West Monroe High School's Rebel stadium should be crowded by 7 pm tonight. Not for a football game but in memory of the late Coach Don Shows. Don't expect black clothes since the public is invited to wear their game day wardrobe. Ouachita Parish School Superintendent, Bob Webber says....
"They planned to do it kind of like a...7 o'clock, Friday night football game with the cheerleaders and the band. And the players are going to march down from the field house, two by two. Not just this year's players but anyone whose ever played for Don."
Webber predicts a big turnout of 8 thousand people for the memorial celebration. Former and current athletes coached by Shows and the public at large is invited to attend the memorial. Webber says Coach Shows' impact goes much further than sports victories.
"He took a team that was not a perennial winner and made them much more than just a winner. But those memories he gave to those young men... to be able to play in the Superdome, and have an opportunity to play for a state championship was a once in a lifetime thing."
Coach Don Shows turned the West Monroe High School Rebels into a powerhouse team that won 8 state championships. Webber says it elevated the entire community's reputation and sense of hometown pride. A Coach Don Shows Scholarship Fund will be set up at the West Monroe Independent Bank for donations.
Sources tell the Louisiana Radio Network that Former Governor Edwin Edwards will announce he's running for the 6th Congressional District seat on March 17th at the Press Club of Baton Rouge. LRN President and political analyst Jim Engster says Edwards would be facing three tough Republican challengers.
"In Dan Claitor, Garrett Graves and Paul Deitzel," says Engster. "But the chances of him making a runoff would seem to be strong with him being the only Democrat in a district that still has more Democrats than Republicans."
Engster says the Cajun Prince has always done well in statewide elections but it will be interesting to see what happens in a district that only has a voting registration of 21% African Americans.
He says the last election Edwards won was in 1991 when his wife Trina was still in high school.
"And now he's trying 23 years later to bring back the magic," said Engster. "He spent 8 and a half years in prison so here's a man who has logged one tenth of his life behind bars, who can not vote but could end up voting for the constituents of the 6th District in Congress."
Engster says EWE hasn't been in Congress since 1972 and as Governor said he didn't particularly enjoy it.
Constitutionally as a convicted felon Edwards can not seek a statewide race so Engster says The Silver Fox figures he has a good shot at the 6th District.
"The curious aspect of this is that if he's in a December runoff, he and Senator Landrieu will be on the same ballot," says Engster. "And quite likely will be forced to run as a Democratic ticket of sorts in their respective runoffs."
A New Orleans lawmaker thinks the use of red light cameras should be left up to voters in their parish or municipality. This will be the third time Representative Jeff Arnold has proposed taking the traffic camera citation issue to the polls. He says citizens lose their right to be innocent till proven guilty by the way these programs work.
"These are designed through the civil process not the criminal process," said Arnold. "You would have to go file a lawsuit to fight one of these tickets. I think there is a fundamental constitutional issue involved with these traffic cameras and if we're gonna give up our constitutional right to the citizens of Louisiana, we ought to have the right to vote on it."
Arnold says not only does he feel there is a constitutional issue with these traffic camera citations, he has a problem with the massive amount of revenue being generated for cities where they are currently used.
He says these cameras are not about making intersections safer, they are about making money.
"Studies have shown, especially on the red light cameras, that you have more rear end collisions after you install the cameras than you had before," said Arnold. "Studies have also shown that if you simply lengthen the yellow light time, you'll prevent those accidents."
Arnold has also filed a bill that would require a violator to be served their ticket by a person, instead of through the mail.
"If I'm gonna get a ticket it should be treated like any other moving violation ticket that I receive," said Arnold. "Any officer of the court should be presenting that citation."
The Climate Prediction Center issued an 'El Nino Watch' suggesting that we have a 50 percent chance of having an El Nino develop this summer or over the fall. State Climatologist Barry Keim says sea surface temperatures in the tropical pacific increased in the past few months lead researchers to think an El Nino could form.
"This could loom very large for our upcoming hurricane season because if this can get ramped up by the time the peak of hurricane season arrives, it could reduce the number of storms that we actually experience this season."
While fewer hurricanes would be a welcome weather effect for the gulf coast, Keim says the El Nino could also set up conditions for a harsh winter next year.
But there many factors that affect weathers patterns and Keim says having an El Nino is no guarantee of a tough winter ahead or that we won't have a big hurricane.
"The year 1992 was a pretty major El Nino event and while we didn't get many storms that year, we did have (Hurricane) Andrew which really wreaked havoc in Florida and here in Louisiana."
Spring football begins tomorrow for the Fighting Tigers and it marks the start of what should be a competitive battle for starting quarterback. Anthony Jennings ended the 2013 season as LSU's starting Q-B, but Tiger Rag Magazine editor Luke Johnson says incoming freshman Brandon Harris, who is already enrolled at LSU, will push Jennings for playing time.
