The House Ways and Means Committee approves three different bills that would cap the state's film tax credit program anywhere from 150 to 223 million dollars a year. Alexandria Representative Lance Harris authors one of the bills, he says with the state facing big cuts to higher ed and health care, it's time to put restraints on a program that costs the state 256-million dollars this year.
"This is the state of Louisiana as a whole and we need to get our fiscal house in order and we need to do it now," Harris said.
Harris says when Louisiana's film tax incentive program started in 2002, it was intended to build an industry that one day would self support itself.
"It's kinda like a 40-year-old son that won't get out of the house, you're still spending money on him and he won't leave. Mom and Dad have to eat peanut butter, while the kid goes out and parties."
Will French, president of the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association, opposed Harris' legislation. He says the film industry employs thousands and scaling back the program will not help the state's budget crisis.
"You can destroy the whole program, you can cut it down to zero in this session and you're not going to do anything to help the budget problem you're facing today, in 2015 or 2016," French said.
Supporters of the film tax credit program are concerned that a cap on the program will chase away future TV and film production. French told lawmakers during testimony that they could anticipate a significant lobbying effort against this type of legislation.
"The film industry is gonna have no choice, but to circle the wagons, and roll out every resource we have and fight, and that's not productive."
Authorities in St. Tammany Parish say the woman who was shot in the head allegedly by her ex-boyfriend then drove herself to the hospital is going to survive. Sheriff Jack Strain says they believe 56-year-old Ronald Brown of Pearl River broke into victim's home and waited for her to arrive.
"The woman reported that when she entered her residence this evening she discovered Brown inside armed with a weapon. After a physical struggle between the two, the woman attempted to flee the residence in her vehicle. Brown shot her through the car’s window as she was leaving," said Strain.
Strain says once the woman arrived for treatment the hospital was placed on lock-down as they believe the suspect's vehicle was seen in the area.
He says they were able to locate Brown a short time later and he was taken into custody without incident.
"He is charged with aggravated burglary, attempted first degree murder, carrying of a firearm by a convicted felon and false imprisonment of an armed suspect," said Strain.
Strain says Brown is currently in the St. Tammany Parish Jail and is being held without bond at this time. He believes the woman had something on her side in this tragic incident.
"To be struck by a projectile by a weapon, and for it not to penetrate her skull certainly is a miracle in my book," said Strain.
In the latest campaign finance numbers for Louisiana's governor's race, US Senator David Vitter has $4.2 million cash on hand, more than the other three candidates combined. UL-Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross says this has to be disappointing to Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, and State Representative John Bel Edwards.
"This just confirms that they're going to have to work harder. I don't think any of them are going to get out of the race. I think they're going to remain optimistic about their chances. But this is, perhaps, a cold dose of reality."
Dardenne announces $1.8 million in cash on hand while Angelle has $1.2 million and Edwards reports $894,000. Cross believes money will have a big impact in this race.
"You know, other factors being equal, more money is better. So, if you have a very, very close race and between two people and one of them is well funded and the other is not, then the well funded person almost always wins."
Cross says, with all other factors being equal, more money is better. He says you can expect this 2:1 ratio in cash on hand in Vitter's favor to continue throughout the campaign. Cross says the other candidates in this race are facing an uphill battle when it comes to fundraising.
"I'm not sure that the other candidates have the connections outside the state and the circle of donors to be able to bring in the kind of money Vitter's going to bring in."
Entergy says about 90% of customers should have power restored by tonight and nearly all customers should have electricity restored by Wednesday. Horrible storms blew through south Louisiana Monday and caused damage to the company power grid.
He says crews have been making progress since the weather calmed down.
"Our restoration workers have restored nearly 100,000 of the 176,000 Louisiana customers that were out at the peak of yesterday's storm."
There were reports of tornadoes in Kenner, Belle Chasse and Labadieville areas and wind gusts in excess of 100 mph. Johnson says he's optimistic, with the current weather conditions, that crews can make even more headway.
"We see we are getting a reprieve and we appreciate the customer's patience out there and we're working as hard as we can as safely as we can."
Entergy has assembled a storm team of about 2,000 to restore power in Louisiana safely and as quickly as possible. Johnson says it could take a little longer for customers where damage is more severe.
"Some of the harder hit areas around Baton Rouge and Labadieville. The additional crews will help us try to carve those numbers down."
