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BESE to discuss Common Core

Michelle Southern reporting.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet today and one of them items on the agenda is the question of what to do about Common Core Opt-Outs. Some families who oppose the education standards have said they won't let their child take the PARCC test. BESE member Jane Smith seeks to delay consequences for schools who have students who opt out.


"What I'd like to do is have BESE clarify this in policy for this year," says Smith. "Those students that are opting out of taking the PARCC assessment would not be a zero towards their school's performance socre."

Smith says students who opt-out of taking the Common Core test won't be punished but it's the school that would get a zero for that student towards its performance score. She says parents not letting their kids take the PARCC test is a variable that punishes the school but that they can't control.

"I'm hoping that we will make the decision to revise our accountability policy," said Smith.

Smith says BESE needs a least a year to figure out a compromise when it comes to Common Core because clearly there issues as students opt-out of the tests because their parents don't think it's appropriate.

"So for the 2015 year only, why don't we pause any kind of punitive measures, not only to the students, but to the school districts and teachers."




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Spring forward sleep tips for kids

Sleep experts have some tips for parents on ways to prepare their children for losing an hour of sleep this weekend as we spring forward. Mother of six, Laura Swartz with Healthy Happy Sleep says plan on  keeping sleep patterns the same after the time has changed. 


"The ways that you can prepare is to wake them up. Its really important to get them back on their normal track as fast as possible. So waking them up about 15 minutes earlier in the days leading up is the best way to go about it." 

Swartz says give yourself permission to relax about this change since parents tend to over think the process. She says starting today wake up your kids 15 minutes earlier than usual. 

"They get up at 7, I would go ahead and wake them up at 6:45, and then the next day wake them up at 6:30 so by the time they get to Sunday morning they are waking up at the new time of 7," 

Swartz says the rhythms of daily life will regulate your childrens new sleep schedule. She says the change will be easy for naturally early risers but most parents will know if they're children are sensitive to changes in their routine. 

"We tend to want to control everything and make sure it doesn't get out of wack. The reality is our families have natural rhythms of our own and so when the time changes we tend to fall back into our old rhythms of when our meal times are and when we have certain activities," 



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Report: Saints to release Pierre Thomas

Michelle Southern reporting.
Sources say the New Orleans Saints have released running back Pierre Thomas from the team. The 30-year-old will save the Black and Gold $1.7 million dollars against the salary cap. NFL analyst Mike Detillier says it's a heart breaking move, but not really a surprise.


"He's getting up in age and I think with running backs you almost have that philosophy that you'd rather get rid of him a year too early rather than a year too late," said Detillier.

New Orleans needs to continue to move or lay-off some players by March 10th to get below the salary cap. 

Detillier says Thomas, who's spent all of his 8 seasons with the team, gave New Orleans the screen game back like no one since Dalton Hilliard.

He says what the Saints will really miss is his pass protection skills.

"But, you know what? In the NFL it never lasts forever and it rarely ends storybook with one team," said Detillier.

Thomas complied 3,745 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns on 187 carries for New Orleans.

He was a key component in the Saints Super Bowl win. 

Detillier says you could argue Thomas was the best undrafted free agent in the Sean Payton era.

He says the fans love him and he's very active with the community and quick to speak to the media, but this is about winning games.

"But like in every profession you get old," said Detillier. "And I think that Pierre has a lot of life in him but in this day and age it's all much you can produce and how much they're paying you."




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Man running with shot gun in Schriever dies in custody

The Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's office says a man is dead after officers responded to reports that the suspect was shooting a gun into the air in the middle of the street. Captain Dawn Foret says they got several 911 calls early this morning with reports of a man who was running in the middle of the road with the weapon near the Schriever Overpass.


"We got additional calls that he was also firing the gun in the air," said Foret.

Foret says when cops responded they located 49-year-old Troy Brady sitting in the middle of the road with a shot gun near him.

"He was detained at that time, and as our units arrived within minutes the subject became unresponsive," said Foret.

Foret says Brady was detained and then shortly after he became unresponsive.

"Acadian Ambulance was immediately dispatched and sent the subject to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead," said Foret.

She says there was no obvious signs of trauma to Brady so they've ordered an autopsy to determine cause of death.




