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As Louisiana prepares for an extended period of freezing temperatures, Entergy is reminding customers to not only stay warm, but also smart when it comes to electricity and gas usage. Spokesman Greg Guilbeau says they like to encourage folks to keep their thermostat at 68 degrees.

"Every degree you go above 68 is up to a 3% increase in your bill," said Guilbeau. "So get a coat and blanket if you're still cool."

Other tips include sealing any possible air leaks around doors and windows, conserve hot water by wrapping electric water heaters, keep the air circulating. Guilbeau says it's also a good idea to leverage the sun.

"If the sunlight is out, let it through your windows," said Guilbeau. "At night put your blinds up to put a barrier between you and the cold weather."


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The State Department of Revenue says online retailers which delivered goods or services to Louisiana addresses will soon notify shoppers about purchases that are subject to state use tax. 

 This requirement is due to a law passed by the legislature in 2016. Department of Revenue spokesperson Byron Henderson says online orders aren’t tax exempt…

“You owe the sales tax no matter what, you either have to pay the sales tax or the use tax in which the sales tax was not charged at the time of the purchase.”

Henderson says if out of state businesses don’t charge sales tax at the time of purchase, the burden of paying it falls back on the customer…

“If a retailer does not have a physical presence in Louisiana then by law they are not required to charge a sales tax, but that does not mean that the shopper does not owe a sales or a use tax on the purchase.”

Tax filing season starts January 29th, and Henderson says if you file with a tax professional, then you should provide them with the use tax notices, but if you file by yourself…

“The use tax can be reported on your state resident or nonresident individual tax return, or on the consumer use tax return.”

Shoppers shouldn’t have to worry about Amazon purchases, as the online giant began charging sales tax after the bill was passed.


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The winter storm has had some pretty significant impacts on Ouachita Parish today. Glen Springfield with the Sheriff's Office says it's been snowing since just before daylight, with just a little accumulation. He says ice has caused the closure of I-20 interstate ramps and some overpasses. 
(Photo by Richard A. Winder Sr in Monroe, LA)

"Parish roads are open, but we're telling motorists that if you can, stay home," said Springfield. "If you have to get out, assume that any bridge is going to have some icing on it."

Springfield says the roads are going to get worse before they get better today and tomorrow, so they are encouraging folks to stay home and enjoy the pretty snow.

"We seldom see this, and the kids are out having a good time playing it in," said Springfield. "It's just that motorists need to be very aware that it is treacherous on the roadways."


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The winter storm moving through Louisiana is impacting most of the state with snow, ice, freezing rain and extremely cold temperatures. The storm dumped quite a bit of snow in Shreveport. National Weather Service Meteorologist Matt Hemmingway says forecasts held true for the amount of snow they got.

"We did see some totals around three inches in some parts of the Shreveport-Bossier area.  The heavier bans on snow lined up just north of Interstate 20."
Hemmingway says temperatures will remain below freezing in north Louisiana for the next few days, which will keep the snow and ice around for a while.
"We won't get above freezing in fact we won't even come close.  Lows tonight will plummet into the teens.  We warm up a little bit tomorrow.  Probably get right at freezing." 
Southeast Louisiana will not escape the winter storm. National Weather Service forecaster Alek Krautman says as the day moves along, it will impact commuters going home from work. 
"It looks like in Baton Rouge, the ice and snow could be falling this afternoon into the evening.  For the greater New Orleans area, the time window is during the evening hours." 
Krautman says there won’t be much snow won’t be much of a factor in southeast Louisiana. Any precipitation that falls will be in the form of ice.
"We are expecting trace amounts to under an inch, if it sets up with any snow bands.  Most likely that would be north of Baton Rouge.  So there is the potential of light snow accumulations probably under and inch."
State Police Troopers are working hard to keep drivers safe today. Portions of Interstates 20, 49 and 220 are shut down in the Shreveport-Bossier City area after the area received up to four inches of snow. Senior Trooper Michael Reichardt says many roads are icy. 
"We've seen a lot of people today driving around just looking at the snow.  That's not a great idea.  We ask everybody to stay at home if at all possible.  I know there are some people that have to work and that's understandable, but if you don't have to get out in this, then by all means stay at home."
For drivers who are out in the bad weather, Reichardt says to slow down. The posted speed limits don’t mean anything when the weather is this treacherous. 
"Just because the speed limit says it's 55 or 70 on the interstate doesn't mean you have to go 70.  If you don't feel comfortable going that fast, just slow down.  We understand on days like today." 
If you do find yourself in an accident and need the assistance, Reichardt says it could take a while for law enforcement to reach you. Just another reason to stay off the roadways. 
"If you need help and it's an emergency situation, dial 9-1-1.  If you'r involved in a crash, just be patient.  We have a lot of troopers working several different things."
Forecasters say temperatures will remain at or below freezing through at least Thursday for many areas of Louisiana, which will refreeze any snow and water remaining on the ground, which will create dangerous driving conditions. 


