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Louisiana's prison population on the decline, but still the highest in the US

A federal report says Louisiana's prison population fell two-percent last year, but the state still has the highest incarceration rate in the US, well ahead of Mississippi who is second.
Dr. Peter Scharf, with the Justice and Public health institute at the LSU Health Sciences Center, says there's an effort to lower the prison population, but it will take time. 

"We're trying to dig out of hole that occurred way before many of us got involved," Scharf said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Louisiana's prison population in 2013 was at 39-thousand, a drop of nearly nine-hundred people from 2012. Scharf anticipates the state's incarceration rate will continue to decline, but it will take time to get it at more acceptable level.
'There's a backlog of people with very long sentences."
Scharf says the department of corrections has put programs in place to help recently released inmates stay out of jail and there's been a push in the legislature to lower sentences for certain crimes. He says the mindset on how to punish criminals is changing and that should help lower the prison population. 
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Boustany: Bills limiting IRS power pass House

Michelle Southern reporting.
The US-House has passed three bills by Louisiana Congressman Charles Boustany that spotlight recent IRS controversies and would ultimately limit the power of the federal agency. Boustany says House Republicans learned a woman was forwarding emails from her official IRS email account to a personal account to conduct business.

He says this should never be happening.

"So the first bill prohibits officers and employees of the Internal Revenue Service from using personal email accounts to conduct any official business," said Boustany.

Boustany, who is the chair of the oversight subcommittee of the tax-writing House Ways and means Committee, says safeguards must be put in place to ensure that the public's trust is not breached.

He says another issue he wanted to address was that some denials of tax exempt status were not subject to appeal which he thinks is wrong.

"And so the second bill amends the tax code to provide for the right of an administrative appeal in the event of an adverse determination with regard to tax exempt status of certain organizations," Boustonay said.

Boustany says the third bill would permit release of reports about investigations into unauthorized leaks of taxpayer information to the victims.

He says Americans are demanding higher ethical standards from public servants and they plan to continue to expose the rot at the core of the IRS's culture.

"And they need to be fully accountable and I'm going to continue to bring sunshine to this agency," said Boustany.

The Senate still needs to approve the bills.

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LSU looks to keep shutout streak going against Miss State

LSU heads into Saturday's SEC match-up with Mississippi State riding a streak of 31 straight possessions without allowing a point. The Tigers also lead in the SEC in four defensive categories--- total defense, pass defense, scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. Defensive Coordinator John Chavis says the defense is playing with a lot of confidence.

"I think our players are doing a good responding to the situations they are in and recognizing what they need to do. There's a bunch of young guys who are a big part of it. You feel really good that they are able go out there to hold up and continue to play well as a defensive unit." 
Chavis says his defense still has room to get better and that starts with better communication between players while they are on the field.
"It starts with communication. It makes it even more difficult for young kids with fast tempo offenses, but that's the nature of the beast that's what we deal with it week after week."
The Tigers host Mississippi State this Saturday. The Bulldogs are averaging nearly 44 points a game and Chavis says his defense will be tested.
"It's a game that you have to play your best."  
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Louisiana tops nation for number of single people

Michelle Southern reporting.
According to a new report with data compiled from the US census, Louisiana has the most single people in the nation. The Martin Prosperity Institute study found 55.7% of adults here are nor married. Demographer Greg Rigamer says this could be because after Katrina and the BP Oil spill, Louisiana got a big boost in job opportunities.

"You know very often it's someone who is coming to just get a job," said Rigamer. "And the New Orleans area in particular is very attractive to younger people."

Rigamer says there has also been a significant increase in the number of people here between the ages of 20 and 29.

"You look at this influx of young people coming in, it's really not surprising we have a high number of unmarried adults," said Rigamer.

New Orleans topped the list as the metro area in the US with the highest number of single people at 58%.

Rigamer says many people think of The Big Easy as a great place to live, but many people don't associate it as a place you'd come start a family.

LSU Professor of Sociology Tim Slack says there is also growing number of people in the nation who are single and living alone.

"This is a real departure from the past when most people traditionally lived in family households," said Slack. "And this is a trend we're seeing nationally."

