News for Thursday 043015
By Dave Graichen
A bit of fondly remembered history returns to Downtown Alexandria Friday as The Mirror Room lounge of the Hotel Bentley will open to the public at 4 p.m. Hotel owner Michael Jenkins said this is the first stage of the reopening of the 107-year-old hotel that has been closed for 11 years. Jenkins plans to employ "between seven to 10" people in the Mirror Room.
The LSU Alumni Association’s Tiger Advocates is sponsoring a march today on the State Capitol to protest the state’s proposed $600 million budget cut to higher education. LSU officials say these proposed cuts could result in the closing of satellite campuses and drastic losses of academic programs and faculty on the main campus.
The full Senate approves a bill that’s designed to control the cost of the TOPS scholarship program. Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue’s legislation would provide each TOPS recipient with a set amount and it will not automatically go up with the cost of tuition. He says this is about ensuring the future of the program for our kids. Governor Bobby Jindal has already said he opposes the measure. The bill now heads to the House for further debate.
Legislative panels Wednesday killed yet another effort to allow Medicaid expansion in Louisiana. It marks the third straight year Medicaid expansion efforts by Democratic legislators have died at the hands of their Republican colleagues. The Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee voted 5-3 against the legislation which would have provided health insurance to upwards of 240,000 Louisiana residents. The vote was largely, as in past legislative efforts, along party lines with all five “no” votes coming from Republican senators. Down the hall, the House Health and Welfare Committee voted 9-7 against a different measure with the same goal.
New Orleans state Representative Austin Badon is once again pushing legislation that would lessen the penalties for some marijuana possession arrests. Badon says House Bill 149 brings fairness to sentencing for simple marijuana possession. He says the bill will keep current provisions for first convictions, but lowers the penalties for second and subsequent convictions. Badon says this would bring much needed reform to Louisiana’s drug law. He adds that this measure would take simple marijuana possession out of the state’s “Three Strikes You’re Out” law.
Medical marijuana is one step closer to becoming legal in Louisiana as Senate Bill 143 moves out of committee and heads to the Senate Floor. There were many people who spoke in support of the legislation by New Iberia Senator Fred Mills. Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, was the only one who spoke against the bill.
Mills filed similar legislation last year which failed to pass but he says for 2015 he’s addressed many of the concerns such as dispensing, prescribing and cultivation regulations.
Legislation that requires sex education to be taught in seventh through 12th grade in every public schools in Orleans Parish was approved by the House Education Committee Wednesday. New Orleans councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, a supporter of the proposed law, says comprehensive sex education needs to be mandatory. Under current law, sex ed may be offered in Louisiana public schools, but it must promote abstinence until marriage. However, Cantrell says the abstinence message is not working. The bill passed House Ed on an 8-to-6 vote and the controversial topic now heads to the full house for more debate and an uphill battle.
The Louisiana Senate will consider whether to restrict the broad public records exemptions granted to the governor’s office, after claims a six-year-old rewrite of the law has been abused to hide documents that should have been released publicly. Without objection Wednesday, the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee backed a proposal by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, to add significant limits to a governor’s ability to shield records from the public. In hopes of avoiding a possible veto from Gov. Bobby Jindal, senators reworked the bill so it wouldn’t take effect until a new governor, to be elected this fall, takes office Jan. 11.
Senate president John Alario is denying any wrongdoing despite a media report that says federal investigators are looking into how he spent campaign contributions. Apparently the FBI is looking into his campaign records after media reports suggested Alario misreported as much as $20,000. Alario says they have filed all of the reports required and followed all state laws, but they did make a couple of mistakes. Alario says when this is all said he done he is confident that everything will be okay.
State Police is investigating the shooting of an armed teenager in Livingston Parish yesterday. Authorities responded to a 9-1-1 call of a suicidal person and when deputies arrived at the home they found a19-year-old on the front porch with a shotgun raised in the direction of the officers. A Livingston Parish Deputy fired his weapon and struck the teen, who was transported to a hospital in Baton Rouge. He is listed stable condition, with non-life threatening injuries. Police will charge him with attempted second-degree murder of a police officer.
Company officials announced yesterday Bell Helicopter’s decision to cut 1,100 jobs from its global workforce will not affect the company’s plans to hire 115 employees at a helicopter assembly plant now under construction at Lafayette Regional Airport. The job cuts at Bell were announced Tuesday, along with disappointing first-quarter financial results.
News for Wednesday 042915
By Dave Graichen
The House Ways and Means Committee approves three different bills that would cap the state’s film tax credit program anywhere from 150 to 223 million dollars a year. Alexandria Representative Lance Harris says the state faces big cuts to higher ed and health care, it’s time to put restraints on a program that costs the state 256-million dollars this year. Will French, president of the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association, says Harris’ bill will put thousands of people out of work and not help the budget. Harris bill was turned into a 200-million dollar cap that will be debated more by the full house.
The granddaughter of Saints owner Tom Benson made an appearance at the state capitol Tuesday. Rita Benson Leblanc spoke in support of the state’s film tax program. During testimony, LeBlanc identified herself as a former sports executive who said the film tax credit program helped New Orleans get the Super Bowl in 2013
The town of Jonesville is shutting down it’s police force. The plan, by the end of June, the Catahoula Parish Sheriff’s Office will take over law enforcement with in the city limits. Jonesville Mayor Hiram Evans said the decision to shut down the police department was strictly financial. The town’s board gave it’s okay to the plan last week.
The House Commerce Committee pulled the plug on a bill that would have given the Public Service Commission the authority to regular cable and video service providers. Supporters say it could lead to better customer service, but members on the panel say cable and video services are already regulated.
The Louisiana Senate approved Tuesday legislation that would require state health officials to release more information about how well the Jindal administration’s privatization of Medicaid is going. State Sen. Ronnie Johns, the Sulphur Republican who sponsored Senate Bill 109, said the purpose is to drill down and find out if contracting five private insurers to manage Medicaid is saving taxpayers money. The legislation now goes to House for consideration.
The US Supreme Court begins hearing a case today challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedure. The case argues to end the use of midazolam as a sedative in Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol. The outcome of this trial will most like also have an effect on Louisiana since midazolam is also used here.
The Springfield Police Chief accused of conspiring to to hide a woman’s DWI citation has agreed to a plea of guilty today to a single count of criminal mischief. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell says Chief James Jones is required to resign immediately, and receive a six-month suspended sentence with one year of probation.
The woman allegedly shot in the head by her ex-boyfriend in St. Tammany Parish is going to survive. She was able to driver herself to the hospital after being shot, and Sheriff Jack Strain says-after reports of the man’s truck being seen in the area, officers were able to find and arrest 56 year-old Ronald Brown of Pearl River.
If money can buy an election, this one should be a done deal. In the latest campaign finance numbers for Louisiana’s governor’s race, US Senator David Vitter has $4.2 million cash on hand, more than the other three candidates combined.
Gas prices keep creeping up. The current statewide average for a gallon of regular is now $2.31 which is up nearly 10 cents from this time last month.
The Caddo Parish Sheriff’s office says one person is under arrest and they are looking for 10 others as part of a million dollar theft scam involving Comcast Cable customers. Spokeswoman Cindy Chadwick says the scheme involved out of state cable contractors who would use real Comcast customers information to open up fake accounts in order to get commission. Chadwick says financial loss in commissions, equipment and services to Comcast and victims was well over $1.2 million dollars.
A senate committee approves legislation that would allow a domestic abuse victim to immediately move out an apartment or rented home without facing a penalty for violating the lease. The legislation heads to the Senate floor, but the Apartment Association of Louisiana lobbied against the bill. Jennifer Ansardi says domestic violence cases are sometimes he-said versus she-said incidents and landlords are not trained to be a judge and jury
News for Tuesday 042815
By Dave Graichen
As Louisiana struggles with budget troubles, private hospitals are offering lawmakers a way to draw down more federal health care dollars for patient care, but only if the money is used to expand coverage through the Medicaid program. Legislation filed by House leaders would let the state tap into a voter-backed plan that allows hospitals to pool their dollars and use that money to attract new federal Medicaid money to compensate them for their care for the poor. Governor Jindal is against the plan. Saying it’s a bad deal for the state.
Since the privatization of the state’s charity hospital system, lawmakers are getting an earful about financial gaps that need to be filled. Besides the care needs for the poor, the deficit dollars total about $159 million short in Governor Bobby Jindal’s budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1st. LSU Medical Schools in New Orleans and Shreveport are stuck with millions in costs, which officials say they cannot afford.
The US Supreme court hears arguments today over whether same sex couples have the right to get married. Attorney Kyle Duncan has been hired by the state AG’s office to make Louisiana’s case in the social debate. He says it’s their belief that each state should have the right to determine what is legally defined as marriage. Duncan says states should have authority when it comes to family law including ways to define marriage. He doesn’t think the state’s judiciary should be the ones to decide such a massive issue. Opponents say that same argument was used in Alabama in the 60’s
The legislative session’s first revenue raising bill passed out of committee Monday. Bogalusa Representative Harold Ritchie’s measure would raise the state’s cigarette tax from 36 cents per pack to 68 cents — matching the rate in Mississippi. Health advocates lined up to speak in favor, cigarette wholesalers to speak against. The tax proposal passed on a 11-5 vote. It’s expected to generate an estimated 67-million dollars for the state annually.
The full House approves legislation that puts an end to the practice of the state transferring money from a transportation fund to State Police. Every year between 65 and 70 million dollars goes from the transportation trust fund to State Police. Under this bill the subsidies would be phased out over several years. The measure now heads to the Senate.
