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Michelle Southern reporting.
Governor John Bel Edwards said he would not veto language in the appropriations bill that would "front load" the TOPS scholarship program. The governor added that a student's tuition would be mostly funded in the fall, but they'd have to cover more than half in the spring.

Higher Education Commissioner Dr. Joe Rallo says they support the governor.

"He issued the statement on behalf of the students and to give them some certainty about funding and how much," said Rallow.

But those who oppose say this would place a massive burden on students in the spring. Edwards did criticize the legislation calling it a disingenuous budgeting gimmick by the Louisiana Legislature. Rallo says Edwards had a different plan in mind.

"He said from day 1 that it would have been better if we could apply the 70% each semester, that allows students to plan for the additional 30%," said Rallo.

Edwards says students should be prepared for cuts to TOPS in the fall, and an even bigger cut in the spring. But he said he believes vetoing the legislation would cause chaos just weeks before the next semester begins. Rallo says they respect the governor's opinion.

"He doesn't want to create more uncertainty for students by vetoing something with a potential challenge," said Rallo.


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A Rapides Parish Sheriff’s deputy has been arrested for solicitation of prostitution. State Trooper Scott Moreau says the investigation into 48-year-old Stacy Bender revealed he had an inappropriate relationship.

“He had an ongoing sexual relationship with a female engaged in prostitution, and we also believe that some of these offenses were occurring on duty,” Moreau said.

The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office says Bender was a deputy for over 17 years and has been terminated. Moreau says Bender is facing a total of 12 charges, and the investigation is ongoing.

“We charged him with malfeasance in office, six counts, solicitation for prostitution, two counts, inciting prostitution, obstruction of justice, and unlawful use of criminal records,” Moreau said.



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As many Americans are traveling over the holiday weekend, thieves are on the lookout for those leaving their homes. State Farm saw 1,420 theft claims in Louisiana in 2015. State Farm spokesperson Roszell Gadson says July is the third highest month for home theft claims. He says it’s very important that your home is prepared during the 4th of July weekend if you’re going to be hitting the road.

“Leaving the lights on around the home, letting your neighbors know that you’ll be leaving town so maybe they can keep an eye out on your property.”

Gadson says wait until you’ve returned home from vacation to post pictures or chat about your trip on social media because you never know who is watching your posts. He says another way to be proactive is to ask your neighbor for a helping hand.

“If a brochure or something is dropped on your doorstep perhaps you can talk to your neighbor about picking up those items because that is a red flag that the person who lives in the home is not in town.”

Gadson says installing an alarm system is always a good idea no matter what time of year. He says it’s smart to install timers for when you’re away on vacation.

“Place a timer on some of your lights, you can also put a timer on a radio so it sounds like someone is inside the home while you’re away.”



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People and pets will be spending a lot of time outside this hot Fourth of July weekend, and the LSU Veterinary School advises people to protect their fur babies from heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be fatal. Associate professor and veterinarian Dr. Kirk Ryan says the number one danger is leaving pets in a hot car, but he says they can also get overheated when exercising outside.

“People should run in the cooler times of the day. Sometimes people forget about that. People seems to have a very high perception of their dog’s athleticism and forget sometimes that our dogs are a lot like us,” Ryan said.

Leaving an animal outside without enough water can not only hurt that pet, but it can also land a pet owner in jail because animal neglect is a crime. Ryan says there are steps pet parents can take to make sure their animals stay as cool as possible.

“The number one thing would be access to air conditioners. If that’s not possible, then definitely they need to be in an area where there’s access to shade and cool drinking water,” Ryan said.

Forecasters say the heat index in Louisiana this weekend could reach 110 in some places. Ryan says people should monitor for signs of heat exhaustion in their pets and take necessary action if they think their animal is overheating.

“The number one thing that people can do to help immediately is to douse their animal with cold water, doesn’t have to be ice cold, just cold water. Get them into air conditioning, and then get them to a veterinarian as quickly as possible,” Ryan said.