The US Supreme court hears arguments today over whether same sex couples have the right to get married. Attorney Kyle Duncan has been hired by the state AG's office to make Louisiana's case in the social debate. He says it's their belief that each state should have the right to determine what is legally defined as marriage.
Matthew Patterson with Equality Louisiana says other courts around the nation are not divided on this issue.
"Access to marriage equality is a matter of equal protection for same sex couples across the country," said Patterson. "There is no reason you should have that right in one state and not every state."
A ruling is not expected until later this year.
Patterson says this is not just a matter of recognition and social standing but it's a concrete case of people who are not being treated fairly under the law. He says he is ecstatic that this case is finally being heard.
"This takes my breath away, I just turned 30 last week so in my lifetime we have gone from the totally unthinkable to marriage equality being the law of the land," said Patterson.
Duncan says states should have authority when it comes to family law including ways to define marriage. He doesn't think the state's judiciary should be the ones to decide such a massive issue.
"Same sex marriage is a brand new social movement that arose over the last decade," said Duncan. "It should be up to the people of the state on whether to adopt it or not."
Duncan says this is a huge political issue that should not be handled in the courts. He says this would be a major change to Louisiana's family law.
"It's got to be up to the citizens of the state to make a judgement about whether to go in that direction and allow same sex marriage or whether to keep the traditional forms of marriage."
After all of the recent bad storms we've been dealing with in Louisiana, The American Red Cross wants you to know about a new app which helps you to prepare for severe weather. Spokeswoman Nancy Malone says by taking a few simple steps ahead of time, you can help ensure that you and your family knows what to do when severe weather occurs.
"The most important thing is that it will alert you to the weather that's coming, the safety tips you need to have at that moment and what you should be doing to prepare," said Malone.
Malone says the free Red Cross Emergency App provides instant access to weather and emergency alerts, life saving information and also lets you connect with family and friends.
"It also has a Family Safe feature, to let them know that you're okay and alert them to the weather coming in their direction," said Malone.
Malone says the app covers 14 types of disasters including tornado, flood and severe thunderstorms and also lets you customize more than 35 emergency alerts for yourself and where loved ones live.
"It's local to what you want to see," said Malone. "We just want you to stay safe and that's what this app allows you to do."
Louisiana's film tax credits will be talked about by lawmakers today as legislation that would essentially phase out the motion picture benefits is set to be taken up in the House Ways and Means committee. House Bill 276 is by Alexandria Representative Lance Harris. He says the movie subsidy has gotten way out of control.
"When we have spent over one billion dollars in the last 7 years on movie tax credits," said Harris. "And we've cut higher education by over $730 million dollars."
Harris says in light of the $1.6 billion dollar budget deficit and the cuts healthcare and higher ed are facing, it's past time to address the motion picture tax credits. He says this program is costing taxpayers too much money.
"I think that the whole idea of a tax credit of this nature was to get an industry to this state which at some point would be able to operate on its own," said Harris.
The proposal would put a $50 million dollar cap on the program next fiscal year then completely stop issuing credits in 2019.
Celtic Studios Executive Director Patrick Mulhearn says this is not the answer to fixing the 2015-2016 budget.
"You could eliminate the program tomorrow and there would be zero savings in next fiscal year's budget," said Mulhearn. "Credits are already in the pipeline and you can't squeeze blood from a turnip."
Mulhearn says they are asking supporters of the film industry in Louisiana to come to the Capitol today wearing red shirts to show their opposition to this legislation.
He says they would possibly support bills that would clean up the program, but if it went away then close to 30,000 people would lose their jobs.
Mulhearn says Louisianians love having movies filmed here.
"LSU released a poll saying that 84% of Louisiana residents are in favor of these film jobs," said Mulhearn.
The Baton Rouge Police Department says they still have no suspects in the case of the pregnant woman who was found shot dead in her apartment. Corporal Don Don Coppola says they believe 29 year old Brittney Mills opened her door to someone she likely knew.
"Possibly may have asked to borrow her car and she said no," said Coppola. "At that time she was shot."
Copolla says Mills, who was about 8 months pregnant, was shot several times and died on the scene. He says they raced the victim to the hospital.
"Doctors were able to deliver the child who is expected to survive," asid Copolla.
