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Governor John Bel Edwards has issued a call for a second special session to address a 600-million dollar shortfall for the fiscal year that begins June 1st. The special session will convene on Monday night, June 6th and it must adjourn by midnight June 23rd. Edwards says the session is necessary to fully fund TOPS, health care, K-through-12 education and public colleges. The governor says his legislative package calls for several responsible revenue-raising measures.

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A pregnant Thibodaux woman has been arrested after having a sexual relationship with a juvenile. Thibodaux Police Cpl. David Melancon says 24-year-old Alison Thibodaux had an inappropriate relationship with a teenager, which ended last December.

“The juvenile and Alison Thibodaux ended up meeting at someone’s home and developed a friendship which eventually turned sexual in nature, having sex about one time a week for the next several months,” Melancon said.

Melancon says Thibodaux has been charged with felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile, but more charges could be filed pending an investigation. He says Thibodaux also sent inappropriate pictures to the juvenile via text message. Melancon says the juvenile and his mother came forward when they learned Thibodaux was pregnant.

“Alison Thibodaux ended up becoming pregnant within the time frame that this improper relationship was going on. We haven’t determined yet if the juvenile is actually the father,” Melancon said.

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An arrest has been made in the murder of East Feliciana School Board member, Broderick Brooks, who was found dead in his vehicle in north Baton Rouge earlier this week. Cpl. L’Jean Mckneely says 19-year-old Jaquez Griffin has been charged with first degree murder.

“We were able to collect sufficient evidence that allowed us to bring him down to police headquarters, and upon questions we were able to get what we needed that lead us to arrest him for first degree murder,” Mckneely said.

Brooks was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds at 3:30 am on May 23. Mckneely says Griffin has been booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. He says the motive for the shooting is still under investigation.

“We’re not very clear as to what transpired, what things led to him being shot by Mr. Griffin,” Mckneely said.

Brooks was said to be an active member of the school board, who was loved by everyone.

 
 
 

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The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration has released its 2016 Atlantic Hurricane season forecast. NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan says there is a 70% chance of 10 to 16 named storms during this season.

“4 to 8 of those are expected to become hurricanes and between one and 4 of those are hurricanes are expected to grow to category three or higher.”

The average season typically includes around 12 named storms. The Colorado State forecast team has predicted 13 named storms. Sullivan admits this year’s forecast is challenging because of various factors related to sea surface temperatures and how strong La Nina and its impacts will be.

“So, there is uncertainty as to whether these forces will be reinforcing each other or competing with respect to tropical storm formation.”

Sullivan says El Nino, which hinders tropical storm production, is dissipating and the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 70-percent chance that a La Nina will form.

“In the Atlantic, La Nina favors more hurricane activity, but model predictions show uncertainty as to how strong the La Nina impacts will be.”

 
 

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Grillers are in luck as there is plenty of beef to cook up this Memorial Day weekend. CEO of the Cattle Producers of Louisiana Dave Foster says beef was sold to retailers at a lower price compared to previous years and so consumers should see some good deals out there.

“Will the retailers pass those savings on to the customers is the first thing and if they do then a lot of product will move through this weekend.”

Foster says this is a big part of the season for beef producers, especially because Father’s Day is also around the corner. He says meat lovers should enjoy decent prices for the summer, because cattle prices on the market are lower this year.

“The live cattle were somewhere in that $1.25 range and a year ago at this time they were up into the $1.30’s- $1.40’s.”

Foster says we’ve really turned into a hamburger society and ground beef seems to be the most popular type of beef bought in stores. He says half of the cow is used for ground beef and the other half is used for primal cuts.

“The first thing I would say is ground beef is going to be a major thing, the next thing of course is your steaks and that will be a big thing for Memorial Day for sure.”

 
 

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A Louisiana man has died after being stung by more than a thousand bees in a park in Arizona. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputy Joaquin Enriquez says 23-year-old Alex Bestler of Elton and a friend were hiking in the Usery Mountain Park when they were attacked by a swarm of bees. He says Bestler’s friend was able to escape into a bathroom, but Bestler was overcome by the swarm.

“A nearby Good Samaritan and park personnel tried to reach him several times, but they were unable to because of the aggressiveness of the bees,” Enriquez said.

Enriquez says sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, and EMS were immediately called to the scene. He says Sgt. Romer with the Sheriff’s Lake Patrol suited up in his jacket and gloves and duct taped his sleeves to the gloves before commandeering a utility vehicle and braving the swarm to retrieve Bestler.

