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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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A legal analyst says former LSU football player La'el Collins is making the right decision in not rushing to speak to cops about a murder of a pregnant woman. Baton Rouge Police want to interview Collins about the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Brittney Mills.  

Attorney Tim Meche says it's not in anyone's interest to talk to police until all the facts are known.  He says he'd be surprised if Collins ever talks to police.
 
"He has a competent lawyer who is probably advising him and it's never in his interest to go talk to the police and he's doing the absolute right thing that anyone in his position should do."

Authorities say Collins is not considered a suspect in this case but think he may have useful information since the two had previously been involved in a relationship.  Meche says if Collins does not voluntarily speak to police, it's his Constitutional right.

"The Constitution exists not to just to protect the guilty, but to protect the innocent people and there's a reason for that.  And people should not hold that against this young man because those rights exist for all of us."

BRPD says Collins will be interviewed sometime after the NFL Draft.  Police have yet to identify a suspect in this case.  Meche says the public should let the facts of the case surface before jumping to any conclusions.

"People need to be patient and relaxed and give this young man the presumption he's entitled to, which is that he's innocent until proven guilty."

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The Saints used their two first round picks to fill needs on offense and defense. With the 13th overall pick, New Orleans selected Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat. It's the first time, Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis selected an offensive lineman in the 1st round.


The move is another sign that New Orleans wants to provide better protection for quarterback Drew Brees. They traded for Seattle center Max Unger and now draft tackle in the first round. Peat will compete for an opportunity to start, but he'll have to beat out veterans Zach Strief and Terron Armstead.
 
With the 31st overall pick, New Orleans picked linebacker Stephone Anthony. He was the Tigers leading tackler the past two seasons. He fills a need at inside linebacker, and impressed scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine.  

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With LSU facing big budget cuts that officials say could cripple the university, hundreds of students showed up on the steps of the state capitol Thursday to speak out about the proposed reduction in higher education funding. 

"We come hear today, not out of aggression or rage, but to show that these cuts to education do not just affect the three letters that are LSU, but rather they affect each of us on a personal level," LSU student government association president Andrew Mahtook said.
 
About five-hundred students showed up for the rally, carrying signs that said "No Funds No Future" and "Jindal cuts like a knife." LSU student Justin Dicharia made the point that Jindal wasn't even in Baton Rouge to hear from the students.
 
"It is typical and a testament to Bobby Jindal's time as our governor that he is in fact not in the state today, instead he is in Washington DC," Dicharia said. 
 
According to the governor's press office, Jindal was in Washington DC to speak at the Obamacare at Five Reception hosted by the Washington Examiner.
 
After the rally, some students went inside the capitol to talk with lawmakers. Senate finance committee Chairman Jack Donahue told them they are working to solve the funding problem. 
 
"We went to LSU, our kids go to LSU, we understand the plight, we understand what's going on in higher education, and we are doing everything we can to solve that problem," Donahue said.  
 
Here's a statement from the governor's office.
 

“We think it’s a great thing that LSU students are showing up at the Capitol to make their voices heard and make sure higher education funding is protected.

We have proposed a budget that cuts over $500 million in corporate welfare to companies. Taxpayers are currently sending over $500 million in free checks to companies that are not paying state taxes. This needs to stop and these dollars need to be invested in LSU and our other colleges and universities.”

-Kyle Plotkin, Chief of Staff

 
 
 
 
 

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Michelle Southern reporting.
LSU students rallied at the Capitol today to protest cuts to the university. Officials say the proposed cuts could result in the closing of of satellite campuses and drastic losses of academic programs and faculty on the main campus. LSU President King Alexander says students have every right to be concerned about these cuts.


"This is about whether or not they are going to have the classes that they've signed up for and whether or not they are going to have the programs that they've majored in," said Alexander.

Alexander says an LSU degree should be one that's highly valued in our economy, but if these cuts go through it will affect students ability to get a quality degree.

"It really has a domino effect if we don't work together to make sure these changes and these solutions come through for our students," said Alexander.

Alexander says there are many scenarios higher ed is looking at in the face of massive reductions. He says cuts need to be mitigated substantially or colleges throughout the state may consider filing for bankruptcy.

"Which basically gives an institution the ability to immediately reduce programs, fire/layoff people all over campus and reduce the type of educational offerings for students."
 