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Reports indicate that it is increasingly unlikely that House legislators and Governor John Bel Edwards will come to a fiscal cliff agreement before a Friday deadline. The deadline was set by the Governor, who was hoping to enter into a February special session with an agreement in principle to fill the one billion dollar budget shortfall. Edwards says delaying the fiscal cliff decision could be damaging.

“It just adds to the instability, it’s going to get credit agencies to cast a negative eye on Louisiana which costs us more money to service the debt we already have.”

The shortfall is due to the expiration of a one cent sales tax that was passed two years ago to salvage the budget. Edwards says the sales tax increase was not a long term fix…

“The reason they did a short term approach was to be able to do long term structural reform and so now its past time to get it done.”

The GOP is requesting a budget with less spending, while the governor wants to replace the sales tax by eliminating certain business tax breaks. Edwards says a key piece of these negotiations is getting his tax reform plan passed…

“We currently have the highest state and local sales tax in the country and I don’t think it’s a good idea to be an outlier in any tax type.”


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Don Briggs' 26 year run as the President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association is coming to an end. Briggs says he’ll remain active, because he is concerned about the lost jobs in the industry. He blames Governor Edwards for support lawsuits the oil companies for their role in damaging the state’s wetlands. Briggs said several investors from New York were ready to invest.

"These people were going to put up several hundred million.  But when they got down here and found out about the lawsuits that the Governor is encouraging,  they said, "There's no way we can risk our capital in south Louisiana."
Briggs reflects on his time as LOGA President with fondness. He says the industry has made contributions to Louisiana. Briggs says after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, they raised over a million dollars to provide housing, fuel and transportation for hurricane victims. 
"This past year and a half, we've built 25 homes, built them from the inside up, that got flooded during Katrina, Rita and all the other hurricanes."
Briggs hopes there will be changes so the oil industry can operate without so many regulations that will encourage jobs growth in Louisiana. 
"I meet with individuals that are very unhappy, distraught, depressed and without hope in them.  We need to put people back to work in south Louisiana and it's not happening."


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A published report says Governor John Bel Edwards will present a budget to lawmakers on Friday that includes a 100 percent cut to TOPS. The budget is a representation of what would happen if the GOP led House and Edwards do not find a solution to the loss of one billion dollars in revenue on July 1st. LAPolitics Publisher Jeremy Alford.

“We’ve heard the governor offer this type of doom and gloom type of forecast for TOPS before, and it certainly is a carrot and stick approach to politics and policy.”
The governor is constitutionally required to propose a balanced budget, and the spending plan presented on Friday would reflect what would happen if the state does not replace the money generated by an expiring one-cent sales tax. Alford says the governor’s office is also preparing a budget that would show how the state would spend its money, if the billion dollar shortfall is resolved.

“The governor is also going to have secondary budget and this is a budget that will look like what the administration wants the budget to look like. When the budget with the deep cuts comes out the first thing the governor is going to say is this isn’t the budget that he wanted.”

