KSYL Local News Archives for 2016-03

News For Thursday 03/31/16


News for Thursday 033116

By Dave Graichen

 

The town talk reports an audit of the Pineville City Court released on Monday has found multiple issues, including salary irregularities for former Judge Phillip Terrell, noncompliance with state unclaimed property laws and other questions. Terrell is currently the parish DA. The auditing firm recommended that the Pineville City Court forward the report to the Louisiana Supreme Court for investigation, which is something the court has agreed to do. Find the full story in today’s Town Talk.

 

 

The Senate Labor Committee is expected to hear a proposal today to raise the minimum wage in Louisiana from $7.25 to $8.00 an hour, beginning next year, and then to $8.50 in 2018. State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business Dawn Starns says  once entry-level employees get this pay raise, upper-level employees will expect one as well. She says this will hit smaller businesses’ bottom line, and they just can’t afford that right now.

Governor John Bel Edwards is in support of a higher minimum wage and so is Louisiana Budget Project director Jan Moller. Moller says $7.25 an hour is not a living wage…

 

Tomorrow the state sales tax will increase from four cents to five cents until June 30, 2018. LSU Marketing Professor Dr. Dan Rice expects some people looking to make a major purchase will try to get that out of the way before the increase goes into effect. But he says this likely won’t change consumer’s purchasing habits. State taxes on cigarettes and alcohol will increase on Friday.

 

The House health committee approves a bill that calls for legislative approval to waive work requirements for food stamp recipients. Under federal law, people are required to either work or perform 20 hours a week of community service in order to qualify for food stamps, but that isn’t the case in Louisiana, because it receives a waiver. Monroe Representative Jay Morris says this legislation would require people to work to receive SNAP benefits. The state Department of Children and Family Services recently estimated there are 31-thousand able bodied adults who would lose their benefits, if they were required to find work.

 

It’s the final day at LSU for the legendary voice of the Fighting Tigers, Jim Hawthorne, as he is retiring effective today. Hawthorne has been on the radio call for thousands of LSU events over the past 35 years. He says he has enjoyed his time announcing for the Tigers.

Hawthorne is looking forward to retirement and spending more time visiting his family and traveling with his wife. He says he is just about done cleaning out his office.

 

The St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office has arrested a man accused of murdering his wife and dumping her body in the spillway canal near Palmetto. Sheriff Bobby Guidroz says 52-year-old Sam Clark, Jr. admitted to police he shot 28-year-old Kimberly Perkins Clark twice in the head on the spillway levee bridge. Guidroz says they believe Kimberly Clark was dead for about 12 to 15 hours before her body was found. Clark is charged with second degree murder.

 

A measure to create protection for public school students who are parents or expectant mothers has been passed out of the Senate Education Committee. Metairie Rep. Stephanie Hilferty says statistically only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school and 30 percent of female students that drop out say the reason was due to pregnancy. The bill now heads to the full Senate for more debate.

 

A bill to prevent peeping Toms from using drones to spy on people received unanimous support from the House Criminal Justice Committee. Monroe Representative Marcus Hunter says his bill will somewhat duplicate existing laws by adding the use of an unmanned aircraft to video surveillance crimes. The bill now heads to the House floor for debate.

 

A bill has passed out of the House Health and Welfare Committee that would extend the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. Five other states have similar waiting periods. The only exception is if the women has to travel more than 150 miles to the nearest abortion clinic. No one spoke out in opposition, but pro-choice groups are concerned about hurdles facing women seeking abortions. The bill now heads to the House floor for further consideration.

 

The Senate advances legislation that would make Louisiana in federal compliance with the Real ID Act.  A similar bill received legislative approval last year, but it was vetoed by former Governor Bobby Jindal This year includes language that would give citizens the option. The proposal passed 31-7 and heads to the House

 

Three people from Louisiana serving time for drug-related offenses have had their prison sentence commuted by President Barack Obama. The trio is part of a group of 61 throughout the nation who will all mostly be released July 28th. The inmates from Louisiana are Kevin County of New Orleans, Roy Lee Debose of Shreveport and John E Milton III of Baton Rouge.

 

The Department of Corrections is investigating whether incarcerated rapper C-Murder recorded a new single while in Angola. Corey Miller is serving life at Angola for killing a 16-year-old and the video for a new single, “Dear Supreme Court” appears to have been put together following Miller’s conviction. The investigation remains open because his daughter posted online Miller made it in jail.

 

A Zachary man is dead following a fire in a storage shed where he was living behind a family member’s home, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office. They say the body of 64-year-old George Matthews Jr was pulled from the structure, which had no working utilities, and initial indications are that the victim died of smoke inhalation.

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News For Wednesday 3/30/16


News for Wednesday 033016

By Dave Graichen

 

As two large weather systems move through the state, the national Storm Prediction Center says Louisiana is one of several states at risk for severe weather today and tomorrow. Forecasters say heavy rain, damaging wind, hail and tornadoes are possible.

 

The Department of Transportation says roadways have suffered nearly 20 million dollars’ worth of damage due to the recent flooding. DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson says it will take a lot of time and effort to fix and maintain the damaged roads. He says they’re currently working to assess the damage and find out how many miles of roadway need to be repaired. Wilson says the state already has nearly a 13-billion dollar backlog on road repairs before the massive flooding created more damage.

 

The chief financial officer for the state’s health department says the expansion of Medicaid would save the state 124-million dollars next fiscal year. Jeff Reynolds says that would help avoid some cuts as a result of a 750-million dollar revenue shortfall, but there’s still a concern about the future of privatized LSU hospitals.

 

A new poll shows Governor John Bel Edwards’ approval rating is at 52-percent. The poll was paid for by Rebuild Louisiana, which is a pro-Edwards organization. The poll also asked respondents about issues the governor is supporting in the regular session. It found nearly 90-percent of respondents favor equal pay for men and women. Additionally, 73-percent support raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour.

 

Two bills regarding abortion are expected to be heard in the House Health and Welfare Committee today. One of the measures would extend the waiting period for a person seeking an abortion from 24 to 72 hours.

 

Starting on April 1st, smokers will pay a $1.08 tax on a pack of cigarettes. A new tax brings the cost of a pack up 22 cents. It’s expected the increase will generate 11 million dollars between April 1st and June 30th.

 

Beginning April 1, the state tax will increase on all types of alcohol by one to two cents per serving. Executive Director of the Beer Industry League of Louisiana John Williams says although the state tax on beer in Louisiana has not been increased since 1948, Louisiana has always had a relatively high alcohol tax. This tax hike is permanent, and it does not have an expiration date like other similar bills that were passed in the special session. The new tax is expected to bring in nearly $5 million between April 1 and June 30

 

Gas prices jumped another penny this week. The current statewide average price at the pump is $1.87, up more than 7 cents from the same time last week, according to AAA.

 

A 60-year-old man from northeast Texas was killed after he was accidentally run over by a dragster driven by his own brother at the Thunder Road Raceway in Gillam. Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Cindy Chadwick says the two were part of a racing crew that was conducting test runs at the park.

 

The US Coast Guard says its investigating the cause of an oil spill from a tank into Bayou Teche in St. Mary Parish early this morning. Some residents were told not to leave their homes following the spill, but the order was lifted hours later. It is not clear at this time how much oil was spilled, but rescue crews deployed more than 200 yards of boom to contain the slick in the water.

 

At the Capitol Monday, a bill that would limit the amount of money the state can spend on art for public buildings received overwhelming approval from the full House and now heads to the Senate. The measure would cap a program that requires 1 percent of the total amount of a construction project go towards art inside or on the ground near the site.

 

State police report a 17-year-old died Tuesday afternoon after being ejected in a crash on La. Highway 372, about five miles south of Oakdale. Derek Dejesus of Oakdale was driving a 2004 Chevrolet Impala when he drove off the road and hit a driveway. The car then flipped, ejecting Dejesus who was not wearing a seatbelt. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Troopers say he most likely would have survived the crash if he had been wearing a seatbelt.

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News For Tuesday 03/29/16


News for Tuesday 032916

By Dave Graichen

 

The Louisiana Public Service Commission approved the sale of Cleco Corporation Monday, clearing the way for the Pineville-based utility to move from public to private hands.

The 4-1 vote capped a year-and-a-half process reversing the commission’s ruling last month, when it rejected the sale. Commissioner Clyde Holloway, the lone dissenting vote.

 

Drilling activity has hit an all-time low in Louisiana. That’s according to Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. Briggs says 25 rigs are running in the Gulf of Mexico and only five are in operation on land in south Louisiana. With oil trading at around 40-dollars a barrel, there’ s not much hope that rig activity will pick up in the near future. Briggs says this could lead to more layoffs and businesses in the oil and gas industry shutting down.

 

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is threatening a lawsuit involving Louisiana’s Presidential Primary. Trump is upset he won the primary here, but could get less delegates than opponent Ted Cruz. State GOP executive director Jason Dore says Trump & Cruz each have 18 delegates, but there are 10 delegates still uncommitted, which could result in Cruz winning the delegate vote. Dore says they’ve followed the rules when it comes to allocating the delegates.

 

Vernon parish authorities have are holding a Leesville man on $1 million bond in connection with the death of his brother. Deputies responded to a call about an unresponsive man at a home Saturday and found 38-year-old Terry Dubois lying on a floor and family members performing CPR. Deputies say Terry Dubois had gotten into an argument with his younger brother, Christopher Dubois. During the altercation, it is believed that Terry Dubois fell and hit his head causing him to lose consciousness. He died a short time later.

 

Four more parishes have been added to the Presidential Disaster Declaration area, which means victims of the historic flooding are eligible for federal assistance. One of those parishes is Rapides and their homeland security director Sonya Wiley-Gremillion says 60 homes were flooded along the Red River. The other three parishes added to the major disaster declaration are Jackson, Red River and Sabine parishes, bringing the total number of parishes eligible for federal assistance to 30. Gremillion says many of their flood victims still have not begun the clean-up process… Four pumps are being installed to accelerate water removal from Bayou Rigolette and affected communities in Pineville.

 

A report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds Medicaid expansion will improve mental healthcare in Louisiana. Director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services Vikki Wachino says in states where Medicaid was expanded, there was an increase in residents receiving regular preventive care and a decrease in patients skipping medications because of costs. The report says 81-thousand Louisianans who suffer from mental illnesses or substance abuse would likely qualify for Medicaid after the expansion.

 

Hollywood South has taken a major hit over the past year since the legislature passed a measure that puts a cap on Louisiana’s film tax incentives. That’s according to Celtic Media Centre Executive Director Patrick Mulhearn. He says what’s scaring films away is the manner in which lawmakers capped the movie credits. Mulhearn says film executives are choosing to spend their money in states & nations where they know for sure obligations will be honored. He says the biggest film union in Louisiana reports that only 37% of their members are employed right now. Those who support the film industry tax program cap say the tax credits were costing the state more than what it’s worth.

