Today is Giving Tuesday and that means it’s your chance to give back to charities. The American Red Cross is participating in their third Giving Tuesday and hopes everyone who can, will give back in a meaningful way. Louisiana Region Spokesperson Nancy Malone says the holiday season is a time of warmth and giving.
“We have many ways you can look at it, from helping our service members and their families to helping our neighbors who have suffered a disaster, maybe they’ve had a house fire overnight.”
Malone says the power of giving in the community can change the lives of so many people in need. She says you can visit redcross.org/gifts to donate and see how your dollars can add up, plus you’ll see heartwarming stories from people across the world who have been helped by the Red Cross.
“$50 for example, will provide emergency shelter for one person or hot meals for 10 people for $100. We’ve got lots of difference price points that you can look at.”
Malone says if you can’t donate monetarily, there are other ways to help out, like donating blood or volunteering. She says their latest program during the holiday season is called Holiday Mail for Heroes.
“We’ll be delivering holiday greetings to our veterans, to our active duty soldiers. So, if you’re interested in that go to your closest Red Cross office, connect with us and we’ll get you involved.”
Governor-elect John Bel Edwards spoke before the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus about the future of higher education in Louisiana. Edwards told the group that it's important to fight to make sure children all over the state of Louisiana have opportunities to succeed.
"It is our job to make sure there is a quality of opportunity. Nowhere is that more important than an education and certainly nowhere is that more important than in higher education."
Edwards was the keynote speaker at last weekend's Bayou Classic Scholarship Jazz Brunch. The Governor-elect says he will begin his term with a focus on education.
"I think that over the last eight years, especially, Louisiana has not done well by our kids. We're not doing what we should to make sure they have opportunity for success here in Louisiana."
He says proper funding for higher education is a priority. Edwards says it's imperative that the state's general fund component for higher education is increased.
"Otherwise, we're basically telling kids 'Just go out and do it on your own'. That's not good enough for me."
The American Automobile Association of Louisiana says the plunging prices at the pump have the state moving into a direction that could bring them to their lowest since 2008. The current statewide average for a gallon of regular is about $1.86.
AAA fuel analyst Don Redman says we might reach a low point this month that we haven't seen in nearly 7 years.
"That's when we were looking at mid to late December of gas prices statewide at about the $1.60 range," said Redman.
Redman says the earlier forecast by the US Department of Energy showed that by December we'd be looking at a national average of about $2.00, but it seems it will be even lower than that.
He says this is coming at a great time for the motoring public as they put their budget together for the holidays.
"And it has influenced traveling. People are either going further or choosing to stay longer," says Redman. "It's certainly been great for the family."
Louisiana's average prices are down about 4 cents from last week, 8 cents from last month and 72 cents lower than last year. Redman says, statewide, we could be in the $1.60 range by mid-December, and dropping.
"As we get into January and February we could see prices well below $1.60," said Redman. "That's the current thought."
After a brief suspension, the Louisiana Department of Revenue's 2015 Louisiana Tax Amnesty gets underway today. Deputy Secretary Jarrod Coniglio says this is the final amnesty period for at least 10 years.
He says the delay was prompted by a mistake with with the information included in some of the original invitation letters sent out in early November.
"When we recognized that, we wanted to make it right. So we suspended the amnesty period and starting it back up on December 1st and it'll run through December 31st."
Coniglio says their goal is to raise $50 million during the amnesty period. He says this is a great opportunity to clear the slate when it comes to delinquent taxes. Coniglio says the department is offering incentives to taxpayers to clear their bill.
"With 100-percent of the tax paid, the Department of Revenue will waive 33-percent of the penalty and 17-percent of the interest."
Coniglio says you can even set up an installment plan if you cannot make full payment by December 31st.
"If they just call, they can set up an installment agreement and that can actually last through May 1, 2016."
Will Governor-elect John Bel Edwards look to raise the state's minimum wage when he takes office next year? Edwards said during the campaign that he supports raising the minimum wage that currently sits at $7.25.
Louisiana Budget Project Director Jan Moller says the new governor gives supporters of a minimum wage increase hope.
"Having a governor who supports a higher minimum wage at least gives the issue a chance, but we're going to have to wait and see how it plays out once the legislature comes in and that won't be for a few more months."
Louisiana is one of five states that has not set a minimum wage, instead defaulting to the federal government's rate. Opponents of a higher minimum wage say new mandates would have an adverse effect on the current state of the economy. But Moller says minimum wage increases have worked in other parts of the country.
"There are states and cities around this country that have decided to raise their minimum wage on their own and all these warnings about economic collapse and job losses just haven't come to pass."
He says it's too early to predict whether a minimum wage bill will make it to the governor's desk. Moller says an LSU poll conducted last year shows that 72-percent of residents support increasing the minimum wage to at least $8.50 per hour.
