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Now is the time for lawmakers to work on a plan to address the looming fiscal cliff in 2018. That’s the message of a letter Governor John Be Edwards sent to House Speaker Taylor Barras. Lawmakers failed to address the cliff during this year’s fiscal session. Edwards says they simply cannot wait until next year to start working.

“We’re going to work extremely hard with the leadership in the House and the Senate and with different stakeholders around the state to come up with a responsible plan so we don’t fall off that cliff,” Edwards said.

Over a billion dollars in temporary taxes are set to expire in July of next year. The governor advises Barras to form a working group of both Democrats and Republicans to find a way to replace that lost revenue. Edwards says something must be done to fill that budget hole.

“Doing nothing is not an option. There is no body who can identify $1.3 billion in state general fund cuts that we can enact that would preserve the critical services that the people of Louisiana expect,” Edwards said.

Edwards has proposed several recommendations for addressing the cliff and says he welcome other ideas from lawmakers. The governor will hold meetings around the state to gather public input on the matter. He says it is in everyone’s best interest to devise a plan sooner rather than later.

“It is my hope, my expectation that as we get closer to the fiscal cliff and that sense of urgency increases that they will decide that we do have to act,” Edwards said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Lt. Bruce Simmons is back to work at the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, just over a year after being shot in the police ambush. Casey Rayborn Hicks with the sheriff’s office says it means a lot to the department to have Simmons back.

“It’s been over a year now since the shooting. So as a department, as a community, I think we’ve all been trying to heal and move forward. So this is a huge step in that direction,” Hicks said.

Simmons was shot in the left arm by a gunman who targeted Baton Rouge law enforcement officers following the Alton Sterling shooting. Doctors had to put a titanium bar in his arm because the bone was shattered. Even so, Hicks says Simmons was determined to get back on his patrol bike.

“Everyone was a little bit worried that might not happen, and Bruce has proved all of us wrong fortunately, and he’s come so far,” Hicks said, “He’s back to get out there and continue serving the community, and that’s exciting for all of us.”

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux welcomed Simmons back by promoting him from sergeant to lieutenant and his fellow deputies gave him a standing ovation. Hicks says Simmons cleared his qualifying tests with flying colors.

“He went out to the range to qualify with his weapon, and he did a great job with that and had no problems,” Hicks said, “and he got back on his bike and rode around a little bit, and he said it felt great.”

 
 
 
 
 

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State Superintendent of Education John White could be on his way out the door as he was not reconfirmed by the Senate in this year’s legislative session. Governor John Bel Edwards said on his radio call in show that confirmation is a legal requirement for White to keep his job. But White says,

“I’m hired by a board to do a job, they hired be 5 and a half years ago and until they tell me to stop, I’m going to keep doing that job for our kids.”

A recent lawsuit seeking to remove White as superintendent was thrown out as only a few elected officials, including the governor, have the authority to take such legal action. White says he’s made great strides in his years as superintendent and the students are showing improvement.

“And so you have to ask, how well has the job been done? Look, we’re the fastest improved state in the nation in 4th grade literacy, we’re the second fastest improving in 4th grade math when every state takes the same test.”

If the governor decides not to take legal action, a two-thirds vote from BESE could remove White from office. White says it’s time to focus on the students, not on politics.

“We need to get things out of the court room and get them back to the classroom. School starts in a month, our discussion about public education should not be focused on the personnel and the people involved, it should be focused on our kids.”

 
 

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Work begins this week to waterproof the first six floors of the State Capitol. Jacques Berry with the Division of Administration says scaffolding is up around the base of the building. And he says the front doors to the tallest building in the city will remain closed over the next year.

“There’s always a danger with projects like this when you’re working high above where people are walking. So it’s out of an abundance of caution,” Berry said.

Berry says the two entrances on the ground level will remain open. He says crews will use this as an opportunity to reattach some of the limestone panels. He says new technology gave them a closer look at the structure and showed pieces coming loose from the 80-year-old building.

“This was the first time anybody was able to see exactly how the bones of the building look, and once that was discovered it was determined there may need to be some reinforcement of the bones of the building,” Berry said.

Berry says construction began Monday and is expected to take one year. The project will cost roughly $5 million. He says the waterproofing and limestone repair will only be for the first six floors of the capitol.

“This waterproofing project is only for the base of the building. We’re not going to do any work on the tower itself,” Berry said, “That is part of a separate project that has yet to be funded but needs to happen.”

