House Health and Welfare Committee has approved a bill to tap into federal dollars available to expand Medicaid coverage to more of Louisiana's working poor. Testifying before the panel, former state Health and Hospitals Secretary David Hood says the state should take the federal money. Also testifying on the bill, acting Health and Hospitals head Kathy Kliebert who says the expansion will eventually become unsustainable. The Jindal Administration has resisted the Medicaid expansion. The committee passed the measure by a close 10-9 vote, sending it to the House floor.
A bill to increase student fees at LSU advances in House Education today. The bill by Baton Rouge Representative Franklin Foil would implement a $60 a year fee to go towards campus maintenance projects. If passed it would go into effect this fall and could top out at $300 a year by fall of 2017. It now heads to the House floor.
A USA Today report shows LSU's athletic department took in 114 million dollars in revenues in 2012 which is the seventh highest figure among public universities. LSU Associate athletics director Herb Vincent says the report is accurate and the study also shows LSU's athletic department is one of the few in the country that does not rely on subsidies. Ticket sales, contributions and right licensing help make up the
revenue totals. Vincent says LSU expects to see its revenue numbers continue to grow with the launch of the SEC Television Network in August 2014.
The House has passed West Monroe Rep. Frank Hoffman's bill to prohibit smoking within 25 feet of state-owned buildings. Hoffman amended his bill to make it apply only to office buildings, the Capitol and nothing else. Hoffman's legislation passed the House by 84-11 vote. It now goes to the Senate for committee review in that chamber.
A Senate committee has approved a House-passed bill that would place criminal penalties on anyone who makes public information on Louisiana's holders of concealed weapon carry permits. That bill now goes to the full Senate, where it will be up for final passage.
The "I'm a Cajun" license plate bill has made it another step further. The legislation by State Senator Fred Mills that would start offering the specialty plate passes the Senate and now heads to the House for further consideration.
An Abbeville man has been indicted on a second-degree murder charge in the death of his girlfriend's 3-month-old daughter. Police say 25-year-old Shane Jude Vincent was arrested without incident. Vincent was also charged with tampering with evidence in the death of Jayla Broussard last November.
Federal regulators are investigating whether workers at the Shaw Modular Solutions facility in Lake Charles, which supplies parts to nuclear plants, broke quality control rules and falsified records. CB&I, which acquired the facility’s owner, Baton Rouge-based Shaw Group, in February, said it is cooperating in the probe and has turned over all the requested documents.
The Louisiana House on Wednesday voted 99-0 to allow public high school students with disabilities to avoid taking the ACT and other standardized tests.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite and sponsor of the plan, said the exclusion would apply to students who are not pursuing a high school diploma and who have an exceptionality listed in state law. The proposal does not cover gifted and talented students. The legislation, which next faces action in the state Senate, is the latest move aimed at revamping rules of the state Department of Education.
A state Senate-passed bill that would spell out details of a 2012 law to overhaul early childhood education in Louisiana cleared the House Education Committee on Wednesday. The measure, Senate Bill 130, next faces action on the Louisiana House floor. Last year’s law calls for early learning performance guidelines for those from zero to age 3 and academic standards for 3- and 4-year-olds. In addition, pre-kindergarten centers and schools will get letter grades, and state aid will be linked to how the centers perform. The changes take effect in the 2015-16 school year.
The number three LSU baseball team is in College Station, Texas, preparing for a three-game series that starts tonight against the Texas A-and-M Aggies. Head coach Paul Mainieri says he's excited about the opportunity to play on the road in a new environment and in front of a raucous crowd. You can hear all three games of that series on 970 KSYL.
News for Wednesday 050813
By Dave Graichen
A single vehicle crash on Interstate 49 claims the life of a Pineville woman. State Police reports the victim, 58-year-old Linda Jett, lost control of her car and crashed into several trees on the side of the highway. She was able to be removed from the burning vehicle by a passing motorist but was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. The accident happened yesterday morning.