“They were driving away, and the swarm of bees is still following them as they’re extracting him from the location. They were able to get him where the fire personnel were. They used repellant to get the rest of the bees off of him,” Enriquez said.

Enriquez says the park is closed through the weekend pending an investigation. He says Bestler was completely covered in bees.

“For every three to four square inches, there was about two to three hundred bees on him. So obviously he was in very bad shape,” Enriquez said.

Enriquez says Bestler was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced deceased. An examination of the body showed over 1,000 bee stings.

 (photo courtesy of Facebook)
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards is expected to issue the call for another special session any day now, according to Jeremy Alford, publisher of LaPolitics.com. Edwards has said a second session is needed to raise revenues to address a $600 million budget deficit for next fiscal year. Alford says it’s likely lawmakers will not get a break from the State Capitol.

“The governor seems to want to start the special session right after the regular session ends. There’s been talk of actually starting it maybe even at 6:01 pm, which would be one minute after adjournment,” Alford said.

When the call is issued, lawmakers will know when the session will run, as well as what kinds of bills they will be able to submit. Alford says the call could include reductions to personal or corporate income tax credits and addressing issues not covered in the previous session.

“Folks in the administration are talking about a variety of issues, one being itemized deductions for individual income taxes. They’re looking at doing some fixes that are left over from the first special session,” Alford said.

Alford says the special session may only last as long as two and a half weeks. He says we won’t know for sure what will be on the call until it’s released. But he says there have been a few hints dropped on how to increase state revenues and avoid cuts to critical services.

“You’re looking at some deductions. You’re looking at some credits. I’ve been told the movie tax credit will not be on the call. Tobacco will not be on the call,” Alford said.

 
 
 

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NOAA will issue its outlook for the 2016 hurricane season today. State climatologist Barry Keim expects the federal forecasters will predict an average season. He says there are two factors working against each other, cooler than normal sea surface temperature, which is an indication for fewer storms, and La Nina coming later this season, which is an indicator for more storms.

“The general thinking right now is that these two factors are likely to cancel each other out for the most part, giving us something very close to a normal season,” Keim said.

Keim says an average season typically includes around 12 storms. Last year there was 11 named storms. Hurricane Isaac in 2012 was the last hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana. Keim says Louisianans should still be prepared, even though we are not looking at an above-average season.

“It certainly by no means, means that we’re off the hook. We always need to be on guard here in Louisiana,” Keim said.

2016 has already produced Hurricane Alex in January, which did not affect land and now we have a tropical disturbance that could impact the Carolinas this weekend. Keim says if this season does lean in one direction, it would probably lean towards a more active season.

“Having an early storm system at least suggests that the conditions are early on conducive to having some activity. So it’s not a great sign, but it’s probably not a strong indicator of what the rest of the season is going to be,” Keim said.

 
 
 

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The Edwards administration is urging the Senate to reject the House amendments that were made to the proposed budget for next fiscal year. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told the Senate Finance committee that the spending plan the House approved is not acceptable, because it will result in deep cuts to programs that assist the elderly and disabled.

“This is not the budget that you want, and it’s not the budget that we want, but it is about the most responsible way we think we can deal with a $600 million shortfall,” Dardenne said.

One of the major changes the House made to HB1 was reallocating money towards TOPS and away from hospitals that provide care for the poor. Dardenne explained what would happen under the current proposal, with TOPS fully funded.

“Our public-private partnership hospitals are decimated. Waiver programs are hugely at risk, and we have a wholly unacceptable budget,” Dardenne said.

The Senate Finance committee is expected to approve its own version of the budget in the coming days. Legislators have been struggling with how to fund state services, because of a 600-million dollar shortfall. Dardenne says the House’s attempt to shift money around will not work.

“We’re not appropriating $600 million for those needs because we don’t have it. So we’ll only be appropriating the money that we have available to us right now,” Dardenne said.

 
 
 

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Governor Edwards has signed the Blue Lives Matter Bill into law, which makes Louisiana the first in the nation to expand its hate crime laws to protect police, firefighters and EMS crews. Author of the legislation, Alexandria Representative Lance Harris says the new law allows prosecutors to seek tougher penalties against individuals who intentionally target first responders because of their profession.

“A misdemeanor is an extra fine up to $500, an extra 6 months in jail, and a felony is an extra $5,000 and an extra 5 years in jail,” Harris said.

Previous hate crime laws only included people on the basis of race, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or affiliation with certain groups. Harris says the legislation is long overdue.

