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Governor John Bel Edwards along with DHL and Graphic Packaging International broke ground on a 1.27 million-square-foot folding carton plant and logistics center outside of Monroe. The expansion is estimated to be about 274 million dollars.

“GPI and DHL supply chain will make a combined $154 million capital investment in this location right here for a new world class logistics center.”

The project will create 93 new direct jobs and 74 indirect jobs. Edwards says GPI will continue to employ 800 workers at their mill in West Monore. He says Graphic Packing will move their folding cartons operation from West Monroe to the new facility in Monroe.

“These facilities are going to combine for an annual payroll in excess of $78 million, all told we’re talking on the order of 1,000 quality jobs in connection with these two new projects.”

The facility will be the size of six Mercedes Benz Superdomes. Edwards says not only will this expansion create more jobs at the logistics center but around north Louisiana.

“We know that these investments here in Ouachita Parish are going to radiate out to small businesses all across north Louisiana, more purchases are going to be made, more jobs are going to be created.”



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Many folks aren't aware, but Saturday is an election day in Louisiana. Voters in 46 parishes will be deciding on vacancies in the state House, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal and the Lake Charles Mayor's office. Secretary of State Tom Schedler says there is also a big Senate race.

"District 6 which is the Troy Brown resignation that we're filling," said Schedler. "That crosses 8 parishes."

Schedler says there are also many local propositions of tax renewals or new taxes to be decided throughout the state. He says if you aren't sure if there's an election in your area Saturday, check out the GeauxVote app.

"See what's on your ballot specific to you and your area and go exercise your right to vote," said Schedler.

Schedler says, unfortunately, he is not expecting a good turnout. He says the early voting turnout was a dismal 14%.

"In certain jurisdictions and parishes we may be able to get up to 30," said Schedler. "But blending it statewide we likely won't see much more than about 17-18%."


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Universities would be required to make an action plan to prevent unplanned teen pregnancies, under a proposal approved by the Senate Education Committee. New Orleans Senator Wesley Bishop spent decades working in higher education. He says he’s talked with many young women who dropped out of school for so-called medical reasons.

“When I talked to them and say what is the medical reason and is there something that the university can do to stop you, they’ll say, ‘Mr. Bishop, I’m pregnant,’ and it happens a lot,” Bishop said.

The measure would require all universities, community colleges, and trade schools to have a plan to help students prevent unplanned pregnancies to keep students in school. Bishop says only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school, and just two percent complete college by age 30.

“What’s interesting though in those 25 years, I have never had a young man to ever come into my office and say, ‘Mr. Bishop, I have to withdraw from school because my girlfriend is pregnant,” Bishop said.

Bishop says that’s because often times the responsibility of raising that child falls on the mother. He says pregnancy prevention is something that should be taught along with time management and study habits. He is confident if young people knew better, they would do better.

“It doesn’t matter if you have an A in your chemistry class if you can’t show up because you happen to be pregnant. You have to drop out of school. It gets to be very difficult,” Bishop said.

The proposal now heads to the full Senate.



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Northeast Louisiana could become the future home of a new medical school. University of Louisiana Monroe President Dr. Nick Bruno says the university is actively engaged in discussions with a private medical school they hope to partner with, but they still have to work out a lot of details.

“They have certain things for their accreditation that have to be met. Certainly we’re looking at facilities they need and where that might go and the cost of renovation to meet a medical school’s demand,” Bruno said.

Bruno says the school could begin accepting students as early as the fall of 2019. The school would have about 200 students on campus after two years, with 200 more doing clinical rotations in the community. He says this new med school could offer a lot of opportunities to students.

“The focus of these will be primary care physicians. However, specialties will also be pursued by those students according to their preference,” Bruno said.

Bruno says this partnership could help improve the health sciences programs already offered at ULM. He says it also has a tremendous potential impact on economic development if it brings more health professionals to the area.

“The potential for not only bridging the healthcare gap that we have but also dealing but also dealing with the issue of economic development- the number of homes, the number of students that come here,” Bruno said.



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The House overwhelmingly approved a measure to allow children to bring sunscreen to school and apply it themselves. It would also allow parents to designate someone at the school to help their children put on the sunblock. The lone dissenting vote came from Baton Rouge Representative Patricia Smith, who raised concerns about teachers putting lotion on students.

“You don’t want a kindergartner going home and saying, ‘Teacher put this sunscreen on me, but they didn’t touch me right,’” Smith said.

Baton Rouge Representative Barry Ivey says he’s always amazed at the items that become controversial on the House floor. He says there are spray and stick sunscreen that could be easier for young children. But he says nowadays young kids can work iPhones, so they can surely apply sunblock.

