KSYL Local News

News for Thursday 042816

By Dave Graichen

 

A bill to extend the waiting period for getting an abortion to 72 hours has been approved by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The measure passed on a five to two vote and heads to the Senate floor.

 

A bill, being pushed by a group of Grant Parish residents, to ban open burning of munitions and explosives in Louisiana won narrow approval from a House committee Wednesday. As it stands, the bill would prohibit open burning of explosives and munitions, but that would not apply to the military. An Army official said the Army was going to oppose the bill, but the amendment exempting the military canceled the Army’s opposition. Bill 11 was advanced by the committee in a 9-8 vote.

 

A bill that would require movie theaters to use metal detectors was defeated in a House committee Wednesday. Prairieville Rep. Tony Bacala says this legislation creates a false sense of security. He says if someone wants to shoot up a movie theater, the first person to be killed is the 18-year-old minimum wage worker manning the metal detector. The vote was 6-5 against the legislation.

 

The full House approves a bill to prohibit organizations that perform abortions, like Planned Parenthood, to receive public funding. West Monroe Representative Frank Hoffman says the purpose of the bill is not to shut any of these facilities down. However, Planned Parenthood has a new clinic under construction in New Orleans, where they plan to perform abortions. Hoffman says he hopes this bill would prevent that from happening. The measure passed on an 85-7 vote and moves to the Senate. Planned parenthood has never used state funding to perform abortions. But has maintained the facilities with state funding.

 

The FBI is reopening the case of a 2-year-old that went missing in Clinton 15 years ago. Avery Davidson is a former WAFB reporter who covered Wesley Morgan’s disappearance in 2001. Davidson says the child was playing on the front porch when his mother went inside and came back outside to find the little boy was gone.  He says there must be a reason the FBI has reopened the case and released an age progression picture of Wesley Morgan. The FBI is offering up to a $10,000 reward for information that leads to Morgan’s location.

 

Latest campaign finance numbers show Republican Senate candidates Charles Boustany and John Fleming each have around two-million dollars in their campaign war chest. GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy has about 700-thousand. UL-Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross says the November 1st primary is about six months away and these numbers reflect that this will be an expensive race.

 

A woman from Louisiana, who moved to Colorado to get medical marijuana her daughter needs for her seizure condition, tells her story to state legislators. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow people with a wider variety of disorders to get the marijuana treatment. Michelle Hall of Vernon Parish says her daughter, Ella, is doing much better since starting her cannabis medication. Hall says the medical marijuana works better for Ella than any other medication they have tried in the past four years. She pleaded with lawmakers to approve the legislation so she can bring her children home.

 

A bill to require cursive to be taught in public elementary schools passes through the full Senate. Bossier City Sen. Ryan Gatti spoke in favor of the legislation and says many historic documents were written in cursive. He says our children need to be able to read and write in script, not just from their iPads or iPhones.

 

New York real estate heir Robert Durst was sentenced by a federal judge in New Orleans today who accepted the plea agreement to serve 7 years and 1 month in prison on a weapons charge. Durst, who still faces a separate murder charge in California for allegedly killing a friend to keep her quiet and the disappearance of the 72-year-old’s wife, pleaded guilty to the weapons charge in New Orleans in February.

 

A missing child from Mamou has been found in Jackson, Mississippi. State police say the child’s non-custodial mother, Elaine Freeman, took 12-year-old Jalon Bradley out of school shortly after 3pm on Tuesday. Authorities issued an endangered missing child advisory because there was concern Jalon could be in danger. Freeman is now in police custody.

 

Sports..

 

The 2016 NFL Draft begins tonight in Chicago at 7 P.M. on ESPN and NFL Network. The New Orleans Saints are expected to draft defensive players early and often as the team finished 31st in total yards given up in the NFL.

 

The LSU baseball Tigers begin a three game series at Ole Miss tonight. The Bayou Bengals are 27-14 overall, 10-8 in the SEC and coming off a disappointing loss to Tulane.

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News for Wednesday 042716

By Dave Graichen

 

One of the largest employers in CenLA announces mass layoffs are coming. Houston-based Union Tank Car Company (UTLX) said it expects to lay off about 224 employees beginning June 24th at its Alexandria facility. Jim Clinton is the CEO of the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance says the company will cut its production in half due to market conditions. He says UTLX is a strong company that shouldn’t have a problem adding staff once the economy rebounds. UTLX said they will continue to employ about 350 people. The Louisiana Workforce Commission says it will conduct orientation sessions for affected employees next week.

 

A pro-voucher group is attacking John Bel Edwards in a new TV ad as they are criticizing the first year governor for cutting six million dollars from the state’s voucher program. Louisiana Federation for Children president Ann Duplessiss says 71-hundred students receive vouchers, but not all of them will get one next year, if the governor has his way. Governor Edwards says the ad is blatantly false and says every student currently receiving a voucher will continue to receive one.

 

A Senate committee has approved legislation dealing with police body cameras and what footage should be exempted from Louisiana’s public record laws.  Author of the bill, Lake Charles Senator Ronnie Johns, says there needs to be some privacy safeguards but, there must also be real transparency. Then there’s the cost of storing the data. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said storing and managing the data from body cameras is costing his department more than $2 million annually.

 

Louisiana lawmakers are working to regulate drones. Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor has legislation that prevents people from using drones for stalking, voyeurism, and other crimes. He says technology is advancing, and regulation of drones is needed to keep up with the times. Claitor says you shouldn’t be able to do something with a piece of technology that would wouldn’t do with your physical person. So far, the drone regulation bills have received very little opposition.

 

A bill that would require movie theaters to install metal detectors is scheduled to be heard in the House Criminal Justice committee today. Shreveport Rep. Barbara Norton wants to ensure movie goers are safe. Norton says she’s received many positive phone calls supporting this proposal. Last summer a gunman walked into a Lafayette movie theater and killed two people and injured nine. Norton says nothing changes until you put something in place. She says it would not cost theater operators a lot of money to install a detector or use a metal detecting wand.

 

State legislators are dealing with the repercussions of a Supreme Court ruling that says juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole. Metairie Senator Danny Martiny’s would ensure that underage criminals with life sentences would become eligible for parole after 35 years behind bars. Martiny’s bill also mandates that the juvenile maintain a good behavioral record and participate in educational programs to qualify. He says the purpose of the bill is not to get criminals out of jail, but lawmakers have to do something because of the court ruling.

 

 

This year’s National Health Security Preparedness Index finds Louisiana is the least prepared state in the nation to respond to a major health emergency. The state scores 5.6 out of 10 on the index. Bob Johannessen with the Department of Health and Hospitals says emergency preparedness in the state has greatly improved since Hurricane Katrina. However, there are more areas than not in Louisiana that have health care shortages.

 

Former Louisiana Tech star Vernon Butler is in Chicago as he is one of 25 players attending the NFL draft after receiving a personal invitation from commissioner Roger Goodell. Butler is confident he’ll hear his name called when the first round takes place tomorrow night. Butler was a standout player on Louisiana Tech’s defensive line the last two seasons as he recorded over 100 tackles. NFL draft analyst Mike Detillier believes Butler will go late in the first round.

 

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News For Tuesday 042616

By Dave Graichen

 

The Alexandria Police Department will host a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day event on Saturday. The Drug Enforcement Administration is joining with state and local law enforcement agencies in the national effort “to remove potentially dangerous controlled substances from our nation’s medicine cabinet.” Citizens can drop off no-longer-needed prescription drugs in the front lobby of the Alexandria Police Department, 1000 Bolton Ave., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

 

Alexandria police have arrested a student  from Alexandria Senior High school after he allegedly made threats on social media aimed at the school’s prom. 17 year old Adrian Ray has been charged with terrorizing, stalking and obstruction of justice.

 

F.E.M.A announcing yesterday a National Flood Insurance Program flood-response office has opened in Alexandria. The office is located at 3600 Jackson St., Suite 111B. It is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To apply for FEMA assistance, call 1-800-621-3362

 

Louisiana’s budget shortfall has fallen to 600 million dollars from 750 million dollars. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says these savings come from Governor John Bel Edwards Medicaid expansion and the estimated people expected to use the service next fiscal year. The governor is proposing cuts to many state agencies to help close the gap and is planning a special session in June to raise additional revenue.

 

The full House rejects a bill that attempted to put an end to the public-private school playoff split in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. The lower chamber voted 51-34 against the legislation authored by River Ridge Representative Kirk Talbot. Talbot says the split is discriminatory, which means the legislature has a right to step in.

 

There is far less controversy this year when it comes to standardized testing compared to last year when public school students took Common Core exams. President of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents Hollis Milton says teachers are more prepared now since testing is later in the school year. Milton believes there will be a much smaller number of students who opt of the test.

 

FBI records found Former-governor John McKeithen paid the KKK in the 1960s to stop violent racial outbreaks. Executive Secretary to McKeithen, Gus Weill, says he knew nothing about the payments at that time but was told by a man that McKeithen arranged to pay 10-thousand dollars to both black and white supremacist groups to stop violence in Bogalusa. Weill says the money came from a state commission that was established to control civil rights issues.

 

There is the chance of a reduction in retail food inspectors if lawmakers approve of the governor’s proposed budget for next fiscal year. This would result in an 11-percent reduction in inspectors. Department of Health and Hospital spokesperson Bob Johannessen says this means they will not be able to inspect as many grocery stores and restaurants as they should.  Johannessen says a reduction in food inspectors will result in more than 20-thousand fewer inspections after July 1st.

 

A bill that would have allowed  K-12 employers to opt out of the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana failed to gain Senate Retirement Committee approval Monday. It appears dead for the session. Senate Bill 452 would have opened up other retirement plan options for new employees coming into the Louisiana school system

 

Investigators from Iberville Parish are in Humble, Texas today to find out more information about the woman who was found dead under I-10 near Whiskey Bay. Sheriff Brett Stassi says the body of 28-year-old Elizabeth Ferrell of Humble was discovered by a fisherman over the weekend. Stassi says an autopsy found the cause of death to be asphyxiation by strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head.

 

A Monroe woman has been arrested after leaving St. Francis Hospital with a baby that was NOT hers. Monroe Police Chief Detective Chris Bates says 24-year-old Anquinisha Cummings took a three-day old child from a mother she met that day. Bates says they believe Cummings is suffering from a mental illness.

 

Prices at the pump continue to rise. Gregg Laskowski with GasBuddy-dot-com says the national average for a gallon of gas is up three-cents since last week, and Louisiana is seeing similar price increases, as the statewide average is nearing two-dollars for a gallon of regular gasoline. Laskowski says consumer demand is up 4% compared to this time last year. He says that and other factors are driving up gas prices.

 

The House Transportation Committee approves a bill that would allow you to store your driver’s license on an app that can be downloaded on your smart phone. The state Office of Motor vehicles says this license on your phone could be shown to law enforcement in cases when a person doesn’t have their license.

 

A nurse from Thibodaux is under arrest for allegedly forging prescriptions in the name of the doctor she worked for. They say a pharmacy in Houma let the doctor know about suspicious prescriptions being written and filled at their location with the doctor’s signature. The nurse, 49-year-old Vickie Ezell of Houma, was arrested for unlawfully prescribing, distributing or dispensing.

 

Lawmakers decided not to take up the bill Monday that would make it illegal for a business in the private sector to fire someone based on their sexual orientation. The measure, which was previously on the agenda in the House Civil Law committee today, reportedly did not have enough votes, but it’s expected to return to the table next week.