Edwards set a January 19th deadline for negotiations for a deal in principle on fixing the fiscal cliff. The legislature has a regular session scheduled for March, but Alford says the fiscal cliff can only be addressed in a special session that the governor would like to call in February.

“Lawmakers can only take up non tax issues in a regular session, so if he doesn’t call a special session before the regular session he certainly will call one after.”

Alford says negotiations have stalled, and he doesn’t expect a February special session to address the cliff at this point.


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The Saints season came to a tragic end Sunday, but the offseason is sure to keep the team busy. Drew Brees and Kenny Vaccaro headline the Saint’s 2018 free agents. NFL Analyst Mike Detillier says the team has a strong core, that can’t lose its most important piece.

“You’ve got a group of really strong players 28-years-of-age and young so you know what you’ve got to ride the Drew Brees pony and see if he can get you to the big show again.“

Brees is looking at a contract in the range of 23 to 25 million dollars a year.

Along with Brees, the team will have to make a big decision this year on safety Kenny Vaccaro. The former 1st round pick has had an inconsistent career, matching big plays with big errors. Detillier says after placing Vaccaro on injured reserve this year, the team has a tough decision to make.

“What are you going o do with Kenny Vaccaro. Kenny’s at a position where you are going to have an abundance of free agents. You’re going to have to make the choice here.”

The Saints offense and defense sputtered in the first half of Sunday’s game. Detillier says the team could use some reinforcements in key positions.

“The biggest need on this football club is signature pass rush defense end to play opposite of Cam Jordan. On the offensive side of the football you need a signature tight end, a guy that can get down field and make plays.”

Free agency kicks off March 14th.


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Another blast of arctic air is hitting Louisiana again, bringing below normal temperatures and ice and snow. Six parishes bordering Arkansas are under a Winter Storm Warning while parts of Cenla are under a Winter Storm Advisory. National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Duplantis says snow could fall late tonight in the state's northern most parishes.

"We're expecting average snowfall amounts of two to three inches with possibly local amounts of four inches."
Cenla will see some snow as well. Duplantis says sections will see measurable snow after some freezing precipitation falls starting around midnight.
"It could be a possibility for south Louisiana.  It's going to be close.  Most of the moisture will start to ring out of the atmosphere as the cold air pushes further and further south."
There is a slight chance of wintry precipitation in South Louisiana but Duplantis says the storm system will weaken considerably by the time it reaches those areas. 
"Further south you go, there's less and less moisture as the cold air reaches the Gulf."
Road conditions in north Louisiana could deteriorate quickly once this storm system begins producing ice then snow later. DOTD’s Rodney Mallet says they are already preparing for the storm and have a good idea where the trouble spots will be starting late tonight into tomorrow morning. 
"We usually know what roads are going to be impacted and it's usually the same elevated highways.  As the weather gets closer, we'll stage our equipment and out deicing agents and move forward."
Some bridges in the state were shut down during the last winter storm due to safety concerns when they glazed over with ice. Those closures included the Sunshine Bridge in on LA-70 in St. James Parish and a portion of I-110 in Baton Rouge. Mallett says they will be watching all overhead passes and bridges that could prove to be problematic. 
"We will have scouts that are out that will monitor the roadways.  One we see something that starts to freeze, then we will be able to salt and brine it.  And then if it gets to the point that it's unsafe, we will close it."
Mallett says to check L-A-5-1-1 before heading out to see if the route you are taking is open. 
"We have the app and we also have the website and you can get notices sent to your phone or your computer from that site (la511.org).  That way you will know what's closed.  You don't want to drive all the way down to the Sunshine Bridge and find that it's closed."


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Michelle Southern reporting. 
The Louisiana Heroes Project is asking folks to send some Fat Tuesday love to our troops serving in locations throughout the world who can’t be home this Carnival season. Mission Mardi Gras from Afghanistan coordinator Tawney Tallo, says their goal is to make sure all service members deployed from Louisiana receive a Carnival package before February 13th.

"We're looking for beads, throws, hats, King Cakes with no filling," said Tallo. "Just anything you'd see at a traditional parade."

