KSYL Local News


News for Friday 062416

By Dave Graichen

 

Just one day after a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Deputy was shot and killed; two Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Deputies were shot in Monroe while serving a felony warrant. Sheriff Jay Russell says one of the officers was shot near his face and the other in his the leg. Russell says both deputies underwent surgery and are expected to make a full recovery. The suspect, who has a long rap sheet was arrested a short time later.  Both deputies are 25+ year veterans of the OPSO.

 

Just before midnight, the Louisiana legislature gave final approval to a spending bill that calls for the TOPS scholarship program to be fully funded for the fall semester. But legislators left Baton Rouge without fully funding TOPS. Under the plan approved by lawmakers, TOPS students would only have 42-percent of their tuition covered for the spring semester. Several democrats call the front-loading of TOPS a budget gimmick. Governor John Bel Edwards agrees saying TOPS students will be left with a big tuition bill for the spring semester…

 

Renovation of the Rapides Parish Coliseum is set to be completed later this year. Yesterday, the Police Jury met to give it’s blessing to a $405,000 contract for a bathroom project that is part of the Coliseum renovation. Ratcliff construction, who is already the lead contractor on the renovation project, was the low bidder and was handed the contract.  

 

President of Grambling State University Willie Larkin resigned today after one year at the school. Larkin made the announcement at Louisiana Tech during a meeting of the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors. In February, Grambling’s Faculty Senate gave Dr. Larkin a vote of no confidence. As they were reportedly upset with falling enrollment, fundraising and the loss of the school’s nursing program.

 

The LSU Board of Supervisors will vote tomorrow on whether or not their AgCenter will grow medical marijuana that would be sold to patients who receive prescription for the drug. Spokesperson for the LSU AgCenter Frankie Gould says the law passed this year that expanded the diseases for which the drug can be prescribed, also outlined two possible growers for the plant. LSU was one of them. Gould says they aren’t sure if this is a worthwhile investment, especially since state funding for colleges has been slashed in recent years.

 

Residents in northwest Louisiana will now have access to revolutionary hi-tech methods for breast cancer detection, as new state-of-the-art breast imaging center is opening today in Shreveport. Marilyn Joiner is the spokeswoman for the WK Breast Health Center. She says doctors there will use 3D technology which lets them do a mammogram and a biopsy at the same time.

 

An Abbeville man will spend the rest of his life in prison for fatally shooting a Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s deputy. District Attorney Keith Stutes says 22-year-old Quintylan Richard entered a plea of guilty on the two-year anniversary when he shot Deputy Allen Bares. Authorities say Bares was gunned down after confronting Richard and an alleged accomplice about a home they just robbed. Stutes says Richard will not get the death penalty, but he will spend the rest of his life in jail. He says the trial was set for next year, but everyone was ready to put this tragedy to rest.

 

Beginning August 1, assaulting a police officer will be a felony, no matter what kind of weapon is used. West Monroe Senator Mike Walsworth says under the previous law, assaulting an officer with anything other than a gun was a misdemeanor. He says this new law expands that language to include the use of any weapon in the felony, not just a firearm.

 

The DA is East Baton Rouge Parish says they will not seek the death penalty in the case of the two suspects accused in the brutal murders and kidnapping of an elderly Baton Rouge couple last year. Hillar Moore says this was the decision of the victim’s family. Ernesto Alonso and Frank Garcia are both charged with two counts of first degree murder and kidnapping.

 

The Louisiana filmed movie, Free State of Jones, starting Matthew McConaughey comes out in theaters today. Executive Director of Celtic Studios Patrick Mulhearn says the movie revolves around a Mississippi farmer who tries to succeed from the Confederacy. He says the movie is set during the Civil War and was filmed in 10 different Louisiana parishes.

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News for Thursday 062316

By Dave Graichen

 

Law enforcement around the state are mourning the death of 50-year-old Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Deputy David Michel, who was fatally shot yesterday while attempting to conduct a pedestrian stop. Police say a suspect is in custody. Authorities say Michel was shot three times in the back after an altercation with a male pedestrian. After the shooting he was rushed to a local hospital, where he died less than an hour later.

 

The Town Talk reports today the Alexandria Police officer who broke up a fight involving radio talk show host Tony Brown last month at The Grand Theatre has been exonerated following an Internal Affairs investigation. The Internal Affairs investigation was conducted to see if the officer used excessive force. He took Brown to the ground to arrest him, and in the process Brown’s wife was knocked down. The Town Talk, through a public records request, obtained a copy of the Internal Affairs case report and copies of dozens of pages of evidence in the case. The complete story is in today’s Town Talk.

 

The special session ends tonight at midnight and lawmakers are still trying to figure out how much state agencies will get based on the revenue that has been raised over the last couple of weeks. The Senate Finance Committee has decided not to give public colleges a reduction in state dollars, so K-12 public schools are on the chopping block. Shreveport Senator Gregory Tarver says universities have been cut enough…This spending proposal still needs the approval of the House and Senate.

 

The lawyer of a Marksville City Marshall accused of fatally shooting a 6-year-old boy and injuring his father  has filed a motion to move the trial out of Avoyelles Parish. 31-year-old Derrick Stafford’s attorney, Christopher LaCour, says with all the media coverage he doesn’t believe Stafford can get a fair trial in this parish. Stafford and Greenhouse are set to go to trial this fall.

 

Instead of repairing the Jimmy Davis Bridge over the River in Shreveport-Bossier, the DOTD says they’ve decided to build a new four-lane bridge. Now word yet as to how much the new bridge will cost or when construction will begin.

 

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore says he has yet to decide if he’ll prosecute a Baton Rouge mother who has been charged with child cruelty for allegedly hitting her children with an electric cord, because they broke into a neighbor’s home. Moore says he’s still waiting to get all the facts in the case. Social media has gone crazy with people supporting the woman’s decision. Moore says the woman does not have a criminal history.

 

Governor Edwards has signed into law legislation that says if you fly a drone over someone’s property to take a peep at what they are doing, you could be charged with trespassing. The law goes into effect immediately.

 

President Obama signed a bill into law that puts regulations in place to make chemical plants safer. U.S. Senator David Vitter is a co-sponsor of the legislation and says this benefits Louisiana residents, because it creates a federal system to make sure chemicals are made safely based on the latest science. Vitter says the law gives a reasonable set of regulations with a single handbook that our companies can follow to remain a world leader in innovation. He says before this, states were developing their own inconsistent regulatory systems which wasn’t working.

 

A Baton Rouge woman has been placed under arrest by the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office for allegedly pretending to be a cop and taking someone into custody with toy handcuffs at a casino. Deputies learned 23-year-old Georgetta Augillard didn’t work for any law enforcement agency and she was booked with false imprisonment and fraudulent portrayal of a cop.

 

The Ponchatoula-based company Elmer Chocolate cuts the ribbon on their new $40 million expansion today. Elmer president and CEO, Robert Nelson, says they are excited to open their expanded facility right here in the Bayou State. Elmer is best known for its Easter candy, but Nelson says that only accounts for 10-percent of their total sales.

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News for Wednesday 062216

By Dave Graichen

 

Manpower says based on its survey of metropolitan areas, New Orleans and Baton Rouge are the two worst in the country to find a job this summer. LSU Economist Doctor Loren Scott says the summer is a slow time for New Orleans tourism industry. Scott says the job outlook is actually much worse in Houma and Lafayette, because of the downturn in the oil and gas industry.

 

A new report released by the Annie E Casey Foundation finds Louisiana ranks 48th for child well-being. Teresa Falgoust, with the Agenda for Children, says the state ranks so low because of the number of kids who live in poverty, but the report highlights some positives. Falgoust says Louisiana ranks seventh in pre-school attendance and literacy has improved.

 

A group called Together Louisiana says the state gives away 1.6 billion dollars in local tax revenue as a result of the industrial tax exemption program, which benefits large manufacturers. Together Louisiana spokesperson Broderick Bagert says school districts, parishes and other local entities are missing out on these dollars. Tax and Finance Council Director for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Jim Patterson, says 40 states give this kind of exemption. He says without this exemption, many businesses might not come to Louisiana.

 

The legislative session ends on Thursday night at midnight and 284-million dollars in revenues have been approved as a result of changes to tax laws. Governor John Bel Edwards has pushed for 600-million dollars in the hopes the state can avoid making cuts to the budget.

 

Senate President John Alario says he wants to revive a piece of legislation that would reduce the amount of tax deductions a person receives if they itemize on their state income tax forms. The proposal would generate an estimated 88-million dollars. It’s an effort supported by the governor, but such a proposal has already been dismissed by the Louisiana House.

 

If 284-million dollars is all that could be raised, cuts will occur to higher ed, various health care services and the TOPS program to name a few. How much of the revenue raised in this special session should go to TOPS versus hospitals that provide care for the poor is a major debate right now.

 

Governor Edwards has established a task Force to develop ways Louisiana can safely lower its prison population and reduce inmate housing costs. Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc says Louisiana incarcerates more residents per capita than anywhere else in the world and this task force will come up with recommendations that the legislature can approve in 2017. LeBlanc says more programs at the local level can help reduce the recividism rate and lower the jail population.