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News for Monday 042516

By Dave Graichen

 

There are more layoffs coming to Louisiana’s oil and gas sector. LSU economist Loren Scott says the industry has been devastated by the low gas prices we’ve seen since August of 2014. He says major companies are cutting back their drilling budget dramatically. Scott says a lot of big companies are planning to stop drilling all together in the Gulf.

 

A bill to increase the fines for moving violations when a child under the age of 15 is in the car is being debated in the House Transportation Committee today. Baton Rouge Representative Paula Davis says she authored the proposal when several constituents called her after a child was killed in a car accident. Davis says children under age 15 need to be protected because until that age, they cannot be in control in a vehicle. She believes the increased fines will help stop dangerous driving with children in the car. Davis says she doesn’t expect much opposition to the bill.

 

Louisiana’s third “Buckle Up in your Truck” campaign has just begun. Executive Director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, John Leblanc says the goal of the campaign is voluntary compliance. He says wearing a seat belt is especially important in a pickup because those vehicles are taller than others. Leblanc says 8 people have been killed in pickup truck accidents in the state since the first of the month.

 

A bill that would prohibit an employer from firing or refusing to hire an individual based on their sexual orientation or gender identity will be heard in the House Civil Law committee today. Matthew Patterson with Equality Louisiana says this needs to be done because discrimination against gay and transgendered people is common place. Opposition is expected to come from pro-business groups. State director of the National Independence Business Dawn Starns says business owners are concerned this legislation will lead to frivolous lawsuits

 

A bill that forces the LHSAA to end its public-private school playoff split will be heard on the House floor today. River Ridge Representative Kirk Talbot says his bill would prohibit schools from receiving public funds, if they belong to an athletic organization with split playoffs for select and non-select schools. Talbot says the LHSAA’s current playoff split is discriminatory. The split began in football playoffs in 2013, and it is set to expand to include basketball, baseball and softball starting in 2016-17.

 

A report by the National Center for Health Statistics finds the suicide rate in the US has increased dramatically since 1999.  The report finds the suicide rate of women increased to 45-percent and males increased by 16-percent. LSU Health New Orleans Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Michelle Moore says the gap is narrowing between the genders. In the past week, two male students at Mandeville High School killed themselves within 48 hours of each other.

 

Law enforcement is getting help in learning how to handle cases of animal cruelty from the Humane Society. Executive Director of the Humane Society of Louisiana, Jeff Dorson, says they are teaching law enforcement officers about advances in technology, such as new developments in forensic pathology that can help determine what happened to animals that are brought in after abuse.

 

Louisiana Public Broadcasting is launching educational TV shows for kids in French. LPB’s program director Jason Viso says they are partnering with the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana to help more kids learn in Frence. He says they have started showing several different kids’ shows that are in French. The shows are airing on LPB 2 between 3pm and 5pm Monday through Friday and also on the weekends.

 

Attorney General Jeff Landry has announced that two Northwest Louisiana men have been arrested on child pornography charges. 54-year-old James Lucius of Bossier City is charged with 500 counts of possession of child pornography involving juveniles under age 13. 24-year-old Stephen Harris of Shreveport is facing one possession charge for child pornography.

 

A man who was being held at a Baton Rouge hospital reportedly committed suicide after he was accused of abducting a pregnant woman. Baton Rouge Police confirmed the incident took place this Saturday morning, and the alleged abduction happened Friday night in New Orleans.

 

Shreveport police have arrested a 35-year-old man who is accused of fatally shooting a 55-year-old woman and a injuring a 25-year-old man during a drive-by shooting. Gina Foster was pronounced dead at the scene. Carlos Franklin surrendered to authorities and faces murder and attempted murder charges.

 

5th ranked LSU avoided a sweep to Mississippi State by beating the Bulldogs 11-8 on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers scored all of their runs in the three middle innings, after falling behind 3-0. Coach Paul Mainieri is happy his team pulled off the victory after tough losses on Friday and Saturday nights.

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News for Friday 042216

By Dave Graichen

 

Word came yesterday that the Kmart store in Pineville will soon be history. Company officials yesterday released a list of some 68 Kmart and 10 Sears stores nationwide they will close in late July. The only other store closing in the state is a Sears store in Houma.

 

The state police report 26 year old Lauren Franklin of Vidalia was killed Wednesday night when her vehicle left the roadway and over turned in a water filled bayou. Franklin was pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck on La. Highway 131 near Country Meadows Road.

The crash remains under investigation, and routine toxicology tests are pending.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards has signed an executive order that requires able-bodied adults without children to participate in job training and work assistance programs in order to receive food stamp benefits. Edwards says this will prepare individuals for successful careers.

Starting July first, unemployed able-bodied adults will have to visit one of the 59 Louisiana Workforce Commission Business and Career Solutions Centers. Republican lawmakers have been pushing for the governor to add work requirements to food stamp recipients.

 

Legislative leaders seek to end the regular session early, so they could prepare for a special session that Governor John Bel Edwards plans to call to address the 750-million dollar revenue shortfall for next fiscal year. Senate President John Alario says the next special session needs to be held before the start of the next fiscal year. The regular session is set to end June 6th and lawmakers will likely approve a budget that cuts state spending by 750-million dollars. Alario says special session will be needed to restore cuts to higher education, TOPS, public schools and health care, but that doesn’t necessarily mean raising more taxes.

 

Planned Parenthood advocates rallied on state Capitol steps after a House committee approved a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Unitarian Minister Rev. Darcy Roake says nearly 20 pieces of anti-women’s health legislation has been filed, three of those bills aimed directly at defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides preventive health care and accurate sexual health information. Roake says an injustice is being done as anti-abortion bills disguised as protecting the health of women continue to move through the legislative process.

 

 

A House committee approved a measure that seeks to outlaw sanctuary cities in Louisiana. The term is applied to cities in the US that have policies designed to not prosecute undocumented immigrants. Denham Springs Representative Valarie Hodges who says sanctuary cities are a national security threat. Opponents of the bill are worried about it opening the doors for racial profiling. The bill now moves to the full House.

 

It is amazing that we are asking this question. But, many parents are now wondering whether or not schools still teach children how to write in cursive? The Senate Education Committee says “Yes” as they approved a bill by Franklinton Senator Beth Mizell that requires cursive writing to be taught to public school students by the third grade. Mizell is concerned that kids will not know how to write their name or read a letter in cursive. The senate floor will hear the bill next.

 

The full senate has approved a bill that expands the list of diseases that will be able to use medical marijuana once it becomes available in Louisiana. Slidell Senator Sharon Hewitt supports the bill, she’s heard from parents of children who suffer from seizures, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis and medical marijuana is the only drug that works for their children. The bill now moves to the House.

 

Louisiana lawmakers are standing up for the little guys, and girls, looking to make a few dollars at their neighborhood lemonade stand. A bill unanimously passed in the Senate to exempt these kids from having to pay an occupational license tax. Norco Senator Gary Smith says some children in the state have been ticketed for selling lemonade without a license. The measure now heads to the House.

 

First Lady Donna Edwards has announced a new recycling initiative at the Governor’s Mansion in honor of Earth Day, which is today. Mrs. Edwards says she and the governor have been recycling ever since they lived in Hawaii many years ago. The first lady is encouraging Louisiana residents to do their part in recycling as much trash as they can. Edwards says plastic bottles, aluminum cans, most paper, and even ink cartridges are recyclable.

 

Sports..

 

The LSU baseball team brings a five game winning streak into its SEC showdown series with Mississippi State, which begins tonight at 7 PM at Alex Box Stadium. The Bulldogs will start Dakota Hudson on the mound in game one. You can hear the entire series on 970 KSYL

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News for Thursday 042116

By Dave Graichen

 

Work should begin next month on the final phase of road improvements in the Coughlin Industrial Park in Pineville. The Rapides Parish Police Jury awarded  a contract for close to $458k to Diamond B Construction Co. The Coughlin Industrial Park is home to various industrial facilities, including Procter & Gamble and Plastipak Packaging. The new project will include roadway improvements to Cenla Drive, Pardue Road and Todd Hollingsworth Road. The construction should be completed in about 2 and a half months.

 

The House failed to pass legislation that would allow motorcyclists 21 and over to choose whether or not to wear a helmet. Lawmakers who were against the bill expressed safety as their main reason for voting against the bill. There were also concerns of increased insurance premiums. Even though the bill didn’t pass it can be brought up again for another vote.

 

A bill that would expand the number of diseases that could be treated legally with medical marijuana was approved in the Senate here Wednesday after falling one vote short Tuesday. Senate Bill 271 by Sen. Freddie Mills, R-Parks, drew passionate debate from both sides over two days. Mills, a pharmacist, said he cried while praying Tuesday night after receiving "email after email from parents who ask why they can't get this to help their children." But opponents like Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, said they were horrified that Louisiana would expand legalization of the drug in any form. Mills' bill allows only for doses in an oil form.

 

The House Education Committee approved a bill to allow high school students to participate in a national survey on sexual risks. The survey asks questions such as how many sexual partners someone has had, at what age the respondent became sexually active, and what methods they take to prevent pregnancy. Baton Rouge Representative Rick Edmonds opposed the bill because he says this issue should be discussed at home, not in school. Baton Rouge Representative Patricia Smith says there is no sexual education in Louisiana public schools and Louisiana has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. The bill now moves to the House floor.

 

A bill that would prohibit state employers from asking job applicants about their criminal record until after the interview process moves to the full House. The bill passed out of the House Governmental Affairs committee, despite objections from republican lawmakers. Baton Rouge Rep. Denise Marcelle is the author of the bill and she says the purpose is to get the person with a criminal record an interview and a chance to explain their story…

 

Harry Morel, the former District Attorney in St. Charles Parish, plead guilty to obstruction for harassing a witness in an attempt to destroy evidence for a federal grand jury that targeted the longtime prosecutor. The charge stems from an investigation into allegations Morel requested sexual favors in an exchange for lenient plea deals from female defendants. FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeff Sallet says Morel held the freedom, and the lives, of these defendants in his hands.

 

Legislation to prevent second trimester abortions, where doctors use forceps to abort a fetus moves on to the full House. Lafayette Doctor Damon Cudihy says this inflicts extreme pain on the unborn child. But Pro-choice attorney Ellie Schilling says this is the safest way to perform a second trimester abortion. Schilling also says the law would most certainly be declared unconstitutional.

 

Family members confirm that the oldest man in the nation, Felix Simoneaux Jr. of LaPlace, died Tuesday at the age of 110. It is believed that Simoneaux was the oldest man in the country for three months, according to a group that verifies such claims. Simoneaux, who was born in 1905, was going to turn 111 on May 24th. He suffered a small stroke last week.

 

Shreveport firefighters rescued a horse that slipped into flooded waters and was swept away. They say 5-year-old Butter was eating grass when she skid into a drainage ditch with a swift current. Rescuers lassoed Butter and pulled her to safety, and a vet called to check for injuries said the horse was banged up but nothing was broken.

 

The US Treasury has announced anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman will appear on the $20 bill. Summer Steib with the LSU Women’s Center says the original plan was to replace Alexander Hamilton with a woman on the $10 bill, but the new Broadway hit “Hamilton” Harriet Tubman was an African American abolitionist who worked to rescue slaves in the late 1800s. Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Helen Keller were other candidates for the newly-designed currency.