 

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The Baton Rouge Police Department is now saying that former LSU player and potential first round draft pick La’el Collins will not be interviewed about the murder of a pregnant woman until after the NFL draft. Authorities say Collins is not a suspect in the murder of 29-year-old Brittney Mills but think he may have some information that can be helpful in their investigation since the two had previously been in a relationship.


Cpl. Don Coppola says detectives would like to interview Collins as soon as possible.
 
"I'm not sure on the timeline, but what we do know is a meeting will be scheduled sometime after the draft."

The NFL Draft begins tonight and runs through Saturday.  Police have yet to name a suspect in Mills' death.  Coppola says details of the meeting with Collins are up in the air at this time. 

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The St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office has arrested a Beau Chene High School teacher, who is also an assistant football coach, for allegedly kissing a student inside a classroom.  They say 25-year-old Gregory Fontenot is charged with one count of prohibited sexual conduct between an educator and a student.  


Lt. Clay Higgins says the alleged incident happened around February.
 
"Apparently, there was an indication of a kiss.  The student at the time was 17-years-old, she has since turned 18-years-old."

Higgins says the alleged kiss took place in a classroom after school.  He says Fontenot denies the allegation.

"The young lady, at the time, had told people about it and there was sufficient cause for arrest as seen by the detectives."

School Board officials say Fontenot has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.  Higgins says the charge against Fontenot indicates, perhaps, some degree of consent by the student.

"But he's the adult, she's a child.  He's the teacher, she's the student.  He was held responsible for his actions and he'll have his day in court." 

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Senate president John Alario is denying any wrongdoing despite a media report that says federal investigators are looking into how he spent campaign contributions. Apparently the FBI is looking into his campaign records after media reports suggested Alario misreported as much as $20,000. 


But Alario says this is news to him.

"I have no knowledge of an investigation of that type but if there is then we certainly want to cooperate," said Alario.

According to reports Alario didn't disclose the proper amount he spent for LSU tickets and a fundraiser at a New Orleans golf course. 

Alario says they have filed all of the reports required and followed all state laws, but they did make a couple of mistakes.

"It's a human thing and I'd have to admit that it was just that and there was no criminal intent," said Alario.

Alario says when this is all said he done he is confident that everything will be okay.

"But you've got to go through these agonizing experiences at times."
 
 


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Michelle Southern reporting.
State Police say a Lake Charles woman led cops on a wild 24 minute long chase Wednesday on I-10. Sgt. James Anderson says a trooper near Welsh encountered the driver who made eye contact with him then began to speed up and pass vehicles on the shoulder.


"She was driving recklessly for no apparent reason," said Anderson.

Anderson says the driver, later identified as 28-year-old Shannon Laycock, refused to stop and continued to drive recklessly at a high rate of speed.

Troopers deployed spike strips and the vehicle was successfully stopped on I-10 near Duson in Acadia Parish. She faces many charges.

Laycock was arrested for reckless operation of a motor vehicle, aggravated flight from an officer, speeding, driving on the shoulder, 2 counts of aggravated battery (for striking police vehicles with the vehicle she was driving), and resisting arrest.

Anderson says Laycock was booked into the Acadia Parish Jail and she will face additional charges in Jefferson Davis Parish. He says the woman resisted arrest after hitting cop cars with her vehicle.

"One Trooper sustained minor injuries and three Louisiana State Police vehicles sustained minor to moderate damage.  Laycock was not injured," Anderson said.
 
 


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Michelle Southern reporting.
The full Senate approves a bill that's designed to control the cost of the TOPS scholarship program. Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue's legislation would provide each TOPS recipient with a set amount and it will not automatically go up with the cost of tuition. He says this is about ensuring the future of the program for our kids.


"If we continue to go like we're going, we won't be able to afford it," said Danahue.

The bill now heads to the House for further debate. Governor Bobby Jindal has already said he opposes the measure. 

Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor says he's gotten a lot of letters from students and others who are against messing with TOPS.

"They believe TOPS is valuable and they don't want to see a cap on it," said Claitor.

Each student would get a base amount and under the proposal the rate would be locked in at the 2015-16 level. 

The amount would not automatically go up even if tuition goes up, without legislative approval.