“Animosity has been ratcheting up in some areas of the country and some areas of our society. So I think it’s only prudent that we put this kind of law in place,” Harris said.

President of the Louisiana NAACP, Ernest Johnson says this law is just a knee jerk reaction to the Black Lives Matter campaign and unnecessary.

“I haven’t heard of any police offices that have been killed as a result of people just hating the individual because the individual was a police officer and certainly not our firefighters,” Johnson said.

Five other states have tried to pass similar bills, but they all failed to pass. Johnson says he doesn’t think this bill will stand up in court. He says if you classify hate crimes by occupation, everyone should be included.

“The broad base would be, if we’re going to deal with those two professions, why not doctors, why not news reporters,” Johnson said.

 
 
 

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Earlier this morning the price of oil rose above 50 dollars a barrel for the first time since October. Executive Director at LSU’s Center for Energy Studies David Dismukes says this marks an important milestone and it might put an end to the job losses in this industry.

"It may stop, I would argue it would probably make a lot of companies think a little further before making additional layoff announcements but we're certainly a long ways from being out of the woods yet."

Crude oil was below 30 dollars a barrel earlier this year. Dismukes says the real challenge is to see if the increase is sustainable. He says the biggest catalyst for the uptick has been the recent fires in Canada.
 
"It's taken a lot of the tar sands production offline and has really cut a lot of the excess production that was out there are the market right now. There have been a few other interruptions in Nigeria and Libya that have helped to contribute to that."

Even with this increase, crude oil is still down 66% from the record high in July of 2008 where oil closed at $145 a barrel. Dismukes says with the higher prices, there’s less pressure for oil companies to make production caps or cuts. He says with oil trading at 50-dollars a barrel, it’ll be interesting to see if there will be an uptick in production.
 
"See if a lot of these drills and uncompleted wells that have been sitting around that are idle in many of the producing basins start to get kicked on at $50 increased cash flow for many of the operations."
 
 
 

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A report from the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums finds that the Baton Rouge Zoo is not at fault for the deaths of two giraffes who died in March. Zoo director Phil Frost says he requested an audit by the association because the giraffe deaths that occurred during a severe thunderstorm were very unusual.

“We would like someone from the AZA to come in and perform an audit on how we handled the situation and we wanted to make sure that if there was anything that we could learn and improve upon, we would do that.”

Frost says he’s proud the report shows zoo staff were professional and kept a cool head even with the circumstances. He says the Baton Rouge Zoo wanted to be professional and open during this situation because the public has a connection with these animals.

“We’re transparent as much as they can possibly be and if we’re going to celebrate the birth and let the public know about that, when we have a charismatic animal like a giraffe die, we’re going to let them know about that too.”

18 animals have died in the last year at the Baton Rouge Zoo. Frost says they’re working on getting more giraffes to the zoo but it could take a while because it’s not an easy process.

“Our blood lines and the blood lines that are in other zoos to determine which ones need to be represented and once that’s even decided it can be quite an ordeal of time in terms of when we ship during the hottest time of the year.”

 
 
 

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A Senate-approved bill that would allow patients to see physical therapists without a doctor’s referral also has the support of the House as it nears final passage. West Monroe Representative Frank Hoffman opposes the legislation. He says patients should see a doctor before seeing physical therapists, because doctors have more medical training.

“He would not be an expert to do those things, but he would have training, and of course the training is good for physical therapists, but nothing like doctors’ training,” Hoffman said.

Under the current law, patients must get a diagnosis from a doctor before seeing a PT. Hoffman says if physical therapists missed something in a patient’s diagnosis, they could seriously hurt that person, even paralyze them.

“That wouldn’t be a normal situation, but if it happened just once out of a thousand, that’s a real problem,” Hoffman said.

Ville Platte Representative Harvey LeBas is the House sponsor of the bill. He says Louisiana is one of only 7 states with this kind of law. He says because of this, PT grads are leaving Louisiana.

“We are currently losing approximately 20% of our recent graduates to other states,” LeBas said.

LeBas says physical therapists have the necessary training to see patients and take care of them.

“Let’s use them. They’re trained. They’re treated and know how to handle people, and they know how to recognize the disease states,” LeBas said.

The measure passed in the lower chamber on a 65-33 vote and heads back to the Senate for concurrence on House language.

 
 
 

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The bill to ensure that all TOPS students get at least part of their scholarship award is moving closer to final legislative passage. The legislation would go into effect in the case the legislature is not able to fully fund the popular scholarship program. Currently, 51,000 students receive TOPS. Hammond Representative Chris Broadwater says without this bill 13,000 students could lose their scholarships because of funding issues, which would be bad for the state’s economy.