Louisiana Currently has one of the largest film industries in the country. But, today the House Ways and Means committee will be looking at a bill that seeks to get rid of the state’s film tax credit program by 2019. House Bill 276 is by Alexandria Representative Lance Harris. He says the movie subsidy has gotten way out of control. While many agree, most lawmakers don’t back the concept of doing away with the program all together.
There’s one less name in contention for the Louisiana governor’s race as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has officially ruled out a run for the fall election. Monday he told reporters during a speech the Baton Rouge Press Club, if he HAD decided to run, he would have won. That still leaves Amite Representative John Bel Edwards as the lone democrat in the race. Landrieu has not announced any endorsements as of yet.
Gas prices keep going up. The current statewide average for a gallon of regular is $2.30 which is 6 cents up from this time last week according to AAA.
The Baton Rouge Police Department says they still have no suspects in the case of the pregnant woman who was found shot dead in her apartment. Corporal Don Copolla says they believe 29 year old Brittney Mills opened her door to someone she likely knew. Copolla says Mills, who was about 8 months pregnant, was shot several times and died on the scene. He says they raced the victim to the hospital and were able to save the baby..
After all of the recent bad storms we’ve been dealing with in Louisiana, The American Red Cross wants you to know about a new app which helps you to prepare for severe weather. Spokeswoman Nancy Malone says by taking a few simple steps ahead of time, you can help ensure that you and your family knows what to do when severe weather occurs. Malone says the free Red Cross Emergency App provides instant access to weather and emergency alerts, life saving information and also lets you connect with family and friends.
ESPN is reporting the Pelicans have made a max offer to All-Star Anthony Davis that would pay him a total of 140-million dollars over five years. Davis still has one-year left on his rookie contract. The Pels season is over after getting swept by Golden State in their first round playoff series.
News for Monday 042715
By Dave Graichen
Two sailors, including a Pineville businessman, were killed and Coast Guard crews still are searching for five people missing Sunday following a powerful weekend storm that capsized several sailboats competing in a regatta near Mobile Bay. Authorities have not released the names of the victim but family members here in Cenla say the body of Kris Beall was among the two recovered. Beall was 27. Arrangements are pending at Hixson Brothers Funeral Home of Pineville.
The $22.9 million makeover of the Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria begins today after numerous delays. The project is finally getting underway after voters approved a bond issue to renovate the facility two-and-a-half years ago. Rapides Police Jury President Richard Billings says everyone’s excited these changes are finally being made. He says the coliseum last held an event over a year ago. Billings says, when complete, the venue will be practically brand new with renovations happening both outside and inside the building. The renovations are expected to take 20 to 22 months to complete.
The House Ways and Means Committee will consider this morning a bill that will raise the state’s cigarette tax from 36-cents per pack to $1.54 per pack, which is the national average. Stasha Rhodes, with the American Heart Association in Louisiana, says the measure has an excellent chance at passing, because of the state’s massive budget shortfall. Rhodes says the cigarette tax increase under consideration today would generate 223-million dollars in new revenue for the state.
State Treasurer John Kennedy says national investors have pulled out of a 114-million dollar bond deal that would helped fund various construction projects on LSU’s campus. Kennedy says investors are concerned about potential big budget cuts to higher education. State lawmakers are trying to come up with a plan that would prevent large cuts to higher ed, but so far a clear solution has yet to develop.
The LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Office has arrested a man in connection with a double homicide. 37-year-old Randy Eugene Waits is behind bars today for the deaths of 19-year-old Kylie Duncan and 76-year-old Irma Cotton. Sheriff Scott Franklin says there appears to be a connection between the suspect and one of the victims. He says the teen was shot and her throat slit and the older woman was shot in the head. Waits is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and more charges are possible.
Ochnser Health System says they are the first in the nation to use the new Apple Watch for its patients. Dr. Richard Milani says with the Apple Watch, patients can receive medication reminders, feedback from clinics, activity tracking, and exercise reminders
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission reports that there was a seven percent decline in the number of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2014 compared to the prior year. Deputy Director Ken Trull says helmets are helping to reduce motorcycle deaths. He says an observational study in 2014 found that 100-percent of motorcyclists wore a helmet. He says they need all motorists to get on board with keeping an eye on motorcyclists.
Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, who is running for governor, announces he’s raised three million dollars so far and has one-point-eight million dollars on hand. Last Week week, another gubernatorial candidate, David Vitter, said he had four-point-two million in his campaign war chest.
Caddo Parish District Attorney Charles Scott will be laid to rest today after his sudden death last week in a Baton Rouge hotel while on business at the Capitol. Preliminary findings reveal the 67-year-old died of previously diagnosed heart disease. A special election for a new Caddo DA is expected to happen in conjunction with this fall’s gubernatorial race.
Two LSU students died Sunday afternoon after they were found earlier that morning unresponsive at the bottom of a swimming pool in an apartment complex near LSU. Baton Rouge. Police say the pool gate was locked and it appears the two jumped the fence. Initially there were no signs of foul play, but the investigation continues.
The Louisiana Attorney General’s office urges consumers to research the costs and benefits of solar panels before purchasing them. The director of the public protection division of the state’s A-G’s office, Sam Pleasant, says homeowners can be attracted by a promise of reduced energy costs from solar power systems, but sometimes there are some significant upfront costs. Pleasant says they issued this alert now, because warmer weather prompts many consumers to look at ways to save money on utility bills.
The Pelicans season is over after getting swept by Golden State in their four-game playoff series. Even though New Orleans didn’t win a game in the postseason, Anthony Davis showed he’s one of the top players in the league. Davis had 36 points and 11 rebounds in the series finale. Head Coach Monty Williams believes Davis’ first experience in the playoffs will only fuel him to become a better player.
News for Friday 042415
By Dave Graichen
The City of Alexandria adopted its 2015-16 fiscal year budget at a special meeting Thursday.
The $220 million budget includes pay raises for city employees for the second straight year. The new budget takes effect May 1.
It’s been close to 2 ½ years since voters gave their approval to spent $23 million to renovate the Rapides Parish Coliseum. Monday, after a long list of delays and chest pumping, ground breaking will finally get underway. The contract with Ratcliff construction gives the company 20 months to complete construction. The deadline for substantial completion of construction is Dec. 17, 2016. Voters also approved a one mill tax to fund Coliseum operations over 20 years.
57 year old Steven Saucier of Alexandria has died from injuries he received Wednesday morning when he was struck by a pickup truck while attempting to cross Lee Street in a motorized wheel chair. No charges had been filed against the driver of the truck as of Wednesday.
Authorities in LaSalle parish have a suspect in custody in the shooting death of an elderly Urania woman who’s body was found Thursday. . According to a spokesperson with the Sheriff’s Department, the case is “very actively being investigated,” and no other information is immediately available.
Coach Patrick Garvin has resigned as head football coach at Tioga High. He leaves to take another coaching job in Mississippi. With the new districts next fall, the Indians will be playing in the very tough 2-4A district, joining Neville, West Ouachita, Bastrop, Franklin Parish, and Grant. The search for a replacement will begin immediately.
The candidates for Louisiana governor appeared at a forum yesterday to give their ideas on how to address the budget shortfall. Republican Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne says one short term fix for the budget crisis is for legislators to increase the cigarette tax. Democratic Amite state Representative John Bel Edwards says Louisiana should reduce or eliminate tax credits that aren’t producing a the desired benefit. Republicans Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle says he would redo the state’s tax code and US Senator David Vitter says he would immediately call a special legislative session to address the budget. The forum was put on by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.
Governor Bobby Jindal has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times that explains his support for the religious liberty bill that will be debated in the Louisiana legislature. Some companies are concerned about the legislation, but there are some Louisianaians that support the governor’s stance. Still, there are many who wish that Jindal would spend more time addressing specific state issues. Jindal also says in the op-ed column that he continues to have the view that marriage is between one man and one woman.
The 2015 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival gets underway today. The lineup this first weekend includes headliners Keith Urban tonight, The Who tomorrow and Sunday it’s Jimmy Buffett on the Acura Stage. Festival producer Quint Davis says he’s excited about the music as usual, but he knows festers can’t get enough of the delicious Louisiana food. Other huge artists performing this weekend are Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Pitbull, Irma Thomas, Ryan Adams, John Legend, Wilco, Jimmy Cliff, Wayne Toups and more. Also this weekend, in Lafayette, it The Festival International, that event is totally free.
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission begins their “Buckle Up in Your Truck” campaign today in an effort to get more pickup drivers to use their seat belts. Executive Director Lt. Col. John LeBlanc says even though Louisiana’s seat belt compliance rate rose to a record 84-percent in 2014, pickup truck drivers lag behind. LeBlanc says less than 79-percent of pickup truck drivers are using seat belts, which is the lowest rate for all vehicles. He says because of a pickup’s tendency to roll over, it’s especially important for people to be restrained inside a truck. The campaign runs through the end of the month.
The Department of Health and Hospitals is issuing early reminders about the importance of taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family from West Nile. They believe this will be a big mosquito season because of all the rain we’ve gotten in April. DHH State Epidemiologist Raoul Ratard says get rid of all standing water when skeeters breed. He says the virus typically doesn’t pop up in humans until July, but it’s good to start preparing your home now.
Thursday, federal prosecutors announced corruption charges against former St. Tammany and Washington Parish District Attorney Walter Reed. The grand jury indictment comes after months of investigation, during which Reed announced he would not run for re-election. Reports linked him to allegations of misusing his authority.
The New Orleans District Attorney has dropped Louisiana gun charges against wealthy New York real estate heir Robert Durst. Legal analysts say this is not a big break for Durst because the federal court charges are still on. The federal charge of felon in possession of a firearm carries a penalty of up to 10 years. Prosecutors say Durst killed a friend as police were preparing to interview her about the disappearance of Durst’s wife in New York decades earlier.
