Louisiana News
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Michelle Southern reporting.
The chairwoman of the Louisiana House Transportation Committee proposes a one cent sales tax that could generate $7 billion dollars over the next decade to help fund roads and bridges. Pierre Part Representative Karen St. Germain says the state needs to free up money needed for preservation and maintenance because we need to take care of what we have.

"We need to find some new revenue to get this backlog and also move to the next century," said Germain.

Germain also has a bill that would increase the state tax on gasoline based on the price at the pump to help offset depletion of revenues that are supposed to be dedicated to improving highway capacity and infrastructure.

She says the $12 billion dollar backlog of construction and capacity projects all over the state is not a DOTD problem.

"It's a problem that we haven't kept up with construction costs," said Germain.

Germain says the state is facing serious problems and current revenue sources will never provide enough funding to keep up with needed highway construction much less address future needs.

She says there are many important issues being discussed this session and this should be one of them.

"Healthcare and education are so important but you need roads to get there."


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A new poll on the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire says Governor Bobby Jindal is someone to keep an eye on after receiving the best favorability rating out of all the presidential hopefuls.  Tom Jensen with Public Policy Polling says Jindal's favorability rating was 43-percent.  

He says it really stuck out on this poll
"I think a lot of pollsters haven't been including Bobby Jindal in their polls because earlier he was doing so poorly.  But these numbers suggest that maybe we should put him back in."

He says these new favorability numbers could see Jindal's name thrown back in the mix.

"There's a new person who's always showing up in last place, which is Rick Perry.  I think in the next few weeks, we may swap out Rick Perry for Governor Jindal and just see where he is."

Jindal will speak this weekend at the Republican Leadership Summit in New Hampshire which features other potential presidential candidates.  Jensen says Jindal's stock could rise even more if he touts his conservative agenda at this event.

"That really resonates with these primary voters when you've already shown in an executive position that you can really, sort of, advocate for conservative principles."


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Oilfield services giant Schlumberger has announced plans to layoff approximately 11,000 additional employees due to the reduction in oil prices.  LSU Economist Loren Scott says oil companies are dealing with oil prices roughly half of what they were a year ago and they're asking these service companies for a break in the fees they charge.

"And so, these companies have been saying, 'Well shoot, the only way we can do this is to lay some people off.'  So that's part of what's going on."

He says the drop in oil prices has led to a decline in exploration and production, mainly on land rigs.  When those rigs aren't drilling, there is less need for service companies.  Scott believes a majority of these layoffs will occur in states that depend on drilling on land.

"My expectation is that most of these layoffs are going to occur in other major shale plays like the one in North Dakota, Colorado, Texas, and Pennsylvania."

In January, Schlumberger announced they were reducing their workforce by 9,000 employees.  There is some land drilling in northwest and eastern Louisiana.  But Scott says since most of Louisiana's oil and gas jobs are offshore, the extent of the layoffs should be less here.

"The deepwater Gulf of Mexico really doesn't respond very quickly to changes in the price of oil because they like have five to ten year planning horizons."


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The number of Formosan subterranean termites are rising in Louisiana and homeowners should take precautions against them.  LSU AgCenter Entomologist Gregg Henderson says these termites build shelter tubes as they move up a home's foundation.

He says if you think your home may have termites, you should get an inspection or inspect the home yourself.
"Walking around the house looking for those shelter tubes.  Trying to keep mulch away from the foundation so you can see the foundation so you can see those shelter tubes should they come up."

Henderson says if you do find termites in your home, you should call a pest control operator to get rid of them.  May is the beginning of the swarm season for these Formosan termites.  He says one way you can help prevent an infestation is to change the lighting around your home.  Henderson says most insects are attracted to the blue spectrum of light.

"And yellow lights and red, insects can't see very well. So you're not going to pull termites into the light at your house if you're using yellow lights."

He says the movement of infested wood-based items is the primary method of distribution of these termites.  Henderson says these pests are responsible for more than $300 million in losses a year in the Greater New Orleans Area alone.  He says it's definitely important to check any trees around your home for termites.

"Because they nest in trees, as well as homes.  And often trees are not looked at for termite infestation." 


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The St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office says it appears the motive behind the shooting ambush of one of their deputies Thursday stemmed from a man upset over traffic. 56-year-old John Paul Devillier, a native of the parish but resident of Gulfport, has been identified as the shooter. 