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Judge strikes down Edmonson retirement increase

A district judge threw out the law that would give State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson and another trooper a major retirement boost.  Judge Janice Clark ruled the provision to be unconstitutional stating lawmakers did not follow proper procedure in passing the pension change.  

State Treasurer John Kennedy says this measure was not only unconstitutional, it was unfair.
"It gave special, extra retirement benefits to people who had the political clout to get a special bill passed by the legislature and that's not right."
This law was passed in the final hours of the 2014 legislative session.  He says the benefit increases would have been drawn from an expense account that funds cost-of-living increases for retired state troopers and their families.  Kennedy says laws are supposed to apply to everybody equally. 
"It doesn't matter whether you're a prince or a pauper, you're supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law and this bill was given special treatment."
Both Edmonson and the other trooper had said they had no intention to accept the increased benefit.  Kennedy hopes the book is now closed on this matter. 
"I just think it's unfortunate that this ever happened.  But the only thing worse would have been to allow this law to stay on the book."
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Jindal not deterred by low presidential poll numbers

Governor Bobby Jindal is not concerned about poll numbers that show him receiving little support when compared to other potential presidential candidates. Jindal received only three percent in a recent CNN poll of New Hampshire republican voters that listed ten other candidates. Jindal says he doesn't look at polls.

"I didn't look at polls when I ran for governor," Jindal said. "The first time I ran for office, I was polling within the margin of error, which means I was at zero."
Other polls taken have also shown Jindal failing to receive much support compared to other possible republican presidential candidates. 
"I think at this point polls are measuring name ID."
Jindal made these comments in Washington DC after unveiling a US energy policy that was developed from his nonprofit group called America Next. The governor says he is thinking abour running for President and a decision will be made after the November election. But he says his decision will have nothing to do with polls or fundraising. 
"I made the decision to run for Governor and Congress, because I felt I had something to offer. I was offering specific solutions and experiences that I didn't think other candidates were offering at that time."   
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Morrell: Colleges need policies for addressing sexual assault reports

Michelle Southern reporting.
The state Board of Regents releases a reporting showing students at colleges are more vulnerable when it comes to sexual assault because there is no statewide policy in place for handling such allegations. New Orleans Senator JP Morrell requested the report.

He says no two Louisiana colleges have the same guidelines for handling sexual assault accusations.

"That is a huge problem because if there is no benchmark for what is minimally expected, every college is going to do a very very different thing," said Morrell.

Morrell says Louisiana needs to establish a benchmark that all colleges must meet when it comes to the way sexual assault claims are handled.

"We're grading them against nothing right now and because of that a lot of them are doing way less than what should be required," said Morrell.

Morrell says alleged college student victims need to all feel comfortable reporting any potential sexual assault which is why specific steps should be followed in the investigation process. 

He says LSU-Baton Rouge indicated they've only had 22 reports of sexual abuse over a five year period.

"That number is absurdly low. That would mean that LSU is like Disneyland with security in every corner," said Morrell. "At the very least I think the case could be made that there is definitive under reporting."

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Louisiana teachers still retiring at a high rate

Louisiana schools are still seeing a higher number of teachers retiring compared to what they saw three years ago. Nearly three-thousand K-through-12th grade teachers retired during the fiscal year that ended June 30th. Scott Richard, director of the Louisiana School Board Association, blames it on the turmoil that's ongoing in public education.

"That results in many of our most valued employees deciding to hang it up and retire early in some cases," Richard said.
Richard says the dispute over Common Core and new way of evaluating teachers has caused anxiety within the profession.  He says the higher than normal number of retirements is causing problems for school districts when it comes to finding math and special education teachers.
"There's just a high level of frustration right now and hopefully that will change in the future."  
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3-year-old accidentally shoots/kills self

Michelle Southern reporting.
The Talluah Police Department says a little 3-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself after finding a loaded handgun in a home. Spokeswoman Yvonne Lewis says emergency personnel got the call around 4:10 Monday afternoon.

"Apparently a little African American male found a gun inside the home and shot himself," said Lewis. "He did die from the injury."

Lewis says the mother left the home for about 3 to five minutes to get the kids something to drink at a store nearby and when she returned the child had already found the gun and shot himself.

