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Beginning today, able-bodied food stamp recipients without dependents will be required to participate in job-training if they do not work or go to school. DCFS Deputy Assistant Secretary, Sammy Guillory, says the requirement could be different on a case by case basis.

“Depending on that person’s education and work experience, they’ll place them in proper activities. It could be something like work experience programs. It could be placing them to get a high school diploma or GED,” Guillory said.

Guillory says this is the first statewide work initiative for SNAP recipients, as only five parishes had the requirement before the governor’s executive order. He says this requirement will help people who are able to transition off the assistance program.

“Our job is to help people when they need the assistance. Ultimately our goal it to help those same people become self-sufficient,” Guillory said.

Guillory says this new requirement will affect about 52,000 food stamp recipients. He says not participating in the job training could have consequences for those who depend on the SNAP assistance.

“If they do not participate with workforce commission and then we contact them and they do not have a good reason for not participating, then they could lose their SNAP benefits,” Guillory said.

 
 
 

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The state’s newly expanded Medicaid program goes into effect today, and the Louisiana Department of Health says some people may be able to see a doctor for the first time in their lives. Secretary Rebekah Gee says the expansion will improve health outcomes for Louisiana residents.

“There are patients that have waited. They put off surgery for issues that were very important to them and their health. They just couldn’t afford it, and I know that people have already scheduled some surgeries for today, for July 1,” Gee said.

Gee says people who have not already enrolled can do so at healthy.la.gov. She says this expansion means more people will have access to cancer screenings, medication, and primary care physicians. She says it changes the dynamic of the insured population in Louisiana.

“Now being a state where the majority of people are insured, versus a state where we had a significant number of people who were uninsured,” Gee said.

Gee says the expansion also has a lot of economic benefits for the state, including brining more federal tax dollars to Louisiana and boosting revenue at hospitals and clinics.

“We not only have saved $184 million in next year’s budget by expanding Medicaid, but we will be having at least a billion dollars in new revenue,” Gee said.

 
 
 
 

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Summer is upon us and many people will be out enjoying the water, so the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is giving out some tips on what to do in the event of an alligator encounter. LDWF Alligator Program Manager Edmond Mouton says whatever you do, don’t feed or approach alligators.

“If you do start feeding alligators in a specific area they become accustom to humans and associate it with food and lose their fear of humans and they can become aggressive.”

Mouton says use common sense if you see an alligator. He says if you see an alligator in an area that could pose a public safety hazard, call LDWF immediately because state law prohibits taking it into your own hands.

“It’s illegal and it’s really unsafe for individuals to possess or move alligators on their own. They’re not licensed too and they’re not professionals.”

Mouton advises Louisiana residents to visit LAgatorprogram.com to learn more about what to do when encountering an alligator and the history of the reptile.

“To just become better informed about our whole alligator program, it doesn’t just describe nuisance alligators, it gives some biology and the different types of programs we have related to the alligator industry.”

 
 

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The state’s highest court has suspended two 18th District judges without pay, due to misconduct. Judge Robin Free and Judge James Best’s region covers Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge parishes. Judge Alvin Batiste, who also handles cases in that district, said anytime a judge is punished, it is serious.

 
"We are governed by the Code of Judicial Conduct and take an oath of office, we have an oath sworn to abide by that code."
 
The Supreme Court suspended Free for a year for four violations — including interrupting a meeting between prosecutors and a victim’s family, and making in appropriate comments. Best was suspended 15 days for ending probation early for a sex offender who was a friend. Batiste says this is a lesson learned for, not only his two colleagues.
 
"But for all of us as judges around the state as to what is expected and what is acceptable."
 
 
 

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The Revenue Estimating Conference learned today that lawmakers raised $371 million dollars in revenue that can be used in the budget year that begins Friday. But Ron Henson with the State Treasurer’s Office says there are still concerns that Louisiana won’t be able to pay its bills until taxes are collected and it’s possible state government will have to borrow money.

 
"Line of credit, we could enter into an agreement with a financial institution then we'd only draw down as much as we had to have and that would save interest expense."