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North Louisiana under Winter Storm Warning through Thursday morning

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for parishes north of I-20, ahead of a strong cold front that will move through the state this evening.  Gary Chatelain, with the National Weather Service in Shreveport, says rain is forecast for the area today and that could become a problem as that front descends across north Louisiana.


"As the air temperatures become freezing, then we'll begin to see perhaps some ice on some area bridges, overpasses, your car windshield, maybe some trees and power lines."

The Winter Storm Warning is in effect through tomorrow morning.  Chatelain says a Winter Weather Advisory is also in effect along and south of I-20.  He says areas under this advisory will not be hit as hard as areas north of the interstate.

"Anywhere along the south of I-20 it'll probably be just freezing rain and maybe a few sleet pellets before ending tomorrow by noon or so."

Chatelain says this weather event should not be as severe as last week's, especially on roadways.  He says warmer ground temperatures will melt a lot of the ice on roads, but the main concern is bridges and overpasses freezing over.  He says this cold front will mainly bring freezing rain to the state.

"There may be a transition over to sleet and snow in northern sections, especially through parts of the Ark-La-Tex." 



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Big change in weather coming

Get ready for a big change in the weather. State climatologist Barry Keim says high temperatures today will be in the 70s and tomorrow they'll be back in the 30s and 40s as a result of a strong cold front.
 
"So expect big changes in the temperature today, once that front begins bearing down on your location," Keim said.


This front has the potential to produce another round of winter precipitation. Keim says the northern half of the state could see see freezing rain during the overnight hours. 
 
"Which will include the Alexandria area, and all points north of Alexandria in Louisiana, including Shreveport and Monroe." 
 
Eleven parishes are under a winter storm warning and it covers Shreveport, Monroe, Farmerville, Oak Grove and Ruston. The National Weather Service says there's a potential of up to a quarter of an inch of freezing rain and sleet accumulations during the early morning hours on Thursday in these areas.  
 
 



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Kennedy sees pros and cons in proposed budget

State Treasurer John Kennedy sees pros and cons to Governor Bobby Jindal's budget proposal.  The governor has proposed scaling back certain tax credits and cut spending in other areas to address a $1.6 billion revenue shortfall.  


Kennedy says some of the proposed reductions in spending make sense, especially in the area of consulting contracts.
 
"He's going to get rid of a call center consultant, I think, for about $3.3 million.  He's going to reduce the number of consultants at the Department of Education, $6.8 million."

Kennedy says the proposed budget looks to reduce the 60-percent of the deficit by repealing tax credits and 40-percent by reducing spending.  However, Kennedy does question the proposal of closing all health clinics in New Orleans, which will effect about 57,000 people.

"That's going to drive people to the emergency room and it will cost four to five times more to threat them in an emergency room than in the private clinic.  So, while in the short term, there may be a reduction, in the long term it could cost us more money."

Kennedy spoke about the budget on Louisiana Radio Network's Jim Engster show.  He says the budget's biggest revenue increase comes with the repeal of the inventory tax credit, which would add about $525 million dollars to the state's coffers.  Kennedy says he's not sure this was chosen wisely.

"Increasing this inventory tax is going to really effect a lot of businesses, about about a thousand businesses in Louisiana.  And many of them are going to be small businesses." 



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LABI plans to fight repeal of the inventory tax credit

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry plans to fight Governor Bobby Jindal's proposal to repeal the inventory tax credit.  Such a move would save the state an estimated $380 million which could be used for health care and higher education.  


But LABI Vice President, Jim Patterson, says a repeal of this tax credit would be devastating to business across the state.
 
"And, to the degree that this will now cease, as the governor declares these amounts non-refundable, the impact will be very adverse to our economy."

Patterson says the vast majority of states do not have inventory taxes, so if the refund went away, jobs could leave as well.

"If, in fact, this occurs, businesses make the logical decision to shift their inventories to, let's say, states who do not have such a tax."

Patterson says if those inventories are moved, it would mean countless warehouse jobs across the state would be lost.  He says Louisiana is one of only 13 states that have an inventory tax on the books.  Patterson says if the inventory tax credit is repealed, then business will have to make up that money somewhere.

