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Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Independent or "No Party" voters is the fastest growing group of registered voters in Louisiana. Schedler says "other" party registration has increased by nearly 75-hundred since last summer.


"When we look from August on, some 51% of the new registrants were not democrat or republican, but other party affiliation. So it's a very significant number and seems to be growing," Schedler said.
 
Schedler says the "No Party" trend is not just happening in Louisiana.
 
"There's more people indicating that they are identifying themselves as independents than anytime we've ever had any recorded data on it, on a national level," Scheder said. 
 
Schedler believes the rise in independent or no party voters is the result of the constant bickering between the republican and democratic party on the national level.  

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According to an LSU Public Policy Polling survey done for the state's film industry, 80% of Louisianians agree it's good for the economy to have movies made here. The survey also found that about half of the public isn't aware that Louisiana is No. 1 in the nation for movie production.


Baton Rouge's Celtic Studios Executive Director Patrick Mulhearn says movies mean jobs.

"People are seeing these jobs and I think it's amazing that one in 10 people either work in the industry or close to someone who is," said Mulhearn.

48% of those polled said they had a positive opinion of the film tax credit program. 

Mulhearn says while not perfect, the tax benefits are helping put money in people's pockets.

"We all know that we're in a bad budget situation this year and I think the film industry is even willing to give a little," said Mulhearn. "We all want this to last for the long term."

Mulhearn says Louisiana has been nicknamed Hollywood South and he believes people like that.

"People are proud of the fact that we're number one at something positive and are a world competitor," said Mulhearn. "We want to keep it that way and stay competitive."

 

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This is National Infant Immunization Week and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals encourages families to get their infants immunized.  DHH Immunization Medical Director, Dr. Frank Welch, says people need vaccinations across their lifespans, but this week the focus is on babies.


"Those children from ages zero to two-years-old, you know that's really when we get a lot of our vaccines, so this is a special week to focus on them."

DHH immunization programs educate parents and health care providers to protect infants and toddlers from vaccine-preventable diseases.  Welch says part of National Infant Immunization Week is encouraging parents to contact their pediatrician to not only make sure their babies are protected, but protected on time.

"Remember, you can only protect yourself against a disease if you get the vaccine before you're exposed to it." 

Welch says vaccinations are safe, effective, and potentially life-saving.  He says the goal is to have 90-percent of children immunized by 2020 and Louisiana currently sits at about 74-percent.  Welch says everyone has an opinion about vaccinations, but in this case you really want an educated opinion.

"The family's pediatrician went to school for the protection of the child, the child's family, and the community." 

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Michelle Southern reporting.
State Police has shared a heartwarming story about their rescue of a dog who was spotted in a swamp under I-10 near I-55 in LaPlace. Trooper Melissa Matey says they were rendering assistance to a stranded motorist who told them there was a trapped dog that was in the swamp below the interstate.


"So troopers of course tried to figure out the best way to get to that dog," said Matey. "They called on some nearby friends at the Cajun Pride Swamp Tours."

Matey says Captain Brandon with Cajun Pride Swamp Tours offered to help out but they realized that it wasn't possible to get a boat to the dog's location due to the area being heavily wooded. 

She says the swamp tour guide then walked about a half a mile through the swamp to get to the animal.

"Captain Brandon worked with the troopers and lowered a rope ladder and an empty ice chest to hoist that dog to safety," said Matey.

Matey says the dog has a severe injury to his front leg and several puncture wounds around his body. She says donations are being accepted and will go to the Jefferson SPCA for the dog's care.

You can find the GoFundMe account like on the LSP Facebook page.

Matey says if you witness someone dumping animals on or near the interstate please let them know.

"If we find somebody that is dumping animals along the interstate, we're going to work with our law enforcement partners and of course with SPCA and will bring animal cruelty charges against that person," said Matey.


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A very good basketball recruiting class for LSU gets better with the addition of Mr. Louisiana Basketball, Brandon Sampson. The MVP in Class One-A this past season signed his national letter of intent to play at LSU on Monday. Tiger Rag Editor Cody Worsham says it's a big pick-up for Coach Johnny Jones.


"He's a really a good player, he's a top 40 prospect and can really score the basketball," Worsham said.
 
