Well it’s now official, the Historic Hotel Bentley is now open for business. Owner Michael Jenkins was on Talkback 970 yesterday to break the news. (two of the three floors of the hotel are now open to the public, for a total of 62 guest rooms.) Renovations will continue on the other floors, another 31 hotel rooms, and several floors of condos. The restaurant in the Bentley should be opening very soon as well.
Alex River officially gets underway tonight with “Dinner on the bricks”. About a dozen local restaurants will serve from 6 until 8 p.m. this evening in front of City Hall on Third Street. The festival continues Friday with Art Walk at 4 p.m. and live entertainment.
Blue Bell is recalling select lots of Rocky Road Ice Cream pint packages that were mistakenly filled with Cookies n' Cream ice cream at its flagship Brenham plant. In a statement issued Wednesday, the Cookies 'n Cream ice cream contains soy and wheat not listed on the Rocky Road packages, which could cause serious and potentially life-threatening reactions to allergic consumers. The good news is, no illnesses have been reported so far. FYI, The affected packages are marked Rocky Road but are capped with a Cookies 'n Cream lid.
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. But, while it’s an improvement, Louisiana still ranks 7th in the country for teen births.
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 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.
Governor John Bel Edwards doesn’t want to give 40-thousand state workers a pay raise next year. It’s because the state is looking at a 600-million dollar revenue shortfall. The Civil Service Commission has the final say and plans on making a decision on the governor’s request next month.
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. 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 G-E-D through classes on the internet. Edwards says in next year’s regular legislative session, sentencing and criminal justice reform will be one of his top priorities.
A Senate committee shot down the House approved measure that would allow lawmakers to decide whether or not people who receive food stamps should have to work. The 4-2 vote fell along party lines with Democrats in opposition, and GOP support.
Ted Cruz and John Kasich have both dropped out of the presidential race, and Donald Trump is now the presumptive Republican nominee. UL-Lafayette political science professor Pearson 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.
A bill that would allow public high school students to participate in an anonymous national sex survey is heading to the Senate, after getting approval from the House. Baton Rouge Representative Patricia Smith 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. Under the bill, students would not be required to participate.
A proposal that would have limited travel of college athletic teams other than LSU is dropped. Baton Rouge Representative Steve Carter decided against moving forward with his legislation. Carter still told the House Education Committee that instead of the state paying for long road trips, the money could be used to hire new professors or fund the TOPS scholarship program.
Gas prices have topped the $2 mark in Louisiana. AAA says the statewide average price for a gallon of regular is now $2.01.
Louisiana is the 4th worst state for working moms, according to a study by the personal finance website, WalletHub. WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez says they looked at the cost of daycare, professional opportunities, and work and life balance. She says daycare and professional opportunities led to Louisiana’s poor ranking. Gonzalez says Louisiana also ranked 43rd for the gender pay gap.
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. It will be people. Welch says the virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact. He says if someone has a partner who has traveled to South America or the Caribbean, they need to take extra precautions, especially if the woman is pregnant.
A House committee approves legislation that would give domestic violence victims a chance to get an expedited or temporary permit to carry a gun. Wade Duty with the Louisiana Shooting Association says it’s very hard to get into a class and a woman could be killed waiting to take a training course. The measure now heads to the full House.
Legislation that would expand the number of conditions that medical marijuana could treat was approved by a House committee. Katie Corkern of Amite says her 9-year-old son has uncontrollable seizures and doesn’t understand why lawmakers would oppose a bill that could help her child. Opposition came from the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association and district attorneys. Pete Adams with the state’s D-A’s association says this bill is a gateway to total legalization of pot. Despite the opposition, the bill got out of the House committee on an 8-6 vote.
A Senate approved measure that would ban the collecting and selling of fetal tissue from abortions was approved by the House Health and Welfare committee with no objection today. The bill comes in response to the videos that surfaced apparently showing Planned Parenthood leaders selling aborted fetuses. The organization denies the allegation. The proposal will next be heard in the full House.
The House has approved a measure that would require students to take a wellness exam before they enter kindergarten or the sixth grade. The vote was 59-37 in favor. Houma Representative Beryl Amedee opposed the legislation. She says the health exam is unnecessary and could be costly, especially if the child has government health care. But supporters say the measure could improve children’s health.
Another bill heading to the House would public schools to teach personal financial management. Minden Representative Gene Reynolds is the author of the legislation. He says many schools already give lessons on financial literacy, he wants to make sure it’s’ required.
Reynolds says students in every grade can learn something about money. He says even learning to count pennies in kindergarten would count as finance literacy.
The LaFourche Parish Sheriff’s office says an intoxicated man stole a school bus Tuesday morning. Deputies say the female bus driver woke up at her Chackbay residence to find her bus gone. As authorities were responding to the scene, they saw the bus traveling on a highway and they initiated a traffic stop. Deputies say they learned that driver, who wreaked of alcohol, had hotwired the bus.
Despite being an outspoken critic of Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump, Former Governor Bobby Jindal says he would vote for Tump if he was the Republican nominee. Jindal made the comments during an interview on CNN, where he also said Trump would have the hardest time beating Democrat Hillary Clinton of all the Republican candidates.
220 retired research chimps at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s New Iberia research center will move to a new sanctuary in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Project Chimps is a non-profit organization and has negotiated with the university to move the chimps over the next several years.
Cleco utility customers can expect a $475 credit on their bills beginning in July, as a result of the Pineville-based company’s sale to foreign investors. Cleco spokesperson Jennifer Cahill says the Louisiana Public Service Commission created this credit as a part of their transaction.
Cahill says the credit will be applied until it runs out, meaning some customers will not have to pay a utility bill for a couple of months.
With a little more than 2 years on the job under his belt, LSUA chancellor Daniel Howard announced yesterday that he will step down from his position at the end of August. Howard plans to move back to his hometown of Florence, Alabama. No details have been released yet about the process to replace him.
Louisiana’s high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, as 78-percent of the Class of 2015 received their diplomas. State Education Superintendent John White, says that’s almost a 3-percent increase over the previous year, which is the second largest annual gain in 10 years. He believes more students are graduating, because educators raised the bar.
Legislation is heading to the governor’s desk that curbs the cost of the TOPS scholarship program, but it will likely mean recipients will have to pay a portion of their tuition. The taxpayer funded scholarship program costs the state nearly 300-million dollars and Lafayette Representative Nancy Landry says the legislature must do something to rein in its costs.
The measure passed on a 74-20 vote and heads to the governor’s desk.
Louisiana Senate has approved legislation that would send 17-year-old non-violent offenders through the juvenile court system, instead of adult court. The measure was approved on a 33-4 vote. The bill, which is supported by Governor Edwards, heads to the House for more discussion.
One of the governor’s main bills for the session, raising the minimum wage is having a difficult time gaining approval in the Senate. The measure barely got past the Senate Labor committee and is now stuck in the Senate Finance committee if approved, the bill would result in pay raises for the state’s lowest paid workers.
Baton Rouge Representative Ted James was unable to get enough votes from the House Commerce Committee to advance a measure that would allow law enforcement to unlock a homicide victims’ phone, if they were able to get a court order. James called the bill the “Brittney Mills Act.” She was murdered over a year ago and her case is still unsolved.
James might bring the bill up for another vote.
Governor John Bel Edwards has kicked off his statewide tour to discuss Medicaid expansion. Over the next month, Edwards and Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, Dr. Rebekah Gee, will visit cities to raise awareness and answer questions about who will be eligible to enroll for the government health insurance on June 1st. State health officials say the expanded Medicaid program will be able to cover an estimated 350,000 working poor individuals.
Governor John Bel Edwards says FEMA has denied Louisiana’s appeal for a major disaster declaration after severe storms and tornadoes devastated several communities in late February. He says the agency indicated in decision that the impact from the event is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.
May is Air Quality Awareness month, and the Department of Environmental Quality says Louisiana’s air quality is better than it’s been since the start of the Industrial Revolution. DEQ senior scientist Vivian Aucoin says that’s because they have improved the quality of the air in parts of the state where it was lacking. But the Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Anne Rolfes, doesn’t think Louisiana’s air is any cleaner. She says the state does a poor job of monitoring the air in areas where it’s the worst. Rolfes says in neighborhoods near oil refineries and other plants, the air just stinks, literally. She says her organization works with the EPA to get air quality readings in those areas, and their information shows the air is not any cleaner.
Officials across the Northshore announce the start of “Operation Angel” – a program whereby a person addicted to drugs can walk into a police station and ask for help instead of being charged with a crime. Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz says it’s time law enforcement changes the way they do business. He says the only requirement of Operation Angel is that an addict asks for help and wants to change their life.
The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s office says they’ve made an arrest in the death of a 16-year-old Kenner girl who was found dead in a ditch in St. Rose. The man arrested is Daniel Beckley and he’s been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Jorian White. Beckley is the longtime boyfriend of the victim’s mother. Investigators say Beckley was the last known adult to see White alive.
Governor John Bel Edwards wants a list of budget reform recommendations in two weeks from a special task force that’s studying the state’s finances. Some of the proposals will likely be presented to lawmakers during a special session in June to address a 600-million dollar shortfall. President of the Council for a Better Louisiana Barry Erwin is on the task force and he says lawmakers have already raised the state sales tax, so they are left with limited options to address the budget gap. Erwin says they just want to make sure that whatever revenue raising measure legislators choose are done in a way that doesn’t further hurt the state economy.
State Police report an Alexandria man was killed early Sunday morning in a single vehicle crash on LA112 at Fish Hatchery Road. Troopers say 18 year old Guillermo Ramos lost control and exited the right side of the roadway. After exiting the roadway, the vehicle collided with a culvert and a utility pole before overturning. Ramos was wearing his seat belt, but was pronounced dead at the scene. It’s believed High speed was a key factor.
The small LaSalle Parish town of Tullos is in shock this week over the double homicide case with more questions than answers. Sheriff’s deputies say the bodies of 19-year-old Chesley Coping and 26-year-old Demond Garner disappeared two eeekends ago. Their bodies were located last week. 18-year-old Austin Dyess (die-ess) and 26-year-old Joshua Sant were both charged with 2 counts of second degree murder. Details are still very scarce at this time.
Lt. Governor Bill Nungesser is touring the state to promote tourism as part of National Tourism Week. Nungesser says he’ll be in in West Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and St. Francisville today and then head to the northern part of the state later in the week. Nungesser says in 2015 nearly 29-million people visited the state, which was a record.
ULM students are gathering on campus today to collectively voice their concerns for the future of higher education. Katherine Dawson, Online Program Coordinator for ULM, says students, faculty, alumni, and others will all email their state at an event called Mission: Maroon. The governor’s proposed budget calls for a 183-million dollar cut to TOPS and higher education would receive a six-percent cut in state funding. Dawson says the purpose is not to gripe at lawmakers but to speak up and be heard. She says unfortunately, one email from one person may not make much of a difference, but she hopes that hundreds of emails will.