The strong storm activity that swept through southeast Louisiana earlier today has resulted in wind damage and street flooding in the area. Frank Rivette, with the National Weather Service, says trees and power lines are down throughout the region.
He says the damage caused by these storms is fairly widespread.
"There may be some concentrated areas that we're going to have to go and check out but there was quite a bit of wind damage all across the area where that squall line moved."
He says they still have to survey the area to determine if any damage was the result of tornadoes. Rivette says downpours with these storms has caused street flooding in several communities. He says the area may not be out of the woods just yet.
"We've still got this fairly powerful upper level low pressure system over the southern plains and until that moves further to the east, we have some potential of some development of severe weather overnight."
These storms have also left thousands without power. Entergy spokesman Tom Peters says it could be a while before power is fully restored.
"It could be a lengthy outage for some places depending on the damage, especially where they may have had real high straight line winds."
Today is the start of Navy Week in Shreveport/Bossier -- an opportunity for the community to meet Sailors and learn about their missions. Lead Navy week planner Gary Ross says events include free concerts, demonstrations, commemorative events, school visits and participation in service projects.
"The purpose is to educate the citizens of the cities we go to," said Ross. "These are the taxpayers who pay the salaries of these sailors and officers, so it's good to have that face to face contact."
Ross says this is one of 12 Navy Weeks their Office of Community Outreach is hosting in 2015. He says the US Navy Parachute team, the Leapfrogs, are also in town for the week.
"They will be making six jumps this week including at the Bossier Parish Community College, and they will be jumping into 5 high schools," said Ross.
You can get a full list of the Navy Week events online at navy-outreach-dot-org. Ross says Shreveport/Bossier is such an Air Force town that it's good to bring in the Navy to let everybody know what they are all about.
"With Barksdale Air Force Base being here, it's a great experience not only for the Navy but for the community as well."
The family of 27-year-old Kris Beall of Pineville, who was competing in a regatta in Mobile Bay when a powerful storm capsized several sailboats, says he is among the dead. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Seth Johnson says the incident happened Saturday afternoon.
"A string of severe thunderstorms moved eastward over Mobile Bay and caught many boaters in Mobile bay off guard."
The family says Beall's body was one of two recovered, although authorities have yet to release names of the victims. Over 100 sailboats and more than 200 people were participating in the regatta when the storm hit. Johnson says the storm was quite powerful.
"The winds during the storm, what was reported to us, gusted over 70 miles per hour and lead to capsizing vessels, both within the regatta and in other places in Mobile Bay at the time."
Beall's wife reported his death in a Facebook post Sunday. Four people remain missing and officials say they are focused on finding them. Johnson says the storm caught boaters by surprise.
"There were people that were blown overboard. It's a combination of things. There were many different instances taking place all at the same time. It was a widespread weather effect that took place."
The House Ways and Means Committee approves a bill that increases the state's cigarette tax from 36-cents per pack to 68-cents, to match the tax rate in Mississippi. The bill's author, Bogalusa Representative Harold Ritchie, originally proposed a tax increase of over one-dollar, but agreed to the lower tax, so the measure would be approved.
"I'm talking about trying to save lives, raise revenue for this state, is what I'm trying to do," Ritchie said.
The tax proposal passed on a 11-5 vote. It's expected to generate an estimated 67-million dollars for the state annually, which could be used towards the one-point-six billion dollar shortfall. Opposition came from convenience store owners, like former state senator Fred Hoyt.
"It would cost jobs, hurt businesses, and squeeze my customers when they are struggling for dollars to pay rent, utilities and food," Hoyt said.
Ritchie's bill originally proposed a tax increase from 36-cents per pack to $1.54, which is the national average. Jack Casanova is a cigarette wholesaler and he says such an increase will have an impact on jobs and bring security concerns.
"We've got drivers that are carrying quite bit of cigarettes, hijacking, what have you, becomes a major issue," Casanova said.
Health advocates lined up to speak in favor of a higher tax on cigarettes. Frances Gilcreast, a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, is a former smoker and told the committee about how smoking has impacted her file.
"I've had breast cancer, I've had colon cancer, my mother died of second-hand lung cancer."
The bill still has a long way to go before legislative approval.
The $22.9 million makeover of the Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria begins today after numerous delays. The project is finally getting underway after voters approved a bond issue to renovate the facility two-and-a-half years ago.