Sheriff Greg Champagne says 36-year-old Cpl. Burt Hazeltine was directing buses near a school crossing.

"Mr Devillier had to wait for traffic for a while, and for whatever reason became agitated," said Champagne. "We believe that the deputy didn't get out and stop traffic for him."

It's expected Devillier will be charged with attempted first degree murder.

Champagne says Hazeltine was confronted by the suspect who left the scene then returned to a nearby gas station and began dangling a gun out of his truck.

"At almost the same instant he began firing with the other hand through his windshield at Hazeltine," said Champagne. "Deputy Hazeltine was able to return fire and was struck himself three times."

Champagne says Hazeltine was hit three times and one of the bullets got lodged behind his left eye which he may never see out of again. He says Devillier has a violent past including getting fired from a TSA job in 2013 for conduct unbecoming.

"We understand that he was living at a hotel room in Gulfport," said Champagne. "He has been previously been arrested for domestic violence and aggravated assault."



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Michelle Southern reporting.
Even though Bossier City Representative Mike Johnson says he plans to amend the controversial religious freedom bill, critics are not backing down in opposition. Forum for Equality Director Sarah Jane Brady says the gay and transgender community in Louisiana already doesn't have protections when it comes to housing and employment at the state level.

"And while we continue to work to rectify that situation, this bill would not give the state any ability to have any form of action on behalf of its citizens," said Brady.

Some lawmakers criticized the bill in its original form saying it was so broad in protecting any belief about marriage which could mean many things. 

Johnson announced he's going to change the measure to designate the "institution of marriage" as the "union of one man and one woman." 

Brady says the intent of HB 707 has always been to discriminate against the LGBT community.

"And we need to start recognizing that these bills, whether they pass or they don't pass," says Brady. "Harm our state, its image and continue to tell the rest of the country that we're not welcoming of all people."

Governor Bobby Jindal says one of his priorities this session will be the push for this religious freedom bill. He says the measure is narrowly focused on making sure the state can not discriminate against businesses for their religious belief in traditional marriage.

"It's hard for me to see how anybody would be opposed to that," said Jindal. "I wanna hear people make the case why they think the state should sanction a Christian for their beliefs."

Jindal says he can't see how someone can make the case that the state should intervene on someone's personal religious beliefs.

"I'd like to hear the other side come to the table and say the state of Louisiana should discriminate, be able to sanction, take away licenses and financially punish someone because they have a traditional view of marriage."


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Governor Bobby Jindal has been criticized by some for a fiscal policy based on Grover Norquist and the Americans for Tax Reform.  But Jindal says he's always been a supporter of no new taxes on Louisiana residents.

"We've been consistent about that for seven years.  It shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody that in my eighth year as governor we would continue to be opposed to raising taxes."

Americans for Tax Reform states that it opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle.  Jindal feels it would be a mistake to raise taxes, even as the state faces a $1.6 billion budget deficit.  He says the improvements to the state's job market and economy didn't come by accident.

"We got here because of fiscal responsibility.  We got here because we held the line on raising taxes.  We cut government spending."

Although he agrees with ATR's stance on not raising taxes, Jindal says he has been opposed to tax hikes since he ran for governor back in 2003.   The governor says fiscal responsibility by cutting government spending may not be popular, but it is the right thing to do.

"I think it's positioned Louisiana very well in terms of our economic growth, our job growth.  Our per capita income ranking is higher than its ever been before."


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Michelle Southern reporting.
The St. Charles Parish Sheriff's office says a deputy directing traffic at a school crossing in Paradis was shot multiple times in an apparent ambush. Captain Pat Yoes says the victim was helping buses make their way off of Highway 90 around 8:50 Thursday morning when the incident took place.
The deputy is identified as 36-year-old Corporal Burt Hazeltine, a married father of four. 

"It was an apparent ambush from an individual sitting in a pickup truck at the TimeSaver," said Yoes. "He was shot multiple times."

Yoes says a passerby drug the deputy behind the police car to safety. He says when other deputies arrived the suspect dropped the gun.

"We were able to apprehend the perpetrator and the deputy was rushed to University Hospital," said Yoes.

Authorities say the deputy is currently in stable by guarded condition.

Yoes says there was an exchange of gunfire and the suspect's vehicle was hit several times, but there are no other injuries in this incident. He says the shooting appears to be completely unprovoked.

