Louisiana State Police and several other agencies will host a "Heroin Summit" today to educate the public about heroin use and address the recent rise in heroin deaths. Trooper Jared Sandifer says Col Mike Edmonson is going to be the keynote speaker and joined by several other people from around the state who know a lot about heroin.
"It's going to be a way for people to get together and brainstorm and try to determine ways we can reduce this disturbing trend of heroin related deaths and arrests in the area," said Sandifer.
The event is being held between 9am-5pm at the BREC Independence Park Theatre and the public is urged to participate. Sandifer says in Louisiana last year there were at least 310 heroin-related arrests made by LSP and law enforcement agencies across the state.
"And last year we seized 152 pounds of heroin, which is up significantly from about 21 pounds in 2012," said Sandifer.
Sandifer says the CDC named the Greater Baton Rouge area as the 19th worse in the nation per capita for heroin over dose deaths in 2013. He says it's a huge problem it's important to sit down and address it.
"We need to keep the public informed that this is going on and possibly even get some new legislation passed that would address this problem," said Sandifer.
The early voting period for the November 4th election kicks off today. Secretary of State Tom Schedler says early voting will take place through October 28th from 8:30AM to 6PM, excluding Sunday.
Schedler says early voter participation is on the rise.
"We don't see increasing numbers in overall participation, but we certainly seeing a creep of individuals taking advantage of early voting."
This year's election is highlighted by a hotly contested US Senate race and several contested Congressional races. Schedler wants to remind voters that there are 14 Constitutional Amendments on this year's ballot. He says voters should expect a lengthy ballot.
"Over 4,400 candidates and some 2,400 positions available statewide."
Schedler says, statewide, this is the biggest election in the state in decades. He says for sample ballots and early voting locations, you can go online at geauxvote-dot-com. Schedler says he expects a voter turnout between 45 and 50-percent for this US Senate election.
"I tilt more to the upper side of that range, just simply for the magnitude of this race and the importance and factoring in some of these local issues that will also fuel high participation."
A grand jury indicted two St. John the Baptist Parish utilities workers in connection with an investigation into a deadly amoeba which was found in the parish's drinking water in August. Kurt Wall with the state Attorney General's office says there was a question about whether or not samples being collected were accurate.
"The logs where these collectors would write down specific dates and times and what the residual levels of chlorine were in that sample," said Wall. "And those didn't match up with what DHH had been randomly testing."
Wall says the workers were reporting the chlorine levels in the water supply were up to par but DHH did random testing and discovered, instead, the amoeba. He says that's when State Police stepped in and decided to check GPS coordinates on the vehicles these parish employees were using at the time they said samples were taken.
"When they checked the GPS coordinates it was determined that in many cases, the collector didn't even stop at the site all day," said Wall. "And these were samples that were supposed to be taken on a daily basis so that the water could be treated correctly."
Kevin Branch of LaPlace and Danielle Roussel of Pauline were each charged with one count of malfeasance in office and one count of filing and/or maintaining false public records. Each felony count carries up to 5 years in prison.
Wall says the St. John Parish Government is fully cooperating and are taking corrective steps to ensure that this doesn't happen again.
"They've brought in different types of testing procedures and different people to do the collected," said Wall. "This has been remedied and I don't think it's going to be an issue moving forward."
Former President Bill Clinton tells a crowd of Mary Landrieu supporters he doesn't see how the senior senator is not a clear favorite in Louisiana's US Senate race over her republican challengers. Clinton says Landrieu has a history of getting things done.
"Everyone of these analyses that the non-partisans groups in Washington do, show that she's one of the most bipartisan people in the US Senate and one of the most effective people in United States Senate."
Clinton was in Baton Rouge Monday and spoke at a Landrieu rally. Her main opponent, Bill Cassidy, constantly ties Landrieu and her voting record to policies supported by President Obama. But Clinton says Louisiana voters should not look at the Senate race as a chance to vote against Obama.
"You cannot afford to vote for what you're against, you have to vote for what you are for."
The Department of Health and Hospitals says they plan to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests. DHH spokeswoman Olivia Watkins says they plan intend to work with the legislature to craft bills for the 2014 session that would prohibit hospitals from charging rape survivors for the care they receive.
"Things like the emergency room cost, the cost of the person who performed the medical exam," said Watkins.
Advocacy groups and lawmakers were critical of the fact that women who had been raped were getting big hospital bills after checking in to be treated for the assault.
Watkins says, under the plan, hospitals would be able to seek reimbursement for such expenses from the Crime Victim’s Reparation fund which receives fines associated with criminal cases.
"So you have an individual who is convicted of a violent criminal offense," said Watkins. "The fines and fees associated with that conviction are used to go into the fund and that's on a state level."
Watkins says they also plan to remove the requirement that survivors of sexual assault file a police report to qualify for that reimbursement. She also says they want to do away with the provision that victims be sober in order to get money from the fund for hospital bills.
"It shouldn't matter if a man or woman is sexually assaulted when they are under the influence of alcohol so that's something we want to address," said Watkins.
An investment group has agreed to buy Pineville based Cleco for a reported $3.4 billion. Cleco Power has approximately 284,000 customers in Louisiana.