 
 
 
 
 

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A man rushing his pregnant wife to the hospital missed the birth of his child after being arrested in Rapides Parish. Creola Police Chief Heath Landry says one of his officers clocked a vehicle doing 108 in a 55 mph speed zone. He says the officer witnessed more dangerous driving as he attempted to pull over Zak Evans.

“As he was catching up to the vehicle, he observed the vehicle passing people on the left and right shoulder, running people off the road,” Landry said.

Landry says the officer radioed ahead to Pineville, where officers set up a road block because Evans would not stop. He says when officers finally pulled over Evans and got him out of the vehicle, he was livid.

“The guy was very irate, screaming, yelling, and they put him in the back of the police car in handcuffs after they Mirandized him. He’s still kicking, yelling at the glass,” Landry said.

An ambulance took Evans’ wife Bridget to a local hospital where she gave birth, and Evans was arrested on charges of flight from an officer and careless operation, as well as ticketed for speeding.

Evans told KALB-TV that he didn’t have time to look at the speedometer because he was worried about his wife and baby.
 
Landry says they understand it was an emergency, but there was still a safety concern.

“At that rate of speed driving like that, you’re not going to make it to the hospital, and you may end up injuring someone else or yourself and your unborn child and wife,” Landry said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Female military veterans will have a new support system, as the state Department of Veterans Affairs is set to launch monthly Coffee Conversations in August. Female veterans outreach coordinator Alex Juan says this will offer a safe space for military women to talk about the issues affecting them.

She says the discussions will be live streamed and open to all of female veterans in the state.

“It’s pretty cool because you can be at home in your pj’s, or you can be at your local Starbucks, and you can still be part of the conversation,” Juan said.

Louisiana is home to more than 32,000 women veterans. Juan says military women can be more hesitant to seek services from the VA than their male counterparts because females are not always well-received. She says she even ran into a similar incident yesterday morning.

“I went in to one of the VA clinics to pick up some medicine, and immediately the question comes up, ‘Oh, your husband’s a veteran, are you here to pick up his medicine?’” Juan said.

Juan says this is about changing the conversation and recognizing that both men and women serve their country. She says it’s also an opportunity for these women to talk about specific struggles they’ve faced with someone who can understand.

“Many of us were moms having to nurse children while in uniform or having to be out in the field, and having women that get what you’ve been through has been so effective for the healing process for so many of them,” Juan said.

Female veterans interested in serving as program coordinators are encouraged to call 225-219-5005.

 
 
 
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards is pleased with job growth and creation in the Bayou State. On his monthly radio call in show, the governor said several sectors of the economy are improving, especially health care thanks to expansion of the Medicaid program.

“We’ve never employed more people in Louisiana in the healthcare sector than we do now. That’s a direct result of the Medicaid expansion. By bringing home our federal tax dollars, we’re hiring more people because we have to because we’re providing care to more people.”
 
Edwards says in January of 2016, the state’s unemployment rate was at 6.2% and the latest numbers show the unemployment rate in May of 2017 was 5.7% and predicts that will drop even lower when the June numbers are released.

“We’ve got an unemployment rate that is going down and we’ve got job creation and job growth that is increasing.”
 
Edwards says Lafayette, the hub of the state’s oil and gas sector, is also making great strides. He says in the last year and a half, the city saw four separate months of steady job increases.

“Job creation going up, unemployment going down, that’s great and every corner of the state is benefiting from this too.”
 
 

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Monroe Police Chief Quentin Holmes has announced he is going to retire from his post. In a joint news conference with Mayor Jamie Mayo, Holmes said he has been thinking about returning to teaching for quite some time. News outlets had reported that Mayo asked for a resignation which he says is 100% not true.

 
"I never asked him to resign, I never asked him to retire, I want to be real clear with that"
 
Mayo says Holmes will remain chief until July 30th, and during that time his office will work to name someone to serve in the interim. Holmes was named police chief in 2011 and received a no confidence vote from the union in August 2014, but he says that has nothing to do with this retirement.

"What I'm looking at is what's best for me and my family and moving forward and ultimately the most important factor that I consider is making sure that I leave the city in good grounds"

KNOE said they had received anonymous calls from people saying there was bad blood between Holmes and the Mayor over the rising crime problem in the Monroe area. Mayo says he hopes they have now cleared the air that it’s just not the case.
 
"You'll be receiving, I'm sure some more anonymous calls, and I just want you to know today we're not going to be and i'm not going to be addressing anonymous calls."
 
