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Back-to-school shopping could be eligible for tax breaks


The new school year begins in less than a month and thoughts are turning to back-to-school shopping.  The Department of Revenue encourages families to keep their receipts while shopping for back-to-school items such as books, supplies, uniforms, and equipment required by schools. 


 
Press Secretary Byron Henderson.
 
"A lot of people might not be aware that many of these purchases may be eligible for income tax deductions that they can claim when they file their Louisiana Individual Income Tax Returns next year, on May 15, 2015"
 
There are three income tax breaks under the Louisiana School Tuition and Expense Deductions.  Henderson says there are two conditions under which a taxpayer can claim these school tuition and expense deductions.
 
"The first is that you have to be able to claim the student as a dependent on your state individual income tax return.  The second one is that you have to be able to document the expenses.  Which is why we're encouraging people during this time of year, when they are shopping for back-to-school items, to hold on to those receipts."
 
Henderson also reminds residents the state's annual sales tax holiday is this Friday and Saturday.  He says the state sales tax exemption applies to more than back-to-school items.
 
"Anything from furniture and computers, to TV sets, to stereo equipment, to school supplies." 

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Colonel Mike Edmonson declines retirement boost


Louisiana State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson turns down a controversial retirement package that was approved by lawmakers in the final hours of the legislative session. Edmonson says the controversy surrounding his retirement boost was creating too much of a distraction.

 
"The more I look at it, the more I studied it, it just wasn't the right way to handle this," Edmonson said. "If I'm going to be truly who I say I am, I don't need to accept it." 
 
State Treasurer John Kennedy called for an investigation after it was learned Edmonson and another trooper's boost in benefits would cost the state an extra 300-thousand dollars. 
 
Lawmakers were unaware they passed a bill that gave Edmonson and another trooper such a lofty retirement package. Edmonson says that was not the goal of the legislation, so he'll ask the legislature to revisit the issue next year.
 
"They can review it, they can stamp it yea or nay," Edmonson said. "They can show exactly what my benefits should be based on my years of service."  
 
 
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Public Service Commission looks to keep energy customers informed


In the wake of the power outages that recently plagued portions of the state, the Louisiana Public Service commission will consider implementing a new system for power companies to better keep the public informed when outages occur. 
 


 
Commissioner Foster Campbell explains.
 
"I want them to text or telephone all these customers and say, 'We know you're out of power, you don't have to call us.  We know you're out of power.  Here's where we are and we will keep you updated.'"
 
The system would send automated telephone and text messages to customers when outages occur.  He says Entergy power companies have already implemented such a system.  Campbell says he'll ask all electric utilities regulated by the Public Service Commission to do likewise.
 
"This is the 21st century.  Let's get innovative, here.  You know, if you can do it by computer or you can do it by text or you can do it by telephone.  Whatever you got to do it by, come on, tell the people what they can expect."
 
The topic will be discussed at the PSC's August 6th meeting in Baton Rouge.  He says storms and power outages are a reality in Louisiana and with modern forms of communication, power companies can easily tell customers what they need to know quickly.  Campbell says this system would ease a lot of customers frustrations during an outage.
 
"They call my office and my lines are busy.  They call the SWEPCO office and their lines are clogged up.  We need to be proactive in calling these people and say, 'Look, we know that you're out of electricity.  Here's what you can expect.  And we will be back if there are any other changes.'  That's the least we can do and I'm going to get that done."
 
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Louisiana reports its first West Nile virus death of 2014


State health officials say a man from Caddo Parish has died from the West Nile Virus. The department of health and hospitals is not providing many details about the victim, citing confidentiality rules, but they can say the individual was between 60 and 74 years. State Epidemiologist Raoult Ratard says this is a reminder West Nile can be fatal.

"Usually when the virus attacks the brain, 10% of the people die from it," Ratard said. 
 
This is the first fatality of the year from West Nile Virus. Ratard says they've only recorded nine total cases this year, but the season is just starting.
 
"We expect cases to last until November, maybe early December."
 
Ratard says take precautions to keep mosquitoes out of your house, our of your yard and off your skin. 
 
"So you either protect your skin with long pants and long sleeves or you wear mosquito repellent."
 
 

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