A giant sink hole on Canal Street in New Orleans is causing massive traffic problems. The hole came out of nowhere at around 3 o’clock Friday in between Harrah’s and Canal Place. The sink hole is located near an underground tunnel that was built during the 1960s. Mayor Mitch Landrieu says the repair could take anywhere between 3 to 6 months to fix.
Lafayette Congressman Charles Boustany has filed legislation that would require a weather radar detection site to be built near Baton Rouge. There are detection sites near Slidell and Lake Charles, but none near Baton Rouge. Boustany says a new site will close the gap in radar coverage in Louisiana. He says he is looking into how much the radar site will cost, but he wanted to get the legislation introduced first. There are also Doppler radars near Fort Polk and Shreveport.
The LSU AgCenter has developed an eye-drop to prevent and treat cataracts. AgCenter Department of Biological and Agriculture Engineering Professor Cristina Sabliov says they became interested in developing a solution because cataracts are the leading cause of visual impairment in the United States. She says they found a way to use lutein to prevent the eye lens from becoming cloudy. Next, the AgCenter is working to patent the drop.
A Grand Isle man was arrested for trying to purchase a child for sexual purposes .State Police trooper Jesse Lagrange who says 30-year-old Wade Perkins asked someone to locate a 6 to 8-year-old child so Perkins could pay for a sexual encounter. He says Perkins is a registered sex offender in Michigan for criminal sexual conduct. Lagrange says more charges are expected to be filed against Perkins.
Former St. Tammany and Washington Parish District Attorney Walter Reed took the stand in his own defense at his federal corruption trial Friday. Reed is accused of misusing campaign money, plus filing false tax returns and other alleged crimes. Reed, who said he was always in campaign mode, talked about some of his expenditures with his campaign funds and admitted to some wrongdoings
A Sheriff’s Deputy with Bossier Parish left his job with the Medium-Security Facility to play professional minor league baseball. 26-year-old Randy Zeigler was a pitcher for LSU and caught the eye of a Chicago White Sox scout. Zeigler says he’s going to be playing for the Lincoln Nebraska Saltdogs. Zeigler says he was just messing around with a radar gun, when he discovered he was throwing at the same speed he was three years ago.
Police have arrested a suspect in the murder of a Texas woman whose body was found in the water off of I-10 near the Whiskey Bay exit. Iberville Parish detectives arrested the victim’s husband 28-year-old Jonathan Allee is charged with second degree murder. Sheriff Brett Stassi says 29-year-old Elizabeth Ferrell’s cause of death was strangulation and they believe she was killed somewhere else before her body was dumped.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are investigating the number of animal deaths that have recently occurred at the Baton Rouge Zoo. Curator Sam Winslow says they asked for the USDA and the American Zoo Association to send in investigators to assess the situation after 18 animals died within the last year. Winslow says the 2-year-old Malayan tiger that died earlier in the month likely suffered from gastric dilation.
Governor John Bel Edwards says priority number one for him right now is stabilizing the budget, because we must focus on moving Louisiana forward. He says there are many policy related issues that are going to be on the back burner until we can deal with the present crisis, the $600 million dollar budget shortfall. The governor says he doesn’t see any way they could avoid a second special session.
A poll commissioned by the Louisiana Cannabis Association reveals 72 percent of Louisiana voters are in favor of the medical marijuana legislation. Just 13 percent surveyed by JMC Enterprises opposed patients’ usage of medical marijuana. A bill to extend use of medical marijuana to those with serious medical conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, seizure disorders and epilepsy passed through the Louisiana State Senate.
A Senate committee has approved the bill to prevent members of the LGBT community from being fired or turned down for jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. New Orleans Senator Troy Carter authored the legislation. He says we need to protect people from discrimination. The measure passed on a 4-2 vote and now heads to the Senate floor for more debate.
The House has approved two more pro-life measures. One of the bills, authored by Baton Rouge Representative Rick Edmonds, prohibits women from getting abortions just because a child will have a genetic disorder. Edmonds says life is hard, and women shouldn’t be able to abort their babies just because it would be easier. Edmond’s bill passed 75-1. Another proposal by Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson would outlaw a procedure commonly used in second trimester abortions. Johnson’s bill was approved unanimously. Both measure now head to the Senate.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said stalled community college projects in Winnsboro and St. Tammany can restart, but others in Alexandria, Baton Rouge and Westwego will remain mothballed for now. The projects in Winnsboro and St. Tammany were well under way when construction was halted and the governor says no more money will be required to complete those projects. For now, Edwards says he wants to direct what's available in the state's limited borrowing capacity toward infrastructure projects. In doing so, the governor deferred maintenance on existing college and university campus buildings.
The man who allegedly shot former Saints player Will Smith has been indicted on charges of murder and attempted murder. Cardell Hayes pleaded not guilty and his bond is 1.75 million dollars. His attorney said in court today that the prosecution is trying to jam an indictment down his client’s throat. Legal analyst Tim Meche says the DA is just going through the procedure according to the law. Hayes was also indicted on charges of aggravated assault and aggravated damage to property to go along with the murder and attempted murder charge.
Two people are dead following a shootout in Calcasieu parish. Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso says officers met Cody McAdams in a field, while he was attempting to kidnap his estranged wife Brandy and their 5-year-old child. Mancuso says McAdams fired several shots at the deputies before the officers returned fire, then he shot and killed his wife before turning his gun on himself. The young girl is unharmed. Mancuso says Brandy had filed several domestic violence charges against McAdams.
A Vermilion Parish teacher is behind bars accused of rape. They say James Harber, a 7th grade teacher at JH Williams Middle School, was booked by Abbeville Police with two counts of second-degree rape and one count of first-degree rape.
Tonight is rounds two and three of the NFL draft, and several former LSU Tigers are expected to be selected. NFL draft analyst Mike Detillier believes linebacker Deion Jones will go early in round two. Detillier believes defensive back Jalen Mills will go in the second round, as well. Detillier also believes four year starter Vadal Alexander will be a third round pick and could be a productive offensive guard in the NFL. Hear the Draft on 1410 ESPN
The LSU Baseball team is in Oxford, MS to play Ole' Miss. Tonight is game two. they lost last night's game 7-6 You can hear the game tonight on 970 KSYL
A bill to extend the waiting period for getting an abortion to 72 hours has been approved by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The measure passed on a five to two vote and heads to the Senate floor.
A bill, being pushed by a group of Grant Parish residents, to ban open burning of munitions and explosives in Louisiana won narrow approval from a House committee Wednesday. As it stands, the bill would prohibit open burning of explosives and munitions, but that would not apply to the military. An Army official said the Army was going to oppose the bill, but the amendment exempting the military canceled the Army’s opposition. Bill 11 was advanced by the committee in a 9-8 vote.
A bill that would require movie theaters to use metal detectors was defeated in a House committee Wednesday. Prairieville Rep. Tony Bacala says this legislation creates a false sense of security. He says if someone wants to shoot up a movie theater, the first person to be killed is the 18-year-old minimum wage worker manning the metal detector. The vote was 6-5 against the legislation.
The full House approves a bill to prohibit organizations that perform abortions, like Planned Parenthood, to receive public funding. West Monroe Representative Frank Hoffman says the purpose of the bill is not to shut any of these facilities down. However, Planned Parenthood has a new clinic under construction in New Orleans, where they plan to perform abortions. Hoffman says he hopes this bill would prevent that from happening. The measure passed on an 85-7 vote and moves to the Senate. Planned parenthood has never used state funding to perform abortions. But has maintained the facilities with state funding.
The FBI is reopening the case of a 2-year-old that went missing in Clinton 15 years ago. Avery Davidson is a former WAFB reporter who covered Wesley Morgan’s disappearance in 2001. Davidson says the child was playing on the front porch when his mother went inside and came back outside to find the little boy was gone. He says there must be a reason the FBI has reopened the case and released an age progression picture of Wesley Morgan. The FBI is offering up to a $10,000 reward for information that leads to Morgan’s location.
Latest campaign finance numbers show Republican Senate candidates Charles Boustany and John Fleming each have around two-million dollars in their campaign war chest. GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy has about 700-thousand. UL-Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross says the November 1st primary is about six months away and these numbers reflect that this will be an expensive race.
A woman from Louisiana, who moved to Colorado to get medical marijuana her daughter needs for her seizure condition, tells her story to state legislators. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow people with a wider variety of disorders to get the marijuana treatment. Michelle Hall of Vernon Parish says her daughter, Ella, is doing much better since starting her cannabis medication. Hall says the medical marijuana works better for Ella than any other medication they have tried in the past four years. She pleaded with lawmakers to approve the legislation so she can bring her children home.
A bill to require cursive to be taught in public elementary schools passes through the full Senate. Bossier City Sen. Ryan Gatti spoke in favor of the legislation and says many historic documents were written in cursive. He says our children need to be able to read and write in script, not just from their iPads or iPhones.
New York real estate heir Robert Durst was sentenced by a federal judge in New Orleans today who accepted the plea agreement to serve 7 years and 1 month in prison on a weapons charge. Durst, who still faces a separate murder charge in California for allegedly killing a friend to keep her quiet and the disappearance of the 72-year-old’s wife, pleaded guilty to the weapons charge in New Orleans in February.
A missing child from Mamou has been found in Jackson, Mississippi. State police say the child’s non-custodial mother, Elaine Freeman, took 12-year-old Jalon Bradley out of school shortly after 3pm on Tuesday. Authorities issued an endangered missing child advisory because there was concern Jalon could be in danger. Freeman is now in police custody.
The 2016 NFL Draft begins tonight in Chicago at 7 P.M. on ESPN and NFL Network. The New Orleans Saints are expected to draft defensive players early and often as the team finished 31st in total yards given up in the NFL.
The LSU baseball Tigers begin a three game series at Ole Miss tonight. The Bayou Bengals are 27-14 overall, 10-8 in the SEC and coming off a disappointing loss to Tulane.
One of the largest employers in CenLA announces mass layoffs are coming. Houston-based Union Tank Car Company (UTLX) said it expects to lay off about 224 employees beginning June 24th at its Alexandria facility. Jim Clinton is the CEO of the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance says the company will cut its production in half due to market conditions. He says UTLX is a strong company that shouldn’t have a problem adding staff once the economy rebounds. UTLX said they will continue to employ about 350 people. The Louisiana Workforce Commission says it will conduct orientation sessions for affected employees next week.