Cuts will still need to be made on government services when the new fiscal year starts tomorrow, but the concern is that there will be a deficit in the current year that would carry over. Henson says even with the work that the legislature did in the two special sessions, there are still major money problems ahead.
 
"We feel comfortable that we can deal with it but I haven't been quite this concerned since I've been in the treasurer's office for sure."
 
 
 

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Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal is accused of calling a federal prosecutor in his pending civil rights case a “sorry son-of-a-b***h” and an anti-Semitic slur in a secret recording. Prosecutors filed a motion to have the audio presented to a jury in Ackal’s trial. Legal Analyst Tim Meche says there are two ways to look at this.

“Whether or not it’s relevant, whether or not it will inflame the jury and be so prejudicial. The second is whether or not they obtained the recording legally.”

Meche says Ackal did not know he was being recorded when he made anti-Semitic remarks about the federal prosecutor, who is assumed to be Mark Blumberg. He says permission must be given when being voice recorded.

“But if one person consented to the recording, that’s legal in Louisiana and if that’s how they obtained it then it was legally obtained.”

The prosecutors want to use the audio to put new conditions on Ackal’s bond, like avoiding contact the alleged victims in the case, refraining from excessive drinking of alcohol and being subject to unannounced home inspections. Meche says it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the court of public opinion.

“While normally, this statement would be prejudicial, unfortunately, many of his potential jurors might agree.”

 
 

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Police say three suspects are in custody in relation to the fatal armed robbery at a Raising Cane’s in Kenner. Kenner Police Chief Michael Glaser says 24-year-old Mark Crocklen Jr. turned himself into police when he learned that 21-year-old Taylor Friloux had died.

“He said he agreed to participate in a robbery but not a homicide. So that’s when he contacted the sheriff’s deputies and came back to Kenner and laid out the whole plan,” Glaser said.

Glaser says Crocklen came forward after 23-year-old Joshua Every was already in police custody. Glaser says they also have another suspect in custody, and police are still searching for one more. Glaser says both Crocklen and Every have been charged with first-degree murder, but the third suspect has not yet been charged. He says the only inconsistency in the stories police have heard is who did the stabbing, but the video clearly shows what happened.

“As they were making their escape, one male ran out, she collapsed on her back, and as the second man was fleeing the store, stopped and stabbed her several more times as she lay motionless on the floor,” Glaser said.

Police say Friloux was stabbed 8 times. Glaser says she initially resisted opening the door for them men but was forced to when she was stabbed in the chest. Friloux’s mother spoke at a press conference saying she doesn’t understand how someone could do something like this.

“I just want to know why. I mean, if you’re going to rob a place, take the money and go, but why? Why such a vicious act? I want to know if there was more to this,” Friloux’s mother said.

Police say this was a planned robbery, and over $1,000 was stolen.

 
 
 

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An officer-involved shooting in Monroe left one suspect dead in the overnight hours. State Trooper Michael Reichardt says police responded to a domestic violence call just after midnight, but the suspect was not there when they arrived. He says Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Deputies found the suspect at another residence.

“The suspect came to the door and then slammed the door in the deputy’s face. They re-knocked on the door, advised that they were the sheriff’s department needing to talk to the suspect. He opened the door brandishing a weapon,” Reichardt said.

Reichardt says the deputies took cover under the carport. He says they told the suspect multiple times to drop his weapon.

“While they were pleading with the guy to drop the weapon, he did point the weapon at the deputies. They fired their weapons, shot the suspect, and he died on scene,” Reichardt said.

Witnesses reportedly heard 8 to 10 gunshots, but police have not confirmed how many shots were fired. Reichardt says the deputies were not harmed in the incident, and the investigation is ongoing.

“The officers involved last night are fine and we’re not releasing their names or the suspect name at this time,” Reichardt said.

 
 
 

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The second special session ended a week ago today, and lawmakers proposed several constitutional amendments to be decided by voters in November. President of the Public Affairs Research Council, Robert Travis Scott, says there will be six changes on the ballot in the fall. He says one of them would change the state’s corporate income taxes.

“It would no longer allow corporations to take a deduction on their income tax for the federal taxes that they pay,” Scott said.

