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The Louisiana Attorney General's office urges consumers to research the costs and benefits of solar panels before purchasing them. The director of the public protection division of the state's A-G's office, Sam Pleasant, says homeowners can be attracted by a promise of reduced energy costs from solar power systems, but sometimes there are some significant up front costs.

"Whether you purchase the system outright or lease from a company, there are some pretty hefty prices that you have to pay up front," Pleasant said.
Pleasant says Attorney General Buddy Caldwell recommends that potential solar panel buyers should get at least three written proposals or price quotes and speak with people who have first-hand experience in purchasing them.
"Find out how satisfied they are with the product and how soon they were able to recoup savings," Pleasant said.
Pleasant says they issued this alert now, because warmer weather prompts many consumers to look at ways to save money on utility bills. She says you can contact your utility provider to see if they'll perform an energy efficiency audit of your home, which can determine if it's even worth getting solar panels. 


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Number one ranked LSU and Texas A&M played another classic college baseball game on Friday and for the second straight night the Tigers came out on top. The Bayou Bengal bats erupted for four runs in the 7th inning to erase a three-run deficit and claim a 9-6 victory over the 2nd ranked Aggies.

The win clinches a series victory for LSU and they'll go for the sweep Saturday afternoon at 1 PM. 

LSU trailed 5-2 going into the bottom of the 7th inning. Chris Chinea started the rally with a single up the middle. Jake Fraley followed with an infield single. Jared Foster then singled to right field to score Chinea and put runners at 1st and 3rd base. Chris Sciambra then laid down a safety squeeze to score another run and that set-up the at-bat of the game. 

Alex Bregman came to the plate with one out and runners at 1st and 2nd. Bregman battled Aggies pitcher Mark Ecker and on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, the Tigers star shortstop hit a shot down the left field line to score both runs and give the Tigers the lead. 

LSU scored three more runs in the 8th inning. Chinea had an RBI double, Fraley had an RBI triple and Jared Foster scored another run with a ground out. 

The Tigers finished with 14 hits, Fraley led the way with three hits. 

LSU's offense bailed out Tigers staring pitcher Alex Lange. The freshman allowed 5 runs in 5.1 innings as he walked 5 and gave up 8 hits. 

Russell Reynolds did a nice job out of the pen to get the win. He kept the Tigers in the game, until the bats could get going. Reynolds pitched an an inning and two-thirds, without allowing a run and striking out two. 

Hunter Newman earned the save as he allowed one run in two innings.


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The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission reports there was a slight decline in the number of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2014. Eighty motorcycle riders were killed last year, a 7% drop from 2013.

The commission's deputy director, Ken Trull, says they hope to reduce that number even more in 2015, but they need help from all motorists. 
"We see that 18-wheeler and we see that big pick-up truck, but sometimes it's hard to see a motorcycle, so it's really important to be aware of them," Trull said.
Trull says helmets are helping to reduce the number of motorcycle deaths. He says an observational study in 2014 found that 100-percent of motorcyclists wore a helmet on Louisiana highways. 
Trull says a factor in motorcycle fatalities is impaired driving as one-third of Louisiana's 2014 motorcycle deaths involved alcohol. He says motorcyclists should never ride impaired or distracted and try to make yourself more visible. 
"If they ride in the middle of the lane, they are often times more visible to drivers and cars," Trull said.  


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Ochsner Health System in New Orleans announces they are the first hospital in the country to use the new Apple Watch to manage patients suffering from chronic diseases.  The Ochsner Hypertension Digital Medicine Program uses the watch to track patients who are struggling to control their blood pressure.  

Chief Clinical Transformation Officer, Dr. Richard Milani.
"Ochsner has always been interested in innovative technologies that can help patients and help us better manage patients, and we think that the Apple Watch will be able to do that for us."

With the Apple Watch, patients can receive medication reminders, feedback from clinicians, activity tracking, and exercise reminders.  Milani says about 40-percent of patients with chronic disease want a medication reminder.

"What better one to have than something that's just on your wrist that might even just vibrate once in a while and pop up with the pill you're supposed to take at that time."