 

A fourth person has died in an ATV accident at Muddy Bottoms Park since it opened nearly two years ago. Webster Parish Sheriff chief deputy Bobby Igo says the latest victim is 40-year-old Alissa Wiley of Dry Prong Igo says no charges have been filed a this time. Muddy Bottoms issued a statement saying they cooperating with law enforcement and their hearts and prayer’s go out to the victim’s family.

 

6 children in Baton Rouge were arrested for allegedly shooting a 44-year-old man multiple times, by more than one child with a BB gun. Police say the victim had to be taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, in the act that appeared completely random. The juveniles were each booked on a count of aggravated second-degree battery and later released to their parents.

 

The Food and Drug Administration is delaying enforcing rules to require chain-restaurants to post a calorie content on their menu until 2017. Pennington Biomedical Research Center Professor Dr. Catherine Champagne understands the challenges restaurants face in posting calorie information on their menu, but it would greatly benefit those who watch their calorie intake. Champagne believes though adding the calorie content of food to menus will be beneficial for all people who care about what they eat.

 

Sports..

 

The LSU men’s basketball program has lost another player to the NBA draft. Point guard Tim Quarterman is forgoing his final season of eligiblity after averaging 11 points, five rebounds and four assists in what was an up-and-down 2015-16 season. Quarterman joins Ben Simmons as two Tigers who have withdrawn from school and are preparing for the NBA draft.

 

Mike Dunleavy Senior is returning to the college game. He’ll be introduced as the new head coach of the Tulane Green Wave today. The 62-year-old will be in charge of a program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1995. Dunleavy was a head coach for four different NBA teams, most recently with the Clippers from 2003 to 2010.

 

The Saints have signed free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairly to a one-year contract. The former first round pick played 15 games last season as a reserve for the Rams and recorded 29 tackles and a half a sack.

 

The LSU baseball team continues to sink in the polls after dropping another SEC series. The Tigers are ranked anywhere from 14th to 20th as they are off to a two-and-four start in SEC play. Scoring runs have been the problem, as the Tigers have only crossed the plate 15 times in six league games.

 

In other college baseball news…ULM’s Brayden Bouchey has been named Sun Belt Pitcher of the week. The sophomore struck out a career-best 12 in seven innings in an outing against Appalachian State. The Warhawks lost that game, but ended up taking two of three for the series.

 

In the Southland…McNeese senior right-hander Kaleb Fontenot is the league’s pitcher of the week. Fontentot threw his second consecutive complete game shoutout as the Cowboys blanked Abilene Christian 3-0.

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News For Monday 03/28/16


News for Monday 032816

By Dave Graichen

 

The Public Service Commission is expected to meet today for a special hearing on the sale of Pineville-based CLECO to Macquarie Infrastructure. The PSC rejected the proposal last month, and since then two sides have revised terms they say would further benefit the utility company’s employees and customers. CLECO and Macquarie have offered additional commitments including 100 million dollars of immediate rate relief for customers, and a 15 million dollar contribution to economic development in Louisiana.

 

Thirteen school tax referendums are on election ballots in Rapides Parish on April 9, including a new parish wide half-cent sales tax to boost employees’ pay. Early voting for April 9 elections throughout Central Louisiana got underway Saturday at the parish registrars of voters’ offices  and will continue through this coming Saturday through 6pm. Voters should bring a photo ID with them when voting early.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards says changes to the TOPS scholarship program as we know it are likely coming, because of a 750-million dollar shortfall for next fiscal year’s budget. Edwards says because lawmakers are not able to raise additional revenues in this regular session, some tough cuts are needed. Edwards says the cost of the TOPS scholarship program is 300-million dollars this fiscal year and the price tag is expected to rise as colleges and universities hike tuition costs. The governor says in these tough budget times, many government services and programs will unfortunately suffer.

 

Louisiana disaster survivors in Jackson, Rapides, Red River and Sabine parishes may now be eligible for federal disaster assistance. Their first step is to register with FEMA. Assistance provided by FEMA for homeowners and renters can include grants for rent, temporary housing and home repairs to their primary residence, as well as other serious disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses or funeral and burial costs. Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) also may be available to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

 

The Louisiana Attorney General’s office is warning flood victims or those donating to charities that there are fraudulent people looking to make a quick buck. Spokesperson Ruth Wisher says they’re encouraging flood victims looking for home repair to get at least itemized, detailed bids from licensed contractors. She says if they are unlicensed that should be viewed as a red flag.

 

Legislative hearings begin today on the state’s spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1st. Over the course of the next two months, legislators will have to pass a budget that will contain 750-million dollars in cuts from the previous year. Edwards says since he’s been in office, 170-million dollars in budget cuts have been put in place. Edwards says despite the recent cuts to state funding and revenue increases, legislators will have to make some more difficult cuts, because of the large shortfall they are still facing.

 

It appears pharmacies who want to sell medical marijuana in the state will have to jump through a lot of hoops. Based on a bill moving through the legislature, an application fee of $5-thousand would be needed to cover inspections, background checks and paperwork. And Ville Platte Representative and pharmacist Harvey LeBas says federal law prohibits the sale of medical marijuana in the same facility where other prescriptions are sold. LeBas says once medical marijuana is available, it will only be sold at ten different locations around the state. He says there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding the issue.

 

The State Department of Health and Hospitals says Louisiana’s tuberculosis case rate has fallen 43-percent since 2010.  DHH Tuberculosis controller Michael Lacassagne attributes the decrease to a new blood testing procedure to improve the diagnosis. He says to keep the number down, they focus on high risk populations, like those with HIV or born outside of the country…

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News For Thursday 03/24/16


News for Thursday 032416

By Dave Graichen

 

Former Angola Warden Burl Cain spoke briefly Wednesday  morning about the investigation into allegations that he was a corrupt prison leader during his 20 year tenure. The investigation eventually cleared him, as the Inspector General said there was no evidence to support these accusations. Cain stepped down at the start of the year and said he’s enjoying retirement and ready for this matter to be over. Cain says he’s proud of the things Angola accomplished in his 20 years and hopes the investigation doesn’t tarnish his legacy.

 

A proposal that called for the end of school uniforms in public schools died in the House Education committee. Hammond Representative Chris Broadwater brought the legislation up for debate as part of a fourth-grade school project.

 

Hunters may soon have the option to wear blaze pink, instead of the traditional orange that outdoorsmen are required to wear. The proposal received the okay from the House Natural Resources Committee. Bogalusa Representative Malinda White hopes her legislation will encourage more women to hunt. The bill heads to the House floor.

 

The state Department of revenue says Louisiana taxpayers affected by recent storms and flooding will receive filing extensions for returns on various taxes with due dates between March 8 and July 15, 2016.

 

Legislation seeking to end the public-versus-private school split impacting the LHSAA scored a victory in the House education committee. The panel approved the measure on a 7-5 vote.

Three years ago, member principals of the LHSAA voted to split the playoffs in football and the split will be expanded to other sports next school year. There were several members of the committee who opposed the bill. But, Despite objections,   the bill heads to the House floor for more discussion.

 

International Paper has donated $500-thousand to the Red Cross in response to the recent flooding in Louisiana. Red Cross spokesperson Nancy Malone says they are incredibly grateful for the company’s generosity. She says the Red Cross is continuing to work with families in need as they move into recovery. Malone says their health services workers are helping people with lost medications, eyeglasses, medical equipment and minor first aid needs. She says the estimated damage is between four and seven million dollars, but it could easily surpass that. International Paper has 9 facilities in Louisiana, employing 2-thousand people throughout the state.

 

Saints Coach Sean Payton says the team has given him a new five year contract extension. ESPN reports Payton’s new deal worth more than $45 million dollars. Payton has guided the Saints to five playoff appearances, but they are coming off back-to-back losing seasons.

 

An LSU survey finds Louisiana residents are becoming more skeptical of Common Core. Dr. Michael Henderson, director of LSU’s public policy lab, says support for the academic standards in English and Math fell from 39-percent to 34-percent over the past year. Henderson says this is likely due to political tension surrounding the issue. The survey also asked about standardized tests and Henderson says nearly half of the respondents say there is too much emphasis on testing in public schools.

 

 

An incident terrified a group of children at the Boys & Girls Club in Lafayette when a 15-year-old allegedly shot another teen several times during a basketball game. Lafayette Police say the suspect was booked on Attempted 1st Degree Murder Charges and Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile in a Gun Free Zone. The 17-year-old victim is in critical condition. The investigation remains ongoing.

 

The State Department of Health and Hospitals advises residents of Donaldsonville not to drink the water until further notice, because the system has been treating its drinking water with elevated levels of chlorine dioxide. But, a recent test showed levels four to five times the EPA standard for the chemical.  State Health officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry says exposure to chlorine dioxide can cause serious health effects to the nervous systems of infants, young children and to the fetuses of pregnant women. The water system serves about 10-thousand customers. The “do not drink” alert will remain in effect until further notice.

 

Yahoo Sports is reporting that LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva says they are not making a change in basketball coach next season. Speculation about coach Johnny Jones’ future surfaced after the Tigers brutal 71-38 beating in the SEC Conference Tournament to Texas A&M. But it appears as though Jones will be returning next season.

 

A 64-year-old man from Independence died when he crashed into a garbage truck in Tangipahoa Parish, according to State Police. They say Edward Stewart slammed into the back of the stopped truck and died at the scene, while seriously injuring a worker who was collecting garbage at the time of the collision.

 

Ponchatoula-based Elmer’s Chocolate says they’ve had another successful year producing the popular Gold Brick Eggs and Heavenly Hash Easter candies. Elmer’s CEO Rob Nelson says the company produces about 12 million Gold Brick Eggs each year.

 

The 13th ranked LSU baseball team begins a three-game series tonight against second ranked Texas A&M. The Aggies are 19-and-2 and they have the highest team batting average in the SEC. Coach Paul Mainieri is eager to see how his club performs. Junior left-hander Jared Poche will get the start on the hill for the Tigers.

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News For Wednesday 3/23/16


News for Wednesday 032316

By Dave Graichen

 

He left his job of 20 plus years at the end of January during what many called a political witch hunt. But now, a multi-agency investigation finds that former Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Burl Cain did not participate in any illegal activity. There were accusations Cain told state corrections employees to work on his homes, while also receiving a pay check for working at the prison. There were also claims Cain had workers drive his wife's state-owned vehicle to give the appearance she was working, when she was not. Inspector General Stephen Street says the available facts do not support any of the allegations.

