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There’s 10 days left in the regular session and very little has been accomplished. Democratic Caucus Chairman Gene Reynolds of Minden says he’ll meet with Republican legislative leaders to see what can be done in the final days of the session. He says with only 41 votes in the House, it’s been hard for Democrats to get anything through the process.

“We’re here too and we have priorities and our priorities are a budget that funds everything we need and have to have, our services, and we also want to work on tax reform.”

Governor John Bel Edwards and Democrats are pushing for tax reform, because 1.3 billion dollars in temporary sales taxes expire July 2018. But Republican House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry says Democrats haven’t presented a plan that the legislature and the public can get on board with.

“It would be better for them to have a clearer direction as a party of where they want to go, instead of just asking everyone, let’s have a discussion. Well bring something to the table that everybody can support I think is the next step.”

One possible solution to solving the fiscal cliff is to keep the extra penny that was added to the sales tax last year. But Reynolds doesn’t like that idea, which he says is being discussed by House members.

“Now they’re talking about leaving the penny on, which we’re totally against that. We told the people we needed time to fix it, well let’s fix it.”

It’s likely a special session will be needed to address the fiscal cliff.

 

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A bill to change the name of the Louisiana School for Math, Science and Arts in Natchitoches has sparked a big discussion and will be heard in House Education on Wednesday. Delhi Senator Francis Thompson’s proposal would change the school’s name to Jimmy D. Long Sr. Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts. Thompson says Long is the father of the school.

“We would never get rid of the Louisiana School for Math, Science and Arts, we’d just give credit where credit is due.”

Long served as a state representative from 1968 to 2000. Thompson says this is not a name change, it’s a name addition. He says Jimmy Long was the most moral and hardworking legislator he’s ever worked with and was dedicated to creating the school.

“He deserves that recognition, everybody says he needs recognition.”

But many LSMSA alumni oppose the name change. Lorie Aguilera graduated in 2002 says it’s a much bigger deal than it sounds. She says the school would lose its identity, especially with prestigious colleges.

“With the legacy of Jimmy D. Long, is that something that you want a child to lose out on their future of their education if an admissions officer at MIT didn’t recognized the name of their school? I don’t think that the legacy he wants to leave.”

Aguilera says Thompson did not ask if any facility or alumni supported the change. She says this would also be extremely expensive for LSMSA to reach out to parents and universities to alert them of the change.

“There’s also the financial implications of changing the name of the school that Sen. Thompson didn’t talk about. A lot of outreach would be needed.”

 
 

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By Jeff Palermo
LSU will begin NCAA Regional play on Friday at Alex Box Stadium by hosting SWAC Tournament champion Texas Southern. Southeastern Louisiana and Rice are also coming to Baton Rouge.

If LSU wins the BR Regional they’ll face the winner of Hattiesburg Regional, which features Southern Miss and Mississippi State. Tigers Coach Paul Mainieri says one game at a time.  
 
"We can't even be thinking about Super Regionals," Mainieri said. "We got to get through Friday then Saturday then Sunday and hopefully when Sunday is over, we'll be the regional champs. But that's only three-fifths of the job, there won't be any dog piles after regional championships, because you have to win two more games to get to Omaha."
 
LSU will play Texas Southern at 2:30 PM. Mainieri has yet to decide on a starting pitcher.
 
"With Eric Walker going (Sunday), he's probably not a candidate to come back and pitch on Friday, I don't think we want to do that" Mainieri said. "And I'm sure we'd want to pitch (Alex) Lange in the middle game, hopefully it will be a winner's bracket game. So we just got to figure out what we want to do on Friday. 
Texas Southern has a record of 20-32 but won the SWAC Tournament to receive the automatic bid. The Tigers started the season with an 0-8 record. In the SWAC Tourney, they beat Jackson State twice, who was the best team in the league. TSU has a team ERA of 6.56. 
 
The other two in the Baton Rouge Regional, the number two seed Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions are 36-20 and are in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. SLU went 12-3 in its last 15 regular season games. 
 
Former Holy Cross star Taylor Schwaner is the Southland Player of the Year. He's hitting .320 with 13 home runs and 68 RBIs. Ex-Brother Martin star Corey Gaconi is the Lions best pitcher with a 6-5 record at 2.83 ERA.  
 
The number three seed is the Rice Owls. Rice is 31-29 but they won the Conference USA Tournament and they'll be making their 23rd consecutive trip to a Regional.
 
Rice has won 18 of its last 22. They have two really good hitters. Sophomore catcher Dominic Dicaprio is hitting .365 with 6 home runs and 47 RBIs. Dane Myers is hitting .360 with 6 home runs and 38 RBIs. The Owls are not very strong on the mound as they have a team ERA of 5.10. 
 