The Alexandria mall is cracking down on those roaming mobs of young people who seem to fill the mall on weekends. Mall officials announced a new policy Tuesday stating, anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult from 5 p.m. until close on Friday and Saturday evenings. The program is being branded “@5 Family Weekends” because it’s intended to put the focus back on a family friendly atmosphere in the mall. The policy will be enforced by mall security.
The annual Stamp Out Hunger! food drive involving letter carriers nationwide is set for Saturday. Locally, the drive will benefit the Food Bank of Central Louisiana in Alexandria. To participate, residents are asked to leave a sturdy bag containing non-perishable foods -- such as canned soup, canned vegetables, pasta, rice or cereal -- next to their mailbox prior to the time of regular delivery on Saturday, May 11. Local letter carriers will collect these donations as they deliver the mail and take them to The Food Bank of Central Louisiana.
The state Supreme Court has ruled the funding mechanism for Louisiana's private school tuition vouchers program violates the state Constitution. The High Court ruled that using dollars from the so-called Minimum Foundation Program, the fund for public school funding to pay the vouchers goes against the language of the
Constitution. Seemingly un-phased, Governor Jindal said he can get the millions needed to fund the vouchers in house bill #1, the state’s overall budget, before it makes final passage. That budget is already over a billion dollars in the red.
Details emerge on what's contained in the Louisiana House's proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1st. A coalition of Democrats and Republican "Fiscal Hawks" proposes to reduce state tax credits by 15 percent as a way to fund critical services. The Governor's Office says the plan will increase taxes on business and manufacturing by over a billion dollars over 4 years, and will severely damage the state's burgeoning film and electronic media industries.
A state judge has imposed a 9pm curfew on LSU running back Jeremy Hill. Under the judge's order, Hill must stay off the streets between 9 at night and 6 in the morning, and must stay away from bars. It's all conditions of Hill's probation for a fight on April 27th at a Tigerland bar. Hill was already on probation for his January conviction for carnal knowledge of a juvenile.
Shreveport Police say a high school student is under arrest for bringing a handgun on a school campus. Police say the 17-year-old Fair Park High School student was taken into custody after authorities found a .22 caliber handgun in his backpack.
Dozens of people from Louisiana are listed as missing, so does the amazing tale of three women who were found in Cleveland Monday give more families hope? State Police Captain Doug Cain says it's important they work with parents of missing children to keep hope alive, but also not give them false hope. He says human trafficking cases seem to be on the rise. The website for The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children lists 32 kids, with pictures, as currently missing from
Louisiana -- some for decades.
A House bill that would allow off-duty cops and concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns into eating establishments has been killed in a Senate Committee. The bill is sponsored by Haughton Representative Henry Burns, who explains his original intent was to allow officers to eat at restaurants that serve liquor without
leaving their weapon in the car. Burns says he may bring the original intent of his bill back as an amendment to other legislation.
It's already passed the Senate, and now a bill to ban social networking while driving has cleared another legislative hurdle. The House Transportation Committee approved Livingston Senator Dale Erdey's bill, which makes posting to Facebook Twitter or Instagram from behind the wheel punishable with fines and possible jail time.
Next stop the House floor, where it's expected to win final passage.
A solar energy tax credit would be phased out by 2020 under a bill approved in the Louisiana House on Tuesday. The House voted 95-1 for the measure which sponsor state Rep. Erich Ponti said is backed by the industry. Under House Bill 705, the tax credit would drop 35 percent in 2016 and then go away entirely by 2020. The credit cost Louisiana $24 million in 2012. The bill now moves to the state Senate.
News for Tuesday 050713
By Dave Graichen
The House Ways and Means committee advances several bills to the House floor that limit the amount of tax breaks Louisiana doles out. These measures will be used in a budget deal House members are working to approve later this week. One bill heading to the House floor will cut tax credit programs by 5-percent, raising state
revenues by an estimated 47-million dollars. Governor Jindal held a press conference after the committee meeting say what the state reps were doing was sneaky and he believes all they want to do is raise taxes.
An audit on Louisiana's food stamps program shows about two-million dollars in benefits went to ineligible residents, including prisoners. Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera says one-point-one million dollars in food stamp benefits went to over 17-hundred incarcerated participants during fiscal years 2011 and 2012. The audit also shows that about 300 participants spent 100-percent of their benefits at a single retailer. Purpera says it's an indication the food stamp recipient used their benefit card to possibly by liquor or tobacco. Something not allowed under the program.