"The deputy was just directing traffic and helping buses off the roadway."

More details will be released as they become available.


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Michelle Southern reporting.
Oceana has filed a lawsuit against the federal government in an attempt to protect sea turtles from shrimp trawl nets. The suit alleges that the Endangered Species Act is being violated as 53,000 endangered sea turtles are allowed to be killed every year in the Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery off the Louisiana coast.

"What we're really looking for is the government to consider putting in by-catch limits, improve monitoring and strengthen the use and enforcement of turtle excluder devices throughout the fishery," says Oceana Marine Scientist Amanda Keledjian.

A turtle excluder device allows a captured sea turtle to escape when they are caught in a fisherman's net.

Keledjian says they want the enforcement and strengthening of the use of these devices which she says are 97% effective.

"At allowing any captured sea turtles to escape unharmed," said Keledjian. "So it's really important that industries use these devices."

Keledjian says only 1 percent of the Southeast shrimp trawl fishery's fleet is monitored for sea turtle by catch in recent years.

She says they are named as one of the most wasteful -- throwing out almost two-thirds of what they catch and killing tens of thousands of sea turtles every year.

"That's why we're really concerned."


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The New Orleans Pelicans are in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 as they defeated the defending NBA champion, San Antonio Spurs, 108-103. Anthony Davis led the way with 31 points and 13 rebounds. Tyreke Evans also had a double-double, 19 points and 11 assists. 

New Orleans scored 34 had a 15-point lead after the first quarter.  Head coach Monty Williams was pleased with how the Pels opened the game.
"I didn't expect us to have that kind of offensive output in the first quarter, but we had so many guys knocking down shots.  Our bench was great."
The Pelicans led by 16 points at halftime. The Spurs eventually cut the lead to single digits in the 4th quarter and they got within three with 11 seconds left, but New Orleans held on for one of its biggest wins in franchise history.
The Pelicans are the 8th seed and they'll play Golden State in a best of seven series that starts on Saturday in Oakland, California. Tip-off is at 2:30 on ABC.
Game 2 is Monday at Golden State at 9:30 PM.
Game 3 is Thursday April 23rd in New Orleans at 8:30 PM.
Game 4 is Saturday April 25th in New Orleans at 7 PM.
Game 5 is Tuesday April 28th at Golden State TBD.
Game 6 is Friday May 1st in New Orleans TBD.
Game 7 is Sunday May 3rd at Golden State TBD.  


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Michelle Southern reporting.
BESE unanimously approves a process that will be used to review the state's controversial Common Core academic standards. President Chas Roemer says the goal is to improve current standards where necessary instead of rewriting them. He says the key to this process is to make sure they have people who actual use Common Core participating.

"From the educators who have to implement, to parents and students," said Roemer. "We're going to have an open process to make sure we maintain the highest standards that are appropriate for our state."

Roemer says the public will have the opportunity to review and provide input on every standard, and all related meetings will be open to all. He says this is not about being pro or anti-Common Core, it's about finding out what should be expected of children who are learning.

"We'll have a group of educators that specialize in ELA, which is English/Language/Arts and we'll have a group of educators who specialize in mathematics," said Roemer. 

Roemer says at least half of the 26-member Standards Committee will be made up of current Louisiana, district and school-based educators. He says they will be looking line-by-line at the standards to make sure they are appropriate or if some can be improved. 

Louisiana Association of Educators President Debbie Meaux says they would like to see a majority of the committee staffed by classroom teachers.

"Teachers who have been teaching five years or more, they should have a bachelors degree or are certified in education," said Meaux. "We want to make sure that our standards are being reviewed by people who are actually capable to do so."


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Governor Bobby Jindal and Dallas-based Monster Moto announce the company will establish a headquarters and manufacturing facility in Ruston.  The project includes a $4 million investment to build a 100,000 square foot facility at the former site of Ruston's municipal airport.  

Mayor Ronny Walker says this is a big deal for Ruston.
"So this is the first time in years, many many years, that we've actually recruited a company to come here."

Monster Moto manufactures minibikes, go-carts, and other youth oriented vehicles.  Construction on the facility will begin in June and operations are expected to begin by the end of the year.  Walker says Monster Moto is a company that really fits in the community.