"Business will, necessarily to the degree that they can, businesses will pass this along to consumers." 



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Shreveport Police looking for second suspect after fatal home invasion attempt

The Shreveport Police Department says they are looking for a suspect following an overnight fatal home invasion. Corporal Marcus Hines says officers were called to the scene around 1am.


"When officers arrived on scene there was a suspect fatally shot inside the residence," said Hines. "Evidence at the scene suggest the home owner shot the man."

Minor children inside the home at the time of the shooting were not injured and authorities with child welfare were notified. Hines says they believe the two men entered the home wearing masks and one of them was armed with a semi-automatic rifle

"A second suspect did flee the scene," said Hines. "We don't know if he was shot by the homeowner or not but he has not been captured."

He says evidence seized during a search of the residence suggest illegal narcotics may have been a motivating factor in the attempted robbery.

"Right now officers are working that angle to see if that played a role in the shooting," said Hines. "We're pretty confident that had some degree of involvement."
 
Officers have arrested two people living inside the home, because of illegal drugs inside the home.




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Elderly woman perishes in Opelousas fire

Michelle Southern reporting.
The State Fire Marshal's Office says they are working an investigation into a fire which claimed the life of a 73-year-old woman in Opelousas. Fire Marshal Butch Browning says firefighters responded to a wood frame dwelling around 4am which they found fully engulfed in flames.


He says the 73 year old victim, Mary Ann Sam, was also located.

"She perished in the fire before the firefighters arrived," said Browning. "We've been going through the respectful process of removing the body from the home."

They are still working to determine the cause of the blaze. 

Browning says they know the woman was living alone in the home and the fire was discovered by someone who was driving by.

"It kinda-of leads us to believe that there were not working smoke alarms in the home," said Browning.




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State tax returns being issued

The state Department of Revenue announces that state tax refunds are now being issued.  The department had said that it would not issue refunds until March 2nd, but actually began doing so last Friday.  


Spokeswoman Kizzy Payton says the delay was due to the increase of the filing of fraudulent tax returns across the nation.
 
"The Department of Revenue decided to implement additional security measures, this year, to ensure we could detect any suspicious activity surrounding taxpayer's accounts."

Payton says the department strives to make sure they are not handing out tax refunds to people who do not deserve them.

"In the past two years alone, LDR has prevented over $11 million in fraudulent tax returns from going out the door through our anti-fraud initiative."

Payton says some may have already received their refund, depending on the method of payment they chose.  She says, thus far, over 763,000 tax returns have been filed and about 244,000 have been processed.  But Payton says that's just the beginning.

"On average, LDR processes 1.9 million electronic refunds each year."
 



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New study suggests longer sleep could put you at higher risk for stroke

Michelle Southern reporting.
A new study suggests people who sleep longer face a greater risk of having a stroke. Researchers followed patients for 10 years and found that someone 63 or older who sleeps more than eight hours a day is 46 percent likelier to suffer a stroke in the next decade than adults who sleep for 6-8 hours.


"We've actually characterized pretty well the effect of sleep deprivation," says Dr. Caroline Barton, an assistant professor of neurology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. "But we've not really characterized very well what the effect of too much sleep is on people."

Barton says you can't diagnose a stroke before it happens but studies like this help give doctors clues as to what might be causing them. She says stability of sleep as a trait is very important.

"Because they noticed that the people who tended to have strokes because they slept longer, 10 years prior when they were first studied slept normally," said Barton.

The findings were published in the journal Neurology. Barton says the study also noted that if someone had a significant change in their sleeping habits it was a bad sign.

"They said long sleep could be a cause, consequence or an early marker of ill health that could eventually result in stroke," said Barton.


 



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Meeting tonight to discuss downsizing at Fort Polk

As the military, once again, looks to reduce the number of troops at the Fort Polk Army base, the Army is holding a meeting tonight to listen to concerns about the potential effects a troop reduction could have on the area.  Fort Polk Progress Chairman, Michael Reese, says the listening session is the final event in their evaluation process.  


He says they will host three events in Leesville, Lake Charles, and Alexandria.
 
"That will be simultaneous events that will be simulcast back to the listening session in Leesville where the evaluation team will be."