"It's the first time in a long time that LSU has had an open quarterback battle in the spring and these guys will have five months to really duke this thing out."
Johnson doesn't believe Coach Les Miles will give Jennings any preferential playing time just because he started the bowl game. On defense, the Tiger Rag editor says there will be a lot competition on the defensive line.
'It's really wide open there, they have two defensive ends that played a lot of ball last year in Jordan Allen and Jermauria Rasco, but the defensive tackle position is wide open and they need some guys to spell Allen and Rasco, since they weren't very productive last year."
Johnson says sophomore defensive lineman Tashawn Bower and defensive tackles Christian LaCouture are two guys who can play huge roles on this team in 2014. This spring will also give the Tigers a chance to develop some wide receivers. Johnson says one guy to watch is John Diarse.
"He's a guy who played a lot of quarterback at Neville High School in Monroe and then made the switch to wide receiver. He's a big body guy, not sure he's going to blow past people, but he can weapon in this offense."
Governor Bobby Jindal had some harsh words for President Barack Obama while giving a speech today at the Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Washington. Jindal called Obama the worst president of our lifetime, because of his assault on the American dream.
"This Administration has assaulted our religious liberties," Jindal said. "It's assaulted the American Dream so that success is defined by Government assistance. That's not the American dream. That's an American nightmare."
Jindal also attacked the President's intelligence by questioning his knowledge of the constitution.
"This President graduated from some of the best schools in the country and if I were him I'd consider suing Harvard Law School to get his money back," Jindal said. "I'm not sure what he learned in three years."
Jindal says the President has not done enough to help students in failing schools and he says this administration is not tolerant of religious views.
He says the Obama administration has tried to get in the way of the state's voucher program, which is designed to help children get the best education they can.
"Let it be heard, and I hope he's watching, to President Carter I want to issue a sincere apology," Jindal went on to a laughing crowd. "It is no longer fair to say he was the worst President of this great country in my lifetime. President Obama has proven me wrong."
Democratic state representative John Bel Edwards of Amite has sent out poll results that show he's 5 percentage points behind republican senator David Vitter in the race to be Louisiana's next governor. The survey was done by the Kitchens Group. ULM Political Science Professor Joshua Stockley is skeptical of the survey's results for several reasons.
"The individuals who conducted this poll are not the most known nationally among polling circles."
Stockley says the results of the Kitchens Group survey are also quite different than other polls that have recently been published, which showed Edwards trailing both Vitter and republican Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne by a wide margin.
But Stockley expects Edwards to use the survey to show he's a serious candidate.
The Lafayette Police Department says they've got two men in custody who are accused of stealing the Boys and Girls Club 14-foot tall inflatable yellow duck in February. Corporal Paul Mouton says 21-year-old Garcon Cormier and 25-year-old Kyle Cormier, who are brothers, are arrested for felony theft.
"We put the information out initially about the theft which occurred on February 27th," said Mouton. "But when we released the surveillance video which captured the suspects truck, we got a tip through Crime Stoppers which led us to these men."
Mouton says he expects more arrests will be made.
"We believe at least two more suspects were involved in the theft so this investigation is still ongoing," said Mouton.
Mouton says they don't know why these men decided they needed to steal this massive duck.
He says the property was returned to The Boys and Girls Club undamaged.
Small business owners in Louisiana say they oppose any legislation that would raise the minimum wage. The 2014 legislative session is to start Monday and there are bills filed that would raise the state's minimum wage to 10 dollars an hour. Louisiana director of NFIB Dawn Starns says they surveyed their members and 90 percent of them said "no" to raising the minimum wage.
"The mandate to increase the minimum wage so significantly would have a very immediately and huge impact on their labor cost and therefore their bottom line and it would certainly change their dynamic on how the do business," Starns says.
Starns says if the minimum wage does rise, small businesses will hire older and more experienced workers and employers won't be able to hire nearly as many employees.
"You're going to be forcing businesses to pay more and they are going to be looking for people with more experience. That kind of cuts off the opportunities for the people who are those newcomers to the workforce who are trying to gain skills and learn the ropes," Starns says.
Starns says employers would have to figure out how to offset the price of increasing wages with the price of their goods and services. She says small businesses only have so much money and the increase could possibly lead to some layoffs.
"An increase were to go into effect, they would probably have to cut at least one of those people to pay for the minimum wage for the others, the minimum wage increase, associated with labor cost, for the others," Starns says.
As friends and family stood by in tears, Authorities with the New Orleans Police Department and the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's office confirmed Wednesday evening that they'd recovered the car and body of Hayley Howard. The vehicle was pulled from water near the I-10 Twin Spans around Irish Bayou where the Slidell girl's phone was last pinged at 6am Saturday morning.