The Baton Rouge Regional is tied to the Hattiesburg Regional. Southern Miss is the top seed, Mississippi State is the 2nd seed, South Alabama is the third seed and Illinois-Chicago is the 4th seed. 
 

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With the growing popularity of organic foods, lawmakers are looking at how Louisiana could produce its own organic produce. The House will discuss a resolution this week that would connect the LSU and Southern Ag programs with the state to study cultivating organic products. The author is Marrero Representative Patrick Connick.

“The key is to put the farmers in connection with the guys who need their products, to develop some relationships and have the communication open to start the steam on commerce within the state.”

Connick says there is a baker in New Orleans who makes bread and spends $100,000 a year on his organic ingredients. Connick said Graison Gill would like to be able to spend that money in Louisiana.

“So what this resolution does is to ask the Ag Commissioner to work with Southern Ag and LSU Ag and look at the feasibility of working with farmers to have a local source supply for what he does and what others do.”

Connick says Graison is just one of the examples that shows organic farming is an emerging industry.

“He has established a market in New Orleans that delivers to grocery stores and restaurants and it’s really catching on. I think this young man, he’s the future.”

 
 

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A Senate committee will hear the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill Tuesday. The House-approved measure would prohibit cities that do not fully cooperate with immigration authorities from receiving certain state grants. Attorney General Jeff Landry supports the proposal and doesn’t understand why local governments would try to establish a sanctuary city.

“Thereby taking away a necessary tool that they need to keep their community safe.”

It took two votes for this bill to pass the lower chamber. Opponents believe it would unfairly target Hispanics. Landry believes sanctuary cities allow violent criminals to stay in the United States.

“We have seen tragedy after tragedy, victim after victim at the hands of people who are in the country illegally and who were in the care and custody of our law enforcement prior to them committing an additional crime.”

New Orleans could be impacted by this legislation, if it becomes law. The NOPD has a policy that prohibits its officers from asking suspects about immigration status. Landry says once the bill becomes law, his office will determine which jurisdictions violate the state’s sanctuary cities policies.

“New Orleans’ policy is certainly moving away from a sanctuary city policy but we don’t know if it’s gotten as far as if it would meet the threshold of this particular bill.”

 
 

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As many Americans are grilling outside with friends and family, it’s important to remember the real reason for today’s Memorial Day holiday. State Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, Col. Joey Strickland, asks Louisiana residents to take time today to remember our fallen heroes.

“It’s a time for remembrance, it’s a time for reflection and reflection on the sacrifices made by our people.”

Strickland says while both holidays are important, many Americans confuse the meanings of Veterans Day and Memorial Day. He says Memorial Day honors the fallen who have given their all on the battlefield, along with..

“It honors the mothers and fathers, the gold star parents that are left behind. The wives, sisters and brothers, it’s a day to honor the fallen.”

11,000 men and women from Louisiana made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States in all wars. Strickland encourages the display of American flags to show patriotism for Memorial Day. He says remembering those who lost their lives doesn’t have to be a big show, it can be a private moment.

“They can pause and just think about the sacrifices that have been made by millions of people to give us our freedom.”

 
 

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It’s possible we could see another special session start 30 minutes after the current regular session ends on June 8th. That’s according to Jeremy Alford of LaPolitics.com who says the potential need for a fourth special session during Governor Edwards term is because the current fiscal session has bogged down over partisan politics.

“A group of House Democrats have blocked a funding mechanism for construction projects statewide and there’s also a delay in the criminal justice reform bills.”

Alford says it’s difficult to tell how successful a special session would be given the steep opposition of many budget bills. He says the Republican-led House has passed a budget that allocates only 97.5% of available revenues and Democrats want to spend more.

“Lawmakers are literally fighting over $206 million in a $29 billion budget, that’s a bit of nickel and diming.”

Governor Edwards has struggled to reach compromise with the GOP dominated House over budget issues and Alford says battle lines were drawn on the first day he took over as governor.

“We have an independent House that has selected its own speaker, the first time in recent history that the governor did not hand pick the speaker, I still think this is one of the most important happenings of this term.”

 
 

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By Jeff Palermo 
A three-run 4th inning and another great performance from freshman pitcher Eric Walker led to a 4-2 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks to claim the school's 12th SEC title, 6th for Coach Paul Mainieri tying him with Skip Bertman.
 
Walker (7-1) threw a complete game shutout against the Razorbacks earlier this season and nearly did it again on Sunday.

