Shreveport-Bossier will play host to both this year’s Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants, with Miss USA confirmed for May 21st. It'll be the first time both pageants have ever been held at the same location back to back. Miss USA will air live on FOX-TV from the Hirsch Memorial Coliseum.
Shreveport Chief Administrative Officer Bryan Crawford says northwest Louisiana is a perfect host site for Miss USA.
“This is exactly the family friendly economic development venue that we encourage and entice for the Shreveport-Bossier region.”
The competition will bring contestants from all 50 states and DC together in Shreveport, and draw in a national TV audience. Crawford says the crush of tourists will be a big boost to the region.
“The economic impact is going to be significant for this event. We’ll certainly feel it here in Shreveport and bossier. Our local businesses will all see a direct impact from this event being here.”
Bossier City mayor Lo Walker fondly remembers the first time the competition rolled into town, back in 1998.
“I’ve seen up close and personal what this is for the young ladies competing, but also what this means for our community. What an experience it is.”
Miss USA/Miss Teen USA will stay in the area for 11 days.
That new car in the neighbor’s driveway probably has you thinking that their tax return came in, but if you’ve filed and are getting worried about where your money is, the Department of Revenue wants to remind you not to worry, it’s on its way.
Spokesperson Byron Henderson says even if you filed on day one, your return won’t technically be late until the end of this month.
“If taxpayers file electronically, they can generally expect their refunds within 60 days. Doesn’t mean it’s going to take 60 days, but we think we can turn those refunds around within 60 days.”
Those who filed a paper return could have to wait up to 14 weeks.
Henderson says if you are past your expected return time, it could be one of these three things.
“Refunds can be delayed if taxpayers fail to keep their addresses current, if they have math errors or other errors with their return, or if the return triggers fraud indicators.”
If you’re getting antsy, you can always reach out to the Department of Revenue by phone or online, but Henderson recommends taking the online route to save yourself some time.
“Log onto revenue.Louisiana.gov/refund and use the Where’s My Refund online app to check their refund status.”
He says you can always call instead, but the wait cues to talk to an agent could be “extremely long”.
Senate bill 423 is a measure that north Louisiana Senator Neil Riser hopes is never needed. It would provide 250-thousand dollars to the families of any teacher or school employee that's killed while performing their job.
“Hopefully nothing like this will ever take place,” said the bill’s author Sen. Neil Riser (R)-Columbia. “But, were living in a crazy society and it has transpired in other places and it’s the least we can do for our teachers.”
Cynthia Posey is a spokesperson with the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. She says the more responsibility you put on teachers the more they should be compensated.
“We have many bills that are seeking to arm teachers, were asking our teachers to be first responders than this bill is even more important,” says Posey.
The measure will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee this afternoon.
A report from America’s Health Ranking says the rates of maternal mortality and teen suicide have risen over the last two years in Louisiana. UnitedHealthCare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Peters says we’re one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to taking care of expecting mothers.
“We don’t have as many mothers getting pre-natal care, and following that, once born, access to primary care and regular checkups, our statistics are just not as good as some of the other states.”
The maternal mortality rate increased 28 percent to 44.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017, while the infant mortality was down 11 percent.
Teen suicides were up seven percent to 10.4 deaths per 100,000 adolescents aged 15-19. Peters says mental health is a nationwide issue that Louisiana in particular lags behind on.
“Behavioral health services are inadequate for adolescents and adults, and that’s very true in our state.”
Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and West Virginia made up the five lowest ranked states. Peters says they all have something in common, low state healthcare funding.
“The reason why some of the southern states are ranked lowest in health outcomes and the measures that are out there has to do with the funding of state programs.”
The uninsured rate for women 18-40 was down 34 percent. Peters attributes this to the Medicaid expansion in 2016.
LSU freshman right-hander Ma'Khail Hilliard gave up his first two runs of the season in the first inning, but that was it, as Hilliard pitched six solid innings to help the Fighting Tigers beat Missouri 7-5 in the rubber match of the three-game series.
Missouri had three well-placed singles in the first inning to score two runs. But Hilliard allowed just three more hits and struck out six in six innings to run his record to 5-0.
At the plate, LSU pounded out 13 hits led by the top two men in the order. Zach Watson and Brandt Broussard each had three hits. Watson scored twice and drove in two runs. Broussard had an RBI single and scored the final run in the eighth inning.