The House has passed a bill that will exempt Louisiana-based gun manufacturers from federal gun regulations. The bill, by Metairie Rep. Joe Lopinto, provides for a license for in-state made firearms and that the making and selling of said guns is not subject to federal laws. The measure passed by a wide margin.
A House bill that would loosen restrictions on who can carry a gun into a restaurant that sells alcohol will be heard in a Senate committee today. The legislation by Haughton representative Henry Burns was originally written to allow off-duty police officers into bars and restaurants. Burns believes his bill was amended to include ALL permit holders in a effort by opponents to kill it, but that backfired and it passed. It
also passed on the House Floor despite confusion over who the bill applied to.
In an effort to help traditional retailers and financially strapped state and local governments, the US Senate Monday passed a bill that would allow for the charging of state sales taxes on most purchases made over the internet. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 69-27, getting support from Republicans and Democrats alike. But opposition from some conservatives who view it as a tax increase will make it a tougher sell in the House. President Barack Obama has expressed his support.
Louisiana judges would no longer be subject to a mandatory age 70 retirement under a proposition endorsed Monday evening by the state Senate.The Senate voted 33-2 for a proposed constitutional amendment contained in Senate Bill 5 , which now moves to the House for debate. The proposition must receive a two-thirds vote of each legislative chamber before it goes to voters at the next statewide election which is in 2014.
Gas prices continue to slide in Louisiana. The current statewide average for a gallon of regular is $3.27 which is down a penny from yesterday. Some analysts from the American Automobile Association say it's very possible prices could be $3 a gallon by the time summer rolls around. A year ago at this time the price was $3.63.
A proposal to help state road and bridge funding keep pace with inflation was rejected in a House committee Monday. The bill would have indexed the gasoline tax to the Consumer Price Index.
A state audit shows that more than 44 percent of the Louisiana students who received scholarships from the state's TOPS program over a seven-year period had their awards canceled for one reason or another. The audit says the state spent $165 million in TOPS awards for the more than 42,000 students whose awards were eventually canceled. In response, TOPS administrators said more than 80 percent of money paid for TOPS awards went to students who completed the program. And they said most of the canceled awards were lost by students who failed to maintain enough credit hours but still had good grades.
The Iberia Parish Sheriff's office is investigating the death of a 3-year-old child. Capt Ryan Turner says no charges have been filed in the death of the child because cause of death has not yet been determined. However he says they did arrest the four adults that were in the home that day after drugs were found during the investigation.
A 16-year Baton Rouge boy was killed when the car he was a passenger in ran off I-10 in Ascension Parish and crashed into a line of trees. The non-licensed 16-year-old driver and two other passengers in the vehicle were wearing seatbelts at the time of the wreck and suffered only minor injuries. An investigation continues.
Legislation that would prohibit drivers from posting on their Facebook or tweeting while driving moves one step closer to final legislative approval. Livingston Senator Dale Erdey says his bill calls for a fine of up to 175-dollars for the first offense,
500-dollars for subsequent violations. The bill now heads to the House Floor, it's already been approved by the Senate.
News for Monday 050613
By Dave Graichen
All tax items on the Saturday ballot here in Rapides Parish all easily passed with over 70% of the vote. The 9.60 Mil 15 year Sherriff’s tax renewal. Pineville School Dist. No. 52 -- 7.41 Mills - SB - 10 Yrs. And Big Island Sch. Dist. Number 50 -- 6.36 Mills - SB - 10 Yrs. Race for Justice of the Peace Ward 4, Patricia "Pat" Paul won with close to 53% of the vote.
Boise Incorporated will invest 111-million dollars to upgrade its paper mill in Deridder. The governor's office says the expansion will retain 440 existing jobs and create 54 new direct jobs. Deridder Mayor Ron Roberts says Boise plans to convert an old newsprint machine, so that it will be able to produce cardboard for
packaging. Roberts says Boise's investment, which will also create an estimated
600 construction jobs, is the biggest ever by a private employer in Beauregard Parish.
