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Michelle Southern reporting.
There will be a homecoming celebration tonight in Abbeville for a local Top 6 finalist on NBC's "The Voice", Koryn Hawthorne. The aspiring young singer will ride in a homecoming parade at 5pm then put on a special concert in Magdalen Square downtown. 

Abbeville Mayor Mark Piazza says Koryn has been singing in their community since she was a child. 
"She grew up in a church choir and has a phenomenal voice," said Piazza. "I've heard her perform several times throughout the years and she's just a great talent."

Piazza they couldn't be more proud of Koryn and her success on the popular singing competition show and the exposure she is helping bring to their small town.

"To have this statewide and nationwide recognition that we're getting on her behalf," said Piazza.

Piazza says fans are encouraged to bring signs in support of Hawthorne to the parade which is open to all. He says they are expecting a huge crowd.

"I know all of Vermilion Parish will be there," says Pizza. "And a lot of people from Lafayette and throughout Acadia are planning on coming."


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The AARP of Louisiana wants to see more funding so that seniors can live at home instead of institutional care.  Based on their survey, 90-percent of Louisiana voters say home and community based services are important to stay in their own home as they age.  

Interim State Director, Denise Bottcher, says these services are necessary for seniors to live outside of a nursing home.
"Services such as light house cleaning, or helping them with meals, or helping them with bathing.  Those types of things folks need to be living in their own home successfully and independently."

Bottcher says the state only spends 37-percent of its Medicaid budget on services to help seniors stay at home.  She says their survey shows that 83-percent of respondents support funding to provide more services for seniors living at home.

"Yet our tax dollars overwhelmingly go to support nursing home care.  So it's time for legislators, for lawmakers to re-balance that to give people what it is they want."

The telephone survey interviewed a thousand registered voters age 45 and older.  She hopes this legislative session produces funding so more seniors can avoid institutional care and take some of the burden off of family caregivers.

"More than half of Louisiana folks say that they are a caregiver for someone they love.  And that means they are having to sacrifice a part of their daily life in order to help someone else live successfully at home." 


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Michelle Southern reporting.
The legislation by Baton Rouge Representative Dalton Honore that would let voters decide whether or not recreational marijuana should be legal in Louisiana gets a hearing today. 

LSU Public Policy Polling Research Director Mike Henderson says they've surveyed residents and there seems to be a decline in opposition to pot for adult use over the past couple of years. 
"It's fallen by almost five points and support has come up by about three points," said Henderson.

Recreational marijuana for adult use is legal in Oregon, Washington D.C., Colorado, Alaska and Washington. Henderson says when it comes to pot, there used to be a 14 point difference with opposition out-polling support and that's fallen by half in the last two years. 

He doesn't think Louisianians would make it legal now, but likely in the next 10 years.

"Because a good chunk of that support is coming from younger people who tend to turn out less often," said Henderson.

The survey found support for legalization of marijuana for personal use is at 45 percent, lagging opposition at 52 percent. He says the strongest support comes from younger Louisianians who don't show up at the polls as often.

"10 years from now those younger voters will be voting more often and if they are still supportive of marijuana legalization I'd imagine it would have very high support."



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Michelle Southern reporting.
The Baton Rouge Police Department says the missing two year old girl, whose mother was located murdered Saturday, has been found safe. Corporal L'Jean McKneely says A'Kyleana Latham, or AK as her family calls her, was discovered alone.

"She was dropped off at a particular location and at that location is when police was notified," said McKneely.

McKneely says the child's father, who is from Texas, is now in town and the little girl will probably be released into his custody. He says they do not believe AK's dad is a suspect.

"And we actually have talked with him," said McKneely. "We are going to continue to look at all avenues."

McKneely says the little girl's mother, 24-year-old Taylor Latham, was discovered shot and killed inside a vehicle on Monday. He says they are thrilled AK was found but this investigation isn't over.

"We're looking into all of that, who dropped her off, who killed the mom," said McKneely. "So we are asking the community to give us a call if they have information."