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Beginning today, able-bodied food stamp recipients without dependents will be required to participate in job-training if they do not work or go to school. DCFS Deputy Assistant Secretary, Sammy Guillory, says the requirement could be different on a case by case basis.

“Depending on that person’s education and work experience, they’ll place them in proper activities. It could be something like work experience programs. It could be placing them to get a high school diploma or GED,” Guillory said.

Guillory says this is the first statewide work initiative for SNAP recipients, as only five parishes had the requirement before the governor’s executive order. He says this requirement will help people who are able to transition off the assistance program.

“Our job is to help people when they need the assistance. Ultimately our goal it to help those same people become self-sufficient,” Guillory said.

Guillory says this new requirement will affect about 52,000 food stamp recipients. He says not participating in the job training could have consequences for those who depend on the SNAP assistance.

“If they do not participate with workforce commission and then we contact them and they do not have a good reason for not participating, then they could lose their SNAP benefits,” Guillory said.



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The state’s newly expanded Medicaid program goes into effect today, and the Louisiana Department of Health says some people may be able to see a doctor for the first time in their lives. Secretary Rebekah Gee says the expansion will improve health outcomes for Louisiana residents.

“There are patients that have waited. They put off surgery for issues that were very important to them and their health. They just couldn’t afford it, and I know that people have already scheduled some surgeries for today, for July 1,” Gee said.

Gee says people who have not already enrolled can do so at healthy.la.gov. She says this expansion means more people will have access to cancer screenings, medication, and primary care physicians. She says it changes the dynamic of the insured population in Louisiana.

“Now being a state where the majority of people are insured, versus a state where we had a significant number of people who were uninsured,” Gee said.

Gee says the expansion also has a lot of economic benefits for the state, including brining more federal tax dollars to Louisiana and boosting revenue at hospitals and clinics.

“We not only have saved $184 million in next year’s budget by expanding Medicaid, but we will be having at least a billion dollars in new revenue,” Gee said.



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Summer is upon us and many people will be out enjoying the water, so the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is giving out some tips on what to do in the event of an alligator encounter. LDWF Alligator Program Manager Edmond Mouton says whatever you do, don’t feed or approach alligators.

“If you do start feeding alligators in a specific area they become accustom to humans and associate it with food and lose their fear of humans and they can become aggressive.”

Mouton says use common sense if you see an alligator. He says if you see an alligator in an area that could pose a public safety hazard, call LDWF immediately because state law prohibits taking it into your own hands.

“It’s illegal and it’s really unsafe for individuals to possess or move alligators on their own. They’re not licensed too and they’re not professionals.”

Mouton advises Louisiana residents to visit LAgatorprogram.com to learn more about what to do when encountering an alligator and the history of the reptile.

“To just become better informed about our whole alligator program, it doesn’t just describe nuisance alligators, it gives some biology and the different types of programs we have related to the alligator industry.”



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Two people have been arrested in connection to the death of a Slidell man who was the victim of a social media scheme. 28-year-old Terrance Calloway and 23-year-old Dana Lemar are charged with second degree murder and obstruction of justice.

Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith says investigators used cell phone information to try and locate where the victim, 25-year-old Cordarlye Roberts, could be.

"We were notified by the LaFourche Parish Sheriff's Office that this vehicle was found burned and stripped," said Smith.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand says this started as a date that was intended to be a robbery. He says the victim met Lemar on Facebook, and they set up a date. He says Calloway and Lemar met up with Roberts in Slidell.

"They set up a scheme to facilitate assisting a family member with a broken down vehicle so they could commit a robbery upon the victim," said Normand.

Normand says it’s dangerous to meet up with strangers you met online. He says you never know who you’re dealing with on the internet.

"You put yourself in particular circumstances that can be really dangerous and very risky," said Normand.


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The state’s highest court has suspended two 18th District judges without pay, due to misconduct. Judge Robin Free and Judge James Best’s region covers Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge parishes. Judge Alvin Batiste, who also handles cases in that district, said anytime a judge is punished, it is serious.

