According to a new report from the National Partnership for Women and Families, more than 45% of the private sector workforce in Louisiana cannot earn paid sick days. Spokeswoman Vicky Shabo says when people can't take paid time away from work, they often jeopardize their job or their ability to make ends meet.
"They are also more likely to go to work sick because they can't afford to be fired or lose income," says Shabo. "That means spreading contagions through workplaces to co-workers and to customers and that's bad for public health."
Shabo says for a typical family in the United States without paid sick days, 3.5 days lost to illness are equal to the family's entire monthly grocery budget. She says about 90 percent of workers in restaurants can not earn a single paid sick day.
"And in Louisiana more than 160,000 people work in restaurants so this is a significant problem," said Shabo.
The National Federation of Independent Business opposes any kind of mandate which would require employers to offer paid sick time.
State Director Dawn Starns says they found 75% of employers already offer some form of paid sick leave and the government should not be telling people how to run their business.
"Mandating this sort of benefit is costly, inflexible and unnecessary," said Starns. "So many business owners are already doing what they can to help their employees."
She says owners should be able to have flexibility when it comes to running their operation.
"A mandate like this would take away that flexibility in the sense of making the best decision for their business and their employees," said Starns.
Good Houskeeping magazine has named Nachitoches as one of the 50 Most Beautiful Small Towns in America. The publication selected one town from each state to make up their list.
Samantha Bonnette, Public Relations Director for the city of Nachitoches, says they are excited to be part of this list.
"Any time we're recognized it's always an honor. We were just named the Best Southern Small Town and now to named one of the Most Beautiful Small Towns is just, indeed, and honor and we couldn't be more pleased."
Natchitoches was recently named Best Southern Small Town by readers of USA Today and 10Best-dot-com. Bonnette says they are proud to be on this list that features some real high quality small towns across the country.
"To be compared to Sedona, Arizona, which is so beautiful, and Breckenridge, Colorado, which is so well known, it's just amazing."
Other small towns on the list include Taos, New Mexico and Cooperstown, New York. Bonnette says she can see how Good Housekeeping picked Natchitoches for this list.
"They fall in love with our architecture and the brick paved streets. It just puts a really nice, beautiful streetscape together."
A community gathering in Lafayette to reflect on those lost and injured in The Grand movie theater shooting will take place tonight at Blackham Coliseum. Lafayette Government Spokesperson Cyrda Wingerter says many are still struggling with what happened and this event is for everyone to come together and hug it out.
"It's an opportunity for us to come together as a community to honor those who were injured, those who survived, our first responders and ultimately start that path of healing for our community."
Wingerter says there will be music, artistic opportunities to create prayer flags, and recognition of people involved, including those caring for victims after the tragedy. She says they want the gathering to portray the culture and spirit of Lafayette.
"It's a time for us to come together as a close community. There have been prayer vigils, we've been meeting in small groups. We wanted to offer this opportunity to come together in a much larger capacity. "
Wingerter says the healing ceremony will provide resources and crisis professionals for those struggling with last week's tragic event.
"Essentially, our idea is we want to make this an event that appeals to everyone as much as possible to give a multitude of our citizens the opportunity to heal."
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore says it's likely that the criminal charges against LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings could be dropped. The QB and two other Tigers are accused of breaking into an apartment in June to retrieve items which belonged to Jennings.
Moore says the tenant has contacted his office.
"They've already filed an affidavit with me asking that the charges be dropped," said Moore.
LSU Coach Les Miles says the status of the players fully depends on the schedule of the DA.
"I'm a tremendous supporter of what he does and I recognize that the legal process takes its direction," says Miles. "We will follow thereafter, I promise."
Moore is not giving a timetable on making a decision but did say that all he needs at this point is paperwork on what the complainants told cops the night of the incident.
"I would expect that once I get the transcripts and take a look at those and possibly interview a couple folks that it could be very soon," says Moore. "Possibly a week or two."