 

Roy King, the band director of the Golden Band from Tigerland for the last five years, is out of job today. LSU put him on administrative leave earlier this month to conduct an internal investigation and he was notified of his dismissal in a letter from the university. King’s attorney, Jill Craft, says King was shocked when he was notified. LSU says they’ve provided King with a letter outlining the reasons for his firing and it’s based on an investigation that found King did not follow policies, procedures and financial safeguards meant to protect the Tiger Band and LSU. Craft says the worst part is that King was notified of his termination via letter, which she says is unbelievable after 18 years of service to the university.

 

Two people have died after a mosquito-abatement airplane crashed in the woods near the Slidell City Airport lTuesday night. Slidell Police Sgt. Daniel Seuzeneau says two planes were finishing up their rounds and landing at the airport when one plane began flipping, struck a powerline, and went down into a wooded area. Seuzeneau says the downed powerlines caused small fires around the crash site. He says once fire fighters put out the blaze, they discovered the bodies of the two pilots.

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News for Wednesday 042016

By Dave Graichen

 

The state Senate unanimously approves a bill that would make sure every TOPS recipient would receive at least part of their award, if the state is not able to fully fund the scholarship program. Under the current law, students with lower ACT scores or who do not have financial need would not get a scholarship at all. The cost of TOPS for the next fiscal year is about 300-million dollars.

 

Legislation that would expand the number of diseases that medical marijuana can be used to treat failed to get enough votes to pass out of the Senate. Under current law, once medical cannabis becomes available in Louisiana, it can only be used for three different diseases. But several senators expressed concerns with the legislation, claiming it would be a gateway to the complete legalization of marijuana.

 

The 30th annual of the Festival International de Louisiane begins today and runs through Sunday in downtown Lafayette. Festival Marketing Director April Courville says this is a really exciting celebration with new activities taking homage to the history of the festival. She says over 400-thousand people are excited to join in the festivities. Courville says local performers and international artists from 25 different countries are performing during the five days of the free festival.

 

Also, The annual Lecompte Pie Festival opens Friday and runs through Sunday Festivities will be at the Old Lecompte High School.

 

The House approved the Pastor Protection Act, which would allow a minister or clergy member to refuse to perform a same-sex marriage. Opponents of the bill claim it is not necessary because pastors are already protected under the first amendment and some state legislation. Supporters say it just protects their fundamental right of conscience. The bill passed on an 80-18 vote.

 

The FEMA/state disaster recovery center in Leesville will close later this week. The center will permanently close at 6 p.m. Friday. The Central Louisiana centers to remain open, til further notice, to assist flood victims.

 

Louisiana senators on Tuesday blocked, at least temporarily, a proposal to exempt all police body camera footage unrelated to criminal investigations from state public records law. Sen. Ronnie Johns, a republican from Lake Charles, said he plans to continue discussions on the measure and bring a reworked proposal to the Judiciary B Committee next week. He decided Tuesday to remove the bill from the panel’s consideration. Johns sat flanked by the Lake Charles and Alexandria police chiefs as he presented the bill that would block public access to the law enforcement body camera video or audio recordings unless otherwise ordered by a judge.

 

The bill to allow for the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk has been approved by the Senate, despite concerns from the opposition about health risks. The proposal would not allow for the sale of raw milk in grocery stores. Ville Platte Senator Eric LaFleur says he’s only looking to give farmers the ability to sell raw milk and the government should not interfere. The bill now heads to the House.

 

A bill that would let motorists who have let their car insurance lapse pay their debts in installments, and keep their driver’s license, clears the House Transportation Committee. The legislation came about in response to the controversial notices that were sent out last year letting people know about fines for not having car insurance. The measure heads to the full House.

 

A study from LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center has found kids are more willing to eat vegetables after watching other kids their age eating veggies on television. Researcher Amanda Staiano says if your child doesn’t want to eat vegetables, maybe try this method. Staiano says research has found that one-third pre-school aged children are not eating vegetables.

 

The former assistant police chief of Henderson, Oliver Mack Lloyd, has received a six month suspended prison sentence after he plead guilty to accusations he provided other officers bonuses for writing speeding tickets to motorists on I-10. St. Martin Parish prosecutor Chester Cedars says Henderson’s Police Chief Leroy Guidry also signed a public statement acknowledging the town will no longer target speeders on I-10…

 

The Louisiana Department of Education suspends the license of a daycare in St. Tammany Parish, Abita Church Christian Daycare,  after state officials found out they didn’t notice 4 toddlers escape the playground and wander into a busy road in Abita Springs. They also say staff did not report the incident which is an additional violation.

 

Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson will not have just one, but two horses who will run in the Kentucky Derby on May 7th. Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready will part of the field of 20 horses who will run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.

 

There’s a new addition to the Governor’s Mansion since John Bel Edwards moved in. Edwards says he put in a chicken coop next to the garden, behind the mansion. The governor says they’re new chickens, so he hopes to supply his friends and family with fresh eggs soon. 

Edwards says he checks on his birds every evening when he gets home. The chicken coop comments sparked questions about how the project was funded. Edwards says the project was not paid for by taxpayers.

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News for Tuesday 041916

By Dave Graichen

 

Governor John Bel Edwards’ monthly one-hour radio show begins today on the Louisiana Radio Network. The show will air on 15 radio stations and it will allow the governor to speak with Louisianans one on one to address their concerns in the state. Edwards’ press secretary, Shauna Sanford, says Louisianans are well aware of the pressing problems facing the state. She says this show allows them to address those issues. You can hear the program starting at 2 this afternoon on Talk Radio 970 KSYL.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards announces enrollment for the state’s expanded Medicaid program will begin June 1st. Edwards told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that expanding Medicaid will benefit the state greatly by cutting healthcare costs and improving health outcomes.  He says over 300-thousand Louisiana residents will be eligible for enrollment June 1st. Edwards says the expansion will also save the state much-needed dollars in critical budget times.

 

It’s been 100 days today since Governor John Bel Edwards took office. LSU Political Science professor Wayne Parent says Edwards did not get to enjoy a “honeymoon” at the beginning of his term, like other governors have, because of fiscal issues facing the state and an uncooperative legislature. Edwards has followed through with his campaign promise to expand Medicaid. The governor also said he would increase the state’s minimum wage, but that proposal will face stiff opposition from House Republicans.

 

The governor is slowing down on the building and expansion of facilities on Louisiana’s community college campuses, because of a lack of dollars in the state’s construction budget. Over half of the projects on the 280-million dollar list for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System have been put on hold.

 

Legislation that establishes a legal framework for surrogacy births is heading to the House floor. Under current law, a child born to a surrogate is considered the infant’s mother. Metairie Rep. Joseph Lopinto wants to change the law so the genetic parents are immediately the legal guardians of the child. President of the Louisiana Family Forum Gene Mills says they oppose third party gestational surrogacy. He says adoption is God’s way of providing parents to a child in need with a family but surrogacy disrupts that.

 

The Louisiana Survey finds 53-percent of residents surveyed are still opposed to same-sex marriages even after last year’s historic Supreme Court ruling. Director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab Michael Henderson says this percentage has decreased over the past three years. He says the survey also found 52-percent support religious freedom laws.

 

That same survey showed 73-percent of Louisianans believe the Confederate monuments should stay up. Henderson says even 47-percent of black residents think the monuments should not be removed. Henderson says unlike the removal of the monuments, about half of residents are opposed to the state issuing specialty licenses plates displaying the Confederate battle flag.

 

A crop-duster pilot was killed in a crash is West Carroll Parish at around 9:15 yesterday  morning. Authorities says Daniel Morgan was found dead when E-M-S responded to the crash site. Sheriff Jerry Philley says it’s possible Morgan could’ve clipped a tree top before crashing. Philley says the Federal Aviation Administration will be investigating the incident.

 

Dozens of dead sea turtles are washing up along the Gulf Coast and biologists are not sure why. Director of the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies, Moby Solangi says it’s a big concern because the Kemps Ridley sea turtles that are stranding early in the season are the most endangered sea turtles in the world.

 

After a slow start in conference play, LSU finds itself just one game back of Texas A&M for first place in the SEC West. The Bayou Bengals are 9-6 in the SEC and Coach Paul Manieri likes where his team is at. Last year, LSU was 10-5 at halfway point of league play and won the SEC regular season title.

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News for Monday 041816

By Dave Graichen

 

Yet another Alexandria man is dead. The result of a shooting Saturday afternoon on Meadow lane. The APD says the call came in around 5pm. When they arrived on the scene, they discovered 32 year old Christopher Veal suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He died a short time later. Through their investigation, police found that 47 year-old Tracy Mitchell of Meadow Lane, had gotten “involved in an altercation with Veal during which Mitchell produced a firearm and shot Veal. Mitchell was booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center. This shooting is the fourth in Alexandria since Tuesday.

 

Employment in Louisiana rose for a third straight month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Spokesperson with the Louisiana Workforce Commission Aaron Caffarel says more and more people are entering the workforce and those unemployed are steadily seeking jobs. He says jobs in the construction industry are increasing more than they have since post-Hurricane Katrina construction shot up in 2006. Despite the increase in jobs, the state’s unemployment rate also grew to six-point-one percent.

 

The state senate is expected to vote this week on a new contingency plan, if the state is unable to fully fund TOPS. Currently, if the scholarship program is underfunded, TOPS students with lower ACT scores and without financial need, lose their scholarships. Jennings Senator Blade Morrish seeks to change it, so all TOPS students receive at least some scholarship money. TOPS is expected to cost the state 300-million dollars next fiscal year. But the governor’s proposed budget only allocates 110-million dollars for the popular program.

 

Gov. John Bel Edwards said he will likely call a special session of the legislature beginning June 7, the day after the regular session ends, where he will ask the Legislature to raise enough taxes to close a $750 million hole in the 2016-17 budget that begins July 1.

Without it, Edwards said, the state’s popular college tuition program TOPS will be gutted and four safety net hospitals will close, among other cuts. But many lawmakers, especially Republicans who control the House, would prefer to wait until the fall for a special session.

That would provide time, they say, to see how much money new taxes raised in a February special session will produce.

 

The House approved a bill to allow lawmakers to have a say in whether recipients of food stamps should be required to work to receive federal assistance. But opponents like Bogalusa Representative Malinda White says Louisiana is losing jobs left and right in the oil industry, and there’s a huge need for this assistance. Despite White’s objections, the legislation heads to the Senate.

 

Former Saints defensive end Will Smith was laid to rest Saturday. A public visitation for the ex-football star, who was gunned down last weekend, took place Friday at the Saints practice facility in Metairie. Hundreds of fans, many wearing Saints jerseys, attended the visitation to pay their final respects.

 

Iberia Parish Superintendent Dale Henderson says the Westgate High School band will compete its scheduled band competition event in Florida, despite the arrest of its band director for indecent behavior with a juvenile. 30-year-old Jeremy Conner was allegedly found in a teenager’s closet by the mother of the victim. Conner was booked into the Ascension Parish jail.

 

Long-time spokesperson for the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s office, Maxine Trahan, is accused of stealing money confiscated from accused criminals. Since 2010, Trahan allegedly kept more than $48-thousand that should have been deposited into a sheriff’s account. Trahan has been booked on charges of felony theft, and the investigation is ongoing.