 

Grant Parish State Rep. Terry Brown claims Rapides Parish is not being a "good neighbor” to Grant Parish because it won’t support a bill designed to stop, what he calls, a health hazard. Brown is co-author of House Bill 11, which would prohibit open burning of munitions or waste explosives. Something Clean Harbor Colfax  has been doing since the early 90’s.  Brown added yesterday, The people of Grant Parish do most of their shopping in Rapides Parish, and they’re all disappointed that the Rapides Parish Police Jury is not going to be a good neighbor. Some members of the Rapides Parish Police jury are considering changing their vote.

 

Legislation is heading to the Senate floor that would allow Louisiana to comply with the security measures of the federal REAL ID act. The bill is similar to one that former Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed over privacy concerns in 2014. But Governor John Bel Edwards supports this legislation that would allow Louisiana residents to decide if they want REAL-ID compliant licenses. Supporters say refusal to comply with the REAL ID law could result in residents needing a passport to fly domestically next year.

 

Also heading to the Senate floor, is a bill that would allow any Louisiana voter to vote by mail. State law only allows an absentee vote if that person has a reason they can’t vote in person. The Secretary of State’s office did not speak in opposition to the legislation, but said the new law would increase the cost of a ballot by over a dollar. Despite cost concerns, the Senate Government Affairs committee approved the legislation.

 

The House education committee is expected to debate today legislation that would prohibit school boards from requiring school uniforms. The bill’s author, Hammond Representative Chris Broadwater, says the bill was the result of an exercise he did with fourth graders, who approved this legislation during a field trip to the state capitol.

 

Louisiana is still hurting from the massive downpours that dumped upwards of two feet of rain in some areas. West Monroe Senator Mike Walsworth is concerned how parish governments will pay for the damage, even if they are eligible for federal assistance and only have to pay a quarter of the cost for a road that was washed away by the floods.

 

A proposed bill seeks to add “blaze pink” as an alternative for the hunter orange requirements. Bogalusa Representative Malinda White says the House Natural Resources Committee is expected to hear this proposed legislation today. She says this would give female hunters more options, without detracting from the safety aspect.

 

Every year animal shelters see an influx of bunnies after Easter, because parents bought rabbits for their children, but were unprepared to care for them. Alicia Haefele (HAY-flee), with the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says rabbits require as much care as a dog or cat, plus they like to chew electrical chords, rugs and even furniture. She says many of these Easter bunnies end up in rabbit rescue facilities after the holiday. Haefele advises people to get plush or chocolate bunnies instead.

 

Two of the top 10 fattest metro areas in the country are in Louisiana, according to a study from WalletHub. Shreveport ranked second and New Orleans came in at number five. WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzales says the study looked at obesity in children and teens as well, and she says Louisiana did not perform well in that category either. In case you’re wondering, the fattest metro area is Memphis, Tennessee, and the thinnest is Honolulu, Hawaii.

 

Former NFL Saints player Darren Sharper has plead guilty again to charges of drugging and raping women in four states. This time he’ll leave the length of his sentence up to a federal judge. His plea deal resulting in a 9-year sentence was rejected, and he now faces 15to 20 years.

 

State Police rescue two abducted North Carolina teens that were traveling with their uncle on Interstate 10. Sgt. Nick Manale says authorities in Winston-Salem called LSP to report 40-year-old Jose Melchor was likely traveling west through New Orleans, possibly on his way to Mexico. He says both the 15-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl were found unharmed. Manale says Melchor was booked into the St. James Parish Jail and is awaiting extradition back to North Carolina.

 

The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine wants first responders to learn animal CPR. Professor Dr. Kirk Ryan says previously, in different veterinary schools there were different methods of CPR for pets. He says they want to standardize a method to get all emergency personnel on the same page. Ryan says dogs are susceptible to smoke inhalation, so in the event of a house fire it’s important EMS or firefighters know how to help an animal.

 

The president isn’t the only one making a trip to Cuba this week as LSU coach Les Miles is also in the country. Former Tiger baseball star Mikie Mahtook, who currently plays for Tampa Bay, tweeted that Miles would watch the Rays play the Cuban National Team. LSU Sports Information Director Michael Bonnette says this is Miles’ spring break trip. Bonnette says Miles planned on visiting several schools during his trip.

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News For Tuesday 03/22/16


News for Tuesday 032216

By Dave Graichen

 

The Pineville Police Department has closed its investigation into the January death of retired Judge Richard Lee after an autopsy ruled his death was the result of a "self-inflicted injury," reads a release. Lee's body was found in his Main Street office on Jan. 15. A preliminary investigation had found that Lee died of an "accidental discharged single gunshot wound" . Lee was 79.

 

The investigation continues into the death of a woman who’s body was found over the weekend under a bridge on North Bolton Avenue. The APD is confirming the body is that of a  woman who was reported missing earlier in March. 30 year old Virginia Irwin was last seen in the 600 block of North Bolton Avenue on March 9. No cause of death was immediately determined. Her body was released to the Rapides Parish Coroner's Office for an autopsy that will attempt to make that determination.  

 

A bill that before state lawmakers that would force major changes in the way waste is disposed of at Clean Harbors Colfax is picking up support. But, members of the Rapides Parish Police Jury are not on board. The Police Jury has voted not to endorse House Bill 11 because of the economic impact and potential loss of jobs it could create at Clean Harbors Colfax. HB 11, which is pending a hearing by the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment, would put an end to open burning of munitions or waste explosives. Something Clean Harbors Colfax openly burns at its facility located about 5 miles northwest of Colfax.

 

The Louisiana Public Service Commission could decide today to reconsider its decision last month to reject the proposed sale of Cleco Corp. A motion to re-hear the application of an investor group to buy Pineville-based Cleco is on the agenda for the LPSC meeting in Baton Rouge.

 

The governor’s top budget advisor told the House Appropriations Committee despite the additional one-point-two billion dollars in taxes raised, some government agencies are looking at a 30-percent cut in state funding. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says painful cuts will need to occur for the fiscal year that starts July 1st. Dardenne says more details will be released later this week.

 

The state has started handing out disaster food aid to families who have been impacted by the flooding. Deputy Assistant Secretary with the Department of Children and Family Services Sammy Guillory says the number of those applying has been pretty steady in the Covington area but not so much in north Louisiana, where it’s rare for the state to provide disaster food stamps. Guillory recommends pre-registering for food assistance if you live in one of the 23 parishes that have been declared a federal disaster. Links to do so are at ksyl.com  & cenlabroadcasting.com

 

Gas prices are climbing in Louisiana. The average price for a gallon of gas in the state has surpassed $1.80. AAA Spokesperson Don Redman says those prices could continue to go up for a couple more months. Redman says the transition from winter-grade to summer-grade gas means refineries have to shut down for a while. He says that, coupled with more people out on the road, keeps gas prices higher. However, Redman says we should see a decline in gas prices by the time summer arrives.

 

Louisiana voters are split over whether or not elected officials should compromise, according to a new LSU survey. Doctor Michael Henderson, director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, says 55-percent of Democrats would like their representatives to compromise, while 52% of Republicans want their elected officials to stand their ground. Henderson says this does not bode well for getting things done in the legislature. Henderson says with a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature, it’s likely state politicians will have a hard time coming to agreements. He says we’re starting to see Washington-style politics here in Louisiana.

 

Only 51% of LSU Health New Orleans medical graduate are staying in Louisiana for their residencies. Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean of the School of Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans, blames talk of budget cuts for the lower number. But, he says it is positive to see 50% of LSU Health New Orleans graduates are entering primary care in Louisiana. Forty percent of LSU Health Shreveport grads and only 10% of Tulane grads will take residencies in Louisiana.

 

Two of the three people struck by lightning at a music festival in Lafourche parish have been treated and released. The third person, 28-year-old Jaqui Stavis and her black lab, were killed when the bolt of lightning struck the concert goers. State Climatologist Barry Keim says Louisiana is the second most lightening prone state in the country.

 

Two giraffes at the Baton Rouge Zoo died over the weekend, and workers are heartbroken. Sam Winslow, the zoo’s general curator, says one of the giraffes, a 24-year-old named Hope, was receiving treatment for a chronic illness. Her condition worsened and she had to be euthanized.  He says when severe storms moved in, they were forced to put another female into a stall with a male she’s normally not with. It believed the male attempted to mate with the female causing injuries that led to her death.

 

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that basketball star Ben Simmons has played his final game at LSU. Simmons has told ESPN he’s turning pro. Despite failing to lead the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament, he’s expected to be the number one pick. Tiger Rag Editor Cody Worsham says it remains to be seen if it was a positive that Simmons even played for the Tigers. Simmons averaged 19 points, 12 rebounds and five assists last season.

 

NBA superstar Pelicans center Anthony Davis says he’s been playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder for three years and will take the rest of the season off due to surgery. This also means he won’t go to the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Davis is also suffering from a knee injury. He says the main reason he’s getting his shoulder fixed is because he was already getting surgery on his knee.

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News For Monday 03/21/16


News for Monday 032116

By Dave Graichen

 

The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee begins reviewing today hundreds of tax exemptions, exclusions, rebates and refunds provided by the state to individuals and businesses. Chairman JP Morrell of New Orleans says during the course of this legislative session they will take a close look at each exemption to decide which ones are beneficial to the state. Louisiana gives about 400 tax exemptions, costing the state over 8-billion dollars in revenue.  Morrell says some of these credits are ridiculous.

 

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says his office will announce this week how much of a cut higher education and health care will receive as a result of a 70-million dollar deficit for this fiscal year. Dardenne says unfortunately these two areas are on the chopping block, because cuts have already been made to other state agencies.  Dardenne says public colleges have already received a 28-million dollar loss in funding this fiscal year, because the state ran out of money to pay for TOPS scholarships.

 

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness says over 11-thousand homes received some type of flood damage. 26 parishes are eligible for federal assistance. The state will begin distributing disaster food stamps this week, flood victims are encouraged to register now at DCFS website.

 

Good news for motorists heading to Texas, Interstate 10 is now open in both directions at the Texas state line.

 

All the flood waters and recent rainfall could lead to more mosquitoes and health officials are urging folks to make sure they are taking precautions. Dr. Frank Welch with the Department of Health and Hospitals says this is typical for this time of year, but the flooding makes it worse.

 

Experts say southeast Louisiana is at a high risk of a Zika outbreak this summer. A study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research finds New Orleans is at a high risk because of the high poverty rate and a lot of visitors from countries where Zika is prevalent. The Center for Disease Control says there were two confirmed travel-related Zika cases in Louisiana last month but none transmitted locally.

 

Last year, the state legislature approved a bill that gives Louisiana residents legal access to medical marijuana, but it’s still not available in this state. The man who pushed for the legislation, St. Martin Parish Senator Fred Mills, says the department of agriculture along with a couple of other groups are still working on the details. The legislation that passed last year allows people with glaucoma, patients undergoing chemotherapy or those suffering from a rare form cerebral palsy to get medical marijuana in Louisiana. However, Medical marijuana is still unavailable in Louisiana, and Mills says many people are moving to others states that do have it.