"We are governed by the Code of Judicial Conduct and take an oath of office, we have an oath sworn to abide by that code."
The Supreme Court suspended Free for a year for four violations — including interrupting a meeting between prosecutors and a victim’s family, and making in appropriate comments. Best was suspended 15 days for ending probation early for a sex offender who was a friend. Batiste says this is a lesson learned for, not only his two colleagues.
"But for all of us as judges around the state as to what is expected and what is acceptable."


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The Revenue Estimating Conference learned today that lawmakers raised $371 million dollars in revenue that can be used in the budget year that begins Friday. But Ron Henson with the State Treasurer’s Office says there are still concerns that Louisiana won’t be able to pay its bills until taxes are collected and it’s possible state government will have to borrow money.

"Line of credit, we could enter into an agreement with a financial institution then we'd only draw down as much as we had to have and that would save interest expense."

Cuts will still need to be made on government services when the new fiscal year starts tomorrow, but the concern is that there will be a deficit in the current year that would carry over. Henson says even with the work that the legislature did in the two special sessions, there are still major money problems ahead.
"We feel comfortable that we can deal with it but I haven't been quite this concerned since I've been in the treasurer's office for sure."


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Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal is accused of calling a federal prosecutor in his pending civil rights case a “sorry son-of-a-b***h” and an anti-Semitic slur in a secret recording. Prosecutors filed a motion to have the audio presented to a jury in Ackal’s trial. Legal Analyst Tim Meche says there are two ways to look at this.

“Whether or not it’s relevant, whether or not it will inflame the jury and be so prejudicial. The second is whether or not they obtained the recording legally.”

Meche says Ackal did not know he was being recorded when he made anti-Semitic remarks about the federal prosecutor, who is assumed to be Mark Blumberg. He says permission must be given when being voice recorded.

“But if one person consented to the recording, that’s legal in Louisiana and if that’s how they obtained it then it was legally obtained.”

The prosecutors want to use the audio to put new conditions on Ackal’s bond, like avoiding contact the alleged victims in the case, refraining from excessive drinking of alcohol and being subject to unannounced home inspections. Meche says it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the court of public opinion.

“While normally, this statement would be prejudicial, unfortunately, many of his potential jurors might agree.”



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Police say three suspects are in custody in relation to the fatal armed robbery at a Raising Cane’s in Kenner. Kenner Police Chief Michael Glaser says 24-year-old Mark Crocklen Jr. turned himself into police when he learned that 21-year-old Taylor Friloux had died.

“He said he agreed to participate in a robbery but not a homicide. So that’s when he contacted the sheriff’s deputies and came back to Kenner and laid out the whole plan,” Glaser said.

Glaser says Crocklen came forward after 23-year-old Joshua Every was already in police custody. Glaser says they also have another suspect in custody, and police are still searching for one more. Glaser says both Crocklen and Every have been charged with first-degree murder, but the third suspect has not yet been charged. He says the only inconsistency in the stories police have heard is who did the stabbing, but the video clearly shows what happened.

“As they were making their escape, one male ran out, she collapsed on her back, and as the second man was fleeing the store, stopped and stabbed her several more times as she lay motionless on the floor,” Glaser said.

Police say Friloux was stabbed 8 times. Glaser says she initially resisted opening the door for them men but was forced to when she was stabbed in the chest. Friloux’s mother spoke at a press conference saying she doesn’t understand how someone could do something like this.

“I just want to know why. I mean, if you’re going to rob a place, take the money and go, but why? Why such a vicious act? I want to know if there was more to this,” Friloux’s mother said.

Police say this was a planned robbery, and over $1,000 was stolen.



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An officer-involved shooting in Monroe left one suspect dead in the overnight hours. State Trooper Michael Reichardt says police responded to a domestic violence call just after midnight, but the suspect was not there when they arrived. He says Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Deputies found the suspect at another residence.