 

St. Joseph residents are seeking help from the state about their water, which has been yellow to dark brown for years. They went before the House Natural Resources Committee and gave emotional testimony. Rev. Dr. Samuel Johnson says the water is causing health issues in the small Tensas Parish town. St. Joseph residents pleaded with the committee to help them get clean water and showed the committee bottles filled with murky, brown water from their town.  In order to get state funds to fix the water, the mayor must grant permission for a state administrator to oversee the money, but Mayor Edward Brown will not give his permission.

 

Former-St. Tammany Parish District Attorney, Walter Reed, federal corruption trial begins today at a US courthouse in New Orleans today. Reed faces 19 counts of conspiracy, money laundering, and fraud. Legal analyst Tim Meche says Reed could spend a lot of time behind bars if convicted. Reed allegedly spent over $100-thousand from his campaign fund for non-campaign related purchases.  Meche says it’s an interesting case, because federal prosecutors are seeking to convict the former DA on what amounts to state ethic violations.

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News for Friday 041516

By Dave Graichen

 

Robert Wolf, an Alexandria Realtor involved in numerous developments over a career that spanned more than half a century, has died.  Wolf was a past president of the Alexandria-Pineville Board of Realtors and the 1984 winner of the board’s Realtor of the Year award. A Mass of Christian Burial for Wolf is set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church. Burial will be in Greenwood Memorial Park under direction of John Kramer & Son. Friends may call from 11:30 a.m. until time of the service Saturday at the church. Robert Wolf was 85.

 

The FEMA/state disaster recovery centers in Colfax and Winnfield will permanently close at 6 p.m. Saturday. Those centers, which serve last month’s flood and storm victims, will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through today and Saturday before closing for good. ,

 

The Louisiana National Guard at Camp Minden successfully conducted their first test burn of 88 pounds of M6 propellant. Col. Pete Schneider says over the next 30 days they’ll ramp up different amounts until they reach the full capacity of about 800 pounds. He believes it’ll take about a year to burn all of the propellant that was improperly stored by Explo Systems.

Schneider says the burn is environmentally friendly.

 

At the request of Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana senators Thursday rejected the public school financing formula proposed by the state education board for next year, which included a $44 Million spending boost. Lawmakers in the current budget year raised funding for K-12 public schools by $44 million outside of the annual financing formula. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, proposed to roll that money into the formula for the 2016-17 school year, to make it a permanent increase.  The Governor however said the state can’t afford that amid ongoing budget. The Senate Education Committee agreed without objection Thursday to the reluctant request of its chairman, Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, to reject the formula.

 

The funeral for WWL Saints Color Analyst and former LSU and Saints player Hokie Gajan, who passed away at 56 from cancer, is today in Madisonville. Sportswriter and Gajan’s former LSU teammate John Ed Bradley say he remembers first meeting Hokie in 1974 when they played each other in a high school football game. He says Gajan was a terror on the field and an overall great guy.  He says Gajan was an original and will be greatly missed by everyone whose lives he touched.

 

A bill to prevent the removal of confederate monuments did not get out of a House committee Thursday. The legislation would create a seven-member statewide board that would get to decide if a monument more than 30 years old should be removed. New Orleans Representative Joseph Bouie says it is currently left up to local municipalities to decide what they want to display, or not display, in their city. He says each city should be able to decide what kind of monuments they want to have.

 

The forecast team at Colorado State University calls for the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane season to be near-average. Research scientist Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the report, says they predict there will be 12 named storms. Klotzbach says the El Nino is dissipating which is why they are predicting a more active season than in 2015, but northern Atlantic Ocean temperatures are still cooler than average. Klotzbach says their next forecast will be out the day hurricane season begins on June 1st.

 

A bill to increase the fines for not wearing a seatbelt has been approved by the House. New Orleans Representative Walt Leger says the current fine of $25 is one of the lowest in the country, and even with an increase to $50 for a first offense, the fine is still lower than many other states. The measure passed on a 62-34 vote and now moves to the Senate.

 

A measure that would allocate 7% of medical marijuana sales to the state ag department cleared it’s first hurdle out of committee today and heads to the House floor. The bill lists fees that would be charged to the state sanctioned medical marijuana grower. Ag Commissioner Mike Strain says he needs new money otherwise he wouldn’t be able to pay for required inspections, lab testing and over site that is mandated in the medical marijuana law.

 

Tax Season is coming to a close, as Tax Day is this Monday. That means there are just a few days left to file federal taxes. Baton Rouge tax preparer Letti Lowe-Ardoin, with the Louisiana CPA society, advises people not to rush, because simple mistakes can be made. Ardoin says people can also miss out on deductions and tax exemptions if they rush through filing. And a reminder, Victims of the recent flooding in the state are eligible for an extension, and those dates can be found at I-R-S-dot-gov.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards will launch a monthly call-in radio show to air on the Louisiana Radio Network. The show will be broadcast statewide, and listeners will have the opportunity to call in and talk one on one with the governor. The show will air the third week of each month. Here in Cenla you can hear the show on 970 KSYL. The first show is next Tuesday at 2pm.

 

A 17-year-old student has been arrested after another bomb threat circulating on social media was made against Ponchatoula High School. Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards says when the boy was questioned, he admitted to sending multiple threats. He was arrested and charged with two counts of falsely stating that a bomb had been placed on school grounds and two counts of terrorizing.

 

Another baby whooping crane has joined the family of endangered birds in Louisiana, as two eggs have hatched in Jefferson Davis Parish this week. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist, Sara Zimorski, leads the whooping crane project that has been working since 2011 to reestablish the birds in Louisiana. Zimorski says this the first whooping crane hatching in Louisiana in 77 years.

 

A mother from Baton Rouge who cops say was driving drunk with her 9-year-old in the vehicle at the time, nearly crashed into a marked police unit. BRPD says 42-year-old Chiquita Chriss was discovered to have a BAC of nearly three times the legal limit. She was booked for DWI and reckless operation.

 

The Saints regular season schedule will be released at 7 PM tonight along with the rest of the NFL teams. New Orleans will play their division rivals twice, and they’ll also have games against the Rams, Seahawks, Lions, Cardinals, 49ers, Giants and teams from the AFC West.

 

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association has called for a special meeting so member principals can vote on a new playoff proposal.  In January, principals voted to expand the public-private school playoff split to more sports than just football. School Relations Committee chairman, Mike Boyer, says the expanded split is causing problems for the LHSAA, so they want to give principals another option. It has not been determined when this special meeting will take place.

 

Saturday afternoon at 3 PM it’s the LSU spring game and we’ll get an idea if the passing game has really progressed. Brandon Harris is the returning starter at quarterback. Purdue transfer Danny Etling is the new back-up QB and Tiger Rag Editor Cody Worsham says fans can see for themselves on Saturday is he’s really a contender for playing time the fall. Worsham says the most interesting aspect of Saturday’s spring game is what will new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s defense look like.

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News for Thursday 041416

By Dave Graichen

 

It is now official. All involved parties yesterday announced the sale of Pineville based Cleco Corp. to an investor group is complete. The group, led by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation and John Hancock Financial, is paying $4.7 billion for Cleco, including assumed and new debt.

 

The RPSO arrested two men suspected of shooting at a parish deputy’s vehicle  early Wednesday morning as he was transporting two men to jail. The incident occurred in the 200 block of 14th street. Sheriff Hilton called the incident “a direct attack” on all law enforcement. Both men were booked into the parish jail and the investigation is ongoing.

 

The APD reports  A 25-year-old man died Tuesday afternoon on 15th Street near Willow Glen River Road after being shot by a 16-year-old. Officers were sent to the area at 5:58 p.m. because of a shooting. They found an unresponsive man, later identified as 25-yearold Artyleus Norris, who was pronounced dead at the scene.. Wednesday morning, the department announced the arrest of the unidentified juvenile, saying that Norris and the teen had been involved in a fight. “During the altercation, the juvenile produced a handgun and shot Norris. The juvenile was charged with one count of second-degree murder and is being held in a juvenile detention center

 

Governor John Bel Edwards has signed an executive order that bans discrimination against members of the LGBT community who work for the state, or who receive state services or benefits.  Patterson says this new order also includes gender-identity, making this the first order protecting transgender individuals in the state. Similar orders were signed by former Democratic governors Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Blanco, but those orders were specific to sexual orientation.

 

A proposed constitutional amendment to allow non-felons to carry concealed hand guns without a permit was shot down by the House Criminal Justice committee. Author of the legislation, Baton Rouge Rep. Barry Ivey, claimed that the bill would not put guns in the hands of criminals. But Victoria Joy with Louisiana Violence Reduction Coalition says it would let people with a dangerous arrest record conceal a gun.

 

Another bill will be heard at the state capitol today that aims to prevent the removal of confederate monuments. A Senate committee already rejected one attempt to create a state board that would decide if a city can take down a confederate statue and a House committee hears similar legislation today. The bill scheduled today in the House Municipal Affairs committee would establish a Memorial Preservation Board that would be in charge of granting a waiver to relocate any monuments that’s been in place for more than 30 years.

 

House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry believes lawmakers can fund the TOPS scholarship program without raising additional taxes. Governor John Bel Edwards proposed budget for next fiscal year calls for a 183 million dollars cut to the state-funded scholarship program, because of a large revenue shortfall. But Henry says the state has enough money to fund TOPS. Governor Edwards says additional revenues are needed to fund all of the priorities in the budget and plans to call another special session as early as June 7th. But Henry says there is no need for another session until at least September. He says the governor is painting the worst picture possible in an effort to increase more taxes.

 

Four of the ten hospitals for the poor and uninsured in Louisiana are at risk of closing because of critical cuts to the state Department of Health and Hospitals. DHH Secretary Rebekah Gee says her department took over half of the 750-million dollars in budget cuts, which means some people may lose access to healthcare. Six public-private hospitals in Louisiana will remain open, but the other four might not.

 

Louisiana has broken the tourism record for the fourth year in a row, according to Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. In 2015, Louisiana welcomed almost 29 million visitors, who spent over $11 billion. That’s almost a 3-percent increase from the previous year.  Nungesser says the state needs tourism dollars to help resolve the budget problems. Nungesser says the money generated through tourism means more tax dollars that don’t come out of Louisianans pockets.

 

The attorney for the family of Will Smith said the former Saints player was shot 8 times in the back, Smith’s wife Racquel was hit twice and that the shooting was intentional. Peter Thomson says he wants to clear up lies being spread by the defense lawyer of Cardell Hayes. Thomson says there was no hit and run on Magazine Street as Hayes is claiming. Thomson says the Hummer later violently rammed the back of Smith’s car, and that’s when he and the suspect got into an altercation. Thomson says Racquel and another woman went to diffuse the situation and walk Smith back to their vehicle…and that’s when the suspect shot Smith’s wife in both legs. Thomson says after the killer shot Smith, he showed no remorse and actually stood over Smith’s dead body and kept yelling.

 

The Senate has approved a bill to increase the fine for texting or using social media while driving from $175 to $500. West Monroe Senator Mike Walsworth added an amendment to the bill to increase the penalties for minors because he says sometimes a fine is not enough to get their attention. The bill now heads to the House for more debate.

 

Another person has died as a result of the truck and lawnmower collision in Rayne. Cops say a vehicle hit the lawnmower that was carrying a person on the hood and pulling a wheelchair from behind. The driver of the mower died on scene. The latest victim is 17-year-old Joshua James Bourque. There is no indication of whether or not someone will be charged in the incident.

 

The LHSAA Executive Committee holds its spring meeting today, and they’ll continue to discuss the expanded public-private school playoff split that’s been in place for football and will impact other sports next school year.

