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Michelle Southern reporting.
The Louisiana Chemical Association filed a lawsuit challenging a measure passed in the last session which would impose a 1 percent sales tax on business utilities and natural gas. HCR 8 is a temporary suspension of a 1 cent sales tax exemption on services expected to hit chemical plants hardest.

LCA spokesman Rob Landry says it was passed unconstitutionally.

"We feel to pass a tax hike it requires a 2/3 vote in the House," said Landry. "There were two different votes taken on the floor and neither one got the magic number of 70."

The measure, which went into effect Wednesday, raises more than 100 million dollars and was enacted to balance the state's budget. 

Landry says their plants depend heavily on purchased power and natural gas to generate steam, heat and electricity.

"If we find that in Louisiana we're taxed more heavily on that and become non-competitive it makes other states more attractive to our business," said Landry.

Landry says the Louisiana Constitution says tax measures must pass both houses by a two-thirds vote and this measure fell short of 70 "yeas" two times. 

He says they made a major campaign to repeal utility taxes on natural gas in 2008 and since then the plants have seen major growth.

"And that's not the only reason but it is a big reason that you've seen such a resurgence and the growth of the industry in the state since then," said Landry. "We'd like to get back to making our business climate as warm as possible."


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Michelle Southern reporting. Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says the Supreme Court decision which allows same sex couples to be married impacts spousal coverage offered by businesses. He says several years ago our legislature changed the law to accommodate groups providing coverage, to offer insurance benefits for domestic partners.

"That being in place, I'm not aware of any legal implications, from an insurance perspective, of the Supreme Court's ruling," said Donelon.

Donelon says this affects companies that offer spousal coverage of health insurance.

"It will provide coverage for same-sex coverage, as it does hetero-sexual spouses," said Donelon.

Donelon says because of our laws, he doesn't foresee any hurdles in the transition. He says they are having to update paperwork.

"We're in the process of reviewing those policy forms to accommodate the industry that's offering those changes," said Donelon.


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A recent CNN presidential poll shows that Governor Bobby Jindal's popularity has risen since he formally announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination.  The survey, conducted between June 26 and June 28, shows the governor going from one-percent to two-percent.  

ULM Political Science Professor Joshua Stockley says the media coverage from Jindal's announcement can help explain Jindal's jump in the poll.
"People being reminded again of Governor Jindal, Governor Jindal receiving free national attention, and people paying attention."

The poll currently has Jindal ranked 12th out of the 14 announced Republican candidates.  Jindal will need to be in the top 10 to participate in the first presidential debate.  Stockley says, right now, it will only take a few percentage points for the governor to make the cut.

"That is, I think, a very doable number for Bobby Jindal.  I think that's a doable task for Governor Jindal."

He says while it is possible for Jindal to make it into the debate, it doesn't mean it is guaranteed.  Jindal's campaign launched an #AskBobby Twitter dialogue that some say may have backfired.  Stockley says this was a noble attempt by the campaign, but it clearly shows the dangers of social media.

"When you ask individuals to participate on something like Twitter, you can never predict the type of responses you will receive." 


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A Justice of the Peace in Grant Parish has resigned because her religion does not believe same-sex couples should be married. Patricia Gunter took the position in February, knowing she would resign if this came into law. Gunter says she decided to leave because she would no longer be able to perform the duties of the job due to her religious beliefs.

"So I just decided to resign before there was any kind of messy controversy, or anything like that. I just wanted to bow out quietly and not get mixed up in anything like that."

Gunter is the wife of a Baptist pastor. She says her beliefs come from the bible and doesn't have the right to go against what it says.
"Other Justices of the Peace have the right to decide if they want to perform those, that is totally fine, that is up to them but for me, it wasn't an option."
Gunter says she left to avoid problems and disagreements that could come with a same-sex couple asking her to perform a marriage.
"I didn't want to fall into a law suit or anything. I just wanted to stand firm in what I believe but I didn't want to cause any problems either."


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Star forward Anthony Davis has verbally agreed to accept the New Orleans Pelicans' maximum extension deal that will reportedly pay him $145 million over five years.  Davis took to social media to make the announcement last night.  

Jake Madison, with Bourbon Street Shots, says this deal will keep Davis in New Orleans until, at least, 2020.
"It should make Pelicans fans ecstatic about this rising star in the league.  He's destined to be the next greatest player.  Now this franchise has its cornerstone in place, not going anywhere."

