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The House Education Committee advances a measure that would ban corporal punishment of any kind in public schools. House Bill 497 is by Shreveport Representative Barbara Norton who says there is no proof that spanking a student has actually worked at changing behavior.

"In the study that was done, the same students that were paddled in 2010 were also paddled in 2011," said Norton.

On a 6-5 vote, the measure now heads to the House floor. Norton said, in addition to corporal punishment possibly opening up to door to lawsuits, it shouldn't be up to educators to punish kids by paddling them.
 
"I believe that is the parents responsibility," said Norton. 
 
Louisiana's school boards association says 38 of the state's 69 public school districts allow schools to use corporal punishment. 
 
 
 

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A bill that would ban so-called sanctuary city policies barely passed out the House Criminal Justice Committee. Chairman Sherman Mack broke a 7-7 tie by casting the final “yes” vote. Denham Springs Representative Valarie Hodges says her measure isn’t about discrimination, but putting America first. She says she raised her children in Mexico for 18 years…

“I love Hispanics, Nicaraguans, Hondurans, Chinese, I love everybody. This is not about being discriminatory, this is not about being racist. It’s about following the rule of law.”

But Baton Rouge native Melissa Yarborough spoke in opposition. Yarborough says this measure states that communities are better off without illegal aliens. She says her life was flipped upside down when her fiancé was deported.

“Deporting people who have already established their lives here without regard to the rolls they play in our communities and economy, is highly disruptive to our families, our businesses and our community.”

Attorney General Jeff Landry says this legislation will ensure that no jurisdiction in the state will attempt to invite illegal immigrants into Louisiana. He says the bill does not say Louisiana doesn’t support immigrants but there is a rule of law to follow.

“This bill will guarantee that Louisiana is never the target of federal agencies who want to deny our law enforcement agencies funding.”

The legislation targets New Orleans, because it’s police force has a policy that prohibits officers from questioning the immigration status of individuals who commit or report a crime. Researcher with the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University Sue Weishar,

“This is good public policy because questioning people about their immigration status undermines public trust.”

 

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A bill that would prohibit the use of corporal punishment on children with disabilities in public schools passes out of the House Education Committee. The panel was told that 38 public school districts in Louisiana allow corporal punishment. And Michelle Hurst with the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council says unfortunately students with disabilities are on the receiving end of this kind of punishment.

“Students who have limited social skills or limited communication skills sometimes results in more intense, challenging behaviors.”

This legislation filed by Baton Rouge Rep. Franklin Foil is part of Governor Edwards’ legislative agenda. Hurst says the use of physical punishment for students with disabilities takes away their dignity. She says many times teachers do not understand how to handle these students.

“Educators tend to use this approach instead of seeking alternative ways to either provide consequences to the students or provide more effective teaching strategies.”

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The House Health and Welfare Committee advances a bill that would limit first-time opioid prescriptions in Louisiana, in the hopes of addressing a growing opioid epidemic. Former Assistant Secretary of Health, Dr. Karen DeSalvo testified in support of the bill.

She says across the country 90 people are dying a day from opioid overdoses.

“We’ve all been to the funerals. We’ve seen the headlines. We know that the increase in opioid deaths related to prescription drugs meant that 891 people in Louisiana lost their life in 2014 alone,” DeSalvo said.

The proposal by New Orleans Representative Helena Moreno would limit first-time opioid prescriptions to a 7-day supply. The measure also requires doctors to tell their patients about the risks involved with taking pain pills. DeSalvo says this allows for an open dialogue between patients and their doctors.

“They need to ask their doctors about harms. They need to tell their doctor if they have any history of substance abuse disorder, and they need to be willing to come forward if they think that they do to have an opportunity for treatment and recovery,” DeSalvo said.

The bill allows patients to request pharmacists not fill the entire quantity of opioid prescription if they don’t need it. DeSalvo says this will limit the number of extra pain pills people have in their medicine cabinets, which keeps them away from friends and family. She says this can prevent other people from getting addicted to painkillers.

“Those who are prescribed prescription drugs but don’t take them and they languish in the medicine cabinet, we know from talking to young people that’s where they get started on using opioids,” DeSalvo said.

The measure now heads to the House floor for more discussion.

 
 
 
 
 

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A measure that would require public schools to teach litter prevention and awareness to students from kindergarten to fifth grade passed out of the House Education Committee. Executive Director of Keep Louisiana Beautiful Susan Russell spoke in support of the bill and says educating young children on litter will give them the tools to become good environmental stewards.