Antoine Duplantis drove in two runs, a sacrifice fly in the 1st and an infield single in the eighth inning. Duplantis had a total of four hits on Saturday and Sunday and his average is now up to .301.
LSU's bullpen imploded in Saturday's 12-6 loss. AJ Labas and Nick Bush each pitched scoreless innings.
But Austin Bain gave up a three-run home run in the 9th inning as Kameron Misner hit one into the right field bleachers.
LSU is 14-7 on the year, 2-1 in the SEC. They will host Tulane on Wednesday night and then visit Vanderbilt for a three-game series starting on Friday. The Green Wave lost a series at Long Beach State, while the Commodores swept Mississippi State.
Despite talk of budget cuts to public colleges and TOPS, a record 23,000 students have applied for entry at LSU for the academic year that starts in August. The school’s chief enrollment officer, Jose Aviles, says they hope for an incoming freshman class of 5,800, but TOPS funding is a factor.
"Nothing is set until they put the deposit down and say 'yes I'm in fact attending LSU," Aviles said. "There's a lot of phone calls coming into our office about the uncertainty about TOPS, so we are concerned about that for sure."
Aviles says it’s impressive LSU has so many applicants, especially considering there are fewer high school graduates. On Friday, the LSU Board of Supervisors approved three scholarships to help students choose LSU. Aviles says thousands of dollars are available to students who qualify for these scholarships.
"If we are declining in the number of students who are graduating from high school and they are only going to choose one place, it's not going to be us."
The Innovation Award would give Louisiana freshman up to 3-thousand dollars. The Tiger Excellence Award is for nonresident students who have ACT scores of 28 or 29 and then there’s the Transformation Merit Scholarship. Aviles says that’s for students who have a 26 or 27 ACT and those are students most universities are trying to attract.
"It is important for us as an institution to understand that the investment in merit monies is solely to compete for the students we want most."
The merit scholarships are paid for by money from the school's general budget.
Louisiana is two million dollars short on its funding for voucher students this year. The money is appropriated every June, and covers the cost of state students to attend charter and private schools, instead of public schools.
Department of Education spokesperson Sydni Dunn says the state is short this year, and if more money isn’t appropriated next year, could be short by an even wider margin.
“The state may be facing up to seven million dollars next year that would be needed to pay for students aid.”
Dunn says if the legislature doesn't come up with another two-million dollars to fill the shortfall for this academic year, schools that are educating voucher students would be on the hook to pay for their educational expenses.
“Schools may not be able to be fully reimbursed by the state for students' tuition and other expenses.”
The state's voucher program is paid for by a special line-item appropriation in the budget. It currently enrolls 6,600 students statewide. Dunn says it's possible money that funds public schools may have to be redirected to cover some of the costs of the voucher program for next school year.
"So either way the state will be paying for these students," Dunn said.
Forty-six percent of LSU Health New Orleans graduating medical students participating in the National Resident Match Program this year chose to remain in Louisiana. But that is down from 49% staying in state last year and 64% in 2012. Dr. Steve Nelson says it’s a trend that could cost Louisiana some great doctors.
"70% of the doctors in this state trained at an LSU facility. We provide the health care workforce for this state. So these students leave and there's a large likelihood they will leave."
National studies find a high number of physicians set up their permanent practices in areas where they complete their residency program. Nelson says a decline of 18 percent in Louisiana in the last five years is a concern and it’s up to the legislature to ensure funding of higher education in order to fix.
"Each year, they hear the same thing. Cuts to higher education, cuts to the hospital. And so to me, it's clearly a negative trend we need to correct."
Nelson says the future medical achievements and the new physicians that will fill our hospitals and medical practices come from Louisiana, not elsewhere.
"At LSU, we're really training your doctor for your family, your daughter, your father, your mother right now. So this is a personal issue to everyone."
A bill that would prevent businesses from requiring employees to sign agreements blocking them from going to court over sexual harassment claims passed the House Labor Committee. The proposal by Representative Robert Johnson is part of a nationwide effort, backed by Attorney Generals, to protect victims of workplace misconduct.
Johnson says businesses shouldn’t have the ability to dictate how victims respond to abuse.