 

The governor has signed a bill into law that raised the age threshold for victims of sex trafficking from 18 to 21. Before this law, victims between 18 to 21 could have been arrested for prostitution. Executive Director of Project 41 in West Monroe, Lindsey Nadler, says they are thrilled about the new law, because jail is not what these victims need.

 

Deputies in Lafayette are investigating two bodies that were both located in burned out vehicles separate from each other in the early morning hours yesterday. They say one was found in Carenco around 1:15am, and the other at 3:30am in Scott. Authorities say at this time the bodies have not been identified and it is unknown if the two incidents are connected. Detectives are still working the scenes and the case is ongoing.

 

Attorney General Jeff Landry and law enforcement are teaming up to tackle cyber-crimes against children. Landry says since April, 57 alleged perpetrators have been arrested for the distribution and possession of child pornography as part of “Operation Broken Heart”  State Police is assisting in the effort to reduce internet crimes against children. Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson says parents can help in this battle by being vigilant and keeping a close eye on your kids online activities.

 

Former state senator Elbert Guillory is in the race for the 4th Congressional District seat, and he’s running a very unique YouTube ad to gain voters’ support, by using coconuts as a metaphor, saying he has the coconuts for the job.  This is not the first time Guillory has made a bold statement in an ad. Last year in the race for Lt. Governor, he used the n-word multiple times to “start a dialogue on race.”

 

Here’s a bizarre story out of Caddo Parish, sheriff’s office spokesperson Cindy Chadwick says they arrested a Shreveport man for trespassing after he climbed up a historic monument outside of the courthouse during the middle of the night and the statue’s arm fell off in the process. Bond for Twenty-seven-year-old Tromell Conerlious was set at 500-dollars.

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News for Tuesday 062116

By Dave Graichen

 

It has happened yet again. Authorities are investigating the deaths of 3-year-old twins who died after being locked in a hot pickup truck. Bossier City Police spokesperson Mark Natale says at some point Saturday afternoon, the children’s mother realized she didn’t know where the kids were.  She found the children in a closed pickup truck. A Shreveport television reports the children were in the truck for two hours and temperatures were in the 90s Saturday afternoon. No criminal charges have been filed yet in the case.

 

With very little fanfare, Rapides Parish Sheriff William Earl Hilton was sworn in Monday to his sixth term. Ninth District Judge John Davidson administered the oath of office to Hilton, who has served five terms in office. Hilton’s 6th term will officially will begin July 1.

 

The Louisiana House approved two bills Monday that would generate an additional 75-million dollars in tax revenue. If approved by the Senate, the legislature will raise 284-million dollars in this special session, far short of the $600 million sought by Governor John Bel Edwards. Based on the taxes that have been raised in the two special sessions, at least 70% of TOPS would be funded under a bill approved by the House.

 

With two days left in the special session, lawmakers are arguing over how much to fund TOPS. A bill approved by the House funds the scholarship program at 70-percent. Bogalusa Representative Malinda White believes fewer dollars should go to TOPS in favor of more money for hospitals that provide care for the poor and uninsured. Prairieville Representative Tony Bacala urged House members not to take any more funding away from the scholarship program. The Senate Finance committee will talk more about TOPS funding at its meeting Today.

 

According to the Department of Children and Family Services, the number of food stamp recipients in Louisiana jumped 9% from April 2015 to April 2016, but that rate is falling nationwide. Director of the Louisiana Budget Project, Jan Moller says those rates should go down when oil prices come back up, and more people in that sector get jobs.

 

Louisiana ranks third in the country for lightning claims, according to State Farm. Roszell Gadson with State Farm says in 2015, the insurance company paid out over $6 million on almost 14-hundred lightning claims, averaging $46-hundred each.

 

32-year-old Margaret Sanchez has been sentenced to 40 years in jail after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and manslaughter in the death and dismemberment of Bourbon Street exotic dancer Jaren Lockhart in 2012. Legal analyst Chick Foret says now that the case is over, Lockhart’s family can finally have closure.

 

Two Alabama football players arrested in Monroe on gun and drug charges will not be prosecuted. Ouachita Parish District Attorney Jerry Jones told KNOE-TV there was insufficient evidence. Back in May, Cameron Robinson and Hootie Jones were arrested after a Monroe police officer allegedly found them smoking pot inside a vehicle.

 

Louisiana anglers rejoice as Toledo Bend has been ranked the number one bass fishery in the country for the second straight year by Bassmaster. Magazine Editor James Hall says this is the first time in the history of ranking the best fishing destination in America that one fishery has won back to back or even won twice.

 

Thursday night is the NBA Draft and the Pelicans have three picks. The sixth overall pick and then two in the second round. New Orleans General Manager Dell Demps believes they can add some significant pieces around All-Star Anthony Davis.

 

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News for Monday 062016

By Dave Graichen

 

It looks like the appetite just isn’t there for lawmakers to raise any more taxes. Governor John Bel Edwards asked legislators to increase revenue by 600-million dollars in this special session, but it appears the legislature will fall way short of that figure. Alexandria Representative Lance Harris says many lawmakers believe they’ve raised enough revenue.

Last night, state representatives failed to pass a measure that would limit excess itemized deductions in personal income taxes, which would have raised an additional 60-million dollars.

 

LSU economist Dr. Jim Richardson says Louisiana could finish this fiscal year with a 200 million dollar deficit. Senate President John Alario says Richardson informed him corporate income taxes are way below what was projected. So far, the legislature has agreed to tax changes that will generate 220 million dollars in additional revenue, but there’s a big resistance in the House to raise anymore. The special session ends Thursday.

 

The head of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association says there are some encouraging signs for the struggling industry. LOGA President Don Briggs says one positive sign is that oil prices are near 50-dollars a barrel, after falling to 26-dollars in February. Briggs says they hope the price can rise some more during the second half of 2016, because of the break-even point for the industry is between 60-and-70-dollars a barrel. He says the price of natural gas is also up, which is particularly good for the northwestern part of the state.

 

Congratulations going out to the Town Talk.. The Alexandria / Pineville newspaper earned a first-place award for best front page and took third place overall for general excellence Saturday at the 136th Annual Louisiana Press Association Convention. In addition to the two staff-wide awards, six Town Talk staff members won awards as well..

 

The number of abortions that took place in 2015 fell 10-percent from the previous year. That’s based on numbers from the Louisiana Department of Health. Louisiana Right to Life spokesperson Ben Clapper says there were 93-hundred abortions last year, a decrease of about a thousand from the previous year. He credits pregnancy resource centers for the decline. Clapper says Caddo Parish had the highest number of abortions in a single parish with 34-hundred. He says based on 2015 data, about 26 abortions are performed every day in Louisiana.

 

Louisiana has the third worst roads in the country, according to a new report from CarInsurance.com. Oklahoma came in 49th on the list, and California finished last. Michelle Megna with CarInsurance.com says poor quality roads had a big impact on the state’s low rating. The report also indicates that 29% of bridges in the state are classified as structurally deficient. Megna says Louisiana is also the second worst in the nation for how much drivers spend on their car insurance. Megna says almost 14% of Louisiana drivers do not have auto insurance.

 

The former Amite High School valedictorian and standout athlete Andrew Jones finally had his graduation ceremony after not being allowed to attend the one with his classmates, because of his facial hair. The celebration took place last night at the African-American Heritage Museum in Hammond.

 

A settlement has been reached in the dispute between Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson and his heirs. Terms of the agreement are confidential. The 88-year-old sued last year to make sure his wife gained control of the teams , instead of his children and two grandchildren.

 

More charges have been added in the murder of the Baton Rouge pregnant teacher. Baton Rouge Police Cpl. L’Jean McKneely says evidence leads investigators to conclude 40-year-old Lyntell Washington was fatally shot by 39-year-old Robert Marks. He says Marks was the assistant principal where Washington was a teacher, and she was threatening to reveal their affair. Marks has been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree feticide

 

A former Livingston Parish teacher has been arrested following allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a student at Walker Freshman High School. Authorities says 33-year-old Lynsie Pendarvis was arrested following an interview with the 15-year-old student who confirmed they had . Sharp says the juvenile was a student in Pendarvis’ science class.

 

Louisiana Tech is looking for a new baseball coach. Greg Goff has left the program after two seasons as he’s the new coach at Alabama. Goff led the Bulldogs to a 42-20 record this past season and a berth into the NCAA Tournament. Tech athletics director Tommy McClelland says they appreciate the job Goff did in building a winning culture.

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News for Friday 061616

By Dave Graichen

 

The Louisiana House has decided to wait until Sunday night before voting on a tax bill that has the backing of Governor John Bel Edwards. A vote on the measure was scheduled for Thursday, but the author of the bill, Bogalusa Representative Malinda White, says the 53 votes are not there to get it passed. It would temporarily reduce a tax deduction for those who itemize on their state income tax returns. House Speaker Taylor Barras said he believes his members have reached a “saturation point” against raising more taxes after a showdown vote on an income tax bill planned Thursday was postponed, but the Senate upped the ante by approving about $200 million in new revenue.