Scott says in exchange, companies would get a lower flat tax. He says the highest corporate tax is currently about 8%, and this would lower that to about 6%. He says another amendment would affect those who have lost a spouse in the line of duty.

“One of the constitutional amendments basically says you can get a property tax exemption if you are the widow of someone who has died in the line of duty,” Scott said.

Scott says one proposal would no longer allow the legislature to set tuition at colleges and universities, and that power would go to higher education boards instead. He says some of the amendments are rather technical, so voters need to do their homework.

“This is one of those times when you don’t want to go into the voting booth not prepared. You want to have some idea of what these amendments are actually going to do and not do,” Scott said.

 
 
 

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A statewide campaign begins today that seeks to reduce drunk driving this Fourth of July weekend. Jessica Bedwell with the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission says the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign will include multiple enforcement efforts aimed at keeping drunk drivers off the road. She says this risky behavior can result in more than just a DWI.

“Buzzed driving is drunk driving. So driving after consuming any amount of alcohol can lead to disastrous consequences, and we all have to do our part to prevent these tragedies,” Bedwell said.

Bedwell says they also ask people to eliminate distractions while behind the wheel and focus on driving safely. She says they want everyone to enjoy the weekend, but they ask that they have a plan to get home safely before the party begins.

“We ask that they designate a sober driver or use public transportation, and if you see a drunk driver on the road, please contact police,” Bedwell said.

Bedwell says they are expecting increased traffic on the roads this weekend. She says there are usually more cases of drunk driving when the holiday falls on a day that gives people a long weekend.

“During the 2014 extended Fourth of July weekend, we had 112 people injured and 8 people killed in vehicle crashes involving alcohol,” Bedwell said.

 
 
 
 

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Starting today through Monday, more Americans than ever are expected to be hitting the road for the 4th of July weekend. AAA Spokesperson Don Redman says close to 43 million people will be traveling over the holiday, which is five million more than Memorial Day.

He says it’s going to be a very busy time on the roadways.

“The most popular mode of transportation of course is the vehicle with about 84% of everyone who is going to be travelling this holiday by wheels. So that makes about 36 million people going to be on the road this holiday.”

Redman says the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the state is $2.10, we haven’t seen prices this low since 2005. He says the entire country has saved about 60 billion dollars that would normally have gone into the gas tank.

“You’re seeing people, especially families, welcome relief at the gas pump and they’re able to use that money for their vacations and other expenses.”

Redman says if you’re traveling by car try to leave before and after peak times. He says even though many people are hitting the roads over the long weekend, some Americans are using alternate means of transportation.

“8% are traveling by airline, and almost about 8% by other means of transportation, which means trains and buses but also means cruises. So it’s well divided.”

 
 
 

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Three of the major Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter appeared at a debate in Baton Rouge to discuss why they should be elected on November 8th. Congressman Charles Boustany says he wants to create a better sense of trust between the people and government. He says it’s time to get serious about solving Louisiana’s problems.

“I’m an experienced at this, it’s not a time to put a rookie in this position. It’s time to put somebody who has had a record of getting results and who can really ensure that Louisiana has a leadership seat at the table.

Democrat Foster Campbell apologized for not being able to attend the debate. Congressman John Fleming says he has a record of fighting for what the people of Louisiana want. He says it’s time for Washington to start listening.

“We’re going to turn this country in the right direction and we’re going to see lower taxes, we’re going to see a new healthcare system, and we’re going to see 4.5% -5% growth rates.”

State Treasurer John Kennedy says government is too big and plans to give the power to the people. He says he is strong enough to go to Washington and take his country back.

“I believe that American’s best days lie ahead, we just have to remember who we are as Americans. I’m not part of the club in Baton Rouge, I know that’s a shocker for you, I won’t be part of the club in Washington DC.

 
 

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Today the Louisiana Interstate Highway System turns 60 years old and the Department of Transportation has released a state of the interstate report. DOTD Secretary Sean Wilson says our system is very valuable, effective but sometimes over capacity. He says if we want to keep up our interstate we’re going to have to make some improvements.

“If we want to invest and maintain this system and leave a network of connectivity, we’re going to have to make some serious investment.”