Reese says these events will show the Army the breadth of support Fort Polk enjoys and will be something unique they won't see at other installations.  The military is considering troop reductions at 30 bases nationwide.  He says Fort Polk faced a reduction last year and the base only lost around 250 troops.

"That was a substantial savings at Fort Polk, keeping the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain there, which really is the level of stationing needed at Fort Polk in order for these off base communities to provide any of the services they currently provide."

Reese says attendance at these events is very key and critical to there mission of avoiding massive troop reductions at Fort Polk.  He says if you can attend one of the three events, your presence could speak volumes to the Army.

"Numbers matter.  Driving that point to the military that our communities understand what's at stake, understand what's going on, understand the economic impact, is something that can't be done in reports" 



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Higher education looking for funding solutions

Higher Education Commissioner Joe Rallo says Governor Jindal's proposed budget is about 200-million dollars short of what's needed to fully fund the state's public college and universities. Rallo says if the funding situation doesn't change, campus leaders will have to make some tough decisions.


"Probably come the latter part of this month, certainly by the beginning of April, they will start cancelling classes, a significant numbers of classes, they will be looking at not hiring faculty members," Rallo said. 
 
The state's budget problems have raised concerns that one possible solution is to close college campuses. But Rallo says the state will not see the kind of savings some might expect by shutting down a school.
 
"Take for example if you have a residence hall on your campus, how is that residence hall paid for, it's paid for because the students live there and pay rent," Rallo said. "So if you close the institution, the debt doesn't go away."
 
He says higher education leaders are looking at various options to improve their funding situation, one idea that's been thrown on the white board is to privatize some public universities. 
 
"It's incumbent upon us to look at a lot of different things. It doesn't mean it's even possible."
  
 



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Man arrested after throwing daughter to the ground while fleeing police

Slidell Police has arrested a Baton Rouge man after he threw his young daughter to the ground while fleeing officers during a shoplifting attempt.  Detective Daniel Seuzeneau says officers responded to a call that 24-year-old Lamar Causey was attempting to steal cologne and perfume from a cosmetics store.


"And when they went to approach him, Causey literally threw his 17-month-old daughter to the ground, causing her to hit her head."

One officer stopped and cared for the child, while the other officer chased Causey down and apprehended him.  Seuzeneau says the incident was truly shocking for everyone involved.

"The officer, who went to the aid of the infant, said that he has never seen somebody do that before and that Causey literally threw his daughter down as if she was a toy doll."

The little girl was transported to a local hospital for her injuries.  She was released to family members and will make a full recovery.  Police recovered 14 bottles of stolen cologne and perfume on Causey valued at almost $1,200.  Seuzeneau says Causey was booked into the Slidell City Jail.

"And he was charged with a slew of charges:  theft of over $1000, cruelty to juveniles, child desertion, resisting an officer by flight, public intimidation, and possession of schedule II narcotics."
 



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LSU and Chavis battle over $400,000 buyout

LSU and its former defensive coordinator John Chavis are in a legal battle. The two sides filed lawsuits against each other. LSU claims Chavis owes them $400,000 contractual buyout for accepting a job with Texas A&M. 


Chavis filed the first lawsuit in Texas, claiming he took the proper steps when he left LSU to avoid paying a 400-thousand buyout. LSU counter sued, seeking to dismiss Chavis' suit and have the case heard in Baton Rouge. Legal analyst Tim Meche says having the home court advantage is critical in this case. 
 
"I mean no Baton Rouge judge or jury is going to rule for John Chavis, likewise LSU will be handicapped before a Texas judge or jury," Meche said. 
 
Meche believes this case will be settled out of court, because it's in the best interest of the LSU and A&M football programs not to have Chavis or Tigers Head Coach Les Miles go through a deposition. 
 
"They would be subject to answer questions under oath about intricate details of the program and recruiting, and this is information that nobody wants to come out in the public," Meche said. 
 
 
 
 
 



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Jindal winds up in 12th in Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll

A straw poll conducted at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference showed Governor Bobby Jindal finishing in 12th place among Republican presidential hopefuls.  Jindal received less than one percent of the ballots in that poll.  


UL-Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross says this group has not had a good record in predicting presidential nominees.
 