A pro-voucher group is attacking John Bel Edwards in a new TV ad as they are criticizing the first year governor for cutting six million dollars from the state’s voucher program. Louisiana Federation for Children president Ann Duplessiss says 71-hundred students receive vouchers, but not all of them will get one next year, if the governor has his way. Governor Edwards says the ad is blatantly false and says every student currently receiving a voucher will continue to receive one.
A Senate committee has approved legislation dealing with police body cameras and what footage should be exempted from Louisiana’s public record laws. Author of the bill, Lake Charles Senator Ronnie Johns, says there needs to be some privacy safeguards but, there must also be real transparency. Then there’s the cost of storing the data. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said storing and managing the data from body cameras is costing his department more than $2 million annually.
Louisiana lawmakers are working to regulate drones. Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor has legislation that prevents people from using drones for stalking, voyeurism, and other crimes. He says technology is advancing, and regulation of drones is needed to keep up with the times. Claitor says you shouldn’t be able to do something with a piece of technology that would wouldn’t do with your physical person. So far, the drone regulation bills have received very little opposition.
A bill that would require movie theaters to install metal detectors is scheduled to be heard in the House Criminal Justice committee today. Shreveport Rep. Barbara Norton wants to ensure movie goers are safe. Norton says she’s received many positive phone calls supporting this proposal. Last summer a gunman walked into a Lafayette movie theater and killed two people and injured nine. Norton says nothing changes until you put something in place. She says it would not cost theater operators a lot of money to install a detector or use a metal detecting wand.
State legislators are dealing with the repercussions of a Supreme Court ruling that says juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole. Metairie Senator Danny Martiny’s would ensure that underage criminals with life sentences would become eligible for parole after 35 years behind bars. Martiny’s bill also mandates that the juvenile maintain a good behavioral record and participate in educational programs to qualify. He says the purpose of the bill is not to get criminals out of jail, but lawmakers have to do something because of the court ruling.
This year’s National Health Security Preparedness Index finds Louisiana is the least prepared state in the nation to respond to a major health emergency. The state scores 5.6 out of 10 on the index. Bob Johannessen with the Department of Health and Hospitals says emergency preparedness in the state has greatly improved since Hurricane Katrina. However, there are more areas than not in Louisiana that have health care shortages.
Former Louisiana Tech star Vernon Butler is in Chicago as he is one of 25 players attending the NFL draft after receiving a personal invitation from commissioner Roger Goodell. Butler is confident he’ll hear his name called when the first round takes place tomorrow night. Butler was a standout player on Louisiana Tech’s defensive line the last two seasons as he recorded over 100 tackles. NFL draft analyst Mike Detillier believes Butler will go late in the first round.
The Alexandria Police Department will host a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day event on Saturday. The Drug Enforcement Administration is joining with state and local law enforcement agencies in the national effort “to remove potentially dangerous controlled substances from our nation’s medicine cabinet.” Citizens can drop off no-longer-needed prescription drugs in the front lobby of the Alexandria Police Department, 1000 Bolton Ave., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Alexandria police have arrested a student from Alexandria Senior High school after he allegedly made threats on social media aimed at the school’s prom. 17 year old Adrian Ray has been charged with terrorizing, stalking and obstruction of justice.
F.E.M.A announcing yesterday a National Flood Insurance Program flood-response office has opened in Alexandria. The office is located at 3600 Jackson St., Suite 111B. It is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To apply for FEMA assistance, call 1-800-621-3362
Louisiana’s budget shortfall has fallen to 600 million dollars from 750 million dollars. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says these savings come from Governor John Bel Edwards Medicaid expansion and the estimated people expected to use the service next fiscal year. The governor is proposing cuts to many state agencies to help close the gap and is planning a special session in June to raise additional revenue.
The full House rejects a bill that attempted to put an end to the public-private school playoff split in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. The lower chamber voted 51-34 against the legislation authored by River Ridge Representative Kirk Talbot. Talbot says the split is discriminatory, which means the legislature has a right to step in.
There is far less controversy this year when it comes to standardized testing compared to last year when public school students took Common Core exams. President of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents Hollis Milton says teachers are more prepared now since testing is later in the school year. Milton believes there will be a much smaller number of students who opt of the test.
FBI records found Former-governor John McKeithen paid the KKK in the 1960s to stop violent racial outbreaks. Executive Secretary to McKeithen, Gus Weill, says he knew nothing about the payments at that time but was told by a man that McKeithen arranged to pay 10-thousand dollars to both black and white supremacist groups to stop violence in Bogalusa. Weill says the money came from a state commission that was established to control civil rights issues.
There is the chance of a reduction in retail food inspectors if lawmakers approve of the governor’s proposed budget for next fiscal year. This would result in an 11-percent reduction in inspectors. Department of Health and Hospital spokesperson Bob Johannessen says this means they will not be able to inspect as many grocery stores and restaurants as they should. Johannessen says a reduction in food inspectors will result in more than 20-thousand fewer inspections after July 1st.
A bill that would have allowed K-12 employers to opt out of the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana failed to gain Senate Retirement Committee approval Monday. It appears dead for the session. Senate Bill 452 would have opened up other retirement plan options for new employees coming into the Louisiana school system
Investigators from Iberville Parish are in Humble, Texas today to find out more information about the woman who was found dead under I-10 near Whiskey Bay. Sheriff Brett Stassi says the body of 28-year-old Elizabeth Ferrell of Humble was discovered by a fisherman over the weekend. Stassi says an autopsy found the cause of death to be asphyxiation by strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head.
A Monroe woman has been arrested after leaving St. Francis Hospital with a baby that was NOT hers. Monroe Police Chief Detective Chris Bates says 24-year-old Anquinisha Cummings took a three-day old child from a mother she met that day. Bates says they believe Cummings is suffering from a mental illness.
Prices at the pump continue to rise. Gregg Laskowski with GasBuddy-dot-com says the national average for a gallon of gas is up three-cents since last week, and Louisiana is seeing similar price increases, as the statewide average is nearing two-dollars for a gallon of regular gasoline. Laskowski says consumer demand is up 4% compared to this time last year. He says that and other factors are driving up gas prices.
The House Transportation Committee approves a bill that would allow you to store your driver’s license on an app that can be downloaded on your smart phone. The state Office of Motor vehicles says this license on your phone could be shown to law enforcement in cases when a person doesn’t have their license.
A nurse from Thibodaux is under arrest for allegedly forging prescriptions in the name of the doctor she worked for. They say a pharmacy in Houma let the doctor know about suspicious prescriptions being written and filled at their location with the doctor’s signature. The nurse, 49-year-old Vickie Ezell of Houma, was arrested for unlawfully prescribing, distributing or dispensing.
Lawmakers decided not to take up the bill Monday that would make it illegal for a business in the private sector to fire someone based on their sexual orientation. The measure, which was previously on the agenda in the House Civil Law committee today, reportedly did not have enough votes, but it’s expected to return to the table next week.
There are more layoffs coming to Louisiana’s oil and gas sector. LSU economist Loren Scott says the industry has been devastated by the low gas prices we’ve seen since August of 2014. He says major companies are cutting back their drilling budget dramatically. Scott says a lot of big companies are planning to stop drilling all together in the Gulf.
A bill to increase the fines for moving violations when a child under the age of 15 is in the car is being debated in the House Transportation Committee today. Baton Rouge Representative Paula Davis says she authored the proposal when several constituents called her after a child was killed in a car accident. Davis says children under age 15 need to be protected because until that age, they cannot be in control in a vehicle. She believes the increased fines will help stop dangerous driving with children in the car. Davis says she doesn’t expect much opposition to the bill.
Louisiana’s third “Buckle Up in your Truck” campaign has just begun. Executive Director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, John Leblanc says the goal of the campaign is voluntary compliance. He says wearing a seat belt is especially important in a pickup because those vehicles are taller than others. Leblanc says 8 people have been killed in pickup truck accidents in the state since the first of the month.
A bill that would prohibit an employer from firing or refusing to hire an individual based on their sexual orientation or gender identity will be heard in the House Civil Law committee today. Matthew Patterson with Equality Louisiana says this needs to be done because discrimination against gay and transgendered people is common place. Opposition is expected to come from pro-business groups. State director of the National Independence Business Dawn Starns says business owners are concerned this legislation will lead to frivolous lawsuits
A bill that forces the LHSAA to end its public-private school playoff split will be heard on the House floor today. River Ridge Representative Kirk Talbot says his bill would prohibit schools from receiving public funds, if they belong to an athletic organization with split playoffs for select and non-select schools. Talbot says the LHSAA’s current playoff split is discriminatory. The split began in football playoffs in 2013, and it is set to expand to include basketball, baseball and softball starting in 2016-17.
A report by the National Center for Health Statistics finds the suicide rate in the US has increased dramatically since 1999. The report finds the suicide rate of women increased to 45-percent and males increased by 16-percent. LSU Health New Orleans Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Michelle Moore says the gap is narrowing between the genders. In the past week, two male students at Mandeville High School killed themselves within 48 hours of each other.
Law enforcement is getting help in learning how to handle cases of animal cruelty from the Humane Society. Executive Director of the Humane Society of Louisiana, Jeff Dorson, says they are teaching law enforcement officers about advances in technology, such as new developments in forensic pathology that can help determine what happened to animals that are brought in after abuse.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting is launching educational TV shows for kids in French. LPB’s program director Jason Viso says they are partnering with the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana to help more kids learn in Frence. He says they have started showing several different kids’ shows that are in French. The shows are airing on LPB 2 between 3pm and 5pm Monday through Friday and also on the weekends.
Attorney General Jeff Landry has announced that two Northwest Louisiana men have been arrested on child pornography charges. 54-year-old James Lucius of Bossier City is charged with 500 counts of possession of child pornography involving juveniles under age 13. 24-year-old Stephen Harris of Shreveport is facing one possession charge for child pornography.
A man who was being held at a Baton Rouge hospital reportedly committed suicide after he was accused of abducting a pregnant woman. Baton Rouge Police confirmed the incident took place this Saturday morning, and the alleged abduction happened Friday night in New Orleans.
Shreveport police have arrested a 35-year-old man who is accused of fatally shooting a 55-year-old woman and a injuring a 25-year-old man during a drive-by shooting. Gina Foster was pronounced dead at the scene. Carlos Franklin surrendered to authorities and faces murder and attempted murder charges.
5th ranked LSU avoided a sweep to Mississippi State by beating the Bulldogs 11-8 on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers scored all of their runs in the three middle innings, after falling behind 3-0. Coach Paul Mainieri is happy his team pulled off the victory after tough losses on Friday and Saturday nights.
Word came yesterday that the Kmart store in Pineville will soon be history. Company officials yesterday released a list of some 68 Kmart and 10 Sears stores nationwide they will close in late July. The only other store closing in the state is a Sears store in Houma.