The team reports for fall camp on August 5th.
Jennings, defensive tackle Maquedius Bain and safety Dwayne Thomas were all charged with unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling and were suspended from the team.
Moore says since then, the people renting that apartment have asked that the charges be dropped.
"That would routinely mean the charges are dismissed," says Moore. "But this takes on a different light and I need to make sure what I'm doing is correct."
Michelle Southern reporting. Lt. Clay Higgins of the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office and his CrimeStoppers videos are officially all over the place after getting exposure on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week. In the latest video, Higgins, aka “The Cajun John Wayne,” calls out someone who robbed a local supermarket.
"We're going to identify you, arrest you and put you in a small cell. After that I'm going to have a cheeseburger here. Meanwhile, your next meal will be served through a small hole in a cell door," says Higgins.
The video, which is also making the rounds from CNN to Fox News, has over 1.3 million views on YouTube. Lt. Higgins tells us this crime is being seen by people from all over the world and remarks in the video, “Congratulations son, I’m about to make you famous,”
"Yeah, they're getting famous and it has helped, we've received many tips on this most recent video and I'm quite sure it's going to lead to an arrest," Higgins tells LRN.
After playing the video, Fallon told the audience that he believes Lt. Higgins should run for president.
Lt. Higgins says creating these Crimestopper videos and getting the word out about crimes happening in the Acadiana region, even on this national stage, is his job.
"My job is as a public information officer for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's office is to cultivate and maintain a good relationship with the media and that requires honest and prompt responses," Higgins said.
Legislation that will increase benefits for veterans has been unanimously approved by the US House. Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham of Richland Parish authored the legislation and it’s his first bill that’s been approved by the house. Abraham says under the bill vets will receive a cost of living adjustment tied to social security.
“I think social security recipients got a bump of 1.7 percent and we’re looking at something in that neighborhood to bump up our veterans.”
Abraham says this is the least we can do and more should be done for our veterans. He says reforming the V-A is his top legislative priority.
“I’m glad to see us pass my bill that will bring at least some financial stability for veterans who are plagued by this dysfunctional department.”
The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration. Abraham says if this becomes law, the benefits will begin in December. He says vets regularly come into the the office and tell him what a struggle it is to make ends meet in this economy.
“So anything we can do up here to at least bridge that gap between the debts coming in, the bills coming in, and the money coming in, we certainly want to be a part of that solution.”
The Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office has arrested a Deville mother accused of filing a false kidnapping report. Lt. Tommy Carnline says 24-year-old Ashley Ballard reported the incident happened as she was walking down the road with her four children.
"When four men in a white Dodge Neon stopped, knocked her to the ground and took the 2-year-old child from her arms, and left."
Ballard says she was able to recover the child in a ditch down the road. Carnline says investigators began canvassing the area searching for the car, but things weren't adding up.
"After our detectives arrived and started conducting their investigation, it was determined that the alleged kidnapping never occurred and the complaint was false."
Ballard is charged with filing a false police report. Carnline says they have yet to determine Ballard's motive in filing the false report. He says the Sheriff's office always wants to err on the side of caution and they treat every call like it's a legitimate call.
"It's very fortunate that this was not an actual kidnapping, but with the false police report, that was not a good thing."
State Health officials have found another water system in Louisiana that contains a deadly brain eating amoeba. The Department of Health and Hospitals says the presence of the amoeba was found during surveillance testing of a water system that serves 1,8000 residents near Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish. State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry...
"Fortunately we're not reporting anybody that's sick or that's died of the amoeba. It's just in the water and you can avoid it by keeping the water out your nose, up their nose, high up your nose. "
This is the same amoeba found in St. Bernard Parish last week. Guidry says the water is safe to drink. He says it's not a surprise that they've detected the presence of this amoeba in two water systems within two weeks.
"Trying to stay on top of it, certainly with the heat and the amoeba loving warm water, it's no surprise that it might show up in other systems as well."