"I think the public understands that most people who are poor in Louisiana have jobs, but those jobs just don't pay enough to put them above the poverty line."
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office says a teenager came home from a hunting trip over the weekend, and discovered her step-father, mother and two young half brothers dead in an apparent murder suicide.
(photo source David Mata Facebook)
Col John Fortunato says the 18-year-old had been gone since Friday, and returned to her Marrero home Sunday morning.
"She discovered there was something blocking the doorway," said Fortunato. "She pushed her way in and made the gruesome discovery of finding her mother and her step-father lying on the floor in the living room in a pool of blood."
The deceased are identified as 46-year-old David Mata, 40-year-old Kelli Mata, 4-year-old Caden Mata and 2-year-old Liam Mata.
Fortunato says cops arrived and discovered the Mata’s dead from apparent stab wounds in the living room, and their children in separate bedrooms laying in bed, also pronounced dead from apparent stab wounds.
"It's our belief that this is a murder-suicide where Mr. Mata killed all three victims then took his own life," said Fortunato.
According to media reports, Mata pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife Kelli in 2010, and in 2002 David Mata pleaded guilty to possessing 1,000 anabolic steroid tablets.
Fortunato says they believe David Mata killed his wife and their kids before taking his own life. He says they have no idea why David Mata would commit such a horrific act.
"We have no motive what-so-ever in this matter," said Fortunato.
So how did Les Miles keep his job as head coach of the LSU Tigers. It appeared Miles was coaching his final game in Tiger Stadium on Saturday, but after the victory, athletic director Joe Alleva announced Miles would return for another season. Tiger Rag Editor Cody Worsham says the LSU president saved Miles' job.
"F. King Alexander it appears by several reports, backed Les Miles and didn't want the athletic department to pay his 15-billion dollar buyout and instead wanted to keep him as the coach," Worsham said.
Worsham says Alexander believes it wouldn't look good if the school paid 15-million dollars to buy out the contract of a successful coach and then turn around and ask the legislature for more state dollars.
Some are now calling for athletic director Joe Alleva to be fired for mishandling this situation. Worsham doesn't see that happening.
"As we learned on Saturday, anything can happen and these things can change, but he just got a contract extension through 2020," Worsham said.
Today is Cyber Monday, a day where retailers promote huge online sales. The annual online shopping spree celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. LSU Marketing Professor Dan Rice says Cyber Monday shopping is a growing trend.
"I think, because of the mindset people have had that this is the big day for online shopping and the fact that it's still growing, it's still important but we may see a trend where it starts to lose some of that impetus."
Last year, sales on Cyber Monday reached a record $2.68 billion. According to the research firm ShopperTrak, Black Friday sales fell 10-percent this year and Rice feels that online shopping played a factor in that.
"I think you're finding that a lot of people, if they can do the shopping from their own home and not have to run over 30 people to get the deal that has one in the store, they're going to be a lot more inclined to do it."
Rice says as shoppers become more savvy to finding deals online, Cyber Monday could begin to lose some of its luster.
"Just because it's Cyber Monday, or even Black Friday, it doesn't mean it'll be the best deal on all of the different items you can get. You can find better prices on a lot of the items at different times of the year."
Today marks the end of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season and it was quite favorable for Louisiana as no storms threatened the state. State Climatologist Barry Keim says forecasters were were pretty accurate with their predictions this season.
"Going into this season, NOAA forecasted between 6 and 11 named storms. Well we had 11 this season and of those 11, 4 became hurricanes, two became major hurricanes."
However, none of those storms threatened to make landfall in the United States. Keim says you can thank wind shear created by El Nino for that.
"Several of those storms produced well out in the Atlantic could very well have reached the United States, but that area of wind shear really ripped those storms apart and really served to protect us."
He says the last hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana was Category 1 Hurricane Isaac in 2012. It's been ten seasons since a major hurricane has made landfall in the United States. Keim says some are wondering if we're moving into a period of less severe hurricanes.
"The thinking is that maybe we are moving into a more quiet period that could last for a couple of decades, but only time will tell. We'll see how it all plays out."
There are six weeks remaining in Bobby Jindal's final term as Governor of Louisiana. Jindal has said that he and his family will remain in Baton Rouge after his term ends, but what's ahead for him professionally.
Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat says Jindal will likely use his experience in government to land a job.
"I would think that he would probably try to sell that expertise to some company as a consultant, to some national company, try to get on some national boards."
Pinsonat says Jindal will probably use his expertise in government to pick up a job with a national company as a consultant. As far as the governor's political future, Pinsonat doesn't see Jindal seeking political office in the foreseeable future.
"Three, four, five years, it's unlikely Jindal can run for political office unless he sets out to rehab his political image in Louisiana."
He says Jindal's current unpopularity in Louisiana will probably keep him from running for office for quite a while. Pinsonat believes Jindal's presidential aspirations really damaged his political future in Louisiana.