 

Four Louisiana cities rank in the top 20 least health cities in the US, according to a study from 24/7 Wall Street. Hammond came in third on the list, Monroe ranked sixth, Shreveport-Bossier is ninth, and Alexandria came in at number 12. Bob Johannessen with the state Department of Health and Hospitals says the study shows many unhealthy cities have a high uninsured rate, and Louisiana’s uninsured rate is currently about 13%. Johannessen says DHH is working to remedy that with the newly expanded Medicaid program. He says they’ve already enrolled over 200-thousand people in the two weeks since enrollment began.

 

Domestic violence victims with active restraining orders will soon be able to get expedited temporary concealed carry permits under a bill that’s been signed into law. The new law goes into effect August 1. These victims will have access to temporary permits, but they will still have to undergo background checks. Once this permit expires they will have to take a training class and get a regular permit. Louisiana is consistently in the top 5 nationally when it comes to domestic violence.

 

Law enforcement is taking extreme precautions in New Orleans for the Gay Pride parade and Festival this weekend after the tragic mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub. Mayor Mitch Landrieu says they’ve beefed up security in the French Quarter and are working hand in hand with festival organizers. He says their mantra is if you see something, say something.

 

Thousands of Louisiana state workers will not receive a pay raise this year. The Civil Service Commission voted to block annual pay adjustments for 38-thousand government employees. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne previously said the state couldn’t afford raises, because of budget problems.

 

A heat advisory is in effect for the entire state, and emergency officials are urging residents to take extreme caution outside. GOHSEP spokesman Mike Steele says we are experiencing these scorching temperatures earlier than usual. Forecasters say heat index values could be between 105-110. Good news is, conditions will be quite a bit cooler over the weekend.

 

After a brief flirtation with Texas, LSU Baseball Coach Paul Mainieri is staying in Baton Rouge. In a statement, Mainieri says LSU is home to his family and it’s his intention to keep it that way for a long time. While Maineri is staying, there are reports that Louisiana Tech coach Greg Goff is heading to Alabama to take over the Crimson Tide’s baseball program.

 

The East Baton Rouge Coroner has been able to confirm that the body found in Iberville Parish this week is the pregnant missing teacher from Baton Rouge. 40-year-old Lyntell Washington was reported missing last Thursday. Authorities believes the assistant principal where Washington worked has something to do with her disappearance.

 

A review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer finds drinking beverages above 149 degrees Fahrenheit could cause people to develop esophageal cancer. Deputy Director of LSU Health New Orleans Cancer Center, Dr. Edward Trapido, says hot drinks cause damage to the superficial cells in the upper esophagus. Trapido says however there is no evidence that shows coffee causes cancer so you should feel okay having your morning cup of joe.

 

According to the National Retail Federation, people will spend more on Dad this Father’s Day than ever before. Spokesperson Ana Serafin-Smith says it’s expected Americans will spend about 14 billion dollars this weekend. She says the uptick is linked to kids treating Dad to a nice steak dinner or giving him the latest in electronics. All of which have gone up in price.

 

Fox Louisiana Productions has been filming for the new Wolverine movie in Ferriday this week. Mayor Gene Allen says the town’s residents are thrilled to have such a big cinematic event taking place in the small Concordia Parish town. Allen says the filming has boosted local business tremendously.

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News for Thursday 061616

By Dave Graichen

 

A heat advisory is in effect for the upper half of the state, including Rapides Parish.  State Climatologist Barry Keim says the summer is off to a hot start, with temperatures reaching into the mid and upper 90s. He says on top of that, humidity levels are running high leading to high heat index values. Today heat indices are expected to be near or at 110.

 

A House committee and a senate committee approved separate bills that would generate revenue to address a 600-million dollar shortfall. In House Ways and Means, the panel on a 10-9 vote sent a measure to the House floor that would reduce a tax break for those who itemize on their tax returns. It would generate over 100-million dollars.

 

The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs committee approves a bill that would make industries choose between taking an industrial tax exemption or receiving an inventory tax credit. Business groups expressed concerns about losing one of these tax credits. But New Orleans Sen. Karen Peterson says the state can’t afford these large tax breaks, when it’s facing cuts to higher ed, public schools and healthcare. The measure would generate 146-million dollars in tax money. It now moves to the Senate floor.

 

Teachers in public schools will soon have to teach students cursive writing because of a bill signed into law by the governor. Franklinton Senator Beth Mizell authored the legislation, because she’s concerned children will not be able to sign their name in cursive. The law takes effect in July of next year.

 

The fines for texting or using social media while driving have been increased from $175 to $500 for a first offense, as a bill has just been signed into law by the governor. Drivers could pay a fine of up to $1,000 for a subsequent offense. For minors caught texting and driving, the fines more than doubled, and subsequent offenses could result in a 6 month suspension of their driver’s license.

 

Many of the former Wal-Mart Express Stores that closed earlier in the year will soon reopen under a new name. Brookshire foods announced yesterday the pending acquisition of 25 former Walmart Express stores, they will be reopened this summer as "hometown convenience" stores under the name Spring Market. The stores reopening include Colfax, Iowa, Lake Arthur, Mamou and Zwolle.

 

A new study shows that, In Louisiana, parents average premium for car insurance increases by over 86-percent when they add a teen driver to an existing policy.  Senior insurance analyst with InsuranceQuotes.com Laura Adams says although it’s still expensive, rates have been dipping slightly. She says this is because many teens are waiting to drive under they’re older.

 

FEMA has released a smartphone app to help residents get prepared for potential natural disasters. It also allows users to receive safety and preparedness tips, including practicing a fire escape plan and updating emergency tips. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says many tools are built in to the app. The app is available in the iTunes store and on Google Play.

 

East Baton Rouge Coroner, Doctor Beau Clark, says the body found of a woman found in a ditch in Iberville Parish yesterday was shot in the head, but he’s unable to make a positive identification because of advance stages of decomposition. It will take DNA testing to do that.  Authorities believe the body is that of a pregnant teacher from Baton Rouge. Clark says there’s no doubt the victim was pregnant at the time of her death.

 

A former deputy with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office is under arrest amid charges he had sex with a juvenile while he was on duty. Cops say 31-year-old William Lanoux of Prairieville is charged with malfeasance in office and 1st degree rape. Deputies say the juvenile was considered a runaway when she allegedly met Lanoux on social media and the two went off to have sex. Upon Lanoux’s arrest he was immediately terminated.

 

The Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office arrests three people amid allegations tey stole over $31,000 from an elderly victim. They say the suspects worked as sitters for the woman.

 

The third installment of the “Ask the Governor” call-in radio show featured a wide variety of questions from callers. Governor John Bel Edwards was asked about everything from food stamps to marijuana and the budget was a key topic. One caller asked about changes to the state’s film tax credit program. Edwards says the state capped the program at 180-million dollars in credits paid out and there are no plans to change it. Another caller asked whether a gas tax could be imposed to address the state’s budget shortfall. Edwards says he has established a transportation task force that will look into revenue raising measures such as gas taxes, tolls, and other ideas. But he says those dollars will have to go towards transportation.

One caller asked the governor about gun control, in light of the mass shooting in Orlando. Edwards says he is a big supporter of the Second Amendment, but he is in favor of a measure that would prohibit people on terrorist watch lists, who cannot even board planes, from purchasing guns.

 

LSU says they will now allow visiting bands to perform during halftime, after not allowing them to do so during football games last season. LSU Deputy Athletic Director Eddie Nunez says their plan involves changes to seating in the South End Zone to allow bands to take a more direct route onto the field. He says there were safety concerns with having two bands along the sidelines before the end of the first half.

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News for Wednesday 061516

By Dave Graichen

 

The Town Talk reports the proposed 5% pay raises that were set to take effect on July 1st for Police Jury Civil Service employees has been voted down after it was discovered the raises would cost the Jury a lot more than projected $15,600. Richard Billings offered the motion for the pay hikes, saying the parish can afford increase. However, jury President Craig Smith on Tuesday said that with the way the resolution was worded, the cost would have actually been more like $181 thousand. The employees who would have benefited haven’t seen a pay raise in years.  

 

Lawmakers are taking another look at a bill that would limit itemized deductions on personal income taxes, after the House Ways and Means Committee rejected the proposal 11-10 last week. The bill would raise more than $100 million in taxes for next fiscal year’s budget. The compromise would make the bill temporary and limit the revenue raised if other bills bring in more money. The special session must end by midnight on June 23.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards has signed the REAL ID Act into law, bringing Louisiana into compliance with the 2005 federal ruling that created national identification standards in the wake of 9/11. Edwards says these ID’s will be required for air travel, even domestic, in the near future. The Office of Motor Vehicles anticipates it will begin issuing REAL ID licenses in the fall of this year, and they will not cost any more than a regular driver’s license.