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News for Wednesday 041316

By Dave Graichen

 

The writing was on the wall and yesterday it became official. Dr. Joe Aguillard, former president of Louisiana College in Pineville, has been stripped of the president emeritus title by the school's Board of Trustees. The action cuts ties between the college and Aguillard, who served as president from 2005 until 2014. He was removed from his tenured faculty position earlier this semester.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards told lawmakers yesterday that deep cuts would be spread over several state services under the latest budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1st. The plan says DHH would be reduced by $408 million, TOPS by $183 million, higher ed $46.1 million and 55 million slashed from K-12 public education. Edwards says another special session could come as soon as June 7th..

 

A bill that would require businesses to pay men and women the same for similar work passed in the Senate with a 28-10 vote. New Orleans Senator JP Morrell says studies show in Louisiana a woman makes on average 65-cents to every dollar a man earns. The measure now heads to the House, where it’s expected to face tough opposition.

 

A bill that allows clergy members to refuse to conduct a same-sex marriage passed in a Senate committee. Opponents are concerned about the potential for backlash as religious freedom bills approved in other states have received. But Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson says those bills are much broader than his proposal, which is strictly limited to churches and religious leaders. The Governor supports the bill.  But he says pastors are already protected under Louisiana law. The bill now moves to the House floor.

 

A bill that would allow motorcyclists aged 21 years and older the option to wear a helmet now heads to the full House. Executive Director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission John LeBlanc says if this bill becomes law, he anticipates 128 more deaths over the next 10 years. Governor John Bel Edwards also opposes the legislation.

 

A Senate committee approves legislation that would increase the age to 18 for a suspect to be prosecuted as an adult. Currently, individuals 17 and over are put into the adult criminal system once charged with a crime. Criminal justice expert Ed Mulvey says a 17 year-old offender is better off in the juvenile justice system. The legislation will now move to the full Senate. 17-year-olds who commit serious offenses could still be tried as an adult.

 

Many people are remembering the great life of former LSU and Saints running back Hokie Gajan, who passed away from cancer late Monday night at the age 56. LSU’s all-time leading rusher Charles Alexander played with Hokie for two years in college and says Gajan was the ultimate teammate. Gajan announced he’d been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer near the end of 2015. Funeral arrangements are pending.

 

The Governor’s Office says a more than $1.7 million dollar disaster grant has been given to the state to help provide temporary jobs in the Louisiana parishes devastated by the recent storms and flooding.

 

A recent discovery could change the whole dynamic of the Will Smith murder case. Police say a loaded 9mm gun was found in the former-Saints defensive end’s vehicle. Legal analyst Chick Foret says this could help alleged shooter Cardell Hayes’ defense that he was not the aggressor. Surveillance video also shows that a hit and run that took place prior to the shooting appears to be Smith rear-ending Hayes before driving off.  Foret says there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the circumstances of the incident, especially now that we know there was a gun in Smith’s vehicle.

 

A Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s deputy has been fired following his arrest for allegedly touching a woman in a sexually inappropriate manner while he was on duty. In a release, the sheriff’s office says they received a complaint that Deputy Cody Onxley, while at work, went to the home of the victim under false pretenses and touched her during the encounter. Onxley was charged with sexual battery and malfeasance in office and was terminated from his job.

 

A bill that would allow the sale of raw milk from farmers to consumers is once again set to be heard by lawmakers today, after two failed attempts. Testimony is scheduled for debate in the Senate Health and Welfare committee today. The sale of raw milk stirs up major controversy across the US and has sparked heated debates in the last two years it was brought up to Louisiana lawmakers. Food safety has been cited as the major reason the sale of raw milk on farms is banned.

 

The Pelicans disappointing season ends tonight. The expectation was another trip to the playoffs, instead a mountain of injuries crushed the team’s playoff chances.

 

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News for Tuesday 041216

By Dave Graichen

 

A bill will be heard on the Senate floor today to address equal pay. Governor John Bel Edwards supports the legislation and says Louisiana comes in dead last in the country when it comes to the wage gap between men and women. He says women in the state earn only 65 cents for every dollar a man makes. A study by the National Partnership finds there close to a 17-thousand dollar pay gap per year between men and women.

 

The Edwards administration will also present to lawmakers on Tuesday the proposed budget for next fiscal year. The governor has already described the spending plan as “very sobering,” because of a 750-million dollar revenue shortfall for the financial year that begins July 1st. This means higher ed and health care are subject to more cuts.

 

The Rapides Parish Police Jury gave the Okay yesterday to the purchase of land for a new Gunter Branch library building in the Libuse area. The nearly acre and a half  tract, located on Highway 28 East, will be purchased for $130,000 with library funds. It’s hoped construction, which will begin this summer, will be completed within a year.

 

The APD reports No charges have been filed against a Baton Rouge driver who hit and killed a 19-year-old Alexandria man shortly after 2 Sunday morning on Interstate 49 as he attempted to cross the highway. The investigation into the death of  De’Amante Baylor is continuing, pending an autopsy and “other forensic testing.

 

Four alleged members of the Alexandria-based gang, Triple M Murder Team, made appearances on Monday in 9th Judicial District Court for their arraignments after they were indicted last month. 31 year old Antonio  Boyd, 24 year old Patrick Smith, 23 year old Demetrius  Bryant and 22 year old Teldric Boyd all waived formal arraignments and pleaded not guilty to all charges against them. Pre-trial conferences for all four were set for May 26. The full story is in today’s Town Talk.

 

The House Civil Law Committee will hear testimony Tuesday on the “Pastor Protection Act,” which would allow a clergy member or religious organization to deny participation in a same sex marriage. Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson says the bill should not create a lot of controversy. But Matthew Patterson, with Equality Louisiana says what the bill actually does is give organizations with any sort of religious affiliation to deny service to people in same sex relationships. He says this could include places like hospitals, homeless shelters and food banks that are typically associated with a religious group.

 

The defense attorney in the Will Smith case believes once all of the evidence comes out his client will be innocent. Cardell Hayes has been charged with second degree murder in the fatal shooting of the former-Saint, who was killed after a three-car fender bender turned violent in New Orleans. Attorney John Fuller hopes more details of the incident will come out in a preliminary hearing. Smith’s wife Racquel Smith was also shot, but suffered no fatal injuries. Hayes will reportedly be charged in that shooting as well. Fuller stands by his claims that there was another gun at the scene and Hayes was not the aggressor.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards has declared April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.  According to Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, there were over 12-thousand victims of child abuse and neglect in the state in 2014, the latest year statistics are available.

 

A 4-year-old and a 6-year-old were killed in a four vehicle fatality crash in Livingston Parish Sunday evening. They say a man dropped a trash compactor in a roadway, left it there and returned home. 34-year-old Michelle Ramsey and another vehicle stopped to try to remove the object, when a drunk driver drove through hazard triangles and crashed into five people. The 2 young Ramsey children died on the scene. 4 others were seriously injured, including the impaired driver. The man who dropped the trash compactor was located at his home impaired and was arrested on many charges including vehicular homicide.

 

Southern University will hold a candlelight vigil tonight for the two students that were shot and killed outside of a party near the LSU campus. Interim Athletic Director Roman Banks says 19-year-old Annette January of Indiana was a member of the track and field team and 19-year-old Lashuntae Benton of Lake Charles was a student athletic trainer. He says everyone is having a hard time coping with the deaths of these bright young women. One person has been arrested in connection with the case but no one has been charged with murder of the two girls.

 

A 22-year-old has been booked by Covington Police for his role in the death of a teen who smoked synthetic marijuana. Jabari Pea allegedly sold the drug to two teenagers, and one of them, 17-year-old Alexander Shelby, later died from using the drug. Pes has been charged with second degree murder and is being held in St. Tammany Parish Jail on a $200,000 bond.

 

The family of former Saints & LSU star, Hokie Gajan, says doctors have moved him into intensive care as his battle with cancer intensifies. The Saints color analyst’s daughter, Kristin Gajan Sell, told WWL the hospital staff felt Hokie would be best served with round the clock care and medical attention. The 56-year-old was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in December of last year, and he had to miss the final games of last season as he underwent chemo.

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News for Friday 040816

By Dave Graichen

 

Two bills that attempt to resolve funding problems for TOPS have been approved by the Senate Education Committee. One of the bills would cap the award amount at the current level and would no longer meet tuition increases. Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue says this bill is similar to one that passed last year.  The other approved TOPS funding bill would reduce the amount each TOPS recipient receives in the event the state cannot fully fund the program. Jennings Senator Blade Morrish says this ensures that all of the students who earn TOPS get at least part of their scholarship. Both of these measures now head to the Senate floor.

 

A Natchitoches Parish man who helped many farmers get their cattle to higher ground during the recent flooding was killed yesterday while preparing to herd more cattle while on horseback. Witnesses say 32 year old Todd Roque was attempting to cross Bayou Brevelle, near Melrose, when the horse apparently got spooked and threw him into the water. His body was recovered a short time later. Roque was the father of two.

 

Saturday is election day. Here in Rapides Parish, all 17 elections are tax referendums, including a proposed new half-cent sales tax to provide pay hikes for school employees. In all, 13 of the referendums are for schools, two are for road districts, and two are for fire districts. There are no candidate elections in Rapides Parish. The other area parishes with elections on Saturday are Allen, Evangeline, Natchitoches, Sabine, Vernon and Winn. Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Saturday.

 

A water boil advisory is in effect for the town of Urania. A water main between the water plant and the town broke, resulting in the boil advisory. Until further notice, residents in Urania should disinfect their water before drinking it.

 

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he and state Rep. Jack McFarland don’t yet have the votes to pass a bill that would require Medicaid recipients to provide a copay for services.

McFarland, R-Winnfield, voluntarily deferred House Bill 492 from its House Health and Welfare Committee hearing Thursday after it became clear the bill wouldn’t clear the panel. Providers have lobbied members against copays, saying most will be uncollectable and amount to a Medicaid rate reduction. The Governor believes copays would promote “personal responsibility” and encourage Medicaid patients to seek treatment at primary care providers rather than emergency rooms. McFarland said he plans to bring the bill back for debate before the end of the legislative session.

 

A bill that would extend the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours has been approved by the House. West Monroe Representative Frank Hoffman says women have a lot to consider when making this decision. The waiting period does not apply to women more than 150 miles from an abortion clinic.

 

Louisiana Tech women’s basketball coach Tyler Summit has resigned. There’s been speculation about inappropriate behavior involving Summit and in his statement, the married 25 year-old says he is profoundly disappointed in himself for engaging in a relationship that hurt the people he loves and respects the most.

 

The massive March flooding across the state has cost the agriculture industry up to 15 million dollars. That’s according to LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry, who says corn was impacted the most, as about 40-thousand acres were covered in water and some fields are still underwater. Guidry says about 3 to 4 million dollars in corn was lost.

 

The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival begins today but it wasn’t a great year for strawberries, because of the massive flooding in Tangipahoa and Livingston Parishes last month. Strawberry farmer Eric Morrow says 90% of his crop was damaged and he won’t have much to show for this year’s harvest. Morrow says the rain came at the wrong time and ruined a lot of green fruit.

 

A bill that adds parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities as a firearm free zone passes out of a House Criminal Justice Committee on an 8 to 6 vote. The legislation faces opposition from gun rights supporters.

