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The 2016 Competitive Alternatives study by the firm KPMG shows that north Louisiana is the most competitive place to do business in the country. Scott Martinez, President of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership, says that’s due to a business friendly environment.

“I think it’s good local government that keep the tax rates relatively low in north Louisiana, but also we’ve got a great workforce that provides a great labor force availability,” Martinez said.

Monroe and Shreveport ranked as the top two most competitive business markets, and Louisiana cities make up 8 of the top 10 for competitive markets. Martinez says low utility costs in north Louisiana also help businesses.

“The Southwest Eclectic Power Company, they’re one of the lowest cost electricity providers in the country consistently, and natural gas throughout Louisiana remains very competitively priced,” Martinez said.

The data from the study shows that Monroe and Shreveport each rank about 8-percent lower than the national average for business costs. Martinez says north Louisiana has been ranked at the top of the most affordable places to do business since 2008.

“We consistently rank with KPMG as a low cost of doing business, not only overall but also in manufacturing in particularly,” Martinez said.

 
 
 

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Saturday’s PowerBall jackpot has reached a whopping $415 million. Louisiana Lottery Spokesperson Kimberly Chopin says this is the 7th largest PowerBall jackpot ever. She says buying your mom a Powerball ticket for Mother’s Day will definitely make a great gift.

“Certainly would make a nice Mother’s Day gift and certainly one she could share with the rest of the family, as well.”

Chopin says there is a 17-percent chance that Saturday’s PowerBall jackpot will be hit and the cash value of the jackpot is estimated to be 270 million dollars. She says the recent PowerBall jackpots have boosted ticket sales 50-percent from this time last year.

“It has made such a big difference in terms of the Louisiana Lottery’s bottom line and what we’ve been able to transfer to the state of Louisiana with these big PowerBall jackpots.”

Chopin says it only takes one ticket to win. She says the PowerBall gets so much attention because when the jackpot gets this high, everyone talks about what they would do with their money.

“I’m always impressed just at my job at the lottery, how generous our winners are and how much they want to touch the lives of others with their big wins.”

 
 
 

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Louisiana prosecutors ruled this morning that no charges will be filed in the fatal officer-involved shooting of a mentally-ill man last year. State Police say 32-year-old Michael Noel was shot and killed at his home in St. Martin parish last December when officers attempted to take him into protective custody. St. Martin Parish Assistant District Attorney Chester Cedars says no one was charged in the incident, because there was no crime.

“The officers involved in this incident acted appropriately with justification and within the confines of the law,” Cedars said.

In March, Noel’s relatives sued St. Martin Parish Sheriff Ronald Theriot and the two deputies involved in the incidence, claiming the shooting was unprovoked. Noel reportedly attacked the officers as they attempted to subdue him and drive him to a hospital. Cedars says Noel was posing a threat to the officers before the shooting.

“Their attempts to subdue Mr. Noel had proven to be futile. He was posing a danger to the safety of both officers,” Cedars said.

Noel’s mother, Barbara, told the Associated Press she is “furious” no criminal charges were handed down against the deputies. The officers reportedly shocked Noel with a stun gun, but he allegedly tried to stab one of the officers with an unsecured handcuff. Cedars says the officers did what they had to do.

“In this particular case we found no basis upon which one could reasonably, ethically and professionally charge either officer with any sort of criminal offense,” Cedars said.

 
 
 

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With Mother’s Day on Sunday, the Department of Health and Hospitals is urging all women to get regular health checks, including mammograms. Secretary Rebekah Gee says she lost her mother to breast cancer when she was 16 and doesn’t want others to go through the same experience. Gee says you don’t want to wait until it’s too late.

“Definitely talk with your doctor but if you are over 40 and you haven’t thought about getting a mammogram, definitely go see your doctor.”

The American Cancer Society suggests women 45 to 54 should get yearly mammograms to detect breast cancer. Gee says many women are scared to get mammograms, but she says cancer isn’t a death sentence.

“Cancer is treatable in most of its forms, you can cure it in many of its form. Don’t get scared because something might be found, the whole point of getting screened is to maybe find something that could be treated.”

Gee says cervical cancer screenings are also important and there are many vaccines to prevent cervical cancer. She recommends women get regular PAP tests starting at age 21 every three to five years.

“Colonoscopy is the other one that’s very important for women. Colonoscopies start for most folks at 50-years-old and those are life saving, as well.”