"It's really more about who is hot in the very, very conservative community, right now, and apparently Bobby Jindal is not that person."  

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul won the poll, followed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.  Cross doesn't think the results of this straw poll will discourage Jindal's presidential aspirations.

"I think he's going to move forward.  I think if he has a bad showing in Iowa and, maybe, one or two other states, he might hang it up."

Cross says Jindal is not necessarily looking to gain the Republican nomination for this presidential election.  He says the governor is looking to get his name out there and becoming one of the players in the Republican Party for future presidential races.

"Looking down the road in 2020, '24, '28, he would still be well within the range of age for presidential candidates."
 



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Lawmakers look to revamp Louisiana's film tax credit program

Michelle Southern reporting.
As the Louisiana filmed blockbuster "Focus" opened over the weekend, a group of lawmakers is looking at ways we can improve the state's film tax credits. Some have argued that the movie credits here are corrupt and too generous.


New Orleans Senator JP Morrell, who is working on reform legislation, says he fully supports the program but it has major issues.

"When you have taxpayer dollars involved in any program you have to make sure that money is being spent wisely, it's not being exploited and the money being spent delivers the maximum return to those citizens who are paying for it," said Morrell.

Economic impact numbers revealed "Focus" filmed here for 43 days and spent over $8.3 million on local labor at in-state businesses and on location.

Morrell says they don't want to lose the fact that Louisiana has become an industry film leader in the country and earned the name Hollywood South. But he says there are things that must be done to restore taxpayer confidence in the film tax credit program.

"The goal with this right now is to really turn our film tax credit program from the step child to the poster child," says Morrell. "Really kind-of make it almost a template, so-to-speak, of going and reforming all of our tax credit programs."

Morrell says drafts of possible legislation will be discussed on Wednesday in a meeting with the Entertainment Industry Development Advisory Commission.

He says in addition to legislators, that group also is made up of stakeholders in the industry and the goal is a "comprehensive reform" of the film tax credit program.

"To be honest, no one is in love with anything we're doing. There are people who want the credits to go away and there are people who want them left the same," says Morrell. "I've always had the thought that when you're trying to compromise or fix a problem, if everyone walks away sort-of dissatisfied then you're on the right track."




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After week one, 3 contestants on NBC's The Voice have Louisiana connections

Michelle Southern reporting.
NBC's hit show "The Voice" begins its second week of the new season tonight and Louisiana already has ties to three contestants who made it through the blind auditions. 22-year-old Rob Taylor, who was raised in Baton Rouge and now lives in Donaldsonville, gets to move on to the battle rounds which take place next month. 


Taylor says he never thought he would get such an opportunity.

"Being from a small town and with my family," said Taylor. "I never thought anything would come like this, but I'm so glad I never gave up."

The Voice's blind auditions continue tonight at 7. Taylor says when he graduated high school he was offered a partial scholarship to Boston's Berklee College of Music, but he chose to stay home to care for his mother who was sick.

He says his biggest musical influence is his grandmother.

"She was a choir director and really big into church music," said Taylor. "She started me with everything."

Also vying to win a recording contract this season is Tonya Boyd-Cannon who's from Jackson, Mississippi but currently lives in Chalmette. And Meghan Linsey who's from The Big Easy but currently lives in Nashville. 

Taylor says one of the things that influences him the most musically from Louisiana is that styles here are so eclectic.

"There's a little bit of something for everyone and that's the vibe I wanna put off on the show," said Taylor.
 




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Quarterman's triple double leads LSU to 3rd straight victory

LSU continued its push to get in the NCAA Tournament as the Tigers defeated Ole Miss 73-63 on Saturday afternoon to improve to 10-6 in the SEC, 21-8 overall.
 
Tim Quarterman registered the first triple-double in LSU history since Shaquille O" Neal did in 1992. Quarterman had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Jarell Martin also had 18 points and added 12 rebounds. Keith Hornsby added 16 points and added four 3-pointers.  
 
LSU also played some outstanding defense, as they held to Rebels 38% shooting. One of the top scorers in the SEC, Stefan Moody of Ole Miss was just 3-of-16 from the field.
 
The Tigers will close out the home portion of their schedule when they host Tennessee on Wednesday.  



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