He says the deal can't officially be signed until next week.  Madison says it appears new head coach Alvin Gentry and really sold Davis on his vision for the future, which includes making the All-Star the focal point of the team's offense.

"And if you're Anthony Davis, that should sound outstanding.  And five years, $144 to $145 million dollars, is really tough to turn down as a 22-year-old."

This extension will keep Davis from entering free agency until 2020.  Madison says Davis' deal will go into effect for the 2016-2017 season.

"This coming season, he's going to be playing under his rookie deal, which will pay him a little over $7 million, and then this extension goes into effect." 


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The American Automobile Association projects nearly 42 million Americans will travel for the 4th of July holiday, the most since 2007. AAA Spokesperson Don Redman says the fact that Independence Day falls on a weekend helps but that's not the only reason people are out on the road.

"But still it is also a sign that people have a little more confidence in the economy, at least for this summer."
Redman says the statewide average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.55, which is significantly cheaper than it's been in the past 5 years and that certainly helps the family budget.
"AAA has noted that gas prices alone don't determine whether or not people travel but this is a little bit different because we've actually seen gas prices a dollar cheaper than they were a year ago."
Redman says most people will travel by car to get to their destination and over 4 million people in our region. He advises drivers to plan ahead to avoid the crazy traffic.
"Just know you're going to be sharing the road with a bunch of people. take your time if you can leave early for you destination do so, if you can leave later do that, as well."


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A recent survey finds that 91 percent of those parents participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program are satisfied with their child's scholarship school. The scholarship program assists children from low-income families in choosing the school that best fits their needs. President of Louisiana Federation for Children Ann Duplessis says the program also benefits students' personal and social lives.

"And it's really something we pride ourselves in," Duplessis says.
Duplessis says the Federation has conducted previous surveys with similar results, proving the consistency of parental opinions. About 92 percent of parents reported they were happy with their child's academic performance at the scholarship school. Duplessis says this means the program is working.
"Families are pleased with the environments their kids are now in," she says. "They're pleased with the ability to choose those environments."
With the continuation of the program, Duplessis says there are many ways to improve, including teaching lawmakers of the importance of letting parents choose their child's education.
"As we continue to grow, we'll continue to look for ways to be more efficient and to have better outcomes," Duplessis says. 


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A pack of cigarettes will cost you an extra 50 cents today as the state's new tax of cigarettes goes into effect. The state legislature approved a law that raises the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 36 cents to 86 cents. Bill Bailey, owner of Smoker's Paradise in Pineville, is concerned it could hurt his business.
"When we change the tax structure and the pricing structure of any product it decreases revenue for a while because everyone says 'oh I'm going to quit' or 'cut back' or whatever reason."
Bailey says the legislature also increased taxes on e-cigarettes and vapor products.
"The way I understand it, it's a 5 cent per milliliter tax, which is fairly small tax but the game plan there is it opens the door for future taxes down the road."
The American Heart Association's Louisiana Advocacy Director Stasha Rhodes pushed for the tax increase and she says the money generated from additional tax will go to health care in Louisiana.
"Every year tobacco costs us 1.9 billion dollars in health care costs. That is health care costs directly related to tobacco illness."
Rhodes says she originally wanted the tax above one dollar because many studies show that could get around 36-thousand people to quit smoking. She says she proposed the higher tax because often times tobacco companies and stores can find ways make up for the raised prices.
"Tobacco industries are able to offset small increases buy coupons, price promotions and discounts, things of that nature. So we wanted to make sure that any increase really made a public health impact."


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A lawsuit has been filed challenging Governor Bobby Jindal's "Marriage and Conscience Order".  The suit alleges it creates a class of persons who are protected over others due to their opposition to same-sex marriage.  

Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman says this order goes beyond the scope of what the state constitution allows a governor to do.
"A governor is not permitted, under our system of laws in Louisiana, to create substantive rights.  So, when the governor did that, he violated the Louisiana Constitution which, of course, he is sworn to uphold."

The Louisiana ACLU, Forum for Equality, and 6 individuals are the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.  The governor's office has yet to comment on this case.  Esman says the governor violated the Louisiana Constitution by setting up special protections for those who share his belief on same-sex marriage.