 

Local FBI officials say they are on alert in the New Orleans area as the city prepares to host a number of gay pride events. The Orlando shooter appeared to have targeted the gay club where 49 people were killed. The area FBI says there are no specific terror threats for New Orleans, but they are going to be sure if any come up they will be addressed.

 

State Police say they’ve arrested three people that led investigators to the largest ever seizure of child pornography by LSP. Sgt. Jared Sandifer says over one million files were seized. Sandifer says the Special Victims Unit will continue to work as hard as possible to find those individuals who exploit children in Louisiana.

 

Lotte (Low-tay) Chemical and Axiall have broken ground on a three billion dollar chemical manufacturing complex in Lake Charles. Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson says this investment will create hundreds of quality jobs. Pierson says with these jobs coming to southwest Louisiana it will help make up for the employment losses in the oil and gas industry. Pierson expects the plants will be up and running by 2019.

 

A new report shows Baton Rouge is the second most dangerous city to drive, ranking only behind Detroit. The analysis by the personal finance website NerdWallet examined risks for those who drive in nearly 200 of the nation’s most populated regions. The rankings were based on the rate of fatal crashes, the likelihood of an accident, and other factors.

 

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson has scheduled a hearing today to determine if death row inmates at Angola should have air conditioning. Legal Analyst Tim Meche says the state came up with their own heat remediation plan that consists of fans, ice chests, and cold showers for the prisoners, rather than AC. Meche says Judge Jackson will not likely reverse his ruling of installing air conditioners in death row, which would cost about a million dollars. Jackson ruled that it is unconstitutional for the inmates to live where the heat index is higher than 88 degrees.

 

The first murder to occur in the Hammond city limits in over two years took place last night. Lisa Lambert with Hammond Police says 24-year-old Tremayne Sandifer fatally shot 34-year-old William Davis in a drug deal gone wrong then stole his car and fled the scene. Lambert says Sandifer has been arrested and faces multiple charges.

 

Multiple agencies are investigating the discovery of a badly decomposed woman’s body in a ditch in Iberville Parish. Authorities say it could possibly be the body of 40-year-old Lyntell Washington, who is a pregnant teacher from Baton Rouge that disappeared last Wednesday. The body has been taken to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s office.

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News for Tuesday 061416

By Dave Graichen

 

The Rapides Parish Police Jury made it official yesterday. Transgender people will not get to pick and choose which bathrooms they use. Police jurors on Monday unanimously approved a resolution to go on record opposing the federal directive that public schools allow transgender people to use bathrooms of the gender with which they identify. Juror Richard Billings, who authored the resolution, said “We live in a country that everybody knows their gender. They might not appreciate what they were born with, but they should appreciate and evolve to that,”

 

Two people with ties to Louisiana were among the victims in the mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub. Twenty-seven-year-old Frank Hernandez, a former Lafayette Parish resident, was one of 49 killed and 39-year-old Leonel Melendez, a New Orleans native, is in a coma after he was shot in the head. A vigil was held in the Rotunda of the State Capitol for the victims and families of the Orlando mass shooting. Governor Edwards has ordered US and State of Louisiana flags should be flown at half-staff until sunset on Thursday.

 

In the wake of the deadly shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub, Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham, from Richland Parish, says the United States must do more to eliminate ISIS. Abraham says our military commanders have told the Obama administration what the U.S needs to do, but the President will not address the elephant in the room. Abraham says the mass shootings in Orlando and San Bernardino by radical Islamic extremists will continue to get out of control, until these terrorists are eliminated

 

A bill signing ceremony to include 17-year-olds in the Juvenile Justice System takes place today. The Policy Director for the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, Rachel Gassert, says this law brings Louisiana in line with 41 other states that currently set the age of criminal responsibility at 18. She says 17-year-olds are not adults and shouldn’t be treated as such for even minor offenses. Gassert says this will improve public safety because the recidivism rates in the Juvenile Justice System are far better than those in the adult system.

 

The standstill continues at the State Capitol over whether lawmakers should pass tax increases that would raise 600 million dollars in revenue, which is what the governor is seeking. The Edwards Administration says without that money there will be cuts to healthcare, education and the TOPS program. So far the House has approved 220 million dollars in tax increases.

 

The Baton Rouge father of the eight-month-old baby girl who was left in a hot car will not be criminally prosecuted in her death. That decision was made by East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore, who says Marvin Mercer forgot to drop his daughter, Raylee, off at daycare on his way to work, because it’s not something he usually does. Baton Rouge police charged Mercer with negligent homicide. But, Moore says Raylee’s death was an accident and Mercer’s actions do not rise to the standard of criminal negligence

 

The Baton Rouge PD reports three people, including a 16-year-old, are under arrest in connection with the apparent accidental shooting death of a woman inside a vehicle. They say the group was allegedly traveling to the scene of an earlier conflict, when an assault rifle the teen was holding went off in the back seat and killed a 20-year-old female.

 

The Associated Press is reporting Louisiana has spent one-million dollars over the last three years fighting a lawsuit that seeks to get the court system to mandate air conditioning on death row at Angola. The story says it would cost about a million dollars for an air conditioning system that would satisfy a federal judge overseeing the case.

 

The charges have been dropped for now against a man accused in the murder of a 21-year-old woman in Desoto Parish. Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle says autopsy findings could not determine how Maranda Whitton died, so they had to release the suspect, 33-year-old Jarrod Earl Johnson of Logansport. He says they are still actively investigating this incident.

 

Police in Baton Rouge are still hopeful they will be able to find out what happened to the pregnant mother who went missing after her child was found alone near a vehicle filled with blood. They say the search of swamps near Ramah was suspended for 40-year-old Lyntell Washington, and now cops are looking for other leads or a break in the case. Police arrested 39-year-old Robert Marks for allegedly abandoning the child.

 

The massive sinkhole that formed about four years ago in Bayou Corne has showed reduced action and is close to stable. That’s the word from Assumption Parish Director of Emergency Operations, John Boudreaux, who says the sinkhole shows some growth but nothing intense. He says the deepest part has reached 174 feet and has consumed close to 35 acres of land.

 

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News for Monday 061316

By Dave Graichen

 

For the third time in five seasons, LSU baseball has seen its season come to an end on its home field. Coastal Carolina’s Michael Paez’s single into left field scored the game winning run in the bottom of the 9th inning handing the Tigers a tough four to three defeat. Coach Paul Mainieri’s team finishes with a record of 45-and-21. A majority of the team will return next season.

 

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Louisiana is standing by Florida in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Early Sunday morning a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 50 people and injuring at least 53. Edwards said in a statement “This is a senseless tragedy of unimaginable scale,” “In the face of adversity, as we always do, we stand united against acts of terrorism that threaten our people and our way of life.” 

 

The investigation continues into a deadly crash that claimed the lives of four people in Vernon parish over the weekend. State police report the crash occurred shortly after four in the morning Saturday on LA 10 between Pitkin and Oakdale. Police say the driver of the vehicle lost control and left the road hitting several trees and bursting into flames. The names of the four who lost their lives have not been released pending DNA testing. Excessive speed is a suspected factor in the crash.

 

A recent independent poll of 800 voters shows Republican Scott Angelle is leading in the 3rd Congressional District race as 39% of the respondents support the Public Service Commissioner. The Traflagar Group poll has Clay Higgins, who recently joined the race, at 18%. UL Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross the poll shows 24% are undecided.

 

Legislators return to the State Capitol today as they look to solve the state’s budget issues. Governor John Bel Edwards has asked legislators to raise revenues by 600-million dollars in this special session to avoid cuts to health care, higher education, public schools and TOPS. But so far the House has only agreed to 220-million dollars in tax increases. The governor’s chief of staff, Ben Nevers, says if the legislature only approves 223-million dollars in new taxes in this session, it could lead to hospitals closing and TOPS funding cut in half. 

 

The US House has approved a bill that seeks to block President Obama’s proposed $10.25 tax on every barrel of oil. Louisiana Oil and Gas Association Chairman Brian Hanks is pleased with the House’s action, because any additional burden would be a devastating blow to an already struggling industry. Lafayette Congressman Charles Boustany says the proposed tax would drive up the price of gas by as much as 25-cents a gallon. A study by the Tax Foundation also found it would cost 137-thousand American jobs. The proposed tax is an effort to pay for green initiatives and alternative energy research.

 

A Transportation Infrastructure Investment task force has been formed by the governor to identify priority projects throughout the state. State Department of Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson says the average driver pays about $108 a year in gas taxes to Louisiana, and they want to make sure those dollars go towards repairing roads, bridges and ports.

Wilson says they are looking at all of their options to fund the much needed infrastructure projects.

 

Sea lice has been producing rashes for some Gulf Coast swimmers. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi biology professor, Dr Kim Withers, says sea lice are actually jelly fish larvae and they tend to sting people when they get trapped under a person’s clothes. Withers says the irritation caused by the bites usually goes away after 24 hours, but it can become severe. Withers says the best thing people can do is limit the amount of clothes they wear in the water.