"They're very involved in Louisiana Tech and doing some stuff with them.  So it's a great partnership between Louisiana Tech and the City of Ruston."

Monster Moto's move will create 287 direct jobs for north Louisiana over the next decade and Louisiana Economic Development predicts an additional 292 new indirect jobs will be created.  Hiring will begin in the second half of 2015.  Walker says these new jobs are exactly what Ruston needs.

"It's huge for us because we need those blue collar kind of jobs, these light manufacturing and assembly jobs here in Ruston."


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Over 100 college students gathered on the steps of the State Capitol today to rally against proposed budget cuts to public universities.  Nearly all of Louisiana's colleges were represented and many held up signs that said "No Funding, No Future".  

UNO student David Teagle says these cuts equate to the theft of the future of Louisiana.
"I have two children and the people in this building have stolen from their future because they will not be able to attend the same quality education institutions that all these fine people currently go to."

Higher ed faces huge budget cuts due to a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.  Jesse Elliot, a student at LSU-Alexandria says funding for higher education has been on the chopping block for the last eight years and the state must establish stable funding for colleges and universities.  He says the effects of more budget cuts reaches far beyond the schools.

"Otherwise, this state's economy will not be able to function on a national scale.  Our prosperity will be a dream of the past if we do not begin to invest in our students again like we did eight years ago."

Students were joined by a handful of lawmakers who support their efforts.  Winnfield Senator Gerald Long, whose district includes Northwestern State and LSU-Alexandria, feels it's the legislature's responsibility to enact positive ways to fund higher ed.

"For us to go home on June the 15th without funding higher education, we did not do our job.  We failed you."
Here is a statement from Governor Jindal on the rally.

"We appreciate all of the students who spoke out today in support of our colleges and universities. It’s a great thing when students take part in the democratic process. We have presented a budget that cuts over $500 million in corporate welfare. Our budget prioritizes higher education and healthcare ahead of corporate welfare. There are also additional solutions we are supportive of that will protect higher education."



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Michelle Southern reporting.
The ACLU of Louisiana is calling on the candidates for Governor to address the state's massive incarceration problem. Executive Director Marjorie Esman says we are the world's incarceration leader, jailing more people per capita than any place on earth.

She says the gubernatorial candidates are talking about fixes for the state's budget and overlooking a serious crisis.

"The huge amounts of money that we spend incarcerating a higher percentage of our own people than any place in the world," said Esman.

Esman says when we're facing massive cuts to higher education, hospitals and infrastructure, the conversation needs to get started about how we can get some of that money back. She says this puts us in a terrible position of being the world's largest incarcerator.

"And if somebody wants to be the leader of Louisiana for 4 and maybe 8 years, they need to address this serious problem," said Esman. "It's costing us a huge amount of money."

Esman says Louisiana wastes millions in tax dollars paying for inmates who pose little to no threat to our society and believes small offenses would be better addressed through alternatives to incarceration. 

She says she's not sure why the candidates have so far not addressed this issue and hopes that now that they've asked them to they will.

"When Louisiana has for many years the very shameful status of being the world's leading incarcerator, it would seem like the very first thing they would want to talk about instead of the last," said Esman.


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Michelle Southern reporting.
The Natchitoches Police Department says the assistant principal at Frankie Ray Jackson Senior Technical Center is under arrest for allegedly paddling a teacher. Captain Chris Payne says they got the complaint in February that a female teacher at the school had a battery committed upon her.

"Further investigation into the incident revealed that the teacher had been struck with a paddle on the buttocks by Assistant Principal Vogel," said Payne.

64-year-old Hugo Vogel was arrested this week for simple battery and was later released on $303 bond. Motive for the alleged battery is unclear. Payne says the investigation was eventually turned over to the department.

"The investigators went out to the school and made the arrest," said Payne.

Payne says if anyone has additional information about this alleged battery or knows further details they are urged to contact authorities.

"And any caller should remember that all calls shall be kept confidential," said Payne.


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A transgender Lake Charles man has filed a federal sex discrimination lawsuit against his former employer.  21-year-old Tristan Broussard alleges he was fired from Tower Loan last year when it was discovered he used to be a woman.  

One of Broussard's attorneys, Amy Whelan, says federal law prohibits employers discriminating against employees based on sex.
"Our federal agencies that enforce civil rights laws in the country have made clear that discrimination against transgender workers is a form of sex discrimination."