Sampson averaged nearly 16 points a game as he led Madison Prep High School to the Class One-A Championship.  
 
"He can step in and be a threat from the perimeter for LSU immediately. He needs to bulk up a little bit, still a little slim, but he'll do that in the offseason and be a ready made scorer from day one," Worsham said.
 
Sampson adds to a class that already boasts the nation's number player in Ben Simmons, plus five-star guard Antonio Blakeney along with Arizona transfer Craig Victor. Worsham says expectations will be high for men's basketball at LSU next season. 
 
"It's certainly a tournament team, it's a team that's expected to compete for an SEC title, a Sweet 16 and possibly a Final Four," Worsham said.  
 

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A procedural effort to have an anti-Common Core bill bypass the House education committee for a hearing by the full House was defeated Monday. Lake Charles Representative Brett Geymann made a motion to move House Bill 373 directly to the House floor, because the House Education Committee is considered a pro-Common Core panel. But Geymann couldn't get enough support. 

"I oppose this motion and ask you to let that committee give these people a fair hearing," Hammond Representative Chris Broadwater said. "We will meet as long as long as they want to meet, if they want to go 40 hours straight, I'll sit in that chair and listen." 
 
Geymann's motion failed on a 62-36. Analysts say this was a test vote, which is not good news for those looking to scrap the controversial education multi-state standards in English and math.  

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Michelle Southern reporting.
A bill that would taper off the transfer of money from the state's road and bridge fund to state police clears the House appropriations committee. The measure would limit the of dollars going to LSP from the Transportation Trust Fund to $40 million starting in July, then $25 million next year and $10 million in future years.


Lafayette Representative Terry Landry is the bill's author. 
 
"I'm coining it as putting the trust back into the Transportation Trust Fund," said Landry. "Because throughout this state the common theme is that legislators have raided the fund for other needs."

Landry, a former state police commander, says he would never do anything which would adversely impact that agency, but robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a good way to do business.

"Because Paul is going to be left without, and in this instance it's our highway trust fund. We're 12 billion dollars behind," said Landry.

The proposal now heads to the House floor for further consideration. 

Landry says right now the state diverts about $65 million a year from the Transportation Trust Fund to state police. He says citizens are demanding improved travel conditions in Louisiana.

"There is not going to be any appetite in this state for any public partnerships, any new taxes or any new initiative until we restore the trust in the public on the Transportation Trust Fund."


 

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US Senator David Vitter announces that he has raised over $5.2 million in his bid to become Louisiana's next governor.  More than $1.1 million dollars was raised in the first quarter of 2015 and the campaign reports it has $4.2 million in cash on hand.  


ULM Political Science Professor Joshua Stockley says Vitter is off to a good start.
 
"I suspect, if any candidate wants to have an overwhelming edge, while $4 million is a good start, they will probably want a total by the end of the year of $10 to $15 million."

Vitter held a commanding lead among announced gubernatorial candidates in fundraising at the end of 2014 with $4.1 million raised.  Stockley says Vitter has an edge over the other candidates because he's been able to establish relationships with interest groups across the nation over the last 10 years as a US Senator.

"That gives him an advantage over Scott Angelle, Jay Dardenne, and John Bel Edwards because their political experience is a little bit more tied to Louisiana."

The Vitter campaign announces they had over 2400 contributors this quarter.  With about six months before the election, Stockley says it is possible for the other candidates to catch up to Vitter's fundraising efforts.  He says they need to distinguish themselves from Vitter and use their differences to impress local groups.

"We have a very active oil and gas industry, we have an environmental industry, we have a business industry, health care, electric; the money isn't all in Washington, DC." 

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Michelle Southern reporting.
Gas prices have been steadily increasing over the past week. According to Gasbuddy.com the current statewide average for a gallon of regular is $2.23. Senior Petroleum Analyst Gregg Laskoski says what we're paying at the pump today is 6 cents higher in Louisiana than this time last week.


"And the reason for this seems to be the sharp increase we saw in crude oil prices last week," says Laskoski. "We started the week around $52 a barrel and ended at $57 and change."

Laskoski says the good news is that prices today are about $1.24 less than what we were paying a year ago. 

He says part of the reason for the increase this week in crude oil prices is an overreaction by traders to data that came out from the Department of Energy showing a bump in inventory.