 

A Luling man has been arrested after he allegedly shot his neighbor’s cat with a bow and arrow. St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne says Cody Dupre has just been charged with an aggravated cruelty to an animal charge, because the animal survived the ordeal.

Champagne says Dupre apparently shot the cat, because he didn’t want it on his property.

 

DeSoto Parish authorities have tentatively identified a body found in a pond in Logansport as 21-year-old Miranda Whitton. She was reported missing on Monday. The sheriff’s office says 33–year-old Jarrod Earl Johnson of Logansport has been charged with second-degree murder and he’s been booked into the DeSoto Detention Center.

 

Police are investigating a fatal shooting that occurred outside the Salvation Army in downtown Monroe. Authorities say two males got into a fight, one of them was stabbed with a knife, while the other was fatally shot.

 

The Baton Rouge Police Department is searching for a pregnant woman whose 3-year-old daughter was found wandering alone Thursday morning. Cpl. L’Jean McKneely says 39-year-old Robert Marks is arrested for child desertion, and they do suspect foul play in the disappearance of 40-year-old Lyntell Washington. Arrest records indicate the child told detectives that her mother was in the lake. Marks is an assistant principal in East Baton Rouge Parish.

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News for Friday 061016

By Dave Graichen

 

The East Baton Rouge Parish man, who is accused of leaving his baby in a hot car for over two hours causing her death, has been released from jail on $10,000 bond. 31-year-old Marvin Mercer, who is also a high school baseball coach, was charged with negligent homicide in the death of 8-month-old Raylee Mercer. He said he forgot to take her to daycare on his way to work. The Baton Rouge Coroner’s office has ruled the death as an accident.

 

Shreveport has lost one of its most influential social and civil rights activists. The Galilee Missionary Baptist Church confirmed yesterday the passing of  Rev. E. Edward Jones. Calling Jones “a civil rights giant,” Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler said his legacy will remain in the hearts of the people in the city he served so well. Reverend Jones was 85.

 

US Senator David Vitter is pushing legislation that attempts to block the Obama Administration’s overtime rule that would require salary employees not making at least $47,476 a year to receive overtime pay. Supporters say this will put more money in the pockets of low to middle-income earners, but Vitter says the overtime rule is actually a bad thing for American workers.

 

Florida Governor Rick Scott says he’s coming to Louisiana to encourage businesses here to move to the Sunshine State. In a statement, Scott said Governor John Bel Edwards called the special session for the sole purpose of raising taxes which will burden the job climate here. Edwards’ spokesman Richard Carbo said yesterday the visit is nothing more than a political stunt. But, that they welcome Governor Scott to Louisiana and hope he spends a lot of money while he’s here.

 

At the State Capitol Thursday, the Louisiana House approved a package of tax bills that would increase state revenues by 220-million dollars for next fiscal year’s budget. But Governor John Bel Edwards has said the legislature needs to raise 600-million dollars to avoid major cuts to education and health care. Several other tax bills are having a difficult time getting out of the House Ways and Means Committee. The biggest revenue generating bill to pass is a measure that raises taxes on H-M-Os. The special session must wrap up its business by the 23rd of this month.

 

A graduation ceremony will be held for the valedictorian who was not allowed to participate in his graduation at Amite High School because of his facial hair. Pastor Roosevelt Wright is one of the coordinators for this event. He says Andrew Jones, a 4.0 student, overcame many challenges and earned the right to lead his class that day. He says the facial hair policy in place in the school had never been enforced prior to graduation day, and he says they have plenty of pictures to prove it.

 

Former-governor Bobby Jindal turns 45 today. The former-presidential candidate has kept a low profile since he left the Governor’s Office in January. But UL Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross says Jindal’s political career is probably far from over. At one-time the former governor was considered a rising star in the Republican Party. He finished his second-term as the state’s highest elected official with low approval numbers. Cross says it’s unlikely Jindal run for office again in this state. Cross says the former-governor and Congressman has already accomplished so much at a young age that it’s hard to say what exactly he will do next.

 

Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal is facing a new criminal charge. Ackal has been indicted on an allegation that he planned to have another man arrested and beaten, because he assaulted one of the sheriff’s relatives. Back in March, Ackal was initially indicted on charges he directed officers to beat five inmates at the parish jail’s chapel, where no surveillance cameras could catch it.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards has signed into law a measure that will prevent adult entertainment establishments from hiring strippers that are under the age of 21. Jim Kelly with the Covenant House in New Orleans supports the legislation, because if a girl has to be 21 to drink at a strip club, then she should have to be 21 to take her clothes off in that establishment.

The new law goes into effect August 1st.

 

Tangipahoa Parish deputies arrest a 15-year-old in connection with the double homicide that occurred last week in Natalbany. The teenage boy has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Authorities say the shooting was drug related and connected to another fatal shooting that took place the next day.

 

State Police have confirmed St. Joseph Mayor Ed Brown is the subject of a criminal investigation. A legislative audit has accused Brown of mishandling the Tensas Parish town’s finances. Officials say says this could be a lengthy investigation. A judge appointed a fiscal manager for the town earlier this week and St. Joe’s financial problems have kept them from receiving state funds to improve their drinking water, which has been a murky brown color for close to a decade.

 

A job fair is taking place in Terrebonne Parish today that aims to help those in the oil and gas industry find jobs, as unemployment in that sector continues to rise. President and CEO of the South Louisiana Economic Council, Vic LaFonte, says although the bayou region is seeing job losses, there are employment opportunities in other parts of the state. Lake Charles, for example, is seeing an economic boom..

 

Lake Charles Police announced in a press conference yesterday that they have arrested a 16-year-old suspect in the fatal shooting of 79-year-old man over the weekend. Police Chief Don Dixon says on Sunday they responded to a vehicle that hit a tree and officers discovered Robert Colston behind the wheel suffering from a gunshot wound. Colston was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Dixon says they’ve charged a teenager with second-degree murder, and the Calcasieu Parish DA’s office will seek to prosecute him as an adult.

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News for Thursday 060916

By Dave Graichen

 

Baton Rouge Police arrest a Zachary man after he left his eight month old daughter in a hot vehicle for approximately two hours. Authorities say 31-year-old Marvin Mercer arrived at work and then realized a couple of hours later that his daughter was still in the vehicle. The infant was pronounced dead at a local hospital and Mercer has been charged with negligent homicide. The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services is urging parents to take steps not to forget their young children in the backseat of a vehicle during these hot summer months.

 

The state department of health and hospitals announces 197-thousand adults have been enrolled in the state’s expanded Medicaid program. About 187-thousand of those were automatically signed up because they were receiving state health services from the state. The rest have signed up online, by phone or in person.

 

The LHSAA has voted to keep the expanded select/non-select school championship split, during a special meeting Wednesday. This means there will once again be nine championships in football, five non-select and four select. And 12 each in boys and girls basketball.

 

The City of Pineville has announced Fireworks are coming back to Lake Buhlow over the 4th of July weekend. It will be the first display since 2011 when construction of the Curtis Coleman bridge put the event on hold. The Fireworks show and concert will be held Sunday night July 3rd.

 

Central Louisiana residents are always willing to support a good cause and this weekend was no exception. The 29th annual Children's Miracle Network telethon took place over the weekend and the final tally is now in.  Theresa Slater, the executive director of the Cabrini Foundation and the hospital's Children's Miracle Network, reported yesterday the weekend event raised $426,806. All of which will stay in Central Louisiana to improve children's health care.

 

Two days into the second special session, several of Governor Joh Bel Edwards tax proposals have hit a wall. LaPolitics.com publisher Jeremy Alford says proposals that would have raised income taxes on middle and upper class income earners received a frosty reception from the House Ways and Means Committee. The committee killed a proposal to reduce tax credits for corporations. All revenue generating bills must start in the House Ways and Means Committee and Alford says based on early action, he doesn’t see the legislature raising the $600 million needed to close the budget gap.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards and members of the legislature are supportive of changes to the Common Core academic standards suggested by a 26-member review panel. BESE President Jim Garvey says the panel was made up of people recommended by local school boards.

Twenty-one percent of the English and math standards were changed by the panel. Garvey says that may not sound like much, but it’s about the same amount of changes that were made when they switched to Common Core initially. Garvey says the changes will give teachers the freedom to teach these standards how they want.

 

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is looking for new field agents, and they are taking applications for up to 23 cadets. LDWF spokesman Adam Einck says the academy is starting in September. Applicants can apply online through the Department of Civil Service website. Einck says if you like law enforcement and the outdoors, this is a perfect job for you:

 

Starting August 1st, signs will be required to be posted 500 feet ahead of intersections that have red light cameras, because of a bill signed into law by the governor. New Orleans Senator Troy Carter says it’s a great day for the citizens of Louisiana. Carter says red light cameras should be about public safety, not collecting fines.  The measure was approved with bipartisan support from both chambers.