The state police report 26 year old Lauren Franklin of Vidalia was killed Wednesday night when her vehicle left the roadway and over turned in a water filled bayou. Franklin was pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck on La. Highway 131 near Country Meadows Road.
The crash remains under investigation, and routine toxicology tests are pending.
Governor John Bel Edwards has signed an executive order that requires able-bodied adults without children to participate in job training and work assistance programs in order to receive food stamp benefits. Edwards says this will prepare individuals for successful careers.
Starting July first, unemployed able-bodied adults will have to visit one of the 59 Louisiana Workforce Commission Business and Career Solutions Centers. Republican lawmakers have been pushing for the governor to add work requirements to food stamp recipients.
Legislative leaders seek to end the regular session early, so they could prepare for a special session that Governor John Bel Edwards plans to call to address the 750-million dollar revenue shortfall for next fiscal year. Senate President John Alario says the next special session needs to be held before the start of the next fiscal year. The regular session is set to end June 6th and lawmakers will likely approve a budget that cuts state spending by 750-million dollars. Alario says special session will be needed to restore cuts to higher education, TOPS, public schools and health care, but that doesn’t necessarily mean raising more taxes.
Planned Parenthood advocates rallied on state Capitol steps after a House committee approved a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Unitarian Minister Rev. Darcy Roake says nearly 20 pieces of anti-women’s health legislation has been filed, three of those bills aimed directly at defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides preventive health care and accurate sexual health information. Roake says an injustice is being done as anti-abortion bills disguised as protecting the health of women continue to move through the legislative process.
A House committee approved a measure that seeks to outlaw sanctuary cities in Louisiana. The term is applied to cities in the US that have policies designed to not prosecute undocumented immigrants. Denham Springs Representative Valarie Hodges who says sanctuary cities are a national security threat. Opponents of the bill are worried about it opening the doors for racial profiling. The bill now moves to the full House.
It is amazing that we are asking this question. But, many parents are now wondering whether or not schools still teach children how to write in cursive? The Senate Education Committee says “Yes” as they approved a bill by Franklinton Senator Beth Mizell that requires cursive writing to be taught to public school students by the third grade. Mizell is concerned that kids will not know how to write their name or read a letter in cursive. The senate floor will hear the bill next.
The full senate has approved a bill that expands the list of diseases that will be able to use medical marijuana once it becomes available in Louisiana. Slidell Senator Sharon Hewitt supports the bill, she’s heard from parents of children who suffer from seizures, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis and medical marijuana is the only drug that works for their children. The bill now moves to the House.
Louisiana lawmakers are standing up for the little guys, and girls, looking to make a few dollars at their neighborhood lemonade stand. A bill unanimously passed in the Senate to exempt these kids from having to pay an occupational license tax. Norco Senator Gary Smith says some children in the state have been ticketed for selling lemonade without a license. The measure now heads to the House.
First Lady Donna Edwards has announced a new recycling initiative at the Governor’s Mansion in honor of Earth Day, which is today. Mrs. Edwards says she and the governor have been recycling ever since they lived in Hawaii many years ago. The first lady is encouraging Louisiana residents to do their part in recycling as much trash as they can. Edwards says plastic bottles, aluminum cans, most paper, and even ink cartridges are recyclable.
The LSU baseball team brings a five game winning streak into its SEC showdown series with Mississippi State, which begins tonight at 7 PM at Alex Box Stadium. The Bulldogs will start Dakota Hudson on the mound in game one. You can hear the entire series on 970 KSYL
Work should begin next month on the final phase of road improvements in the Coughlin Industrial Park in Pineville. The Rapides Parish Police Jury awarded a contract for close to $458k to Diamond B Construction Co. The Coughlin Industrial Park is home to various industrial facilities, including Procter & Gamble and Plastipak Packaging. The new project will include roadway improvements to Cenla Drive, Pardue Road and Todd Hollingsworth Road. The construction should be completed in about 2 and a half months.
The House failed to pass legislation that would allow motorcyclists 21 and over to choose whether or not to wear a helmet. Lawmakers who were against the bill expressed safety as their main reason for voting against the bill. There were also concerns of increased insurance premiums. Even though the bill didn’t pass it can be brought up again for another vote.
A bill that would expand the number of diseases that could be treated legally with medical marijuana was approved in the Senate here Wednesday after falling one vote short Tuesday. Senate Bill 271 by Sen. Freddie Mills, R-Parks, drew passionate debate from both sides over two days. Mills, a pharmacist, said he cried while praying Tuesday night after receiving "email after email from parents who ask why they can't get this to help their children." But opponents like Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, said they were horrified that Louisiana would expand legalization of the drug in any form. Mills' bill allows only for doses in an oil form.
The House Education Committee approved a bill to allow high school students to participate in a national survey on sexual risks. The survey asks questions such as how many sexual partners someone has had, at what age the respondent became sexually active, and what methods they take to prevent pregnancy. Baton Rouge Representative Rick Edmonds opposed the bill because he says this issue should be discussed at home, not in school. Baton Rouge Representative Patricia Smith says there is no sexual education in Louisiana public schools and Louisiana has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. The bill now moves to the House floor.
A bill that would prohibit state employers from asking job applicants about their criminal record until after the interview process moves to the full House. The bill passed out of the House Governmental Affairs committee, despite objections from republican lawmakers. Baton Rouge Rep. Denise Marcelle is the author of the bill and she says the purpose is to get the person with a criminal record an interview and a chance to explain their story…
Harry Morel, the former District Attorney in St. Charles Parish, plead guilty to obstruction for harassing a witness in an attempt to destroy evidence for a federal grand jury that targeted the longtime prosecutor. The charge stems from an investigation into allegations Morel requested sexual favors in an exchange for lenient plea deals from female defendants. FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeff Sallet says Morel held the freedom, and the lives, of these defendants in his hands.
Legislation to prevent second trimester abortions, where doctors use forceps to abort a fetus moves on to the full House. Lafayette Doctor Damon Cudihy says this inflicts extreme pain on the unborn child. But Pro-choice attorney Ellie Schilling says this is the safest way to perform a second trimester abortion. Schilling also says the law would most certainly be declared unconstitutional.
Family members confirm that the oldest man in the nation, Felix Simoneaux Jr. of LaPlace, died Tuesday at the age of 110. It is believed that Simoneaux was the oldest man in the country for three months, according to a group that verifies such claims. Simoneaux, who was born in 1905, was going to turn 111 on May 24th. He suffered a small stroke last week.
Shreveport firefighters rescued a horse that slipped into flooded waters and was swept away. They say 5-year-old Butter was eating grass when she skid into a drainage ditch with a swift current. Rescuers lassoed Butter and pulled her to safety, and a vet called to check for injuries said the horse was banged up but nothing was broken.
The US Treasury has announced anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman will appear on the $20 bill. Summer Steib with the LSU Women’s Center says the original plan was to replace Alexander Hamilton with a woman on the $10 bill, but the new Broadway hit “Hamilton” Harriet Tubman was an African American abolitionist who worked to rescue slaves in the late 1800s. Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Helen Keller were other candidates for the newly-designed currency.
Roy King, the band director of the Golden Band from Tigerland for the last five years, is out of job today. LSU put him on administrative leave earlier this month to conduct an internal investigation and he was notified of his dismissal in a letter from the university. King’s attorney, Jill Craft, says King was shocked when he was notified. LSU says they’ve provided King with a letter outlining the reasons for his firing and it’s based on an investigation that found King did not follow policies, procedures and financial safeguards meant to protect the Tiger Band and LSU. Craft says the worst part is that King was notified of his termination via letter, which she says is unbelievable after 18 years of service to the university.
Two people have died after a mosquito-abatement airplane crashed in the woods near the Slidell City Airport lTuesday night. Slidell Police Sgt. Daniel Seuzeneau says two planes were finishing up their rounds and landing at the airport when one plane began flipping, struck a powerline, and went down into a wooded area. Seuzeneau says the downed powerlines caused small fires around the crash site. He says once fire fighters put out the blaze, they discovered the bodies of the two pilots.
The state Senate unanimously approves a bill that would make sure every TOPS recipient would receive at least part of their award, if the state is not able to fully fund the scholarship program. Under the current law, students with lower ACT scores or who do not have financial need would not get a scholarship at all. The cost of TOPS for the next fiscal year is about 300-million dollars.
Legislation that would expand the number of diseases that medical marijuana can be used to treat failed to get enough votes to pass out of the Senate. Under current law, once medical cannabis becomes available in Louisiana, it can only be used for three different diseases. But several senators expressed concerns with the legislation, claiming it would be a gateway to the complete legalization of marijuana.
The 30th annual of the Festival International de Louisiane begins today and runs through Sunday in downtown Lafayette. Festival Marketing Director April Courville says this is a really exciting celebration with new activities taking homage to the history of the festival. She says over 400-thousand people are excited to join in the festivities. Courville says local performers and international artists from 25 different countries are performing during the five days of the free festival.
Also, The annual Lecompte Pie Festival opens Friday and runs through Sunday Festivities will be at the Old Lecompte High School.
The House approved the Pastor Protection Act, which would allow a minister or clergy member to refuse to perform a same-sex marriage. Opponents of the bill claim it is not necessary because pastors are already protected under the first amendment and some state legislation. Supporters say it just protects their fundamental right of conscience. The bill passed on an 80-18 vote.
The FEMA/state disaster recovery center in Leesville will close later this week. The center will permanently close at 6 p.m. Friday. The Central Louisiana centers to remain open, til further notice, to assist flood victims.
Louisiana senators on Tuesday blocked, at least temporarily, a proposal to exempt all police body camera footage unrelated to criminal investigations from state public records law. Sen. Ronnie Johns, a republican from Lake Charles, said he plans to continue discussions on the measure and bring a reworked proposal to the Judiciary B Committee next week. He decided Tuesday to remove the bill from the panel’s consideration. Johns sat flanked by the Lake Charles and Alexandria police chiefs as he presented the bill that would block public access to the law enforcement body camera video or audio recordings unless otherwise ordered by a judge.
The bill to allow for the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk has been approved by the Senate, despite concerns from the opposition about health risks. The proposal would not allow for the sale of raw milk in grocery stores. Ville Platte Senator Eric LaFleur says he’s only looking to give farmers the ability to sell raw milk and the government should not interfere. The bill now heads to the House.
A bill that would let motorists who have let their car insurance lapse pay their debts in installments, and keep their driver’s license, clears the House Transportation Committee. The legislation came about in response to the controversial notices that were sent out last year letting people know about fines for not having car insurance. The measure heads to the full House.