News for Thursday 042315
By Dave Graichen
It’s upwards and outwards, the Port of Alexandria may have a new name in the near future. A proposed port to serve Rapides Parish is getting a name change following some lobbying by police jurors Wednesday in Baton Rouge. Rep. Lance Harris said the port agency will be called the Central Louisiana Regional Port. If Harris’ bill becomes law, a new board will have port domain throughout Rapides Parish, “excluding any private port facility.” The current Port of Alexandria would be incorporated into the Central Louisiana Regional Port.
A man in a motorized wheel chair was struck by a pickup truck while he tried to cross Lee Street Extension yesterday morning. No charges have been filed against the driver of the truck yet, since the investigation is ongoing. Police report the victim is listed in critical condition.
Two bills that attempt to address gender inequality when it comes to pay failed to get approval from the House Labor Committee. Natchitoches Representative Kenny Cox says Louisiana has the worst gender pay gap in the nation at 66 percent. Alexandria Representative Lance Harris says employees are hard enough to find and this legislation would be a strain on business owners like himself. Harris feels the data is skewed when it comes to saying Louisiana is 51st in the nation for gender pay equality because we have a different workforce here.
State Treasurer John Kennedy says Moody’s Investors Service has lowered LSU’s credit outlook from positive to stable. He says the flagship university is now one step away from a negative outlook which would be bad. Moody’s wrote the downgrade is due to limited prospects for sustained revenue growth due to potential reductions in the state budget. Kennedy says the solution would be for the legislature to stabilize funding for higher education.
Despite opposition from Governor Bobby Jindal, the Senate Education committee approves legislation designed to control the cost of the TOPS scholarship program. The bill’s author, Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue, says as tuition costs rise, so does the cost for TOPS and something needs to be done to preserve the program. Donahue’s bill heads to the Senate floor for more discussion.
Legislation that would give public colleges the authority to raise tuition and fees without legislative approval advanced out of the House Education Committee Wednesday. Hammond Representative Chris Broadwater says this legislation is needed because state funding has been on the decline since 2008. Many lawmakers are not comfortable with the idea, but many admit a funding source involving state dollars has yet to emerge.
It’s a nice economic combo, as Louisiana’s labor force continues to grow as the state’s unemployment rate dropped for a third month in a row. There were almost 2 million nonfarm jobs in Louisiana, the highest March on record. Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Curt Eysink says the state seems to be weathering the oil company cutbacks fairly well.
The widespread April showers are doing more than just causing flood concerns. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals says all the free standing water is proving to be an excellent breeding ground for mosquitos; and that translates into West Nile Virus concerns. Last year, there were 61 cases reported in the state, and DHH reminds you to fight the bite.
Caddo Parish District Attorney Charles Scott died in his sleep Tuesday night in Baton Rouge while in town to meet with lawmakers at the Capitol. LSU Police Captain Corey Lalonde says by all indications this was just an extremely tragic sudden death. Scott was 67.
Federal health officials say three people have died and five others have fallen ill from bacteria that may have come from Blue Bell products. A company spokesperson says they are focusing on cleanup and working to make sure they have a safe product. A Blue Bell spokesperson says the company could start shipping product to stores again in the next couple of weeks. Business experts are saying it could be many years before Blue Bell wins back the trust and business of their customers.
You wouldn’t think this would be a tough one to figure out.. The Youngsville Police Department says they are trying to identify a youth softball coach in Lafayette who allegedly punched another coach and broke her nose during a fight after a game. They say three players jumped on top of opposing players then a male coach punched a female coach breaking her nose in three places. Cops say the three instigating players and the coach will face changes once they are identified.
There is good news about the St. Charles Parish Deputy who was working a school crossing last week when he was gunned down by a crazed man. Corporal Burt Hazeltine was shot three times but he was released from the hospital and is recovering at home.
The American Press is reporting a former teacher from Lake Charles Academy is facing charges alleging she was engaging in sexual activity with students. 35-year-old Sommer Nicole Odom of Iowa was placed under arrest Tuesday on three counts of oral sexual battery, four counts of indecent behavior with juveniles and one count of sexual battery the newspaper reports. The Lake Charles Police Department has not released information on this yet.
The American Automobile Association says the gas price went up again another penny last night. The current statewide average for a gallon of regular is now $2.27.
The number one ranked baseball team in the country meets the second ranked team in the country tonight in Baton Rouge as the Tigers host Texas A-and-M.
News for Wednesday 042215
By Dave Graichen
The U.S. Department of Justice says it's investigating allegations that people may have been detained unlawfully by police officers and sheriff's deputies in Evangeline Parish in Central Louisiana. The Justice Department said Tuesday it's looking into whether the Ville Platte Police Department and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office have used "investigative holds" to unlawfully detain people. It's against the law for officers to detain people without proper cause.
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is leading the investigation.
It’s week two of the legislative session and so far a House or Senate committee has yet to pass a bill that addresses the state’s huge budget deficit. Jeremy Alford, publisher of la-politics-dot-com, says what makes the $1.6 billion dollar shortfall challenging is Governor Bobby Jindal’s revenue neutrality policy. Alford says, with eight weeks left in the legislative session, no one really knows what to expect.
Shreveport Representative Barbara Norton’s bill that that would provide equal pay for women gets a hearing today in the House Labor Committee. Norton says this bill is necessary since the number of single parent households are on the rise. She says this measure would help these women provide for their families. Some critics of Norton’s legislation say that this measure would duplicate existing federal law. Norton says laws regarding equal pay for women may be on the books, but they are not being enforced and the figures back her up. According to recent Census data, Louisiana women are paid about two-thirds of what men are paid, that’s the largest gender pay gap in the nation.
A bill supported by Governor Bobby Jindal passed out of the House Criminal Justice committee today. The measure by Kenner Representative Julie Stokes would make it illegal to share a sexual picture of a person without their consent. Stokes says this form of harassment has become a common problem among young adults. The measure now heads to the house floor.
An LSU Public Policy Polling survey done for the state’s film industry shows 48% of those polled said they had a positive opinion of the state’s film tax credit program. The poll shows 80% of Louisianians agree it’s good for the economy to have movies made here. Legislators have to yet to even debate the various bills dealing with the state’s film tax credit program in this session.
A teacher from Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge has been arrested and charged with having an alleged sexual relationship with a 15 year-old boy in 2013. East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Detectives arrested 27 year-old Amber Anderson and charged her with Felony Carnal Knowledge Of A Juvenile. The victim told detectives the two of them also exchanged sexually explicit text messages.
There was a two cent jump in the price of gas last night. Today’s statewide average for a gallon of regular is $2.26 according to AAA.
The Lafayette Council Chairman is working with local Grammy award winning zydeco musician Chubby Carrier are teaming up in support of an ordinance to ban smoking in bars and clubs. Council chair Kenneth Boudreaux says the goal is to protect musicians and servers from second hand smoke. The New Orleans ban went into effect at midnight this morning.
Blue Bell has recalled all its frozen products on continued threats of a Listeria Bacteria. Authorities now believe there are 10 illnesses linked to the ice cream over the last 5 years. State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoul Ratard says once the CDC put two and two together, the company was informed and Blue Bell took proper action. Health Officials say If you have any Blue Bell products, as hard as it may be, throw it away.
A bicyclist in Ouachita Parish is dead following a crash on Highway 165 just south of Monroe at about 1:30 am Tuesday morning. State Police say that 36 bike rider tried to cross the road and was hit by a car driven by 22 year-old Tommy Coleman. Coleman was cited for speeding, and no license, or plate., but not for the accident.
News for Tuesday 042115
By Dave Graichen
The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee was packed Monday with people waiting to hear what would happen with a bill that would repeal Louisiana’s inventory tax. It’s a critical piece of legislation when it comes to balancing the state’s budget in the face of a one-point-six billion dollar deficit. But the bill’s author, Benton Senator Robert Adley, decided not to move forward, because there are questions over the exact fiscal impact of his measure.
The move by Adley resulted in the House Ways and Means committee re-adjusting it’s agenda for Today as the panel removed all bills that are considered revenue generating and that includes a bill to raise the state’s cigarette tax and a measure that would put an end to the film tax credit program in 2019.
US Senator David Vitter announces that he has raised over $5.2 million in his campaign for governor, with $4.2 million in cash on hand. More than $1.1 million dollars was raised by Vitter in the first quarter of this year.
The state’s Democrats versus Republicans flag football game in Tiger Stadium Sunday raised over $20,000 for the families of the Louisiana National Guardsmen who were killed in the Black Hawk helicopter crash.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Independent or “No Party” voters is the fastest growing group of registered voters in Louisiana. Schedler says “other” party registration has increased by nearly 75-hundred since last summer. Schedler says the “No Party” trend is not just happening in Louisiana, it’s happening across the country. Schedler believes the rise in independent or no party voters is the result of the constant bickering between the republican and democratic party on the national level.
An effort to have an anti-Common Core bill bypass the House Education committee for a hearing by the full House was defeated Monday. Lake Charles Representative Brett Geymann made a motion to move House Bill 373 directly to the House floor, but members of the House Education Committee opposed the effort. Geymman’s motion failed on a 62-36 vote.
A bill that would taper off the transfer of money from the state’s road and bridge fund to state police clears the House appropriations committee. The measure would limit the of dollars going to LSP from the Transportation Trust Fund to $40 million starting in July, then $25 million next year and $10 million in future years. Lafayette Representative Terry Landry is the bill’s author. Landry says there is a $12 billion dollar backlog of road and bridge projects and the fund to address that needs to be left alone. The measure heads to the House Floor.
Today’s funeral services for R&B star and longtime Baton Rouge resident Percy Sledge will be streamed online at percyseldge.org. You can watch live started at 10:30am the visitation at Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker. The funeral starts at 11.