“This is not a matter of business in terms of a contractual nature, this is violating someone’s human dignity, in their workplace, where they should be safe.”
The legislation would allow accusers to choose whether they would like settle claims in arbitration, an independent alternative to the court, or take their claim before a civil court. Criminal cases of sexual harassment would be heard in criminal court.
Due the nature of sexual harassment, Johnson says victims must be guaranteed a chance to bring their case to a civil court judge.
“Sometimes these types of acts go on for a number of years, victims do not always report these things expeditiously, and sometimes those criminal charges are not able to be brought.”
The Marksville Democrat says victims stand a better chance to reach a favorable conclusion if they seek litigation for sexual harassment claims instead of potentially more company friendly options. He says when human dignity is on the line, a judge needs to be called.
“In this particular area, I feel very strongly about it, that arbitration is not appropriate.”
Well wishers continued to remember Saints owner Tom Benson one day after his death.Tom Benson touched many people on many levels as evident by the testimonials about Benson following his death at 90 years old.
Through negotiations, with then Governor Edwin Edwards, Benson was able to purchase the Saints and bring in Local quarterback Bobby Hebert. Hebert says Benson showed the league how they needed the saints to stay in New Orleans.
"Keeping the Saints and their stability here and the NFL realized how important it was to have a team here and Mr. Benson was a big part of that." said Hebert.
The Saints all time leading rusher, Deuce McAllister, also weighed in.
"He understood what it meant New Orleans wise to have that team in here. There were a couple different times where the Saints were in doubt about being a part of New Orleans but every time he would do some kind of major investment," says McAllister.
Funeral arrangements are still pending.
After 17 years, DeSoto Parish Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle retires today. He was first elected back in 2000. He says there are several personal issues he must attend to and this is a good time to step aside.
"Everybody always said you know as long as you're having fun, you do a good job. But I got to the point it wasn't as fun as it used to and I always made a promise to myself and the people, when I quit really enjoying the job, then it was time for me to go home."
Arbuckle will be replaced by Chief Deputy Jayson Richardson, who has served the citizens of DeSoto Parish for the last 14 years. Arbuckle says he has accomplished much in his tenure as sheriff. He started with only 75 employees and about a half million dollar surplus.
"I'm leaving 130 manforce, one of the highest paid departments, some of the best equipment that's around. And I'm going to leave them with about a 48-million-dollar surplus."
Arbuckle is looking forward to spending his free time with his granddaughters and get caught up on the outdoor recreation.
"I have two new grandchildren in the last year. One of them have some health problems. Today at the close of business I"ll be gone and trying to figure out next week whether I go fish or turkey hunt."
Senator John Kennedy has co-sponsored the WOOF act which stands for welfare of our furry friends act. He’s aiming to curtail the death’s of animals on airlines like the one last Monday on a United flight.
"There have been a number of pets, in particular dogs, who have died on United flights. In this particular instance they made her put her dog in the overhead bin and the dog died," said Kennedy.
Kennedy says he expects to get some answers from the airline that was responsible for the dog’s death.
But Lamar White, publisher of Bayou Brief, says Kennedy is looking for some cheap publicity. He says the death of a dog shouldn't spur on a sitting U.S. senator when other events have darkened the doors.
"Where's John Kennedy been after the school shooting in Florida, after the massacre in Las Vegas? These are major events that should have forced him into action," says White.
The U.S. Department of Transportation says there were 24 documented animal deaths on airlines in 2017.
Shreveport Senator John Milkovich’s legislation that would give teachers more freedom to decide how to handle bullies in public schools passed through the Senate Education Committee. The bill gives teachers a wide leniency to teachers to “take all steps deemed necessary” to the bullying, including involving the police, and personally restraining the offending student.
Milkovich says it would cut down on the red tape involved in stopping bullies.
“They don’t need to go through a three month administrative process. If they see that a child needs to be protected from someone, they can grab the kid and toss him out of the school. Or they can call the police.”
Cut 7, 10 seconds, the police
Milkovich says the bill was inspired by a meeting he had, arranged by a local pastor, with two parents whose daughters had committed suicide after being bullied.
“Their kids were harassed my school kids, and this breaks the heart of every parent, but each of them went home on different days and found their teenage daughters hanging in their bedrooms.”