The man who escaped from the Natchitoches Detention Center Thursday was captured by US Marshals Friday evening. 29-year-old Derrick Evans was a trustee serving time for attempted manslaughter when he turned up missing while working at the jail's farm. Authorities say Evans was discovered in Jackson, Mississippi so he now sits in a jail there until he can be extradited back to Louisiana.
Discussions on the proposed state budget continued over the weekend and more details could be released today. Lake Charles Representative Brett Geymann says the state House wants to vote on a spending plan that has bipartisan support and prevents the midyear budget cuts that have occurred during the Jindal administration. Geymann says their budget proposal will call for spending cuts, while also suspending certain tax exemptions.
The 2013 legislative session has reached the halfway point. Council for a Better of Louisiana President Barry Erwin says the session started with a discussion on phasing out the state income tax. But Erwin says that idea was quickly shot down, so the focus in the Louisiana House has been on the proposed budget for next fiscal year. As far as other legislation goes, not one bill has passed the entire legislative process during the first 4 weeks of the session.
Legislation that would protect parents from FALSE child abuse claims will be debated on the Senate floor today. Jennings Senator Blade Moorish says he decided to file this bill after an innocent Iota family was investigated by the Department of Children and Family Services in the death of their baby. Moorish says Amanda and Jerry Spaetgens' baby died of SIDS, but since one doctor reported suspected abuse, DCFS protocol removed the other children from the home while they conducted an investigation. Moorish says his bill would establish a "level of risk" that DCFS would use when determining abuse.
The House Way & Means Committee is scheduled today to debate a proposal to help state road and bridge funding keep pace with inflation. Ken Perret, with the Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association, says the bill would index the state's 20 cent gasoline tax – dedicated to highways - to the Consumer Price Index. The state has a multi-billion dollar backlog of road and bridge repair and replacement projects, with too little cash to get them started. Perret says - if passed - House Bill 675, sponsored by Plaquemine Rep. Karen St. Germain, would likely raise the gas tax by just under a penny in its first year. The governor has said he will veto any bill that would raise taxes.
Third ranked LSU has another nice winning streak going as they head into the final two weeks of the regular season. The Tigers rebounded from a series loss to South Carolina by sweeping Florida this past weekend. The Fighting Tigers will get back on the diamond Thursday night when they begin a three-game series at Texas A-and-M.
News for Friday 050213
By Dave Graichen
What is up with the weather? Over the next couple of days, Louisiana is expected to set new records for low temperatures. State climatologist Barry Keim says these chilly temperatures are the result of a late Spring cold air mass.
Next week, Louisiana's House of Representatives will debate the 24-billion dollar state operating budget for the fiscal year that goes into effect July 1st. Thursday, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley gave a strong indication the House will vote on a spending plan that does not include the patchwork financing recommended by Governor
Jindal. Kleckley told lawmakers Thursday that a reworked proposed budget could be unveiled on Monday. It's been reported the House is working on a budget that would
contain spending cuts, while also reducing or eliminating certain tax breaks to raise revenue.
Former Governor Edwin Edwards spoke for about seven minutes on the Senate floor Wednesday then received a standing ovation from members. The expectant father reminisced about working with the legislature during his four terms in office and told Senators that never more than now does Louisiana need leaders who are willing to
set aside personal interests.
Officials in 63 of Louisiana’s 70 school districts have submitted new salary schedules that will reward teachers for effectiveness and other areas, the state Department of Education announced Thursday. The new pay plans stem from a 2012 state law aimed in part at giving local school officials more flexibility in how educators are paid. The law has been declared unconstitutional by a 19th Judicial District Court, in Baton Rouge, but remains in effect while attorneys for the state appeal.
The Southeastern Conference along with its primary television rights provider, ESPN, announced the start of the SEC network which will televise more than one-thousand events each year. The network will broadcast 24-7 starting in August 2014. Commissioner Mike Slive says the SEC Network will televise three
SEC football games each week. The new network will also televise 75 college baseball games a year.