"At the same time we see oil production kind-of flattening out somewhat, and that seems to be what's pushing the price of crude to the highest level that we've seen so far this year," said Laskoski.

Laskoski believes over the next few months there will be more downward pressure on the market than upward pressure.

He says if that happens the price at the pump would start going down again, if not in the next few weeks at least by late May, early June as we get into peak summer driving season.

"So I don't think we're going to see a long summer of rising prices," says Laskoski. "I think we're going to see a summer of moderating and declining prices."
 
 

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Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and a documentary filmmaker says the event and aftermath are still affecting people who were involved.  Margaret Brown, director and producer of the documentary "The Great Invisible", says it was difficult to hear stories from workers on the rig who are still suffering from nightmares and PTSD.


"These rig workers who had been so impacted and hearing their stories, which are included in the film, it's very emotional and it's just hard to listen to."

But she says these stories are important for people to hear.  "The Great Invisible" airs tonight at 9:30 on LPB.  Brown says her documentary explores how this disaster has affected more than just the oil industry.

"You get to, like, ride around the Gulf Coast in a truck with a man named Roosevelt Harris, who gives us a look at how fishermen are impacted."

Brown, a native of Mobile, AL, says seeing the impact the oil spill had on the Gulf Coast was both fascinating and sometimes really sad.  She traveled to small towns and cities to explore the lasting legacy of the disaster on the Gulf Coast region.  Brown feels more should be done to prevent another disaster like this.

"The fact that there hasn't been any kind of legislative change to make sure this doesn't happen again is another thing people should know." 

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Today marks the five year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon spill, which is considered America’s worst environment disaster ever. An estimated three to four million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf for 87 days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
 
But LSU department of environmental sciences professor Ed Overton is impressed with how well the Gulf has bounced back.

"It maybe what 85, 90, 95 (percent) depending on who you talk to, but it's so, so, so much better than what it was 2010, it's just almost unbelievable," Overton said.
 
Overton says we’re lucky the oil that discharged from the damaged well was highly degradable and the gulf is well acclimated to degrade oil. 
 
"So when a big spill when it comes like the Macondo spill then these bacteria get into high gear, they start multiplying, degrading the oil," Overton said. 
 
Overton also says it doesn’t look like there’s been a lasting impact with the shrimp and crab populations. But scientists have recorded an increase in deaths for dolphins and sea turtles. Overton says the higher morality rate for dolphins began before the spill and he doesn’t think the spill will wipe out the sea turtle population. 
 
"It's not ongoing damage, but it was damage that occurred in 2010 and we are now observing that damage," Overton said. "It might take awhile for the turtle population to bounce back."  
 
 

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This week lawmakers will begin public hearings on how to deal with the state's $1.6 billion budget deficit. Legislation that would raise more revenue will get its first hearing today in the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee.  

Governor Bobby Jindal says dealing with this deficit is complicated, but feels conversations so far have been very positive.
 
"I think there is a broad consensus that we need to balance without raising taxes, but we also need to go after some of this corporate welfare and that we also need to do what we can to help protect higher education and health care."

The House Ways and Means Committee will begin hearing tax bills tomorrow.  One proposed tax to generate more revenue that has received a lot of talk would raise the cigarette tax in Louisiana to the national average.  Jindal says he remains opposed to raising taxes, but recognizes that the state tax code is not written in stone.

"We understand if legislators want to look at, perhaps, raising rates in one area and lowering them in others.  We're fine considering those possibilities and looking at those different combinations."

Jindal says he would support raising taxes in one area as long as there are tax cuts to offset the increase.  He says the state could raise over half a billion dollars by taking away refunds given to businesses for 12 different taxes.  Jindal says it would be wrong to protect these tax credits and then make deeper cuts to higher ed and health care.

"Let's make it clear, they're paying zero in taxes and then they're getting money back on top of that, to me that's a government expenditure.  And that's worth looking at, especially if it can help us to protect higher education and health care." 

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Michelle Southern reporting.
The chairwoman of the Louisiana House Transportation Committee proposes a one cent sales tax that could generate $7 billion dollars over the next decade to help fund roads and bridges. Pierre Part Representative Karen St. Germain says the state needs to free up money needed for preservation and maintenance because we need to take care of what we have.