"I thought he was very popular here. He could have made a career of being a very popular politician, he could have run for the Senate, he could have done anything he wanted. All of a sudden, he finds himself very unpopular."
The Saints dropped their third straight game on Sunday as the Houston Texans topped New Orleans 24-6. Offensively, the Saints could only muster two field goals, so for the first time in 155 consecutive games, the Saints failed to score a TD. Coach Sean Payton on the disappointing loss.
"There's a number of losses that gets frustrating, let's not look for the most frustrating ever headline. Disappointing to lose the game like that and it's disappointing to not score a touchdown that would be a fair assessment of it."
New Orleans was held to 268 total yards, just 50 yards on the ground. The loss drops the Saints record to 4-7.
LSU ended a three-game losing streak by beating Texas A&M and they get to keep their coach. After a 19-7 victory over the Aggies, Athletic Director Joe Alleva announced that Coach Les Miles is LSU's football coach and will continue to be the Tigers football coach.
A stunning turn of events, as rumors swirled that Miles would be let go and possibly replaced by Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher.
The victory on Saturday was reminiscent of many wins for Les Miles as the LSU head coach for eleven years as they beat the Aggies with a punishing running game, a stout defense and big plays on special teams.
There was also no passing attack and several pre-snap penalties at critical points that derailed offensive drives.
LSU's best play on offense was to hand the football off to Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. Fournette rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown.
Fournette finished the regular season with 1,741 yards, a new single season record for rushing in LSU history.
Guice had 73 yards rushing, including a 50-yard touchdown run midway through the 3rd quarter to give the Tigers a 13-7 lead.
The freshman from Baton Rouge also had an electrifying 75 yard kickoff return to begin the 2nd half, which set the tone for the final 30 minutes of the game.
LSU needed the running game, because sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris struggled. Harris was out of sync from the start and finished 7-of-21 for 83 yards and one interception.
The LSU defense held the Aggies to just one touchdown and that came in the 1st quarter.A&M had 250 yards and turned it over 3 times. LSU's defense also had four sacks on the day. Deion Jones and Arden Key combined for 19 tackles, 2 sacks and three tackles for a loss.
It was a difficult game to watch at times. Trent Domingue missed three field goals. LSU was penalized seven times, many were the presnap variety. The Aggies were penalized 10 times for 79 yards.
A UL-Lafayette researcher is trying to find the burial grounds of the first Acadians in an effort to discover the location of their colony. Anthropologist Mark Rees says the goal of the New Acadia Project is to discover the location of the New Acadia Colony that dates back to the mid-18th century.
"Which we believe is located along the Teche Ridge, along the high elevation along Bayou Tech somewhere in Iberia Parish, likely around the Fausse Point area or the area in general around Loreauville."
He says they believe the colony was set up along Bayou Teche in Iberia Parish around Loreauville. Rees says they have received permission from the state and property owners to exhume the graves that possibly belong to the first Acadians. But he says they are approaching this in a cautious way.
"We're going to try and do our research with minimal disturbance and not exhume remains if we can determine when the burials date to. If we have to exhume them, then they'll be studied and the remains would be reburied."
He says finding the graves is just the first step in finding the settlement that must be nearby. Rees says if these graves do contain the remains of the first Acadians, it will be an enormous breakthrough.
"And that's when we can really learn a lot. We can add to the historical knowledge of the lives of the first Acadians were like."
Even with the dry summer, the supply of real Christmas Trees
in Louisiana is still plenty. Christmas Tree Farmer Clark Gernon, owner of
Shady Pond Tree Farm in Pearl River, says the trees are fine, just not as tall
as they typically would be.
“When we get dry conditions they just go dormant and wait until soil moisture levels come up. When it does, they begin to grow again.”
Gernon advises those searching for a tree to make sure you check the height of the display area before purchasing a Christmas tree. He says also measure the width to ensure it fits in your home.
“There are lots of homes out there with high ceilings and if you put the tree in that touches the ceiling, you won’t be able to walk in the room. So be careful with width, as well as height.”
Gernon says for the past 10 years, 70% of trees that leave his farm are Leyland Cypress Leighton Green trees. He says the shape of the tree is almost perfect.
“The color is a very deep, rich green, it’s just an excellent tree.”
A pollster believes the win of Democrat John Bel Edwards over Republican David Vitter in a predominately conservative state is an anomaly. John Couvillion of JMC Analytics says Edwards got votes from Dardenne supporters and from rural areas that haven’t voted democrat since the early 90s.
“I see it more as the democrats are certainly not shut out from ever winning a statewide office again, which was the prevailing wisdom until November 21st.”
Couvillion believes next year’s senate race will be different because republicans have learned their lesson when it comes to disunity. He also says republicans have a big advantage over democrats in federal elections….