 
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards says he supports Parks Senator Fred Mills’ bill to expand the list of diseases medical marijuana can be used to treat. But Edwards says this is not a step towards legalization of pot.

“There is no way while I am governor, and I suspect thereafter, that we are going to legalize recreational use of marijuana, and this is not a movement in that direction,” Edwards said.

Edwards says he knows of many people, especially children who need medical cannabis to cope with a disorder. He says the state shouldn’t stand between doctors and the parents when it comes to what’s best for those children.

“I don’t think that we ought to tell those parents, ‘Well if you want access to what your doctor thinks is the best course of action, you need to move,’” Edwards said.

Mills’ medical marijuana legislation is facing opposition from district attorneys and sheriffs, because they are concerned that too many people might have access to the drug. Edwards believes medical marijuana should be available for those with seizure disorders, but he’s also interested in limiting the number of disorders the drug could be used for.

“I’m also committed that we will not have creep, in the sense that this is going to be n ever expansive list of medical conditions,” Edwards said.

Mills’ bill has already passed out of the Senate and is awaiting approval by the full House.

 
 
 

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Mother’s Day is this Sunday and restaurants will be packed with families getting together to celebrate Mom. Louisiana Restaurant Association spokesperson Erica Burns says this is the most popular day of the year to dine out. She advises husbands and kids, if you haven’t made a reservation yet, do so now before it’s too late.

“Give mom a day off from cooking and just treat her to a nice meal. Traditionally, that’s been the most popular way to celebrate mothers, is to take them out to a restaurant.”

Burns says many restaurants have specials or even give gifts to honor Mom. He says both fine dining and every day restaurants book up quickly around lunch for Mother’s Day.

“During the day, probably that brunch day part, leading into lunch and a lot of people to beat the rush during the day will make reservations at night.”

Burns says Valentine’s Day is the next biggest holiday where people go out to eat. She expects to see a lot of families outdoor dining with the nice weather that’s expected.

“35% of Americans plan to dine out on Mother’s Day.”

 
 
 

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There is a month left in the legislative session and lawmakers still have a lot to. Jeremy Alford with LaPolitics.com says the budget is the biggest concern for legislators. He says lawmakers are working to pass a balanced budget with a 600 million dollar shortfall before the session ends on June 6th and funding TOPS is a major priority.

“Where that money is going to come from is another question. There has been suggestion from committee members that it could come from the Health and Hospitals budget, there is a piece of legislation that would cut consulting contracts to cover that amount.”

The House Appropriations committee is expected to make changes to the proposed budget for next fiscal year on Monday and send the spending plan to the House floor. Alford also says one of the governor’s main bills for the session, a measure that raises the minimum wage, faces an uphill climb.

“Especially when it was discovered last week that there are a very large number of state employees under the minimum wage increase, that’s money that the state just doesn’t have during a budget crunch.”

Governor John Bel Edwards is expected to call a second special session in June. It make take a second special session to figure out funding for TOPS. Alford says one bill that will likely be signed by the governor soon, is a measure that could one day lead to TOPS recipients no longer having their full tuition paid for.

“Cap the award limit at where it would stand next fiscal year so it wouldn’t have to increase alongside tuition increases and rate increases.”

 

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Strippers in Louisiana could soon be required to be at least 21 years old, as a bill to raise the minimum age for strippers is heading to the House for final legislative approval. Lake Charles Senator Ronnie Johns told the House Judiciary Committee he authored the bill to combat sex trafficking.

“We have found that a number of these young ladies, who are human trafficked, end up in the strip clubs,” John said.

Jim Kelly, executive director of the Covenant House in New Orleans, supports the bill. Kelly says he knows many young girls who are victims of sex trafficking that end up working in strip clubs at a very young age.

“If you have to be 21 to drink in an establishment, don’t you think you should be 21 to take your clothes off in that same establishment,” Kelly said.

Amite Representative Robby Carter also supports the legislation. He says lawmakers need to do something to stop human trafficking in Louisiana.

“We need to do something to get these people to realize that there’s another way of living. I wish it was something we could do to make them go to church or something,” Carter said.

The bill was unanimously approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

 
 
 

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The State Fire Marshal has put out a warning about electronic cigarettes, after two people were recently burned in Louisiana when their vaporizing device exploded. Deputy Chief Brant Thompson says in both cases the batteries in the vaping mods overheated.