“We are counting on them to break the cycle of neglect and to raise the bar for a clean and beautiful Louisiana.”

The proposed law would require litter instruction be integrated into the existing science curriculum. Russell says it’s no secret Louisiana has a huge litter problem. She says the purpose of educating young students is to prepare them for tomorrow’s world.

“Littering is not a new problem but it has changed since we were in grade school and it will continue to get worse if we don’t do something about it.”

Executive Director of the Louisiana School Boards Association Scott Richard also spoke before the committee. He says while they support the efforts to ensure the state is not at the top of the list for littering, it’s important to point out,

“Anti-littering and taking care of the environment are embedded throughout the curriculum and that’s the point I wanted to come to the table and make.”

 

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More than a dozen UL-Lafayette football players have been suspended indefinitely from the team after allegedly robbing a dorm room on campus. Lt. Billy Abrams with the UL-Lafayette Police Department says 13 football players stole several items from a room in Huger Hall.

“They took several items totaling approximately $2,400. During the course of the investigation, video surveillance was obtained, and we were able to identify who these students were,” Abrams said.

Abrams says at this time, police are unsure what led the football players to commit this crime. He says all of the students are charged with conspiracy to commit felony theft.

“All of the students turned themselves in to Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, and they all cooperated throughout the investigation. We were able to recover all of the items that were stolen,” Abrams said.

Head football coach Mark Hudspeth issued a statement saying, “On behalf of our football program, I would like to apologize to Cajun Nation and the University. We do not condone the behavior that was represented and we expect higher standards of our student-athletes. We work diligently every day to guide, educate and develop these young men, so it is disappointing when we do not meet those standards. We will be respectful of the legal process as it runs its course."

 
 
 
 
 

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The House rejects a bill to shorten the waiting period for a divorce for parents with minor children. The proposal by Homer Representative Patrick Jefferson would reduce the waiting period from one year to six months. But Livingston Representative Sherman Mack says families need ample time to make sure they’re making the right decision.

“The reason the law was changed 11 years ago was to give families the opportunity to exhaust every remedy possible so they could determine if their family was worth saving,” Mack said.

The bill sought to undo an extended waiting period that was put on the books for couples with children, as lawmakers believed given ample time, couples could resolve their problems. Baton Rouge Representative Rick Edmonds also opposed the bill. He says he stands against divorce, period.

“We stand for that man and that woman standing and loving each other together for a lifetime, and anything that we can do to put a family in a position to stay together, we ought to do that,” Garafola said.

But Jefferson is disappointed his legislation failed on a 52-44 vote. He says the longer waiting period isn’t fair to couples who just want the stress of the divorce to be finalized in a speedy fashion.

“Do we make them remain married? Is that what we’ve come to because the data indicates that a two parent household is the best household,” Jefferson said.

 
 
 
 
 

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A measure that would prohibit the use of tobacco products anywhere on a public or private school campus is scheduled to be heard in the House Education Committee today. West Monroe Representative Frank Hoffman says in the 90’s, Louisiana made it illegal to smoke in schools, but this legislation will expand on that law.

“It’s not just buildings now, but all of the school property that will not allow smoking.”

Hoffman says there will be some exceptions to the bill, like churches or other non-educational buildings. But the West Monroe legislator says measure also includes e-cigarettes and similar devices.

“And it also will exclude the use of these products while transporting students on buses or other vehicles.”

Hoffman says the proposed law allows you to bring cigarettes or tobacco on a school campus, but you would not able to smoke or chew tobacco. He says the use of smoking cessation products on the property would be allowed under the measure.

“If that product has been approved for use by the United States Drug and Food Administration, that’s for people who are trying to stop and have these smoking cessation products and that would be allowed.”

 
 

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University View, a public online charter K-12 school, is expanding to offer high school students the chance to receive a free two year Associate’s Degree when they graduate from high school.

UView Superintendent Dr. Lonnie Luce says most college courses will be available online but some classes in the technical field are face to face at a community college campus.

“If the students have the ACT scores, we will actually pay full tuition and have our students face to face in those classes. For instance, it’s kind of hard to teach welding online.”

Luce says the Early College Program allows graduates to save two years of costs towards a college degree or be prepared to enter a technical field at a higher pay rate. He says now that UView is a K-14 public school, the number of students increased to 2,300.