Rapides Police Jury President Richard Billings says everyone's excited these changes are finally being made.
"Because we're going to have a product that got to the point that it was almost unusable to the point of looking brand new again and that's what we want."
He says the coliseum last held an event over a year ago. Billings says, when complete, the venue will be practically brand new with renovations happening both outside and inside the building.
"It's going to be box seats put in it, it's going to be new scoreboards, new flooring for basketball, dressing rooms for entertainers."
The renovations are expected to take 20 to 22 months to complete. Billings says he can't wait for people to visit the new facility when construction is complete. He says renovations, so to speak, won't stop with the building itself.
"We're going to hopefully have a manager that is aggressive, to be able to go out and sell our new coliseum, to bring some entertainment in here we haven't had in many, many years."
Caddo Parish District Attorney Charles Scott will be laid to rest today after his sudden death last week in a Baton Rouge hotel while on business at the Capitol. Preliminary findings reveal the 67-year-old died of previously diagnosed heart disease.
"Charles was the kind-of guy that everybody respected," says Pete Adams is the Executive Director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association. "He was very very intelligent."
Caddo District Court proceedings are suspended today in honor of Scott's funeral at the Broadmoor Baptist Church. Adams says Scott was the kind of person who was kind to everyone and didn't have a mean bone in his body.
"He's one of these people that is service oriented, he was a do-er and not somebody that just talked about stuff," said Adams. "He worked very very hard."
Scott was found by two employees in his office at the Lod Cook Hotel and Conference Center at LSU after he didn't show up for breakfast. A special election for a new Caddo DA is expected to happen in conjunction with this fall's gubernatorial race.
The first assistant is currently the acting DA.
Adams says Charles was a true leader in their organization.
"Along with Hillar Moore, and some others in our group, lead by example in the best possible way," said Adams. "Increasing training, and holding our assistant DAs to the highest standards."
The House Ways and Means Committee will consider Monday morning a bill that will raise the state's cigarette tax from 36-cents per pack to $1.54 per pack, which is the national average. Stasha Rhodes, with the American Heart Association in Louisiana, says the measure has an excellent chance at passing, because of the state's large budget shortfall.
"Obviously the opportunity to fix some of the budget woes presents this as a probable solution," Rhodes said.
Rhodes says not only will an increase in the cigarette tax help the state's budget situation now, it will result in fewer people smoking, which should result in cost savings in the future.
"Health care cost savings from fewer smoking caused lung cancer would be 7-million dollars, health care cost savings from fewer smoking caused heart attacks and strokes would be 15.4 million dollars."
The state is facing a 1.6 billion dollar budget shortfall. Rhodes says the cigarette tax increase under consideration today would generate 223-million dollars in new revenue for the state, which is why they think it has an excellent chance at passing.
"That's something legislators can fall back and say this is an opportunity for us to not only help budget issues, but we have a chance to save 7,000 lives."
One bad inning kept the number one ranked LSU Tigers from sweeping Texas A&M on Saturday. The Aggies scored four runs in the 3rd inning and that helped A&M salvage the final game of the series by winning 6-2.
All four runs in that fateful 3rd inning were unearned. An error by LSU first baseman Chris Chinea, who had the ball pop out of his glove. After the error, there was a walk, a strikeout and then four consecutive singles to plate three runs.
Texas A&M added single runs in the 6th and 9th innings.
LSU scored its two runs in the 4th inning. A one-out double by Andrew Stevenson started the rally. He scored on an RBI single by Chris Sciambra. Sciambra advanced to second on the throw to the plate and then scored, when Jared Foster hit a fly ball to the Aggies center fielder who dropped the ball.
But in the end it was a frustrating day for the LSU offense. They had a runner thrown out at the plate in the 1st and 2nd innings.The Tigers out hit the Aggies 11-to-7, but left 9 runners on base.
The losing pitcher was Austin Bain, who allowed five runs in 5.2 innings pitched, but only one of those runs were earned. Jake Godfrey gave up the other run in relief.
The loss drops LSU's record to 37-7. They are 14-6 in the SEC, one game ahead of the Aggies for first place in the SEC West.
The Tigers complete a five-game homestand on Tuesday as they host Alcorn State at 6:30 PM.