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Slidell Police arrest 22-year-old Antwonetta Jones on second-degree murder charges as investigators believe she discarded her baby inside a trash compactor. Chief Randy Smith says Jones gave birth to the child in a bathtub at her apartment. 

He says the baby was alive for several hours, but at some point the newborn began choking and quit breathing and that's when Jones panicked. Smith says Jones put the infant in a box, and brought the deceased baby to the dumpster of an apartment complex. 
"There's other avenues that could have been taken," Smith said. "She could have dialed 911, she could had the child, gotten medical assistance or even brought the child to a hospital."   
Smith says Jones lived with her mother, but no one knew that the 22-year-old was pregnant. 
"(She) didn't want that information out there," Smith said. "She actually said she was very scared and didn't know what to do."
The police chief added that authorities need to do a better job of educating our mothers-to-be that Louisiana is a Safe Haven state. If you are unable to care for your baby, you can bring the newborn, up to 60 days old, to a Safe Haven site; which are places like a police department, fire department or a hospital, no questions asked. 


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The House Ways and Means Committee approved two proposed tax increases by Plaquemine Representative Karen St. Germain to help fund road and bridge projects in the state.  There is currently a $12 billion backlog of road improvements in the state.  

St. Germain says Louisianians expect their roads to be properly maintained.
"You can't get to the hospital and you can't get to school without a road.  And one that is actually usable."

The current gas tax in Louisiana is 20-cents per gallon.  HB 777 was amended to raise the tax by 10-cents per gallon.  St. Germain says that could generate up to $300 million for road and bridge improvements.  She says improved roadways will also benefit the state's business and industry.

"If you even travel through the economic corridors of this state and you are trying to get to work and come home, it is an arduous task."

The last gas tax increase in Louisiana was in 1984.  HB 778 increases the state's sales tax by one percent with those revenues going toward specific highway projects.  Both bills will now go to the House floor for debate.  St. Germain says the state has waited too long to address this issue.

"We kicked the can down the road, but we lost it in a pot hole and we can't get the can out." 


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It has been announced that Governor Bobby Jindal has another book coming out in October.  The book is entitled "American Will:  The Forgotten Choices That Changed Our Republic."  

ULM Political Science Professor Joshua Stockley says that while this book's subject matter is history, this is really a campaign book.
"This is another example of Governor Jindal trying to stay relevant in an increasingly crowded Republican presidential field."

Jindal calls the book a call to arms for the future.  In the book, the governor reviews historical events ranging from the Louisiana Purchase to the Cold War.  Stockley says this is an example of Jindal trying to stay in the conversation in a Republican presidential field that is getting more and more crowded.

"I think this book has everything to do with staying relevant.  Trying to keep himself a presidential, a vice-presidential, or even a cabinet possibility."

Jindal previously released the book "Leadership and Crisis" in 2010.  The governor says he will not announce his decision on running for president until after the conclusion of the current legislative session.  Stockley says, with more candidates entering the presidential race, Jindal is currently in a position where he has to decide sooner rather than later.

"Is it too late for anyone to announce in June?  No.  But certainly that window of opportunity is closing." 


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The Baton Rouge Police Department says after their interview Monday with former LSU Tiger La'el Collins, he is still not a suspect in the April 24th murder of Brittney Mills. Corporal Don Coppola says Collins is fully cooperating.

"At this point and time he is not considered a suspect," said Coppola. "Investigators will follow up on leads provided by him and others they  have spoke with."

Cops say Mills was 8 months pregnant when she was gunned down in her home and the baby, Brenton, died a week later. Apparently she and Collins used to have some sort of relationship.

Coppola says they may need Collins to stay involved in the investigation.

"It may be something where he, or someone else they've spoken with, needs to be brought back in for clarification," said Coppola. 

Coppola says they are still trying to gather information from people who may no the victim. He says Collins was never considered a suspect.


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Michelle Southern reporting.
A bill that would use funds from unclaimed gambling winnings to pay for rape victims forensic medical exams clears House appropriations. New Orleans Representative Helena Moreno says under her measure, money from expired winning tickets from casinos and race tracks would go into the crime victim's reparations fund.