New Orleans Senator JP Morrell says on its current track, the TOPS program is not sustainable.

"Do not mislead people that continuing to fund TOPS at this level keeps higher ed solvent," said Morrell. "You're running higher education out of business."


 

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State Police is investigating the shooting of an armed teenager in Livingston Parish early this morning. L-S-P Lt. JB Slaton says Livingston Parish authorities responded to a 9-1-1 call of a suicidal person and when they arrived at the home, 19-year-old Matthew Peyronnin was on the front porch with a shotgun raised in the direction of the deputies.


"At some point the deputies returned fire or struck Mr. Peyronnin with several rounds," Slaton said.
 
Peyronnin was shot four times. He was transported to a hospital in Baton Rouge and is in stable condition, with non-life threatening injuries. Slaton says Peyronnin will be booked on attempted second-degree murder of police officer charges. 
 
"Through our preliminary investigation, it appears Mr. Peyronnin aimed a shotgun in the direction of the deputies," Slaton said.
 
Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard says the deputy who shot Peyronnin has been put on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in a police shooting. 

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Michelle Southern reporting.
Medical marijuana is one step closer to becoming legal in Louisiana as Senate Bill 143 moves out of committee and heads to the Senate Floor. There were many people who spoke in support of the legislation by New Iberia Senator Fred Mills. 


Michelle Hall from Vernon Parish says she adopted a little girl who has epilepsy.
 
"I could do away with this medicine, this medicine and this medicine automatically from day one it's gone because that cannabis oil will stop that," said Hall.

Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, was the only one who spoke against the bill.

"Marijuana, while it might be nice to smoke, it has not been scientifically proven to be effective as treatment therapeutically for a lot of these diseases," said Adams.

Mills filed similar legislation last year which failed to pass but he says for 2015 he's addressed many of the concerns such as dispensing, prescribing and cultivation regulations.

Tommy Mead, an LSU Health Sciences Center student, testified his determination to wait till cannabis is legal in Louisiana for him to help his suffering.

"Luckily I am able to stay away from narcotics but I suffer with a lot of pain," said Mead. "I have trouble sleeping at night, but I push on."

The legislation moved forward without objection. Adams says his heart goes out to those in committee who are suffering.

"We just think the better way is to wait on something that is proven to be effective and is proven to be safe," said Adams. "That is why we continue to be in opposition to this."
 
 

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Legislation that requires sex education to be taught in seventh through 12th grade in every public schools in Orleans Parish was approved by the House Education Committee today. New Orleans councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, a supporter of the proposed law, says comprehensive sex education needs to be mandatory.


"Sexually transmitted infections are off the chart," Cantrell said. "We are third in this state in terms of HIV and AIDS new cases."
 
Under current law, sex ed may be offered in Louisiana public schools, but it must promote abstinence until marriage. However, Cantrell says the abstinence message is not working.
 
"It's just not hitting the ground, our kids are not getting what they need," Cantrell said.
 
The bill passed House Ed on an 8-to-6 vote and the controversial topic now heads to the full house for more debate. During committee debate, a resident of New Orleans expressed her concerns about the legislation.
 
"They'll be describing the steps to using a condemn correctly, which means that there will be instructional teaching to our children about how to use a condemn."
 
 
 
 

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New Orleans state Representative Austin Badon is once again pushing legislation that would lessen the penalties for some marijuana possession arrests. Badon says House Bill 149 in no way legalizes marijuana for either medical or recreational use.  


He says the bill only brings fairness to sentencing for simple marijuana possession.
 
"It retains current law provisions for first convictions and it lowers the penalty for only second and subsequent convictions."

Badon says this would bring much needed reform to Louisiana's drug law.  He adds that this measure would take simple marijuana possession out of the state's "Three Strikes You're Out" law.

"Therefore, if you are convicted multiple times for simple marijuana possession, you cannot be deemed a habitual offender and be sent to prison for life."

This is the third time Badon has filed this legislation and he hopes the third time is the charm.  He says the Louisiana District Attorney Association is not opposed to the bill.  Badon has also reached out to the Louisiana Sheriff's Association who vehemently opposed the measure last year.

"I cannot speak for them.  I think they are still in opposition to it.  However, we are in negotiations to look at doing something here in Louisiana."

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