Military officials say a North Carolina based Army paratrooper was killed during a training exercise at Fort Polk. An Army spokesperson says 19-year-old Pvt. Joshua Phillips of Las Vegas, Nevada died while parachuting during an exercise. The cause of Phillips’s death is currently under investigation and no further information is being released. Phillips was a member of the 82nd Airborne and joined the Army in 2014
Gas prices have been inching back up over the past week. Gasbuddy.com says the price right now is $2.23 which is 6 cents up from last Monday. Senior Petroleum analyst Gregg Laskoski says part of the reason for the increase this week in crude oil prices is an overreaction by traders to data that came out from the Department of Energy showing a bump in inventory.
He says the good news is that prices today are about $1.24 less than what we were paying a year ago.
According to an LSU Public Policy Polling survey done for the state’s film industry, 80% of Louisianians agree it’s good for the economy to have movies made here. The survey also found that about half of the public isn’t aware that Louisiana is No. 1 in the nation for movie production. Baton Rouge’s Celtic Studios Executive Director Patrick Mulhearn says movies mean jobs. 48% of those polled said they had a positive opinion of the film tax credit program. Mulhearn says while not perfect, the tax benefits are helping put money in people’s pockets.
This is National Infant Immunization Week and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals encourages families to get their infants immunized. DHH Immunization Medical Director, Dr. Frank Welch, says people need vaccinations across their lifespans, but this week the focus is on babies. DHH immunization programs educate parents and health care providers to protect infants and toddlers from vaccine-preventable diseases. Welch says part of National Infant Immunization Week is encouraging parents to contact their pediatrician to not only make sure their babies are protected, but protected on time.
St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne reports that the condition of Cpl. Burt Hazeltine is improving. Last Wednesday he was shot multiple times in an ambush by a disgruntled driver. Hazeltine is in University Hospital in stable condition with a surgery scheduled for today
The Claiborne Building near the state capitol which houses the Division of Administration and Department of Education was evacuated Monday due to a bomb threat. In a joint statement Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and State Superintendent John White said the Education Department got the threat over the weekend and state police recommended the evacuation so the building could be swept.
The Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s office is looking for a man they believe stole three utility trailers full of tools from Habitat for Humanity — a Christian-based ministry that builds and renovates houses for families in need. They say anyone with information on the whereabouts of 35 year old Jeremy Rogers of Gray is urged to call Crimestoppers for a reward.
First Lady Michelle Obama was in New Orleans Monday joining others to discuss the city’s success in the area of finding homes for veterans who were living on the streets. According to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office, New Orleans in December became the first city in the country to end veteran homelessness among those who were willing to get help.
News for Monday 042015
By Dave Graichen
Today marks the five year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon spill, which is considered America’s worst environment disaster ever. An estimated three to four million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf for 87 days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. But LSU department of environmental sciences professor Ed Overton is impressed with how well the Gulf has bounced back. Overton says we’re lucky the oil that discharged from the damaged well was highly degradable and the gulf is well acclimated to degrade oil.
Oilfield services giant Schlumberger has announced plans to lay off approximately 11,000 additional employees due to the reduction in oil prices. LSU Economist Loren Scott says oil companies are dealing with oil prices roughly half of what they were a year ago. He says the drop in oil prices has led to a decline in exploration and production, mainly on land rigs. When those rigs aren’t drilling, there is less need for service companies. In January, Schlumberger announced they were reducing their workforce by 9,000 employees.
This week lawmakers will begin public hearings on how to deal with the state’s $1.6 billion budget deficit. Legislation that would raise more revenue will get their first hearing today in the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee. Governor Bobby Jindal says dealing with this deficit will be complicated, but feels conversations so far have been very positive. Jindal says the state could raise over half a billion dollars by taking away refunds given to businesses for 12 different taxes. Jindal says it would be wrong to protect these tax credits and then make deeper cuts to higher ed and health care.
The House Ways and Means Committee will begin hearing tax bills tomorrow. One proposed tax to generate more revenue that has received a lot of talk would raise the cigarette tax in Louisiana to the national average.
A new poll on the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire says Governor Bobby Jindal is someone to keep an eye on after receiving the best favorability rating out of all the presidential hopefuls. Tom Jensen with Public Policy Polling says Jindal’s favorability rating was 43-percent. He says it really stuck out on this poll. Jensen says Jindal has recently been excluded from their Republican presidential polls after consistently polling in last place. He says these new favorability numbers could see Jindal’s name thrown back in the mix.
The chairwoman of the Louisiana House Transportation Committee proposes a one cent sales tax that could generate $7 billion dollars over the next decade to help fund roads and bridges. Pierre Part Representative Karen St. Germain also has a bill that would increase the state tax on gasoline based on the price at the pump to help offset depletion of revenues that are supposed to be dedicated to improving highway capacity and infrastructure.
LSU quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris combined to throw for 420 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday’s spring game. Harris threw for 178 yards and two scores, Jennings had 242 passing and two TDs. Coach Les Miles likes how the two developed over the spring, but they still need to get more consistent.
Louisiana Tech also completed spring practice on Saturday and three quarterbacks for the Bulldogs threw touchdown passes. Jeff Driskel threw for 269 yards and four touchdowns, Ryan Higgins had 214 passing yards and one TD and Price Wilson threw for 181 yards and a TD. Coach Skip Holtz says all three of them showed they are capable.
News for Friday 041715
By Dave Graichen
Central Louisiana saw some of the worst flooding we’ve seen in years yesterday as for hours the clouds just opened up. A foot of water in the roads in many areas of town was the norm. In some cases there was a lot more. Several homes and businesses around the south traffic circle had water in their buildings. Tim Humphrey, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, said a gauge south of Alexandria International Airport recorded 6.4 inches of rain. That amount varied a lot depending upon where you happened to be. Forecasters say we could see more rain anytime throughout the weekend.
The Rapides Parish Police Jury has voted unanimously to renew its contract with the Acadian Ambulance service through Oct. 31, 2019. The renewal is in the form of two two-year terms, for a total of four years. Under the contract Acadian will continue to provide exclusive emergency and non-emergency ambulance services in the Parish.
The chairwoman of the Louisiana House Transportation Committee said Thursday that she is sponsoring a one-cent state sales tax hike for roads and bridges that would raise $675 million per year. State Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, said the increase, which faces massive political hurdles, is needed to tackle Louisiana’s $12 billion backlog of transportation needs. The tax hike would raise about $7 billion over 10 years.
The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Department is calling Thursday morning’s shooting of a deputy directing traffic at a school crossing, an ambush. 36-year-old Corporal Burt Hazeltine is in stable, but guarded condition. Captain Pat Yoes says when other deputies arrived, the suspect dropped the gun and surrendered. The 56 year old suspect reportedly got angry at the deputy over being held up in school traffic.
With lawmakers facing a one-point-six billion dollar budget deficit, Governor Bobby Jindal stands behind his efforts to cut government spending instead of raising taxes. Jindal says it has led to a strong job market and growing economy. Jindal made those comments during a wide-ranging discussion with reporters at the state capitol. The governor was also asked about how many out-of-state trips he plans to take during the legislative session. The governor did not give a number. As far as a plan to deal with the state’s budget shortfall, Jindal says those conversations are ongoing.
The state House and Senate did not meet Thursday and they are off today as well, but that’s not stopping the debate over a so-called religious freedom bill. Governor Jindal says the bill will not lead to discrimination of same sex couples, instead it protects businesses from being punished by the state for their religious belief in traditional marriage. The governor says, passing the bill this legislative session it one of his top priorities.
Louisiana’s health advocacy groups see an opportunity this legislative session to get a long-sought cigarette tax hike in a state that has one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the country. As lawmakers look to raise new money to plug a $1.6 billion budget hole, at least 10 tobacco tax measures have been filed for debate.
The number of Formosan subterranean termites are rising in Louisiana and homeowners should take precautions against them. LSU AgCenter Entomologist Gregg Henderson says these termites build shelter tubes as they move up a home’s foundation. He says if you think your home may have termites, you should get an inspection.
The LSU football team completes spring practice on Saturday with the annual spring game. The scrimmage will give quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris another opportunity to show whether they should be the starting quarterback next season.
Louisiana Tech will hold its spring game on Saturday. The coaching staff has divided the team into two squads and Coach Skip Holtz says Saturday is like a final exam, especially for the younger players on the roster.
News for Thursday 041615
By Dave Graichen
BESE unanimously approves a process that will be used to review the state’s controversial Common Core academic standards. President Chas Roemer says the goal is to improve current standards where necessary instead of rewriting them. Roemer says the public will have the opportunity to review and provide input on every standard, and all related meetings will be open to all. He says this is not about being pro or anti-Common Core, it’s about finding out what should be expected of children who are learning.
State Police report, a Jonesville man and woman died late Tuesday night in a crash that may have been caused by excessive speed. A 4-year-old child survived the crash.
Over 100 college students gathered on the steps of the state capitol yesterday to rally against proposed budget cuts to public universities. Nearly all of Louisiana’s colleges were represented and many held up signs that said “No Funding, No Future”. UNO student David Teagle says these cuts equate to the theft of the future of Louisiana.
The results of a six-month study of wait times at veterans medical facilities were mixed for the Alexandria Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the medical center was below the national average, but three of the four clinics it operates beat the average. The Associated Press gathered data on wait times at nearly 1,000 Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities from September through February. It concluded that, despite major reforms and billions of dollars spent, the number of veterans facing long waits for care has not significantly dropped.
Governor Bobby Jindal and Dallas-based Monster Moto announce the company will establish a headquarters and manufacturing facility in Ruston. The project includes a $4 million investment to build a 100,000 square foot facility at the former site of Ruston’s municipal airport. Monster Moto manufactures minibikes, go-carts, and other youth oriented vehicles. Construction on the facility will begin in June and operations are expected to begin by the end of the year. Monster Moto’s move will create 287 direct jobs for north Louisiana over the next decade.