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards announced today federal funding for flood control projects in the Baton Rouge area. Edwards says 220 million dollars will go to local governments in the Capital region as part of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

“This will allow us to advance projects in the near term with real dollars that will help prevent or lessen the impact of future floods.”

Edwards says each parish will submit a plan to FEMA before the money will be allocated. He says some of the money will be used to buy back significantly damaged homes from last year’s flood and make it a green space. He says the rest of the funds will go to….

“Better control the flood waters on a flood plain basis, which is why these dollars are going to go to a lot of drainage projects.”

None of this money will go toward the much talked about Comite Diversion Canal Project because funding for that must come from a different source. Edwards says after Hurricane Katrina, a majority of hazard mitigation grant dollars went towards elevating homes but that won’t be the case this time.

“We are trying to transition away from that because that is so expensive and you use up all the available dollars if you elevate too many structures.”

 
 

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Zachary Police have made an arrest in the case of a fatal home invasion that occurred last night. Chief David McDavid says the deceased, 20-year-old Damon Hayes Jr, allegedly broke in with 20-year-old Jordale Carter and possibly two other suspects.

“Once inside, they began robbing the homeowner, what appeared to be a weapon. The homeowner was able to get up and retrieve a weapon and began shooting,” McDavid said.

Hayes died in the incident, and Carter was booked on many charges including murder because his accomplice died during a crime. McDavid says two other suspects are still at large.

“We’re working with East Baton Rouge Parish and Baton Rouge city police department to find out who these suspects are and who their acquaintances are, and hopefully we can make some more arrests,” McDavid said.

McDavid says one of the suspects was reportedly trying to get a ride away from the scene, saying he was being shot at. He says the robbery occurred in an elderly neighborhood, and they seldom have shootings like this.

“Unfortunately we have outsiders coming into Zachary that are causing some of these issues, and we’re not going to tolerate that here,” McDavid said, “and we wish that our younger generation would be more productive to society and not a burden to society.”

 
 
 
 
 

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Three months ahead of the October 14 election, more than half of the races have already been settled. Candidates in 41 races had no opponents, while 16 saw no candidates at all. Secretary of State Tom Schedler says they saw a similar rate just over a year ago when 44 percent of the races were settled before reaching the ballot.

“We have an inordinate amount of no challenges to incumbents. We’re now seeing a trend in smaller jurisdictions where no one qualifies,” Schedler said.

Schedler blames the public’s frustration with government for the disinterest in running for public office. He says these positions don’t pay much, and they come with a lot of stress. He says these demanding jobs are true public service.

“I’ve just never seen so much cynicism. You can get on the phone. You can spend 30 minutes with them. You can give them statistics. You can talk to them, and at the end of the day they still cuss you out,” Schedler said.

Schedler says in cases where an incumbent is unopposed, he or she is simply reelected. He says the law used to allow his office to reopen qualifying if no one qualified, but often times they still wouldn’t see any candidates. That’s why there’s a new policy for such occurrences.

“The mayor or whoever the jurisdiction is can appoint someone to that position, whether it be an alderman position or chief of police, whatever that position may be, and they operate as such,” Schedler said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Tulane University is the latest Louisiana school to trademark its own brew, after partnering with NOLA Brewing Company to release the Green Wave Beer. Brewery president Kirk Coco says the new brew is a filtered version of a Heffeweizen, a dry, wheat beer with a little bitterness. He says this Kristalweizen is similar without all the floating yeast.

“It’s a very unique German style of beer. It still has a little bit of banana and clove to it, but not very much. It’s very light and subtle and just an easy drinking wheat beer,” Coco said.

Coco says the partnership with Tulane Athletics was a no brainer because the school is such a big part of the city, and NOLA Brewing is all about New Orleans. He says this will also be a money maker for the university athletics. He says it should be available just in time for football season to kick off.

“The beer will be available in Tulane Stadium on September 2, which is the first game. We are hoping to have cans in stores sometime in late September,” Coco said.

Coco says the new brew has been about two years in the making. He says they had to wait and see what the future of university beers would be, as legislation threatened the partnerships because of arguments college beers encourage underage drinking. Coco disagrees.

“I don’t think there’s a Tulane student that’s going to go ‘Oh, I didn’t know about beer until I saw this Green Wave Beer.’ I don’t think it’s really breaching any new territory for these students,” Coco said.

