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State News

News For Thursday 04/26/12


NEWS FOR THURSDAY 042612
BY DAVE GRAICHEN

LOTTERY OFFICIALS SAY THE WINNING TICKET IN WEDNESDAY'S $173 MILLION POWERBALL DRAWING WAS SOLD IN PENNSYLVANIA AND THERE WERE NO BIG WINNERS IN LOUISIANA. THE NEXT POWERBALL DRAWING ON SATURDAY HAS AN ESTIMATED JACKPOT OF $40 MILLION.

35-YEAR-OLD YVONNE WILLETT OF PINEVILLE WAS KILLED YESTERDAY IN WHAT STATE POLICE ARE CALLING A SINGLE-VEHICLE CRASH. THE ACCIDENT HAPPENED AROUND 8:30 IN THE MORNING. ON LA. HIGHWAY 454, WEST OF LA. HIGHWAY 107 WHEN HER VEHICLE LEFT THE ROADWAY AND HIT A DRIEWAY EMBANKMENT. WILLETT WAS NOT WEARING A SEAT BELT AND WAS EJECTED. SHE WAS PRONOUNCED DEAD AT THE SCENE.

STATE EDUCATION OFFICIALS HAVE RELEASED THE APPLICATION THAT PRIVATE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS ARE TO FILL OUT TO PARTICIPATE IN LOUISIANA'S NEW VOUCHER TUITION PROGRAM. LEGISLATION ESTABLISHING THE STATEWIDE VOUCHER PROGRAM WAS SIGNED BY GOV. BOBBY JINDAL LAST WEEK. STUDENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS GRADED BY THE STATE WITH A C, D OR F, AND WHO ARE FROM LOW-TO-MODERATE-INCOME FAMILIES, WILL BE ELIGIBLE TO GO TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS AT STATE EXPENSE. THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT SAID THIS WEEK THAT SCHOOLS WANTING TO ACCEPT THOSE STUDENTS SHOULD SUBMIT THEIR APPLICATION BY MAY 18.

JOSHUA LEDET EARNED ANOTHER PAIR OF STANDING OVATIONS ON "AMERICAN IDOL."
THE POWERFUL 20-YEAR-OLD GOSPEL SINGER FROM WESTLAKE, LA., GOT THE FOX TALENT CONTEST'S JUDGES ON THEIR FEET AGAIN WEDNESDAY NIGHT. TONIGHT THOUGH, ONE OF THE SIX FINALISTS WILL BE ELIMINATED.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA HAS NOMINATED BATON ROUGE ATTORNEY RACHELLE "SHELLY" DECKERT DICK TO FILL A VACANCY ON THE FEDERAL BENCH IN BATON ROUGE. THE WHITE HOUSE ANNOUNCED THE NOMINATION WEDNESDAY. IF APPROVED, SHE WOULD FILL THE SEAT LEFT VACANT BY THE JULY DEATH OF CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE RALPH TYSON. U.S. SEN. MARY LANDRIEU RECOMMENDED DICK FOR THE POST. DICK, A FOUNDING PARTNER IN THE BATON ROUGE LAW FIRM OF FORRESTER & DICK LLC, IS A VETERAN CIVIL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AND HAS REPRESENTED BOTH GOVERNMENT AND NON-GOVERNMENT CLIENTS IN MATTERS OF FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT LAW.

THE LOUISIANA HOUSE NARROWLY REFUSED WEDNESDAY TO EXTEND AN EXISTING TAX BREAK GIVEN TO THE NEW ORLEANS HORNETS THAT SAVES THE TEAM $3.7 MILLION A YEAR.
THE EXTENSION PROPOSED BY REP. CAMERON HENRY, R-METAIRIE, FELL FOUR VOTES SHORT OF PASSAGE IN A 49-46 VOTE WEDNESDAY. IT NEEDED 53 VOTES TO WIN APPROVAL.
THE NBA TEAM GETS A TAX BREAK THROUGH THE STATE QUALITY JOBS PROGRAM. HENRY PROPOSED CONTINUING THAT FOR THE LENGTH OF THE HORNETS' NEW LEASE WITH THE STATE, WHICH IS SET TO GO THROUGH 2024. THE TAX EXEMPTION EXPIRES IN 2013.

THE LOUISIANA SENATE SHELVED A PROPOSAL WEDNESDAY THAT WOULD HAVE STOPPED FORMER LAWMAKERS FROM BOOSTING THEIR RETIREMENT PAY BY GETTING A JOB WITH A STATE AGENCY AFTER LEAVING OFFICE. IN EFFECT, THE MOVE WOULD BAR ANY LAWMAKERS CURRENTLY IN THE LOUISIANA STATE EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM FROM TAKING A STATE JOB AFTER LEAVING OFFICE THAT WOULD GIVE THEM A MUCH HIGHER SALARY IN THEIR FINAL FEW YEARS, THEREBY SWELLING THEIR PENSION PAYMENTS WHEN THEY RETIRE. A STATE WORKER'S RETIREMENT BENEFIT IS BASED ON THE TOP THREE YEARS OF SALARY.