 

Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden says he is almost 100% sure he’ll run for the 2nd Congressional District seat in the fall. The seat is currently held by US Representative Cedric Richmond. An official announcement from Holden is expected next month.

 

It’s expected the legislature will get involved in the public versus private school split that’s impacted high school sports. River Ridge Representative Kirk Talbot has filed a bill that attempts to reverse the LHSAA’s decision to split its postseason in several sports. Talbot says the split is hurting high school athletics. Talbot’s bill would prevent a high school from receiving state funds, if they participate in an association with a split postseason. Schools around the state have been invited to join a new high school sports association that would NOT have a split playoff system.

 

A man suspected of stealing a generator from a home drowned as he tried to flee from the scene. LaFourche Parish authorities say the man dropped the generator in the driveway and ran from a home in Golden Meadow after he was spotted by the homeowner. A witness says he saw the man jump into a bayou. His body was recovered later that day.

 

Slidell Police have arrested a girls basketball coach at Slidell High for allegedly having sexual relations with students. Police Chief Randy Smith says there were several students in which 35-year-old Raymond Winzy exhibited inappropriate behavior with. Smith says police searched Winzy’s home and classroom and found nude photos and videos on multiple electronic devices.

 

The sixth ranked LSU baseball team busted out of a hitting slump by scoring six runs in the 8th inning to beat Alabama 7-5 to avoid a three-game sweep. The Tigers needed that inning after getting swept in a doubleheader on Saturday.

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News For Friday 03/18/16


News for Friday 31816

By Dave Graichen

 

As more rain is expected today, could that cause a problem with more flooding? State Climatologist Barry Keim says it shouldn’t contribute to more river basin flooding, but it could slow down the recovery process. Keim says a stationary front has locked in across the state and isn’t likely to clear until Sunday. He says all parts of Louisiana will receive rain but southeast Louisiana is expected to get the most today at about one to two inches.

 

Just when you think it can’t get worse, several Central Louisiana parishes were hit with severe weather yesterday afternoon.  In Grant Parish, there were reports of a possible tornado in Colfax. Grant Parish Sheriff Steven McCain said it does not appear to have touched down, but that heavy winds left damage to several places just starting to recover from flooding. According to McCain, there are trees and powerlines down everywhere.

 

Twenty-six parishes impacted by the flooding are now eligible for federal assistance from FEMA. Governor John Bel Edwards says the list of parishes to receive federal aid keeps growing. Edwards says they are looking at 11 additional parishes to see if they met the threshold for FEMA assistance. FEMA Director Craig Fugate says they will be here as long as it takes. He encourages people to register for federal aid by going to DisasterAssistance-dot-gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA.

 

The Department of Children and Family Services is asking flood victims to pre-register for disaster food stamps. Distribution begins next week in 23 parishes that were declared federal disaster areas as a result of the catastrophic flooding. Deputy Assistant Secretary of DCFS, Sammy Guillory, says people can pre-register online. www.dcfs.la.gov/dsnap Guillory says individuals who pre-registered can go to one of the sites in the affected parishes to get their cards. He says the benefits should be available rather quickly.

 

Texas Transportation officials say I-10 heading into Texas will remain closed through the weekend and may not re-open until late Monday afternoon. Flood waters from the Sabine River continue to cover the heavily used interstate. US 190 is one option for Louisiana motorists to get into Texas.

 

An LSU Public Policy Research lab survey finds 63 percent of Louisianans believe the state is heading in the wrong direction. This is the most on record since the survey began tracking opinions in 2003. Director Dr. Michael Henderson says Louisianans are likely displeased because of a mix of politics and the recent struggles with the massive budget deficit. Henderson says for many years people believed the economy and education were the most important problems in the state, now it’s the budget.

 

Forty-three percent of Louisiana voters have a positive view of the governor, according to a new poll from the University of New Orleans. That’s compared to a 34% favorability just three weeks ago. UNO pollster Ed Chervanek says the poll also shows that nearly half of Louisiana residents blame former-Governor Bobby Jindal for the state’s budget crisis. The legislature has a much lower approval rating, receiving only a 15% favorability rating. Twenty-four percent of respondents blame the legislature for the budget deficit.

 

A proposed constitutional amendment that asks voters if convicted felons should be allowed to run for state or local office for 15 years after completion of their sentence is making its way through the legislative process. The author of the measure, Norco Representative Gregory Miller, says it’s similar to a constitutional provision that was recently thrown out by the state Supreme Court. The state’s highest court removed the former constitutional amendment on this subject, because the language on the ballot was not the same as what the legislature approved in 1998.

 

A proposed bill for the current regular legislative session would allow pet owners to have their deceased pets buried alongside them in a human graveyard. Author of the legislation, Metairie Senator Conrad Appel, says currently it’s illegal in Louisiana. He says he was approached by a veterinarian who suggested creating a law because many people have strong connections with their cats and dogs.

 

Sports..

 

The sixth ranked LSU baseball team begins SEC play tonight against Alabama. Coach Paul Mainieri has made a change to his weekend rotation. Last year’s national freshman of the year, Alex Lange, has been starting the second game of the three-game sets, but tonight he’ll get the ball to start the series and he’s looking forward to it…

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News For Thursday 03/17/16


News for Thursday 031716

By Dave Graichen

 

The National Weather Service is concerned about continued flooding in north Louisiana. Meteorologist CS Ross says the Red River crest which has devastated south Bossier moved through the Coushatta area yesterday. He says it will pass through central Louisiana later this week and into the weekend. At that time we can expect near record flooding. 23 parishes are now declared federal disaster areas, but the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness expects more will be added once damage assessments are complete.

 

The rising Red River is causing problems for residents in Avoyelles Parish now. Avoyelles parish officials report residents in the areas of Brouillette, Fifth Ward, Moncla and Vick are seeing several inches of water building near their homes. Joey Frank, homeland security director, said those areas could see a couple more feet of water before the Red River crests. He said as of Wednesday night that more than 20 families had evacuated their homes.

 

The commitment is now official.. The company that plans to build an aluminum plant in Pineville that could employ more than 1,000 people has bought property for the project.

Revolution Aluminum Propco LLC secured the property that formerly housed Pineville's International Paper mill. The company plans to build its own mill on the property. Plus, Several other partner companies that will support the mill's operations are also expected to locate on the property.

 

Union Tank Car announced yesterday, that due to market conditions, they plan to cut production by approximately 50 percent at its Alexandria facility.  The manufacturing facility at England Airpark is one of Alexandria's major employers, with an estimated 500-600 employees. The release said workforce will be reduced, but the company is not saying at this time how many workers will lose their jobs.

 

LSU President F. King Alexander tells the House Education Committee budget cuts are impacting enrollment, faculty and research. Alexander says the university has been receiving more money from the federal government than they have from the state. He says research funding originally for LSU is now going to universities in other states because we don’t invest in higher education. Higher education is facing a 27 million dollar cut in state funding this fiscal year but that number is expected to grow once a new round of cuts are announced.

 

Higher ed got more bad news yesterday. The Revenue Estimating Conference said there is now a $70 million dollar hole in the current financial year budget which means more cuts to colleges and healthcare. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says they are on a time crunch, but over the next several days they will sit down and decide how to make the cuts in the best possible way to minimize the damage. Next fiscal year’s projected shortfall is now $750 million.

 

The governor has signed into law a bill that raises the state sales tax by a penny beginning April 1. Gina Rachel, Treasurer for the Society of Louisiana CPAs, says people who are planning to make a big purchase might want to do it before the higher tax takes effect.

Rachel says some things like food for home consumption, gas, and prescription meds are still excluded from the state’s sales tax. She says shoppers will probably not even notice the increase when they make ordinary purchases. Rachel says the legislature has also temporarily ended the sales tax exemptions companies received for utilities and equipment.

 

Wednesday President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to be a Supreme Court justice after the death of former justice Antonin Scalia. Republican US Senator David Vitter believes with the next president coming into office soon, we should let the voters decide the new justice. Vitter is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and says he will not vote to advance the nomination. Vitter says He hasn’t done much research on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

 

Interstate 10 at the Louisiana-Texas line remains closed as a result of flood waters from the Sabine River, which is covering the interstate on the Texas side. Louisiana State Troopers are encouraging residents to use either I-20 or US 190 as alternative routes to get into the Lone Star state.

 

Bills that lawmakers are expected to talk about during the regular session include one that would allow a religious organization or clergy member to refuse participation in a same sex marriage. Author of the Pastor Protection Act, Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson, says the bill simply protects an individual’s religious belief. The bill is expected to receive opposition from lesbian and gay rights groups. 

 

Another is a bill filed by New Orleans Senator Wesley Bishop that would establish the Louisiana Expectant and Parenting Students Act. Bishop says the number one cause of females dropping out of high school is pregnancy. He says the ultimate goal is to help keep students in school while pregnant and following birth.

 

Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson will undergo up to five hours of questioning during a deposition in his lawsuit to oust his daughter and her grandchildren inheriting the franchises, a federal magistrate decided today. Benson’s lawyers successfully argued any longer would be too taxing on the 87-year-old’s health. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson scheduled the deposition to start March 24 and to last two days.

 

Schools in the LHSAA are not satisfied with the current state of affairs in Louisiana, so Paul Rainwater and others are proposing a new option, the Louisiana High School Sports Cooperative. Rainwater says it will take 60 schools’ commitments to form a new organization, which would be open to both public and private schools. He says this group would not have annual feels, outside of the initial fee to join. Rainwater would be the Executive Director of the newly formed LHSSC. He says they are looking into the option of holding many of their championship events at LSU.

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News For Wednesday 3/16/16


News for Wednesday 031616

By Dave Graichen

 

Louisiana’s Health Department reports there’s been a fourth storm-related death, which occurred in Natchitoches Parish. The coroner reports three people were moving items from a flooded residence when the boat there were using began taking on water, and only two of the individuals were able to swim to safety.

 

Here in Alexandria / Pineville, The Red River in could hit its highest point in more than 70 years this weekend. The river is forecast to crest at 40.5 feet on Sunday. That would be the highest it has been in Alexandria since a 40.65 crest on May 9, 1942. It has not topped 40 feet since 1958. The approximate top of the levees in Alexandria is 44 feet.

 

Sixteen more Louisiana parishes have been added to FEMA’s list of federal disaster areas bringing the total number of parishes to 23 that will be eligible for federal aid, like temporary housing, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property and money for home repairs. That request was granted after Governor John Bel Edwards asked the federal government to expand the federal disaster area. Mike Steele with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness says people whose homes were damaged need to register to receive their federal assistance.