“Those batteries did overheat after coming in contact with other metal objects within the victims’ pant pocket and in fact exploded and caught fire,” Thompson said.

A Baton Rouge man suffered second and third-degree burns to his leg and hand after the battery in his device overheated, and a Houma man also suffered serious burns when his mod exploded. Thompson advises people to be careful when carrying batteries to make sure they don’t come in contact with other metal objects. He says it’s also important to make sure the batteries are in good condition.

“Never put loose batteries in your pocket where they may come in contact with other batteries or metal objects. Make sure that there are no deformities with batteries that are intended for use,” Thompson said.

Thompson warns people against using cheap knock off batteries, as they may be more likely to overheat. He says use the right battery for your mod.

“Use the appropriate battery designed specifically for that device, and purchase those batteries from reputable retailers,” Thompson said.

 
 
 

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A bill to legalize the sale of raw milk died in a House committee today. State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry says pasteurizing milk kills the bacteria and removes the risk. He says federal government agencies agree that there are significant risks when it comes to drinking raw milk.

“I predict in years to come we’ll be back at the table. If we remove this requirement, we’ll reinstitute this requirement because we’ll see breakouts and we’ll see deaths.”

Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain says there will continue to be outbreaks of disease if raw milk is legalized. He says raw milk is 150 times riskier to drink than pasteurized milk.

“The reason you have a higher rate of hospitalization is that the bacteria in raw milk are far more pathogenic and can cause greater illness than the bacteria you can get secondary, post contamination.”

Sponsor of the bill, Ville Platte Sen. Eric LaFleur, says right now, people who want to drink raw milk have to buy it in other states or on the black market. He says this bill is about the freedom of choice and raw milk would not be sold in grocery stores.

“You can go to your neighbor who happens to have a Jersey cow or a Holstein cow and you can buy it. The government today tells you that you can’t do that and that it crazy in this country that you can’t buy milk from your neighbor.”

Wendy Adams with the Libertarian party says she supports the legislation because this bill is about freedom and choice. She says no one is in any danger of walking into a supermarket and accidentally buying raw milk rather than pasteurized milk.

“You have to get in your car and drive to a rural area or a farm and purchase this raw milk and it’s not cheap because you’ve made the conscious decision what is best for you and your family.”

 
 
 

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A measure is making its way through the legislature that would prohibit Louisiana cities from receiving state dollars for construction projects if they don’t enforce federal immigration law. The bill is heading to the Senate after a lengthy debate on the House floor. Denham Springs Representative Valerie Hodges says sanctuary cities are a threat to national security.

“If we’re free to disregard whatever laws we want, that’s anarchy,” Hodges said.

The bill could hurt Lafayette and New Orleans because they are considered sanctuary cities. New Orleans police has a policy in which they do not assist with federal immigration enforcement, and the Lafayette Sheriff’s Office says it won’t hold offenders for Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a court order. Hodges says cities should not work against federal agencies.

“Municipalities making arbitrary decisions to disregard criminal behavior and not cooperate with federal authorities,” Hodges said.

But New Orleans Representative Walt Leger opposes the bill. He says it’s not the local governments place to have to do the federal government’s job.

“The local government is now going to be burdened with doing the job of the federal government and providing for the enforcement of federal immigration laws,” Leger said.

Under this proposal, the Attorney General would decide if a sanctuary city would be able to borrow state dollars for construction projects. Leger says this would hurt New Orleans if the city wanted to update the infrastructure at the port of New Orleans.

“What made you decide that you thought the Attorney General should be the person who decides whether or not the Port of New Orleans should get bond money to invest in infrastructure,” Leger said.

Governor John Bel Edwards says he has some concerns with the legislation as well.

 
 
 

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Louisiana’s five uncommitted Marco Rubio delegates have announced that they will back the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Kirk Williamson, a Louisiana delegate, says the delegates are following the voters’ lead.

“Looks like Mr. Trump had gotten millions of votes, and so we’re going to respect the wishes of the voters and support him in the fall,” Williamson said.

Williamson says the most important thing right now is party unity. He thinks one way to achieve that would be for Trump to choose Rubio as his running mate.

“I think Mr. Rubio provides the kind of party unity we’re looking for, as well as great experience on foreign policy. I think he’s got a lot of experience on the United States Senate, so I think he would make a great vice president,” Williamson said.

Williamson says the delegates will rally behind the candidate who has the best chance of defeating the Democratic opponent in the general election. He says although all Republicans may not like Trump, it’s better than the alternative.