“At 3-years-old they’re showing adults how to use the dadgum thing, and so to assume that a child can’t apply sunscreen may not be accurate at 5-years-old,” Ivey said.

Students are not currently allowed to apply sunscreen at school. It must be administered by a nurse because it’s categorized the same way as prescription medications. Ivey was upset a bill like this was even necessary.

“What if we just took it off of that list? It’s sunscreen. It’s sunscreen. Has anybody OD’d on sunscreen?” Ivey said.

The measure was approved on a 99-1 vote and now heads to the Senate.



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Music lovers from all over the country are gathering in New Orleans for the Jazz & Heritage Festival that kicks off today. Producer Quint Davis says they have 580 musical acts over a two-weekend period. Harry Connick Junior, Maroon 5, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are headliners this weekend and 2nd weekend performers are just as good.

“We got Stevie Wonder back after getting cancelled last year. It’s hard to get Stevie Wonder in the first place, much less twice in a row,” Davis said.

Davis says they have a new attraction this year called Cuba Comes to Jazz Fest, which features 150 Cuban musicians and artisans with their own stage and tent. He says there’s even a kids food area that serves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He says keeping Jazz Fest family friendly is one of the secrets to its success for the last 48 years.

“There aren’t many, if any, big festival concerts where when you go you want to take your children and when you go your parents want to go too,” Davis said.

Davis says the two-weekend festival has a $300 million annual economic impact. He says since the festival ends at 7 PM each day, French Quarter restaurants benefit in a big way. He says the festival at the Fairgrounds Race Track really is like a mini version of the Big Easy.

“We have 13 stages going. We have 85 great restaurants. So we’re just a little New Orleans pumping away,” Davis said.



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A new drug called ‘pink’ is hitting the streets in Louisiana and is more deadly than heroin. East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark says pink is a synthetic opioid combined with Fentanyl. He says this drug has all of the same effects as heroin.

“Causing respiratory depression, CNS depression, ultimately leading to death and overdose. So, we’re concerned because now we’re starting to see it show up on some post mortem toxicology here in the Baton Rouge area.”

Pink originally gained media attention when a child overdosed from the drug in Colorado. Clark says drug dealers aren’t concerned with what they are selling so the buyer is unaware of the drug’s potency.

“You can see where that would create a huge problem, especially if the potency and the type of drug they are potentially going to ingest is high and deadly, unfortunately that’s when my office has to get involved.”

Clark says opioid addiction typically starts with abuse of prescription drugs. He says addicts are patients and need to be treated but access to these illicit drugs needs to be shut down.

“Law enforcement, the DEA need to shut down that drug traffic, so the person who is addicted can’t easily turn and grab some heroin and suffer the effects of overdose.”



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For the first time since 2007, two LSU players were selected within the first six picks of the NFL draft. Running back Leonard Fournette was the fourth overall selection to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Two picks later, the New York Jets took safety Jamal Adams.
In 2007, LSU also had two players taken within the first six picks. JaMarcus Russell went number one to the Oakland Raiders and LaRon Landry was drafted by the Washington Redskins at number six.  

With the number 11 overall pick, the Saints drafted a cornerback they desperately needed. Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore, who was expected to be a top 10 pick, but there was a run of offensive players early in the first round.
Lattimore played in 19 games at Ohio State, ran a 4.3 at the combine. He had four interceptions last season. He's considered the top cornerback in the draft, but he's had hamstring issues. 
A third LSU player was taken in the first round of the draft when Buffalo with the 27th pick selected cornerback Tre'Davious White. White had six interceptions during his LSU career and also returned three punts for a touchdown.  
New Orleans closed out the first round by selecting Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Scouts believe he can be a consistent run and pass blocker. Had only one holding call on him last season with the Badgers. Only the second offensive lineman drafted in the 1st round.
Former West Monroe and Alabama star Cam Robinson was not drafted on Thursday, but should go early in the second round.  


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Before the LSU players boarded the bus for Tuscaloosa, they made it known that it's now time for this team to start stacking victories. They lived up to that promise on Thursday with a 8-2 win over Alabama.
The victory improves the Tigers record to 11-8 in the SEC, while the Crimson Tide falls to a hapless 2-17.  