 

Hundreds of Red Cross disaster workers have been assisting people affected by the flooding around the state. Nancy Malone with the Red Cross says they have 6 shelters in north Louisiana, three in southeast Louisiana and one in the Calcasieu area that are still open. She says hundreds of homes were either destroyed or received major damage. Malone says people can donate $10 to the Red Cross via cell phone by texting the word “REDCROSS” to 9-0-9-9-9.

 

Traffic is now flowing on both spans of the Curtis-Coleman Memorial Bridge over the Red River. The southbound span opened late yesterday afternoon after striping was completed. Both spans are in use now, but each only has one lane of traffic for the time being to allow the contractor to continue working to complete the roadway approaches to both bridges.

 

It’s expected we’ll get a better idea of the exact budget deficit facing the state at today’s Revenue Estimating Conference meeting. LSU Economist Dr. Jim Richardson serves on the panel and he says they’ll hear from the state’s fiscal office about how much was actually raised during the special session. Richardson says they’re required to give their best estimate of how much was raised for this year and next year because budgets must be made based on those revenue estimates. Richardson says we’re about 800 million dollars short for next fiscal year.

 

Alexandria attorney Thomas Davenport is asking the Rapides Parish Police Jury to remove a Confederate monument outside of the Rapides Parish Courthouse. Davenport says it is saddening that of all the good things our state has done, this is what was chosen to be memorialized. The police jury has reviewed Davenport’s request, but is holding off on any action, until the state legislature acts on legislation dealing with the confederate monuments.

 

The chief justice of Louisiana’s Supreme Court, Bernette Johnson, told lawmakers to look for ways to reduce the state’s incarceration rate, which is the highest in the country. Johnson, the state’s first black chief justice, says the US locks up more people than Iran, China and Germany.

 

The House Governmental Affairs committee meets Wednesday where they’ll discuss legislation that would prohibit a convicted felon from holding an elected office or being appointed to office. It’s in response to a court ruling that removed a provision in Louisiana’s constitution that kept convicted felons from qualifying for an elected office.

 

LSU is launching the car sharing service, Zipcar, to rent a vehicle by the hour, week, or month. Jeff Campbell, LSU’s Sr. Director of Parking and Transportation Services, says interested students or anyone in the area would pay a yearly membership fee and the cars are conveniently located around campus. He hopes this will increase international students at LSU.

 

An Opelousas man was arrested after allegedly killing his mother’s dog when she refused to give him money. Corey Leger with the Opelousas police department, says Johnathan Williams became furious when his mother would not give him $4 for a pack of cigarettes.

 

LSU men’s basketball Johnny Jones stands by his decision to reject an opportunity to play in the NIT. Jones says a season-ending injury to Keith Hornsby and an illness to shooting guard Antonio Blakeney would have made it a tough to put a competitive team on the court. Jones says they’ll use this time to begin preparations for next season, a year they hope will result in a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

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News For Tuesday 03/15/16


News for Tuesday 031516

By Dave Graichen

 

Efforts continue to close off a breach of a levee at Bayou Darrow just south of Colfax. Grant Parish Sheriff Steven McCain says things will get worse before they get better. He says the community of Georgetown is virtually an island. McCain says this is the worst flooding Grant Parish has ever seen and it’s breaking records.

 

Grant Parish Schools will be open today with the exception of Georgetown High School. Georgetown High School will not be open today.

 

Due the rising water in the Red River, ALL boat launches on the Red River are CLOSED.  However, while the Red River itself is open, however the RPSO says it is highly recommended NOT to travel in these areas as small boat traffic may cause more water to wash into homes and camps that are already in danger of being flooded.  All are being asked to be considerate and not go into these areas.  It is the same situation as someone driving through a flooded neighborhood and the wake caused by the cars, is going into homes that already have water too close for comfort

 

The southbound span of the Curtis-Coleman Memorial Bridge over the Red River will open to traffic between noon and 3 p.m. today according to the state Department of Transportation and Development.  Only one lane of traffic will be open on the southbound span, and only one lane of traffic will be open on the northbound span at this time. That is to allow work to be completed on the roadway approaches to the bridge spans.

 

The investor group that's still hoping to buy Cleco Corp. released a new set of commitments in an attempt to gain approval for the sale from the state’s public service commission. Instead of $125 million in rate credits over 15 years, the investors are offering $100 million in credits immediately, or an average of $370 per customer, depending on usage. A complete list of the proposed commitments can be found in today’s Town Talk.  The prospective buyers have requested a rehearing on the issue.

 

Pineville PD report a Pineville man is accused of firing a shot at a vehicle yesterday morning on College street. The suspect, 19 year old Johnny Smith of Stilley Road, was captured a short time later and now faces charges of aggravated assault and discharging a firearm in the city. Police say no one was injured in the incident.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards spoke in front of lawmakers Monday as the regular legislative session is now underway. Edwards told legislators he’s moving is moving forward with the expansion of the Medicaid program. He wants to make sure the working poor have affordable access to healthcare and the state will save 100 million dollars within the first year with the expansion. The governor says he would also like lawmakers to raise minimum wage to eight dollars starting next year and raise it another 50-cents in 2018. The Governor would also like to see the number of state funded school vouchers reduced. Edwards finished his speech by asking lawmakers to work in a bipartisan manner.

 

As lawmakers begin a regular session, Governor John Bel Edwards says another special session could be needed to address next fiscal year’s shortfall, which currently stands at about 800-million dollars. Edwards says without an additional 800-million dollars in revenue, some critical cuts will occur to vital services in the state.

 

Alexandria Representative Lance Harris, Head of the Republican Legislative Delegation, says it will take long-term reforms to solve the state’s fiscal crisis. Harris says he is optimistic about legislators’ opportunity to address the deficit, because they are still early in the budget balancing process. He says balancing the budget will be a matter of prioritizing.

 

President Barack Obama declared seven parishes in Louisiana as a federal disaster area. The President’s action makes federal funding available to those affected in Bossier, Claiborne, Grant, Morehouse, Richland and Webster Parish.

 

The Louisiana National Guard says they’ve rescued over 42-hundred citizens and 350 pets as they assist in flood fighting efforts in 33 parishes. Guard spokesperson Colonel Pete Schneider says they’ve been working around the clock since March 9th on a variety of operations. The state says 61-hundred homes have been damaged by the flooding. Schneider says this is the biggest response to a flooding event the Guard has ever seen in Louisiana.

 

In southwest Louisiana, the Sabine River is rising. Calcasieu Parish Emergency Preparedness Director Dick Gremillion says the river is expected to crest today at 36 feet, which is well past its historic high. Gremillion says they are asking hundreds of residents to evacuate.

 

Mike Steele, with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, says the total number of homes damaged in the state has climbed to over 6-thousand. He says so far 7 parishes have been approved for federal assistance. Steele says the legwork to prepare additional parishes for assessment has already begun. He says people who have sustained damage to their homes should register for federal assistance, even if they are not in one of the approved parishes. You can register for federal assistance at emergency-dot-la-dot-gov.

 

A bill to be discussed in regular session would increase the mandatory waiting period to receive an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. Author of the legislation, Republican West Monroe Representative Frank Hoffmann, says the extension would give a woman the opportunity to think through the process. Hoffmann is the chairman of the House of Health and Welfare. He says he’s proud of the fact that each year the legislature brings in new bills to make Louisiana a pro-life state.

 

 

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News For Monday 03/14/16


News for Monday 031416

By Dave Graichen

 

Yesterday morning,  As floodwaters rose, the Louisiana National Guard and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries helped Grant Parish Sheriff's deputies go door to door to encourage residents to leave their homes. They first went to Lonnie's Landing, Jack's Landing and the Bob community. According to Sheriff McCain, "Many of them chose to stay." McCain is more worried about houses becoming unreachable in the case of an emergency, like a heart attack, than of water entering homes.  Schools in Grant Parish are closed Today due to the fact that  many residents can't leave or get back to their homes.

 

Sunday evening came word the control structure at Bayou Darrow in Grant Parish had been breached. Work is under way now to find a temporary solution to plug the breach. Here in Rapides Parish, the water will flow into the Rigollette area and possibly cause severe flooding with the rise of the Red River also occurring. Residents in the Rigollette area are urged to exercise extreme caution with regards to the rising water. Anyone needing temporary shelter are asked to call the Rapides Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness at 445-0391. This is a voicemail that will be monitored. Please leave your name, address and a phone number you may be reached at 24/7.

 

The weather system that moved slowly across the state last week dropped as much as 20 inches of rain in some areas and caused thousands of evacuations, cars and homes to go  underwater, roads submerged and bridges to wash out. The Governor’s Office says reports on the number of homes with flood damage is already more than 2500, but several key parishes haven’t reported data yet so the number will go up. The governor says although they have not come up with an estimate on the damage yet, he expects it to be quite high. The entire state has been declared a state of emergency.

 

The Sabine River is overflowing in Vernon Parish due to water releases from Toledo Bend causing major flood damage. Vernon Parish Emergency Preparedness Director Kenneth Moore says some flood victims have lost everything, but the community is coming together to help those in need.

 

As the regular legislative session begins today, the state faces an 800 million dollar deficit for next fiscal year with no way to raise additional revenue. Bills to raise taxes cannot be considered in this session. Senate President John Alario hopes this is a learning experience for legislators who were unwilling to raise more revenue during the special session. Alario says as long as there is another special session before July 1st the funds could be allocated for the next fiscal year and hopefully close the gap.

 

As the regular session gets underway today, there are several bills up for debate that deal with higher ed reform. Alford says legislation is also on the table that seeks to get rid of the Board of Regents and other bills that would allow university management boards to raise tuition.

Alford says there are federal issues that will also be taken up on a state level like prohibiting the creation of sanctuary cities and making changes to a law that bars felons from running for office.

 

The regular legislative session that begins today is not all about the budget. There are several proposed bills that could impact Louisiana residents’ daily lives if they pass. One bill would require movie theaters to install metal detectors. Political analyst Clancy Dubos says theaters usually have an off-duty police officer on the premises. One proposed bill would raise the minimum wage, and another seeks equal pay for women. Dubos says these bills will be a contentious topic. Several bills have been filed relating to highway safety. One would no longer require motorcycle drivers over age 21 to wear a helmet.

 

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and this illness has become a significant problem in Louisiana. Dr. Jordan Karlitz with the Tulane Medical Center says they’re continuing to study why there is such a high rate of colorectal cancer in Louisiana. He says it’s important for both men and women to be screened. Karlitz says although the recommended age to begin screening is 50, it is suggested that African Americans begin at age 45, because colon cancer is more common in that demographic. He says without screening, it’s difficult to tell if you could have the disease.