"We need to find some new revenue to get this backlog and also move to the next century," said Germain.

Germain also has a bill that would increase the state tax on gasoline based on the price at the pump to help offset depletion of revenues that are supposed to be dedicated to improving highway capacity and infrastructure.

She says the $12 billion dollar backlog of construction and capacity projects all over the state is not a DOTD problem.

"It's a problem that we haven't kept up with construction costs," said Germain.

Germain says the state is facing serious problems and current revenue sources will never provide enough funding to keep up with needed highway construction much less address future needs.

She says there are many important issues being discussed this session and this should be one of them.

"Healthcare and education are so important but you need roads to get there."


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A new poll on the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire says Governor Bobby Jindal is someone to keep an eye on after receiving the best favorability rating out of all the presidential hopefuls.  Tom Jensen with Public Policy Polling says Jindal's favorability rating was 43-percent.  


He says it really stuck out on this poll
.
 
"I think a lot of pollsters haven't been including Bobby Jindal in their polls because earlier he was doing so poorly.  But these numbers suggest that maybe we should put him back in."

He says these new favorability numbers could see Jindal's name thrown back in the mix.

"There's a new person who's always showing up in last place, which is Rick Perry.  I think in the next few weeks, we may swap out Rick Perry for Governor Jindal and just see where he is."

Jindal will speak this weekend at the Republican Leadership Summit in New Hampshire which features other potential presidential candidates.  Jensen says Jindal's stock could rise even more if he touts his conservative agenda at this event.

"That really resonates with these primary voters when you've already shown in an executive position that you can really, sort of, advocate for conservative principles."

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Oilfield services giant Schlumberger has announced plans to layoff approximately 11,000 additional employees due to the reduction in oil prices.  LSU Economist Loren Scott says oil companies are dealing with oil prices roughly half of what they were a year ago and they're asking these service companies for a break in the fees they charge.


"And so, these companies have been saying, 'Well shoot, the only way we can do this is to lay some people off.'  So that's part of what's going on."

He says the drop in oil prices has led to a decline in exploration and production, mainly on land rigs.  When those rigs aren't drilling, there is less need for service companies.  Scott believes a majority of these layoffs will occur in states that depend on drilling on land.

"My expectation is that most of these layoffs are going to occur in other major shale plays like the one in North Dakota, Colorado, Texas, and Pennsylvania."

In January, Schlumberger announced they were reducing their workforce by 9,000 employees.  There is some land drilling in northwest and eastern Louisiana.  But Scott says since most of Louisiana's oil and gas jobs are offshore, the extent of the layoffs should be less here.

"The deepwater Gulf of Mexico really doesn't respond very quickly to changes in the price of oil because they like have five to ten year planning horizons."

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The number of Formosan subterranean termites are rising in Louisiana and homeowners should take precautions against them.  LSU AgCenter Entomologist Gregg Henderson says these termites build shelter tubes as they move up a home's foundation.


He says if you think your home may have termites, you should get an inspection or inspect the home yourself.
 
"Walking around the house looking for those shelter tubes.  Trying to keep mulch away from the foundation so you can see the foundation so you can see those shelter tubes should they come up."

Henderson says if you do find termites in your home, you should call a pest control operator to get rid of them.  May is the beginning of the swarm season for these Formosan termites.  He says one way you can help prevent an infestation is to change the lighting around your home.  Henderson says most insects are attracted to the blue spectrum of light.

"And yellow lights and red, insects can't see very well. So you're not going to pull termites into the light at your house if you're using yellow lights."

He says the movement of infested wood-based items is the primary method of distribution of these termites.  Henderson says these pests are responsible for more than $300 million in losses a year in the Greater New Orleans Area alone.  He says it's definitely important to check any trees around your home for termites.

"Because they nest in trees, as well as homes.  And often trees are not looked at for termite infestation." 

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The St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office says it appears the motive behind the shooting ambush of one of their deputies Thursday stemmed from a man upset over traffic. 56-year-old John Paul Devillier, a native of the parish but resident of Gulfport, has been identified as the shooter. 


Sheriff Greg Champagne says 36-year-old Cpl. Burt Hazeltine was directing buses near a school crossing.