“If you want to dry up development and expansion of business in the state of Louisiana, that’s a great way to do it,” Broadwater said.

Broadwater says this bill is needed to make sure that all TOPS students have the opportunity to go to college. He says this could keep more Louisiana students in the state.

“You provide every one of those individuals the hope of completing that college education and fulfilling one of those great jobs we have here in Louisiana and keeping our children at home,” Broadwater said.

Under current law, if TOPS is underfunded, students with the lowest GPA and ACT scores would be dropped from the program. Broadwater says a better route is if lawmakers decreased the amount of each award, instead of taking the entire award away from some students.

“Instead of eliminating the hope of 13,000 individuals, you provide the roughly 51,000 individuals who are on TOPS and say we will pay 75% of your tuition this year,” Broadwater said.

The measure passed the House and now heads back to the Senate so changes made to the bill can be approved.

 
 
 

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The nonprofit group Rebuild Louisiana is raising money that will go towards getting public support for Governor John Bel Edwards’ legislative agenda. It’s expected the governor will call a special session next month to address a $600 million budget shortfall. Chairman of Rebuild Louisiana, Mary Olive Pierson says the group is raising money because there are plenty of what she calls “hard heads” in the legislature.

“We have decided that maybe if we educate the public that votes for the hard heads, that they could then educate their representatives to what they really want,” Pierson said.

Several republican lawmakers have said a second special session should take place later in the year, after taxes were raised in the first special session. Pierson says Rebuild Louisiana is raising money through social media, direct mail, and every available outlet so they can spread their message through all popular mediums. She says one of their biggest concerns is the state budget. But she says they’re pushing for several issues.

“We’re certainly interested in Medicaid expansion. We’re interested in equal pay. We’re interested in minimum wage, and those are just the big ticket items,” Pierson said.

Pierson says they are concerned about some items that have already been defeated, such as equal pay for men and women. She says the fight isn’t over yet, because after this session, there will be another special session, and her organization will continue to push for their concerns.

“We’re not a one trick pony, and so we’re just going to continue to fight and educate people until we get a better decision on some of these issues,” Pierson said.

 
 
 

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An LSU AgCenter scientist has discovered a new way to reduce the sodium content in food. Marvin Moncada developed nanosalt, which is salt in a powder form that is about one-thousand times smaller than kosher salt.

Moncada says nanosalt is a natural alternative to reducing the amount of salt content in foods.

“You decrease the particle size, you increase the saltiness perception because you have more surface area to cover.”

Moncada says The CDC recommends individuals eat 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day but most people in the US eat double the amount. He says they’re still in the lab stage but expects tests to be conducted with consumers shortly.

“It’s possible that in the near future we can have this alternative out there in the market for the consumer.”

Moncada says hopefully we can lower the cases of high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases by reducing the sodium content in some foods.

“We test that this alternative can work in topping foods such as cheese crackers, such as chips, and maybe fries.”

 

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LSU has had many dramatic victories at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, but none took as long as Wednesday night-Thursday morning's 5-3 win over Florida in 14 innings.  
 
Jordan Romero snapped an 0-for-18 stretch with a single into right field to snap a 3-3 tie in the top of the 14th.
 
Nine-hole hitter Cole Freeman added a bloop single for a much needed insurance run in the 14th. 
 
LSU was one out away from ending this game in nine innings, but Gators second baseman Deacon Liput, singled through the right side of the infield to tie the game at three off of relief pitcher Hunter Newman. 
 
The Gators had a 2-0 lead going into the 8th inning, but the Tigers scored three times in that inning.

Florida starting pitcher A.J. Puk kept LSU's bats quiets for most of the night. The possible number one draft pick threw seven shutout innings, until he ran into trouble in the 8th inning.
 
Florida relief pitcher Dane Dunning was also very good. He tossed 4.1 innings, allowed one hit, one run and struck out four.
 
For LSU, Alex Lange started and tied a season-high with 11 strikeouts. Lange had trouble locating his curveball early and gave up two runs in the 1st inning. Once Lange settled down, he was dominate.
 
Jesse Stallings (3-0) is the unlikely hero. The sophomore from Grant Parish pitched five shutout innings, his longest outing of his career to get the win. Stallings gave up two hits and walked five and worked out of a bases loaded jam in the 11th inning.
 
Stallings got Florida left fielder Nelson Maldonado to pop out in the infield. The next batter, Deacon Liput, lined out to LSU third baseman Chris Reid, who touched the runner at third base for the final out of the inning.  
 