"The mother had the gun under a mattress in the house and that's where the child found it," said Lewis.

Lewis says investigators did a test on the child and learned that the 3-year-old did in fact shoot himself. She said they believe this really was just a tragic accident.

Lewis says the mother lived very close to a grocery store and was gone only a short amount of time.

"I'm sure she thought she could just run over, get something real quick and be right back," said Lewis. "But it only takes a few seconds for something like this to happen."


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Peterson opens discussion on disciplining children

The recent indictment of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson on child abuse charges has opened a nationwide discussion on disciplining children with corporal punishment.  Peterson allegedly used a switch, a tree branch stripped of its leaves, on his son reportedly causing multiple injuries to the child.  

State Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Suzy Sonnier says corporal punishment is considered legal in Louisiana within reason.
"The agency has to take into account the possibility of accidental injury or that the injury resulted from what might be considered a reasonable exercise of discipline for the child's misbehavior.  That's really what the children's code states."
She says the Louisiana Children's Code requires the agency to take into account the possibility of accidental injury or that the injury resulted from what might be considered a reasonable exercise of discipline.  Sonnier says when a parent is being alleged of abuse when disciplining a child, DCFS looks at several factors. 
"What occurred, what was the injury, was there need for medical attention, any other surrounding issues that may be there.  We look at every case individually based on that evaluation."
Sonnier says there is nothing in Louisiana law that explicitly says what you can or cannot do when it comes to disciplining your child.  She hopes parents put a lot of thought into how they discipline their child and consider using alternative methods to corporal punishment. 
"What is the lesson that they really want their child to learn and is there a way to provide that lesson and to support that lesson without having to use that is certainly something to consider." 
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State Farm says vehicle-deer collisions are up in Louisiana

According to State Farm, the number of vehicle-deer collisions are on the rise in Louisiana.  Spokesman Gary Stephenson says there was a nearly six-percent increase in these accidents in the state.

 "With about 9,793 collisions in Louisiana for the year ending June 30, 2014."
He says the number of collisions is actually higher because many of these collisions are not reported, uninsured motorist collisions are not included, and drivers with only liability coverage were not counted.  Stephenson says there's a fair amount of expense involved, too.  He says the previous year's average claim was around $3,400. 
"This past year, ending in June, the average claim was $3,888.  So, that number increased about $450 per average claim."
State Farm calculated the chances of any single motorist in Louisiana striking a deer at 1 in every 299 drivers, below the national average of 1 in 169.  Stephenson says the last few months of the year is the the most active time for vehicle-deer collisions. 
"Sort of coincides with the rut, the mating season for the animals.  Also hunting season, a lot of folks getting out in the woods, and that stirs the herd up and gets them on the move more, so they're a little more active in the fourth quarter of the year."
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Report: Ingram to miss a month with a broken hand

The Saints are 0-2 and now their leading rusher will reportedly miss the next four weeks, because of a broken hand. ESPN reports running back Mark Ingram suffered the injury in Sunday's heartbreaking loss against Cleveland. Saints radio color analyst Hokie Gajan says it's a tough blow for the team, who has waited for Ingram to become a major contributor.

"He was contributing as a runner and a receiver, it's a Mark Ingram we didn't the first three years." 
Ingram is averaging six yards a carry this season and has scored three touchdowns.
Gajan says Ingram's injury comes at a time when the Saints were having its most success running the football since Coach Sean Payton has been the coach.
"It will hurt, but now it's time for Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet to step up." 
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Brain-eating ameba found in Sabine Parish

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announce testing confirms that the brain-eating ameba, Naegleria Fowleri, has been found in a water system in Sabine Parish. The ameba was also discovered in St. John the Baptist Parish last month.