Alexandra Stillson is a rape victim.

"This huge stack is my rape bills," said Stillson. "This is from my forensic exam, my ambulance ride, for all the medications I had to take to make sure I didn't get HIV."

Stillson says she was raped by two men who broke into her home while she was watching television. She feels like she relives the traumatic experience every time another bill comes in the mail.

Wade Duty, of the Louisiana Casino Association, says while they don't oppose the bill on its merits, they don't approve of the funding mechanism. He says winning money is the property of the gaming establishment until the player cashes the ticket.

"If the unclaimed tickets were truly the players property we would not pay taxes on it, we don't pay taxes on other people's property," said Duty.

Moreno says casinos keep about $1.2 million dollars in gambling money that was never claimed by the player.

The bill passed without opposition and now heads to the House floor. 



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Michelle Southern reporting.
A bill that allows for the dispensing of medicinal marijuana to patients who suffer from certain medical conditions makes it off the Senate floor. New Iberia Senator Fred Mills says they've been working hard on this legislation to keep everyone happy.

"I think we've come up with something that's the real sweet spot between patient care and law enforcement," said Mills.

Mills says under the proposed law, medical marijuana could only be prescribed by a doctor for someone clinically diagnosed with glaucoma,  spastic quadriplegia or suffering symptoms from chemotherapy cancer treatment.

He says it would be grown at only one site in the state and dispensed 10 places in non-smokeable form.

"You have to have a prescription, that medical condition and it can only be in it's refined form," said Mills. "It can't be crude and it can't be inhaled."

The vote count was 22-13 and the measure now heads to the House. 

Medical marijuana has technically been legal in Louisiana since 1991, but there were never rules put in place for ways to get it in the hands of patients.

Mills says the bill 24 years ago was left wide open and no limitations were set.

"This sets quantity limits, it sets testing it sets basically where it can not be in raw form," said Mills. "Right now if you had a prescription, you could have the raw form of marijuana and it's the wild wild west."


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State Treasurer John Kennedy announces he's endorsing US Senator David Vitter for Governor. Kennedy outlined key issues he felt would best be addressed by Vitter.

"Senator Vitter, as Governor Vitter wants a Louisiana whose roads don't suck," said Kennedy. "Whose roads aren't axle breaking insults to the 21st century."

Kennedy has previously announced he'll be seeking re-election in the fall and some speculate he'll be going after the Senate seat should Vitter become Governor.

But Vitter says they have not talked about any other election.

"This is Louisiana politics and there are all sorts of conspiracy theorists," said Vitter. "I'm a firm believer in putting first things first and not being presumptuous."

Kenndy says Vitter respects tax payer dollars and has the ability to take on Louisiana's fiscal challenges.

"He understands that he needs some budget stability," said Kennedy. "We can't go on like we are living from paycheck to paycheck and lurching from crisis to crisis."


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Former LSU offensive lineman La'el Collins met with Baton Rouge police detectives Monday as part of an investigation into the shooting death of a pregnant woman on April 24th. Collins wore a blue suit for his meeting with investigators and his attorney, Jim Boren, says the All-SEC player cooperated fully.

"We answered every question that they asked, we provided them with all of the information they wanted," Boren said.
Collins' meeting with detectives lasted about an hour and a half. Boren says his client is still NOT a suspect in Brittney Mills' homicide. 
"We know the facts....he had nothing to do with that lady's murder," Boren said. 
It's been reported Collins and Mills had a romantic relationship. Boren could not say whether Collins took a paternity test to confirm whether it was his child that died a week after the shooting.
But Boren says the Baton Rouge native is cooperating with the investigation and ready to get his NFL career started.
"He's ready to go, he wants to get back into training and he wants to focus on the next step," Boren said. 
Collins was expected to be a first-round selection in this year's NFL draft. But his name was not called during the seven-round draft, as teams are concerned he maybe involved in this violent crime.  
A Baton Rouge police spokesperson says Collins is still not considered a suspect in the homicide of Brittney and Brenton Mills after fully cooperating with investigators today. 