 

The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is monitoring the deer population for chronic wasting disease, which has been confirmed in Arkansas and Texas. Dr. Jim LaCour with DWF says the disease is a fatal, progressive neurological disease that affects deer, including the white-tailed deer in Louisiana. A big concern is that deer infected with CWD can spread the disease, before symptoms develop.

 

A Natchez Mississippi man is now in custody after fatally shooting his estranged wife and another man multiple times in their Vidalia home while the woman’s two children slept nearby. Vidalia Assistant Police Chief Bruce Wiley says witnesses saw the suspected gunman fleeing the home in the early morning hours on Wednesday. Wiley says 35-year-old Curt Thornton was arrested after a Mississippi police officer pulled Thornton over for riding his motorcycle without a helmet.

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News for Thursday 040716

By Dave Graichen

 

The House Education Committee turned down a bill yesterday to make a TOPS recipient pay back some or all of their scholarship if they fail or withdraw from school.  Hammond Representative Chris Broadwater proposed a bill that would make TOPS a partial scholarship, in which recipients would receive more money each year. That bill also failed to make it out of committee. The committee also rejected a proposal to increase the GPA a college student must achieve to keep their TOPS scholarship.

 

The APD reports one of the four men at large in the "Triple M Murder Team" investigation was arrested on Wednesday around noon. 25 year old Charvick  Rachal was booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center on one count of racketeering. He remains in jail on a $500,000 bond.

 

Authorities in Vidalia have arrested Curt Thornton, the key suspect in the deaths of two people yesterday morning. It’s believed the shooting took place between 3 and  3:30 a.m. Children in the home discovered the victims' bodies around 7 a.m. and called 911.The victims are a male and female, both in their mid to late 30's. Both were found in the living room. The shooting appeared to be the result of a domestic dispute.

 

Two new Zika cases have been confirmed in Louisiana, bringing the total number who have had the infection here to four — and the Department of Health and Hospitals says all have recovered. The CDC told state officials that two Louisiana residents who recently traveled to the Caribbean and South America were found to be infected, but no longer had the virus in their bloodstream. They say there have been no cases of local transmission of the virus in the US. But, health experts expect to see cases when the weather warms up.

 

A bill that would prevent local governments from removing Confederate monuments failed in a Senate Committee Wednesday. Opponents for the legislation believe it shouldn’t be up to the state what happens to city property. Democrats on the panel voted against the bill, while Republicans supported it. The bill failed on a 5-4 vote.

 

A petition on change-dot-org is calling for Natchez, Mississippi, to secede from the state. The idea comes as a response to a bill that allows individuals and institutions with religious obligations to deny services to gay people. Natchez resident Casey Hughes says the petition was mostly a joke, but she wouldn’t mind if her town moved over to the Bayou State. The petition has been signed by almost 700 people.

 

Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser has proposed that Hollywood South shares some of their profits in order to keep the film tax exemptions in place. Nungesser says he hopes to build a partnership with movie producers who come to Louisiana. Nungesser says movies and TV shows have had a good track record in Louisiana, such as Jurassic World and NCIS: New Orleans. He says legislators and producers need to sit down and see what will work and what would not.  Nungesser says he spoke with producers at the Grammy’s in Hollywood, and he says he hasn’t heard a good reason why this would not work out for everyone.

 

A study paid for by the Louisiana Cannabis Association finds medical marijuana use could be a 200 to 330 million dollar industry, if the state loosens its restrictions on who could use the prescription drug. The study also shows medical marijuana could generate between 5 and 13-million dollars in tax revenue, if a four-percent tax was placed on the sale of the product….

 

Search and rescue crews from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries found two 19-year-old off the coast of Cameron Parish yesterday after their boat sank. Shane Martin of St. Martin Parish and Derek Romero of Iberia parish were reported missing Tuesday night. They were both taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries, but Romero did not survive the incident. The cause of death and why the boat sunk are not yet know.

 

A debate is underway on the LSU campus over whether the university should restrict drinking by its students on campus during football game days. LSU is considering several regulations that are designed to crack down on binge drinking and prohibit items like couches, punch bowls, and kegs from student association tailgates.  The proposed new tailgating rules for students will be presented to President F. King Alexander for his consideration.

 

A bill has been filed that would restrict college athletic teams in the state, excluding LSU, from traveling more 375 miles to play in games. The proposed law also does not apply to football or basketball programs or postseason action. The bill’s author, Baton Rouge Representative Steve Carter, says state dollars are scarce and public dollars shouldn’t be used on long road trips for baseball, softball and volleyball teams. This proposal does not apply to playoffs or championship competitions, and teams would be able to attend competitions hosted by opposing schools that pay for travel costs.

 

The 15th ranked LSU baseball team welcomes second ranked Vanderbilt into Alex Box Stadium tonight. Coach Paul Mainieri will start Jared Poche over Alex Lange on the mound tonight. Both pitchers last threw on Saturday, but Mainieri says Poche is more equipped to pitch again on shorter rest. You can hear the game tonight on 970 ksyl.

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News for Wednesday 040616

By Dave Graichen

 

Another national rating agency has dropped Louisiana’s credit rating by one notch, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy. This is the second rating downgrade in just two months, as Moody’s Investor Services lowers the state’s rating in February. These rating determine interest rates so borrowing money could become more expensive for Louisiana.

 

The APD reports, four men still are at large after arrest warrants were served Tuesday morning on members of the Alexandria based “Triple M Murder Team,” a gang that indictments issued last week accuse of being responsible for murders and other violent crimes dating back to 2010. Ten people were arrested, but six of them already were jailed “in various facilities” on other charges. The complete story and a list of those arrested can be found in today’s town talk.

 

Alexandria city employees will get 3 percent pay raises in the new fiscal year that begins May 1. The 3 percent, across-the board raises are included in the 2016-17 budget that was submitted by Mayor Jacques Roy and approved yesterday by the City Council.

 

Five more parishes are now eligible for disaster assistance for residents affected by recent severe storms and flooding. They are Catahoula, East Carroll, Franklin, Lincoln and St. Helena. The Louisiana Workforce Commission says some residents in disaster declared parishes are also eligible for disaster unemployment insurance, but the deadlines to enroll are approaching.

 

Attorney General Jeff Landry says, as so many people in Louisiana are working to put their lives back together following devastating flooding, residents are urged to beware of price gouging. He says it is outrageous and unlawful for merchants to wrongfully profit from the horrific events.

 

A state lawmaker tells higher education officials not to expect any additional revenue and they need to come up with a plan on how to educate our future workforce with existing dollars. Covington Representative John Schroeder says higher education should restructure itself based on the dollars that are available now. Schroeder says after raising hundreds of millions of dollars in the special session, he doesn’t see legislature passing any more tax increases.

 

During a rally yesterday of people with developmental disabilities, Governor John Bel Edwards told the crowd that lawmakers would be back for a second special session to raise more revenue.

 

House Transportation also voted in favor of the REAL ID license bill after almost 2 hours of debate. The vote was 10-5 and now heads to the House floor. A similar bill has already passed in the Senate.

 

5th district US Congressman Ralph Abraham arrives in Cuba today seeking to make Louisiana a trade partner with the island once the U.S. lifts the trade embargo. The Richland Parish Republican says exporting Louisiana rice to Cuba would make a lot of sense for both sides. 

Abraham says beef, poultry, corn, and soybeans will hopefully follow shortly after they secure a deal to send Louisiana rice to Cuba.

 

The House Education Committee meets today to discuss a variety of proposals that would change the TOPS Scholarship Program as we know it. Kenner Representative Julie Stokes has a bill that would make the scholarship a loan that students would have to pay back if they drop out or fail classes. Baton Rouge Representative Barry Ivey has a proposal that would raise the GPA requirement to retain the scholarship once a recipient is in college. The bill would raise the minimum GPA from a 2.3 to a 2.5 for the first year, and from a 2.5 to a 2.75 for the last three years.

 

A rally in support of legislation to have 17-year-olds charged as juveniles rather than adults takes place on the State Capitol steps today. Meg Garvey with the Youth Justice Coalition says Louisiana is one of only 9 states that routinely prosecutes 17-year-olds as adults. Garvey says a 17-year-old in the juvenile justice system could help kids get back on the right track, as studies show convicted teens are 34 percent less likely to reoffend.

 

A Senate Committee has unanimously approved a proposal that would ban the sale of aborted fetal tissue. The bill would create a $5-thousand fine and mandatory 10 year prison sentence for people who sell or transfer organs or other body parts from aborted fetuses.

 

A bill that would allow pets to be buried with their owners failed to get approval from a Senate committee Tuesday. Gerald Melancon, with the Louisiana Cemetery Board, says this proposed law would give cemeteries problems, if the owner never wanted to be buried with the pet, but the family wants it to happen. The author of the bill says he’ll bring the legislation back again next year.

 

LSU Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson says the school is debating whether or not it will grow medical marijuana. Lawmakers gave the ag centers at LSU and Southern the first right of refusal to produce the prescription drug. Richardson says they are considering their options. He says several bills on medical marijuana in this regular session outline the regulations that could help them make a decision.

 

Seat belt fines would double on a first offense under a bill that advances out of the House Transportation Committee. New Orleans Rep. Walt Leger says under this legislation, the maximum fine would be 75 dollars. He feels this would help more people buckle up. The bill moves to the full House.

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News for Tuesday 040516

By Dave Graichen

 

The Rapides Parish Police Jury has decided not to endorse House Bill 11, a bill that would  ban open burning of munitions and toxic waste such as is burned at Clean Harbors Colfax. Opponents of open burning of such toxic waste say it creates air pollution that endangers the health of area residents, especially in a 40-mile radius that would include much of Rapides Parish. The jury was asked by several parties involved with the bill to take a stand on the matter. The jurors did just that. After a discussion jurors let the request to endorse HB 11 die without a vote.

 

An investigation and audit of the Rapides Parish DA’s office has uncovered almost $800,000 in seized funds were not deposited in Rapides DA account. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office began looking into the missing funds after an assistant district attorney reviewed the DA office's asset forfeiture bank account in October 2015. Phillip Terrell, former Pineville city judge who was elected district attorney in 2014 had ordered reviews of each department when he came into office.  The full story can be found in today’s towntalk.

 

A federal judge in New Orleans approves a 20-billion dollar settlement that BP will have to pay for its role in the 2010 oil spill. The oil giant will pay five-point-five billion dollars in civil Clean Water Act penalties and Louisiana is one of five states that will also be compensated.

 

Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser told lawmakers today that he might have to close several state parks and historic sites because of budget cuts to the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. He says with all the money problems Louisiana is facing, the state needs tourism dollars. Nungesser says they are looking into private-public partnerships, naming rights, increasing fees, and even using prison workers to save money.

 

A man and a woman were fatally shot in their Kenner apartment early Monday morning. Three children were also in the home, but they were not hurt. Lt. Brian McGregor with the Kenner Police Department says the discovery was made after one of the children went to a neighbor’s house. He says a 10 year old boy, a two year old and infant were inside the house, but unharmed. The incident is being treated as a double homicide.

 

Today a Senate committee will hear testimony on a proposed bill that would increase the fine for texting or using social media while driving from $175 to $500. Sgt. Nick Manale with Louisiana State Police says distracted driving causes accidents every day. In the House, the Transportation Committee is scheduled to consider a proposal to double the fine for not wearing a seatbelt from $25 to $50 for first offenses.