“We were allowed to expand our numbers, we were at 2,100 students this year but they’ve upped our numbers to allow us to have the Early College Program.”

The program will start during the fall semester of 2017. Luce says families interested in the early college program can attend an information session online or in person by visiting universityview.academy. He says enrollment for the program is now open.

“We still have some slots open, it’s kind of a first come, first serve on the numbers. So, we look forward to having people go to our website and get signed up.”

 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards remains hopeful lawmakers can pass a budget plan to address the loss of $1.3 billion in temporary taxes that expire next year. Edwards spoke with reporters shortly after his proposed tax on business sales was tabled for the legislative session. Edwards says there are still multiple tax bills waiting to be discussed.

“Things like lowering the rate and broadening the base of the individual income tax, corporate income tax, the sales tax, all of which come from the task force report,” Edwards said.

But Edwards says since the GOP dominated House Ways and Means committee didn’t like his plan, House Republican leaders should unveil their own proposal.

“At this point in time I’m looking for the House leadership to step up, offer solutions, not just continue to say no,” Edwards said.

But Chairman of the House Republican Legislative Delegation Lance Harris of Alexandria says the legislative process is their plan, and that starts with the proposed budget for next fiscal year.

“Appropriations is looking at getting HB1 out next week. So that’s part of the plan is being immersed in the legislative process,” Harris said.

Harris says legislators will continue to look at various bills. Other ideas on the table include changing how sales taxes are collected and altering income tax brackets. He anticipates the GOP can support some of those ideas.

“There’s 160 bills, I think, that have been filed. So I know there’s going to be some that will be passed out of committee on the floor. So naturally there will be some things that we look at, no question about it,” Harris said.

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The centerpiece to Governor John Bel Edwards’ tax plan fails to receive support from the House Ways and Means Committee and the legislative sponsor decides not to move forward with the legislation. Franklin Representative Sam Jones says the Commercial Activity Tax proposal would provide a stable revenue stream for the state, but the legislature doesn’t support it.

“We need to be able to tell businesses, this is what the deal is and we’re not going to change it on you. We need to change this once and for all and maybe this isn’t the way to do it.”

The CAT Tax as it was known, would’ve imposed a tax on transactions that businesses make and would’ve generated nearly 300 million dollars in state revenues. But the measure received stiff opposition from business groups, who says this tax would hurt the state’s business climate. President of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association Chris John,

“This bill, certainly runs contrary to job creation. This bill will kill the very industry that we depend on to be able to climb out of this economic recession that we have.”

Head of the anti-tax organization Gator PAC, Col. Rob Maness, says this tax policy encourages and allows Louisiana to spend more than the economy can sustain.

“This tax and the destabilization of the business climate that it brings, will crush medium and small businesses, especially in the oil and gas business.”

 

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Michelle Southern & Halen Doughty reporting.
On a 6 to 1 vote, a Senate Judiciary committee approves a proposal to abolish the death penalty in Louisiana. The bill by Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor would eliminate the death penalty for capital murder and aggravated rape cases after July 31.
 
Bishop Shelton Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux says taking a life should be left to a higher power.

"The primary, and most important reason to end the death penalty, is because of our belief that all human life is sacred," said Fabre.

New Orleans Attorney Nick Trenticosta testifies 82 percent of death penalty sentences in Louisiana have been reversed, a rate he says is the highest in the country. He adds the death penalty doesn’t provide closure for the victims in these cases. Rev. Leo Cyrus of New Hope Baptist Church in Baton Rouge agrees.

"We can never return to them the life that was taken through violence, but we can help them seek healing," said Cyrus.

The head of the Louisiana Public Defender Board says the state spent $91 million defending death penalty cases since 2008.

Speaking in opposition to the bill is Christie Battaglia [bat-tà-glia] whose father is on death row in Texas for shooting and killing his two other daughters when they were age 6 and 9. 

"I'm confident that if he had the chance to not be in prison, that I probably wouldn't be here," said Battaglia.

Battaglia says she knows that some people are wrongly on death row, but that means there is a problem with the system and not that others don’t need to be executed. She says her father is an angry killer who will never change.

"If the death penalty didn't exist, and he got life without parole, but then it was changed to being able to get parole, I would be living in fear," said Battaglia.

The lone nay vote was from Baton Rouge Senator Bodi White.
 
 
 

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A state lawmaker plans to move forward with her legislation designed to protect Confederate monuments, even though the process of removing them has begun in New Orleans. The Liberty Place monument was taken down early Monday morning, and the city also plans to remove three more confederate-era statues. Franklinton Senator Beth Mizell opposes what Mayor Mitch Landrieu is doing.