“So you can raise national issues that are unappealing to Louisiana voters, when you couldn’t really do that in a statewide race.”
Couvillion says he saw major republican precincts around the state and especially in East Baton Rouge, with 60% of people voting for Edwards.
“I haven’t seen that kind of democratic vote in republican areas since the 1991 Edwin Edwards- David Duke landslide, so that was something I found very interesting, the sheer volume of the republican defection."
The National Retail Federation is expecting retailers to see healthy sales gains this holiday season. Spokesperson Kathy Grannis says sales are expected to increase about 3.7% overall in November and December, which is a slight decline from what we saw last year. She says the reason growth isn’t as much in 2015 is likely the direction of the economy.
“The economy simply could be a little bit better, meaning that there could be more jobs, there could be higher wage growth, the market threw a loop for many people through a lot of the year.”
Grannis says it’s estimated that the average holiday shopper in the south is estimated to spend around 775 dollars this season, not too far off from the national average of 805 dollars. She says hot items this year are toys, a wide range of electronics for adults and jewelry.
“The jewelry sector itself can see as much as 30% of its annual sale come during just the final two months of the year.”
Grannis says last year, Barbie lost out to Disney’s Frozen dolls but she has regained her crown as the top selling girls toy this season, which is good news to stores selling Barbie’s. She says retailers are getting creative with their promotions to get customers to come into stores rather than just buying online.
“It’s no longer just about the lowest prices over Thanksgiving weekend. It’s all of the other things that come along with it. So it’s maybe the early Thanksgiving openings or the free gift with purchase if you spend a certain amount.”
What could be Les Miles' final game as head coach of the LSU Tigers takes place tomorrow night against Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium. Linebacker Deion Jones hopes this is not the end of the road for Miles.
"I'm behind Coach Les Miles 100%," LSU linebacker Deion Jones said. "I love him as a coach, I hope he's still here."
Saturday night's game also marks the return of John Chavis, LSU's former defensive coordinator. He now holds the same position for the Aggies. Jones says he has no ill will toward his old coach.
"We still got love Coach Chief, I respect it, it happens in the coaching world, we can't hold grudges with it," Jones said.
LSU linebacker Lamar Louis says the team is focused on getting a win, not the coaching rumors swirling about Miles' job status.
"We have a couple of guys banged up, but we can't worry about that, we gotta to move forward, we just got to get a W."
With Black Friday quickly approaching, the personal finance website WalletHub found holiday spending is estimated to reach more than 630-billion dollars this year. Website spokesperson Jill Gonzales says they investigated which stores were having the best Black Friday deals.
“JC Penney as being the very best, the average discount is about 70% there. Then right after that Kohls, Stage and Groupon all being around the 65% mark.”
Gonzales says the lowest are going to be Toys-R-Us, Big Lots, Amazon, Sam’s Club and Costco, all coming in at around a 20-percent discount. She says jewelry is an item that typically sees a big discount.
“We’re seeing an average discount of almost 75% off of jewelry items. After that books, movies and music have really good deals.”
Gonzales says the average discount across the board is about 40-percent off. She advises shoppers to look at the deals before heading out to purchase on Black Friday.
“You want to make sure what items are going for before the holiday season so you can make sure that the discount is actually a discount, especially at the 40% rate.”
Former Governor Edwin Edwards is spending Thanksgiving in a hospital battling pneumonia. According to his wife, Trina, the former four-term governor was admitted yesterday and doctors in Baton Rouge are treating him with antibiotics. Edwin Edwards biographer, Leo Honeycutt, says illnesses are not unusual for the Cajun Prince.
"He battled pneumonia after he and Trina got married and he's always had this time of year some upper respiratory problem, you may recall back in 2012, he had the flu," Honeycutt said.
Honeycutt says Edwards could be out of the hospital by the end of the holiday weekend.
"He is in good condition right now, the doctors say it's not serious and he'll probably be out in two to three days," Edwards said.
Edwards last public appearance was Saturday as he and wife Trina attended Governor elect John Bel Edwards election party in New Orleans.
The state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control has cited 14 additional strip clubs across the state as part of their "Operation Trick or Treat" investigation. This crackdown comes weeks after 9 clubs were cited in the French Quarter in New Orleans.
ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert says these clubs were cited for several different reasons.
"We found drugs being sold there, prostitution and other issues we have been having with them."
The 14 strip clubs were cited for drug activity, prostitution and lewd acts. Hebert says drug and prostitution activity at these establishments breeds other criminal activity.
"That's where rapes and murders and other things start evolving from because where there's drugs, there's drug dealers. Where there's prostitution, there's pimps."
Six of the establishments were issued emergency suspensions due to a threat to public safety. Hebert says the latest results of this operation show that this is not an issue that's isolated to the French Quarter.
"And as you can see by the number of places across the state, it certainly is a problem and we're addressing it."