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The House appropriations committee approves a plan that would allow the state to draw down federal money that can be used to expand Medicaid coverage.  House speaker Chuck Kleckley says the plan involves hospitals putting their financial resources together so the state can draw down federal dollars that can be used to provide health care to low income individuals.

"These are the hospitals taking their money, re-investing in the state of Louisiana, and giving them the ability to draw down the federal dollars."

Governor Bobby Jindal opposes Medicaid expansion, calling it a bad deal for the state.  But Kleckley says this plan could save up to $200 million for the state's budget.  He says this is real money that can be put in the general fund.

"These are dollars that can be used for higher ed.  These are dollars that can be used for other areas of the state government here in Louisiana."

Since this measure is a concurrent resolution, Governor Jindal cannot veto the legislation, but it does need a two-thirds vote of both houses for passage.  Kleckley says this measure would set up a mechanism for our next governor to pull from Medicaid expansion money next year.

"There's nothing better that I think can benefit the state and look into the future and try to have a little vision here, that when that next person comes in that they can take this and use it." 


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Michelle Southern reporting.
Planned Parenthood supporters from across the state plan to gather at the Capitol Monday morning to support reproductive heath care access in Louisiana. Spokeswoman Raegan Carter says the plan is to talk to our elected officials about the importance of woman having access to high quality healthcare they provide in Louisiana.

"We are really really concerned about the $1.6 billion dollar deficit and what that means for all Louisiana citizens when it comes to healthcare," said Carter.

Carter says the Jindal administration has made it clear they plan to launch a full-blown attack on the true needs of the people of Louisiana. She says they believe families deserve access to healthcare no matter who they are or where they live.

"Women deserve preventive healthcare, access to exams and screenings," says Carter. "All of those services we provide."

Carter says basic health care rights are the foundation of freedom and opportunity for women and families.

She says they want the message to be clear that politics should be left out of reproductive health care and of what Planned Parenthood provides.

"Louisiana has some of the highest rates of HIV and STI's," says Carter. "Women and families deserve access to testing and treatment for those services."


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Michelle Southern reporting.
Three weeks are in the books for the current legislative session and many say lawmakers are still not close to finding a solution to the state's $1.6 billion dollar budget shortfall. Jeremy Alford of Lapolitics.com says there is just as much uncertainty today as there was in January.

"Lawmakers are still trying to figure out how they are going to cobble this budget together," says Alford. "I think a lot of the confusion involves this revenue neutral rule the governor insists upon."

Alford says it's a misconception that Governor Bobby Jindal is not staying involved in what's going on at the Capitol because he's making it very clear to legislators that the budget will have to be balanced in a revenue neutral way.

"He's not going to approve any net increase in taxes and lawmakers are following suit."

Alford predicts it'll be 15 days out of the end of the session before any real plan starts to take shape.

He says legislators could go with an inventory tax repeal which business is in favor of and local governments are opposed to or make certain tax credits non-refundable which the administration is pushing but business is against.

"If they go with one or the other, it's still going to be nearly impossible to balance this budget in a revenue neutral manner," said Alford.


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This is National Tourism Week and Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne will tour the state to commemorate the event.  The purpose of this trip is to celebrate the tourism industry state wide.  

Dardenne says every part of the state has seen increased tourism numbers.
"We'll be making 20 stops through the course of the five days or so, basically talking about all of the successes that individual communities have had.  We've had the third record breaking year in a row for tourism in Louisiana."

The tour runs through Saturday.  Dardenne says almost 29 million people visited Louisiana last year, which is over a million more people than the previous record.  He says those tourists spent over $11 billion in the state.

"Which translates to $836 million in state sales tax revenue that was not paid by any Louisianian.  It was paid by people who were visiting our state."

Stops include Lake Charles, Bossier City, Alexandria, and Lafayette. Dardenne says New Orleans remains the state's biggest tourism draw, particularly for international visitors.  But he says the other parts of the state are seeing big increases tourism, particularly in north Louisiana.

"Obviously in Monroe, where the combination of Poverty Point and the interest in 'Duck Dynasty' has really spurred a lot of tourism in that part of the state."


