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2nd half of the legislative session begins Monday

The second-half of the legislative session begins Monday. So far lawmakers have talked about issues pertaining to Common Core, guns, abortion the levee lawsuit against oil companies, and chicken boxing. But Council for a Better Louisiana President Barry Erwin says the focus will soon turn to the budget.

"It's about to come out of the House Appropriations Committee in a week or so and then you'll see a lot of focus shifted to that." 
One debate that has yet to start in the session deals with the legalization of medical marijuana. Erwin anticipates an interesting debate on the subject. 
"You have some signals that folks are open to it."
The House Education Committee rejected a bill earlier in the session that would have kept Louisiana from going through with the Common Core academic standards. But Erwin doesn't think that debate is over with. He says expanding areas where people can bring concealed handguns is another debate that will continue. 
"By and large most pieces of legislation dealing with guns are going to pass, if they are dealing with expanding access."
There are some issues dead for the session, like a higher minimum wage and lighter sentences for repeat pot possession offenders. 

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An all-time high 2-million people working in Louisiana

For the first time in the state's history, there are two million people employed in Louisiana. That's based on data released today by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Louisiana Workforce Commission spokesperson Tom Guarisco says there's 35-thousand more people working in this state, compared to this time last year.
"Our private sector has been adding jobs for 42 straight months now," Guarisco said. 
In a statement, Governor Bobby Jindal said surpassing two million working Louisianians is proof that overhauling the ethics code, revamping the workforce training system and cutting taxes is paying off.
The state's unemployment rate is 4.5 percent. Guarisco says that's the best unemployment rate in the south.
"That tells us there's a good flow of people from the unemployment roles to jobs."
Leisure and hospitality had the biggest job gain of all sectors, adding 84-hundred jobs, followed by construction and education and health services. Guarisco says the number of employed should continue to grow in Louisiana. 
"We need 80,000 additional workers through 2016 to support all of the major industrial projects that have already been announced."

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Poll on US Senate race shows Cassidy defeating Landrieu in potential runoff

Michelle Southern reporting.
According to a survey conducted by Harper Polling, incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu would lose to Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy in a runoff.

"It appears that Landrieu is in for the race of her life," says UL-Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross. "Perhaps for the first time she is entering the home stretch as a definite underdog."

The Republican group American Crossroads paid for the survey. In a primary, 40% of those polled support Landrieu and 35% support Cassidy while Republicans Rob Maness and Rep. Paul Hollis got four and three percent respectively.

But Cassidy would beat Landrieu 47-43 in a runoff.

Cross says the Democratic Senator faces a tough road.

"She was well ahead of her last opponent, John Kennedy, at this stage, polling above 50 or at least close to 50%," Cross said. "Now she's polling quite a bit below that and in the head up race is behind."

18% of respondents said they were undecided for the primary and 10% said the same in a runoff scenario.

Cross says this poll indicates there is support for candidates other than Cassidy and Landrieu, but when you put them together the votes move to Cassidy.

He says things could change if the GOP decides to endorse a candidate.

"If they were to do so, it would probably make Cassidy look even more formidable," said Cross.

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Gas prices are on the rise

If you're on the road this holiday weekend, be prepared to pay around $3.50 a gallon for regular gasoline. That's according to the American Automobile Association. Fuel analyst Don Redman says the price at the pump has increased 20 cents in the past month and gas prices are about eight cents higher than a year ago.

Redman says the rise in gas prices should end, once refineries complete the transition from a winter grade of gasoline to a summer blend.
"We're looking at $3.50 a gallon, potentially could go higher, anywhere between a nickel and ten cents until after the holidays," Redman said. "We expect by early May or late May those prices will come down." 
Redman says gas prices have not been this high since last July. He says the law of supply and demand is behind the higher prices. 

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Report says BP spill still impacting dolphins and sea turtles

With the four-year anniversary of the BP spill, The National Wildlife Federation releases a report that says dolphins and sea turtles are still dying in high numbers.  Senior policy specialist with the federation, Sara Gonzales-Rothi, says the evidence is stronger than ever that dolphins are suffering from effects connected to Deepwater Horizon.

"Dolphins are showing strong evidence of sickness related to BP oil.  So they're anemic, their immune systems are in trouble, they're having lung issues, and their teeth are even falling out."
Gulf-wide, dolphins were having health issues before the spill.  Although some issues are linked to the spill, Gonzales-Rothi says studies continue.
"When you talk gulf-wide, it's less clear at this point.  And so there's more study going on to determine why dolphins gulf-wide have been sicker since before the spill and continuing throughout the spill and in the years prior."
Since the spill the number of sea turtles in the gulf appear to have flat lined.  Roughly 500 stranded sea turtles have been found each year in the area.  Gonzales-Rothi says that number is significant.
"And the reason that the number 500 is significant is that it's very difficult to find stranded sea turtles so that number is higher than usual."
The report also says oyster reproduction remains low and the chemical used to break up the oil may be causing irregular heartbeats in bluefin and yellowfin tuna.

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