A study from LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center has found kids are more willing to eat vegetables after watching other kids their age eating veggies on television. Researcher Amanda Staiano says if your child doesn’t want to eat vegetables, maybe try this method. Staiano says research has found that one-third pre-school aged children are not eating vegetables.
The former assistant police chief of Henderson, Oliver Mack Lloyd, has received a six month suspended prison sentence after he plead guilty to accusations he provided other officers bonuses for writing speeding tickets to motorists on I-10. St. Martin Parish prosecutor Chester Cedars says Henderson’s Police Chief Leroy Guidry also signed a public statement acknowledging the town will no longer target speeders on I-10…
The Louisiana Department of Education suspends the license of a daycare in St. Tammany Parish, Abita Church Christian Daycare, after state officials found out they didn’t notice 4 toddlers escape the playground and wander into a busy road in Abita Springs. They also say staff did not report the incident which is an additional violation.
Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson will not have just one, but two horses who will run in the Kentucky Derby on May 7th. Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready will part of the field of 20 horses who will run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.
There’s a new addition to the Governor’s Mansion since John Bel Edwards moved in. Edwards says he put in a chicken coop next to the garden, behind the mansion. The governor says they’re new chickens, so he hopes to supply his friends and family with fresh eggs soon.
Edwards says he checks on his birds every evening when he gets home. The chicken coop comments sparked questions about how the project was funded. Edwards says the project was not paid for by taxpayers.
Governor John Bel Edwards’ monthly one-hour radio show begins today on the Louisiana Radio Network. The show will air on 15 radio stations and it will allow the governor to speak with Louisianans one on one to address their concerns in the state. Edwards’ press secretary, Shauna Sanford, says Louisianans are well aware of the pressing problems facing the state. She says this show allows them to address those issues. You can hear the program starting at 2 this afternoon on Talk Radio 970 KSYL.
Governor John Bel Edwards announces enrollment for the state’s expanded Medicaid program will begin June 1st. Edwards told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that expanding Medicaid will benefit the state greatly by cutting healthcare costs and improving health outcomes. He says over 300-thousand Louisiana residents will be eligible for enrollment June 1st. Edwards says the expansion will also save the state much-needed dollars in critical budget times.
It’s been 100 days today since Governor John Bel Edwards took office. LSU Political Science professor Wayne Parent says Edwards did not get to enjoy a “honeymoon” at the beginning of his term, like other governors have, because of fiscal issues facing the state and an uncooperative legislature. Edwards has followed through with his campaign promise to expand Medicaid. The governor also said he would increase the state’s minimum wage, but that proposal will face stiff opposition from House Republicans.
The governor is slowing down on the building and expansion of facilities on Louisiana’s community college campuses, because of a lack of dollars in the state’s construction budget. Over half of the projects on the 280-million dollar list for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System have been put on hold.
Legislation that establishes a legal framework for surrogacy births is heading to the House floor. Under current law, a child born to a surrogate is considered the infant’s mother. Metairie Rep. Joseph Lopinto wants to change the law so the genetic parents are immediately the legal guardians of the child. President of the Louisiana Family Forum Gene Mills says they oppose third party gestational surrogacy. He says adoption is God’s way of providing parents to a child in need with a family but surrogacy disrupts that.
The Louisiana Survey finds 53-percent of residents surveyed are still opposed to same-sex marriages even after last year’s historic Supreme Court ruling. Director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab Michael Henderson says this percentage has decreased over the past three years. He says the survey also found 52-percent support religious freedom laws.
That same survey showed 73-percent of Louisianans believe the Confederate monuments should stay up. Henderson says even 47-percent of black residents think the monuments should not be removed. Henderson says unlike the removal of the monuments, about half of residents are opposed to the state issuing specialty licenses plates displaying the Confederate battle flag.
A crop-duster pilot was killed in a crash is West Carroll Parish at around 9:15 yesterday morning. Authorities says Daniel Morgan was found dead when E-M-S responded to the crash site. Sheriff Jerry Philley says it’s possible Morgan could’ve clipped a tree top before crashing. Philley says the Federal Aviation Administration will be investigating the incident.
Dozens of dead sea turtles are washing up along the Gulf Coast and biologists are not sure why. Director of the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies, Moby Solangi says it’s a big concern because the Kemps Ridley sea turtles that are stranding early in the season are the most endangered sea turtles in the world.
After a slow start in conference play, LSU finds itself just one game back of Texas A&M for first place in the SEC West. The Bayou Bengals are 9-6 in the SEC and Coach Paul Manieri likes where his team is at. Last year, LSU was 10-5 at halfway point of league play and won the SEC regular season title.
Yet another Alexandria man is dead. The result of a shooting Saturday afternoon on Meadow lane. The APD says the call came in around 5pm. When they arrived on the scene, they discovered 32 year old Christopher Veal suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He died a short time later. Through their investigation, police found that 47 year-old Tracy Mitchell of Meadow Lane, had gotten “involved in an altercation with Veal during which Mitchell produced a firearm and shot Veal. Mitchell was booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center. This shooting is the fourth in Alexandria since Tuesday.
Employment in Louisiana rose for a third straight month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Spokesperson with the Louisiana Workforce Commission Aaron Caffarel says more and more people are entering the workforce and those unemployed are steadily seeking jobs. He says jobs in the construction industry are increasing more than they have since post-Hurricane Katrina construction shot up in 2006. Despite the increase in jobs, the state’s unemployment rate also grew to six-point-one percent.
The state senate is expected to vote this week on a new contingency plan, if the state is unable to fully fund TOPS. Currently, if the scholarship program is underfunded, TOPS students with lower ACT scores and without financial need, lose their scholarships. Jennings Senator Blade Morrish seeks to change it, so all TOPS students receive at least some scholarship money. TOPS is expected to cost the state 300-million dollars next fiscal year. But the governor’s proposed budget only allocates 110-million dollars for the popular program.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said he will likely call a special session of the legislature beginning June 7, the day after the regular session ends, where he will ask the Legislature to raise enough taxes to close a $750 million hole in the 2016-17 budget that begins July 1.
Without it, Edwards said, the state’s popular college tuition program TOPS will be gutted and four safety net hospitals will close, among other cuts. But many lawmakers, especially Republicans who control the House, would prefer to wait until the fall for a special session.
That would provide time, they say, to see how much money new taxes raised in a February special session will produce.
The House approved a bill to allow lawmakers to have a say in whether recipients of food stamps should be required to work to receive federal assistance. But opponents like Bogalusa Representative Malinda White says Louisiana is losing jobs left and right in the oil industry, and there’s a huge need for this assistance. Despite White’s objections, the legislation heads to the Senate.
Former Saints defensive end Will Smith was laid to rest Saturday. A public visitation for the ex-football star, who was gunned down last weekend, took place Friday at the Saints practice facility in Metairie. Hundreds of fans, many wearing Saints jerseys, attended the visitation to pay their final respects.
Iberia Parish Superintendent Dale Henderson says the Westgate High School band will compete its scheduled band competition event in Florida, despite the arrest of its band director for indecent behavior with a juvenile. 30-year-old Jeremy Conner was allegedly found in a teenager’s closet by the mother of the victim. Conner was booked into the Ascension Parish jail.
Long-time spokesperson for the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s office, Maxine Trahan, is accused of stealing money confiscated from accused criminals. Since 2010, Trahan allegedly kept more than $48-thousand that should have been deposited into a sheriff’s account. Trahan has been booked on charges of felony theft, and the investigation is ongoing.
St. Joseph residents are seeking help from the state about their water, which has been yellow to dark brown for years. They went before the House Natural Resources Committee and gave emotional testimony. Rev. Dr. Samuel Johnson says the water is causing health issues in the small Tensas Parish town. St. Joseph residents pleaded with the committee to help them get clean water and showed the committee bottles filled with murky, brown water from their town. In order to get state funds to fix the water, the mayor must grant permission for a state administrator to oversee the money, but Mayor Edward Brown will not give his permission.
Former-St. Tammany Parish District Attorney, Walter Reed, federal corruption trial begins today at a US courthouse in New Orleans today. Reed faces 19 counts of conspiracy, money laundering, and fraud. Legal analyst Tim Meche says Reed could spend a lot of time behind bars if convicted. Reed allegedly spent over $100-thousand from his campaign fund for non-campaign related purchases. Meche says it’s an interesting case, because federal prosecutors are seeking to convict the former DA on what amounts to state ethic violations.
Robert Wolf, an Alexandria Realtor involved in numerous developments over a career that spanned more than half a century, has died. Wolf was a past president of the Alexandria-Pineville Board of Realtors and the 1984 winner of the board’s Realtor of the Year award. A Mass of Christian Burial for Wolf is set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church. Burial will be in Greenwood Memorial Park under direction of John Kramer & Son. Friends may call from 11:30 a.m. until time of the service Saturday at the church. Robert Wolf was 85.
The FEMA/state disaster recovery centers in Colfax and Winnfield will permanently close at 6 p.m. Saturday. Those centers, which serve last month’s flood and storm victims, will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through today and Saturday before closing for good. ,
The Louisiana National Guard at Camp Minden successfully conducted their first test burn of 88 pounds of M6 propellant. Col. Pete Schneider says over the next 30 days they’ll ramp up different amounts until they reach the full capacity of about 800 pounds. He believes it’ll take about a year to burn all of the propellant that was improperly stored by Explo Systems.
Schneider says the burn is environmentally friendly.
At the request of Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana senators Thursday rejected the public school financing formula proposed by the state education board for next year, which included a $44 Million spending boost. Lawmakers in the current budget year raised funding for K-12 public schools by $44 million outside of the annual financing formula. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, proposed to roll that money into the formula for the 2016-17 school year, to make it a permanent increase. The Governor however said the state can’t afford that amid ongoing budget. The Senate Education Committee agreed without objection Thursday to the reluctant request of its chairman, Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, to reject the formula.
The funeral for WWL Saints Color Analyst and former LSU and Saints player Hokie Gajan, who passed away at 56 from cancer, is today in Madisonville. Sportswriter and Gajan’s former LSU teammate John Ed Bradley say he remembers first meeting Hokie in 1974 when they played each other in a high school football game. He says Gajan was a terror on the field and an overall great guy. He says Gajan was an original and will be greatly missed by everyone whose lives he touched.
A bill to prevent the removal of confederate monuments did not get out of a House committee Thursday. The legislation would create a seven-member statewide board that would get to decide if a monument more than 30 years old should be removed. New Orleans Representative Joseph Bouie says it is currently left up to local municipalities to decide what they want to display, or not display, in their city. He says each city should be able to decide what kind of monuments they want to have.