Office of Public Health Medical Director, Takiesha Davis, says while the ameba is potentially dangerous, it doesn't make the water unusable.
"The still water remains safe to drink.  And the thing to do to limit risk of infection is to limit the amount of water going up a person's nose."
The ameba has to get directly into the brain to cause problems.  Davis says the department's new ameba sampling program is in its third stage and they are finding this ameba now because they are looking for it. 
"We have been working with our federal partners, with the Centers for Disease Control, to come up with a sampling program to actually test for the ameba.  It's not something that's normally tested for."
She says, so far, no one has been infected with the ameba as a result of the recent discoveries.  Davis says a chlorine burn of the water supply in Sabine Parish has been ordered. 
"We know, where we have had the ameba in other cases in Louisiana, this action has been effective in controlling it."
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Falling tree limb kills one motorcycle rider and seriously injures another

State Police say a south Louisiana man was killed Sunday when a tree limb came crashing down on him while on his Harley Davidson. Trooper Jared Sandifer says 53-year-old Travis Lessard of Gonzales and his brother were riding their motorcycles on Highway 22 in Livingston Parish when the fatal crash occurred. 

"A large tree limb fell and struck those two riders as they were riding, and unfortunately it killed one of them and seriously injured the other." 
Sandifer says they are not sure what caused the tree limb to fall.
"I know on that roadway there are a lot of trees, a lot of overhanging trees, probably old trees. But you don't hear of this happening." 
Sandifer says Lessard and his 52-year-old brother, Joseph Lessard fo Maurepas, were transported to local hospitals after they were hit by the tree limb. Travis Lessard died at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Gonzales. 
Impairment is not suspected on the part of either rider, and both wore safety helmets. 
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Saints fall to 0-and-2 on the season

Many Saints fans thought this was the year for the Black and Gold to get back to the Super Bowl. But New Orleans is 0-and-2 after suffering a heart breaking 26-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns. For the second straight game, New Orleans couldn't preserve a late lead. Coach Sean Payton says all they could do at this point is work on trying to become a better team.

"Listen you bounce back," Payton said. "The only way we know how to do it is get back to work on Wednesday, come in and clean the film up, we obviously got to be better in a handful of areas and we'll do that."
The Saints offense started slow, but they got it going as Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes to Jimmy Graham. Running back Mark Ingram rushed for 83 yards and a TD.
But the defense allowed the Browns to move the football 85 yards for a game-winning field goal. Many fans are taking their frustration out on cornerback Patrick Robinson, but Payton says it's not fair to blame one player.
"There's a handful of us who struggled today," Payton said. "He's an easy target. I'm sure there's a ton of stuff on tape that he'll want to clean up. But there's a lot of muddy hands, just to be singling out one player."
The Saints host Minnesota on Sunday, September 21st.  
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Tigers trounce Warhawks to improve 3-0

For the first time since 1985, LSU's defense shutout an opponent in back-to-back games. The Tigers allowed just 93 yards in a 31-0 victory over the ULM Warhawks.

ULM has just six first downs as Warhawks quarterback Pete Thomas threw for 77 yards on 16-of-30 passing. Centarius Donald came into the game with 228 rushing yards, but the Tigers held him to 24 yards
Linebacker Duke Riley was LSU's leading tackler with eight and Jermauria Rasco had the Tigers only sack. 
LSU's offense was not clicking on all pistons in the 1st half. LSU led 10-0 at halftime, but scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game away.
Freshman Darrel Williams had two touchdown runs. Leonard Fournette had a 24-yard touchdown run and led the Tigers in rushing with 52 yards.
Quarterback Anthony Jennings was 11-of-18 for 139 yards and he threw his first interception. Travin Dural was once again his favorite receiver as the sophomore from Breaux Bridge caught six passes for 79 yards.
LSU opens conference play on September 20th when they host Mississippi State. ULM's next game is September 27th at home against Troy.  
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Landrieu's flights still an issue

The Louisiana Republican Party continues to make Senator Mary Landrieu's chartered flights a campaign issue.  Landrieu has completed a report on the use of flights for campaign events and has admitted to over $33,000 in improperly charged flights. 