“I don’t want to see anything that is part of the story of the people of Louisiana being compromised, and that’s things I like and things I don’t like. It’s all part of how we got to where we are today,” Mizell said.

That’s why Mizell will still seek passage of her bill, which requires the legislative approval before local government can remove any monument.

“If a municipality came to the legislature and had some good reason to remove an object, then the legislature representing the people of the state of Louisiana would see whether that was a valid request or not,” Mizell said.

Mizell says the bill would not only protect confederate monuments. She says it includes memorials that have been in place over 25 years and any landmark on the National Register of Historical Places.

“The point of the bill is to protect all monuments. This is the mixing pot that Louisiana is. We all have objects that we hold dear that some group in some day could find objectionable,” Mizell said.

Mizell says it’s unclear when her bill will get a hearing in the Committee on Senate and Governmental Affairs, but it could be too late to save the monuments that the city of New Orleans plans to remove.

 
 
 
 
 

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Two individuals from Orange, Texas have been arrested and one is still on the loose after allegedly tying up an elderly Starks man for hours and stealing his guns, cell phone and wallet. Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso says the victim was discovered when a food delivery showed up at his home.

“Meals on Wheels was going to deliver meals to this 83-year-old gentleman’s house, where they encountered him tied up. It appears, from our investigation, that he’d been there approximately 7 hours.”

Mancuso says 32-year-old Thomas Henson and 33-year-old Lea Pence were arrested and authorities are still searching for 43-year-old Michael Helmer, known as Mikey Irish. He says the three individuals face multiple charges including, cruelty to the infirmed and false imprisonment while armed with a dangerous weapon.


“I know that we’re going to change them with everything we can at this point and my hopes are we can change them with some type of stalking because we know we can account for them showing up at the house a couple days before.”

All three suspects have previous criminal records. Mancuso says in his opinion, these individuals stalked and took advantage of the elderly gentleman.

“When you prey on our elderly and our kids, that really can’t protect themselves, I think that’s the worst type of crime that you can have and we’re going to come at you as hard as we can, simple as that.”

 
 

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Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser is not happy the Liberty Place monument in New Orleans was taken down under the cover of night. The monument commemorated a group of white supremacists who fought against the racially integrated police force in 1874. Nungesser says the monuments should stay in place because they’re part of Louisiana’s history.

“We can’t change history. Obviously of the four, the one that was taken down was the most controversial, but Lee Circle and these other monuments, where does it stop?” Nungesser said.

The New Orleans City Council voted to remove four confederate-era monuments, including statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard. Nungesser says he’s doing everything he can to make sure the rest of the city’s monuments remain in place.

“I did write the president and our congressmen and senators, and I’ve asked the attorney general to sue and try to stop it. Nobody seems to think we’ve got much of a leg to stand on,” Nungesser said.

Nungesser suspects the removal of the monuments, which have been there for a hundred years, is a political move by Democratic Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who’s been pushing to take them down since 2015. But he says there are monuments all over the world commemorating darker parts of history.

“A lot of monuments all over have been erected, things that over time we realized were not good things, but it doesn’t change history to take them down,” Nungesser said.

 
 
 
 
 

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It’s expected a 30 second commercial from Governor John Bel Edwards will hit the airwaves this week, promoting his budget plan. The governor is pushing a proposal to place a new tax on businesses while reducing individual income taxes. Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat says he doesn’t have much support from legislators.

“I think this is a PR war with him and the Republicans where he’s trying to get support for his approach to funding government. The Republicans are not going to change their votes because of this ad.”

The governor is recommending this tax plan as a way to offset $1.3 billion in temporary sales taxes that are set to expire next year. Pinsonat says Republicans are not overly concerned with the higher sales taxes but Edwards is looking out for his low income supporters.

“Shift the sales tax off the poor people and enact either an income tax or an activity tax, which would be more on Republicans and businesses.”

The PAC, Rebuild Louisiana, is paying for the ad. Pinsonat says the goal of Edwards’ ad is to blame the Republicans for the state’s failing tax plan.

“He’s going to appeal to the middle class and the lower middle class that the Republican are the bad guys and he’s trying to fix the outdated tax structure in Louisiana and the big bad Republicans won’t help him.”