If you would like to send a Mardi Gras Box to a deployed soldier, visit the Louisiana Heroes Project on Facebook for details. Tallo says some people don’t realize how much it means to soldiers when they get special care packages like this.

"Once you're away from your family, you hate to say that you 'lived through the holidays,'" said Tallo. "But you look for those milesotones in time that means you're that much closer to home."

Fill the box with Mardi Gras themed items such as hats, throws, costumes, beads, or Louisiana inspired foods such as beignet mix, red beans and rice, and King Cake. Tallo, who is also deployed overseas, says when these treats arrive it feels like Louisiana has come to them.

"It's a huge morale booster, and also a great way to share our culture with those around us," said Tallo.
She says they are asking that everything be sent by the 20th of January so that the packages arrive in time for Fat Tuesday.


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By Jeff Palermo
There have been a lot of heart breaking losses during the Saints 50-year history, but Sunday's stunning defeat in Minneapolis may top them all. A 61-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs on the final play of regulation gave the Vikings an improbable 29-24 victory over New Orleans. 

There were only 10 seconds left, when they snapped the ball, Keenum threw a high pass to Diggs, who leaped in the air to catch it. Rookie Marcus Williams wiffed on the tackle and Diggs raced into the end zone for the improbable score. 
"This will take awhile to get over, but at some point it will pass, it will take a little bit of time," said Head Coach Sean Payton.  
New Orleans fought back from a 17-0 halftime deficit and had a 24-23 lead on a Will Lutz 42-yard field goal with 25 seconds left. 
"It will sting for a bit," said Saints QB Drew Brees. "Especially as this season goes on here over the next few weeks, feeling like that can be us, it should be us. Unfortunately sometimes these things happen." 
Brees threw two interceptions in the 1st half, but bounced back and threw three touchdown passes in the 2nd half. His third TD pass to Alvin Kamara for 14 yards, gave New Orleans a 21-20 lead late in the game. 
A blocked punt by George Johnson set up the score for the Saints to take its first lead of the game. 
Give credit to Keenum. The Vikings QB made the plays and he was under a lot of pressure in the 2nd half. The veteran threw for 318 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 
A key stat in this game was 3rd downs. The Vikings converted 10-of-17 third downs, including the winning touchdown pass. The Saints were just 2-of-9. 
Not converting on 3rd-and-1 on the Saints final drive of the game, allowed Minnesota to get the ball back for that miraculous touchdown.  
Kamara failed to convert on that 3rd and short. Once again, New Orleans had trouble running the ball. Just 80 yards rushing. Kamara had 43 yards rushing on 11 carries, while Mark Ingram was held to 10 carries to 25 yards.  
The Saints end the 2017 campaign with a 12-6 record. It will take a long time to get over this one.  


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It’s been a colder than normal winter to say the least in Louisiana and it might affect the insect population this summer. LSU Entomology Professor Timothy Schowalter says many tropical species in Louisiana are at the edge of the areas they normally inhabit and says the sudden cold weather didn’t help them.

"The gradual decline in temperature will allow more insects to go into overwintering mode.  Where has an early freeze would probably kill more insects."
Schowalter says it’s expected that there will be a reduction in mosquitoes this year since some adults were more than likely killed in the December cold snap.
"Any adults that were present in early December would have frozen and would have not laid any eggs.  There will be a hiatus in reproduction." 
Lovebugs will more than likely survive these recent cold snaps. Schowalter says they were long gone since they make their bi-yearly flights in April and October.
"Lovebug larvae are in the ground so they're probably going to survive fairly well.  The ground would have to freeze and inch or more in depth before Lovebug larvae would freeze."


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Sportsman will be unable to renew their hunting and fishing licenses at retail stores for two months starting January 30th while the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries transitions to a new system. Spokesperson Rene LeBreton says the state has a new vendor for licensing.

“In selecting this new vendor we’ve got some new equipment that needs to be installed at these locations, and they’ve got to train these employees at these stores.”

They will be available again at retail stores April 2nd.

LeBreton says the new system will be more convenient.