Executive Director Jason Dore says he's surprised by that amount.
"That's more than we equated.  But there's a clear pattern here of abuse of taxpayer dollars and whoever's responsible in her office should have some sort of responsibility for it and not just an apology."
Landrieu says she takes full responsibility and that these mistakes are a result of sloppy bookkeeping.  She says safeguards have been put in place to make sure this never happens again.  Dore says bookkeeping errors are no excuse.
"Well, if you or I were to tell the IRS that we had sloppy bookkeeping and that's why we didn't pay our taxes, we may end up in jail."
The report states that Senator Landrieu's campaign has already reimbursed the Federal Treasury for these mistakes.  Dore thinks there is more information in the report and the issue is not dead.
"We're not going to let it go away that easily.  We're going to make sure voters are aware of Senator Landrieu's use of taxpayer dollars."
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LSU AD Joe Alleva gets contract extension

Michelle Southern reporting.
Today the LSU Board of Supervisors extended Athletic Director Joe Alleva's contract through 2019. He's not getting a raise, but Alleva's base pay will remain $725,000 a year plus incentives. Assistant Tiger Rag Editor James Moran says it's hard not to say that Alleva hasn't done a good job as AD since he got here.

"He's now got over a 100,000 seat stadium, he's done a ton of new renovations that make the outside of the stadium look good," said Moran. "There's a new gymnastics facility, there's a new tennis facility coming."
Alleva says he loves his job, "It's challenging and I like the people that I work for. It's a great honor to get this extension."
Alleva officially started at LSU on July 1st, 2008 and was formerly the athletics director at Duke.
Moran says even though the basketball program has been floundering during Alleva's tenure, there are many significant LSU athletic programs that have more than flourished.

Moran says the LSU football team has had extreme success over the last several years under Alleva. He says the success on the field is thanks to coach Les Miles but Alleva has given Les a lot to work with.

"The gorgeous football ops center across the street, I mean you have the giant renovated Tiger Stadium," said Moran. "Joe Alleva has helped give Les the tools to put LSU on that level of the Alabama's of the world."

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Lafayette officer shot while searching for suspect

Michelle Southern reporting.
The Lafayette Police Department says one of their officers was shot Thursday night when attempting to locate a suspect they believe was involved in a shooting the night before. Corporal Paul Mouton said at around 11pm, cops went to the apartment where they were told the man might have been.

"They were given permission to search the residence and as the officer went to the rear, he located the suspect hiding in a closet," said Mouton.

Mouton says the officer and the suspect exchanged gunfire and both men were hit.

"The officer moved to safety at which time the suspect was able to jump out of the window and flee the area," said Mouton.

Mouton says officers later apprehended the suspect as he was attempting to flee at an area truck stop. The 23-year-old male was taken to an area hospital. 

The officer is listed in stable condition. Mouton says finding the suspect was a priority as he was on the run from a prior violent incident.

"And that was one of the key components as to why we were looking for him that night," said Mouton. "He also had several "Failure to Appear" warrants."

The suspect is identified as 23-year-old Chase Chaisson of Lafayette. He will be charged with attempted 1st degree murder of a police officer, convicted felon in possession of a firearm, 2nd degree kidnapping and injury to a police K-9.

The resident of the apartment where the suspect was found hiding has also been charged.

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Edwards leads in 6th Congressional District poll

A new poll shows Democratic former Governor Edwin Edwards making the runoff in the 6th District Congressional race, but that same survey shows Edwards finishing second in four different runoff scenarios.  But pollster Darrell Glascock says you shouldn't count out Edwards, just yet.  

He says Edwards has significant numbers as respondents second choice.
"If he is the second choice of 25-percent of those who we polled, and that particular entity is not in the runoff with him, he could considerably improve his numbers."
Edwards garnered 32-percent of the vote in The Glascock Group poll, which would seem to guarantee him a runoff spot.  However, the former governor has trouble breaking 45-percent of the vote in any hypothetical runoff.  Glascock says when it comes to runoff elections, traditionally half of voters don't return to the polls.  He says that could play in the favor of Edwards. 
"So if you go into a second primary, and into a runoff situation, if your voters get out and vote, and if he can generate enthusiasm among his voters and get them out, then that changes the game plan."
The big question remaining in the race is "Who will join Edwards in the runoff?"  Glascock counts four Republican contenders that could generate enough support to land in the runoff:  state Senator Dan Claitor, Paul Dietzel, Garret Graves, and state Representative Lenar Whitney.  He thinks this will come down to the wire. 
"I think it's probably all going to come down to message and advertising in the last 30 to 45 days for that second spot."

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