Walker gave up a solo home run in the 3rd inning, but that's all Arkansas could muster. The Texas right-hander went 7.2 innings, allowed five hits, one run and struck out a eight to tie a season-high.
 
Freshman Josh Smith and sophomore Antoine Duplantis led the Tigers at the plate. Smith was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Smith delivered an RBI single in the 4th inning to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
 
Duplantis was 2-for-4 with two runs scored. The Lafayette native went 9-for-16 at the plate.
 
First baseman Nick Coomes also drove in two runs. He walked with the bases loaded in the 4th inning and drove home Duplantis with a sacrifice fly in the 6th inning. 
 
It got interesting in the 9th inning. LSU closer Hunter Newman gave up one run, but was able to record the final out with the bases loaded. 
 
The Fighting Tigers allowed just five runs in four games in Hoover, Alabama.  
 
LSU heads into NCAA Regional play with a 43-17 record. The pairings come out Monday at 11 AM and the Tigers will be a national seed for a 6th consecutive season.  

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The St. Tammany Sheriff's office says just before 11 a.m. on Sunday two men who jumped out of a plane hit the ground very hard at the Royal Golf Course in Slidell.
 
Authorities say a skydiving instructor and trainee were performing a tandem jump. For some unknown reason, the instructor lost consciousness shortly after jumping out of the airplane.

The main parachute did not open, resulting in the reserve parachute to open. But it's not known if it opened properly. 
 
The male instructor was pronounced dead and the trainee was airlifted to a New Orleans area hospital.
 
The instructor was 58-years-old and from Alabama.  
 
"We still aren't 100% sure exactly what happened, but so far, it appears to be a tragic accident," Sheriff Randy Smith said. "Our prayers go out to the families affected by this incident." 
 
 
  

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Pet owners will soon have more time to claim their lost pets after a disaster. A measure by Gonzales Representative Clay Schexnayder allows pet parents 30 days to claim their fur babies following a state of emergency. Ag Commissioner Mike Strain says his agency takes in abandoned animals after disasters.

“We have a census anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 animals at a time. So as we step down and we send people home, inevitably there are some animals for which we cannot find an owner,” Strain said.

The bill won approval in both chambers and is awaiting a signature from Governor John Bel Edwards. The measure also allows for extensions because of extenuating circumstances like displacement. Strain says shelters will take ownership of the animals after the 30 day period.

“Thirty days after the declared emergency, if the owners cannot be located and after all reasonable attempted have been made, then we can find a new home for those animals,” Strain said.

Strain says 30 days is the national average to reclaim lost pets, and Louisiana needed this law on the books because up until now state law was silent on the matter. He says this new law will gives pet owners more hope of finding their lost pets after natural disasters.

“It allows 30 days after the declared emergency that we can find a home for those animals. Under the local laws, it is generally 10 days,” Strain said.

 
 
 
 
 

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With the summer in full swing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns the public about bacteria in public pools. Michele Hlvasa with the CDC's Healthy Swimming Program, says there’s a germ called cryptosporidium that’s causing a lot of outbreaks linked to swimming. She says they’re seeing an uptick in the number of infections.

“We found in 2016 that at least 32 outbreaks linked to swimming were caused by crypto. In 2014, there were 16. So we’re seeing at least a doubling of outbreaks,” Hlvasa said.

Hlvasa says crypto is a parasite that causes diarrhea that can last up to three weeks. She says it gets into the water when someone with diarrhea gets into the water. She says people get infected when they swallow dirty water.

“Don’t swallow the water you swim in. Chlorine kills germs, and it kills most germs within minutes. However, crypto can survive for days in a well-treated pool,” Hlvasa said.

Hlvasa says to protect others from getting crypto, stay out of the pool if you’ve had diarrhea recently. She advises people who have been sick to stay out of the water until you’re diarrhea free for at least two weeks.

“This is because the symptoms can come and go and also because we continue shedding the parasite up to two weeks after our symptoms have stopped,” Hlvasa said.

To learn more about healthy swimming, visit cdc.gov.

 
 
 
 
 

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Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee made her case to the Senate Finance Committee today, as her department is facing a huge budget cut. Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue says state spending on healthcare has increased $1.4 billion since 2010. LDH spending now accounts for nearly half the state’s total annual budget.

“So what we’re doing in the state of Louisiana is we’re taking money away from everything else to fund healthcare,” Donahue said.

But Gee says this budget reduction will force cuts to mental healthcare and pediatric programs. She says without matched state funds, we won’t be able to draw down federal funding. She adds that healthcare funding benefits the state as a whole, not just LDH.