 
 

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Country music sensation and Breaux Bridge native Hunter Hayes is taking time out of his busy schedule to help connect veterans with the healing power of dogs, through the Heartgardians Sweepstakes. Hayes says he decided to get behind the effort when he found out about the Warrior Canine Connection program.


"They raise, from puppies, these service dogs who have veterans training them, for veterans," said Hayes. "To have them not only as service dogs but also companions."

Heartgardians is a consumer sweepstakes that gives people nationwide the opportunity to nominate a US Service Member or Veteran to win a trip to Nashville, and a year's supply of Heartgard Plus. Hayes says you can enter by using the hashtags #NominateAVeteran on Twitter or Instagram.

"Tell your story about a veteran you love, because for every nomination, Heartgard with donate $10 to Warrior Canine Connection," said Hayes.

Hayes says, as a huge pet lover since his days growing up in Acadiana, he wants to help get the word out about a dog's profound ability to help heal a heart, and the importance of keeping our furry friends protected from heartworm disease.

He encourages his friends in Louisiana to take part, and promises he'll be visiting soon.

"We've got a few things in the works we're really excited about," said Hayes. "We miss you guys."
 
 
 

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A bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Louisiana goes before a Senate Committee today. Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor says this would end the death penalty for first degree murder and rape offenses committed after July 31st. He says given the state’s massive budget problems, this punishment makes no fiscal sense.

“We’re really not getting what we paid for. If you look over the last 10 years, we’ve spent $100 million for one death on death row.”

The former prosecutor says he used to be in support of the death penalty, but his views have shifted because of moral and religious beliefs. Claitor, who is Catholic, says we should promote life, not snuff it out.

“Once upon a time I would’ve been happy to prosecute it, I’ve come to the position now that our society is not any better by putting these people to death, we’re not any safer.”

The measure would not affect individuals currently on death row. Claitor says other states that don’t have the death penalty, have a lower homicide rate. He says Louisiana does not get a return on the dollars by killing prisoners convicted of murder.

“It costs a lot to prosecute them, it costs a lot to defend them, and it costs a lot to house them and it costs a lot to get the drugs.”

 

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The centerpiece of Governor John Bel Edwards plan to overhaul Louisiana's tax structure did not receive a warm reception from Republicans in the House Ways and Means committee. Franklin Representative Sam Jones says the Commercial Activity Tax would raise over 400-million dollars in taxes on businesses, but the governor's plan also calls for a reduction in individual income taxes.


"It's time for us to decide if we want to help 90% of the residents in this state get a tax cut," Jones said.  
 
But Shreveport Representative Alan Seabaugh says any tax on business, will be passed down to the consumer.
 
"If a business gets hit with this new tax and decides to raise their prices to make up for that loss, than whoever buys their product is ultimately going to be paying more," Seabaugh said.
 
Monroe Representative Jay Morris also opposes this new tax on businesses, because it will be residents who pay for this tax not the company.
 
"The first thing that concerns me is that this bill is going to pass through entities and there by create a double taxation," Morris said. 
 
The governor is proposing this Commercial Activity Tax on businesses as a way to generate revenue to make up for the one-point-three billion dollars in temporary sales taxes that expire next year. But Baton Rouge Representative Barry Ivey fears this tax on business sales will hurt economic development efforts.
 
"The more and more we try to get out of business, the less we get, because we don't get those 10-billion dollar projects," Ivey said.
 
Louisiana recently lost out to Texas for a massive petrochemical plant that will be built near Corpus Christi. Ascension and St. James Parish were other potential landing spots.  
 
 

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Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Deputies are looking for the gunman who fired shots into an elderly victim’s home over the weekend, killing an 80-year-old woman. Major Wendell Raborn says authorities responded to several calls reporting gunshots in the area off South Hopkins Street in New Iberia.

“She was apparently on the phone with a friend and they heard gunshots and she screamed and there was no further contact with her. So they called us to go back and check on them.”

The woman has been identified as Bertha Hill. Raborn says when deputies responded, they were unable to get a response from inside the home.

“When they got to the house they saw the gunshots into the front door of her house and they forced open the door and found her inside laying on the ground. She had been wounded, unfortunately she passed away.”

Raborn says there was a large crowd surrounding the home when police arrived but no one was able to give any information into who shot into the home. But he says since then, the community has been very helpful.

“It has generated quite a few calls that are leading to some good leads. I think the community has finally woken up and said enough is enough and are finally ready to stand up to these guys who are terrorizing their neighborhoods.”

 
 

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