Cut 8, 11 seconds, their bedrooms.
The Senator says the parents reported the bullying several times to the school, but after months, nothing had been done.
Currently, teachers are limited in how they can handle bullying in schools. Milkovich says his legislation would provide educators with new avenues for dealing with classroom abusers.
“If the teacher needs to physically intervene, grab a kid, or toss him across the room, we’re telling the teachers as long as they act reasonably they are protected.”
Cut 9, 11 seconds, they’re protected
The bill faces opposition from the governor’s office, who says the bill is “overly regulatory” and “that school officials have a lot of tools right now” for dealing with bullying.
Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson has passed away at the age of 90. Benson bought the Saints in 1985 after building a car dealership and real estate empire that started in San Antonio, and expanded to his hometown of New Orleans.
When the team went up for sale in 1984, then governor Edwin Edwards says he had one priority: finding a buyer who would keep the team in town, and he found that man in Benson.
“He assured me that if he did buy it, the team would remain in New Orleans, and he kept his word. The team has remained in New Orleans, and it has been a great asset to the city and the state.”
Edwards considered Benson a friend, and the two worked together to make the team a staple of Louisiana culture. The governor says if you worked with Benson, you better be a straight shooter.
“No frivolity, no fooling around, straight down the line, no equivocating, tell it like it is, stick by your promise because that’s what he’s going to do.”
The team had a nearly immediate run of success after Benson’s purchase, grabbing at the time a franchise best 12-4 record just two years into his ownership.
The city, and franchise hit its most precarious patch in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf south. Rumors were abound that the team would end up permanently moving to another city, but Benson kept his word and the Black and Gold committed to staying home. Governor John Bel Edwards says that act helped bring the city back to life.
“When Louisiana and particularly New Orleans was brought to its knees by Hurricane Katrina, Tom Benson stepped up to the plate. He helped us rebuild, he re-instilled confidence and the spirit that is New Orleans and Louisiana.”
Benson leaves the team in good shape, hoping to keep momentum from a highly successful 2017 season rolling right into a 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta.
Ten people were arrested in the alleged hazing death of LSU student Maxwell Gruver, but only four of the young men were indicted by an East Baton Rouge grand jury. At the time of the arrests, Matthew Naquin was the only one charged with negligent homicide, and the grand jury found enough evidence to indict him on that charge.
"That's going to trial, likely a jury trial in district court, there will be discovery, motions," said Loyola University Law Professor Dane Ciolino. "That's one that will likely go on for several months."
Three other people were indicted on a charge of hazing. The maximum penalty for that charge is fines and no more than 30 days in jail.
The East Baton Rouge District Attorney decided not to pursue a hazing charge against one of the fraternity members. Ciolino says since grand jury proceedings are not public, it’s unclear why the other five were not indicted
"We have not idea to what extent the district attorney asked for indictments against the other individuals and was rebuffed by the grand jury, or if the DA simply softballed his presentation with regards to some of these defendants," Ciolino said.
According to documents from the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s office, the grand jury heard evidence related to the five people not indicted, but the grand jury was pretermitted on whether they committed hazing or obstruction of justice charges. Ciolino says these five individuals are likely in the clear.
"Generally the DA is going to respect the grand jury's decisions, so I don't expect these individuals to be charged."
Governor John Bel Edwards appeared before the Senate Finance committee this morning to support a bills that would raise the minimum wage, mandate equal pay for women, and allow employees to openly discuss pay with other employees without retribution. Edwards made a campaign promise that he would fight for better wages.
“I made a commitment to the people of Louisiana that I would fight for fairer pay. I met single parents who were frustrated that an honest day’s work was not enough to pay the bills.”
Edwards came out in support of New Orleans Senator JP Morrell’s equal pay bill that would expand the Louisiana Equal Pay Act to private employers, mandating equal pay for women in the private sector. Edwards says the gender pay gap in Louisiana is a disgrace.
“We have the largest gender based pay gap in the country at around 66 cents a dollar, that ought to offend everybody. For women of color it is 50 cents to the dollar. That is truly offensive.”
The bill was passed 6-1
The committee passed a minimum wage hike to eight dollars an hour on January 1st and 8.50 an hour beginning January 1st, 2020 4-3 along party lines. Edwards says right now, 7.25 can barely buy you enough to eat.