"Mr Devillier had to wait for traffic for a while, and for whatever reason became agitated," said Champagne. "We believe that the deputy didn't get out and stop traffic for him."

It's expected Devillier will be charged with attempted first degree murder.

Champagne says Hazeltine was confronted by the suspect who left the scene then returned to a nearby gas station and began dangling a gun out of his truck.

"At almost the same instant he began firing with the other hand through his windshield at Hazeltine," said Champagne. "Deputy Hazeltine was able to return fire and was struck himself three times."

Champagne says Hazeltine was hit three times and one of the bullets got lodged behind his left eye which he may never see out of again. He says Devillier has a violent past including getting fired from a TSA job in 2013 for conduct unbecoming.

"We understand that he was living at a hotel room in Gulfport," said Champagne. "He has been previously been arrested for domestic violence and aggravated assault."

 

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Michelle Southern reporting.
Even though Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson says he plans to amend the controversial religious freedom bill, critics are not backing down in opposition. Forum for Equality Director Sarah Jane Brady says the gay and transgender community in Louisiana already doesn't have protections when it comes to housing and employment at the state level.


"And while we continue to work to rectify that situation, this bill would not give the state any ability to have any form of action on behalf of its citizens," said Brady.

Some lawmakers criticized the bill in its original form saying it was so broad in protecting any belief about marriage which could mean many things. 

Johnson announced he's going to change the measure to designate the "institution of marriage" as the "union of one man and one woman." 

Brady says the intent of HB 707 has always been to discriminate against the LGBT community.

"And we need to start recognizing that these bills, whether they pass or they don't pass," says Brady. "Harm our state, its image and continue to tell the rest of the country that we're not welcoming of all people."

Governor Bobby Jindal says one of his priorities this session will be the push for this religious freedom bill. He says the measure is narrowly focused on making sure the state can not discriminate against businesses for their religious belief in traditional marriage.

"It's hard for me to see how anybody would be opposed to that," said Jindal. "I wanna hear people make the case why they think the state should sanction a Christian for their beliefs."

Jindal says he can't see how someone can make the case that the state should intervene on someone's personal religious beliefs.

"I'd like to hear the other side come to the table and say the state of Louisiana should discriminate, be able to sanction, take away licenses and financially punish someone because they have a traditional view of marriage."
 
 

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Governor Bobby Jindal has been criticized by some for a fiscal policy based on Grover Norquist and the Americans for Tax Reform.  But Jindal says he's always been a supporter of no new taxes on Louisiana residents.


"We've been consistent about that for seven years.  It shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody that in my eighth year as governor we would continue to be opposed to raising taxes."

Americans for Tax Reform states that it opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle.  Jindal feels it would be a mistake to raise taxes, even as the state faces a $1.6 billion budget deficit.  He says the improvements to the state's job market and economy didn't come by accident.

"We got here because of fiscal responsibility.  We got here because we held the line on raising taxes.  We cut government spending."

Although he agrees with ATR's stance on not raising taxes, Jindal says he has been opposed to tax hikes since he ran for governor back in 2003.   The governor says fiscal responsibility by cutting government spending may not be popular, but it is the right thing to do.

"I think it's positioned Louisiana very well in terms of our economic growth, our job growth.  Our per capita income ranking is higher than its ever been before."

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Michelle Southern reporting.
The St. Charles Parish Sheriff's office says a deputy directing traffic at a school crossing in Paradis was shot multiple times in an apparent ambush. Captain Pat Yoes says the victim was helping buses make their way off of Highway 90 around 8:50 Thursday morning when the incident took place.
 
The deputy is identified as 36-year-old Corporal Burt Hazeltine, a married father of four. 


"It was an apparent ambush from an individual sitting in a pickup truck at the TimeSaver," said Yoes. "He was shot multiple times."

Yoes says a passerby drug the deputy behind the police car to safety. He says when other deputies arrived the suspect dropped the gun.

"We were able to apprehend the perpetrator and the deputy was rushed to University Hospital," said Yoes.

Authorities say the deputy is currently in stable by guarded condition.

Yoes says there was an exchange of gunfire and the suspect's vehicle was hit several times, but there are no other injuries in this incident. He says the shooting appears to be completely unprovoked.

"The deputy was just directing traffic and helping buses off the roadway."

More details will be released as they become available.


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