 

A state judge has sentenced a former priest in Lake Charles to two life sentences, plus 50 years for sexually abusing two altar boys in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Mark Broussard was convicted on five counts, including two counts of aggravated rape.

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News For Friday 03/11/16


News for Friday 031116

By Dave Graichen

 

Flash flood warnings remain in effect as more rain is expected to be dumped on Louisiana today and into tomorrow. State Climatologist Barry Keim says that while the greatest rain totals so far have been in northern Louisiana, southeastern Louisiana will be most affected today and tomorrow. Keim says as of now there is a low probability of high wind, hail, and tornadoes, but heavy rain and flooding is still a substantial risk.

 

Most area schools will be closed today due to the threat of more heavy rains. In Cenla, All public schools have opted to play it safe and close. Central Louisiana Technical Community College campuses in Alexandria, Jena, Leesville and Winnfield, LSUA and all Northwestern State University campuses  are closed. A complete list can be found on the Town Talks website.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency for 22 parishes and activated 750 National Guard members to help combat the widespread flooding in north Louisiana. State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson says the water continues to rise and the storm is shifting into southeast Louisiana. He says if you don’t need to be out on the road, don’t go out and sightsee.

 

In Bienville parish, Sheriff John Balance says the flood waters turned fatal in a small community just east of Lucky. Three people lost their lives in separate drownings.

 

DeSoto Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle says several emergency shelters have been set up throughout the parish as evacuations are ongoing. He says countless homes in the area have flooded. Arbuckle says the Sabine River is expected to crest at 40 feet, which is the highest it’s been since the 1940s.

 

National Guard spokesperson Rebekah Malone said the Guard has evacuated over 360 people from their homes in Bossier, Ouachita, and Morehouse parishes. In Bossier City, about 3,500 homes were under a mandatory evacuation as a precaution because the bayou was approaching the top of the levee. Authorities in Bossier parish rescued about 1,000 people using high-water vehicles. In Lincoln Parish, the Ruston Fire Department has had to rescue over a dozen people from their homes or vehicles because of flooding.

 

Rain totals in Louisiana yesterday range from 11 to 20 inches.  Congressman Ralph Abraham  says lives and livelihoods are at stake in this storm. Abraham says he has talked with FEMA and asked that the area be declared a federal disaster area so resources and funding can come this way. He says everyone in north Louisiana is pitching in to help.

 

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has advised that all Louisiana residents be aware of dangerous flood waters and to take precautions. DHH spokesperson Bob Johannessen says to avoid flood waters if possible and keep children out of the water.

 

Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal and one of his top lieutenants have been indicted on civil rights violations for their alleged involvement in the beatings of five jail inmates. The indictment claims Ackal directed officers to beat the inmates in the jail’s chapel in 2011. Eight former employees of the sheriff’s office have already pleaded guilty to related federal charges. If convicted, Ackal could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine for each civil rights violation.

 

The number of flu cases in Louisiana has started to increase recently, particularly cases of the H1N1 flu virus. Department of Health and Hospitals flu expert Dr. Frank Welch says this kind of trend is uncommon for this time of year and it likely due to the slow start of the flu season.

Welch says H1N1 exhibits typical flu symptoms, including the sudden onset of back pain, fever, and itchy eyes. He says people should not take the flu lightly. Welch says about 500 people die each year in Louisiana from the flu.

 

A majority of Louisiana residents are willing to pay higher taxes to support education and roads, according to a new survey from LSU. Fifty-one percent of respondents want the state to spend more on K through 12 public education, and 50-percent say the same for higher ed.  Michael Henderson, with the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, says they asked people about paying taxes to pay for these services to put people in the same position as the legislators.

Forty-six percent of those polled said they are willing to pay higher taxes to support transportation infrastructure. Michael Henderson, with the LSU Public Policy Research Lab says this survey suggests many voters are not upset that legislators approved higher taxes.

 

 

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News For Thursday 03/10/16


News for Thursday 031016

By Dave Graichen

 

Heavy rainfall will continue to pound Louisiana today. State Climatologist Barry Keim says a frontal boundary is stuck bringing in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. He says the northern part of the state was hounded with thunderstorms and floods, but it should shift down into central and southern Louisiana today and Friday. Keim says although the storms are shifting, rain can fall anywhere in the state. He says our biggest risk with this weather is flash flooding and river basin flooding. The good news,  the rain should start to clear west to east on Saturday.

 

Cleco has asked state regulators for another hearing on the utility company’s proposed sale to a foreign investment group for almost $5 billion. Public Service Commission chairman Clyde Holloway says he is not in favor of another hearing. Cleco’s attorney says the commission’s vote was flawed because it wrongly decided on the merits of the transaction. Holloway says the commission and an administrative law judge has already heard enough testimony from the company. Holloway says he is concerned about a tax scheme related to the deal that would allow the investors to pocket taxes collected from the monthly rates. He also has suspicions about the future of the company.

 

Charges are pending against a Natchitoches man, 48 year old Patrick Johnson, after state police report he lost control of his vehicle on LA 486 yesterday morning and struck another vehicle head on killing the occupant. 76 year old Iva Curtis of Campti died a short time after the accident.

 

Due to a continuing effort to recruit qualified police officer recruits, The city of Alexandria is boosting the pay of starting police officers to among the highest levels in the state. The cost is minimal,  $40,000 the balance of this (fiscal) year and $150,000 next year, but according to Councilman Harry Silver, in relation to how we stand up against the rest of the state, only the city of New Orleans and Lafayette are ahead of the Alexandria Police Department. The “base pay” for starting police officers was increased from about $31,000 to about $34,000.

 

Despite a flurry of votes in the final minutes of the special session, including a bill that increases the state’s four-cent sales tax by a penny, the state is still facing a 30-million dollar deficit for this fiscal year and a shortfall that could be as much as 800-million dollars next fiscal year. When the special session started three and a half weeks ago, lawmakers were facing a 940-million dollar deficit for this fiscal year and two-billion shortfall for the next fiscal year. For now, legislators were able to pass enough revenue generating bills to stave off deep cuts to colleges and health care services.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards has signed into law the bill that raises the cigarette tax from 86-cents to $1.08. Randy Hayden, Consultant with the Invest in a Healthy Louisiana Campaign,  says the legislature should’ve increased the tax on all tobacco products not only on cigarettes and millions of dollars have been left on the table. He says when states increase the cigarette tax they are increasing revenue, while decreasing health care costs in the future.

 

In the northern part of the state roads are closed and homes are flooded as about a foot of rain has fallen in some areas along I-20. In Bossier parish, they are calling for a mandatory evacuation of 3,500 residents because of rising flood waters. In Ouachita parish, Glenn Springfield with the sheriff’s office says evacuations are also underway there. Several parishes have declared a state of emergency. Extensive flooding has also been reported in Natchitoches and Vernon Parishes.

 

A USA Today  investigation into teacher screening systems across the country found fundamental defects in several states, including Louisiana. The group's audit of state procedures and practices resulted in a rating system in which each state received a letter grade. Louisiana rated among 12 states that received F's for their system for background checks for educators.

 

The black bear will be formally removed from the endangered species list today at a press conference in Tensas parish. Robert Barham, former Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries which oversaw efforts to grow the black bear population, says the black bear was once on the brink of extinction.

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News For Wednesday 3/09/16


News for Wednesday 030916

By Dave Graichen

 

The Storm Prediction Center says much of Louisiana is under the threat for severe weather today. Donald Jones with the National Weather Service says the threat for severe weather includes rounds of heavy rainfall. Jones says there is an area of low pressure stuck over eastern Texas that is causing the severe weather and heavy rain. He says it’s pumping Gulf moisture into Louisiana. Jones says the big flood threats begin today and carry into Thursday.

 

The special legislative session ends tonight at 6pm, and lawmakers are still trying to address the state’s huge fiscal deficit through a combination of budget cuts and tax increases. We’re waiting to see what legislation will come out of the special session. Jeremy Alford with la-politics-dot-com says the certainties in this session include taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, and car rentals, but he says more bills still have to be approved. Alford says the current state sales tax is 4-cents, but Governor John Bel Edwards is pushing for an additional clean penny. He says some legislators are pushing for even more, and there’s a proposal to remove several exemptions from the existing four-cent tax.

 

A state senate committee approved legislation that would remove some tax exemptions for businesses, and that measure now heads to the Senate floor. Louisiana Association of Business and Industry president Stephen Waguespack argues that businesses and taxpayers should share the burden and each take a “middle of the road” hit. But New Orleans Senator Troy Carter says LABI continues to push bills that lead to higher taxes on consumers but doesn’t result in businesses contributing to the higher tax burden. Alexandria Senator Jay Luneau says LABI needs to start coming to the table with their own ideas.

 

Cleco Corp. and the investor group that has been looking to buy it have requested an immediate rehearing of the Louisiana Public Service Commission's recent decision to reject the sale. Cleco and its prospective buyers have asked for a rehearing at the commission's March 16 meeting "to fully present the transaction's benefits for Cleco Power customers, employees and communities Cleco serves, and to correct a number of inaccurate claims made during the Feb. 24, meeting.

 

A young Pineville man will have to register as a sex offender for life after he pleaded guilty on Monday in a case where he kidnapped and tried to rape a woman who tried to give him a ride to school. 18 year old Mataeo Chaney withdrew his not guilty pleas to charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery and attempted forcible rape in the 9th Judicial District Court. He then pleaded guilty to amended charges of second-degree kidnapping and second degree battery, as well as the attempted forcible rape charge. Chaney was 17 at the time of the crime.

 

Lawmakers think they have found a way to tap into more money for Louisiana’s Medicaid program, without more taxes. A little-noticed financing maneuver added to legislation Monday night by senators is estimated to bring in at least $250 million more annually for Medicaid.

The maneuver, sponsored by Republican Sen. Fred Mills, would allow insurance companies that manage medical care for thousands of Medicaid patients to pool more of their money and draw down additional federal Medicaid dollars to compensate them for caring for the poor.

Mills says the financing plan, which won final passage Tuesday from the House, needs approval from federal Medicaid officials.

 

Small business optimism has fallen to a 2-year low, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. State Director of the NFIB, Dawn Starns, says state specific data is not available, but Louisiana small businesses also lack optimism, especially with all of the money problems the state is facing. According to the report, spending and hiring plans and earning trends all weakened, and more firms reduced prices than raised them, indicating that small business are absorbing higher costs without affecting customers. The report also shows that sales trends have declined and small business owners do not plan to increase hiring or spending as expectations for future business conditions remained negative.

 

St. Joseph residents are pleading with the state government to get cleaner water. Garrett Boyte of St. Joseph says the water there has been yellow or murky brown for over a decade. Boyte and others from the town met with Governor John Bel Edwards and state legislators to discuss raising the standards for water in Louisiana. Boyte says manganese has been linked to adverse health effects, especially for infants, and it is found in St. Joseph’s water at alarmingly high amounts.. Boyte says 400 water systems in the state are facing similar issues.