 

A $20-billion settlement has finally been reached regarding the BP oil spill in 2010. The money will go towards Clean Water Act penalties and to cover environmental damage, and it will be paid out over 16 years. Associate Director of the Tulane Energy Institute, Eric Smith says Louisiana will get some money out of the deal. Smith says with all the uncertainty surrounding the budget, it’s unclear if the money will still go towards the coast.

 

Cops say it was a trio of children who robbed a pizza delivery driver at gunpoint in Houma. Captain Dawn Foret, with the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office, says a 12 and 13 year old were arrested for armed robbery, and a 17 year old suspect, Leroy Miles, is at large. She says anyone with information on the whereabouts of Miles is urged to contact Crimestoppers

 

Authorities say a Sulphur man drowned in the Calcasieu River while participating in a triathlon. Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s office spokesperson Kim Myers says 25-year-old Taurean Blake swam about 100 yards out when he started to struggle. Myers says Blake was revived and taken to the hospital, where he later died.

 

A Senate committee will hear a proposal that would allow people to be buried next to their pets in cemeteries. The proposal by Metairie Senator Conrad Appeal, specifies that pets would have to be interred with their owners in a specific area of the cemetery.

 

A New Orleans entrepreneur has developed an app which consumers can use to find the best price on seafood in town. Sheldon Williams says the Seafood Locator App does the searching for you. Williams says the establishments they work with are mostly in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas, but they are working to get more on board throughout the state. The free app is available on iTunes or the Google play store.

 

Sports..

 

Former LSU star Shaquille O’ Neal has been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. After a stellar career in Baton Rouge, Shaq went on to win four NBA titles and he appeared in 15 NBA All-Star games. O’Neal scored over 28-thousand points during his 20-year NBA career.

 

LSU Coach Paul Mainieri says relief pitcher Alden Cartwright will undergo an MRI after having to leave Sunday’s victory over Auburn. Cartwright through only a handful of pitches, until he felt something pop. The Tigers host Southern tonight night and Colfax native Jesse Stallings will start on the mound.

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News for Monday 040416

By Dave Graichen

 

Seven Louisianans have died in crashes between cars and trains within the last three months. The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission urging drivers to always obey alerts at railroad crossings. Spokesperson Mark Lambert says one of the major causes, motorists get impatient and drive around the railroad crossing arms.

 

During the month of March Shreveport received 12.8 inches, which is the highest amount since 1945 and Monroe set a record with 24.4 inches of rain. Jason Hansford with the National Weather Service in Shreveport says many bayous and rivers are still at flood stage. He says we likely won’t see these levels again during our lifetime.

 

Police are looking for a man after a search warrant led to a gruesome discovery in a Slidell home. Sgt. Daniel Seuzeneau with the Slidell Police Department says 31-year-old Joshua Roques is wanted on multiple charges, including cremating human remains, opening graves and mutilating human remains. He says they believe he may be trying to flee the state.

 

Compliance could be a problem for businesses and vendors as new sales tax laws are now in effect. Jason Decuir, an attorney with Ryan’s tax service, says if vendors don’t collect the right amount of taxes, it will cause problems with the state trying to solve the budget deficit. He says this is difficult for some businesses, because many haven’t had to collect sales taxes on certain items before. Decuir says some businesses will find it difficult to collect the right amount of tax.

 

Amazon has informed Amazon Associates in Louisiana that it’s ending its relationship with them because of a law that now allows the Department of Revenue to collect internet sales tax on purchases. Amazon Associates have their own personal blogs or sites and provide links to Amazon products for consumers to purchase.

 

We are through three weeks of the regular legislative session and it’s been a slow start. The biggest piece of legislation so far has been the minimum wage bill clearing the Senate Labor Committee. Political Analyst Bernie Pinsonat says legislators were burnt out after a tough special session. The regular session concludes June 6.

 

This season’s corn crop is off to a soggy start after record amounts of rainfall during March. LSU Ag Center corn specialist Dan Fromme says it’s been a challenging year so far. He says we’ve seen rain in excess of 20 inches and some corn fields are still underwater. Fromme says this will have a significant impact on the economy. He says the corn that came up early on in the year has been sitting in water for a while. Fromme says there are still a few weeks left to plant corn and the hope is for dry weather.

 

Three proposed bills aim to help ex-prison inmates reintegrate into society are set to be heard on the House floor this week. One would create a certificate of employability that former-felons could show potential employers. Holly Harris, Executive Director for the US Justice Action Network, says people getting out of jail need opportunities to help reduce the recidivism rate.

Another proposal would establish three new “reentry courts” in the state, in addition to 9 that are already in place. The new programs would be established in Houma, Lake Charles, and Livingston. Harris says these programs are essential to criminals who are trying to get their lives back on track.

 

There are only two weeks left until Tax Day, which is April 18, and time is running out to file federal taxes. IRS Spokesperson Lea Crusberg says usually April 15th is the deadline, but those who like to wait until the last minute have a couple of extra days to work with. Crusberg advises people not to get in a hurry filing taxes, because careless mistakes can be made, like forgetting to sign or putting the wrong social security number on their return. She says filing taxes electronically can help avoid these errors. Crusberg says people who make less than $62-thousand a year are eligible for free electronic filing.

 

Governor John Bel Edwards has told state Democratic Party leaders to get behind Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell in the US Senate race.  UL Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross says Edwards endorsement of the populist politician from north Louisiana is a real boost for his campaign. Edwards says Campbell has shown he can win elections when people don’t believe a Democrat can or should win. But Cross says Edwards endorsement does not guarantee a spot in the runoff, because this will be a race that will focus on national issues.

 

Ascension Parish authorities report an off-duty state police detective shot and wounded a man who allegedly broke into his unmarked car and then threatened to shoot him. Sheriff Jeff Wiley said a neighbor woke the detective about 4:30 a.m. Sunday, saying someone was breaking into the officer’s car. He said the neighbor then called the sheriff’s office. Investigators said the detective chased and caught the man, who had several valuable items. Authorities said they struggled and the man allegedly said he was ready to use his gun and reached for his pants pocket. They say that’s when the detective shot him once in the abdomen. He’s recovering at a local hospital.

 

State police are investigating a fatal crash in which a Lafayette Parish sheriff’s patrol car hit and killed a man who was standing in a road late at night. Master Trooper Brooks David (DAHveed) said Saturday that the crash killed 34-yearold Grant Hamilton of Lafayette. He said Hamilton was standing in the eastbound lane of Louisiana Highway 98 when Deputy John Malveaux was driving his fully marked car down the highway for a non-emergency call about 11:45 p.m. Friday. David said Hamilton died shortly after arrival at a hospital.

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News for Friday 040116

By Dave Graichen

 

The bill to increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.00 an hour beginning next year, and then to $8.50 in 2018 passed out of the Senate Labor Committee with a 4-3 vote. Governor John Bel Edwards testified in support of increasing the minimum wage today. Edwards says Louisiana households are unable to afford their basic necessities. He says it’s not just high school and college students who are working for minimum wage. This bill, and a measure seeking equal pay for men and women, heads to the Senate floor.

 

A bill seeking equal pay for men and women in Louisiana has been approved by the Senate Labor Committee. According to data from the US Census Bureau, women make 65-cents for every $1 a man makes, and that gap is even wider for minority women Author of the bill, New Orleans Senator JP Morrell, says this is not acceptable. Governor John Bel Edwards went before the committee to tout his support for the measure. He says women deserve equal pay for equal work to their male counterparts. The National Federation for Independent Business  opposes the legislation.

 

A bill to allow hunters to wear blaze pink in addition to hunter’s orange passes out of the House. Author of the legislation Bogalusa Rep. Malinda White says all this does is give another option that has been proven to be safer. White says the blaze pink attire would be simple and without embellishment to meet the 400 square inches of color requirement. She says pink will stand out in the woods. White says men can wear blazing pink too. The measure heads to the Senate for more discussion.

 

According to the Triple-A, drivers are paying the cheapest quarterly gas prices in 12 years. Americans have saved almost $10-billion on gas this year compared to the same period in 2015.  That, according to the US Dept. Of Transportation, is leading to a record-breaking number of motorists out on the roads. The average price for a gallon of gas in Louisiana is about $1.88.

 

Even though Republican US Senator David Vitter is leaving office at the end of this year, he’s still holding town hall meetings across the state getting feedback from voters. Vitter says the main concern of those he is meeting with is jobs and highway improvements. The senator still maintains that he intends to leave politics once his term ends.

 

Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal entered a plea of not guilty to charges he violated federal civil rights laws. Prosecutors accuse Ackal of ordering the beatings of at least three pre-trial inmates in 2011. Nine of Ackal’s former deputies have already pleaded guilty in the case.

 

Attorney General Jeff Landry says IRS phone scams are once again becoming a big problem in the state. He’s reminding residents that the IRS does not initiate contact requesting information electronically, nor demand payment without first sending a notification by mail.

 

State and local officials broke ground on an 88 acre technology park in Monroe that will feature an IBM facility that will employ 400 workers. The IBM Client Innovation Center will provide software technology services to clients across the US and partner with CenturyLink on research.

 

A bill that would have made it illegal for a business to fire a victim of domestic violence for missing work to take care of court proceedings or seek treatment, stalls in the House Labor Committee. Opponents said this is too over reaching into a businesses own practices. The vote was 6-6.

 

Sports..

 

The 14th ranked LSU Baseball team looks for its first series win in SEC play this weekend as they visit Auburn for a three-game series that starts tonight. The Tigers are 2-and-4 in league play and have lost three of their last four overall. Sophomore right-hander Alex Lange will start tonight on the mound tonight for the Tigers. Airtime 5:30 on 970 KSYL

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News for Thursday 033116

By Dave Graichen

 

The town talk reports an audit of the Pineville City Court released on Monday has found multiple issues, including salary irregularities for former Judge Phillip Terrell, noncompliance with state unclaimed property laws and other questions. Terrell is currently the parish DA. The auditing firm recommended that the Pineville City Court forward the report to the Louisiana Supreme Court for investigation, which is something the court has agreed to do. Find the full story in today’s Town Talk.

 

 

The Senate Labor Committee is expected to hear a proposal today to raise the minimum wage in Louisiana from $7.25 to $8.00 an hour, beginning next year, and then to $8.50 in 2018. State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business Dawn Starns says  once entry-level employees get this pay raise, upper-level employees will expect one as well. She says this will hit smaller businesses’ bottom line, and they just can’t afford that right now.

Governor John Bel Edwards is in support of a higher minimum wage and so is Louisiana Budget Project director Jan Moller. Moller says $7.25 an hour is not a living wage…

 

Tomorrow the state sales tax will increase from four cents to five cents until June 30, 2018. LSU Marketing Professor Dr. Dan Rice expects some people looking to make a major purchase will try to get that out of the way before the increase goes into effect. But he says this likely won’t change consumer’s purchasing habits. State taxes on cigarettes and alcohol will increase on Friday.

 

The House health committee approves a bill that calls for legislative approval to waive work requirements for food stamp recipients. Under federal law, people are required to either work or perform 20 hours a week of community service in order to qualify for food stamps, but that isn’t the case in Louisiana, because it receives a waiver. Monroe Representative Jay Morris says this legislation would require people to work to receive SNAP benefits. The state Department of Children and Family Services recently estimated there are 31-thousand able bodied adults who would lose their benefits, if they were required to find work.