NOPD says it appears the teen veered to the right of the interstate into the water and the case is currently being investigated as a fatal accident.
Howard was told last week that she'd been accepted to pharmacy school at Xavier according to friends.
A Lake Providence Police Officer was arrested for falsifying a traffic accident police report. Officer Lee Antwine is being charged with one count of malfeasance in office after a driver asked him to claim in an accident report that his Ford truck hit a Chevy Avalanche when actually it was the Pontiac Grand Prix he was driving that rear-ended the Avalanche. State Trooper Albert Paxton says he is unsure why Antwine did it because it was such a minor crash.
"There wasn't any evidence that he was trying to bribe the police officer, the police officer thought he was doing the guy a favor, which is still illegal. He said he was wanted to help him. They basically turned a very minor incident in to someone losing their job and getting arrested," Paxton says.
Paxton says Antwine confessed he falsified the report after questioning. If convicted, Antwine faces up to five years in prison and up to 5,000 dollars in fines.
"Insurance fraud and malfeasance in office, is a pretty serious deal. Even if the monitary value is not that big, it's still a big deal in itself," Paxton says.
Paxton says officer Antwine did not live up to the morals of a police officer when he knowling falsified the police report. This is the second time in a month a Lake Providence police officer has been charged with malfeasance in office. Last month Officer Clint Reed pulled a motorist over and asked the driver for 50 dollars instead of issuing a speeding ticket.
"By itself it's not a lot of money involved, but in principle it is very serious because these things could lead to something bigger," Paxton says.
The chairman of the Gulf Seafood Institute says the seafood market is a little tight as we begin the lenten season. Not eating meat is a common practice for many on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during the lenten season. But Harlon Pearce says the cold weather has impacted the supply of crabs and crawfish.
"Old man winter has been pretty rough on us this year and that reflects on the production of some of our better products."
Pearce says seafood lovers may also come across a tight supply of oysters, as that industry continues to recover from the BP spill. But he says the available oysters are very tasty. He says the price of shrimp is also higher than normal, because of a lack of imports and a higher demand for gulf shrimp.
Pearce says the supply of finfish is good and the same goes for wild catfish and alligator.
'Site Selection' magazine ranks Louisiana third in the nation for the most new and expanded corporate facilities per-capita. Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret says this is the latest positive ranking the state has received in growing its economy.
"A couple of months back, we reported (that) we had the best year in last six years in terms of new business results, more new projects, more capital investment, more retained jobs in the last six years. Consequently, we came in number three in the country and number one in the south."
Only Nebraska and Ohio were ranked above Louisiana. Moret says Louisiana's number 3 per-capita ranking is the result of dozens of major business development projects that the state landed in 2013.
"The I.B.M. technology center in Baton Rouge, we have A.A.R corporation's new aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in Lake Charles. Those are just a few examples... really (we) had dozens of major announcements all around the state. We really had an excellent year not only in announcements, but in terms of job growth as well."
A lawmaker from Baton Rouge says he doesn't want the government to be able to use drones on the private property of Louisiana residents so he's filed a bill restricting the use of the flying devices. State Senator Dan Claitor says he wants to make it against the law for a drone to look at our backyards or into our private homes.
"And when we say drones I'm not talking about what you'd bomb Osama Bin Laden with," said Claitor. "I'm talking about basically radio controlled planes that are outfitted with a camera."
Claitor recognizes these radio controlled devices are used for legitimate purposes such as inspecting crops or utility lines, but they can also be misused.
"In the way of invading our privacy," Claitor says. "They can be misused by the Government and they can be misused by private citizens and I want to get out in front of the issue before it becomes commonplace."
Claitor says his bill would still allow the use of drones if a search warrant was obtained or if law enforcement needed them to help document a crime scene.
He says our home is our castle and citizens are supposed to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
"And now that people have the technology to get above and beyond your fence and take a closer look, I don't think they ought to be able to do that just because they can," Claitor said.
The US House of Representatives approves a bill that would spare thousands of Louisiana homeowners massive flood insurance rate increases, and the legislation now heads to the Senate. Metairie Congressman Steve Scalise says this bill protects those who have built their homes to code from unaffordable hikes permanently.
"So that people who played by the rules who had flood insurance policies are not going to be faced with these astronomical increases in their premiums," Scalise said. "Not only will it apply to existing homeowners, but if somebody is trying to sell their home, the insurance policy will go with the home."
The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act is in-part lead by Baton Rouge Congressman Bill Cassidy who says the House legislation also lowers the cap on annual rate increases to 18% per property.
Scalise calls this bill much improved over the Senate-passed bill that would delay the premium increases for four years.
"This bill is fully paid for and it actually reforms the program long-term so this isn't just some patch where you've got to go fix it again later," said Scalise. "This is a long term solution to the problem."