 

LSU Health Shreveport has received a 1.6 million dollar National Institutes of Health grant to research the connection between light alcohol consumption and ischemic stokes. Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases and Sciences Dr. Chris Kevil says drinking one to three alcoholic beverages a week has been found to increase protection to an ischemic stroke. The study will attempt to define how light alcohol consumption actually protects from ste stroke.

 

A new NFL league year begins today, which means the start of the free agency period. NFL analyst Mike Detillier says with the increase in the salary cap, the Saints will have enough to bolster their roster and add veteran players at key spots.

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News For Monday 03/07/16


News for Monday 030716

By Dave Graichen

 

The US Supreme Court has told Louisiana it can NOT enforce its abortion clinic law. The law requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. A federal appeals court in New Orleans said the state can enforce the law, even though it was being challenged in the courts. But the US Supreme Court says the law should not be enforced, until there’s a ruling on its constitutionality.

 

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved the Louisiana State Student Standards in English and math, which replaces Common Core in these areas. BESE president Jim Garvey says these new standards still uphold high learning expectations and will help students move forward to better prepare for college and careers. BESE came to this decision after a steering committee and three subcommittees reviewed and developed the new standards with the help of about 100 educations from around the state and parents and business organizations. Garvey says now the decisions that affect the children in the classroom are made at the local parish level.

 

Colfax Representative Terry Brown has filed legislation for the regular session that would require the governor to look over Louisiana’s agreements with the Saints and Pelicans and allow him to renegotiate the contracts to reduce state subsidies. Brown says if we’re cutting public dollars for developmentally disabled children and roadways, state-funding for professional sports teams should be reduced. Brown says since 2002 the Saints and Pelicans have received about 369 million dollars from the state. According to a 2013 Forbes article, Owner Tom Benson will receive 392-million dollars in subsidies through 2025.

 

Three days left in the special session to address massive budget shortfalls this fiscal year and next. Governor John Bel Edwards is calling on lawmakers to raise revenues to fill the budget holes and he scored a victory last night when the House approved an increase to the state’s alcohol tax. The legislature has already agreed to raise the cigarette tax by 22-cents and it would generate 46-million dollars a year. If the Senate agrees to a higher alcohol tax, it would raise four-million dollars this fiscal year. The Governor did say during a late-night press conference he opposes increasing the sales tax beyond the 1 cent already approved.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards is demanding the House of Representatives approves more bills to generate revenue. Edwards says without new revenues hospitals, universities and other necessary state services could have to close their doors. He says it’s time for the legislature to act. Reports say legislators are looking to increase the state’s sales tax even more, possibly by one and a half or two cents.

 

Baton Rouge Senator Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb has filed a bill that would increase the fine for texting while driving. The fine for texting, emailing, or checking social media while driving is currently $175, but this bill seeks to raise that fine to $500. Highway safety advocate Jim Champagne says police are having a hard time getting a handle on the issue. Champagne says Alaska has the highest penalty for texting while driving, with a $10,000 fine. He says Louisiana’s penalty is relatively low compared to other states. He says too many people are texting or using their phones while driving, and it is not safe for other drivers.

 

Louisiana Tech researchers are working with the New Orleans Police Department to help them select new officers who will best fit the N-O-P-D’s new community based approach to law enforcement. Louisiana Tech Professor Frank Igou says believes New Orleans P-D contacted Louisiana Tech because they have an intensive research and consulting group. He says researchers traveled to New Orleans to sit in on police academy sessions, ride along with on-duty officers, and to meet with officials to determine who is needed on the force.

 

Spring football kicks off today for the LSU Tigers. The Bayou Bengals will practice 14 times before the Spring Game, which will take place on April 16th at 3 PM in Tiger Stadium. Tiger Rag Associate Editor James Moran says the biggest curiosity heading into spring is LSU’s new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who is expected to bring a different look to the Tigers defense

 

A Natchitoches teen has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of his father. The suspect, Marlon Rachal II, was arrested by Natchitoches Police officers. He is accused of killing his father, 39 year old Marlon Rachal Sr of Natchitoches Saturday morning. Rachal II turned himself in to police without incident and was charged with second-degree murder. He is being held in the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center.

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News For Tuesday 03/08/16


News for Tuesday 030816

By Dave Graichen

 

Grant Parish authorities report a 2 year old girl was killed Saturday when she was run over by a car. Sheriff Steven McCain said the death of the child appears to have been "just a horrific accident," and that no charges are expected to be filed against the 19-year-old driver of the vehicle who ran over her.

 

Make sure you have your umbrella handy the rest of the week, as several inches of rain is expected to fall across the Bayou State over the next several days. State climatologist Barry Keim says flash flooding is possible. National Weather Service in Shreveport, says northwestern Louisiana may see up to 10 inches of rain. Keim says the storm will get ramped up tomorrow and into Thursday and advises people to be prepared. He says this storm will hit Louisiana in waves. The Rapides Parish police Jury and the city of Alexandria will have sandbags available if need be.

 

Lawmakers worked deep into the night on coming together on a plan to prevent big cuts to health care and colleges. The House approved a bill that reduces tax cuts businesses receive for utility costs and their equipment purchases. The bill  is expected to generate about 20-million dollars for this year’s budget and 110-million for next year’s.  At six o’ clock last night, Governor John Bel Edwards sent a “48-hour warning notice” reminding lawmakers of what could happen if the legislature fails to approve other revenue generating bills.

 

With only two days left in the special legislative session, Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Rallo is concerned about the possibility of universities cancelling classes and professors receiving furlough notices.  Rallo says the talk of more budget cuts is already having an impact, as professors are leaving Louisiana universities, and prospective educators are deciding not to come to the state. As it stands now TOPS is facing an 80-percent reduction in funding next fiscal year, which means that the number of eligible students in Louisiana would drop from 45-thousand to 9-thousand for the fall semester, and the minimum ACT score required for the scholarship could be raised from a 20 to a 27. He says budget concerns are also affecting enrollment numbers at LSU.

 

Saying the state did not disclose evidence that could have helped his case, the Louisiana Supreme Court overturns a 2002 murder conviction of a death row inmate. Michael Wearry was found guilty of the murder of a 16-year-old pizza delivery driver in Baton Rouge in 1998, but the justices Monday said prosecutors should have turned over information casting doubt on the credibility of a person that testified against him.

 

New Orleans native Peyton Manning announced his retirement Monday after 18 seasons in the NFL and two Super Bowl championships. Manning holds over 20 NFL records.

 

The Mississippi River is rising in South Louisiana again which will lead to twice a week checks of the levees. Ricky Boyett with the Army Corps of Engineers, says they are preparing for the water to rise even more. Boyett says the heavy rains this week should not affect the water levels too much. In January, high water led to the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway for about three weeks.

 

The famous Acadiana Billy’s Boudin & Cracklins establishment in Scott has been ordered by the US Department of Labor to pay back wages to employees who were never paid for overtime, according to officials. They found the food spot used cash payments and duplicate books to avoid having to pay its workers overtime. As a result of the investigation, the enterprise is paying $112,724 in back wages.

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News For Friday 03/04/16


News for Friday 030416

By Dave Graichen

 

The Alexandria Police report the investigation is continuing into the apparent kidnapping of a woman in the city. All police are saying, at this time, is that she has been found safe and sound. Police say the woman was reportedly taken against her will from the Chester Street area by 42-yearold Travis Randle. A search is continuing for Randle, who is wanted on home invasion and second-degree kidnapping charges.

 

The Alexandria City Marshalls office reports Taylor Ramone Weatherspoon has been captured by U.S. marshals in Dallas. The 19 year old Weatherspoon, who was in city court on a misdemeanor charge,  slipped away on Feb. 25 as the noon recess began. Weatherspoon was captured without incident.

 

The budget standstill could be coming to an end. The Senate Finance committee is laying out its plans to tackle this fiscal year’s 900-million dollar budget deficit. It’s likely a conference committee will be needed to iron out differences between the House and Senate when it comes to cuts and taxes.

 

The House approved a 22-cent tobacco tax increase, which would increase the state’s tax on a pack of cigarettes to a $1.08. It’s the first revenue generating bill the lower chamber has passed in several days. The cigarette tax bill still needs to be approved by the Senate. It also  appears the legislature will approve a one-cent increase to the state sales tax.  The special session must end March 9th.

 

The TOPS Scholarship program could undergo changes in the next few years, as lawmakers have started filing bills for the regular session regarding the program. Jennings Senator Blade Morrish says he has filed about a dozen TOPS-related bills, including one that would limit the amount TOPS recipients would receive. Morrish says lawmakers attempted to cap the amount of the dollars going to TOPS last year, but the bill was vetoed by former-Governor Bobby Jindal.

 

Public Service Commissioner and former gubernatorial candidate Scott Angelle says he’s running for the 3rd Congressional District seat being left open by US Senate candidate Charles Boustany. There are now five Republicans in the race and UL-Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross says with this announcement, Angelle becomes the clear front runner.

 

Tomorrow is the state’s Presidential Primary and the Secretary of State is urging Louisianans to get out and exercise your right to vote. Tom Schedler says the polls will open at 7 am and close at 8 pm. Just a reminder, It is a closed primary. Democrats can only vote for democrats and republicans for republicans. Schedler says for 26 parishes there are local elections on the March 5th ballot. He says check out the Geaux Vote app on your smart phone to see what else could be on your ballot.

 

UL-Lafayette will have to vacate 22 football games between 2011 and 2014, as a result of a two-year NCAA Committee investigation. The committee determined that a former assistant coach falsified ACT scores for five students, meaning those students were ineligible to play. Games involving ineligible players led to vacating those victories. Eight victories from the 2011 season, four from 2012, eight from 2013 and two from 2014 will be vacated, including two New Orleans Bowl championships in 2011 and 2013 and the 2013 Sun Belt Conference championship.

 

State Police introduces a real-time auto insurance monitoring system to catch motorists who are uninsured. Major Doug Cain says this system, which will be used in the Baton Rouge and Monroe areas first, will provide police with the ability to know at a traffic stop or accident if the driver is actually insured. The Insurance Research Council reports 12 to 15 percent of Louisiana drivers are not insured.

 

A man accused of being a member of the Gremlins street gang turned himself in to police late Wednesday, according to Abbeville Chief Tony Hardy. He says 22-year-old Cody Guidry of Abbeville is one of 17 people indicted in connection with an investigation into gang activity in Louisiana. Five of the suspected members are still at large. Hardy says these men face many charges related to criminal street gang violations.