“It’s not just healthcare. Healthcare helps the economy. In many rural areas, these healthcare jobs are the best jobs and some of the only growth industries in those areas,” Gee said.

But Donahue says the Medicaid spending has increased 250 percent over the last decade, and the state can’t afford it. He says we can’t even afford the system we have now.

“It’s burying us, and it’s not sustainable. We won’t be able to continue to provide these services to the people of Louisiana even if we want to,” Donahue said.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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A deadly virus is threatening Louisiana crawfish. Aquaculture specialist Mark Shirley with the LSU AgCenter says the white spot syndrome virus showed up in Acadiana about a decade ago. He says the virus is showing up again in ponds across southwest Louisiana, and it’s hurting the crawfish harvest.

“Bottom line is it kills them. It makes them sick for a brief period. They lose their mobility. They lose their coordination, and pretty rapidly they die,” Shirley said.

Shirley says how the virus got into Louisiana waters is still a big unknown. He says it originated in shrimp ponds in Thailand and Southeast Asia in the early 1990s. That’s why it’s called the white spot syndrome.

“On the shell of a shrimp there is a white blotchy spot on the shell about the size of a pencil eraser, but on crawfish you don’t see that white spot,” Shirley said.

Shirley says this virus can greatly affect a crawfish farmer’s income by killing off the harvest. But he says it won’t affect consumers as much. He says this virus only affects crustaceans, and the dead crawfish shouldn’t make it to the boiling pot.

“They’re pulled out. Only live crawfish are put in the sack and delivered to the market. So you’re not going to get a bunch of dead, infected crawfish in your sack of crawfish,” Shirley said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Louisiana Economic Development, along with several partners, has created a business startup program for military veterans. LED Secretary Don Pierson says many soldiers have a desire to start a small business once returning home.

 
He says the idea for the Louisiana Veteran Entrepreneurship Program came after hearing LSU’s Baton Rouge campus was helping disabled veterans in a similar way.

“Hey, what we could really do is work with the National Guard and put together a program that demonstrates and instructs veterans on how they can proceed with establishing a small business.”

The Louisiana Veteran Entrepreneurship Program is an intensive boot camp at the outset and includes ongoing counseling by small business partners. Pierson says the program will feel like an LSU course, as classes take place on the school’s campus.

“We’ll have over the year’s timeframe enough room to take on 108 veterans in our first year and we’re hoping that somewhere around 30% of them well step forward and start their own business.”

After the first year, there are plans to expand the program to other regions of the state. Pierson says they hope this free program for veterans will raise at least 5 million dollars in startup capital and create 100 new jobs. He says this is a great way to return the thanks back to those who fight for our freedom.

“Our veterans have served our country, so the opportunity for our state to serve our veterans in this way and make their life meaningful after the service and contribution they’ve made.”

For more information on the Veteran Entrepreneurship Program call (225) 578-7555.

 

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A sales tax discount is available for hurricane preparedness items this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, residents can purchase flashlights, batteries, portable generators and other emergency supplies at a reduced sales tax rate.

Department of Revenue spokesperson Byron Henderson says... 

“Eligible items will be subject to only 3% state sales tax, that is a 2% discount from the normal 5% state sales tax.”

But Henderson says the full amount of any local sales tax applies to all purchases. He says lawmakers approved this tax holiday to encourage families to buy emergency supplies prior to the start of the hurricane season

“Instead of waiting until the aftermath to try to buy things like batteries, storage coolers, cell phone batteries, things that might have disappeared from the shelves in the aftermath of a storm.”

Henderson says for more information on what is eligible under the sales tax discount visit revenue.louisiana.gov. He says the exemption applies to the first $1,500 of the purchase price of each eligible item.

“If one of those items costs more than $1,500, let’s say the generator costs $1,600, then you would only pay the full 5% sales tax on the difference.”

 
 

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The author of a bill to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 17-cents continues to work on the legislation so it can receive the 70 votes necessary to get approval from the House. Baton Rouge Representative Steve Carter says he is looking at a variety of options, like lowering the proposed increase. But he says not everyone is pleased with that. 

“So the more that you reduce the 17 cents, the less money people get and it pushes back the problem of a new bridge, here in Baton Rouge.”

Many Louisianans are worried the revenue generated from the proposed tax increase would not go to improving roads or new infrastructure projects. Carter says similar legislation has been shut down in the past but lawmakers need to come together to vote for the measure.

“So somewhere along the lines we’re going to have the courage to solve the problem or we’re going to continue to have mediocrity as far as our infrastructure is concerned and the same thing with us trying to solve the problem with congestion and what have you.”

Carter says there has also been discussion of having the tax increase over time.