The ACLU of Louisiana is calling on the candidates for Governor to address the state’s massive incarceration problem. Executive Director Marjorie Esman says the all of the gubernatorial candidates are talking about more about fixing the state’s budget problem, and overlooking a serious crisis. Esman says we are the world’s incarceration leader, jailing more people per capita than any place on the planet.
The Natchitoches Police Department says the assistant principal at Frankie Ray Jackson Senior Technical Center is under arrest for allegedly paddling a teacher. Captain Chris Payne says they got the complaint in February that a female teacher at the school. 64-year-old Hugo Vogel of Goldonna was arrested this week for simple battery and was later released on $303 bond. Motive for the alleged battery is unclear.
As we look ahead to the 2016 presidential election, how big of a roll will social media play? Both Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz used Twitter to announce they were running and Senator Marco Rubio’s announcement was shared thousands of times on Facebook. UL-Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross says social media is great to get out positive feel-good messages, but it’s also effective in spreading negative messages as well. He says you’ll see a combination of both as the presidential race gets going…
Sinkholes will now be recognized as threats in the state’s updated hazard mitigation plan. Louisiana is working on the five year plan which must be in place to receive federal money after natural and manmade disasters. This is the first time the state is going to map salt domes and their surrounding 1 mil radius in each parish. Authorities believe a failed salt dome caused a nearly 30 acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish in 2012.
Oceana has filed a lawsuit against the federal government in an attempt to protect sea turtles from shrimp trawl nets. The suit alleges that the Endangered Species Act is being violated as 53,000 endangered sea turtles are allowed to be killed every year in the Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery off the Louisiana coast.
A transgender Lake Charles man has filed a federal sex discrimination lawsuit against his former employer. 21-year-old Tristan Broussard alleges he was fired from Tower Loan last year when it was discovered he used to be a woman. The suit alleges that during a review of Broussard’s employment paperwork, it was noticed that his driver’s license listed his sex as female. After the company’s vice president found out, Broussard was terminated.
The New Orleans Pelicans are in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 as they defeated the defending NBA champion, San Antonio Spurs, 108-103.
News for Wednesday 041515
By Dave Graichen
A Louisiana music legend has left us. Percy Sledge passed away at his Baton Rouge home early Tuesday morning, after a battle with cancer. The man who recorded “When A Man Loves A Woman” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Louisiana Music Hall in 2007. Percy Sledge was 73.
Alexandria utility customers from 1995 to 2005 may finally get the long-proposed rebates from the city’s settlement of a lawsuit against Cleco. The amount of the potential rebates, which most likely will be in the form of lower utility bills, is undetermined, but it would involve more than $6.5 million, with more than 70 percent of that going to big corporate and government customers. That means the amount of the total rebates available for residential customers would be less than 30 percent.
Today is tax day and even though many have already settled up with Uncle Sam, there are still millions who have yet to file and are waiting till the last minute. If you’re filing electronically it must be done by midnight. But Bill Potter, a CPA in Baton Rouge, says if you don’t think you’re gonna make it then you can file an extension. If you make less than $60,000 a year you can log on to irs.gov and choose from several different commercial software companies that let you file your taxes for free. Potter says one of the most common mistakes people make is getting their social security number wrong. He says it’s also important to report ALL your income.
State legislators are weeks away from settling on a solution to Louisiana’s huge budget deficit, but on Tuesday, they said one thing is clear: They don’t expect much help from Gov. Bobby Jindal in solving the problem. Lawmaker after lawmaker, Democrats and Republicans alike, expressed disappointment that Jindal in his 21-minute address kicking off the 2015 legislative session on Monday didn’t offer more substantive ideas to help close a $1.6 billion deficit projected for the upcoming year. Several of them noted that Jindal ended his speech by wishing them good luck, as if, said state Sen. Robert Adley “the problem is in our laps, and we need to solve it.”
Louisianians who depend on state health for health care services are urging lawmakers not to cut services that Governor Bobby Jindal has on the chopping block to cut for next year’s budget. Some parents of disabled children made their case to the House Appropriations Committee for budget changes.
Louisiana college students will rally at the state capitol this afternoon to express their concerns about a potential 600-million dollar cut in state funding to public colleges and universities. Stephanie Travis, who chairs the council of student body presidents, says she started at Southeastern Louisiana in 2009 and has seen how previous budget cuts have impacted the Hammond campus. Lawmakers are looking at how they can preserve higher education, but finding ways to raise revenue to prevent drastic cuts will be difficult. Travis says raising tuition on students is NOT the answer.
Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson took to the House floor Tuesday to try and clear up some of the misconceptions of his so-called religious freedom bill. Johnson says his bill does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians. He says it’s only an attempt to safe guard religious freedom. But state representative John Bel Edwards says the legislation is vaguely written. Johnson plans to change the language in his bill, when it gets its first hearing in the House Civil Law committee.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush endorses US Senator David Vitter in this year’s governor’s race. Bush will appear with Vitter today at a fundraising event in New Orleans. Vitter has also picked up endorsements from presidential hopefuls Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
The Miss USA Pageant announces they will be returning to Louisiana for the July 12th, 2015 live broadcast from the Baton Rouge River Center at 7 pm on NBC. Last year, the pageant attracted about 5.5 million viewers and created over two and a half million dollars in hotel revenue.
If the Pelicans win tonight against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs they are in the Western Conference playoffs for the first time since 2011. Pelicans head coach Monty Williams says the players are embracing the situation before them.
News for Tuesday 041415
By Dave Graichen
It’s going to be an extremely wet week in Louisiana. State Climatologist Barry Keim says there is a 80 percent or higher chance for rain through Friday. He says you can expect waves of gulf moisture to produce downpours.
The Rapides Parish Police Jury wants to ensure the needed public infrastructure is in place to accommodate the aluminum alloy plant to be built at the old International Paper Mill near Pineville. The Police Jury on Monday voted unanimously to authorize jury President Richard Billings to take actions to facilitate the ASA plant locating in Rapides Parish. The assistance would come in the form of “grant applications and other legislatively created financing opportunities” to help ASA with its public infrastructure needs related to roads, water, sewer, rail and port access .
The two month long legislative session is now underway in Baton Rouge. Governor Bobby Jindal delivered his opening remarks. Many are saying this has the potential to be one of the most challenging sessions in decades as lawmakers deal with a $1.6 billion dollar budget deficit.
There were three priorities laid out yesterday by Governor Bobby Jindal to both houses of the legislature on the opening day of the legislative session yesterday. At the top of the list was balancing the budget without a tax increase. He also said he would work to do away with Common Core, then he mentioned his full support of the Religious Freedom Bill from Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson
Education is going to be a huge topic this legislative session. One of the bills seeks to add more quality substitute teachers because of the shortage. Ville Platte Representative Bernard LeBas says HB 43 would raise the salary cap to 50 percent of benefits for retired teachers to sub because it’s currently just 25%. He says the whole idea is to offer our students the best possible education.
Today and tomorrow members of the public will have a chance to lobby before the House Appropriations Committee about what they would like to see funded in next fiscal year’s budget. Because of a $1.6 billion dollar shortfall, money is tight and several government services are facing massive cuts.
The House Democratic Caucus says Medicaid expansion and state funding for higher ed are their top priorities in this legislative session. Baton Rouge Representative Ted James, says democrats will not approve a budget for next fiscal year, if the legislature doesn’t pass a bill that allows the state to receive federal dollars so more low-income residents can receive Medicaid. There’s talk about giving public colleges more autonomy to raise tuition or passing additional fees on students. James says the democratic party opposes both efforts. Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, state representative John Bel Edwards, says there’s enough democrats in the legislature that can prevent the passing of bills that raise college tuition costs for students.
It was a tough first day of session for a Covington lawmaker. Representative Paul Hollis was driving his Audi A8 through a parking lot at the Capitol when a new security system on the grounds went off and two upright structures shot up and through the front of the car. Hollis said he hit his windshield and his airbag also deployed.
Two law enforcement officers have been arrested on racketeering charges in a case where they allegedly planted drugs on an individual. A spokesman with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office says State Trooper Corey Jackson and Lafayette Parish Deputy Jason Kinch were arrested. The case involved over $100,000 in cash payments to a number of people including the two officers. Warrants for co-conspirators have been issued.
While the rest of nation has experienced a slight increase in the price of gas, Louisiana average prices are staying about the same. According to GasBuddy.com, the average price for regular gasoline in $2.17 a gallon. The projections still predict summertime gas levels to approach the lows of 2009.
Alexandria police have arrested 64 year old Robert Charles Lee Jr., after he was involved in a Saturday night hit and run accident on Broadway. Lee charged with third-offense DWI, reckless operation, hit and run, having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle and the illegal carrying of a weapon.
News for Monday 041315
By Dave Graichen
State Police graduated 58 brand new troopers Friday from Cadet Class #93. Sergent Nick Manale says the cadets have trained in crash investigations, emergency vehicle operations, impaired driving detection, and traffic incident management. He says the addition of these graduates puts the number of troopers statewide at about 1000.
State Police say a single vehicle crash in Rapides Parish has taken the life of a Dry Prong man. Authorities say 31-year-old Donald Johnson lost control of his vehicle and exited the roadway where the vehicle began overturning. Johnson, who was unrestrained at the time of the crash, was pronounced dead at the scene. This crash remains under investigation.
What is expected to be a very difficult legislative session begins today in Baton Rouge. Lawmakers will have until June 11th to approve a spending plan that takes into account a one-point-six billion dollar shortfall. Senate President John Alario says legislators are looking at ways to generate more state revenue. There are several bills that seek to increase the tax on tobacco products, but for the governor to approve them, there has to be a tax cut somewhere else to offset new revenue. Alario says it will take several weeks before lawmakers can agree on a plan.