 

As a result of legislation approved state lawmakers and signed by the governor, patients have direct access to physical therapists without having to see a doctor first, but the Louisiana Orthopedic Association says this new law could be costly for patients. LOA spokesperson Barbara Carey says if patients want insurance to cover their P-T treatment, they need to see a doctor first.  She says pain can be due to a number of conditions.

 

Make room on your smartphone because you may be downloading a new app soon: A digital version of your driver’s license. Tuesday, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed House Bill 481 allowing the Office of Motor Vehicles to issue drivers licenses on smartphones.

Residents would still have to go through the same process as getting a regular ID and the digital license would also be accepted by officers during a traffic stop. However, the digital license would not be accepted when buying things like beer, cigarettes or lottery tickets.

 

According to 24/7 Wall Street, nearly half of Louisiana residents drink soda or other sugary drinks daily. Louisiana ranks second in the nation for the number of people who drink sugary drinks every day, only behind Mississippi. As you may suspect, the obesity rate in Louisiana is over 7% higher than the national average.

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News for Wednesday 060816

By Dave Graichen

 

The investigation continues in to an apparent drive by shooting in Alexandria’s Garden district Sunday afternoon. The APD reports that two men have been arrested and charged in the incident. 22 year old  Farron Jones of Pineville and 20 year old Justin Babin of Gretna were booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center.

 

The Rapides Parish Police jury has added it’s comments dealing with an issue that up until a few month ago, was never an issue. It is the belief of the jury that “Someone who is born a male should have to use the men’s bathroom in schools and other public buildings and not be allowed in a women’s bathroom, even if that person identifies as a female.” The Jurors  Monday voted unanimously to go on record opposing a federal directive that schools allow transgender students to use bathrooms of the gender with which they identify.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards addressed a joint session of the legislature yesterday calling on lawmakers to raise enough revenue during this special session to reduce cuts to state programs. He wants lawmakers to limit the itemized deductions taxpayers claim on their state returns. He says this proposal would not affect the majority of Louisiana taxpayers.

 

Several lawmakers are in a foul mood after failing to approve a construction budget. Ways and Means Chairman Neil Abramson says Senate changes to the spending plan made the bill unworkable and he didn’t bring it up for a vote in the regular session. The construction budget funds road projects, repairs to public buildings and improvement to state parks. A new version of the construction budget bill has begun to move in the special session as the four-billion dollar financing plan was approved by the Ways and Means Committee yesterday afternoon.

 

The Senate and House education committees have agreed to revisions to the Common Core education standards. A 26-member review panel recommended changing 21-percent of English and math standards used in public schools and now Governor Edwards will decide whether they should be implemented in the classroom.

 

The LSU baseball team is headed back to the Super Regionals as the Tigers rallied from a two-run deficit to beat to beat the Rice Owls five to two. The most valuable player in this game was Jared Poche, who on three days’ rest, threw six shutout innings and kept LSU in the contest, until the bats woke up in the 7th.

 

LHSAA principals meet today in Baton Rouge to vote on four proposals regarding the public-private playoff split, which is set to expand to other sports beginning next year. LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee says one reason for this meeting is because the expanded split to other sports has created logistical issues for the venues that host championship events in basketball, baseball and softball. Bonnaffee says whatever happens today, the debate over public versus private schools will not end.

 

The governor is signing the Ban the Box bill into law today. The measure would prohibit state employers from asking about criminal history until the interview process. Executive Director for the US Justice Action Network, Holly Harris, says they’re excited to see this legislation pass with bipartisan support, because Louisiana is the incarceration capital of the world and in serious need of criminal justice reform. Harris says this legislation is about showing that former convicts are more than just their one mistake.

 

A bill that failed to make it out of the final hours of the regular session would have given convicted teen killers serving life sentences parole hearings after 30 years in prison. The bill was a reaction to a Supreme Court ruling that says convicted minors cannot be sentenced to life without the chance for parole. Louisiana is one of 32 states who are not in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling.

 

The state Department of Environmental Quality has resumed mercury testing in public waterways after the program was halted in 2008 because of budget cuts. DEQ environmental scientist Al Hindrichs says there are currently 48 advisories in place for 85 water bodies in Louisiana.

 

The family of slain Tulane graduate Thomas Rolfes held a news conference Tuesday to beg for information about the murder which happened a month ago today. There are no suspects in the 25-year-old’s murder. His fiancé, Elizabeth Fried says Rolfes was a wonderful man who touched the lives of everyone he met. There is a $30,000 reward.

 

A Baton Rouge man is behind bars for allegedly strangling his wife to death following an argument. The Sheriff’s Office says 42-year-old Donald Germany contacted family members and confessed to the crime. The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office says 41-year-old Nichole Jones was pronounced dead at the scene after emergency workers tried to revive her.

 

Authorities in New Orleans report that Officer Natasha Hunter has died from injuries suffered in a crash over the weekend. Hunter suffered traumatic brain injuries. Hunter was working on a car accident on Interstate 10 near early Sunday morning when her vehicle was struck by a drunk driver. Officer Hunter was an 11-year veteran of the.

 

NOPD Chief Michael Harrison said that flares had been placed around the accident and that officer Hunter was inside her vehicle when it was struck.

 

The Humane Society of Louisiana says they’ve seen a higher than usual number of animal abuse arrests and seizures over the past 6 months. Director Jeff Dorson credits newly formed partnerships between humane societies and law enforcement agencies that work together as a team to investigate cases of animal abuse. Dorson says now when people report cases of animal abuse, members of the humane society will go out with the law enforcement agencies as they coordinate the arrests, and seize the animals to find them new homes.

 

The Thibodaux Police Department says they’ve arrested a man on bank fraud charges for allegedly writing checks on an account that did not belong to him, and spelling the numbers wrong. They say 23-year-old Brandon Sims of Thibodaux was caught red handed, and police noticed that “fifty” was misspelled on the check and that actually contributed to an additional charge. Sims is being held on a $17,500 bond.

 

The Saints have signed free-agent safety Roman Harper, who spent the first eight seasons of his career NFL career in New Orleans before playing his last two with the Carolina Panthers. Harper started 104 games out of a possible 108 during his first tenure with the Saints. NFL analyst Mike Detillier says Harper provides familiarity, a player with high football IQ and depth.

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News for Tuesday 060716

By Dave Graichen

 

Local authorities are investigating what appears to have been a hit and run over the weekend on England Drive and Browns Bend Rd.  35-year-old Marquis Butler was pronounced dead at the scene. Anyone with information concerning the incident is asked to call the APD or RPSO.

 

The second special session of 2016 is underway and lawmakers are looking at their options to raise enough revenue to reduce cuts to state programs, like TOPS and hospitals that provide care for the poor and uninsured. Personal and corporate income taxes are an option for raising revenue. Lawmakers have also proposed reducing or eliminating some corporate tax exemptions.  Senate President John Alario believes the legislature needs to raise about $450 million to ensure that TOPS, higher ed and safety net hospitals are adequately funded. Alario says he is not opposed to altering state income tax rates or removing exemptions, if it means all of the state’s priorities will be funded.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards is set to address a joint session of the state legislature at 10 this morning, which marks the official kickoff to the special session that was called to address a $600 million revenue shortfall. Legislators also have to pass a $4 billion construction budget that would pay for road work and improvements to public buildings and state parks. Edwards is upset the House failed to negotiate the construction spending plan during the regular session.

The special session must end by June 23 at midnight.

 

The Governor has signed the Louisiana Family Caregiver Act into law, which supporters say will provide critical help for families across the state. Advocacy Director for AARP Louisiana, Andrew Muhl says this will assist the more than 660-thousand family members who help out an aging relative. It’s estimated this type of unpaid care to family members in our state amount to about 6-point-4 billion dollars annually. Muhl says this legislation will save the state money by reducing costly hospital readmissions, as family caregivers will be able to perform the tasks the patients need. The unanimously-approved law goes into effect August 1.

 

A small Tensas parish town is one step closer to having clean water after being plagued by murky brown tap water. The town of St. Joseph has agreed to appoint a fiscal administrator so audits on the town can be cleared up and work can begin to repair the town’s water system. The governor’s Communications Director, Richard Carbo says St. Jo has not been able to get approval to use state funds to fix the water system because Mayor Edward Brown missed the December deadline to file an audit. Carbo says they’re making progress, but at this point it’s still not clear when clean water will flow from the taps in St. Joseph.

 

A trooper was injured in a fatal St. Charles Parish incident that involved two suspected drunk drivers and a man who stopped on the Bonne Carre spillway to relieve himself.  State Police  say a man suspected of being impaired, plowed into the back of the stopped vehicle killing a passenger sitting in the vehicle. A trooper was responding to the first crash scene on the spillway was hit from behind by yet another impaired driver. The trooper was wearing a seat belt and sustained minor injuries in the crash. The only charges filed thus far are against the man who stopped to pee.

 

Citizens in Franklin Parish continue to mourn the death of a Winnsboro Police Department officer who died in a car crash while he was on-duty over the weekend, according to officials. They say Sergeant Derrick Mingo, who is also a former employee of the Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office, was on his way to help another officer dealing with a drunk driver, when he left a roadway and crashed into a tree. State Police say he was not wearing a seat belt.

