A survey released by two pro voucher groups shows 92-percent of the parents who have children participating in the state's voucher program are satisfied and happy with their child's academic progress. President of the Louisiana Federation for Children, Ann Duplessis, says the survey sends a strong message to those who oppose vouchers.
"The survey clearly says that parents want choice, parents want to have the opportunity to create or to provide a better educational opportunity for their kids," Duplessis said.
The Black Alliance for Educational Options also helped put the survey together.
The state's voucher program, also called the Louisiana Scholarship program, uses state funding to send children, from low income families attending poorly performing public schools, to an approved private school. Duplessis says 87-hundred students have already been awarded a scholarship for next school year.
The massive Festival International which brings in music and art lovers from all over the world, kicks off today in Lafayette. The annual 5-day festival is always held during the last full week of April.
Kelly Strenge with the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Bureau says this is a multicultural festival that draws thousands.
"We have a large draw from Louisiana and tourism wise of course from Texas, Mississippi and all over the state," said Strenge. "The Festival International draws journalists and visitors and musicians from all over the world."
Strenge says the free festival is a celebration of diversity in music.
She says historic downtown Lafayette is transformed into an entertainment complex featuring six music stages, food court areas, street musicians and more.
"It's very affordable and very easy to get to," said Strenge. "It's just five days of food, music, fine crafts from Louisiana and a world market."
Strenge says they are expecting between 300 to 350 thousand people to attend the festival through the weekend.
A bill requiring dogs to be restrained in the beds of pickup trucks passes on the House floor to the tune of "Who Let the Dogs Out" and heads to Senate. The measure by Kenner Representative Tom Willmott got a close 53-34 go-ahead vote. He says a dog loose in the back of a truck that's going 70 on an interstate is extremely unsafe.
"Think about it, if a dog falls out of a truck in front of you, it's just like an unsecured load," said Willmott. "It creates emergency situations."
Willmott says it's a public safety issue and not to mention when a dog flys out of the back of a truck onto an interstate, it's not a pretty site.
But Bossier City Representative Jeff Thompson is one of the 34 lawmakers who voted against this bill.
He says hunters in his area have no choice but to use interstates when going out with their dogs.
"We've got I-20, 220 and 49 and to go anywhere in town you're going to have to be on these portions of the road," said Thompson.
New Orleans Representative Helena Moreno took to the House Floor to share an experience she had with a dog falling out of a truck in front of her on an interstate.
Willmott says there are three acceptable ways the dog could be restrained: either in a crate, on a short enough rope or in a car top carrier.
The hot button bill by New Orleans Senator JP Morrell that would lessen marijuana penalties in Louisiana is no more. SB 323, which says anyone charged with pot possession could get no more than 6 months in jail and a $100 fine on every offense, was deferred in committee. Morrell argued that Louisiana needs to join neighboring states on this issue.
"What makes our citizens so dangerous and despicable that in Texas, which is viewed as the toughest state on crime," says Morrell. "They treat all possession of marijuana as a misdemeanor?"
Republican Senator Robert Adley of Benton said he was scolded by his mother when he said he'd support this legislation.
Adley told the story, "I said, 'Mama, I'm just trying to reduce it from a felony to a misdemeanor,' and she said, 'Well they put your nephew in jail for it and I need you to find a way to get that felony off his record!'"
Morell says under present law, a second conviction of marijuana possession is a felony and a third charge could land someone in jail 20 years which he says is ridiculous.
Charles Scott is the President of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association and they strongly oppose this bill.
He thinks lowering the marijuana penalties in Louisiana would send a message that we think pot is safe drug.
"Some of this battle needs to take place at the FDA," said Scott. "They have analyzed and still found that it is a Schedule I. That is there is a high likelihood of addiction."
Scott says one in nine adults who smoke marijuana become addicted and when they start as a teen that stat goes to one in six.
He says DA's go to great lengths to not put a felony on someone who is just a young casual user.
"We're mindful of the yolk that would put on them as a felon," Scott says. "And it is not abused."
A bill aimed at preventing the town of Washington in St. Landry Parish from writing speeding tickets on I-49 passed out of the House Transportation Committee. Shreveport Rep Alan Seabaugh's measure only allows cities to write speeding tickets on an interstate if more than a half-mile of the interstate is in town limits.
"This is about abuse, this not about law enforcement, it's about correcting an abuse that's going on in Louisiana that we have the authority to fix," Seabaugh said.
Seabaugh says only a tiny portion of I-49 is within the city limits of Washington and he believes the Washington police department is abusing its authority to write speeding tickets to help pay for government services.
The House transportation committee passed the measure on an 11-to-5 vote. Baton Rouge Representative Dalton Honore says he's concerned this bill would hurt law enforcement efforts.
"You're telling law enforcement who they can and can't stop," Honore said.
The Louisiana Municipal Association also has concerns with the legislation, but assistant director of government affairs, John Gallagher, says the portion of I-49 at the Washington exit has the reputation of being a speed trap area.
"When I'm coming from visiting my parents in Shreveport, when I get to Washington, I get out of my car and push, just to be sure," Gallagher said.