Milani says the fact that the watch is on your wrist, it will provide individuals with nudges and feedback in a timely fashion.  He says the first seven weeks of the program have been very successful.  Milani says over 40-percent of patients have their hypertension under control, compared to a usual care group of only one-percent.

"We are delivering better care, more effective care, more durable care faster and at less inconvenience to the patient."


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Michelle Southern reporting.
Bruce Jenner, the 1976 Olympic Gold medalist, confirmed to the world Friday night that he is transgender. Jenner made the admission during a two-hour special with ABC's Diane Sawyer. Matthew Patterson of Equality Louisiana says the 65-year-old Jenner is being amazingly courageous.

"This is something I'm always struck by..the people who put themselves out there and live authentically as who you are and ask for that recognition from people in your life," said Patterson.

Patterson hopes Jenner will be able to live his life the way he wants to. He says discrimination against transgender people is unfortunately quite pervasive and severe.

"Trans people are twice as likely to be homeless. They are 25 times more likely to attempt suicide and they are much more likely to face discrimination at school or at work," said Patterson. "Also violence by police or other people."

Patterson says he hopes this story will be educational and spur more acceptance among the public. He also hopes Jenner's very public story will be an inspiration for other transgender people.

"This will serve as a role model for people," said Patterson. "We're missing in the culture almost any positive descriptions of trans people."



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The LaSalle Parish Sheriff's Office has arrested a man in connection with a double homicide.  37-year-old Randy Eugene Waits has been arrested for the deaths of 19-year-old Kylie Duncan and 76-year-old Irma Cotton.  

Sheriff Scott Franklin says the incident took place Wednesday morning.
"The two were killed, Mrs. Kylie Duncan was killed in the vicinity of Mrs. Cotton's carport.  Mrs. Cotton was killed inside her home."

Cotton was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head.  Duncan was also shot in the head and her throat was cut.  Franklin says there appears to be a connection between the suspect and one of the victims.

"Mr. Wait's and Mrs. Duncan and her family were friends and Mrs. Cotton, to be honest with you, was just an innocent bystander.  The killing ended up at her house and he had to eliminate her as a witness."

He says Cotton was an innocent bystander and not the intended target.  Waits was booked into the LaSalle Parish Jail on two counts of first degree murder.  Franklin wants to assure people that this is not a serial killer or mass murder situation.

"He had a specific reason for killing Mrs. Duncan and Mrs. Cotton was just an innocent witness that he needed to eliminate to keep himself from getting caught, he thought." 


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A bill by Gonzales state Representative Eddie Lambert would set a limit on the size of live crawfish that would be sold to people or restaurants.  The measure would make it illegal for vendors, farmers, and harvesters to sell crawfish that are smaller than three and a half inches for people to eat.  

Lambert says he's heard complaints about small crawfish from both wholesalers and consumers.
"You go buy a sack, you don't know what's in it, you open it up and then you notice it's full of little bitty crawfish.  It's like the old saying, 'You're buying a cat in a sack.'  You can't tell."

There would be an allowance of up to five percent of undersized crawfish in each sack.  He says crawfish is a multi-million dollar industry that basically has no standards.  Lambert says for the crawfish meat industry, these undersized crawfish are just not economically viable.

"In order to get one pound of meat, you would have to peel somewhere around 180 crawfish."

He says this would damage the crawfish meat industry.  First offense punishment would be a fine of up to $350 with possible jail time of up to 60 days.  The bill will be heard in the House Natural Resources Committee.  Lambert says one problem with crawfish is that they are difficult to grade.

"I mean, crawfish are a live animal.  When you buy shrimp, they're already dead and they're on ice so it's easier to sort them.   Where, in crawfish, it's a lot harder to do, you've got live animals." 


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The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission begins their "Buckle Up in Your Truck" campaign today in an effort to get more pickup drivers to use their seat belts.  Executive Director Lt. Col. John LeBlanc says even though Louisiana's seat belt compliance rate rose to a record 84-percent in 2014, pickup truck drivers lag behind.

"Only about 78.5-percent of pickup truck drivers statewide are using seat belts.  Traditionally they've been the lowest."

He says because of a pickup's tendency to roll over, it's especially important for people to be restrained inside a truck.