 

The University of New Orleans will soon have a new digital animation lab on campus. UNO fine arts instructor Jeff Rinehart led the effort to secure a $94-thousand grant for the school’s new Innovation Lab, which will be open to all students working on digital media projects. Rinehart says the department is working toward creating a new media and animation degree.

Rinehart says the lab should be open to students by the 2017 spring semester.

 

Plans have been unveiled for a Riverfront Improvement Project in Natchitoches. Mayor Lee Posey says the project will update some infrastructure along the river and improve handicap accessibility. Posey says they will put new bathrooms on the riverbank, double the size of the stage on the river, add new landscaping, and even repave the asphalt along the riverbank. He says the project will cost just over $4 million. He says state and private agencies will split the costs of the project. Posey says they hope to have everything ready by the beginning of next year.

 

It’s win or go home for the LSU baseball team today after losing to Rice 10 to 6 last night. That loss forced a winner takes all match up this afternoon at 4 in the Baton Rouge Regional..

 

The Ragin Cajuns season came to a quick end last night as they lost two games to Arizona, which resulted in the wildcats winning the Lafayette regional and advancing to the Super regionals.

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News for Monday 060616

By Dave Graichen

 

The APD reports the death of a Pineville man whose body was found early Saturday morning lying on a street is being investigated as a homicide. The body of 43-year-old Donnie Harvey was found around 5am in the 1300 block of Shirland Street. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death has not been determined, pending autopsy and other forensic testing.

 

Standing water in the road led to a single vehicle crash that took the life of an 8 year old Avoyelles Parish girl Saturday afternoon.  The State Police report 8-year-old Isabella Ducote died when the vehicle she was a passenger in left the roadway and struck a fence.  The driver of the vehicle, 40 year old Carmen Moreau, received moderate injuries in the crash.

 

State lawmakers have approved a 26-billion dollar budget for next fiscal year that does not fully fund the TOPS scholarship program and hospitals that provide care for the poor and uninsured. House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry says the spending plan is not perfect, but they can address gaps in the budget in a special session that begins tonight. Because of a 600-million dollar revenue shortfall, the budget also contains cuts to public schools, universities, prisons and child welfare programs. Henry says under this plan TOPS would be funded at 48-percent. The senate approved the budget on a 35-2 vote, but the vote was much closer in the House, 63 “yeas” and 38 “nays”

 

The regular session must conclude by 6pm tonight. Political analyst Clancy Dubos says Governor John Bel Edwards had a hard time getting key pieces of his legislative package through the legislature, like the bills for equal pay for men and women and increasing the minimum wage. Dubos says there were some victories for the governor. He says the budget lawmakers will pass is close to the one he first proposed. Also, a bill that increases the age to 18 for which a person can be tried as an adult received final legislative passage.

 

Voters could soon decide if universities should have the authority to set their own tuition as a result of a proposed constitutional amendment that is nearing final legislative passage. Right now, the legislature has to approve a tuition hike if it goes above a certain percentage. Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Rallo says the proposed change to the constitution gives institutions the power to lower and increase tuition depending on the market.

 

Legislation that would require pet stores to keep records of breeders’ names, addresses, and licensing information heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. The Louisiana SPCA says these regulations will help ensure pet stores are held to certain standards. She says pet stores will be required to keep the records of their dogs and cats for at least two years.

 

The number of Louisiana homes at risk for storm surge damage has increased since last year, according to CoreLogic. Senior hazard risk scientist for CoreLogic, Tom Jeffery says that has a lot to do with new homes being built along the coast. According to CoreLogic, last year there were just over 760-thousand hones at risk in Louisiana, and that number has grown to over 800-thousand. Almost 7 million homes along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts are at risk of potential storm surge damage this year.

 

The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating three suspected murders that occurred within 24 hours in the rural town of Natalbany. Sheriff Daniel Edwards says they are asking anyone with any information to come forward, as police are offering a reward for any information that leads to an arrest.

 

22-year-old Ernest Felton, the first shooter arrested in the deadly shooting of two Southern students, has had his charge upgraded to second degree murder. Baton Rouge Police Cpl. L’Jean Mckneely says Felton was originally charged with attempted second-degree murder. Mckneely says police are looking for the brother of the other shooter involved, 25-year-old Brandon Henderson.

 

A bill to ban hotels, convention centers and trade shows from blocking personal Wi-Fi hotspots is heading to the governor’s desk. Ville Platte Senator Eric LeFleur says his bill saves people from having to pay for daily access to a company’s WiFi. He says disabling personal hotspots when people pay cellular data plan fees is unfair.

 

A Winnsboro Police officer has been killed in a car crash on Louisiana over the weekend while heading to assist another officer who was pursuing a drunk driver. Sgt. Derrick Mingo had  been with the department for five years.

 

A New Orleans police officer suffered a massive brain injury after being struck by a drunken driver early Sunday morning. Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said the officer was inside her police vehicle on the side of the road with the emergency lights on when she was hit. He identified the officer as Natasha Hunter, a 12-year veteran of the police force. Hunter was taken to the hospital where she remains in critical condition in an unresponsive state.

 

Sports..

 

Draymond Green had 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while MVP Stephen Curry scored 18 points despite foul trouble, and Golden State thoroughly overwhelmed the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-77 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night.

 

LSU starting pitcher Alex Lange struck out 10 hitters to help lead the Tigers to a 4-2 win over Rice. The victory puts the Bayou Bengals into the championship round of the Baton Rouge regional. Lange threw eight plus innings and only gave up two runs. Not an even rain delay could slow down Lange. The game was halted for about an hour in the 6th inning, but Lange returned to put a couple more zeros on the scoreboard. (LSU will play the winner of today’s game between Southeastern Louisiana and Rice at 7 PM.

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News for Friday 052716

By Dave Graichen

 

Governor John Bel Edwards is expected to issue the call for another special session any day now, according to Jeremy Alford, publisher of LaPolitics.com. Edwards has said a second session is needed to raise revenues to address a 600-million dollar budget deficit for next fiscal year. Alford says the call could include reductions to personal or corporate income tax credits and addressing issues not covered in the previous session.

 

NOAA will issue its outlook for the 2016 hurricane season today. State climatologist Barry Keim expects the federal forecasters will predict an average season. He says there are two factors working against each other, cooler than normal sea surface temperature, which is an indication for fewer storms, and La Nina coming later this season, which is an indicator for more storms. Hurricane Isaac in 2012 was the last hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana. Keim says Louisianans should still be prepared.

 

The Edwards administration is urging the Senate to reject the House amendments that were made to the proposed budget for next fiscal year. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told the Senate Finance committee that the spending plan the House approved is not acceptable, because it will result in deep cuts to programs that assist the elderly and disabled. One of the major changes the House made to HB1 was reallocating money towards TOPS and away from hospitals that provide care for the poor.

 

Every student would be guaranteed that at least part of their TOPS scholarship would be funded if lawmakers have to make some cuts to the program, under a bill nearing final passage. Hammond Representative Chris Broadwater says it would be better to reduce the award for all than to cut some 13-thousand students out of the program. The bill has one more stop in the Senate before heading to the governor’s desk.

 

Governor Edwards has signed the Blue Lives Matter Bill into law, which makes Louisiana the first in the nation to expand its hate crime laws to protect police, firefighters and EMS crews. The new law allows prosecutors to seek tougher penalties against individuals who intentionally target first responders because of their profession.

 

A Senate-approved measure that would let patients see physical therapists without a doctor’s referral receives the support of the House as it nears final passage. The measure passed on a 65-33 vote in the House and heads back to the Senate for concurrence on House Language.

 

The House has approved a bill that would require cursive writing to be taught in public schools. The Senate still has to agree to House changes. Under the proposed law, the cursive writing requirement would go in effect for the 2017-18 school year.

 

Yesterday the price of oil rose above 50 dollars a barrel for the first time since October. Executive Director at LSU’s Center for Energy Studies David Dismukes says this marks an important milestone and it might put an end to the job losses in this industry. Crude oil was below 30 dollars a barrel earlier this year.

 

An investigative report by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums finds that the Baton Rouge zoo is not at fault for the deaths of two elderly giraffes, who died in March during a severe thunderstorm. Baton Rouge zoo director Phil Frost says they welcomed the findings of report and were glad the investigators found that the zoo did all they could for the animals.

 

A Baton Rouge man is in jail on felony child abuse charges amid allegations he forced his 8-year-old nephew to smoke weed. A report indicates the child told hospital staff that 29-year-old Jason Taylor made him smoke mojo which gave him a headache and a racing heart. When officers learned the child tested positive for marijuana, Taylor was booked with cruelty to juveniles.

 

The Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office says a man is under arrest after a 17-year-old woman died of an apparent drug overdose. They say Melissa Sharpe drove the victim to the hospital, and it was determined the woman had been deceased for several hours. She is charged with obstruction of justice. Noah Sharpe is booked with 2nd degree murder in the incident. They’re asking anyone with information on this incident contact authorities.