The forecast team at Colorado State University calls for the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane season to be near-average. Research scientist Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the report, says they predict there will be 12 named storms. Klotzbach says the El Nino is dissipating which is why they are predicting a more active season than in 2015, but northern Atlantic Ocean temperatures are still cooler than average. Klotzbach says their next forecast will be out the day hurricane season begins on June 1st.
A bill to increase the fines for not wearing a seatbelt has been approved by the House. New Orleans Representative Walt Leger says the current fine of $25 is one of the lowest in the country, and even with an increase to $50 for a first offense, the fine is still lower than many other states. The measure passed on a 62-34 vote and now moves to the Senate.
A measure that would allocate 7% of medical marijuana sales to the state ag department cleared it’s first hurdle out of committee today and heads to the House floor. The bill lists fees that would be charged to the state sanctioned medical marijuana grower. Ag Commissioner Mike Strain says he needs new money otherwise he wouldn’t be able to pay for required inspections, lab testing and over site that is mandated in the medical marijuana law.
Tax Season is coming to a close, as Tax Day is this Monday. That means there are just a few days left to file federal taxes. Baton Rouge tax preparer Letti Lowe-Ardoin, with the Louisiana CPA society, advises people not to rush, because simple mistakes can be made. Ardoin says people can also miss out on deductions and tax exemptions if they rush through filing. And a reminder, Victims of the recent flooding in the state are eligible for an extension, and those dates can be found at I-R-S-dot-gov.
Governor John Bel Edwards will launch a monthly call-in radio show to air on the Louisiana Radio Network. The show will be broadcast statewide, and listeners will have the opportunity to call in and talk one on one with the governor. The show will air the third week of each month. Here in Cenla you can hear the show on 970 KSYL. The first show is next Tuesday at 2pm.
A 17-year-old student has been arrested after another bomb threat circulating on social media was made against Ponchatoula High School. Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards says when the boy was questioned, he admitted to sending multiple threats. He was arrested and charged with two counts of falsely stating that a bomb had been placed on school grounds and two counts of terrorizing.
Another baby whooping crane has joined the family of endangered birds in Louisiana, as two eggs have hatched in Jefferson Davis Parish this week. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist, Sara Zimorski, leads the whooping crane project that has been working since 2011 to reestablish the birds in Louisiana. Zimorski says this the first whooping crane hatching in Louisiana in 77 years.
A mother from Baton Rouge who cops say was driving drunk with her 9-year-old in the vehicle at the time, nearly crashed into a marked police unit. BRPD says 42-year-old Chiquita Chriss was discovered to have a BAC of nearly three times the legal limit. She was booked for DWI and reckless operation.
The Saints regular season schedule will be released at 7 PM tonight along with the rest of the NFL teams. New Orleans will play their division rivals twice, and they’ll also have games against the Rams, Seahawks, Lions, Cardinals, 49ers, Giants and teams from the AFC West.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association has called for a special meeting so member principals can vote on a new playoff proposal. In January, principals voted to expand the public-private school playoff split to more sports than just football. School Relations Committee chairman, Mike Boyer, says the expanded split is causing problems for the LHSAA, so they want to give principals another option. It has not been determined when this special meeting will take place.
Saturday afternoon at 3 PM it’s the LSU spring game and we’ll get an idea if the passing game has really progressed. Brandon Harris is the returning starter at quarterback. Purdue transfer Danny Etling is the new back-up QB and Tiger Rag Editor Cody Worsham says fans can see for themselves on Saturday is he’s really a contender for playing time the fall. Worsham says the most interesting aspect of Saturday’s spring game is what will new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s defense look like.
It is now official. All involved parties yesterday announced the sale of Pineville based Cleco Corp. to an investor group is complete. The group, led by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation and John Hancock Financial, is paying $4.7 billion for Cleco, including assumed and new debt.
The RPSO arrested two men suspected of shooting at a parish deputy’s vehicle early Wednesday morning as he was transporting two men to jail. The incident occurred in the 200 block of 14th street. Sheriff Hilton called the incident “a direct attack” on all law enforcement. Both men were booked into the parish jail and the investigation is ongoing.
The APD reports A 25-year-old man died Tuesday afternoon on 15th Street near Willow Glen River Road after being shot by a 16-year-old. Officers were sent to the area at 5:58 p.m. because of a shooting. They found an unresponsive man, later identified as 25-yearold Artyleus Norris, who was pronounced dead at the scene.. Wednesday morning, the department announced the arrest of the unidentified juvenile, saying that Norris and the teen had been involved in a fight. “During the altercation, the juvenile produced a handgun and shot Norris. The juvenile was charged with one count of second-degree murder and is being held in a juvenile detention center
Governor John Bel Edwards has signed an executive order that bans discrimination against members of the LGBT community who work for the state, or who receive state services or benefits. Patterson says this new order also includes gender-identity, making this the first order protecting transgender individuals in the state. Similar orders were signed by former Democratic governors Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Blanco, but those orders were specific to sexual orientation.
A proposed constitutional amendment to allow non-felons to carry concealed hand guns without a permit was shot down by the House Criminal Justice committee. Author of the legislation, Baton Rouge Rep. Barry Ivey, claimed that the bill would not put guns in the hands of criminals. But Victoria Joy with Louisiana Violence Reduction Coalition says it would let people with a dangerous arrest record conceal a gun.
Another bill will be heard at the state capitol today that aims to prevent the removal of confederate monuments. A Senate committee already rejected one attempt to create a state board that would decide if a city can take down a confederate statue and a House committee hears similar legislation today. The bill scheduled today in the House Municipal Affairs committee would establish a Memorial Preservation Board that would be in charge of granting a waiver to relocate any monuments that’s been in place for more than 30 years.
House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry believes lawmakers can fund the TOPS scholarship program without raising additional taxes. Governor John Bel Edwards proposed budget for next fiscal year calls for a 183 million dollars cut to the state-funded scholarship program, because of a large revenue shortfall. But Henry says the state has enough money to fund TOPS. Governor Edwards says additional revenues are needed to fund all of the priorities in the budget and plans to call another special session as early as June 7th. But Henry says there is no need for another session until at least September. He says the governor is painting the worst picture possible in an effort to increase more taxes.
Four of the ten hospitals for the poor and uninsured in Louisiana are at risk of closing because of critical cuts to the state Department of Health and Hospitals. DHH Secretary Rebekah Gee says her department took over half of the 750-million dollars in budget cuts, which means some people may lose access to healthcare. Six public-private hospitals in Louisiana will remain open, but the other four might not.
Louisiana has broken the tourism record for the fourth year in a row, according to Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. In 2015, Louisiana welcomed almost 29 million visitors, who spent over $11 billion. That’s almost a 3-percent increase from the previous year. Nungesser says the state needs tourism dollars to help resolve the budget problems. Nungesser says the money generated through tourism means more tax dollars that don’t come out of Louisianans pockets.
The attorney for the family of Will Smith said the former Saints player was shot 8 times in the back, Smith’s wife Racquel was hit twice and that the shooting was intentional. Peter Thomson says he wants to clear up lies being spread by the defense lawyer of Cardell Hayes. Thomson says there was no hit and run on Magazine Street as Hayes is claiming. Thomson says the Hummer later violently rammed the back of Smith’s car, and that’s when he and the suspect got into an altercation. Thomson says Racquel and another woman went to diffuse the situation and walk Smith back to their vehicle…and that’s when the suspect shot Smith’s wife in both legs. Thomson says after the killer shot Smith, he showed no remorse and actually stood over Smith’s dead body and kept yelling.
The Senate has approved a bill to increase the fine for texting or using social media while driving from $175 to $500. West Monroe Senator Mike Walsworth added an amendment to the bill to increase the penalties for minors because he says sometimes a fine is not enough to get their attention. The bill now heads to the House for more debate.
Another person has died as a result of the truck and lawnmower collision in Rayne. Cops say a vehicle hit the lawnmower that was carrying a person on the hood and pulling a wheelchair from behind. The driver of the mower died on scene. The latest victim is 17-year-old Joshua James Bourque. There is no indication of whether or not someone will be charged in the incident.
The LHSAA Executive Committee holds its spring meeting today, and they’ll continue to discuss the expanded public-private school playoff split that’s been in place for football and will impact other sports next school year.
The writing was on the wall and yesterday it became official. Dr. Joe Aguillard, former president of Louisiana College in Pineville, has been stripped of the president emeritus title by the school's Board of Trustees. The action cuts ties between the college and Aguillard, who served as president from 2005 until 2014. He was removed from his tenured faculty position earlier this semester.
Governor John Bel Edwards told lawmakers yesterday that deep cuts would be spread over several state services under the latest budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1st. The plan says DHH would be reduced by $408 million, TOPS by $183 million, higher ed $46.1 million and 55 million slashed from K-12 public education. Edwards says another special session could come as soon as June 7th..
A bill that would require businesses to pay men and women the same for similar work passed in the Senate with a 28-10 vote. New Orleans Senator JP Morrell says studies show in Louisiana a woman makes on average 65-cents to every dollar a man earns. The measure now heads to the House, where it’s expected to face tough opposition.
A bill that allows clergy members to refuse to conduct a same-sex marriage passed in a Senate committee. Opponents are concerned about the potential for backlash as religious freedom bills approved in other states have received. But Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson says those bills are much broader than his proposal, which is strictly limited to churches and religious leaders. The Governor supports the bill. But he says pastors are already protected under Louisiana law. The bill now moves to the House floor.
A bill that would allow motorcyclists aged 21 years and older the option to wear a helmet now heads to the full House. Executive Director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission John LeBlanc says if this bill becomes law, he anticipates 128 more deaths over the next 10 years. Governor John Bel Edwards also opposes the legislation.
A Senate committee approves legislation that would increase the age to 18 for a suspect to be prosecuted as an adult. Currently, individuals 17 and over are put into the adult criminal system once charged with a crime. Criminal justice expert Ed Mulvey says a 17 year-old offender is better off in the juvenile justice system. The legislation will now move to the full Senate. 17-year-olds who commit serious offenses could still be tried as an adult.
Many people are remembering the great life of former LSU and Saints running back Hokie Gajan, who passed away from cancer late Monday night at the age 56. LSU’s all-time leading rusher Charles Alexander played with Hokie for two years in college and says Gajan was the ultimate teammate. Gajan announced he’d been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer near the end of 2015. Funeral arrangements are pending.
The Governor’s Office says a more than $1.7 million dollar disaster grant has been given to the state to help provide temporary jobs in the Louisiana parishes devastated by the recent storms and flooding.
A recent discovery could change the whole dynamic of the Will Smith murder case. Police say a loaded 9mm gun was found in the former-Saints defensive end’s vehicle. Legal analyst Chick Foret says this could help alleged shooter Cardell Hayes’ defense that he was not the aggressor. Surveillance video also shows that a hit and run that took place prior to the shooting appears to be Smith rear-ending Hayes before driving off. Foret says there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the circumstances of the incident, especially now that we know there was a gun in Smith’s vehicle.
A Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s deputy has been fired following his arrest for allegedly touching a woman in a sexually inappropriate manner while he was on duty. In a release, the sheriff’s office says they received a complaint that Deputy Cody Onxley, while at work, went to the home of the victim under false pretenses and touched her during the encounter. Onxley was charged with sexual battery and malfeasance in office and was terminated from his job.
A bill that would allow the sale of raw milk from farmers to consumers is once again set to be heard by lawmakers today, after two failed attempts. Testimony is scheduled for debate in the Senate Health and Welfare committee today. The sale of raw milk stirs up major controversy across the US and has sparked heated debates in the last two years it was brought up to Louisiana lawmakers. Food safety has been cited as the major reason the sale of raw milk on farms is banned.
The Pelicans disappointing season ends tonight. The expectation was another trip to the playoffs, instead a mountain of injuries crushed the team’s playoff chances.
A bill will be heard on the Senate floor today to address equal pay. Governor John Bel Edwards supports the legislation and says Louisiana comes in dead last in the country when it comes to the wage gap between men and women. He says women in the state earn only 65 cents for every dollar a man makes. A study by the National Partnership finds there close to a 17-thousand dollar pay gap per year between men and women.
The Edwards administration will also present to lawmakers on Tuesday the proposed budget for next fiscal year. The governor has already described the spending plan as “very sobering,” because of a 750-million dollar revenue shortfall for the financial year that begins July 1st. This means higher ed and health care are subject to more cuts.
The Rapides Parish Police Jury gave the Okay yesterday to the purchase of land for a new Gunter Branch library building in the Libuse area. The nearly acre and a half tract, located on Highway 28 East, will be purchased for $130,000 with library funds. It’s hoped construction, which will begin this summer, will be completed within a year.
The APD reports No charges have been filed against a Baton Rouge driver who hit and killed a 19-year-old Alexandria man shortly after 2 Sunday morning on Interstate 49 as he attempted to cross the highway. The investigation into the death of De’Amante Baylor is continuing, pending an autopsy and “other forensic testing.
Four alleged members of the Alexandria-based gang, Triple M Murder Team, made appearances on Monday in 9th Judicial District Court for their arraignments after they were indicted last month. 31 year old Antonio Boyd, 24 year old Patrick Smith, 23 year old Demetrius Bryant and 22 year old Teldric Boyd all waived formal arraignments and pleaded not guilty to all charges against them. Pre-trial conferences for all four were set for May 26. The full story is in today’s Town Talk.
The House Civil Law Committee will hear testimony Tuesday on the “Pastor Protection Act,” which would allow a clergy member or religious organization to deny participation in a same sex marriage. Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson says the bill should not create a lot of controversy. But Matthew Patterson, with Equality Louisiana says what the bill actually does is give organizations with any sort of religious affiliation to deny service to people in same sex relationships. He says this could include places like hospitals, homeless shelters and food banks that are typically associated with a religious group.
The defense attorney in the Will Smith case believes once all of the evidence comes out his client will be innocent. Cardell Hayes has been charged with second degree murder in the fatal shooting of the former-Saint, who was killed after a three-car fender bender turned violent in New Orleans. Attorney John Fuller hopes more details of the incident will come out in a preliminary hearing. Smith’s wife Racquel Smith was also shot, but suffered no fatal injuries. Hayes will reportedly be charged in that shooting as well. Fuller stands by his claims that there was another gun at the scene and Hayes was not the aggressor.
Governor John Bel Edwards has declared April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. According to Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, there were over 12-thousand victims of child abuse and neglect in the state in 2014, the latest year statistics are available.
A 4-year-old and a 6-year-old were killed in a four vehicle fatality crash in Livingston Parish Sunday evening. They say a man dropped a trash compactor in a roadway, left it there and returned home. 34-year-old Michelle Ramsey and another vehicle stopped to try to remove the object, when a drunk driver drove through hazard triangles and crashed into five people. The 2 young Ramsey children died on the scene. 4 others were seriously injured, including the impaired driver. The man who dropped the trash compactor was located at his home impaired and was arrested on many charges including vehicular homicide.
Southern University will hold a candlelight vigil tonight for the two students that were shot and killed outside of a party near the LSU campus. Interim Athletic Director Roman Banks says 19-year-old Annette January of Indiana was a member of the track and field team and 19-year-old Lashuntae Benton of Lake Charles was a student athletic trainer. He says everyone is having a hard time coping with the deaths of these bright young women. One person has been arrested in connection with the case but no one has been charged with murder of the two girls.
A 22-year-old has been booked by Covington Police for his role in the death of a teen who smoked synthetic marijuana. Jabari Pea allegedly sold the drug to two teenagers, and one of them, 17-year-old Alexander Shelby, later died from using the drug. Pes has been charged with second degree murder and is being held in St. Tammany Parish Jail on a $200,000 bond.
The family of former Saints & LSU star, Hokie Gajan, says doctors have moved him into intensive care as his battle with cancer intensifies. The Saints color analyst’s daughter, Kristin Gajan Sell, told WWL the hospital staff felt Hokie would be best served with round the clock care and medical attention. The 56-year-old was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in December of last year, and he had to miss the final games of last season as he underwent chemo.
Two bills that attempt to resolve funding problems for TOPS have been approved by the Senate Education Committee. One of the bills would cap the award amount at the current level and would no longer meet tuition increases. Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue says this bill is similar to one that passed last year. The other approved TOPS funding bill would reduce the amount each TOPS recipient receives in the event the state cannot fully fund the program. Jennings Senator Blade Morrish says this ensures that all of the students who earn TOPS get at least part of their scholarship. Both of these measures now head to the Senate floor.
A Natchitoches Parish man who helped many farmers get their cattle to higher ground during the recent flooding was killed yesterday while preparing to herd more cattle while on horseback. Witnesses say 32 year old Todd Roque was attempting to cross Bayou Brevelle, near Melrose, when the horse apparently got spooked and threw him into the water. His body was recovered a short time later. Roque was the father of two.
Saturday is election day. Here in Rapides Parish, all 17 elections are tax referendums, including a proposed new half-cent sales tax to provide pay hikes for school employees. In all, 13 of the referendums are for schools, two are for road districts, and two are for fire districts. There are no candidate elections in Rapides Parish. The other area parishes with elections on Saturday are Allen, Evangeline, Natchitoches, Sabine, Vernon and Winn. Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Saturday.
A water boil advisory is in effect for the town of Urania. A water main between the water plant and the town broke, resulting in the boil advisory. Until further notice, residents in Urania should disinfect their water before drinking it.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he and state Rep. Jack McFarland don’t yet have the votes to pass a bill that would require Medicaid recipients to provide a copay for services.
McFarland, R-Winnfield, voluntarily deferred House Bill 492 from its House Health and Welfare Committee hearing Thursday after it became clear the bill wouldn’t clear the panel. Providers have lobbied members against copays, saying most will be uncollectable and amount to a Medicaid rate reduction. The Governor believes copays would promote “personal responsibility” and encourage Medicaid patients to seek treatment at primary care providers rather than emergency rooms. McFarland said he plans to bring the bill back for debate before the end of the legislative session.
A bill that would extend the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours has been approved by the House. West Monroe Representative Frank Hoffman says women have a lot to consider when making this decision. The waiting period does not apply to women more than 150 miles from an abortion clinic.
Louisiana Tech women’s basketball coach Tyler Summit has resigned. There’s been speculation about inappropriate behavior involving Summit and in his statement, the married 25 year-old says he is profoundly disappointed in himself for engaging in a relationship that hurt the people he loves and respects the most.
The massive March flooding across the state has cost the agriculture industry up to 15 million dollars. That’s according to LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry, who says corn was impacted the most, as about 40-thousand acres were covered in water and some fields are still underwater. Guidry says about 3 to 4 million dollars in corn was lost.
The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival begins today but it wasn’t a great year for strawberries, because of the massive flooding in Tangipahoa and Livingston Parishes last month. Strawberry farmer Eric Morrow says 90% of his crop was damaged and he won’t have much to show for this year’s harvest. Morrow says the rain came at the wrong time and ruined a lot of green fruit.
A bill that adds parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities as a firearm free zone passes out of a House Criminal Justice Committee on an 8 to 6 vote. The legislation faces opposition from gun rights supporters.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is monitoring the deer population for chronic wasting disease, which has been confirmed in Arkansas and Texas. Dr. Jim LaCour with DWF says the disease is a fatal, progressive neurological disease that affects deer, including the white-tailed deer in Louisiana. A big concern is that deer infected with CWD can spread the disease, before symptoms develop.
A Natchez Mississippi man is now in custody after fatally shooting his estranged wife and another man multiple times in their Vidalia home while the woman’s two children slept nearby. Vidalia Assistant Police Chief Bruce Wiley says witnesses saw the suspected gunman fleeing the home in the early morning hours on Wednesday. Wiley says 35-year-old Curt Thornton was arrested after a Mississippi police officer pulled Thornton over for riding his motorcycle without a helmet.
The House Education Committee turned down a bill yesterday to make a TOPS recipient pay back some or all of their scholarship if they fail or withdraw from school. Hammond Representative Chris Broadwater proposed a bill that would make TOPS a partial scholarship, in which recipients would receive more money each year. That bill also failed to make it out of committee. The committee also rejected a proposal to increase the GPA a college student must achieve to keep their TOPS scholarship.
The APD reports one of the four men at large in the "Triple M Murder Team" investigation was arrested on Wednesday around noon. 25 year old Charvick Rachal was booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center on one count of racketeering. He remains in jail on a $500,000 bond.
Authorities in Vidalia have arrested Curt Thornton, the key suspect in the deaths of two people yesterday morning. It’s believed the shooting took place between 3 and 3:30 a.m. Children in the home discovered the victims' bodies around 7 a.m. and called 911.The victims are a male and female, both in their mid to late 30's. Both were found in the living room. The shooting appeared to be the result of a domestic dispute.
Two new Zika cases have been confirmed in Louisiana, bringing the total number who have had the infection here to four — and the Department of Health and Hospitals says all have recovered. The CDC told state officials that two Louisiana residents who recently traveled to the Caribbean and South America were found to be infected, but no longer had the virus in their bloodstream. They say there have been no cases of local transmission of the virus in the US. But, health experts expect to see cases when the weather warms up.
A bill that would prevent local governments from removing Confederate monuments failed in a Senate Committee Wednesday. Opponents for the legislation believe it shouldn’t be up to the state what happens to city property. Democrats on the panel voted against the bill, while Republicans supported it. The bill failed on a 5-4 vote.