LSU got off to a good start by scoring three runs in the 1st inning. Nick Coomes and Kramer Robertson each drove in runs with singles and Josh Smith made it 3-0, with an RBI ground out.
That was offense for Tigers starting pitcher Alex Lange. The junior right-hander was solid as he struck out 10 in 7.1 innings. His only mistake was a two-run homer in the 2nd inning, which cut LSU's lead to 3-2.
LSU added runs in the 3rd and 4th innings. Jordan Romero had an RBI single and Coomes a run scoring ground out.
The Tigers put the game out of reach in the 9th inning as catcher Michael Papierski walked with the bases loaded and Antoine Duplantis brought home the final two runs of the game with a two-run double. 
The series resumes Friday night at 6 PM.  


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US Senator Bill Cassidy says President Donald Trump's tax reform plan will simplify the tax code, create jobs and incentivize investment and growth. Cassidy says he likes that Trump is engaged and following through with his campaign promises.

“Part of that is tax reform, whatever the outline of the plan is, it’s clear he wants businesses keeping their capital in the United States creating jobs for American workers.”

Part of the president’s plan would double the exemptions for families and small businesses would receive a tax cut. While there is some concern this tax structure would benefit the wealthy, Cassidy says this incentivizes business owners to put that money back into their company to create better jobs.

“We want to structure it so the small businesses would be using their money to grow their business and of course, growing your business means you hire more people and probably pay them more money.”

Cassidy says there hasn’t been a significant tax reform since 1986, with President Ronald Reagan. He says although it took a while to pass, Reagan was thoroughly engaged, just as Trump is.

“So having Trump engaged is essential, it doesn’t guarantee but it’s one of those things that must happen so we can just be pleased he’s engaged.”

Cassidy serves as a member of the Senate Finance Committee and will play a role in the passage of any tax reform plan.



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The former Destrehan High School teacher who allegedly had sex with a 16-year-old student isn’t out of the woods yet. Shelley Dufrense was found not guilty of carnal knowledge of a juvenile in Jefferson Parish, but the victim’s family has a civil suit pending in St. Charles Parish against the 34-year-old. Legal analyst Tim Meche says Wednesday’s verdict shouldn’t affect the outcome of the civil suit.

“Now that her criminal cases are over, she no longer has a Fifth Amendment right and cannot refuse to testify and give a deposition,” Meche said.

Dufrense pleaded guilty to an obscenity charge in St. Charles Parish in 2015 and is not required to register as a sex offender. But Meche says that plea deal could hurt her in the civil suit.

“She’s admitted her guilt in St. Charles Parish, and the defense in Jefferson was she had sex with the guy, but it wasn’t here in Jefferson Parish,” Meche said.

Three judges in the 29th Judicial District in St. Charles Parish have recused themselves from the civil suit because one of them is Dufrense’s father. Meche says the not guilty verdict in Jefferson Parish won’t help Dufrense much in the civil suit.

“She’s already admitted to having sex with him in St. Charles Parish, and his attorneys admitted that much,” Meche said.



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Authorities in Webster Parish have raided three alleged dogfighting rings and rescued over 30 dogs. Anna Ware is with an Altanta based group called Norred and Associates and they investigate animal cruelty cases. She says they received a report on their anonymous dogfighting tip line about an operation in North Louisiana so they contacted the Sheriff’s Office to investigate.

“The deputies investigated that and it led to two locations where there were two more arrested and additional dogs seized, totaling 34 dogs.”

Deputies originally arrested Randall Tims and Morgan Jones in Dubberly during the first raid, which then led to the arrests of Ketrick Frazier in Minden and Laracco Batton. Ware says the rescued dogs have never seen veterinary care in their lives. She says two animals died due to malnutrition.

“It’s also heart breaking to see the condition these dogs are in. Most of the dogs have tested heartworm positive, none of them have had rabies shots.”

Ware says it’s unbelievable that any human could treat an innocent animal like this. She says all of the dogs were living in horrible conditions.

“A 40 pound puppy, it was tied down with a 31.5 pound logging chain.



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A bill to provide parole eligibility for juveniles convicted of murder has been approved by the state Senate. Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor says his proposal would bring Louisiana in line with a 2012 Supreme Court decision that prohibits juvenile offenders from receiving life sentences without parole. The measure would provide parole eligibility after 25 years for juveniles who received life sentences after June 25, 2012.

“You can’t sentence juveniles to life in prison without possibility of parole, doesn’t mean you’re going to get it,” Claitor said.

Claitor’s original bill called for parole eligibility after 30 years, but during the debate it was amended down to 25.

“If you use 25 plus the criteria, there’re 14 people that are eligible for consideration,” Claitor said.

If enacted, the 14 inmates would be immediately eligible for parole consideration after time served. Metairie Senator Danny Martiny says a parole hearing would then determine if that person has at least tried to better themselves or abided by the rules.