“Reprinting your licenses will be free by going to the website, they’ll have an auto renew option not immediately but down the road.”

LeBreton says LDWF is working towards tying together all of your licenses into one login in the future.

While retailers are training on the new system, licenses will still be available through the LDWF website, but LeBreton says he understands that not everyone is comfortable applying online…

“Some people are just adverse to online sales, so if you really are going to need one then go to your retailer now.”

Licenses will also be available at regional offices and LDWF headquarters. All license sales will be unavailable from January 30th to 31st.


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The Louisiana Family Forum is celebrating the 2018 Longest Married Couple in Louisiana. The reigning champions, Lawrence and Varrie Player will be celebrating their 83rd anniversary this year. Family Forum President Gene Mills says they get new applicants every year.

 “We’re in the search for the top ten longest known married couples. We want to honor the longest married, and we want to acknowledge the other ten, so this contest is renewed and refreshed every year.”

The forum celebrates each year’s top ten couples by passing on their stories. Mills says it’s easy to submit yours…

“Best thing to do is contact our office or go to our website and submit your information because there is a real possibility that they could be in line for a special celebration.”

The Family Forum honors the year’s top ten married couples during national marriage week, February 7th to 14th. Mills says over the years, couples have shared some great advice for keeping to “till death do us part”…

“I think it gives us an opportunity to reflect on what got them to the finish line.”

The deadline for submission is February 7th.


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26-year-old Neilson Rizzoto was sentenced to five years in prison today after plowing into a crowd of parade goers during last year’s Mardi Gras Endymion parade in New Orleans. The crash injured 32 people and police said Rizzuto had a .232 blood alcohol level. The court also is ordering him to attend AA and MADD meetings. Legal analyst Tim Meche says Rizzoto should be thankful he gets another chance…

"Fortunately it's a treatable problem that can be overcome and hopefully they made him commit to proper pursuing proper treatment and hopefully this won't happen again to other people."
He pled guilty to 11 felony counts of vehicular negligent injuring and 13 misdemeanor counts as well. He was facing a 55 year sentence. Meche says Rizzoto’s sentence is an example of the new criminal justice reform measures put in place last year. 
"It's starting to treat people who have issues and problems by treating their issues and problems, rather than locking them away costing taxpayers money.  He'll get a second chance, but not a third."
Rizzoto’s already served eleven months of his sentence will have to write apology letters to the victims.


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The Legislative Women’s Caucus is investigating to see if it is necessary to overhaul sexual harassment policies for the legislature and state government employees. Chairman and New Orleans Representative Helena Moreno finds it disturbing even though policies are in place, it’s hard to hold legislators accountable if they were accused of sexual harassment.

"Those policies are for full-time employees.  But guess what, legislators are part-time employees. Therefore, those rules are not applicable to members of the legislature."
Moreno says the current policies are antiquated and need to be brought up to date to ensure a comfortable and productive working environment. Her hope is if persons are found guilty of sexual harassment allegations, they will be held accountable. 
"Whether you're a legislator an intern, a full-time or a part-time employee, some will be facing consequences  if they act in this manner."
Moreno says the committee is also investigating to see if an online sexual harassment course that legislators are required to take is presented in a way that educates them enough to protect them and others they work with. 
"It's a quick and easy course. You have to take little quizzes and tests along the way and then pass a final test at the end.  I think that can also be improved as well." 


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A state lawmaker is proposing to change TOPS scholarship amounts. Students who meet the minimum eligibility would receive a $4,000 payment for the year, but students who achieve a very high ACT and GPA get a full scholarship, plus a stipend. Jennings Senator Blade Morrish says $4,000 may seem low, but it’s still the most lucrative college tuition program in the U.S.