 

LSU stayed unbeaten in the SEC Tournament with a 6-2 win over the first-place Mississippi State Bulldogs. Jared Poche got the win for LSU.  The boys have the day off today. But, will meet Florida Saturday afternoon at 3:30pm

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News for Thursday 052616

By Dave Graichen

 

Louisiana and 10 other states are suing the Obama administration over the recent transgender bathroom policy in public schools. The federal government announced that public schools must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, or risk losing federal funding. The lawsuit says the Obama administration is trampling on policies and the directive should be ruled unlawful.

 

State lawmakers have agreed to raise the GPA requirement for upper-tier TOPS students, who also receive a stipend to help pay for their higher education costs. The legislation heading to the governor’s desk would raise the GPA requirement to 3.25 for a TOPS Performance Award and 3.5 for a TOPS Honors Award.

 

Triple-A expects over 38 million Americans will travel over the Memorial Day weekend, the highest number of travelers since 2005. Spokesperson Don Redman says it’s due to low gas prices, which are currently around $2.10 a gallon for regular gasoline. He says these are the lowest gas prices we’ve seen in 11 years.

 

The nonprofit group Rebuild Louisiana is raising money that will go towards getting public support for Governor John Bel Edwards’ legislative agenda. It’s expected the governor will call a special session next month to address a 600-million dollar budget shortfall. Chairman of Rebuild Louisiana, Mary Olive Pierson says the group is raising money because there are plenty of what she calls “hard heads” in the legislature. Pierson says they are concerned about some items that have already been defeated, such as equal pay for men and women. She says the fight isn’t over yet, because after this session, there will be another special session, and her organization will continue to push for their concerns.

 

The Republican-dominated House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee gave a thumbs down to every bill on its Wednesday agenda, including  an increase in the minimum wage, equal pay for women and measures dealing with back pay and equal pay for women. It was the committees final meeting of the regular legislative session.

 

The town talk reports a federal judge has ruled that the owner and others associated with Silver Dollar Pawn Shop must pay attorney fees and costs totaling more than $121,000 for filing a baseless lawsuit against the city of Alexandria, police officers and others. The lawsuit was filed by owner Jimmie DeRamus and others in November 2014 and claimed Alexandria police officers and others acted improperly during the investigation of stolen items, which were found at the shop.

 

A bill to help parents know who their kids are talking to online is heading to the Governor’s desk. Metairie Representative Cameron Henry says his bill requires sex offenders to register any email addresses or online user names, as they would with a phone number or address. Henry says sex offenders have a whole new way to find victims, thanks to online games and social media sites. The measure passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate, and Governor Edwards is expected to sign the bill.

 

A bill to require warning signs to be posted 500 feet ahead of red light cameras has just received final legislative passage. New Orleans Senator Troy Carter says red light cameras should be about safety, not collecting revenues. The measure now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

 

The website BayouOpportunity.com, has been launched to aid oil and gas industry workers find new jobs, as unemployment  continues to rise in that sector. Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson says the site has information about a job fair that will be held this June to help people get jobs and find training opportunities.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds the adult smoking rate in the US is falling faster than is has in the past 20 years. Renee Underwood, with the state department of health and hospitals, says they’ve partnered with organizations, like the Louisiana Public Health Institute and the American Cancer Society, to reduce the number of people who start smoking and to get smokers the resources they need to quit.

 

An LSU AgCenter scientist has discovered a new way to reduce the sodium content in food. Marvin Moncada developed nanosalt, which is salt in a powder form that is about one-thousand times smaller than kosher salt. Moncada says nanosalt is a natural alternative to reducing the amount of salt content in foods. Moncada says The CDC recommends individuals eat 23-hundred milligrams of sodium a day but most people in the US eat double the amount. He says they’re still in the lab stage but expects tests to be conducted with consumers shortly.

 

A deputy with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office is under arrest on many charges after a variety of drugs were allegedly found in his vehicle during a traffic stop while he was off duty. 23-year-old Barry Conner II was booked for drug possession, use of a firearm around a controlled dangerous substance and traffic violation.

 

The Justice Department is urging a federal court to let government regulators decide if a New Orleans company has done enough to end an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico that began nearly 12 years ago. Taylor Energy Company sued the federal government in January to recover more than $400 million it set aside for work to stop the leak off Louisiana’s coast. The leak began in 2004 when an underwater mudslide triggered by Hurricane Ivan’s waves toppled a company-owned platform and buried a cluster of 28 oil wells under 100 feet of sediment and mud. Taylor Energy claims nothing can be done to completely eliminate the leaks, which create sheens that often stretch for miles. Regulators have warned the leak could last a century or more if left unchecked.

 

LSU baseball rallies past Florida, 5-3, in longest game in SEC tournament history. The win gives LSU a tussle with No. 1 seed Mississippi State at 8 p.m. Thursday and, to the victor goes the enviable Friday day off.

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News for Wednesday  052516

By Dave Graichen

 

Governor John Bel Edwards and other state and local officials cut the ribbon yesterday on the Curtis Coleman Memorial Bridge over the Red River in Rapides Parish, as all four lanes are now open. The bridge replaced the O.K. Allen Bridge at a cost 83-million dollars.

 

The Red River Waterway Commission has reopened some of the public boat ramps on the Red River now that water levels have started to recede. These include several of the ramps in Red River, Natchitoches, and Rapides Parishes. However, the commission warns boaters to  use caution when launching into the current and be highly aware of obstacles such as trees and sandbars while navigating the river.

 

A report from the Tulane University Cowen Institute says if the legislature is forced to reduce state funding for TOPS cuts, they hope students most in need of financial assistance are protected first. Policy director Vincent Rossmeier says the program has increasingly awarded scholarships to students who are coming from families, who could otherwise afford college.

Rossmeier says TOPS is an excellent vehicle for students who can least afford to go to college.

 

The Louisiana Senate voted 8-25 to reject a bill that would have protected LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace after passionate testimony in support of the bill. None of those opposed spoke or asked questions. The bill would prevent employers from discriminating against people based on their real or perceived sexual identity. Discrimination would apply to hiring, firing, compensation and terms of employment.

 

Work on a waterline near Donahue Ferry Road will result in a water boil advisory for about 125 water customers today.  Water service will be turned off while the repairs are being made, and affected customers will be under a water boil advisory until further notice. Affected streets are Rue Donahue, Leonard Drive, Walker Drive, Louise Drive, Donahue Ferry Road and Holly Moore Drive.

 

Fifth District US Representative Ralph Abraham says he’s introduced legislation that attempts to stop President Obama’s order that calls on public schools to let transgender students use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. Abraham says there’s support for his legislation. Abraham’s bill clarifies in federal law that the term “sex” refers to a person’s biological sex, not their gender identity.

 

A House-approved bill that would have punished so called “sanctuary cities” for implementing policies that are deemed to protect illegal immigrants, failed to get enough votes to pass out of a Senate committee. The Louisiana Sheriffs Association opposed the bill and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand was vocal in his dislike saying it’s the federal government’s job to combat illegal immigration. Attorney General Jeff Landry supported the legislation as he would have authority to determine which municipalities should be defined as sanctuary cities. The proposal could have hurt New Orleans and Lafayette’s ability to borrow money for construction projects.

 

A House-committee voted against a proposed program that would allow law enforcement agencies to automatically scan motorists license plates. Supporters say the program would be used to catch car thieves and uninsured motorists, but opponents raised concerns about a private vendor making a nice profit from the fine money.

 

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted for legislation that would ban abortions in cases where the fetus is determined to have a genetic abnormality. The House-approved measure passed on a three to one vote. Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor raised concerns the proposed law is unconstitutional, but despite his objection, the panel advanced the measure to the full senate.

 

On a 3-2 vote, a Senate committee killed The Pastor Protection Act, which would have provided protection for religious organizations if they refuse to perform a same sex marriage. Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson says this bill is NOT as expansive as some religious freedom bills passed in other states. But New Orleans Senator JP Morrell says pastors and clergy members are already protected under the Religious Freedom Protection Act. He says there was no need for another bill that basically did the same thing.

 

PETA has issued a statement in response to LSU’s Mike the Tiger’s cancer diagnosis. PETA sent a letter to the university, calling for them to end their live mascot program all together, when Mike VI eventually succumbs to his terminal diagnosis. The animal rights activists say large breed cats are not meant to live in captivity on a college campus.

 

Atlanta, not New Orleans will host Super Bowl 53 in 2019. The Big Easy made a proposal to NFL owners who are meeting in Charlotte Tuesday, but the vote went Atlanta’s way. Some considered New Orleans a long shot, because Atlanta is in the process of building a new stadium.

 

The Department of Children and Family Services says a newborn was turned in to a Safe Haven facility in Baton Rouge by a mother who said she could not care for the child. The Safe Haven law states anyone can bring an infant up to 60 days old to an emergency designated facility with no questions asked. DCFS says 44 babies have been relinquished in Louisiana which they say proves this law saves lives.

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