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News For Thursday 03/03/16


News for Thursday 030316

By Dave Graichen

 

The special legislative session must end next Wednesday and lawmakers are still at odds over the best way to address the 940-million dollar deficit for this fiscal year. Governor John Bel Edwards says he’s getting concerned about the stale mate lawmakers are in right now as the GOP hesitates to raise taxes before they see more cuts in government spending. The full House is expected to take up bills today when they convene at 1pm.

 

Senate Finance Chairman Eric LaFleur, a Democrat from Ville Platte, says House Bill 122 on budget cuts will pass out of his committee today. He says once that happens, more decisions can be made on the state’s deficit. After several days of holding off on any tax votes measures, legislation that would increase taxes on cigarettes and alcohol are on the agenda. The lower chamber was waiting to see what the Senate would do with cuts before voting on tax measures. LaFleur says everyone will know a lot more after today.

 

The student body presidents of 19 Louisiana colleges wrote a letter to every state legislator today urging them to stop any further cuts to higher education. It says students of Louisiana are challenging their Senate and House of Representatives to provide real, long-term budget solutions to ensure the future of higher education. The letter calls on legislators to prevent higher education from having to absorb even the best case scenario cut, recommended by Edwards’ office, of about $75 million.

 

Former US Representative Joseph Cao (Gow) has entered the race for the US Senate seat that will vacated by David Vitter. Eight well-known candidates are now in the race. UL Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross says fundraising may be the defining factor in this race because so many candidates are competing for limited funds in the state.

Cross says some of the candidates may have to self-fund.

 

Former state lawmaker Brett Geymann of Lake Charles says he’s running for Louisiana 3rd District Seat in the US House of Representatives. Geymann, a republican, is seeking to replace Charles Boustany, who is running for US Senate.

 

Louisiana’s presidential primary is Saturday March 5, so what kind of impact will Bayou State voters have on who receives the Republican and Democratic nomination? ULM Political Science professor Joshua Stockley says Louisiana will be a critical state for the candidates, especially for Republicans. Three Republican candidates remain, as Ben Carson has dropped out of the race. Stockley says the Louisiana delegates are crucial for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, if they hope to beat Donald Trump. All three Republican candidates will be in Louisiana Friday.

 

Former Saints safety Darren Sharper has reached a new plea deal in his federal drug and rape case. The agreement comes two weeks after U.S. District Judge Triche Milazzo rejected a prior plea deal. Sharper’s sentencing was set for Thursday but will take place June 16. A hearing for the new plea agreement will be March 17.

 

Louisiana’s iconic black bear, the original teddy bear, will be removed from the endangered species list next week, according to Louisiana Gannett. The ceremony to formally remove the bear from the list will be held at the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge. During the 1950s the Louisiana black bear population was fewer than 100, but that number has grown to upwards of 1000 bears.

 

Baton Rouge Police say a Department of Development inspector is booked for allegedly trying to extort money from several Baton Rouge businesses. They say 29-year-old Jeremy Jamal Johnson, a code enforcement officer, is accuse of walking into establishments and and demand inspection money or else he’d shut them down. Johnson was charged with attempted felony theft, extortion, malfeasance in office and public bribery.

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News For Wednesday 3/02/16


News for Wednesday 030216

By Dave Graichen

 

Not much action at the State Capitol Tuesday as House members put off for yet again votes on bills that would increase taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. A senate committee has also decided to wait until Thursday to approve its version of a budget cutting plan. Lawmakers have until March ninth to agree on a plan to close a 940-million dollar deficit for this fiscal year.

 

The second former Marksville officer who is accused in the fatal shooting of a six-year-old boy could be released on bond today. The attorney for 31-year-old Derrick Stafford says the paperwork is ready to be filed for Stafford to gain his release on a one-million dollar property bond. The other officer involved in the shooting, Norris Greenhouse Junior, was released on a one million dollar bond in November.

 

Spraying to control the mosquito population has begun in Alexandria. The spraying and other measures are an attempt to keep the mosquito population down to help prevent the spread of diseases they can transmit to humans, pets, horses and birds. The city is asking residents to do all they can to eliminate standing water, the breeding grounds for the insects.

 

A new report from Bankrate-dot-com says Louisiana is the 5th worst state for retirement. Claes (Claus) Bell, a senior analyst at Bankrate, says they examined several key factors to determine the quality of life in retirement, including cost of living, taxes, and residents’ overall well-being.

Bell says the crime rate is an important factor because elderly people are typically targets for crime. But Bell says the news isn’t all bad. He says retirees who live on an fixed income may find Louisiana a good state to spend their golden years. Bankrate ranked Wyoming as the best state for retirement and New York as the worst.

 

According to a new study from WalletHub, Louisiana is the worst state for women. Jill Gonzales from Wallet Hub says they looked at over 15 metrics including median earnings for female workers, women’s preventative healthcare, the female uninsured rate and the female homicide rate. Gonzales says Louisiana has one of the highest high school dropout rates for women at just over 4%. She says the ranking for women’s equality in the workplace is also very low. Louisiana ranks near the bottom in terms of women living in poverty. Gonzales says only New Mexico and Mississippi have higher poverty rates for women.

 

Gas prices are starting to rise as refineries conduct maintenance in preparation for the busy driving season this summer. AAA spokesperson Don Redman says the statewide average has increased over three cents since last week and this price increase is typical for this time of year. Redman says refineries are also slowing production in response to abundant supplies, but he says gas prices shouldn’t get too high.  Currently the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in Louisiana is $1.58.

 

A Financial Aid Working Group met yesterday to create a plan to ensure public high school students comply with a new policy requiring them to apply for assistance to go to college. Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent Ken Bradford says only 44% of students are applying for any kind of financial aid.  He says the group is also discussing how schools can be more helpful in getting financial aid for students.

 

A study from State Farm finds Louisiana comes in at number 11 for states in paid wind claims. Company spokesperson Roszell Gadson says in 2015, State Farm paid 33-hundred wind and tornado claims on structures around the state. Texas ranked number one with more than 11-thousand paid State Farm wind and tornado claims.

 

A Baton Rouge man has been arrested after an unrelated DNA test links him to a 1996 rape case. Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Don Coppola says 20 years ago, a 17-year-old girl was walking down the street and asked now 59-year-old Jerry Williams for a ride, where he then took her to his house and raped her. He says during the initial investigation, detectives had trouble re-contacting the victim so the case went unsolved.

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News For Tuesday 03/01/16


News for Tuesday 030116

By Dave Graichen

 

Today is Super Tuesday, so will Louisiana’s presidential primary still matter on Saturday, March 5th? Pollster John Couvillon of JMC Analytics says Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton are in a strong position to receive their party’s nomination as people in 12 states will vote today. Couvillon says it’s possible the democratic nomination will be sewn up after tonight. Couvillon says Louisiana will still get attention after Super Tuesday. He says Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio will still be contenders in the race.

 

Discussion about deep budget cuts to higher education could mean fewer students at LSU. The TOPS Scholarship Program is only funded at 25% for the next school year. Without TOPS, many students may have to rethink their education plans. LSU President F. King Alexander stands by comments that LSU football is at risk. He says unless enough revenue is raised, they may have to close summer school and only about half of the athletes will be eligible to play in the fall.  He says unfortunately LSU’s budget problems are impacting recruiting.

 

The House postponed votes planned yesterday until today on bills that would raise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. House Speaker Taylor Barras says they are waiting to see what the Senate will do with a House-approved measure that calls for 106-million dollars in cuts to the current fiscal year. The special session ends on March 9th and the House and Senate are far part when it comes to a plan on how to deal with a 900-million dollar budget deficit.

 

It was a question that was asked several times during the Jindal administration and never answered. Now, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne has asked  State Treasurer John Kennedy why he is housing his staff in private office space, at a cost of close to $370k a year, when there is state office space available.  Kennedy’s office after several requests has replied saying they disagree at the savings number that Dardenne has come up with, but if it saves the state even one dollar and if there’s room for the treasurers employees, they’ll move to the state owned building.

 

Lawmakers spend the day yesterday hearing from agencies who say the cuts the House is proposing in a spending bill now in the hands of the Senate would devastate their departments. Louisiana National Guard Major General Glenn Curtis says the House bill has them taking a cut of 564-thousand thousand dollars. Curtis says he would have to close nine armories, which will impact how they respond to emergencies like flooding. Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Rebekah Gee says they would have to lay-off restaurant inspectors, which is a serious public health risk.

 

A bill has been filed for the regular session calling for a freeze on the state voucher program, which allows students in public schools with a C, D or F rating to attend private schools at the state’s expense. Baton Rouge Representative Patricia Smith says the program is costing public schools money at a time when the state can’t afford it. There are currently just over seven thousand students with vouchers in Louisiana. Smith says legislators need to resolve the budget crisis before expanding the program.

 

This flu season got off to a slow start, but doctors say it may start to ramp up soon. Influenza expert Dr. Frank Welch with the State Office of Public Health Welch says this year the flu vaccine is very well matched to the virus, making it more effective, and flu shots are the best way to avoid getting sick. Welch says most insurance covers flu shots and people without insurance should call a public health unit. He also advises people to wash their hands, stay home if they’re sick and avoid sick people.

 

Captain Clay Higgins, the man made internationally famous for his “no nonsense” viral Crime Stoppers videos, announces he’s resigning from the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office. Higgins had come under fire by groups stating he shouldn’t be calling black suspects, animals, after the latest controversial Higgins’ video seeking to locate wanted members of the Gremlins Gang. Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said he was going to more closely monitor the language used and he asked Higgins to tone them down. Higgins said if he would have continued to wear the St. Landry badge, he would have violated the principles that it represents.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards declares this week as Severe Weather Awareness Week in an effort to get families to create a game plan in the event of an emergency. Chris Guilbeau, Deputy Director with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, says this comes at a good time as 13 confirmed tornadoes touched down last week.  Guilbeau says visit get-a-game-plan-dot-org (getagameplan.org) for more tips on how you can protect themselves during severe weather.

 

Former state lawmaker and ex Klu Klux Klansman David Duke is part of the storyline in the Republican presidential race. Duke supports Donald Trump and Trump’s opponents are bashing him for declining to disavow Duke’s endorsement during a CNN interview. Duke says the media is making a big deal out of this, because of his connection with the KKK, a group that he says he left in the 1970s. Trump blames a bad ear piece and couldn’t hear the question well when asked about Duke’s endorsement by CNN.

 

The Saints have released Marques Colston their alltime leading receiver. Colston was a consistent performer for the Black and Gold during his 10 seasons in New Orleans. He caught 72 touchdown passes and had over 97-hundred receiving yards. NFL analyst Mike Detillier says it will be difficult for the Saints to replace his production. Detillier says Colston goes down as the Saints best receiver in the franchise’s history.

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