"And when you're not buckled up in a pickup truck and it rolls over, there's a real good chance you could be thrown out of the window. which most of the time is fatal.  And we're trying to get those fatalities down and get the pickup truck compliance rate up."

The campaign runs through April 30.  LeBlanc says you can expect to see increased patrols to make sure you are buckled up, no matter what kind of vehicle you're in.  He says buckling up in a front seat passenger car is the best way to reduce your risk to fatal injury.

"You can increase your safety by 45-percent and in a pickup truck the risk of fatal injury is 60-percent if you're not buckled up.  The best insurance you can have is to buckle up."


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Michelle Southern reporting.
The 2015 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival gets underway today. The lineup this first weekend includes headliners Keith Urban tonight, The Who tomorrow and Sunday it's Jimmy Buffett on the Acura Stage. Festival producer Quint Davis says he's excited about the music as usual, but he knows festers can't get enough of the delicious Louisiana food.

"When I'm out there on my golf cart riding around, I can't get enough of the food signs," says Davis. "I think this is the best restaurant in the world when it's open."

Other huge artists performing this weekend are Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Pitbull, Irma Thomas, Ryan Adams, John Legend, Wilco, Jimmy Cliff, Wayne Toups and more. 

Davis says festival also offers gourmet food in a field on a paper plate for $10 and under.

"And we're talking about a soft shell crab sandwich on butter bread, crab meat poboy, Pheasant, Quail and Andouille Gumbo," said Davis.

There are chances for rain in the forecast for New Orleans mostly today and tomorrow, but Davis says that doesn't stop the good times from rolling. He says last year's Jazzfest was attend by over 400,000 people.

"With the talent that we have and the love that people have for this festival and how long they've been waiting for it, I would expect us to do as well or better than last year."



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The matchup of the top two ranked teams in college baseball lived up to the hype as the Tigers won in thrilling fashion over Texas A&M 4-3. Danny Zardon delivered the game winning hit in the bottom of the 9th, with a shot down the left field line to score Jared Foster.

The Aggies tied the game in the top of the 9th. Jesse Stallings gave up a lead-off triple to J.B. Moss. He eventually scored to tie the game.
A&M jumped out to an early 2-0 lead as LSU starting pitcher Jared Poche gave up single runs in the first two innings. 
But the Tigers tied with two in the 4th inning. Chris Chinea tied the game with an RBI single to score Andrew Stevenson.
LSU took the lead in the 7th inning as Jake Fraley scored on a throwin error by Aggie pitcher Ty Scholottmann.
Collin Strall was the winning pitcher for the Tigers as he recorded a strikeout in the top of the 9th.
Game 2 is Friday night at 7 PM.  


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At a gubernatorial candidate forum in Baton Rouge today, all four candidates were asked what should be done about the state's current fiscal crisis.  Legislators are currently working to resolve a $1.6 billion dollar budget deficit for next fiscal year.  

Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle says the state's tax code is outdated and needs to be totally redone.
"As governor, I would work toward  reforms to enact a fair, transparent, competitive tax code allowing state leaders to finally be able to create a balanced, sustainable budget that reflects the priorities of the people of Louisiana."

The forum was put on by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.  Republican Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne says one short term fix for the budget crisis is for legislators to increase the cigarette tax.

"The cigarette tax is going to generate money immediately and would make us competitive with sister states, if we don't make it any more than what they're charging.  That's a realistic way that we have to try and find some money."

Democratic Amite state Representative John Bel Edwards says Louisiana should reduce or eliminate tax credits that aren't producing a the desired benefit.  Edwards says tax credits are tax expenditures.

"We can reduce those expenditures, create savings, and reallocate the higher priority items.  We need to cap and sunset and review these things."

Republican US Senator David Vitter appeared by recorded video as he is in Washington, DC for a Senate vote.  He says, if elected, he would immediately call a special legislative session focused on spending and tax reform and nothing would be off limits.

"There won't be any boundaries put on the discussion or the deliberations set by Washington or anywhere else.  Everything will be on the table."


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Michelle Southern reporting.
The Youngsville Police Department says a male youth softball coach is facing charges for allegedly punching an opposing female softball coach and breaking her nose. Chief Rickey Boudreaux says it was a highly contested game between two teams with the Lafayette City-Parish Parks and Recreation. 