A petition on change-dot-org is calling for Natchez, Mississippi, to secede from the state. The idea comes as a response to a bill that allows individuals and institutions with religious obligations to deny services to gay people. Natchez resident Casey Hughes says the petition was mostly a joke, but she wouldn’t mind if her town moved over to the Bayou State. The petition has been signed by almost 700 people.
Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser has proposed that Hollywood South shares some of their profits in order to keep the film tax exemptions in place. Nungesser says he hopes to build a partnership with movie producers who come to Louisiana. Nungesser says movies and TV shows have had a good track record in Louisiana, such as Jurassic World and NCIS: New Orleans. He says legislators and producers need to sit down and see what will work and what would not. Nungesser says he spoke with producers at the Grammy’s in Hollywood, and he says he hasn’t heard a good reason why this would not work out for everyone.
A study paid for by the Louisiana Cannabis Association finds medical marijuana use could be a 200 to 330 million dollar industry, if the state loosens its restrictions on who could use the prescription drug. The study also shows medical marijuana could generate between 5 and 13-million dollars in tax revenue, if a four-percent tax was placed on the sale of the product….
Search and rescue crews from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries found two 19-year-old off the coast of Cameron Parish yesterday after their boat sank. Shane Martin of St. Martin Parish and Derek Romero of Iberia parish were reported missing Tuesday night. They were both taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries, but Romero did not survive the incident. The cause of death and why the boat sunk are not yet know.
A debate is underway on the LSU campus over whether the university should restrict drinking by its students on campus during football game days. LSU is considering several regulations that are designed to crack down on binge drinking and prohibit items like couches, punch bowls, and kegs from student association tailgates. The proposed new tailgating rules for students will be presented to President F. King Alexander for his consideration.
A bill has been filed that would restrict college athletic teams in the state, excluding LSU, from traveling more 375 miles to play in games. The proposed law also does not apply to football or basketball programs or postseason action. The bill’s author, Baton Rouge Representative Steve Carter, says state dollars are scarce and public dollars shouldn’t be used on long road trips for baseball, softball and volleyball teams. This proposal does not apply to playoffs or championship competitions, and teams would be able to attend competitions hosted by opposing schools that pay for travel costs.
The 15th ranked LSU baseball team welcomes second ranked Vanderbilt into Alex Box Stadium tonight. Coach Paul Mainieri will start Jared Poche over Alex Lange on the mound tonight. Both pitchers last threw on Saturday, but Mainieri says Poche is more equipped to pitch again on shorter rest. You can hear the game tonight on 970 ksyl.
Another national rating agency has dropped Louisiana’s credit rating by one notch, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy. This is the second rating downgrade in just two months, as Moody’s Investor Services lowers the state’s rating in February. These rating determine interest rates so borrowing money could become more expensive for Louisiana.
The APD reports, four men still are at large after arrest warrants were served Tuesday morning on members of the Alexandria based “Triple M Murder Team,” a gang that indictments issued last week accuse of being responsible for murders and other violent crimes dating back to 2010. Ten people were arrested, but six of them already were jailed “in various facilities” on other charges. The complete story and a list of those arrested can be found in today’s town talk.
Alexandria city employees will get 3 percent pay raises in the new fiscal year that begins May 1. The 3 percent, across-the board raises are included in the 2016-17 budget that was submitted by Mayor Jacques Roy and approved yesterday by the City Council.
Five more parishes are now eligible for disaster assistance for residents affected by recent severe storms and flooding. They are Catahoula, East Carroll, Franklin, Lincoln and St. Helena. The Louisiana Workforce Commission says some residents in disaster declared parishes are also eligible for disaster unemployment insurance, but the deadlines to enroll are approaching.
Attorney General Jeff Landry says, as so many people in Louisiana are working to put their lives back together following devastating flooding, residents are urged to beware of price gouging. He says it is outrageous and unlawful for merchants to wrongfully profit from the horrific events.
A state lawmaker tells higher education officials not to expect any additional revenue and they need to come up with a plan on how to educate our future workforce with existing dollars. Covington Representative John Schroeder says higher education should restructure itself based on the dollars that are available now. Schroeder says after raising hundreds of millions of dollars in the special session, he doesn’t see legislature passing any more tax increases.
During a rally yesterday of people with developmental disabilities, Governor John Bel Edwards told the crowd that lawmakers would be back for a second special session to raise more revenue.
House Transportation also voted in favor of the REAL ID license bill after almost 2 hours of debate. The vote was 10-5 and now heads to the House floor. A similar bill has already passed in the Senate.
5th district US Congressman Ralph Abraham arrives in Cuba today seeking to make Louisiana a trade partner with the island once the U.S. lifts the trade embargo. The Richland Parish Republican says exporting Louisiana rice to Cuba would make a lot of sense for both sides.
Abraham says beef, poultry, corn, and soybeans will hopefully follow shortly after they secure a deal to send Louisiana rice to Cuba.
The House Education Committee meets today to discuss a variety of proposals that would change the TOPS Scholarship Program as we know it. Kenner Representative Julie Stokes has a bill that would make the scholarship a loan that students would have to pay back if they drop out or fail classes. Baton Rouge Representative Barry Ivey has a proposal that would raise the GPA requirement to retain the scholarship once a recipient is in college. The bill would raise the minimum GPA from a 2.3 to a 2.5 for the first year, and from a 2.5 to a 2.75 for the last three years.
A rally in support of legislation to have 17-year-olds charged as juveniles rather than adults takes place on the State Capitol steps today. Meg Garvey with the Youth Justice Coalition says Louisiana is one of only 9 states that routinely prosecutes 17-year-olds as adults. Garvey says a 17-year-old in the juvenile justice system could help kids get back on the right track, as studies show convicted teens are 34 percent less likely to reoffend.
A Senate Committee has unanimously approved a proposal that would ban the sale of aborted fetal tissue. The bill would create a $5-thousand fine and mandatory 10 year prison sentence for people who sell or transfer organs or other body parts from aborted fetuses.
A bill that would allow pets to be buried with their owners failed to get approval from a Senate committee Tuesday. Gerald Melancon, with the Louisiana Cemetery Board, says this proposed law would give cemeteries problems, if the owner never wanted to be buried with the pet, but the family wants it to happen. The author of the bill says he’ll bring the legislation back again next year.
LSU Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson says the school is debating whether or not it will grow medical marijuana. Lawmakers gave the ag centers at LSU and Southern the first right of refusal to produce the prescription drug. Richardson says they are considering their options. He says several bills on medical marijuana in this regular session outline the regulations that could help them make a decision.
Seat belt fines would double on a first offense under a bill that advances out of the House Transportation Committee. New Orleans Rep. Walt Leger says under this legislation, the maximum fine would be 75 dollars. He feels this would help more people buckle up. The bill moves to the full House.
The Rapides Parish Police Jury has decided not to endorse House Bill 11, a bill that would ban open burning of munitions and toxic waste such as is burned at Clean Harbors Colfax. Opponents of open burning of such toxic waste say it creates air pollution that endangers the health of area residents, especially in a 40-mile radius that would include much of Rapides Parish. The jury was asked by several parties involved with the bill to take a stand on the matter. The jurors did just that. After a discussion jurors let the request to endorse HB 11 die without a vote.
An investigation and audit of the Rapides Parish DA’s office has uncovered almost $800,000 in seized funds were not deposited in Rapides DA account. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office began looking into the missing funds after an assistant district attorney reviewed the DA office's asset forfeiture bank account in October 2015. Phillip Terrell, former Pineville city judge who was elected district attorney in 2014 had ordered reviews of each department when he came into office. The full story can be found in today’s towntalk.
A federal judge in New Orleans approves a 20-billion dollar settlement that BP will have to pay for its role in the 2010 oil spill. The oil giant will pay five-point-five billion dollars in civil Clean Water Act penalties and Louisiana is one of five states that will also be compensated.
Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser told lawmakers today that he might have to close several state parks and historic sites because of budget cuts to the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. He says with all the money problems Louisiana is facing, the state needs tourism dollars. Nungesser says they are looking into private-public partnerships, naming rights, increasing fees, and even using prison workers to save money.
A man and a woman were fatally shot in their Kenner apartment early Monday morning. Three children were also in the home, but they were not hurt. Lt. Brian McGregor with the Kenner Police Department says the discovery was made after one of the children went to a neighbor’s house. He says a 10 year old boy, a two year old and infant were inside the house, but unharmed. The incident is being treated as a double homicide.
Today a Senate committee will hear testimony on a proposed bill that would increase the fine for texting or using social media while driving from $175 to $500. Sgt. Nick Manale with Louisiana State Police says distracted driving causes accidents every day. In the House, the Transportation Committee is scheduled to consider a proposal to double the fine for not wearing a seatbelt from $25 to $50 for first offenses.
A $20-billion settlement has finally been reached regarding the BP oil spill in 2010. The money will go towards Clean Water Act penalties and to cover environmental damage, and it will be paid out over 16 years. Associate Director of the Tulane Energy Institute, Eric Smith says Louisiana will get some money out of the deal. Smith says with all the uncertainty surrounding the budget, it’s unclear if the money will still go towards the coast.
Cops say it was a trio of children who robbed a pizza delivery driver at gunpoint in Houma. Captain Dawn Foret, with the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office, says a 12 and 13 year old were arrested for armed robbery, and a 17 year old suspect, Leroy Miles, is at large. She says anyone with information on the whereabouts of Miles is urged to contact Crimestoppers
Authorities say a Sulphur man drowned in the Calcasieu River while participating in a triathlon. Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s office spokesperson Kim Myers says 25-year-old Taurean Blake swam about 100 yards out when he started to struggle. Myers says Blake was revived and taken to the hospital, where he later died.
A Senate committee will hear a proposal that would allow people to be buried next to their pets in cemeteries. The proposal by Metairie Senator Conrad Appeal, specifies that pets would have to be interred with their owners in a specific area of the cemetery.
A New Orleans entrepreneur has developed an app which consumers can use to find the best price on seafood in town. Sheldon Williams says the Seafood Locator App does the searching for you. Williams says the establishments they work with are mostly in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas, but they are working to get more on board throughout the state. The free app is available on iTunes or the Google play store.
Former LSU star Shaquille O’ Neal has been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. After a stellar career in Baton Rouge, Shaq went on to win four NBA titles and he appeared in 15 NBA All-Star games. O’Neal scored over 28-thousand points during his 20-year NBA career.
LSU Coach Paul Mainieri says relief pitcher Alden Cartwright will undergo an MRI after having to leave Sunday’s victory over Auburn. Cartwright through only a handful of pitches, until he felt something pop. The Tigers host Southern tonight night and Colfax native Jesse Stallings will start on the mound.