 
 
 
 
 

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As the race for State Treasurer is underway, now might be a good time to start the conversation about eliminating the position for good. That’s according Jeremy Alford, the publisher of LaPolitics.com, who says this is the first time in 17 years there has been an open race for the seat.


“There’s no big political heavyweight trying to protect their job, which could lead to a frank conversation about some important topics like streamlining that kind of fiscal corner of state government.”

Alford says there are currently 16 states that don’t elect their state treasurer. He says he doesn’t foresee any of the major candidates running on the “hire-me-to-fire-me” campaign, but it has happened before with Suzanne Terrell in the 1999 race for Election Commissioner.


“She did just that, she got elected and she spent the next four years working with the Secretary of State’s Office working to merge those functions over there.”

Alford says many voters had come to view the post of state treasurer as an unofficial watchdog to second guess and review the governor and legislature’s spending. He says candidates could at least address the idea of merging this position with another department.

“Government is a work in progress and right now is the time we should be looking at duplication of services and areas where streamlining opportunities might present themselves.”
 
 

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Three Louisiana cities are among the most stressed in the country, according to a new study from the personal finance website WalletHub. Shreveport came in at number ten on the list. Jill Gonzales with WalletHub says Shreveport did particularly badly in the health category.

“Shreveport has the fourth highest number of adult smokers right now at around 26 percent of the total population,” Gonzales said, “and it also has a low amount of adults here who were involved in any type of physical activity in the past month.”

Less than 70 percent of the Shreveport population reported working out in the last month, which was one of the lowest rates in the country. Gonzales says residents of the city are also seeing more work related stress.

“Right now job security is at negative two percent in Shreveport. That means that there’s a lower probability that an individual will keep their job in the city, and that was one of the lowest numbers we saw across the board,” Gonzales said.

New Orleans, which came in at number 19, and 21st ranked Baton Rouge are also seeing similar problems related to health and work stress. Gonzales says these Louisiana cities did fare well in other areas, like having a low suicide rate. She says although the poverty rate is high, we’re seeing financial benefits in other areas.

“The unemployment rate is normal, could be a little better, but the underemployment rate is actually really good. That means that people that do have jobs seem to be making it on a living wage,” Gonzales said.

 
 
 
 
 

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A new national poll by Morning Consult finds Governor John Bel Edwards has a 58% approval rating. Southern Media and Opinion research had Edwards at 54% in May, and pollster Bernie Pinsonat says being in the mid to upper 50s is good for any governor, especially a Democrat in Louisiana.

“It’s still a good number for John Bel Edwards, I think people appreciate that he’s doing his best under the trying circumstances with the budget problem.”

Pinsonat says Edwards was in the 60-percentage range in the fall of last year, and depending on the future of the economy here, that could end up happening for the governor again.

“That’s a big if and that would be great for him if the economy would improve, we’d get some more jobs and we’d get some more money then he could possibly move up into the 60s.”

Pinsonat says even though Edwards saw a drop in his approval ratings in the spring, it appears that’s leveling off.

“I think the public thinks that he’s doing a good job on the finances, we have a stable budget position right now.”

 
 

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LSU head gymnastics coach DD Breaux has been named the Most Outstanding Coach in Louisiana by the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. Also the Dean of Southeastern Conference Coaches, Breaux just completed her 40th season in 2017, which was the Tigers most dominant in school history.


Breaux says being recognized by people outside of gymnastics means a lot.

"Because it takes on an all encompassing meaning that it's not just about the gymnastics, but about your total body of work," said Breaux.

LSU finished as the NCAA National Runner-up for the 2nd straight year this past season. Breaux was named to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in June. She credits her success in her tenure to a great staff and dedicated student athletes.

"If you don't surround yourself with the very best people then you're not going to do any justice to your program," said Breaux.

Breaux along with 23 other individuals and three teams will be honored at the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on August 5th at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. LSU gymnastics is famous for packing the PMAC for their meets and having a ton of fan interest.

Breaux says the school does a great job at branding gymnastics.

"The marketing a promoting aspect of what we do is critically important," said Breaux.
 
 
 

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Michelle Southern reporting. 
A recreational fisherman's group in Louisiana calls the lawsuit filed by two environmental organizations over the extended red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico ridiculous. The suit claims the additional fishing time puts red snapper recovery at risk.


But David Cresson of the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana says suing is what these groups do.

"The suit against the 39 day season is no surprise," said Cresson. "It is directly in line with everything else they've done to work against America's recreational anglers."