"He's creating a favored class of people with an opinion he shares and telling everybody else, 'I'm not going to protect you'."

Jindal’s controversial order prevents the executive branch of state government from taking adverse action against a person or a business for their belief in traditional marriage.  Esman says the State Constitution clearly states what a governor can do and what the legislature can do.

"Only the legislature can make laws.  Only the legislature can create specific rights.  The governor does not have the authority to do that." 
Here's Governor Jindal's response to the lawsuit.

“This Executive Order protects religious liberty. The ACLU used to defend civil liberties, now it appears they attack them. The Left likes to pick and choose which liberties they support at any given time, and it seems to me that religious liberty has fallen out of favor with them.

“Well, I’m not going to be swayed by the latest opinion poll or left wing lawsuit. Religious liberty is fundamental to our freedom as Americans and I will not back down from defending it.”



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A Baton Rouge City Councilman is upset over the Capitol City losing out in international television exposure as a result of NBC's decision not to broadcast the Miss USA Pageant. Last year the pageant, which was held in Baton Rouge for the first time, was shown in 70 countries.

As a guest on the Jim Engster Show, Councilman John Delgado says the broadcast was a big infomercial for the city.

"To present Baton Rouge to the nation in a light that was incredibly positive. Last year it was the equivalent of a three hour tourism video for Baton Rouge and we're not going to get that chance again this year. "
As of now, the July 12 pageant will not be televised. NBC decided not to air the pageant after Miss Universe owner Donald Trump made controversial comments regarding Mexican immigrants. Delgado says it's an unfortunate situation for Baton Rouge.
"We'll still make the hotel stays and we'll still have the people coming in from out of town for the pageant itself but that secondary benefit of advertising the city and bringing tourism into the city, I think that's going to hurt us down the line."

Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne issued a statement today that they are still moving forward with the events planned for the MISS USA contestants including a welcome reception at a Downtown Baton Rouge restaurant on July 2nd.

"All the contestants will be introduced formally at the Old State Capitol. So we're going to make sure the girls feel welcome regardless of what happens with the broadcast."

Dardenne says the state office of tourism is also withholding a 50-thousand dollar payment to the pageant, if the event goes untelevised.
"They've indicated to me that they're trying to develop some alternatives but we've made it clear that we're not going to be providing any funding unless we know that there is going to be a broadcast."


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Governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law legislation that reduces the penalties for simple marijuana possession.  New Orleans State Representative Austin Badon is thrilled his measure was signed into law.  

Badon says this legislation will help a lot of people in Louisiana.
"It's going to save the tax payers a lot of money, $15 to $17 million.  We're not going to be just incarcerating people for simple marijuana possession any more for long periods of time."

Under the new law, a first offense of simple possession of less than 14 grams of marijuana would face up to 15 days in jail.  A second conviction drops from a felony to a misdemeanor.  Badon says what he likes about the measure is that it gives people a second chance.

"It keeps people working.  They're not getting a felony conviction on their record, so they still have an opportunity to go out and get a job.  And they get to stay in educational facilities."

The legislation drops the maximum sentence from 20 years in prison to eight.  Badon says people arrested for simple marijuana possession need counseling, not jail time.

"We were putting them in jail with hardened criminals and we were making them better criminals.  So, this is going to help a lot of people." 


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Michelle Southern reporting.
Wal-Mart has apologized for making a cake at its Slidell store with the ISIS flag on it after denying a man's request to design one with the Confederate flag. Chuck Netzhammer originally ordered a "Heritage Not Hate" Confederate flag cake, but the bakery did not honor the request. 

He outlines what happened in a YouTube video.

"I went to go buy a printed cake from [Wal-Mart] the other day, with this [Confederate flag] image on it, and [they] didn't do it. I've got proof," said Netzhammer. "But I went back and managed to get an image with an ISIS flag printed on it."

Netzhammer says he can't fathom why the Confederate flag cake would be denied, but the ISIS image ended up being printed and sold.

"ISIS happens to be somebody who we are fighting right now and who are killing our men and women overseas and beheading Christians," said Netzhammer.

A spokesman for Wal-Mart told ABC News that the store associate did not know what the design meant and it was a misunderstanding. In the video, Netzhammer was asking for an explanation.