But Wilson says we have an interstate system we can be proud of. He says only 26% of the pavement is in poor or mediocre condition.

“The pavement condition of our interstate is in very good condition, not perfect. We’ve got several stretches that are in need of repair that we have concentrated on and we’re going to continue to work and maintain.”

Wilson says they’re going to work on improving parts of I-10 and I-20 to make room for more travelers. He says travel has increased by 43% on Louisiana’s interstates from 2000 to 2014.

“We are growing very quickly in this state and the numbers show it, we are number 4 now in the country for vehicle miles traveled.”

 
 

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Inspector General Stephen Street has announced that a film company claimed over $1 million in fraudulent tax exemptions in Louisiana. Street says Horizon Entertainment and Productions claimed excess expenses in the 2011 filming of The Sean Payton Show and the documentary Saintsational.

“There were numerous expenses that were submitted to the state of Louisiana that were either inflated, undocumented, or in some cases never occurred at all,” Street said.

Street says Horizon performed 263 online wire transfers in one day. He says the amount was never more than $39-thousand, but they did it enough times that it amounted to over $2 million in transfers, which they claimed as expenses in their tax credit application.

“I liken that to taking money out of your right pocket, putting it in your left pocket, and then claiming to the state of Louisiana that you spent that money,” Street said.

Street says his office is recommending additional changes to the state’s film tax credit program to prevent fraudulent claims because Louisiana cannot afford it.

“The state has very little revenue and certainly not enough to go around to fund these basic services, and we can’t let in this case over a million dollars in tax credits were issued that never should have been issued,” Street said.

Horizon denies doing anything wrong.

 
 
 

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An armed robbery at a Raising Cane’s in Kenner left a 21-year-old dead from multiple stab wounds. Police say the robbery happened just before 1:30 am. Kenner Police Chief Michael Glaser says two Cane’s employees were confronted by armed men when they took the trash out after closing.

“They were confronted by what we believe are two black males wearing gray hoodies. They produced what appeared to be some type of knives and walked the two employees back into the rear door of the business,” Glaser said.

Glaser says after the robbery, witnesses report two black men in gray hoodies fled the scene in a vehicle that was waiting outside. He says the victim is identified as 21-year-old Taylor Friloux.

“A 21-year-old shift manager, a female, was stabbed multiple times, at least one time outside and then multiple times while inside,” Glaser said.

Friloux was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, and she later died. It’s reported that one suspect is in custody after the Cane’s employees identified 23-year-old Josh Every as possibly being involved in the robberystabbing. Glaser says police are still looking for other suspects, as there were several people involved in this crime.

“At least two black males wearing gray hoodies. We think there may have been a third person operating some type of vehicle. We’re still trying to identify that vehicle,” Glaser said.

 
 
 

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State Police say an off duty Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Deputy is facing a DWI. Trooper Jesse LaGrange says Tara Whitney was pulled over in Houma after an officer noticed she wasn’t wearing her seat belt. He says the trooper noticed an open alcohol container and Whitney showed signs of impairment so a field sobriety test was conducted.

“At State Police we take a firm stance against events like this. We want our highways to be safe and whenever we come across someone who is impaired on the highway we take the necessary action.”

LaGrange says Lieutenant Whitney is a juvenile officer and has been placed on administrative leave until the investigation is complete. He says Whitney faces multiple charges.

“She was arrested for a DWI first offense, having an open alcoholic container inside the vehicle as it was observed by the arresting Trooper and no seat belt.”

 

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US Senator Bill Cassidy has filed legislation that seeks to help prepare for potential health emergencies, like outbreaks of Ebola and Zika. The proposal by would wave some red-tape regulations and authorize funding if a public health emergency is declared. Cassidy, a doctor, says this could help contain outbreaks.

“If you respond early, proactively with science behind you, you can cut the knees out from beneath a potential epidemic,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy says the threat for a health emergency is looming, as another Zika case has been confirmed in Louisiana. The measure would waive contract requirements that would allow, for example, the Centers for Disease Control to enter mosquito control contracts without getting the dozens of signatures that are typically required. Cassidy says similar waivers are issued to other agencies during emergencies.