Scalise says the House bill that amends the premium increases in the 2012 Biggart Waters Act, ensures that flood insurance will remain affordable for those who followed all the rules when they built their homes.
He says this is permanent fix legislation and not just another kick of the can down the road.
"The bill that was passed last night is finally a long-term solution so that homeowners don't have to worry about this threat of $25,000 premiums on their flood insurance," said Scalise. "Or even worse not being able to sell their house.
State Farm has compiled data that ranks Louisiana seventh in the nation for the number of wind and hail storm claims during 2013. State Farm spokesperson Gary Stephenson says Louisiana is known for its coastal storms, but it has its fair share of thunderstorms that cause property damage.
"Some of these thunderstorms that roll through (Louisiana) can tear shingles and dented damage shingles, depending on the size of the hail."
Stephenson says State Farm paid more than three billion dollars in claims nationwide, as a result of property damage caused by wind and hail storms. In Louisiana alone, they had 14-thousand claims. He says impact resistant roofing can help reduce hail damage to your home.
Mardi Gras festivities have been hampered by an unexpected ice storm. A small accumulation of freezing rain was expected for central and southwest Louisiana on Fat Tuesday, but State Climatologist Barry Keim says the temperature dropped lower than expected and nearly all of south Louisiana experienced wintry precipitation.
"The temperatures ended up being a few degrees colder this morning than originally expected," Keim said. "As a result, this coastal storm rain event that was predicted for south Louisiana, has turned into a freezing rain event."
On historic St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, the crowds are thinner compared to typical Fat Tuesday. This reveler says Mardi Gras only happens once a year, so the weather will not stop him from having fun.
"There's a lot of people who called it quits and bailed in our group," said one Mardi Gras reveler. "They are probably the smarter ones today, but they probably won't have as much fun."
Louisiana State Police say they are investigating a case out of New Iberia in which a man who was handcuffed and in the back of an Iberia Parish Sheriff patrol car, apparently killed himself. Spokesman Stephen Hammons says deputies were responding to reports of a fight Sunday night where they located 22-year-old Victor White III.
"They discovered that White was in possession of illegal narcotics so he was taken into custody, handcuffed behind his back and transported to the Iberia Parish Sheriff's office for processing" Hammons said. "Once at the office White became uncooperative and refused to exit the patrol vehicle."
Hammons says while in the back of the patrol car, White produced a handgun and fired once striking himself in the back. He says the man was pronounced dead of an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound at a local hospital.
Hammons says deputies were alarmed when they heard the shot go off in the car where White was.
"After White discharged the weapon, deputies called an ambulance and had him transported to a hospital to try to work on him," said Hammons. "But once they got there White succumbed to his injuries."
Sheriff Louis Ackal asked LSP to investigate the shooting.
Two bills for the upcoming legislative session have been filed to legalize the use of medical marijuana. One of the bills is authored by St. Martin Parish Senator Fred Mills, an owner of a retail pharmacy. Mills says Louisiana law allows for a doctor to prescribe medial marijuana, but it remains illegal for a pharmacist to dispense the drug.
"In 1991, the legislature approved the use of medical marijuana, but never did they come up with the specifications of distribution, prescribing, and just the whole monitoring of it, and this bill addresses what took place in '91. It basically fills in the blanks."
The legislation regulates the growers of medical marijuana, the dispensers, and the doctors who prescribe it. Mills says the proposed law involves many different agencies to share the responsibilities of implementing the intended uses of medical marijuana.
"We have the Department of Agriculture, the Board of Pharmacy, the Board of Medical Examiners, and the State Department of Health and Hospitals, and State Police all working in unison to make sure the people that need the product for medical purposes, get it. But it also regulates it so it doesn't expand to recreational use."
Mills says his bill is focused on easing the suffering of patients who are under a doctor's care. His bill is a companion bill to Representative Dalton Honore's legislation in the House of Representatives.
Nearly a two-week run of high school basketball begins today in the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles, which is the host site for the Top 28 boys and girls high school basketball championship tournaments. Eric Zartler of the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau, says they call the event "Marsh Madness."
"We are ready. The Coliseum has never looked better. It's fantastic and ready to go."
The Top 28 girls basketball tournament gets underway today with the Class B-and-C semi-finals. Next week it will be the boys semi-final and championship games. Zartler says a total of 42 games between today and March 15th in the renovated Burton Coliseum.
The top 28 boys and girls state tournaments are expected to have an economic impact in the millions for southwest Louisiana.
Zartler says they hope fans who go to Lake Charles for the tournament will want to come back to southwest Louisiana to take part in other recreational activities.
"The Creole Nature Trail, All-American road, anytime you bring people down there, they are just amazed at the beauty of that."