Governor Bobby Jindal will provide the opening address as the legislative session gets underway today. The question is how involved will the governor be as lawmakers grapple with a $1.6 billion budget deficit? Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat says it’s important for Jindal to be active this session. He doesn’t think the legislative session will stop Jindal from traveling outside the state pursuing his presidential hopes. However, Pinsonat says you can’t run for president when the state you’re supposed to be running is a disaster.
Even though the massive budget deficit will by far be the biggest issue lawmakers will be dealing with this session, there are still many other issues on the agenda as well. LaPolitics.com publisher Jeremy Alford says Common Core will be one of the major items that will distract from the budget. Alford says even with the budget issues and the complicated tax situations on the table, lawmakers will still find time to touch that third rail of Louisiana politics.
One of the bills set to be discussed during the 2015 legislative session would raise the base pay for severs from $2.13 per hour to at least minimum wage. Monroe Representative Marcus Hunter says whether you get good tips or not, $2.13 an hour is deplorable pay for any worker
Hunter says he doesn’t want to continue to see hard working people who are committed to serving their businesses go home with less than minimum wage.
The fourth ranked LSU baseball took two of three from Auburn this past weekend. The Tigers lost for just the sixth time all season on Saturday, but rebounded with a six-to-two win on Sunday to avoid their first two-game losing streak of the season.
News for Friday 041015
By Dave Graichen
Louisiana is about to get really wet as thunderstorms cloud the forecast for the next several days. State Climatologist Barry Keim says a slow moving cold front is pushing through the state today and looks to be hanging around into at least Monday. Keim says as far as rain totals go, the state can expect at least two inches with higher totals in isolated areas.
The Colorado State University forecast team is predicting the 2015 Hurricane season will be below average and about 45 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2014′s tropical cyclone activity was about 75 percent average. The lead author of the report is Dr. Phil Klotzbach who says if the forecast holds true, it would be the third quiet Gulf hurricane season in a row.
State Rep. Lance Harris will again seek to create a regional port for Rapides Parish. Harris says he will file a bill for a regional port authority, which would include the Port of Alexandria.
Last year, Harris’ bill to expand the territorial limits of the Port of Alexandria to all of Rapides Parish died in committee. But he says they have a very good chance to work it out this year.( A Louisiana Economic Development report shows a regional port is needed and the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce and Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance support that concept.) The Port of Alexandria currently handles about 120,000 tons of cargo a year, but it is running out of land for development.
Plans are moving forward to sell the remainder of the state Tobacco settlement money .
If the Legislature approves, the state would raise $300 million from the sale of the settlement sometime before June 30; another $300 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1; and the remaining amount for $150 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016. But, the state won’t be the only one coming into some quick onetime cash if the plan is approved. Lawyers, financial advisors and underwriters will get paid $1.29 million for their efforts.
State Treasurer John Kennedy announces he’ll seek re-election this fall ending long-time speculation that he’d run for governor or attorney general. ULM Political Science Professor Joshua Stockley says this is a good move on Kennedy’s part. Stockley says many people believe Kennedy has his eye on the US Senate seat that could come open if David Vitter becomes Governor.
Higher Education Commissioner Joe Rallo is very concerned about how some universities will be able to operate if lawmakers are not able to come up with a funding solution to the state’s one-point-six billion dollar budget deficit. Rallo says higher ed is facing a potential cut of about 600-million dollars in state funds. Over the next several weeks lawmakers will discuss ways to generate revenue so that the cuts to higher ed are minimal.
Real estate millionaire Robert Durst entered a not guilty plea to a couple of weapons charges in a New Orleans court Thursday. The weapons arrest has kept Durst in Louisiana, although he had waived his extradition to Los Angeles, where he is charged with the 2000 shooting death of 55 year-old Susan Berman.
The 32-year-old Destrehan teacher accused of having sex with a 16-year-old student has reached a plea deal with the St. Charles Parish District Attorney’s office. Under the terms of the deal, Shelley Dufrense avoids jail time, but she’ll have to complete 90 days of treatment at a mental health facility. Dufrense also faces charges out of Jefferson Parish, along with another former teacher, where an alleged threesome took place with the same 16-year-old student.
New Orleans Representative Joseph Bouie files legislation that would transfer regulation of cable and satellite companies to the Public Service Commission. He says currently the Secretary of State’s office is responsible for the certification and regulation of cable and video entities. Bouie says he’s heard many complaints and concerns from people who feel like cable and satellite companies aren’t held to the same rules as their other utilities.
Republican Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson says he plans to amend the religious freedom bill he has filed amid public concerns but gay rights advocacy groups want the legislation pulled altogether. Johnson says he’ll remove a paragraph in the bill that some believed gave businesses the right to deny benefits to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs. Gay rights groups feel this bill legalizes discrimination and are banding together in opposition to Johnson’s legislation
The streets of Ponchatoula will be packed this weekend as the 44th annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival gets underway today. 2015 Festival Chairman Donald Lanier says this is the largest free festival in Louisiana. Strawberries are the focal point of the festival, which runs through Sunday, but there is lots more for people to enjoy. Live music will be featured all weekend long. Of course food is always an attraction plus carnival rides and a parade tomorrow morning.
The LSU Tigers put their six-game winning streak on the line tonight when they host Auburn to begin a weekend set with the War Eagles. Tonight’s game is set to begin at 7 PM, but the forecast doesn’t look good for the weekend as there’s an 80 to 90-percent chance of rain each day.
News for Thursday 040915
By Dave Graichen
It has been a long time coming, but, it appears the renovation of the Rapides Parish Coliseum will begin in about two weeks. The Police Jury on Wednesday unanimously approved an agreement with the city of Alexandria, allowing the Coliseum renovation work to begin. The City Council unanimously signed off on the deal on Tuesday. It’s expected work should be completed in about two years.
State Police is investigating an Iberia Parish crash which claimed the life of a Jeanerette Police officer. Master Trooper Brooks David says 22-year-old Juandre Gilliam was conducting a traffic stop when the suspect fled. Detectives determined the cop crashed his car in the chase and it overturned. The officer was pronounced dead at the scene. There are two suspects, one a juvenile, and charges are pending in the tragedy.
House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Karen St. Germain of Pierre Part files a bill that would increase Louisiana’s gasoline tax by 4 cents a gallon. The funds, about $120 million per year, would be dedicated to the state’s roads and bridges on a local level. The measure was also submitted by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Adley of Benton. Dollars raised by the increased tax would go to the Parish Transportation Fund which finances local projects.
Republican US Senator David Vitter has picked up another endorsement for his campaign for Louisiana governor Wednesday. Fifth district Congressman Ralph Abraham announced that he is throwing his support to the Senator, saying Vitter has released a clear plan to stabilize the budget through spending and tax reform.
With just a few days left before the start of the legislative session, the head of Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is concerned about a proposal to eliminate refunds businesses receive for paying an inventory tax to local governments. LABI president Stephen Waguespack says you’ll see companies leaving the state if it happens. As a way to soften cuts to higher ed and health care, the Jindal administration has proposed scaling back inventory tax refunds. But Waguespack believes there’s other solutions, including eliminating the inventory tax all together.
There is a bill filed for the upcoming legislative session that would essentially make playing fantasy football online for money legal. Right now in Louisiana, “play-for-cash” computer fantasy football would violate state gambling laws. The measure is by Metairie Representative Joe Lopinto who says there are numerous states which create gambling exceptions for fantasy football.
The National Hurricane Museum and Science Center in Lake Charles has taken another big step toward opening, as the Stream family has made a pledge of one million dollars toward the project. The total amount contributed so far is about 40 million dollars, and Gray Stream says they’re about 15 million dollars away from the goal.
Baton Rouge Mayor President Kip Holden sort-of already spilled the beans Yesterday at a press conference, but it looks like the Miss USA pageant is officially once again coming to the Capitol City. The Baton Rouge Metro Council unanimously approved funding for the event in 2015 Wednesday afternoon.
An Orleans Parish grand jury has indicted millionaire murder suspect Robert Durst on gun charges in Louisiana. Durst’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, has been attempting to get Durst extradited to California to face murder charges there. Legal analyst Tim Meche says this indictment means Durst won’t be going to California any time soon. Durst is charged for the 2000 shooting death of Susan Berman.
The $30 million dollar expansion of Abita Brewing Company is now complete. This will more than double their old production output, and give them more National exposure, becoming a Founding Brewery Partner of Enjoy Beer Inc. which is an enterprise created to provide resources to top independent craft brewers on a national scale.
LSU defensive back Jalen Mills will not have to go to trial on his simple battery case after accepting a one-year pretrial diversion program to resolve the charge. Prosecutors say included in the program is that Mills has to perform 30 hours of community service and can’t get arrested or do drugs. The charge stemmed from a woman who claimed Mills punched her last May.
Blue Bell Creameries has expanded its recall of products they tested positive for Listeria. That recall includes Louisiana and 21 other states.
News for Wednesday 040815
By Dave Graichen
The Alexandria City Council have given it’s final approval to an agreement clearing the way for the Rapides Parish Coliseum renovation project to begin. In anticipation of that decision the city issued a building permit to the Rapides Parish Police Jury for the $22.9 million renovation project. The Police Jury is expected to sign off on the agreement today.
Area lawmakers will discuss the upcoming legislative session in a forum set for Thursday in Pineville. The public is invited to the forum that will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Kees Park Community Center on La. Highway 28 East in Pineville. Central Louisiana legislators will talk about the session and answer questions from a panel made up of representatives of The Town Talk, KALB-TV and KLAX-TV. The legislative session begins Monday.