A West Monroe newspaper reports the sponsor of a controversial bill that would allow optometrists to perform eye surgeries is withdrawing the bill from consideration. Rep. Frank Hoffman's bill met fierce opposition from ophthalmologists, who feel eye surgeries should only be done by medical doctors. Optometrists are not MDs. Hoffman told the Ouachita Citizen he's reconsidered the wisdom of the bill.
A bill to allow voters to decide if they want traffic cameras in their area was killed in a House committee Thursday today. Bill sponsor Jeff Arnold says his bill would prohibit using the cams to levy fines unless voters approved them. Opposition came from representatives of local governments, who say the cams reduce accidents and generate revenue. The committee rejected Arnold's bill by a 5-to-10 vote.
In a meeting that went into the evening hours, the Senate Education Committee once again rejected an effort to repeal Louisiana's Science Education act, which allows discussion of alternate theories to mainstream science. Chief among them the theory of Intelligent Design creation of the universe--as opposed to the Big Bang. Critics, like New Orleans Senator Karen Peterson says the 2008 law is nothing less than sneaking religion into public school classrooms through the back door. The committee deferred the bill--ending its progress for another year.
A proposal to increase certain fees the Secretary of State can collect failed to pass in the state House Thursday. House Bill 430 sponsored by state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, got a favorable vote — 48 to 35 — but failed to meet the 53 vote majority to advance out of the House. The law would have authorized the Secretary of State to raise fees for filing and recording articles of incorporation for businesses from $60 to $75 among other fee increases.
An 82-year-old Jennings woman jumped to her death off the U.S. 90 Mermentau River Bridge Thursday morning. Deputies recovered the body of Irene Jeanise a short time later.
News for Thursday 050213
By Dave Graichen
It appears a local couple was very happy with the decision of the Louisiana college board on Tuesday to support it’s president Dr. Joe Aguillard. Yesterday, Aguillard announced an anonymous $10 million donation, the largest single donation in the history of the 106-year-old college.
Louisiana is Number One among the 50 states for its rate of births to unmarried women. The data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, and shows 48.7% of all births are to non-married mothers. The city of Monroe ranked highly among U.S. cities for births to single moms; with 62.5% of all births in 2011 to non-married women. Finally, the report shows that nearly a third of all un-married mothers are women with less than a high school degree.
Yesterday the CEO of Idaho Timber, Ted Ellis, announced the company will reopen a sawmill in Coushatta later this year, creating 90 new direct jobs. The site was closed in 2008 as a result of the national recession. Idaho Timber LLC recently purchased the facility from Hood Industries. Idaho Timber, based in Boise, will make a $3.5 million capital investment to refurbish and reopen the mill by the third quarter of 2013. Hiring is under way and will be completed when the mill comes online.
The House Governmental Affairs Committee rejects a proposal to place term limits on statewide elected officials. The governor is already term limited to two terms and Erath Representative Simone Champagne believes the other statewide elected officials should be limited to three terms. Champagne's legislation would have asked voters if they want to restrict the Lt. Governor, secretary of state, insurance commissioner, attorney general and agriculture commissioner to three, four-year terms. They, as you may suspect, all spoke out against the plan. The measure was defeated on a six-to-two vote.
Governor Jindal says 8000 students attending failing public schools have been matched with the Fall 2013 Louisiana Scholarship Program, which provides state-funded vouchers to pay private and parochial school tuition. About 12-thousand families applied for the vouchers this year. The state is appealing a court ruling that the program makes unconstitutional use of public school dollars to pay those
A House committee rejects a bill banning discrimination against any state employee based on their sexual orientation. Opponents say the measure would advance a sexual politics agenda. They say existing laws provide adequate protection. That bill was involuntarily deferred.
The House Committee on Criminal Justice has approved a bill to reduce sentences for possessing marijuana, and give those currently in prison for that offense a chance at possible early release. New Orleans Rep Austin Badon says state prisons are overcrowded and straining the state finances to house non-violent offenders. Under the bill, a 2nd offense would get up to a year in prison.
HB152 by Chris Hazel which allows parole eligibility for juveniles convicted of murder, advanced to the House floor today. The bill is silent on whether the eligibility would apply to those already convicted and incarcerated. That issue would be left for the courts to decide.