 

It’s the final day at LSU for the legendary voice of the Fighting Tigers, Jim Hawthorne, as he is retiring effective today. Hawthorne has been on the radio call for thousands of LSU events over the past 35 years. He says he has enjoyed his time announcing for the Tigers.

Hawthorne is looking forward to retirement and spending more time visiting his family and traveling with his wife. He says he is just about done cleaning out his office.

 

The St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office has arrested a man accused of murdering his wife and dumping her body in the spillway canal near Palmetto. Sheriff Bobby Guidroz says 52-year-old Sam Clark, Jr. admitted to police he shot 28-year-old Kimberly Perkins Clark twice in the head on the spillway levee bridge. Guidroz says they believe Kimberly Clark was dead for about 12 to 15 hours before her body was found. Clark is charged with second degree murder.

 

A measure to create protection for public school students who are parents or expectant mothers has been passed out of the Senate Education Committee. Metairie Rep. Stephanie Hilferty says statistically only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school and 30 percent of female students that drop out say the reason was due to pregnancy. The bill now heads to the full Senate for more debate.

 

A bill to prevent peeping Toms from using drones to spy on people received unanimous support from the House Criminal Justice Committee. Monroe Representative Marcus Hunter says his bill will somewhat duplicate existing laws by adding the use of an unmanned aircraft to video surveillance crimes. The bill now heads to the House floor for debate.

 

A bill has passed out of the House Health and Welfare Committee that would extend the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. Five other states have similar waiting periods. The only exception is if the women has to travel more than 150 miles to the nearest abortion clinic. No one spoke out in opposition, but pro-choice groups are concerned about hurdles facing women seeking abortions. The bill now heads to the House floor for further consideration.

 

The Senate advances legislation that would make Louisiana in federal compliance with the Real ID Act.  A similar bill received legislative approval last year, but it was vetoed by former Governor Bobby Jindal This year includes language that would give citizens the option. The proposal passed 31-7 and heads to the House

 

Three people from Louisiana serving time for drug-related offenses have had their prison sentence commuted by President Barack Obama. The trio is part of a group of 61 throughout the nation who will all mostly be released July 28th. The inmates from Louisiana are Kevin County of New Orleans, Roy Lee Debose of Shreveport and John E Milton III of Baton Rouge.

 

The Department of Corrections is investigating whether incarcerated rapper C-Murder recorded a new single while in Angola. Corey Miller is serving life at Angola for killing a 16-year-old and the video for a new single, “Dear Supreme Court” appears to have been put together following Miller’s conviction. The investigation remains open because his daughter posted online Miller made it in jail.

 

A Zachary man is dead following a fire in a storage shed where he was living behind a family member’s home, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office. They say the body of 64-year-old George Matthews Jr was pulled from the structure, which had no working utilities, and initial indications are that the victim died of smoke inhalation.

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News for Wednesday 033016

By Dave Graichen

 

As two large weather systems move through the state, the national Storm Prediction Center says Louisiana is one of several states at risk for severe weather today and tomorrow. Forecasters say heavy rain, damaging wind, hail and tornadoes are possible.

 

The Department of Transportation says roadways have suffered nearly 20 million dollars’ worth of damage due to the recent flooding. DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson says it will take a lot of time and effort to fix and maintain the damaged roads. He says they’re currently working to assess the damage and find out how many miles of roadway need to be repaired. Wilson says the state already has nearly a 13-billion dollar backlog on road repairs before the massive flooding created more damage.

 

The chief financial officer for the state’s health department says the expansion of Medicaid would save the state 124-million dollars next fiscal year. Jeff Reynolds says that would help avoid some cuts as a result of a 750-million dollar revenue shortfall, but there’s still a concern about the future of privatized LSU hospitals.

 

A new poll shows Governor John Bel Edwards’ approval rating is at 52-percent. The poll was paid for by Rebuild Louisiana, which is a pro-Edwards organization. The poll also asked respondents about issues the governor is supporting in the regular session. It found nearly 90-percent of respondents favor equal pay for men and women. Additionally, 73-percent support raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour.

 

Two bills regarding abortion are expected to be heard in the House Health and Welfare Committee today. One of the measures would extend the waiting period for a person seeking an abortion from 24 to 72 hours.

 

Starting on April 1st, smokers will pay a $1.08 tax on a pack of cigarettes. A new tax brings the cost of a pack up 22 cents. It’s expected the increase will generate 11 million dollars between April 1st and June 30th.

 

Beginning April 1, the state tax will increase on all types of alcohol by one to two cents per serving. Executive Director of the Beer Industry League of Louisiana John Williams says although the state tax on beer in Louisiana has not been increased since 1948, Louisiana has always had a relatively high alcohol tax. This tax hike is permanent, and it does not have an expiration date like other similar bills that were passed in the special session. The new tax is expected to bring in nearly $5 million between April 1 and June 30

 

Gas prices jumped another penny this week. The current statewide average price at the pump is $1.87, up more than 7 cents from the same time last week, according to AAA.

 

A 60-year-old man from northeast Texas was killed after he was accidentally run over by a dragster driven by his own brother at the Thunder Road Raceway in Gillam. Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Cindy Chadwick says the two were part of a racing crew that was conducting test runs at the park.

 

The US Coast Guard says its investigating the cause of an oil spill from a tank into Bayou Teche in St. Mary Parish early this morning. Some residents were told not to leave their homes following the spill, but the order was lifted hours later. It is not clear at this time how much oil was spilled, but rescue crews deployed more than 200 yards of boom to contain the slick in the water.

 

At the Capitol Monday, a bill that would limit the amount of money the state can spend on art for public buildings received overwhelming approval from the full House and now heads to the Senate. The measure would cap a program that requires 1 percent of the total amount of a construction project go towards art inside or on the ground near the site.

 

State police report a 17-year-old died Tuesday afternoon after being ejected in a crash on La. Highway 372, about five miles south of Oakdale. Derek Dejesus of Oakdale was driving a 2004 Chevrolet Impala when he drove off the road and hit a driveway. The car then flipped, ejecting Dejesus who was not wearing a seatbelt. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Troopers say he most likely would have survived the crash if he had been wearing a seatbelt.

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News for Tuesday 032916

By Dave Graichen

 

The Louisiana Public Service Commission approved the sale of Cleco Corporation Monday, clearing the way for the Pineville-based utility to move from public to private hands.

The 4-1 vote capped a year-and-a-half process reversing the commission’s ruling last month, when it rejected the sale. Commissioner Clyde Holloway, the lone dissenting vote.

 

Drilling activity has hit an all-time low in Louisiana. That’s according to Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. Briggs says 25 rigs are running in the Gulf of Mexico and only five are in operation on land in south Louisiana. With oil trading at around 40-dollars a barrel, there’ s not much hope that rig activity will pick up in the near future. Briggs says this could lead to more layoffs and businesses in the oil and gas industry shutting down.

 

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is threatening a lawsuit involving Louisiana’s Presidential Primary. Trump is upset he won the primary here, but could get less delegates than opponent Ted Cruz. State GOP executive director Jason Dore says Trump & Cruz each have 18 delegates, but there are 10 delegates still uncommitted, which could result in Cruz winning the delegate vote. Dore says they’ve followed the rules when it comes to allocating the delegates.

 

Vernon parish authorities have are holding a Leesville man on $1 million bond in connection with the death of his brother. Deputies responded to a call about an unresponsive man at a home Saturday and found 38-year-old Terry Dubois lying on a floor and family members performing CPR. Deputies say Terry Dubois had gotten into an argument with his younger brother, Christopher Dubois. During the altercation, it is believed that Terry Dubois fell and hit his head causing him to lose consciousness. He died a short time later.

 

Four more parishes have been added to the Presidential Disaster Declaration area, which means victims of the historic flooding are eligible for federal assistance. One of those parishes is Rapides and their homeland security director Sonya Wiley-Gremillion says 60 homes were flooded along the Red River. The other three parishes added to the major disaster declaration are Jackson, Red River and Sabine parishes, bringing the total number of parishes eligible for federal assistance to 30. Gremillion says many of their flood victims still have not begun the clean-up process… Four pumps are being installed to accelerate water removal from Bayou Rigolette and affected communities in Pineville.

 

A report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds Medicaid expansion will improve mental healthcare in Louisiana. Director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services Vikki Wachino says in states where Medicaid was expanded, there was an increase in residents receiving regular preventive care and a decrease in patients skipping medications because of costs. The report says 81-thousand Louisianans who suffer from mental illnesses or substance abuse would likely qualify for Medicaid after the expansion.

 

Hollywood South has taken a major hit over the past year since the legislature passed a measure that puts a cap on Louisiana’s film tax incentives. That’s according to Celtic Media Centre Executive Director Patrick Mulhearn. He says what’s scaring films away is the manner in which lawmakers capped the movie credits. Mulhearn says film executives are choosing to spend their money in states & nations where they know for sure obligations will be honored. He says the biggest film union in Louisiana reports that only 37% of their members are employed right now. Those who support the film industry tax program cap say the tax credits were costing the state more than what it’s worth.

 

A fourth person has died in an ATV accident at Muddy Bottoms Park since it opened nearly two years ago. Webster Parish Sheriff chief deputy Bobby Igo says the latest victim is 40-year-old Alissa Wiley of Dry Prong Igo says no charges have been filed a this time. Muddy Bottoms issued a statement saying they cooperating with law enforcement and their hearts and prayer’s go out to the victim’s family.

 

6 children in Baton Rouge were arrested for allegedly shooting a 44-year-old man multiple times, by more than one child with a BB gun. Police say the victim had to be taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, in the act that appeared completely random. The juveniles were each booked on a count of aggravated second-degree battery and later released to their parents.

 

The Food and Drug Administration is delaying enforcing rules to require chain-restaurants to post a calorie content on their menu until 2017. Pennington Biomedical Research Center Professor Dr. Catherine Champagne understands the challenges restaurants face in posting calorie information on their menu, but it would greatly benefit those who watch their calorie intake. Champagne believes though adding the calorie content of food to menus will be beneficial for all people who care about what they eat.

 

Sports..

 

The LSU men’s basketball program has lost another player to the NBA draft. Point guard Tim Quarterman is forgoing his final season of eligiblity after averaging 11 points, five rebounds and four assists in what was an up-and-down 2015-16 season. Quarterman joins Ben Simmons as two Tigers who have withdrawn from school and are preparing for the NBA draft.

 

Mike Dunleavy Senior is returning to the college game. He’ll be introduced as the new head coach of the Tulane Green Wave today. The 62-year-old will be in charge of a program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1995. Dunleavy was a head coach for four different NBA teams, most recently with the Clippers from 2003 to 2010.

 

The Saints have signed free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairly to a one-year contract. The former first round pick played 15 games last season as a reserve for the Rams and recorded 29 tackles and a half a sack.

 

The LSU baseball team continues to sink in the polls after dropping another SEC series. The Tigers are ranked anywhere from 14th to 20th as they are off to a two-and-four start in SEC play. Scoring runs have been the problem, as the Tigers have only crossed the plate 15 times in six league games.

 

In other college baseball news…ULM’s Brayden Bouchey has been named Sun Belt Pitcher of the week. The sophomore struck out a career-best 12 in seven innings in an outing against Appalachian State. The Warhawks lost that game, but ended up taking two of three for the series.

 

In the Southland…McNeese senior right-hander Kaleb Fontenot is the league’s pitcher of the week. Fontentot threw his second consecutive complete game shoutout as the Cowboys blanked Abilene Christian 3-0.

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