“We make not agree on 100% of all issues, but we agree on the most, and we sure agree that Hillary Clinton is going to make a bad president. So we should all get up behind the presumptive nominee,” Williamson said.

 
 
 

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Louisiana’s teen birth rate has declined substantially over the last decade. A report from the Centers for Disease Control shows Louisiana’s teen birth rate is 37.5 for 2013-14, which is a decrease from the 2006-07 rate of 69. Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Rebekah Gee says this is great news for Louisiana. Gee says she thinks teens are practicing safer sex, or better yet abstinence.

“Teens are understanding the importance of waiting to have sex, but if they are having sex, they’re being more effective at using birth control,” Gee said.

Louisiana now ranks 7th in the country for teen pregnancy. Gee says there’s been a trend to use more effective birth control in teens who have decided to have sex to keep these teen pregnancy rates down.

“We have been focusing on using what are called long-acting reversible contraceptives, things like IUD and Nexplanon, which is a rod that goes in the arm,” Gee said.

Gee says parents can also help prevent teen pregnancy by having these difficult conversations with their children.

“You can’t wait too long. It’s not fun to have that conversation as a mom or dad, but it’s important to have that conversation as a mom or dad,” Gee said.

 
 
 

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A proposal to alter the conditions under which a person who was wrongfully convicted could be compensated is dead for the session. Phillip Rozeman’s uncle was murdered 35 years ago, and Glenn Ford spent 30 years in jail for the crime, which he did not commit. Ford was not compensated for his time behind bars, because he was implicated in crimes related to the murder. Rozeman spoke in opposition, saying if Ford was not involved, there wouldn’t have been a murder.

“Ford was intricately involved in every facet of this case, with the exceptions of entering the house and pulling the trigger,” Rozeman said.

Pete Adams, Executive Director of the District Attorney’s Association, also opposes the bill. He says the compensation is meant for people who are wrongfully convicted, not for those who get their convictions overturned.

“The statute was drafted this way for a reason. It’s designed to give the people who have clean hands compensation because they truly deserve it. If you open it up, I think you water that down,” Adams said.

But Baton Rouge Representative Denise Marcelle supports the bill. She says these people have been failed by the system, and they deserve compensation.

“I just don’t think there’s a dollar amount you can put on compensation for wrongfully convicting someone of a capital crime and having them on death row,” Marcelle said.

Marcelle says people who are wrongfully convicted spend most of their lives being punished for something they didn’t do.

“Thirty years is a life. Children he could’ve had. Children that he did not get to grow up with,” Marcelle said.

The author of the bill, Shreveport Representative Cedric Glover, plans to bring the bill back again next year.

 
 
 

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During the governor’s short time in office, his main priority has been the state’s massive budget deficit. But John Bel Edwards wants to address tackle other issues during his term. Edwards told the Baton Rouge Rotary Club he is committed to the creation of a high speed commuter train between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

“What if you lived in New Orleans and you needed access to go to work at one of those plants along the river and you could use a train to get there. I think it makes all the sense in the world, I think it would work.”

Edwards says advancing online educational technology is another area where he’d like to see expansion. He says young adults should have the opportunity to get their GED through classes on the internet.

“Maybe you’ve got a 16-year-old young lady who got pregnant, she drops out of high school. She might be able to get a high school degree if it’s available online.”

Edwards says in next year’s regular legislative session, sentencing and criminal justice reform will be one of his top priorities.

“The good news is there are other southern conservative states that have already done this. We know what worked and we know what didn’t work. We have a lot of people who are committed to this when it in the past they would’ve never have been committed.”
 
 
 
 

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Former-Monroe TV personality “Mr. Wonder” has given up on fighting extradition from California back to Rapides Parish to face child sex charges that date back to 1978. Rapides Parish Sheriff’s office spokesperson, Lt. Tommy Carnline, says they are pleased the case against Frank Selas is moving forward.

“This has been a process that we have had going on now since his arrest in late January. He will now be extradited back to Rapides Parish where he will stand trial,” Carnline said.

Selas was living in San Diego when the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s office announced charges against him for allegedly sexually abusing boys during a camping trip. Carnline says it’s unclear when Selas will return to Rapides Parish.

“We have almost a month to get this done, but we’ll have to fly out there and then bring him back and get him back to Rapides Parish as possible,” Carnline said.