An Alexandria man has been charged after allegedly firing shots at bystanders after an argument on Monday. The APD reports 23 Quentavis Woodard was arrested shortly after the incident in the 2400 block of Harris Street Monday night. Woodard was booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center, charged with being a principal to attempted second- degree murder. No one was injured in the shooting.
Louisiana public support for same-sex marriage is lagging behind the national average, but a recent LSU Public Policy Research Poll shows the gap between support and opposition is shrinking. A large majority of older Louisianians are opposed, while almost 60 percent of adults under 30 support it.
The 2015 Louisiana Survey finds that state residents support the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes, but not personal use. LSU Public Policy Research Lab Director Michael Henderson says 52-percent of residents oppose the personal use of marijuana, but the difference between support and opposition is shrinking. 68-percent of 18 to 29 year olds support legalizing marijuana for personal use while 68-percent of residents 65 and older oppose it.
Five major health advocacy groups are teaming up to launch a campaign in support of a bill to raise the state’s tax on cigarettes by $1.18 a pack. The American Heart Association is part of the “Invest in a Healthy Louisiana” campaign and its spokesperson Stasha Rhodes says it’s time to bring the state’s tax on cigarettes to the national average, which is a $1.54 a pack.
Bogalusa Representative Harold Ritchie is sponsoring a bill to do just that.
A bill to criminalize so-called ‘revenge porn” will be debated in the upcoming legislative session. Kenner representative Julie Stokes says she wants to ensure that people who spread private pictures without permission are held accountable.
Louisiana education superintendent John White tells lawmakers he needs more money so the state can provide standardized tests next school year. White says the budget, as it currently exists, will prevent students from taking the A-C-T or an assessment test like PARCC. The Jindal administration has said White will have to decide what to cut from his budget. White says Louisiana will violate state and federal law if it doesn’t have a standardized test.
According to a report from the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana agriculture as a whole contributed $12.7 billion dollars to the state’s economy in 2014. The summary indicates net value for all sectors was up 7.6 percent, or $900 million dollars, from 2013. It’s the third year in a row Louisiana farmers broke records in the value of their commodities.
The Department of Health and Hospitals has cut the ribbon on a new public health laboratory that will be used to test water, screen for genetic disorders and help the state respond to public health threats such as Ebola. DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert says this is a ultra-modern lab with all of the latest technology. Kliebert says the new lab site allows the state to better identify food outbreaks, test infectious disease samples and any number of other public health concerns.
Four underage college students from Louisiana were issued summons’ in Alabama when busted hauling a trailer full of alcohol to Gulf Shores for spring break. Mobile County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Paul Burch says deputies noticed a trailer traveling on Interstate 10 with an expired tag. Burch says deputies found over 100 18-packs of beer.
Another piece of Louisiana is being sold. Bruce Foods in New Iberia has sold it’s Original Louisiana Brand Hot Sauce to Georgia-based Southeastern Mills Inc. They say the purchase includes all of the property related to Bruce’s hot sauce business. Under the terms of the deal Southeastern Mills will keep current workers and the plant in New Iberia.
A new twist today in the Darren Sharper case Tuesday, as a New Orleans judge delayed the arraignment until the federal drug charges are resolved. That move means the previous plea deal for the former Saints star on drug and rape charges, is likely to change. Legal analyst Chick Foret says the Orleans Parish DA may not like, what many refer to as, a sweetheart deal.
A high school in Monroe which previously told a gay female student that she was not allowed to wear a tuxedo to prom has now reversed it’s decision. The change of heart came after Carroll High School and Claudetteia Love’s story got national attention.
News for Tuesday 040715
By Dave Graichen
An agreement that would enable the Rapides Parish Coliseum renovation project to begin is up for a vote this evening by the Alexandria City Council. The Police Jury needs clear ownership of certain property for parking in order to get an unconditional building permit from the city for the $22.9 million renovation project. The Police Jury has called a special meeting for 8:30 tomorrow to discuss the agreement.
Alexandria mayor Jacques Roy held a briefing Monday to go over the proposed 2015-16 fiscal year budget for the city. Under the plan City employees would receive a pay raise of close to 3 percent. A public hearing will be held at tonight’s City Council meeting, and council members will meet at least three times over the next two weeks to hammer out details. The new budget takes effect May 1.
According to the United States Public Interest Research Group, federal data from 2014 indicates that over 1,800 bridges in Louisiana need repairs. The Federal Highway Administration lists 1,837 bridges in Louisiana as “structurally deficient”. Louisiana Department of Transportation spokesman Rodney Mallett says a “structurally deficient” designation doesn’t mean a bridge is unsafe. It means the bridge has at least one component that needs repair or replacement. The state faces a $12 billion backlog in delayed road and bridge maintenance projects.
The state Department of Education says Louisiana’s four-year high school graduation rate was at a record high in 2014 and increased for the fourth straight year. Superintendent John White says about 75% of students who entered 9th grade, graduated in 2014 which is a 1.1% increase over the prior year. White says this increase is a great sign for our state and a true testament to the hard work and devotion of teachers, principals and families. He says in the class of 2014, nearly 1600 more students graduated than did in the class of 2013 and nearly 3,440 more students than in 2011.
Governor Bobby Jindal made an appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press to talk about the religious freedom debate that’s created a national controversy. Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson has filed a religious freedom bill in Louisiana. Jindal says this issue is about business owners that don’t want to have to choose between their religious beliefs and being able to operate their businesses. Johnson’s proposed bill would permit private businesses to deny the same benefits to same-sex couples as other married couples based on a religious objection.
The Louisiana Film Entertainment Association says a study they commissioned found that movies made here created up to $4 billion dollars in economic output in 2013. The report by HR&A Advisors says over 33,000 jobs and over $1.2 billion in personal income can be attributed to the state’s film tax credits. The report also pointed out the movie industry attracts tourists to the state. Based on a survey of nearly 1400 recent visitors to Louisiana, 14.5% said they were spurred to visit Louisiana because of a television show or movie that was filmed here.
Funeral services will be held today for Loreauvile Mayor Albert Broussard. Broussard was killed in a car crash Friday night when a vehicle crossed the center line and struck the vehicle he was riding in head on. Broussard served as Alderman for 24 years and was serving his third term as mayor at the time of his death. He was also a 1st Lieutenant in the Louisiana National Guard.
Even though it’s been common knowledge that Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne is running for governor, he made it official Monday. He says Louisiana is in horrible financial shape right now and he plans to go to work on budget matters from day one. Dardenne says his office will work to end the practice of using one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses. The LT. Governor is scheduled to make a campaign stop in Alexandria today.
Republican US Senator David Vitter begins to unveil his plan on leading Louisiana into the future as governor. Vitter calls the plan “Together, Louisiana Strong”. He has released the first two chapters; one dealing with staying in touch with Louisiana citizens while governor and the second focusing on stabilizing the budget through spending and tax reform. Vitter says he would immediately call a special legislative session to deal exclusively with the budget crisis, if elected. His entire plan can be seen on his website.
Former NFL star and Saints safety Darren Sharper entered a not guilty plea Monday afternoon in US District Court in New Orleans. Sharper faces federal charges that he drugged women to rape them. It’s expected Sharper will issue a guilty plea at a later date. He’ll also appear in state court today on similar charges. Sharper has already pleaded guilty or no contest on related charges in three other state and faces a nine-year prison sentence.
There’s somebody on Craigslist who is selling what appears to be an authentic 2009 Saints Superbowl ring. The ad says the ring is currently owned by a former Saints player and is in perfect condition, but it does not say who is selling the jewelry other than its location being in Atlanta, Georgia. The asking price is $45,000.
Shreveport Police are looking for a 19-year-old man accused of firing a gun into a crowd gathered at a park, killing a 13-year-old boy. Witnesses told authorities a man was asked to leave the park after pulling a gun during an argument. They say, as he was driving off, he stopped and fired into the crowd. Keandre Broadway was shot and died later at a local hospital.
LSU’s Austin Bain has been named SEC Co-Freshman of the week. Bain was outstanding out of the pen on Saturday as he pitched 6.2 shutout innings, allowing just three hits and a career-high nine strikeouts in a win over Alabama. LSU hosts UNO tonight.
The Pelicans, who are fighting to get into the NBA Playoffs, will host Golden State tonight. The Warriors have the best record in the NBA and we don’t want to sound negative but,
New Orleans has lost 11 straight games to Golden State.
News for Monday 040615
By Dave Graichen
The investigation into the death of a Pineville man on Thursday of last week by a Rapides Parish Sheriff’s deputy continues. Over the weekend, the RPSO ID’d the man as 27 year old Aaron Rutledge, a Louisiana National Guard Recruiter who served overseas as a combat medic in 2013-14. Rutledge, who friends described as a great guy, was shot and killed after he aimed a gun at an RPSO deputy, during a domestic disturbance call.
A fire early Saturday morning on main street in Pineville claimed the life of a 68-year-old man.
Fire officials report the building where the fire occurred, had three apartments, two of which were occupied. Two men in one apartment escaped without injury. But, Robert Rivers' body was found in one of the other apartments after the fire was extinguished. Rivers, who was physically-handicapped, had been battling illness for a prolonged period of time.
The religious freedom debate which made national headlines in Indiana and Arkansas is coming to Louisiana. Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson has filed a bill that would prevent state government from penalizing a business or person for decisions made based on their religious views about marriage. Jeremy Alford, of la-politics-dot-com, says the big question is, with the state facing a huge budget deficit and the common core issue, will legislators even be willing to debate this issue.