He says after it was over words were allegedly exchanged then three players jumped on an opposing player. 
"The mom/head coach attempted to intervene to break up the fight, when a cowardly man from the other team walked over and sucker punched her causing her nose to break in three places," said Boudreaux.

Boudreaux says the suspect in this case is a complete low life and the sports organization indicates there is no place for violence in youth recreation sports. He says the players and the coach in this case let their emotions rise above common sense.

"And I think that male coach is not a very good role model for today's youth after such actions over a youth softball game," said Boudreaux.

Boudreaux says since the victim's nose was broken in multiple places she will have to see a specialist to repair the injury.

"She's got a lot of swelling and bruising as you can expect with an injury like that but she seems to be doing okay."


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Governor Bobby Jindal has an op-ed piece in Thursday's New York Times that explains his support for the religious liberty bill that will be debated in the Louisiana legislature. Some companies are concerned about the legislation. But UL Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross says Jindal lets the world know their opinions won't deter him.

"Well you certainly can't accuse Governor Jindal of backing down on this issue," Cross said. "He in fact has gone to the heart of the liberal left and thrown down a gauntlet."
Jindal also says in the op-ed column that he continues to have the view a marriage is between one man and one woman. Cross says it appears the governor is once again trying to raise his profile in a crowded republican presidential field. 
Cross says there are some in Louisiana that will applaud the governor's stance against gay marriage and religious liberty, but others would rather see him devote more time to state specific issues. 
"Governor Jindal is getting low ratings in Louisiana right now, because people think he's more concerned about national issues than he is of taking care of business at home," Cross said. 


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Many areas in northeast Louisiana are in recovery mode today after horrible storms moved through the region Wednesday. Authorities say homes and businesses were damaged by heavy winds and at least three people were injured.

"There were a lot of big pine trees down up by the roots, quite a few big oak trees were down," says Executive Director of Ouachita Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Neal Brown. "Three to five houses were completely destroyed and are no longer livable."

Brown says the storm produced straight line winds and hail and got worse as it moved through the Sterlington area and into Richland and Morehouse parishes.

"Richland Parish had quite a bit of damage over toward the Delhi area," said Brown. "They had stronger winds, roofs were ripped off houses - siding blew off and they had a lot of hail."

Etergy reported thousands of customers were without power most of the morning and into the afternoon.

Brown says Sterlington Middle sustained roof damage and classes were cancelled for today but they hope to open back up tomorrow. 

He says there were no reports of funnel clouds but high winds downed power lines, trees and blocked roads.


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St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office Cpl. Burt Hazeltine has been released from the hospital and the sheriff's office will host a benefit lunch/dinner for him today in Destrehan.  Hazeltine was shot last week while directing traffic in a school zone in Paradis.  

Captain Pat Yoes says they're holding this fundraiser because Hazeltine has a long road ahead toward recovery.
"Burt and his family have a little time ahead of them before he will be able to report back to work, so we want to lessen that burden."

The fundraiser will happen at the Shriner's Hall in Destrehan from 11AM til 8PM.  Yoes says plates are just $10 and you will have three different menu options to choose from.  He says all of the proceeds from the benefit will go to Hazeltine and his family to help with expenses while he is out of work.

"Although he does have sick leave and all, there is still extra duty details that most law enforcement officers work.  This will help carry him over until he can get back to full duty." 

Yoes says Hazeltine is very fortunate to have survived the shooting in what law enforcement officials have described as an ambush.  He says Hazeltine is doing remarkably well as he begins the road to recovery.

"He does have some issues.  He has some concerns that he is going to have to address and it's going to take some time before we know the answer to all of these."


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Michelle Southern reporting.
The state Department of Transportation wants to hear how motorists feel the I-10 through Baton Rouge should be improved. They've created a survey you can take online at i10br.com as part of a study to determine the feasibility of any enhancements it could make to the congested area from West Baton Rouge to the I-10/12 split. 

"The survey is a chance for anybody who wants to provide input into what they believe would be beneficial for the corridor," says DOTD spokesman Rodney Mallett. "This is an outlet for them to do that."