"Can you please explain why you are alienating southern Americans with this trash that you allow to be sold in your store," said Netzhammer. "But at the same time the Confederate flag memorabilia is not allowed?"


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Governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law a bill that establishes a framework for the legal dispensing of medical marijuana. But state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says it could be another two years before medicinal marijuana is available in this state. Stain says that's because numerous steps need to be accomplished first.

"We have our policy team putting together the overall structure of what the rules and regulations are going to look like. We have people working and getting the rules and regulations from other states and we're beginning to put together a proposed set of rules."
Strain says they must start with the Board of Medical Examiners creating a set of rules for the prescription, then the Board of Pharmacy has to adopt a set of regulations and a document that describes the production parameters. He says LSU and Southern's AgCenter's will have first opportunity to grow the weed that will turn into pill for medical purposes.
"We are working to find out from LSU and Southern, again that's going to be a 60 day period before they will tell us if they will be the producers of the product."
Strain says the purest and safest form of the drug will only be for people suffering from cancer, glaucoma and some forms of cerebral palsy. He says they are starting from scratch because rules need to be made to obtain seeds or get seeds from other states.
"So we have to get these rules right. We have to make it consistent with the will of the legislature and also in such a manner where the final product is something that will help the patients that are being treated."


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According to a study by Estately.com, Louisiana comes in number 5 for the states with the most couch potatoes per capita. Lead blogger Ryan Nickum says they came up with this ranking by calculating 8 different factors, including hours per day watching TV and Laz-E-Boy retailers per captia.

"Fast food restaurants per capita, frequency of which local people exercise, the obesity rate, number of hours worked per day on average, if they like soap operas and if they like video games.

Nickum says the state came in 5th for hours per day watching TV and saw a correlation with watching TV and the obesity ranking throughout all states. He says this study could open people's eyes and push them to get up and moving.
"Well I'm sure this can probably be used for some motivation for maybe turn the TV off and try to get some exercise but there are probably a couple ways to look at it."
Nickum says the Louisiana summer heat is a factor on why we have so many couch potatoes. He says his study found that people who live in colder climates, tend to get out more expect for Ohio who ranked number one for couch potatoes per capita.
"If you live in Ohio, you should really just get outside and do something. If you live in Louisiana, I mean if you're going to be stuck on a couch somewhere, I'd want to be stuck in Louisiana provided there is air conditioning."


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There is some concern that the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in the United States could potentially lead to lawsuits against churches.  Louisiana Baptist Convention President Steve Horn says it's his understanding that the ruling gives protection to churches and pastors.  

But he says that doesn't mean the issue could not come up in the future.
"I know people would say, 'You can't be afraid about that.'  But, I guess, in light of some recent activity, it's hard not to be at least watching what's going to happen in the future, in that regard."

He says, as he reads the ruling, lawsuits are not something that should overly concern churches.  But Horn says the Supreme Court ruling sort of negates ultimate protection for churches who refuse to perform or host same-sex marriages due to their religious beliefs.

"The state of Louisiana has indicated that they're not going to issue licenses and now we're being told by the Supreme Court we have to.  So, how we arrive at that ultimate protection, I think, is anybody's guess right now."

But Horn, who pastors at First Baptist Lafayette, says the four dissenting Supreme Court Justices seemed to be concerned about lawsuits against churches when they wrote their dissent.

"If they're concerned about it, I guess there is some degree of concern." 


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One of the first same-sex marriage licenses in the state went to Scott Kirkland and Kenneth Parker. They arrived at the East Baton Rouge Clerk of court's office shortly before 2 PM on Monday. Louisiana was the last state to start issuing licenses and Kirkland says it was frustrating when they couldn't get one after the Supreme Court ruling on Friday.

"Gosh, last weekend we almost eloped to Florida, because we were tired of waiting," Kirkland said. "(Kenneth) talked me into waiting, to see if the decision would come out and sure enough it did."
The Louisiana Clerks of Court initially advised parish clerks to wait 25 days before issuing the licenses. But many parishes starting issuing them on Monday, knowing that it was unlikely for the nation's highest court to reverse its decision that legalized gay marriage. Kirkland says it was important for them to get a license in Louisiana.
"The whole point of wanting our license here was so that our friends and family can come here (for a wedding reception)," Kirkland said. 
Sarah Jane Brady, executive director for the Forum for Equality, is thrilled that clerks of court around the state are allowing same sex couples to get married.
"It's an amazing moment," Brady said.  