“Doesn’t mean they get released. Does not mean in any way that the crime that they committed is any less heinous. The question becomes whether or not this person should be considered for parole,” Martiny said.

The measure passed on a 22-13 vote and heads to the House.



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Two bills approved by the House Criminal Justice Committee seek to extend domestic violence protections to more Louisiana couples. One proposal by Harvey Representative Patrick Connick would include same sex couples in domestic abuse laws. Baton Rouge Representative Denise Marcelle supports the measure.

“I think it’s important that we treat everybody the same, regardless of whether that’s for hire or for prosecution,” Marcelle said.

Louisiana is one of two states that has the opposite sex language on the books for domestic violence laws. Jody Fortunato with the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office says they are running into problems handling felony domestic abuse charges against same sex couples.

“We’re only able to charge those folks with a misdemeanor simple battery because the domestic abuse battery statute as written, we can’t use it,” Fortunato said.

Another proposal by New Orleans Representative Helena Moreno would include couples who are dating in the law. She says currently the laws only apply to couples who are living together or married. She says 41 other states cover dating partners in criminal laws.

“About 60 percent of the domestic violence cases are actually dating partners. So this is a really big loophole that we have in our laws,” Moreno said.

Both measures head to the House floor for more discussion.



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The Festival International de Louisiane is underway in Lafayette, and festivalgoers are lining up to enjoy the festivities from all over the world. Kelly Strenge with the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Bureau says there will be entertainers from as far away as Europe and Africa.

“All the stages are open, and all the food booths are open. We have bands from all over the world coming to Lafayette to entertain you,” Strenge said.

Strenge says attendees can even expect to see some big local names like Marc Broussard. She says this is a family friendly event, and during the weekend, there’s a section of the festival that’s just for kids. She says attendance is free, and they even have free parking at the Cajun Dome.

“The whole thing takes over all of downtown. So parking will be at a premium in the downtown area, but park at the Cajun Dome or Cajun Field and take the free shuttle to the festival,” Strenge said.

Strenge says this year the Heritage Stage was removed because of budget constraints. She says in its place, they’ll have space for even more vendors. She says artists from all over the Bayou State come to the festival to show off their work.

“So you can buy jewelry, furniture, clothing, just an assortment of things made by Louisiana artists, and then also from vendors from around the world with import type of merchandise,” Strenge said.

The festival in downtown Lafayette lasts until Sunday.



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Authorities in St. Landry Parish have arrested two Washington Elementary School teachers for allegedly bullying a student. Sheriff Bobby Guidroz says the received reports from a parent that 44-year-old Ann Shelvin would tell her 11-year-old student to fight her classmates or Shelvin would fail her.

“Ann Shelvin is the teacher that instigated, initiated all of this and encouraged other kids and retaliate against the other kids.”

Guidroz says this isn’t the first time Shelvin has bullied students and those incidents are now under investigation. He says Shelvin’s teacher’s aid, 50-year-old Tracy Gallow, also encouraged students to fight the young girl and video footage shows Gallow physically bullying her.

“She shoved the child while on some bleachers, really aggressive attitude and manner towards this 11-year-old child.”

Shelvin faces multiple charges including, contributing to child delinquency, as does Gallow, who received charges of simple battery and intimidation. Guidroz says it seems the teachers bullied the girl because they had a problem with one of her parents.

“The retaliation was against the child’s mother. There was some kind of personal animosity the teacher and the teacher’s aid had against this 11-year-old child’s mother.”



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Louisiana’s roads, bridges and drinking water receives a D rating on the 2017 Report Card for Louisiana Infrastructure produced by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Executive Director of the Report Card project, Dr. Kam Movassaghi says the state’s infrastructure needs immediate attention.

“Frankly, it is embarrassing. A grade of D means the system does not provide the intended service and is at risk of failure,” Movassaghi said.                 

Louisiana’s lowest scores are in drinking water and inland waterways, with D- ratings, while roads, bridges, and coastal waters earned D and D scores. Of the 9 categories graded in the last report in 2012, 8 of them got worse or stayed the same. Movassaghi believes the public is willing to pay a little more to live in a better environment.

“The public demands and deserves a safe fast smooth road, safe drinking water, and a protected neighborhood,” Movassaghi said.

Movassaghi says we’re already paying more in hidden costs like wasted gas sitting in traffic, higher insurance, and lower property values. He says there are several bills filed for the session that could help address these problems, but that means getting the legislature to shell out more money.

“Obviously these systems with their shortfalls are not going to be fixed by themselves. It’s going to require some investment to make the system function better,” Movassaghi said.

Louisiana’s best scores were C- to C ratings for levees, ports, waste, and aviation.



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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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