Mallett says they will be gathering your answers through the end of May.

"LSU is doing a scientific phone survey where they are going to poll people in the area," said Mallett. "We're also going to put together focus groups to get with people to see what input they have on how to improve this area."

Mallett says they are going to compile all of the information and hold a series of public meetings in August and provide some concepts based on what was gathered. He says this study is about finding out what will help traffic, safety and enhance the corridor.

"Then after we get all that information, we would move to the environmental assessment."


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Michelle Southern reporting.
Cops say a now ex-teacher from Lake Charles Charter Academy is under arrest amid allegations of sexual misconduct with one of her juvenile students. Lake Charles Deputy Chief Mark Kraus says they received a complaint from the mother of the victim that 35-year-old Sommer Nicole Odom of Iowa had inappropriate contact with her juvenile son on several occasions.

"We have searched the suspect's residence and did some work at the school itself interviewing people to support the allegation," said Kraus.

Kraus says Odom is charged with 3 counts of oral sexual battery, 4 counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile and 1 count of sexual battery. 

The suspect's bond was set at $120,000 which was posted. 

Kraus says more charges could be coming but right now they have enough evidence to turn over to the DA.

"At that point they will decide whether to pursue those charges or not."



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Despite opposition from Governor Bobby Jindal, the Senate Education panel approves legislation designed to control the cost of the TOPS scholarship program. The bill's author, Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue, says as tuition costs rise, so does the cost for TOPS and something needs to be done to preserve the program.
"It ensures the viability of TOPS in the future," Donahue said. 
TOPS is expected to cost the state over 250-million dollars this year and that cost is expected to grown to nearly 400-million dollars by fiscal year 2018-19. Donahue's bill would set a baseline on how much the state will spend on TOPS and it will not automatically increase with the rise in tuition. 
"So this helps manage the growth of TOPS," Donahue said. "Each new student as they come aboard will get the same stipend unless the legislature decides to raise that," Donahue said.
But Jindal's Deputy Chief of Staff, Stafford Palmieri, says Donahue's bill breaks a promise Louisiana made to TOPS recipients that the state would fully pay their tuition.
"Our concern is that this legislation would negatively impact the program and disincentive students to go to post-secondary education," Palmieri said. 
Despite the governor's office objection, the bill passed on a 4-3 vote in the Senate Education Committee and now heads to the Senate floor.  


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Two bills that attempt to address gender inequality when it comes to pay failed to get approval from the House Labor Committee. Natchitoches Representative Kenny Cox says Louisiana has the worst pay gap in the nation at 66 percent. Alexandria Representative Lance Harris says employees are hard enough to find and this legislation would be a strain on business owners like himself.

"And where I'm at in my newest location I have to start out my employees at $11.50 an hour just to get them to work," said Harris. "If I put a mirror in front of them and they fog it up, I'm going to hire them. So it doesn't matter."

Harris feels the data is skewed when it comes to saying Louisiana is 51st in the nation for gender pay equality because we have a different workforce here.

Hammond Representative Chris Broadwater says laws like this would open up floodgates of litigation.

"Whether it ends up being proven or not proven for individuals that may not even be aware that there is an allegation that someone is being treated unfairly," said Broadwater.


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Now that Blue Bell has pulled all of its product off of supermarket shelves due to the potential they could be contaminated with Listeria, what can we expect next from the company?  Tulane Business Professor, Mark Rosa, says, unfortunately, we've seen this type of situation before.
"I remember the Tylenol scare many years ago and what ripple effect that has through the community.  They're just exposed to a significant amount of reputation risk."

Federal health officials say three people have died and five others have fallen ill from bacteria that may have come from Blue Bell products.  A company spokesperson says they are focusing on cleanup and working to make sure they have a safe product.  Rosa says, after all this negative attention, Blue Bell faces a huge undertaking in regaining their reputation and customers.

"They have to make new product, people have to feel comfortable with it buying it again, stocking store shelves.  So it is quite a herculean effort."

A Blue Bell spokesperson says the company could start shipping product to stores again in the next couple of weeks.  Rosa says this is something that will stick in the minds of customers.

"It eventually wears away and their products begin to appear on store shelves and people are buying them and so on."


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