Guidry says the amoeba thrives at this type of year and the warm water dissipates the chlorine, making it hard to get rid of. He says they plan on keeping surveillance up and conducting a chlorine burn.
"We still have work to do to try to balance chlorination of this infection and keeping this amoeba at bay."
In a recent study by WalletHub, Louisiana ranks near the bottom in the nation when it comes to the quality of its school systems. The state came in at No. 47 overall with low data rankings in School System Quality at No. 43 on the list and School Safety at 44.
"I do think we've made strides and a lot of things to try to improve the quality of education in our state," says Baton Rouge Rep. Steve Carter, Chairman of the state House Education Committee. "We've done a lot as far as letter grades are concerned and as far as accountability is concerned."
The study ranks Louisiana number 48th in both math and reading test scores, but Carter says there are a lot of good things happening in our schools which are turning that trend around.
"I look for the future to be bright and I think we're doing a better job and hopefully that will continue," says Carter. "We're making a little bit of improvement but we're not making as much as I'd like to see."
Louisiana also ranked second to last on the study in the safest schools category which looked at the percentage of public school students who reported being threatened or injured.
In the bullying incidents rate our schools came in at number 30 and Carter says this really bothers him.
"We need to find a way to cease the bullying," says Carter. "It's just not right and we want kids to enjoy their experience in going to school and not have fear."
The most recent campaign finance figures for the Lt. Governor's race shows Republican John Young leading the field with over $2.2 million in cash on hand. Fellow Republican Billy Nungesser is not far behind with more than $1.6 million.
Political analyst Clancy Dubos says that's a lot of money for this race.
"More money than some candidates for governor have on hand. It means voters are going to hear a lot of messaging about this. There will be some attacks, I suspect, back and forth."
Democrat Kip Holden reports $68,000 cash on hand, while Republican Elbert Guillory owes his campaign nearly $4,000. Dubos says, as the only Democrat in the race, Holden may have sizable support that will offset his lack of financial resources.
"It all depends on whether the Democrats coalesce behind him and how much of an effort they put forth for him while they're putting forth an effort for John Bel Edwards in the governor's race."
Dubos feels the candidates for Lt. Governor will keep a tight grip on their cash until we get to qualifying in early September. He says this race will be definitely be one to keep your eye on this fall.
"I think, outside the governor's race, this is going to be the most hotly contested race along with the race for Attorney General."
The Humane Society of Louisiana issues a statewide heat advisory for pets after learning of a dog fatality in Franklin Parish. Director Jeff Dorson says during the hot summer months they start to receive a lot of calls from around the state regarding people not taking proper care of their pets,especially dogs and leaving them out in the heat.
"Remind them how hot it is for the animals and it's their responsibility, ethically and legally to take care of them."
Dorson says in the case in Franklin Parish, they got a call from neighbors about a gray pit bull tired up outside without any shade or water for several days. He says the dog wrapped itself around a poll and ultimately died of heat exhaustion and the owner, who was not present when officers arrived, will be charged with cruelty to animals.
"It's a terrible thing that could've easily been prevented. Sadly, we get several of those calls a year, dogs can't get out of the sun, there is no place for them to cool off and here they are with fur coats."
Dorson says the key is to prevent heat stroke rather than treat it by making sure your pets are comfortable. He says dogs are social animals and want to be inside and a part of the family.
"It's a very harsh environment for some dogs. Unfortunately, as much as a lot of us care about dogs, not everybody has the same value system so they may leave for several days at a time and think nothing of it."
The Louisiana Republican Party is officially endorsing Jeff Landry for Attorney General rather than the GOP incumbent, Buddy Caldwell. Party Chairman Roger Villere says they noticed how Landry performed in Congress and feel comfortable he is the right candidate to move forward with in the race.
"Well we just think Jeff is a better candidate and would do a better job as attorney general. We just feel like he has the leadership qualities and capabilities to do a better job."