The suit alleges that during a review of Broussard's employment paperwork, it was noticed that his driver's licence listed his sex as female.  After the company's vice president found out, Whelan says Broussard was pulled into a meeting.

"Confronted him about the sex that was listed on his driver's license and then told him that if he didn't present as a woman and dress as a woman at work he would be fired."

A Tower Loan spokesman says they do not comment on personnel issues or issues involving pending litigation.  Whelan says they are open to talk with Tower Loan to settle this case and turn this into a success story.

"Of an employer that understands its obligations under the law and agrees to do training and agrees to train their employees and agrees to take responsibility for what they did." 


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Louisiana college students will rally at the state capitol today to express their concerns about a potential 600-million dollar cut in state funding to public colleges and universities. Stephanie Travis, who chairs the council of student body presidents, says she started at Southeastern Louisiana in 2009 and has seen how previous budget cuts have impacted the Hammond campus.

"It was really devastating to have my college experience dwindled from previous years," Travis said.
Lawmakers are looking at how they can preserve higher education, but finding ways to raise revenue to prevent drastic cuts will be difficult. Travis says raising tuition on students is NOT the answer.
"There are other students that are no longer able to have the experience that I have, because they've been priced out with a tax, an increase in tuition," Travis said.
So far in previous budget hearings, lawmakers have talked about the importance of finding a way to stop the cuts to higher ed. Travis is concerned that legislators will realize that the easiest solution is to raise tuition and fees, but they've already gone up enough. 
"At Southeastern alone, from 2009 to 2015 tuition and fees have increased 70%," Travis said.  


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Michelle Southern reporting.
Today is tax day and there are still millions who have yet to file and are waiting till the last minute. If you file electronically it must be done by midnight. But Bill Potter, a CPA in Baton Rouge, says if you don't think you're gonna make it, then you can file an extension.

"You can request an additional six months, but that's only to file," says Potter. "If you owe taxes you have to send money in with the extension form or be subject to interest and penalties."

If you make less than $60,000 a year you can log on to irs.gov and choose from several different commercial software companies that let you file your taxes for free. 

Potter says one of the most common mistakes people make is getting their social security number wrong. He says it's also important to report ALL your income.

"People get 1009s from the bank or stock brokers, and you have to report all of those," said Potter. "They are matched in the IRS super computer."

Potter says a lot of people procrastinate because they owe money, but most taxpayers get refunds so it's always better to file and the sooner the better.

"There are so many of those that just go back to the government because people don't take the time to file their refund."
And remember only federal returns are due today. The state filing deadline is May 15th.  


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If the Pelicans win tonight against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs they are in the Western Conference playoffs for the first time since 2011. Pelicans head coach Monty Williams says the players are embracing the situation before them.

"It's what you dream about as a young player to be in a game like this," Williams said. "From where our program has come from, it's an awesome opportunity."  
If the Pelicans lose tonight's regular season finale, they'll have to hope that Minnesota upsets Oklahoma City, because a Thunder victory and a New Orleans loss, puts O-K-C into the playoffs and not the Pels. Williams believes his team can handle the pressure. 
"We've dealt with more emotions, big games, big losses, big wins, our guys are fine. They know they have to execute, it's going to be a cool time. Maybe the first time we are embarking on this, but these guys have been through a lot and they know how to handle it. 
Tip-off is at 7 PM.  


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Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush endorses US Senator David Vitter in this year's governor's race.  Bush will appear with Vitter today at a fundraising event in New Orleans.  

Political analyst Clancy Dubos says this is not a surprise as the senator has contacts at the national level to secure endorsements like this.
"These are all folks who know David Vitter at the federal level and it's not surprising that he would get their support.  But it is very important and, I'm sure, it gives his campaign a boost and some momentum."

Bush is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination.  Vitter has also picked up endorsements from presidential hopefuls Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  Dubos says these endorsements are good at creating momentum for a campaign, but endorsements alone will not get Vitter elected governor.

"It's all a cumulative effect between endorsements, advertising, a candidate getting out there and touching voters and listening to voters.  There's no one part of a campaign that is the linchpin."

Bush is considered a serious contender for the Republican nomination due to his ability to raise money.  Dubos feels Vitter is not the only one to benefit from this endorsement.

"I think it helps former governor Bush to have a man who might well be Louisiana's next governor owing him a favor."


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