“Efficiency and effort is paramount, and we think that the appropriate, timely, proactive response requires the waiving of those procedures, just as FEMA waives when there’s a natural disaster,” Cassidy said.

The bill would also authorize about $1.5 billion to control the outbreak when a health emergency is declared. Cassidy says this will allow response agencies to take appropriate action quickly.

“It’s not a blank check. It’s not open-ended, but what it is, is the ability to get going in a timely fashion, proactive as opposed to walking around hat in hand,” Cassidy said.

 
 
 

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People making plans for their Fourth of July celebrations like to head to Louisiana for the festivities. According to WalletHub, the New Orleans is the third best city for Independence Day parties. Jill Gonzales with WalletHub says the study looked at entertainment and food options, attractions and activities, and weather forecast. She says New Orleans did particularly well in the food category.

“It was second when it came to the entertainment and food options there. When it comes to food choices per capita, it has some of the highest numbers in the country,” Gonzales said.

Seattle and Minneapolis were the only two cities to top New Orleans on the list. The study found the average household will spend around $370 on their celebration. Gonzales says the cost of partying in New Orleans for the holiday weekend was lower than other cities.

“When you’re looking at how much things cost, whether it’s a Fourth of July party or a fireworks show, often times there is little to no cost for that, which ranked better than a lot of other cities on the list,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales says New Orleans ranked number one for the number of festivals and events taking place this weekend, many of which are free. She says the only category that New Orleans did not fare well in was the forecast because of higher temperatures and a chance of rain.

“The forecasted precipitation for the Fourth of July, that Monday exactly there’s about a 35% chance. We’d like that to look more like zero,” Gonzales said.

 
 
 

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After waiting for more than 10 years, today is the groundbreaking ceremony for the site of the permanent VA clinic in Lake Charles. Chairman of the Lake Charles Mayor’s Armed Forces Commission Jim Jackson says he’s looking forward to finally having a clinic that will help around 10,000 veterans in the southwest Louisiana area. He says it’s time we looked at the long range issue of care for the men and women who fought for our freedoms.

“Take a look at what we’re going to have in the clinic, we’re going to have at least four doctors in there. We need to make absolutely certain we have some mental health for our veterans.”

Jackson says mental health treatment is very important because about 22 veterans kill themselves a day. He says they’re looking forward to the completion of the 24-thousand square foot facility.

“We’re really hopeful of some of the things that the VA is going to put in there with it. We’re looking forward to having part-time dental care, eye care, and hearing.”

Jackson says the project is estimated to take 12 months to complete. He says the country has promised to take care of our veterans and this facility will do just that.

“The soldiers stood out there and made this country free and kept this country free and we need to remember that.”

 
 

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A former Eunice police officer is facing charges of obstruction and malfeasance in office, for allegedly cussing out someone he was arresting and threatening to beat him up. Major Eddie Thibodaux with the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office says Lt. Varden Guillory became irate with Heath Bergeron, a domestic violence suspect, when Bergeron came in to make his statement.

“While he was walking to the booking room, Lt. Guillory allegedly tore his statement up and said ‘You’re not going to use this blanking statement’ and he said ‘If I was not in uniform, I’d rip your head off,’” Thibodaux said.

Thibodaux says Guillory was upset that Bergeron got his friend to help him write the statement, because he wasn’t a very good speller. He says Guillory then arrested Bergeron for domestic abuse battery, without getting the proper information first.

“The Lieutenant allegedly did not speak to him, nor the witness, nor the kids. Just booked this man on felony battery charges,” Thibodaux said.

Guillory left the Eunice Police Department after the incident. Thibodaux says after completing the investigation into the battery, Bergeron’s ex-wife was later arrested for domestic abuse, as she was the alleged perpetrator. The two had apparently gotten into an argument over what time they would meetup to exchange their children on Father’s Day. He says Guillory has also been arrested.

“Lt. Guillory was in violation of obstruction of justice, meaning he tore the statement up and didn’t put in a report and malfeasance in office by not doing a complete investigation,” Thibodaux said.

 
 
 

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