Neither Landry or Villere would directly explain why Caldwell was not getting the endorsement. Landry's campaign says he is honest, ethical and hardworking. He says he has 80 days before the election to give reasons why he will be a better A-G than Caldwell.
"I think the Attorney General's office gives me an opportunity to show to the voters, especially to the time when trust in government is at an all time low, that they can trust their government."
The Louisiana Republican Party says this is the first time since 1991, when the party didn't support the Republican statewide incumbent. That year they endorsed Clyde Holloway over Governor Buddy Roemer. Villere says Landry's always been a strong supporter in the Republican party.
"We just feel like when you look at the overall body of work, you look at the individuals, we're very comfortable working with Jeff, we've worked with him for a long time, we feel like he would be the best candidate."
Here's a statement from Buddy Caldwell...
“The endorsement of Jeff Landry doesn’t change anything from our perspective. We would have welcomed the endorsement, but we weren’t counting on it. The state party has never endorsed me before, so it might have been bad luck to get it this time.
It’s unnerving to me that the statewide Republican Party would even think about endorsing someone who has never tried a civil or criminal case in court. I’m not sure, really, what his qualifications are.”
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries have cited two men accused of stealing over 500 alligator eggs valued at over $10,000. LDWF spokesperson Gabe Giffin says agents observed 24-year-old Christopher Trahan of Lake Charles and 47-year-old Paul Canick of Grand Chenier taking alligator eggs from the marsh.
"They were told they had a collector's permit to take eggs. While one of the gentlemen did have an egg collection permit, the area he was collecting eggs from, he was not permitted to be on."
He says agents seized the eggs from the pair. Giffin says the department sold the eggs to an alligator farmer at market value.
"That money is put into an escrow fund. In the case they were found innocent, their restitution would be that money back into their pocket."
Trahan and Canick are cited for illegal possession of alligator eggs and not following refuge rules and regulations. First offense for taking unpermitted alligator eggs carries up to a $900 fine and up to 120 days in jail. Giffin says LDWF agents put in a lot of work to ensure cases like this are brought to justice.
"So, hats off to the agents involved in this in keeping Louisiana's natural resources precious and out there."
The July campaign finance report shows that Republican David Vitter has more campaign dollars on hand than his three gubernatorial opponents combined. Vitter's campaign reports more than $5 million in cash on hand for this fall's election.
Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat says this clearly shows Vitter's advantages over the rest of the field.
"He's a United States Senator, he's very well known, and he can raise lots of money as evidenced by his $5 million, which is more than double the rest of them."
Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle report $1.8 million and $1 million in cash on hand respectively, while Democrat John Bel Edwards reports $1.1 million. Pinsonat says, at this point in the race, Vitter is the guy, but the others are hoping that will change.
"They're all hoping that after September the fourth, when people start paying attention, their money and their campaign will start making a difference."
Despite all of this fundraising activity, Pinsonat says you probably won't see a lot of ads or activity from these campaigns until Labor Day weekend. He says that's when this governor's race will really kick off.
"We'll start finding out who really has an advantage and who's going to be in the runoff, we'll get a much better picture after September the fourth."
There have been three fatal police shootings in the last three days in Louisiana. The latest occurred in Houma where a theft suspect was shot and killed by officers Monday afternoon. State Police Trooper Evan Harrell says a pursuit ensued after a failed traffic stop.
He says eventually, officers were able to stop the suspect's vehicle.
"The subject inside of that vehicle, a 45-year-old white male from the Houma area, actually stepped out of that vehicle and he pointed a weapon at the officers."
He says the traffic stop was initiated after a Terrebonne Parish deputy recognized the man as someone wanted for theft. Harrell says officers were forced to take lethal action.
"The officers, in fear for their life, opened fire on the subject and fatally wounded that subject and he was pronounced dead on the scene."