“Maybe starting it at 10 cents and increasing it maybe two cents every other year. There are a lot of options, but we just have to come together this weekend because we’re running out of time.”

Carter says he plans to bring the bill up for a vote on Wednesday.  
 
 

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Concertgoers at this weekend’s Bayou Country Superfest in New Orleans can expect even more security after the terrorist attack at a concert in Manchester. Producer Quint Davis says safety is always the number one concern, and everyone should feel comfortable attending the event.

“The Superdome is managed by a company called SMG, which is the largest venue manager in America. They’re at the highest level of alert pretty much always,” Davis said.

Davis says this is the 9th annual B-C-S, but it’s the festival’s first time in the Superdome. He says the three-day festival had to be moved, as the event’s usual venue, Tiger Stadium, is undergoing renovations. He says they’ve made the show even bigger and better for the new locale.

“We’d been having five acts a night in Baton Rouge, and we’ve got six acts a night in New Orleans at the Dome, and we’ve added a free Friday night concert in Champion Square to kick off the weekend,” Davis said.

Davis says they’re thrilled that it won’t be hot or rain inside the new venue. He notes the indoor arena gives them a chance to go all out with the production this year to go along with the superstar performances. He says there’s lots of big name acts, and there’s sure to be something for everyone.

“We have Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Thomas Rhett, Hank Williams Jr., Brooks and Dunn reunion, Rascal Flats. Yeah, it’s big,” Davis said.

Davis says it’s the first time Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert will share the stage since there separation, even if it is on different nights.

 
 
 
 
 

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Students with disabilities would be protected from corporal punishment in public schools under a proposal heading to the Senate floor. Baton Rouge Representative Franklin Foil says his bill would prohibit school employees from spanking students with developmental disabilities.

“What we’re saying to local school districts is if a child has a disability, you cannot administer corporal punishment to that child. You can use other forms of punishment, but not corporal punishment,” Foil said.

Foil’s bill has already been approved by the House and received the backing of the Senate Education Committee on Thursday. An amendment has been added to the proposal to also include students ADHD. Foil says his legislation also defines what constitutes corporal punishment.

“Believe it or not, we looked under state statute, and there is no definition of corporal punishment. It’s a readily understood term, but we put a definition to make it clear it’s the physical spanking or paddling of a kid,” Foil said.

Foil says the Governor’s Office asked him to carry the measure as part of their education package. He says he was surprised to learn schools were spanking children with disabilities at all.

“I think part of it might be ignorance on the part of the school system why this child is acting out in class, and a lot of times they’re acting out in class because of the disability, and they can’t help themselves,” Foil said.

 
 
 
 
 

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AAA projects the number of expected travelers for this Memorial Day weekend will be the highest it's been since 2005.  Spokesman Don Redman says they project 39.3 million Americans are taking to the roads, skies, rails and water, which is a million more than last year.
 
Redman credits an improving economy.
 
 
"It's far from robust, but there's more confidence," said Redman. "That really seems to be what's driving those numbers up."

88% of travelers are driving to their destinations this year, which is an increase of 2.4% from 2016.

Redman says it's been 12 years since this many people decided not to stay home for the unofficial kick-off to summer holiday. He says it's been steadily increasing since then.

"If you look at the lowest point in 2009, we're talking roughly 30 million people traveled for the holiday," said Redman.

He says this is the third year in a row of growth in Memorial Day travel.
 
 

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Kentucky's tall right-hander Sean Hjelle came into Thursday night's game as the SEC Pitcher of the Year. But LSU's Alex Lange and the Tiger bats were not intimidated as they scored double digits off one of the best pitchers in college baseball.
 
LSU scored five runs in the 2nd inning, five more in the 5th inning for a 10-0 victory and a 9th straight victory.

Shortstop Kramer Robertson capped off the scoring with a towering home run over the left field fence to make it 10-0.
 
Antoine Duplantis also had a big night as he went 3-for-4 with an RBI.
 
Lange was sensational as he did not allow a run in seven innings. He struck out seven and surpasses Ben McDonald with 374 career strikeouts, second most in school history.
 
The game ended in the 7th inning thanks to the SEC Tournament rule.
 
Hjelle's final line, 5 IP, 11 hits, 10 runs, 9 earned runs, zero walks and 10 strikeouts. 
 
And LSU is averaging eight runs a game during this 9-game winning streak.  
 
Up next: LSU has Friday off and the Tigers will play again on Saturday in semifinals of the tournament. They'll face the winner of today's game between Kentucky and South Carolina. 
 
But it seems like everyone is waiting for Sunday and a possible match-up between LSU and Florida in the tournament title game.  

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