Carnline says Selas will go to court in Rapides Parish on two counts of aggravated rape, three counts of sexual battery, and eight counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile.

“That’s where we’ll get closure and hopefully justice for these victims after 37 years,” Carnline said.

 
 
 

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A bill to restrict college athletic teams in Louisiana, except for LSU, from traveling more than 375 miles to play games has been withdrawn. Baton Rouge Rep. Steve Carter, says he’s decided not to push his measure further, but told the House Education Committee we’re using taxpayer dollars to fund athletic programs when the state is in a massive budget deficit.

“Is this where these dollars should be spent? Or should we possibly be using some of these dollars for deferred maintenance, maybe even utilizing these dollars to fund more TOPS kids.”

Carter says he’s trying to make a point on the state’s priorities. He says there are a lot of out of student athletes using state dollars to travel when this money could be used to prevent cuts on the academic side.

“I’m trying to save a few dollars. I’m trying to make a point, is this where these dollars need to be spent?”

Carter says money used to fund long road trips for athletic teams could be put towards hiring new professors or for the TOPS scholarship program.

“Athletics is athletics and people want to compete and they want to compete against the best but again, I’m looking at it, what am I going to do with deferred maintenance, what am I going to do with TOPS?”

 
 

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Donald Trump is now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, as both Ted Cruz and John Kasich have both dropped out of the race. UL-Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross says Trump might start to reign in some of his controversial comments to get more voters to rally behind him.

“I think his message will be shaped to the electorate he is now going to represent, and I think there will be a general ‘Support Trump’ move on the way to the convention,” Cross said.

Cross says not all Republicans will be happy to see Trump uncontested at the convention, but he doesn’t think the GOP will look for another nominee.

“They can’t walk away from him, but they can make some riots and protests at the convention, and we may see some of that,” Cross said.

Cross says Trump probably cannot count on getting much of the Democratic vote, because most Bernie Sanders supporters say they would support Hillary Clinton if Sanders didn’t get the nomination. Cross says Republicans will likely do what they can to market Trump to more of the party.

“I think the Republican Party is going to undertake the great education of Donald Trump and try to get him in a position that more and more Republicans can actually support him,” Cross said.

 
 
 

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A bill to allow public high school students to participate in a national sex survey scarcely got enough votes to pass the House. Baton Rouge Representative Patricia Smith authors the bill. She says Louisiana has a high rate of STDs and pregnancy among teens. Opponents of the bill say it’s the parents’ place to talk about these things with their kids, but Smith says that isn’t working.

“If parents were doing this, then we wouldn’t have the cases that we do have, and so I just feel that we need to do something to get the information to be able to direct policy,” Smith said.

Baton Rouge Representative Denise Marcelle supports the legislation. She says lawmakers need to do something to prevent the cases of STDs and teen pregnancy from continuing to increase.

“I believe that doing something towards identifying these problems is a good thing, and if you do nothing, then you may just be a part of the problem,” Marcelle said.

Students would not be required to participate, and parents would be able to opt their child out. Shreveport Representative Thomas Carmody also spoke in support of the bill. He says the survey is anonymous, and it is not mandatory.

“Where would it hurt to allow at least the questions to be asked of our students to try to help them understand the consequences of their behavior?” Carmody said.

The measure passed on a 53-40 vote and moves to the Senate.

 
 
 

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State health officials are offering guidance on how people can prevent the transmission of Zika virus. Dr. Frank Welch, with the department of health and hospitals, says the mosquito that carries Zika will be active in Louisiana this summer, but it won’t just be mosquitoes spreading the virus.

“There is the potential for local person to person spread in Louisiana. So we want to warn people beforehand to avoid mosquito bites and to get counseling and testing if they feel ill,” Welch said.

Welch says the virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact. He says if someone has a partner who has travelled to South America or the Caribbean, they need to take extra precautions, especially if the woman is pregnant.

“They are recommending using condoms for the 8 week period after return to avoid that woman getting Zika virus that may transmit to her baby,” Welch said.

Welch advises people to clear any standing water out of their yards, and wear long sleeves, pants and mosquito repellant. He says Southeastern Louisiana, and Lake Pontchartrain in particular, will be high risk areas because that’s where the mosquito that carries Zika lives.

“This mosquito is not universally distributed around Louisiana. It does then to congregate where people are and especially where swampy, warm areas are,” Welch said.

 
 
 

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