The Louisiana Attorney General's office urges consumers to research the costs and benefits of solar panels before purchasing them. The director of the public protection division of the state's A-G's office, Sam Pleasant, says homeowners can be attracted by a promise of reduced energy costs from solar power systems, but sometimes there are some significant up front costs.
"Whether you purchase the system outright or lease from a company, there are some pretty hefty prices that you have to pay up front," Pleasant said.
Pleasant says Attorney General Buddy Caldwell recommends that potential solar panel buyers should get at least three written proposals or price quotes and speak with people who have first-hand experience in purchasing them.
"Find out how satisfied they are with the product and how soon they were able to recoup savings," Pleasant said.
Pleasant says they issued this alert now, because warmer weather prompts many consumers to look at ways to save money on utility bills. She says you can contact your utility provider to see if they'll perform an energy efficiency audit of your home, which can determine if it's even worth getting solar panels.
Number one ranked LSU and Texas A&M played another classic college baseball game on Friday and for the second straight night the Tigers came out on top. The Bayou Bengal bats erupted for four runs in the 7th inning to erase a three-run deficit and claim a 9-6 victory over the 2nd ranked Aggies.
The win clinches a series victory for LSU and they'll go for the sweep Saturday afternoon at 1 PM.
LSU trailed 5-2 going into the bottom of the 7th inning. Chris Chinea started the rally with a single up the middle. Jake Fraley followed with an infield single. Jared Foster then singled to right field to score Chinea and put runners at 1st and 3rd base. Chris Sciambra then laid down a safety squeeze to score another run and that set-up the at-bat of the game.
Alex Bregman came to the plate with one out and runners at 1st and 2nd. Bregman battled Aggies pitcher Mark Ecker and on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, the Tigers star shortstop hit a shot down the left field line to score both runs and give the Tigers the lead.
LSU scored three more runs in the 8th inning. Chinea had an RBI double, Fraley had an RBI triple and Jared Foster scored another run with a ground out.
The Tigers finished with 14 hits, Fraley led the way with three hits.
LSU's offense bailed out Tigers staring pitcher Alex Lange. The freshman allowed 5 runs in 5.1 innings as he walked 5 and gave up 8 hits.
Russell Reynolds did a nice job out of the pen to get the win. He kept the Tigers in the game, until the bats could get going. Reynolds pitched an an inning and two-thirds, without allowing a run and striking out two.
Hunter Newman earned the save as he allowed one run in two innings.
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission reports there was a slight decline in the number of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2014. Eighty motorcycle riders were killed last year, a 7% drop from 2013.
The commission's deputy director, Ken Trull, says they hope to reduce that number even more in 2015, but they need help from all motorists.
"We see that 18-wheeler and we see that big pick-up truck, but sometimes it's hard to see a motorcycle, so it's really important to be aware of them," Trull said.
Trull says helmets are helping to reduce the number of motorcycle deaths. He says an observational study in 2014 found that 100-percent of motorcyclists wore a helmet on Louisiana highways.
Trull says a factor in motorcycle fatalities is impaired driving as one-third of Louisiana's 2014 motorcycle deaths involved alcohol. He says motorcyclists should never ride impaired or distracted and try to make yourself more visible.
"If they ride in the middle of the lane, they are often times more visible to drivers and cars," Trull said.
Ochsner Health System in New Orleans announces they are the first hospital in the country to use the new Apple Watch to manage patients suffering from chronic diseases. The Ochsner Hypertension Digital Medicine Program uses the watch to track patients who are struggling to control their blood pressure.
Chief Clinical Transformation Officer, Dr. Richard Milani.
"Ochsner has always been interested in innovative technologies that can help patients and help us better manage patients, and we think that the Apple Watch will be able to do that for us."
With the Apple Watch, patients can receive medication reminders, feedback from clinicians, activity tracking, and exercise reminders. Milani says about 40-percent of patients with chronic disease want a medication reminder.
"What better one to have than something that's just on your wrist that might even just vibrate once in a while and pop up with the pill you're supposed to take at that time."
Milani says the fact that the watch is on your wrist, it will provide individuals with nudges and feedback in a timely fashion. He says the first seven weeks of the program have been very successful. Milani says over 40-percent of patients have their hypertension under control, compared to a usual care group of only one-percent.
"We are delivering better care, more effective care, more durable care faster and at less inconvenience to the patient."