Harrell says the State Police investigation is ongoing. He says it's always difficult when police are forced to fire their weapon.
"Now all the officers involved are being debriefed and will be dealing with training and dealing with the situation that they were involved in."
The USDA has cited a UL-Lafayette research facility in New Iberia for both the injury and death of two different monkeys and for also allowing monkeys to escape their cages. According to the government report, a monkey was electrocuted to death in 2013, and another primate's leg was broken due to improper handling. Co-founder of Stop Animal Exploitation Now Michael Budkie says this isn't the first time government regulators have come down against the research facility.
"This facility has, what is essentially, a criminal history," Budkie said.
Budkie says UL-Lafayette was fined $38,000 in 2011 after three young rhesus monkeys died of negligence. He says the USDA is not done investigating the facility, and these new citations might mean a higher fine added against the center.
"The University of Louisiana-Lafayette at the New Iberia primate center has an ongoing pattern of negligence, which is injuring and killing animals," Budkie said.
The USDA report did say corrective actions have taken place. And UL-Lafayette says they remain committed to animal well-being and biomedical research. But Budkie says there are more advanced ways to conduct this type of research, without harming primates.
"Using animals to approximate human physiology is last-century technology," he said.
Today, the Louisiana Republican Party is expected to announce their endorsement of former Congressman Jeff Landry in this year's Attorney General's race. Landry is seeking to unseat current AG and fellow Republican Buddy Caldwell.
LaPolitics-dot-com Publisher Jeremy Alford says there is no doubting Landry's Republican stripes.
"This is a guy who has run to the right of the field in every race he has ever participated in. He polls well with the Tea Party Republicans. He polls well with evangelicals."
West Baton Rouge prosecutor Martin Maley has also declared for this race. Alford says this endorsement would be a big blow for Caldwell, but not very surprising. He says Caldwell has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in recent years.
"He's gotten crossways with the governor, the legislature, the business lobby, the oil and gas industry, and obviously, in this case, it looks like the Louisiana Republican Party."
He says Caldwell received a lot of criticism among Republicans for offering encouraging words to former Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu in her unsuccessful bid for re-election last year. Alford says the Republican Party endorsement of Landry will show that Caldwell is in for a major race this fall.
"I think it points to just how contentious this election may be. I think it's going to be the barn-burner election of the 2015 cycle."
The Department of Health and Hospitals has established resources for residents who are having a hard time dealing with last week's Lafayette movie theater shooting and are looking for someone to talk to. Brad Farmer is with the Acadiana Area Human Services District. He says people can reach out to professionals if you think you need help.
"Whether they were a bystander, a witness, a first responder, law enforcement," said Farmer. "Anyone who is having any sort of issue or just needs to talk to someone about finding out more about crisis services."
Farmer says they are also offering information to parents on how to speak to their children about such an event.
He says people are affected by tragedies of this magnitude differently -- possibly feeling physical or emotional draining, anger, guilt or sadness at various times.
"Some people might be good for a week and then all of a sudden start having some anxiety or some issues or depression," said Farmer. "We are just trying to get information to the community about all the different supports that are available."
You can get information on 24-hour-crisis hotlines and support groups online at dhh.louisiana.gov. Farmer says their 24-hour-crisis line is toll free at 1-877-655-8241.
He says there may even be people out there who are not directly connected to the shooting, but are still struggling with dealing with it and can seek help.
"This could remind them of something they experienced somewhere else or just the tragedy of them having this happen in their community," said Farmer.
Lafayette Police say they are done with processing the crime scene at the movie theater, where John Russell Houser fatally shot two people and wounded nine, and they've returned the building back to the owners. It's unclear when the movie theater will be re-opened to the public.
Authorities say they also found a journal type book in Houser's Lafayette hotel room and that has been turned over to a specialist to be analyzed. Police are not releasing any information regarding the content of that journal at this time.
Police also say two people who were shot last Thursday remain hospitalized.