Lt Governor Jay Dardenne begins a statewide tour today to officially announce that he’s running for Governor. Dardenne will begin in Baton Rouge and Lafayette today, tomorrow he’ll visit Alexandria and Lake Charles. Wednesday it’s New Orleans then Thursday Monroe and Shreveport. Recent polls have shown Dardenne a distant third in the race behind the leading Republican David Vitter then the Democratic candidate John Bel Edwards.
Data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, shows Louisiana’s personal income for the fourth quarter in 2014 grew by just 0.6 percent, which is last in the country. But LSU economist Loren Scott says a reason for the low growth is because Louisiana did not accept federal dollars to expand its Medicaid program. Scott says there’s fewer federal dollars flowing into the state to assist low-income or unemployed workers and that’s what led to the ranking.
What is expected to be a very difficult legislative session begins a week from today as state lawmakers will try to come up with a fiscal plan to avoid large budget cuts to health care and higher education. Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Troy Hebert has been appointed as Governor Jindal’s legislative liaison. Hebert is familiar with the legislature as he’s served in the House and the Senate prior to becoming A-T-C Commissioner. He says while the state’s budget problems are difficult, he believes every crisis is an opportunity.
Former New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper is scheduled for arraignment today in federal court and tomorrow in state court. The 39-year-old, who is accused of drugging and raping women in four states, struck a “global” plea deal to resolve all of the charges. It’s been reported that Sharper will get 20 years in Louisiana, but will serve just nine under the multi- state deal.
Haughton Representative Henry Burns, who has filed a bill that would require bar and restaurant patrons to have a designated driver, is now saying he will not try to seek approval of his measure in this session. Burns says he filed the legislation after hearing from families who have lost loved one as a result of drunk drivers, but he hasn’t figured out how the legislation could be enforced.
A Baton Rouge woman is accused of leaving her three small children at home alone in squalid living conditions. After receiving an anonymous tip, police on Saturday found the children, ages 1, 3 and 5. The 3-year-old child had swollen eyes and was covered in welts, police said. It’s unclear how those injuries happened. The apartment also had no beds or electricity, and had feces and urine on the floors
The LSU Tigers spent Easter Sunday relaxing after a long, but successful series in Hoover, Alabama. The Tigers completed a sweep of the Crimson Tide on Saturday with a 6-4 victory in 13 innings. It was the fourth extra-inning game for the Tigers in their last six SEC contests.
News for Thursday 040215
By Dave Graichen
The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s office says a man is behind bars on felony stalking charges after allegedly continuously harassing a female victim. Lt. Tommy Carnline says the woman told cops that 47-year-old Christopher Charles Lammons of Alexandria would not leave her alone. Carnline says a warrant was obtained for Lammons’ arrest as well as a search warrant for his residence for additional evidence. A new law that went into effect last year, “Gwen’s Law”, mandates that he stay in jail without bond .
Authorities yesterday arrested an Avoyelles Parish corrections officer after she was accused of making a stop while transporting prisoners to let one of the inmates buy drugs. 47 year old Michelle George faces charges of malfeasance in office, assisting escape and obstruction of justice.
It was one of those traffic accidents that looked a lot worse than it actually was.. Three people suffered minor injuries Wednesday afternoon in Pineville shortly after noon at the intersection of highway 71 and Claiborne street. Pineville PD report a juvenile driving a PT Cruiser tried to turn onto Claiborne, but crashed into a passenger van, causing it to overturned and land on its roof. All those involved in the crash were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The wreck remains under investigation.
The prison population in Louisiana is going down for the first time in years. Secretary of Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc told the House Appropriations Committee that from 2006-2009 the state added about 1200 new prisoners a year, and at the pace, there would have been about 44,000 inmates at the end of 2014 instead of closing the year with about 38,000.
The River Waterway Commission announced yesterday Public boat ramps in Rapides and Avoyelles parishes have reopened. Still, the commission is advising boaters to use caution when launching into the current and to be highly aware of obstacles, such as trees and sandbars, while navigating the Red River.
Opelousas Senator Elbert Guillory files a constitutional amendment that would let voters decide if life begins at conception. Guillory says his proposed change to the constitution would give unborn children the same legal rights that all other people enjoy Guillory says the constitutional amendment will also make abortions automatically illegal, if Roe versus Wade is overturned. The legislation is referred to as “personhood” but similar proposals have failed to pass in other states.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating a Donaldsonville shooting Wednesday Morning , where a 9 year-old boy was shot while sleeping in his bed. Authorities say the house was hit multiple times. The little boy has been released from the hospital. Police say so far, no suspects.
The New Orleans Police Department says they’ve arrested a suspect in the killing of a Dominos pizza delivery driver. They say 24-year-old Michael Portis is believed to be responsible for the fatal shooting of 36-year-old Michael Price who was a married father of three. There was a $15,000 reward being offered in the case and cops say it was multiple tips to Crime stoppers which help lead detectives to Portis.
A former Elton High School teacher and basketball coach has pleaded guilty to having inappropriate sexual relationships with students. 35-year-old Justin Fruge pleaded guilty to one count of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile. Fruge faces up to ten years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for July 20.
The Louisiana SPCA is encouraging folks to celebrate Easter responsibly and think before you buy live bunnies and chicks as pets. Spokeswoman Destinie (Destiny) Hammond says hundreds of rabbits are turned in to local shelters or released into the wild shortly after the Easter holiday. Hammond says when it comes to Easter bunnies, they encourage you to go chocolate.
The LSU baseball team begins a three-game series tonight against Alabama. The series will NOT be played in Tuscaloosa, because of ongoing renovations with Alabama’s ball park. So the games will be played just outside of Birmingham at the same ball park where the SEC Tournament is held.
News for Wednesday 040115
By Dave Graichen
While flirting with a run for president in 2016, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has made another shuffle among his upper staff, just days before the start of the last legislative session of his final term in office. Leaving the governor’s office are Deputy Chief of Staff Taylor Teepell and Legislative Affairs director Matt Parker. The Des Moines Register reports that Teepell and Parker are relocating to Iowa to help build a team there if Jindal runs for president. Jindal has said he won’t announce a run until after the legislative session ends in June.
As Governor Bobby Jindal travels across the country to increase face time for a potential run at the White House, the expenses for his State Police Security detail have gone up. Colonel Mike Edmonson says the price tag for his agency is $2.2 million dollars on travel expenses.
The four candidates looking to be Louisiana’s next governor met yesterday for a forum that was hosted by Louisiana small business leaders. All four candidates were not shy about criticizing Governor Bobby Jindal and his use of the Americans for Tax Reform to help with the state’s budget problems. All candidates said they oppose Jindal’s proposal to scale back the corporate inventory tax.
A poll conducted by LSU finds Louisiana residents oppose education standards that are called Common Core, but support the concept. Doctor Michael Henderson, director of LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab, says when citizens were asked if they support Common Core, only 39-percent said yes. Henderson says when they didn’t use the term “Common Core” and asked residents if they support higher academic standards that allows Louisiana to compare student achievement with other states 67-percent support it. Henderson says the political fighting over Common Core shows that it has tainted the Common Core brand.
Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue files legislation that he says will control the cost of the TOPS scholarship program. Donahue says under his bill a baseline would be set on how much a student receives for tuition and that dollar amount will not go up in future years, unless the legislature votes to change it. Every year the cost of the TOPS program for the state grows by the millions, because of rising tuition costs at public colleges. Donahue under his bill the TOPS award stays the same for a student through their college career, even if tuition goes up.
According to gasbuddy-dot-com, the statewide average for a gallon of regular gas is $2.19 cents a gallon. That’s two cents less than a week ago.
Indiana is taking a lot of heat for its new “religious freedom” law. Sarah Jane Brady, with the Forum for Equality, hopes Louisiana can learn from Indiana when they push a law in the upcoming session that protects against discrimination of people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. In the past, lawmakers have shot down bills to protect the L-G-B-T community.
Baton Rouge representative Dalton Honore files a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would require all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. He says there have been recent incidents around the country where body cameras would have answered a lot of questions. Honore feels that a body camera is a great tool in keeping everyone honest.
Honore’s bill does not provide additional funding for law enforcement to purchase the body cameras.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana alleges that a principal at an Elementary school in Shreveport, engaged in unlawful religious coercion by using God, prayer, and Christianity in school publications. Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman say they recently learned of a newsletter the principal sent home to parents ahead of standardized testing. In a response, Caddo Parish Public Schools say they are investigating and taking steps to ensure school employees are not violating the Constitution.
An $8,500 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who shot a bald eagle in Caddo Parish. Officials says the bald eagle had wounds to its chest and left wing and because of the severity of the injuries, the eagle was euthanized.
It’s the peak of crawfish harvest season and the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s office is increasing patrols around crawfish ponds to deter thieves from stealing crawfish. Lt. Clay Higgins says deputies have been guarding ponds annually since 2011. He says a thief could get two years of hard labor for stealing just a few sacks of crawfish.
The St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office says an Opelousas woman is under arrest on charges of improper sexual contact with juveniles. Authorities were alerted to 35-year-old Francesca Spears after the parents of a teenage boy she was contacting reported her sending inappropriate sexual messages to him. An investigation found that two other juveniles were involved.
The Grant Parish Sheriff's Office is asking the public to donate used bicycles. The bikes will be taken to the "bike shop" at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola to be completely refurbished and will be given to children of Grant Parish at Christmas during the annual Sheriff's Toys for Kids program. The bikes are being accepted through May 15 at the Sheriff's Office in Colfax.
Tonight, Investigation Discovery’s documentary style show “Web of Lies” will feature the story of the kidnapping, murder, and arrest of 12-year-old Justin Bloxom’s killer. Bloxom’s body was found in a shallow pool of water in Stonewall in March of 2010. DeSoto Parish Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle says the show can bring to light how vulnerable our children are and how predators operate. Brian Horn, a previously convicted sex offender, was sentenced to death for Justin’s murder last year.
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