“The suspect came to the door and then slammed the door in the deputy’s face. They re-knocked on the door, advised that they were the sheriff’s department needing to talk to the suspect. He opened the door brandishing a weapon,” Reichardt said.

Reichardt says the deputies took cover under the carport. He says they told the suspect multiple times to drop his weapon.

“While they were pleading with the guy to drop the weapon, he did point the weapon at the deputies. They fired their weapons, shot the suspect, and he died on scene,” Reichardt said.

Witnesses reportedly heard 8 to 10 gunshots, but police have not confirmed how many shots were fired. Reichardt says the deputies were not harmed in the incident, and the investigation is ongoing.

“The officers involved last night are fine and we’re not releasing their names or the suspect name at this time,” Reichardt said.



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The second special session ended a week ago today, and lawmakers proposed several constitutional amendments to be decided by voters in November. President of the Public Affairs Research Council, Robert Travis Scott, says there will be six changes on the ballot in the fall. He says one of them would change the state’s corporate income taxes.

“It would no longer allow corporations to take a deduction on their income tax for the federal taxes that they pay,” Scott said.

Scott says in exchange, companies would get a lower flat tax. He says the highest corporate tax is currently about 8%, and this would lower that to about 6%. He says another amendment would affect those who have lost a spouse in the line of duty.

“One of the constitutional amendments basically says you can get a property tax exemption if you are the widow of someone who has died in the line of duty,” Scott said.

Scott says one proposal would no longer allow the legislature to set tuition at colleges and universities, and that power would go to higher education boards instead. He says some of the amendments are rather technical, so voters need to do their homework.

“This is one of those times when you don’t want to go into the voting booth not prepared. You want to have some idea of what these amendments are actually going to do and not do,” Scott said.



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A statewide campaign begins today that seeks to reduce drunk driving this Fourth of July weekend. Jessica Bedwell with the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission says the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign will include multiple enforcement efforts aimed at keeping drunk drivers off the road. She says this risky behavior can result in more than just a DWI.

“Buzzed driving is drunk driving. So driving after consuming any amount of alcohol can lead to disastrous consequences, and we all have to do our part to prevent these tragedies,” Bedwell said.

Bedwell says they also ask people to eliminate distractions while behind the wheel and focus on driving safely. She says they want everyone to enjoy the weekend, but they ask that they have a plan to get home safely before the party begins.

“We ask that they designate a sober driver or use public transportation, and if you see a drunk driver on the road, please contact police,” Bedwell said.

Bedwell says they are expecting increased traffic on the roads this weekend. She says there are usually more cases of drunk driving when the holiday falls on a day that gives people a long weekend.

“During the 2014 extended Fourth of July weekend, we had 112 people injured and 8 people killed in vehicle crashes involving alcohol,” Bedwell said.



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Starting today through Monday, more Americans than ever are expected to be hitting the road for the 4th of July weekend. AAA Spokesperson Don Redman says close to 43 million people will be traveling over the holiday, which is five million more than Memorial Day.

He says it’s going to be a very busy time on the roadways.

“The most popular mode of transportation of course is the vehicle with about 84% of everyone who is going to be travelling this holiday by wheels. So that makes about 36 million people going to be on the road this holiday.”

Redman says the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the state is $2.10, we haven’t seen prices this low since 2005. He says the entire country has saved about 60 billion dollars that would normally have gone into the gas tank.

“You’re seeing people, especially families, welcome relief at the gas pump and they’re able to use that money for their vacations and other expenses.”

Redman says if you’re traveling by car try to leave before and after peak times. He says even though many people are hitting the roads over the long weekend, some Americans are using alternate means of transportation.

“8% are traveling by airline, and almost about 8% by other means of transportation, which means trains and buses but also means cruises. So it’s well divided.”



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Three of the major Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter appeared at a debate in Baton Rouge to discuss why they should be elected on November 8th. Congressman Charles Boustany says he wants to create a better sense of trust between the people and government. He says it’s time to get serious about solving Louisiana’s problems.