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The Saints picked up two players in last night’s first round of the NFL Draft. First, the Black & Gold selected offensive lineman Andrus Peat from Stanford. Peat was an A.P. second team All-American selection last season as well as an Outland Trophy finalist.

Coach Sean Payton says Peat is a player he's familiar with and felt fortunate he was available with the number 13 pick.
"We've had this player, shoot, on an interview at the combine, we've had him here on a trip.  For us, clearly, we felt like he was our highest rated player on the board at that time."

With their second pick in the first round, the Saints drafted inside line backer Stephone Anthony from Clemson. Anthony was a first team All-ACC selection last year.  Payton says they did a ton of research on Anthony leading up to the draft.

"But we like the make up, his size, his flexibility, position flexibility.  I think he can play either inside position."

Payton is pleased with how the first round of the draft unfolded for the Black & Gold and is looking forward to adding more players to the roster.

"Kind of excited here at the conclusion of this first round and we get started again with another pick high in that second round."

The Saints have the 12th pick in the second round. 


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Michelle Southern reporting.
The full Senate has approved a measure that would require public school systems to promote the online homework assistance service which is offered through state and local libraries. 

The bill is by Napoleonville Senator Troy Brown who says parents have been having a hard time helping out with homework because the new standards have made it so challenging.
He says many people don't know there is help available.

"The state library association has an after school online tutorial program where, in real time, they help students with the homework they are dealing with," said Brown.

The bill now moves to the House for consideration. 

Brown says under this proposal, schools would have to include information about the HomeworkLA.org program in their handbooks.

"I went a step further with the bill to even require our schools to post the website in a conspicuous place whereby the students would see it everyday," said Brown.

Brown says there is a disconnect between the state's new curriculum standards and parents and this bill seeks to fill that void. 

He says Common Core has been a big change that some schools have had success with, but others continue to struggle.

"And if you can't go home, from a practical standpoint, and mom can't help you with simple math, then something needs to happen to address that shortcoming."


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The St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office reports that three people have been arrested in connection with the overdose death of 26-year-old Lance Gordon.  Lt. Clay Higgins says Gordon became extremely ill after allegedly being injected with a drug cocktail prepared by 29-year-old Jessica Stelly.   
(pictured: Jessica Stelly from St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office.) 

He says then, instead of calling 9-1-1, Stelly called 27-year-old Stephan Godeaux and 34-year-old Gene Dunbar.
"And between the three of them, the evidence shows that they basically brought the man to his home and sort of left him there on his sofa."

Higgins says the three face some serious charges.

"The young lady that was involved initially charged with second degree murder and obstruction of justice.  Each of the men involved were charged with negligent homicide and obstruction of justice."

Higgins calls Gordon's death a terrible loss of a young life and their hearts go out to his family.

"But we're satisfied that the people responsible have been appropriately charged.  They've been arrested without incident.  They'll have their day in court." 


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Michelle Southern reporting.
A bill that passed out of Senate Education would prohibit the suspension or expulsion of a student between Kindergarten and third grade, unless the child posed a threat to the safety of the school. The author of the measure, Baton Rouge Senator Sharon Weston Broome, says children who are taken out of school so young don't get to live up to their potential.

"These children, 5, 6, 7 maybe some 8 years old," said Broome. "Are at the early stages of realizing who they are."

The legislation now heads to the Senate Floor. Broome says when you send a child home a such a young age, they aren't getting opportunity to learn. 

Louisiana School Boards Association executive Director Scott Richard says they understand the concern, but don't want to put such a restriction on principals.

"And leaders need to make those serious decisions when suspensions or out of school discipline is a last resort," said Richard.

Richard says he realizes that mistakes can be made, but we have to be able to trust school leaders' discretion when it comes to making these last resort decisions. 

Debra Schum is the Executive Director of the Louisiana Association or Principals. She says sometimes they just can't allow a single student to disrupt the education of others.

"In leadership practices we learn that when we make rules a policies, we shouldn't be making rules for the people that don't follow them," said Schum. "The rules should be there for the people who are doing the right thing."


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