"These are students who are good students, but certainly not the best or the brightest.  They're also not being offered scholarships by out of state universities."
Morrish says a new structured plan would still benefit students with lower GPAs, but encourage very smart students to continue their education in Louisiana. His proposal would create a new “Honors Plus” program that would give out the best incentives to students. 
"These are the students that are being siphoned off because we haven't been able to keep up with out institutional aid and with our TOPS program.  This would give them tuition plus $2,500. 
Morrish is leading a task force that’s been examining the taxpayer funded program, which has become more difficult for the state to afford because of a variety of factors including higher tuition. He says his plan would save the state 20-million-dollars annually and modernize how the scholarship money should be doled out.
"If we go back to 1998, when TOPS was created, it certainly has served the citizens of Louisiana very well, but it's also a 20 year old model."


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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron introduced his new offensive coordinator today, Steve Ensminger. Ensminger is an old face around Tigers, having been with the team since 2011, and having captained LSU to three bowl games in the late 70s at quarterback. Ensminger got choked up as he was introduced…

“Great moments are born from great opportunities. This is my opportunity, I embrace it, I look forward to it, and I promise we’ll make this state proud.”

LSU’s motion offense was sluggish at times under former coordinator Matt Canada, and has ranked in the middle of the pack in the SEC over the last few years. Ensminger says he plans on running a fast paced, spread offense…

“We have to put three and four WRs on the field, we have to be a more fast ball team, I think we have to go no huddle. That’s the direction we are going and I think we have to put the best talent on the field and I think that will be three and four wideouts.”

The move was controversial, as the team went from a nationally respected offensive mind in Matt Canada, to Ensminger, who’s been coaching the team’s tight ends. Ensminger says he doesn’t let the chatter get to him…

“I had a guy call me last night and said did you read this in the paper, I said hell no I haven’t read the paper in 20 years. I don’t read the damn paper, I don’t go on twitter I don’t go on Facebook. I can let any outside influence say hey you’re not good enough and you can’t do this, bullshit, ok, I’ll do it.”

Ensminger was LSU’s interm offensive coordinator in 2016. His offense averaged 32 points a game.


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A major road construction project on I-10 will affect travelers between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Groundbreaking ceremonies are this afternoon for the project which will expand an over six mile stretch from four to six lanes from south of Baton Rouge to Highway LA-73 near Prairieville. DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson says this project won’t be completed until sometime in 2020.

"It's going to take a little over two years to get done.  Instead of going all the way to LA-73, they're going to break it up in segments.  So we think that may offer a little less frustration and congestion for drivers."
With 95-thousand drivers passing over that section of the road, Wilson says it is imperative that the flow of traffic continues through the construction zone as smoothly as possible. 
"We're always going to maintain two lanes of traffic except for some very unique circumstances maybe at bridges on a temporary basis, where they'll have to narrow it to one lane." 
The 72-million-dollar expansion comes from some repurposed earmarked funds from projects that either never happened or from leftover funds. Wilson says the majority of the money is due to the farsightedness of the Edwards Administration.
"We had some dollars that we were able to repurpose as the result of a Fast Lane grant  that Governor John Bel Edwards and I applied for very early in this administration."

Wilson reminds drivers to check 511la.org and to download the phone app for when you are on the go.



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Wildlife and Fisheries agents have arrested a Point Coupee Parish man for allegedly killing a protected black bear. The bear was a part of the Louisiana Black Bear Management and Research project. LDWF Spokesperson Adam Einck says agents responded after the tagged bear set off an alert…

“it set off a mortality signal basically saying it hadn’t moved in a number of days.”

After the bear was found, Wildlife and Fisheries agents increased patrols in the area. Einck says 28-year-old Ronald Kimble was frequently observed by agents passing through the area with a .270 rifle…

“They began questioning the man, found out he was a convicted felon, and after further questioning he finally owned up to it and said that he was the one that was responsible for killing that bear.”

Louisiana black bears have been a threatened species since 1992, and it is illegal to hunt them. Einck says the charges carry a severe punishment…

“Right now hes facing state charges of illegally killing a black bear which range up to a 1,000 dollars and 120 days in jail.”

Those who kill black bears are also liable to face a 10,000 dollar civil restitution fee, and as a convicted felon, Kimble could also be facing up to 20 years in jail for possessing a firearm.


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