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The National Weather Service is now calling for the Red River in Shreveport to crest Tuesday at 31-feet. Hydrologist C.S. Ross says this revised forecast puts the crest a few inches lower than what was previously expected.

"We lowered it from 32.5, a few days ago, to 31 feet as of this morning."
Ross says the projected 31-foot crest is six feet lower than the crest in mid-June. He says impact from flood waters will be minimal.
"We don't think there will be any home flooding at this time with the 31 foot crest in Shreveport." 
Ross says the Red River will likely fall back below flood stage on July 2nd, but remain high through the Fourth of July Holiday Weekend.
"The Red River will remain some 25 to 26 to 27 feet, depending on how the upstream reservoir releases shake out through at least late August." 


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An associate professor at LSU has been fired after using foul language and telling sexually-themed jokes to students.  Teresa Buchanan was terminated after school administrators stated her language and humor created a hostile learning environment.  

Professor Kevin Cope, LSU Faculty Senate President, says this incident stems from a false sense of the protection of students.
"Students need to be exposed to all kinds of ideas and all kinds of teaching styles and to try to put them in some cocoon where they'll never hear anything nasty is not going to be productive."

Buchanan was dismissed even after a five faculty member committee in March recommended she keep her job.  Buchanan taught elementary education at the school.  Cope says there is a big difference in using bad language and targeting bad language.  He says if you call someone a so-and-so, that's something that would require discipline.

"If on the other hand you say here's an example of the kind of language you're going to hear when you're in an impoverished school district or dealing with troubled youth, that's a different matter, altogether."

Buchanan says she will fight her termination in court.  LSU has no comment pending potential litigation.  Cope feels Buchanan has a strong case and a good chance of having this decision reversed.  Cope says if the school is going to take this attitude on foul language, it should extend beyond the classroom.

"We need to go into the football program and clean up the act of all the coaches." 


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The US Supreme Court rules a controversial drug called midazolam can be used for lethal injections. Gary Clements, an anti-death penalty lawyer in New Orleans, is disappointed with the ruling, because the sedative did not perform like it should have in executions in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma.

"Five justices on the Supreme Court say the (plantiffs) didn't make a good enough case that this drug would be harmful, I don't think that makes a whole lot of sense," Clements said.
This case originated in Oklahoma over concerns that it violated the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Louisiana's lethal injection protocol allows for midazolam, but has never used it. And Clements wonders if Louisiana ever will.
"They've also indicated that they are out of it at this point, and they were looking at other options," Clements said.
Last week, a federal judge in Baton Rouge put on hold any execution in Louisiana until July of 2016, so the state can determine how they will carry out a death sentence. Clements says despite today's 5-4 decision, there is hope that one day any form of capital punishment will be prohibited. 
"Two justices in their dissent, Justice Stephen G Bryer and Bader Ginsburg, essentially said that in their opinion that the death penalty is categorically unconstitutional," Clements said.  


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Louisiana clerks of court who turn away gay couples seeking a marriage license could face lawsuits for refusing to do so.  Chairman of the Forum for Equality, Chris Otten, says they have sent a letter to the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association putting them on notice.

"That if clerks continue not to follow the Supreme Court's ruling they're opening themselves up to both personal and public liability under 1983, which is a civil rights protection statute under federal law."

The Jindal Administration has stated that they are waiting on a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Louisiana's gay marriage law before complying with the Supreme Court's decision.  Otten is hopeful the court will rule soon and officials will immediately begin issuing licenses.

"But to the extent that there is a delay in the ruling by the court and state officials use that as an excuse or even if there is an immediate ruling and state officials continue to delay, then I think they're going to face some significant problems."

The Jefferson Parish clerk-of-court began issuing same-sex marriage licenses today. Otten says, although his organization is prepared to go to court over this, the challenge doesn't have to come from them.

"Any individual in the state that applies for license and is denied could conceivably do that." 
Calcasieu Parish also plans to begin issuing licenses. Sarah Jane Brady with Forum For Equality Louisiana says she hopes to see all parishes getting on board.
"And look at this and say this is the moment where we all need to look at what's happening in our country and start respecting the same sex couples that love each other and wish to be married," said Brady.


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