Cleco Power President Darren O'Lages says customers should not expect any change in utility rates or service as part of the sale.
"In many ways, from the customer stand point, there is really no change, other than the continued commitment of Cleco as a reliable service provider."
He says there are no lay-offs or restructuring of employee salaries planned. The sale is expected to close in the second half of 2015. O'Lages thinks this transaction came in at a price their shareholders will be happy with.
"But at the same time, we have found an ownership group that understands Cleco, understands what has made us successful, understands our vision for the company and will be supportive of it."
He says this investment group is experienced and understands what it means to own utility companies and what it takes to make them successful. O'Lages says the Cleco brand, and everything it stands for, will remain the same. He says, other than no longer being a publicly traded company, it will be business as usual under the new ownership.
"We will continue to have Louisiana management. We will continue to have a board of directors with significant Louisiana representation. But, by and large, the day-to-day business will stay the same."
After a two-week absence, The LSU Tigers are back in the Top 25 polls. The Bayou Bengals are ranked 24th in the AP poll, and 23rd in the coaches. LSU won easily on Saturday, 41-to-3 over the Kentucky Lions. Coach Les Miles says his team is getting better.
"That's the great thing about this team," Miles said. "This team has got a great attitude, great character, tough kids, they love playing, have a smile on there face. They are looking forward to playing in this next stretch, I promise you."
LSU will host 3rd ranked Ole Miss this Saturday. Game time is at 6:15. ESPN will televise the SEC West battle. And the network is bringing its popular pregame television show, "College Gameday" to campus. It's the 10th time College Gameday will air live from LSU on a football Saturday.
It appeared the Saints were on their way to a victory on Sunday in Detroit, but the Lions roared back with two touchdowns in the four minutes to beat New Orleans 24-23. New Orleans was in control for much of the game, but Detroit hit on a 73-yard touchdown pass with 3:38 left and couldn't recover.
"Tough loss," Coach Sean Payton said. "The guys played with energy, but it ended up not being enough. Down the stretch we had opportunities to win the game, it's frustrating we were not able to do it."
Quarterback Drew Brees threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns. But threw an interception with just over three minutes left that set up Detroit's winning score. Brees believes the Saints can rebound from this heartbreaking loss.
"2-and-4 is not where we want to be," Brees said. "But this what I believe, no better way to get back on track then to go home on Sunday night football against the Green Bay Packers, who are rolling right now, and find a way to win."
Customers at Chic-Fil-A locations in north Louisiana don't have to worry about bringing in cash or a credit card because now you'll be able to pay with your phone. David Benson is the local operator for the restaurants in Monroe and West Monroe and he says it all starts with downloading the Chic-Fil-A app.
"There is a pay function inside the app so you just come into one of our stores, order, scan your phone and it pays for your meal," said Benson.
Benson says people are slowly but surely catching on and using this method of payment to get their yummy chicken strips and nuggets. He says paying with your phone is more secure than using a credit card. All you have to do is load up whatever amount of money you wish on the app.
"If it reaches a certain dollar amount you can reload," said Benson. "And it's connected to your bank."
Benson says when you've loaded money into the app, you simply hit the pay button and scan the account code at the register or in the drive-thru line and the money is deducted from the account balance. He says next year the company plans to roll out "mobile ordering." Benson says Chic-Fil-A wants to stay ahead of the curve.
"They are predicting that in a few years this will account for almost 15-20% of our business," said Benson. "No cash. No credit card. Just your phone."
Saturday was a good day for Louisiana college football teams. The LSU Tigers had no trouble beating Kentucky 41-3. The Tigers started fast, scoring 17 points in the 1st quarter, highlighted by a Tre'Davious White 67 yard punt return for a touchdown.
LSU senior running back Terrence Magee had a big game, as he rushed for 127 yards and two rushing touchdowns, both coming in the 3rd quarter.
The Tigers defense held Kentucky to 217 total yards. Kendell Beckwith had 9 total tackles, including one for a loss.
In Ruston, Louisiana Tech linebacker Terrell Pinson recovered a football for a touchdown and had two interceptions as the Bulldogs held on for a 27-20 victory over Texas-San Antonio. Kenneth Dixon also had 121 yards rushing and a touchdown for Tech, who improved to 3-0 in Conference USA action.
Grambling State is now 5-0 in the SWAC after a 63-39 win over Arkansas Pine Bluff. Jonathan Williams threw for three touchdowns and ran for two scores. The Tigers defense also had eight sacks on the day.
In the Southland, Northwestern State beat Sam Houston 31-27. Zach Adkins threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to De'Mard Llorens with 5:48 in the 4th quarter to give the Demons the lead for good. Adkins threw four TD passes on the day.
McNeese State knocked off Abilene Christian 31-20. Daniel Sams threw three touchdown passes and also rushed for 112 yards.
In Hammond, Bryan Bennett had three rushing touchdowns, including a 75-yarder, as Southeastern Louisiana defeated Central Arkansas 41-24.
Nicholls State dropped to 0-8 on the season as the Colonels lost to Lamar 63-21. And Tulane fell to Central Florida 20-13. The Green Wave are now 2-5 on the season.