THE AIR QUALITY IN NINE LOUISIANA PARISHES CAN MAKE BREATHING DANGEROUS, ACCORDING TO DATA RELEASED WEDNESDAY BY THE AMERICAN LUNG ASSOCIATION.
THE DATA SHOW THAT ABOUT 41 PERCENT OF THE NATION SUFFERS FROM SUCH POLLUTION LEVELS. FOUR OUT OF 10 PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES LIVE IN AREAS THAT RECEIVED AN F BECAUSE OF UNHEALTHY LEVELS OF OZONE AIR POLLUTION. THE LOUISIANA PARISHES THAT FAILED IN HIGH OZONE DAYS ARE ASCENSION, BOSSIER, CALCASIEU, EAST BATON ROUGE, IBERVILLE, JEFFERSON, LIVINGSTON, POINTE COUPEE AND ST. TAMMANY.
THE REPORT LISTS THREE PARISHES IN WHICH THERE ARE NO MONITORS COLLECTING OZONE DATA: RAPIDES, TANGIPAHOA AND TERREBONNE.

STATE GOVERNMENT WILL BE FORCED TO MAKE MORE CUTS AS A RESULT OF LOWER THAN EXPECTED REVENUES. LOUISIANA IS $211-MILLION SHORT FOR THIS FISCAL YEAR, AND REVENUE PROJECTIONS FOR NEXT FISCAL YEAR HAVE BEEN REVISED DOWNWARD BY OVER $300-MILLION. THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE CAN ADDRESS CUTS TO BRING THE CURRENT FISCAL YEAR BUDGET INTO BALANCE. STATE LAWMAKERS WILL HAVE TO HANDLE BALANCING THE BUDGET FOR THE FISCAL YEAR THAT STARTS JULY 1ST.

A BID TO SHRINK THE NUMBER OF GUBERNATORIAL APPOINTEES ON THE BOARD OF ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION WAS DEFEATED IN THE HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE. REP. HERBERT DIXON, D-ALEXANDRIA, WANTED TO REDUCE BESE FROM AN 11-MEMBER BOARD TO NINE MEMBERS. HIS BILL (HOUSE BILL 165) WOULD HAVE REPLACED THE GOVERNOR'S THREE APPOINTEES WITH ONE MEMBER APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR, HOUSE SPEAKER AND SENATE PRESIDENT. THE OTHER EIGHT ELECTED MEMBERS WOULD HAVE REMAINED.

THE SENATE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE KILLED A MEASURE BY NEW ORLEANS SENATOR KAREN PETERSON REQUIRING BUSINESSES TO GIVE EQUAL PAY TO WOMEN WHO DO THE SAME JOB AS MEN. THE QUAL PAY FOR WOMEN ACT WAS VOTED DOWN BY A FIVE TO THREE MARGIN WEDNESDAY. THE VOTE EFFECTIVELY KILLS THE LEGISLATION FOR THE CURRENT LEGISLATIVE SESSION.

IN A STATE THAT HAS ONE OF THE HIGHEST TEEN PREGNANCY RATE IN THE COUNTRY, THE HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE HAS DEADLOCKED ON A PROPOSAL TO REQUIRE LOUISIANA PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO TEACH SEX EDUCATION. THE BILL BY DEMOCRATIC REP. PATRICIA SMITH, OF BATON ROUGE, WOULD REQUIRE THE COURSES BEGINNING WITH THE 2013-14 SCHOOL YEAR. THEY WOULD INCLUDE TEACHING ABOUT ABSTINENCE, CONTRACEPTIVES AND SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES, INSTRUCTION DEEMED "AGE APPROPRIATE" BY THE STATE EDUCATION BOARD. PARENTS WHO DON'T WANT THEIR CHILDREN PARTICIPATING IN THE CLASSES COULD OPT OUT. OBJECTIONS WERE RAISED BY RELIGIOUS GROUPS AND THE STATE EDUCATION BOARD. CURRENT LAW ALLOWS SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO PROVIDE SEX EDUCATION TO STUDENTS, BUT ONLY IF THEY CHOOSE.