Here's how the Tigers scored in the 8th inning, freshman right fielder Antoine Duplantis started the rally with a one-out double down the left field line.
 
Jake Fraley followed with a single to center field. During that play, Florida catcher Mike Rivera took the throw from the outfield, but threw the ball back away trying to get Fraley out at second base. The throwing error allowed Duplantis to score, who had stopped at third base on the single.  
 
Fraley advanced to third base on the error, with Kramer Robertson coming to the plate. The Tigers clutch shortstop hit a chopper up the middle to Florida shortstop Dalton Guthrie. Fraley went on contact and was ruled safe at the plate on a bang-bang play. Replay showed that Fraley may have not gotten his foot on the plate, but the scoreboard was tied at two a piece. 
 
Robertson stole second base and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Bryce Jordan drove home Robertson on a grounder up the middle to give LSU a 3-2 lead.
 
The victory puts LSU in the winner's bracket and they'll face Mississippi State in the late game on Thursday night. But the Tigers will need their rest after this 5-hour, 7-minute contest. 
 

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AAA expects over 38 million Americans will travel over the Memorial Day weekend, the highest number of travelers since 2005. Spokesperson Don Redman says it’s due to low gas prices, which are currently around $2.10 a gallon for regular gasoline. He says these are the lowest gas prices we’ve seen in 11 years.

“The cheaper gas prices that we’re seeing this year and even cheaper than last year is really fueling the family budget, allowing people to get out and travel like they haven’t done before.”

Redman says from January until now, Americans have saved about 18 billion dollars that would usually go into their gas tanks. He warns drivers to be careful because a lot of travelers will be on the road this holiday weekend.

“This becomes a deadly time of the year with that many new travelers on the road all trying to reach their destination at the same time. If you can leave earlier do so, if you can stay later, do that as well, try to avoid some of these big rush hours.”

Redman also says over 2 million Americans will travel by plane this Memorial Day. He says the average price of a ticket for the top 40 domestic flight routes is 26 percent cheaper this holiday.


“When some of those contacts were purchased several years ago, jet fuels were much higher and now it has come down and some of those contracts are up for renewal, that’s why we’re seeing some of those prices.”

 
 

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Louisiana has joined several states seeking to block the Obama administration’s transgender bathroom policy in public schools. The federal government says public schools must allow transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, or risk losing federal funding. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry says the President does not have the legal authority to require children to share locker rooms and bathrooms with children of the opposite sex.

“There’s nowhere in Title IX that grants the federal government the authority to do what it claims it can do in that letter,” Landry said.

The lawsuit was filed in a federal courtroom in Texas. The White House has no comment on the suit. Landry says the federal government continues to direct education policy to the detriment of Louisiana students and he will not allow Washington wreak further havoc on our schools.

“This is an effort to protect those children and those parents from what they believe is a harmful policy,” Landry said.

Landry says if there are any attempts from the federal government to make good on their threats to withhold federal funding, the schools should contact his office so they can take legal action. He says Louisiana has joined 10 other states in an effort to get a judge to declare the directive unlawful.

“In reviewing the law and the Constitution, we have all come to the same conclusion, and so we do believe we will have some success in the federal courts,” Landry said.

 
 
 

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The adult smoking rate in the US is falling faster than is has in the past 20 years based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 50 years ago, roughly 42% of adults in the US smoked, and that rate has now fallen to about 15%. Renee Underwood with the state Department of Health and Hospitals says currently there is no state specific data on smokers. She says their department launched a statewide campaign last year to help people kick their tobacco habits.

“The campaign has reached over two million Louisiana residents with a focus on the northern half of our state, where smoking prevalence is higher among both youth and adult populations,” Underwood said.

The smoking rate in the US typically drops by less than 1% a year, but in 2015 the rate decreased by 2%. Underwood says she hopes campaigns like the Louisiana Tobacco Quit Line have helped reduce the number of smokers. She says the state quit line has helped more than 16,000 smokers just in the last year.

“The quit line offers free phone counseling and nicotine replacement therapy to callers 13 years of age or older,” Underwood said.

Underwood says DHH also partners with other organizations, such as the Louisiana Public Health Institute and the American Cancer Society, to reduce the number of people who start smoking and to get smokers the resources they need to quit.

“We also work in partnership with several statewide and national organizations to coordinate strategies that prevent young people from becoming smokers, eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke, and promote cessation services,” Underwood said.

 
 
 

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