“Had I thought about it I would have gone to the grocery store and I would have come here with seven dollars and a quarter of food staples, and I would maybe have a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. It is just simply not enough.”
There was little opposition spoken in the room, but State Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses voiced her opposition to the Labor proposals. Starns says the pay gap referenced by the governor is not real.
“I don’t think our members are intentionally paying anyone unequally, I don’t think that that happens, they base it on what they base it on.”
The pay secrecy act was also passed by the Senate.
A new survey by LSU shows Louisiana residents are not particularly happy with state government as it stands now. Michael Henderson with the Manship school for Mass communications says the survey reveals half of the state's population disagree with the direction of the state government.
"Last year we had more people saying the state was heading in the right direction than were saying the state was heading in the wrong direction. So half the state believes the state is heading in the wrong direction," says Henderson.
Henderson says the Public Policy Research Lab has been doing the same survey since 2003. This year a finding that was not seen in the past.
"So we found this year that we haven't looked into before is not only do most people in Louisiana not trust state government Most people here don't have a lot of faith in the political wisdom of their fellow residents."
Henderson also says the people of Louisiana are not anywhere close to being on the same page with one another...politically.
"We can also see how people see the state not just in government but the state as a whole more polarized and more split along party lines than they used to be," added Henderson.
The poll was conducted from the end of January to the beginning of March. 852 people participated in the poll.
The man convicted in the road rage shooting death of former NFL player Joe McKnight was sentenced to 30 years in prison today. 56-year-old Ronald Gasser was facing 40 years for his manslaughter conviction. Legal Analyst Tim Meche says the publicity around the case led to a longer sentence.
"The fact it was a prominent nationally known person, figured in this thing," Meche said.
McKnight was one of the best high school football players in the country coming out of John Curtis High School in 2006. He starred at USC and played for three seasons in the NFL.
McKnight's mother told Gasser at Thursday's sentencing hearing that he didn't have to shoot her son. The prosecution told the jury Gasser was driving like a jerk and he escalated the conflict on December 5, 2016.
A Jefferson Parish jury found Gasser guilty of manslaughter on a 10-2 vote. Meche believes it's a fair sentence.
"It's not the maximum, but nonetheless, he did cause someone to lose their life."
US Senator John Kennedy is urging the pardon board not to grant a medical furlough today to convicted killer Clyde Giddens’, who was convicted in the brutal murder of Urline Bamburg in Red River. Giddens was sentence to life in prison in 1964 after pleading guilty. Kennedy says the crime is so grotesque that Giddens does not deserve a second chance.
“He stabbed her, he burned her corpse, he hacked off her arms, he hacked off her legs, and then he fed her body parts to a stray dog.”
Giddens has a chance at freedom as part of the 2017 Louisiana criminal justice reform package that allows for inmates with “limited mobility” to apply for a medical furlough that would set them free if approved. While Giddens’ case has not been decided, Kennedy is blaming Governor John Bel Edwards for the murderer’s chance at freedom.
“The only reason he is even being considered for the possibility of freedom is because of Governor Edwards’ get out of jail free program.”
Kennedy says this case shows the governor’s criminal justice program is flawed.
“This isn’t right to let this guy go, and the governor’s program needs to be revamped.”
Gidden’s parole hearing will be held today.
The severe flu season in Louisiana has relented, as health officials report fewer cases than in late December and January. Over one in ten hospital and doctor visits were flu related at one point.
State Immunization Director Dr. Frank Welch says it’s now down to 3.5%. He credits an aggressive flu shot drive.
"Our campaigns and our messages to prevent the flu and stay home when your sick and go get vaccinated. I really think they are paying off and we're seeing much less flu."
The CDC says the flu season can last as late as May. Welch says if you have so far avoided the flu, don’t count yourself out just yet.
"I think there's still probably some flu vaccine out there. So if you haven't been vaccinated, go get vaccinated."
Louisiana seems to have been hard hit with the flu bug this year, but Welch says the state is faring better than other areas of the country.
"We kind of burned fast and quickly and hot. Whereas everyone else kind of went up, now they're coming down. The rest of the country is still in the thick of the flu season, seeing a lot of cases."
He adds if you are sick with the flu, stay at home and isolate yourself while contagious.
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