A state lawmaker decides not to move his bill that would ban public schools from being involved with the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. Abbeville Rep. Bob Hensgens filed the measure in response to the LHSAA's decision to separate its high school football playoffs. There will be split football playoffs this fall, public schools will have their own post-season, while private and parochial schools will have their own brackets.
A Senate committee rejected a proposed bill to make the position of Education Superintendent an elected one. Currently BESE picks the Superintendent, often at the Goveror's urging. Monroe Senator Bob Kostelka brought the bill and was critical of current Superintendent John White, as a New Yorker who doesn't understand Louisiana. Opponents say educations gains of the past several years were made
under an appointed Superintendent. The bill failed by a 2-to-4 vote.
The new owner of The Advocate introduced himself to managers of the newspaper Wednesday morning and said he was “extremely proud” to own Louisiana’s largest daily newspaper. John Georges, the CEO of Georges Media Group and publisher of The Advocate, said he had an enormous responsibility to The Advocate’s 450 employees and the Baton Rouge community. Earlier in the day, governor Jindal told the press the paper could not be in better hands.
Here comes the bride, but not exactly what you may think. Zoo of Acadiana officials have invited the public to attend the wedding of two giraffes on Sunday. They say their 16 foot giraffe Gabriel has waited a long time for a mate and thanks to donations from the community, they were able to get Evangeline, a new 14 ft girl in the habitat. Sunday is a celebration of this accomplishment.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is now offering an app for smartphone users to report outdoor related violations. The app is called, "LADWF Tips" and this is part of their Operation Game Thief program which could offer cash rewards for information leading to arrests or convictions.
The state Department of Transportation says work on I-49 south of Lafayette should start early next year. The project will upgrade U.S.Highway 90 to Interstate standards, and add a third lane in each direction. The first section will run from Ambassador Caffery Parkwway to Albertson Parkway, at a cost of about $75-million. DOTD expects to be bidding the project out by January.
Forcing a minor to undergo an abortion would be considered child abuse under a bill approved by the House Criminal Justice Committee. The bill passed unanimously and heads to the House floor.
A state appeals court has ruled as unconstitutional a Louisiana law that makes it a felony for non-citizens to drive without documents proving they are legally in the United States. The decision, handed down Wednesday by the Lake Charles-based 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, found that the statute is an improper effort by the state to enforce immigration laws, generally the exclusive realm of the federal government.
After defeating McNeese Tuesday night, the number three ranked LSU baseball team is set to open a three-game series against the 19th ranked Florida Gators tonight. You can hear all the games on 970 KSYL. Airtime this evening is at 6
News for Wednesday 050113
By Dave Graichen
It took a daylong meeting, but the Louisiana College Board Of Trustees exonerated Dr. Joe Aguillard of all allegations that were made by several whistleblower complaints. The board was considering competing motions, one that would terminate Aguillard and another that would that would affirm him as president. They opted for the latter.
Much of the state is under a flash flood watch through Thursday. Forecaster Robert Ricks, with the National Weather Service in Slidell, says the problem is a slow moving low pressure system that's stalled over southeastern Texas and Louisiana. Ricks says we can expect periods of heavy rainfall, lightning and possible severe thunderstorms. He says it comes on the heels of an April with almost 10 inches of rainfall, bringing the risk of flash flooding in low-lying areas. The rain should begin to move out tomorrow, with fair & cool weather behind it...:
John Georges, who took over a small family company and transformed it into a billion-dollar business, completed a deal Tuesday to buy The Advocate, the largest daily newspaper in Louisiana. The Advocate, which dates back 171 years and serves readers from Lafayette to New Orleans, is one of the few newspapers in the United States whose print circulation is growing. It was owned by the descendants of Charles P. Manship Sr., who have been newspaper proprietors in Baton Rouge since 1909.
Georges said he will meet today with the newspaper’s 450 employees. He said he has been negotiating with the Manships for nearly two years.