“I’m an experienced at this, it’s not a time to put a rookie in this position. It’s time to put somebody who has had a record of getting results and who can really ensure that Louisiana has a leadership seat at the table.

Democrat Foster Campbell apologized for not being able to attend the debate. Congressman John Fleming says he has a record of fighting for what the people of Louisiana want. He says it’s time for Washington to start listening.

“We’re going to turn this country in the right direction and we’re going to see lower taxes, we’re going to see a new healthcare system, and we’re going to see 4.5% -5% growth rates.”

State Treasurer John Kennedy says government is too big and plans to give the power to the people. He says he is strong enough to go to Washington and take his country back.

“I believe that American’s best days lie ahead, we just have to remember who we are as Americans. I’m not part of the club in Baton Rouge, I know that’s a shocker for you, I won’t be part of the club in Washington DC.



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Today the Louisiana Interstate Highway System turns 60 years old and the Department of Transportation has released a state of the interstate report. DOTD Secretary Sean Wilson says our system is very valuable, effective but sometimes over capacity. He says if we want to keep up our interstate we’re going to have to make some improvements.

“If we want to invest and maintain this system and leave a network of connectivity, we’re going to have to make some serious investment.”

But Wilson says we have an interstate system we can be proud of. He says only 26% of the pavement is in poor or mediocre condition.

“The pavement condition of our interstate is in very good condition, not perfect. We’ve got several stretches that are in need of repair that we have concentrated on and we’re going to continue to work and maintain.”

Wilson says they’re going to work on improving parts of I-10 and I-20 to make room for more travelers. He says travel has increased by 43% on Louisiana’s interstates from 2000 to 2014.

“We are growing very quickly in this state and the numbers show it, we are number 4 now in the country for vehicle miles traveled.”



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Inspector General Stephen Street has announced that a film company claimed over $1 million in fraudulent tax exemptions in Louisiana. Street says Horizon Entertainment and Productions claimed excess expenses in the 2011 filming of The Sean Payton Show and the documentary Saintsational.

“There were numerous expenses that were submitted to the state of Louisiana that were either inflated, undocumented, or in some cases never occurred at all,” Street said.

Street says Horizon performed 263 online wire transfers in one day. He says the amount was never more than $39-thousand, but they did it enough times that it amounted to over $2 million in transfers, which they claimed as expenses in their tax credit application.

“I liken that to taking money out of your right pocket, putting it in your left pocket, and then claiming to the state of Louisiana that you spent that money,” Street said.

Street says his office is recommending additional changes to the state’s film tax credit program to prevent fraudulent claims because Louisiana cannot afford it.

“The state has very little revenue and certainly not enough to go around to fund these basic services, and we can’t let in this case over a million dollars in tax credits were issued that never should have been issued,” Street said.

Horizon denies doing anything wrong.



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An armed robbery at a Raising Cane’s in Kenner left a 21-year-old dead from multiple stab wounds. Police say the robbery happened just before 1:30 am. Kenner Police Chief Michael Glaser says two Cane’s employees were confronted by armed men when they took the trash out after closing.

“They were confronted by what we believe are two black males wearing gray hoodies. They produced what appeared to be some type of knives and walked the two employees back into the rear door of the business,” Glaser said.

Glaser says after the robbery, witnesses report two black men in gray hoodies fled the scene in a vehicle that was waiting outside. He says the victim is identified as 21-year-old Taylor Friloux.

“A 21-year-old shift manager, a female, was stabbed multiple times, at least one time outside and then multiple times while inside,” Glaser said.

Friloux was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, and she later died. It’s reported that one suspect is in custody after the Cane’s employees identified 23-year-old Josh Every as possibly being involved in the robberystabbing. Glaser says police are still looking for other suspects, as there were several people involved in this crime.

“At least two black males wearing gray hoodies. We think there may have been a third person operating some type of vehicle. We’re still trying to identify that vehicle,” Glaser said.



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