UL-LAFAYETTE AND HEAD FOOTBALL COACH MARK HUDSPETH HAVE REACHED AN AGREEMENT ON A NEW FIVE YEAR CONTRACT. HUDSPETH IS CREDITED WITH TURNING THE RAGIN CAJUN FOOTBALL PROGRAM AROUND IN JUST ONE SEASON. LAST YEAR HUDSPETH TOOK THE TEAM TO THEIR FIRST BOWL GAME SINCE 1970. ATHLETIC DIRECTOR SCOTT FARMER SAYS THE CONTRACT IS A MAJOR SHOW OF SUPPORT BY THE UL BOARD FOR THE COACH'S PERFORMANCE. HE SAYS PRIVATE DOLLARS WILL PAY FOR THE COACH'S RAISE, WHILE THE UNIVERSITY'S FINANCIAL COMMITMENT REMAINS THE SAME. HUDSPETH'S NEW CONTRACT WILL DOUBLE HIS CURRENT $360-THOUSAND ANNUAL SALARY.

IN THE TOWN OF WASHINGTON, JUST NORTH OF OPELOUSAS, POLICE HAVE STARTED TO ENFORCE THE TOWN'S PIT BULL ORDINANCE. 17 PIT BULLS WERE TURNED OVER TO THE ST. LANDRY PARISH ANIMAL CONTROL AFTER THEY WERE SEIZED BY WASHINGTON POLICE ON MONDAY. CHIEF RONELLE BROUSSARD SAID THE DOGS' OWNERS ALL WERE IN VIOLATION OF AN ORDINANCE REGULATING PIT BULLS. "LETTERS WERE SENT OUT AND THEY HAD THE PIT BULL ORDINANCE AND THEY HAD 30 DAYS TO COMPLY," BROUSSARD SAID. "NO ONE HAS COMPLIED WITH THE ORDINANCE. NO ONE HAS MADE ANY ATTEMPT TO COMPLY WITH THE ORDINANCE. THAT ORDINANCE REQUIRES, AMONG OTHER THINGS, THAT OWNERS OF PIT BULLS HAVE A 6- BY 6-FOOT ENCLOSED AREA WITH A COVERED TOP AND A $100,000 INSURANCE POLICY.

LAWMAKERS SCRAPPED A PROPOSAL TO CREATE A REDEMPTION SYSTEM FOR RECYCLING DRINK BOTTLES AND CANS, SIDING WEDNESDAY WITH OPPONENTS WHO SAID THE BILL WOULD CREATE HEADACHES FOR BUSINESSES AND COULD COST THE STATE. REP. EDDIE LAMBERT, R-GONZALES, HAS UNSUCCESSFULLY PUSHED THE IDEA OF PAYING PEOPLE TO RETURN BOTTLES AND CANS FOR SEVERAL YEARS AS A WAY TO ENCOURAGE RECYCLING AND TO CLEAN UP LITTER ALONG LOUISIANA'S ROADWAYS AND IN WATERWAYS.

THE FULL HOUSE WILL DEBATE WHETHER LOUISIANA SHOULD JOIN AN INTERSTATE COMPACT SEEKING TO ELECT THE NATION'S PRESIDENT BY THE POPULAR VOTE RATHER THAN THROUGH THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE. THE "NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE" PROPOSAL (HOUSE BILL 1095) WOULD ONLY TAKE EFFECT IF STATES REPRESENTING A MAJORITY OF THE ELECTORAL VOTES — 270 OUT OF 538 — AGREE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE COMPACT. EIGHT STATES SO FAR HAVE ENACTED THE MEASURE, REACHING ABOUT HALF THE 270 ELECTORAL VOTES NEEDED TO MAKE THE CHANGE.

A NEW ORLEANS MAN IS SENTENCED TO 80 YEARS IN PRISON FOR THE 2006 KILLING OF FIVE YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE CRESCENT CITY. MICHAEL ANDERSON WAS CONVICTED OF GUNNING THE GROUP OF TEENS DOWN. THE INCIDENT TRIGGERED A CALL TO CURB POST-KATRINA VIOLENCE IN THE CITY, AND LED TO NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS BEING
ASSIGNED TO STREET DUTY FOR OVER A YEAR.

THE SHREVEPORT AIRPORT AUTHORITY IS IN TALKS WITH UNITED AIRLINES TO ADD MORE WESTBOUND FLIGHTS TO ITS SERVICE. CONNECTIONS TO A NEW WESTERN HUB CITY WOULD INCREASE THE NUMBER OF DESTINATIONS FROM SHREVEPORT. SHREVEPORT REGIONAL AIRPORT HAS SHOWN RAPID GROWTH OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS. THEY ARE UP ABOUT 11-PERCENT IN THE LAST YEAR, ADDING OVER 56-THOUSAND PASSENGERS. WESTERN HUB CITIES FOR UNITED INCLUDE LOS ANGLES, SAN FRANCISCO AND DENVER.







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