Legislation that would double the amount of time a parent would have to give up their newborn, no questions asked, advances in House Health and Welfare. The proposal, by Pineville Rep Chris Hazel, would amend the "Safe Haven" law to say a person could give up their baby within 60 days. Wade Bond with the Rapides Children's Advocacy Center supports the extension of the Safe Haven law. He believes it would help assist
parents who feel the only answer is to murder their children. That bill now also heads for the House floor.
Two bills that take away the legislature's authority over the setting of college tuition rates are moving through the Louisiana House of Representatives. The House Education Committee approved a measure which gives the management boards of the state's 4 public college systems the power to set tuition rates. A similar piece of legislation passed out of the House Governmental Affairs Committee. That Bill is proposing a change to the state constitution, so that a two-thirds vote of the legislature is no longer needed to raise tuition.
A bill that would prohibit outdoor smoking within 25 feet of most state buildings passed in the House Health and Welfare Committee. The bill by West Monroe Representative Frank Hoffman says the penalties for those who violate this law are minimal with first offense being a $25 fine, second offense a $50 fine and any offense
after $100. Hoffman admits enforcement could be difficult. The vote was 15-1 and now heads to House floor.
A state Senate panel late Tuesday narrowly endorsed a revamped Medicaid expansion plan that would use the private insurance market place to provide health care coverage to Louisiana low-income adults. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 4-3 for what state Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, called “a Louisiana solution” for state participation in the Medicaid expansion called for in federal law. The bill now heads to the full Senate.
A state Senate judiciary committee backed a proposal that would remove a requirement that judges retire after reaching age 70 and completing their current terms. Senate Bill 5 heads next to the full Senate for debate. If approved by the House and Senate, the constitutional change also would require approval from voters in a statewide election.
The House Governmental Affairs committee killed a measure that would have opened more of Governor Bobby Jindal's office to more scrutiny. The committee voted 6-3 to back the governor's effort to keep most of his records away from public view.
The University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors approves U-L-L's request to move forward with the school’s 115-million dollar athletic facilities master plan. The plan includes major renovations to the football stadium, Cajun Field.
Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne announces 2012 was a record-setting year for tourism. Dardenne says a record number of visitors came to the state last year. Based on statistics from a U-N-O study, Louisiana attracted 26-point-3 million tourists last year, which resulted in more than 10-billion dollars in total visitor spending.
The full House has passed a bill that requires that dogs must be secured in cages or kennels, while the trucks or trailers they're being carried in are on Interstate highways. Kenner Rep. Tom Wilmott brought the legislation out of concern for the number of dogs killed when thrown out of moving trucks, and for the safety of motorists as well.
A Louisiana House committee rejected a bill that would have allowed convicted felons to vote if they were out of prison but still on probation or parole. Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, said current law disenfranchises people who pay taxes. She said her house Bill 175 would encourage people to participate in society and would support re-entry programs designed to ensure people don’t reoffend. A victim rights’ organization opposed the measure, saying convicted felons shouldn’t be allowed to vote until they’ve completed their entire sentence.The House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 5-2 against the bill.
A wreck involving two big rigs on I-20 in Caddo Parish has left one of the two truck drivers dead. Caddo Sheriff's office spokesperson Cindy Chadwick says it happened shortly after midnight last night, with one 18-wheeler running into the back of another
Ouachita Parish deputies report a homeowner shot a suspected home invasion robber yesterday afternoon. They say the resident confronted the alleged thief and the suspect tried to run the homeowner over with his vehicle. The homeowner fired--hitting the suspect at least once. He was airlifted to a Shreveport hospital where his condition is
BP agrees to pay about $340-million to fund coastal restoration projects for Louisiana. It's part of $1-billion the oil company will invest in areas damaged by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. David Cresson is CEO of the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana. He says this is good news that's been a long time coming. The state has been requesting BP make a down payment on the billion dollars promised the state for coastal rebuilding, and they're now making good on the promise. Cresson says the lion's share of the money will go to barrier island projects.
Lake Charles annual Contraband Days pirate festival begins today. The 54th annual event features pirates forcing the Mayor to walk the plank, a car show, live music. midway rides, fireworks and a boat parade. The vent wraps up on May 12th.
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