Cresson says at the rate the extended 39 day season is currently going, Louisiana will be able to catch red snapper without overfishing the state's overall portion of the quota. He says the notion that Louisiana would mismanage this opportunity was ridiculous to begin with.

"We simply don't agree that, in Louisiana, it will lead to an overfishing of the stock," said Cresson.

One of the groups filing the lawsuit is the Environmental Defense Fund. Its Director of the Gulf of Mexico Oceans Program, Robert Jones, says the expanded season causes concern for 7.4 million pounds of overfishing.

"We want to make sure that we preserve this resource for future generations," said Jones.

Jones says his hope is to get rid of fixed seasons because they are of no benefit to the anglers. He says this suit catalyzes change for more flexible access in the future.

"The water is teeming with red snapper which is a testament that the rebuilding process is working," said Jones. "But instead of anglers reaping those benefits, we're stuck in this downward spiral of management failure."
 
 
 

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New Orleans has been named the number four city in the US by readers of Travel Leisure. Kristian Sonnier with the New Orleans CVB says the magazine ranked cities based on six categories, including culture, friendliness, shopping, and overall value. He says the Big Easy stood out in some key areas.

“Two things that stood out for New Orleans were our number of fantastic festivals and the innovative food that’s available in New Orleans,” Sonnier said, “So those were our two leaders in those six categories.”

Sonnier says one key draw to the city of New Orleans is that it’s always changing, giving visitors something new to see on each trip. He says the restaurant boom has been huge, and new hotels are popping up and transforming whole neighborhoods.

“Even if you’ve been here in the past year or two, because there’s so many new things and so many offers coming online, there are always new reasons for you to come visit,” Sonnier said.

Sonnier says the CVB works around the clock to ensure New Orleans remains at the top of these rankings. He says when you’re beating cities like Boston, Chicago, and New York, you’re clearly doing something right. He hopes this newest recognition will attract more visitors to the Crescent City.

“To be ranked is validation and very influential for potential visitors. I think a lot of the Travel Leisure readers read those rankings and then base their travel plans on the cities that end up in those rankings,” Sonnier said.

 
 
 
 
 

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This summer’s dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to be the largest ever and Louisiana aquatic life will suffer most burden of the effects. LSU Professor of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences Nancy Rabalais says an increased load of nitrates were carried by the Mississippi River during the spring leading to the hypoxia, or dead zone. She says this is a lack of oxygen in the water.

“So a lot of animals have to vacate the area. Things that cannot get out of the mud and swim away will be dead if the oxygen is low enough for long enough, which usually happens.”

Hypoxia occurs when microscopic organisms eat on the nitrogen materials and when they die sink to the bottom and decomposition depletes the oxygen in the water, according to the EPA. Rabalais says this is already causing a noticeable effect for fisherman. She says they know where the majority of the nitrogen and phosphorus are coming from.

“It’s primarily from agricultural sources, primarily fertilizer use on row crops.”

Rabalais says Louisiana does not contribute much to the dead zone yet we are the ones who face what happens to our water ways. But she says it benefits water quality everywhere to clean up this mess.

“It’s very often difficult for people who live in the mid-west, which is the source of much of the nitrogen and phosphorus to understand a problem so far away.”

 
 

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Louisiana’s military bases will see tremendous benefits from the National Defense Authorization Act passed by the US House. That’s according to Richland Parish Congressman Ralph Abraham, who says this is the funding mechanism for the nation’s military. He says the bill begins the process of re-engining B-52 bombers, many of which are housed at Barksdale Air Force Base.

“Re-engining would extend the life of these B-52s into the 2050s, and it would improve their range, fuel cost and efficiency, and it would lower maintenance costs,” Abraham said.

In central Louisiana, Abraham says the NDAA protects Fort Polk by preventing another round of base realignment and closures. The bill would also increase the size of each branch, and many of the new troops will train at the Joint Readiness Training Center there. More importantly, he says, it gives military men and women a 2.4 percent pay increase.

“I wish it was more, but at least it’s something, and it shows how much we appreciate them for putting their lives on the line for us every day,” Abraham said, “If they’re going to be the guardians for us of the night and the day, we need to take care of them”

Abraham says the NDAA passed by the House supports the continued use of the F-15C fighter planes in use at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse. He says it also supports maintenance and development of the tactical aviation squadron.

“It directs the Air Force to examine the lifespan of planes currently in use at this base, and it clears the way for newer planes in the future,” Abraham said.

 
 
 
 
 

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