By Jeff Palermo
A three-run 4th inning and another great performance from freshman pitcher Eric Walker led to a 4-2 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks to claim the school's 12th SEC title, 6th for Coach Paul Mainieri tying him with Skip Bertman.
Walker (7-1) threw a complete game shutout against the Razorbacks earlier this season and nearly did it again on Sunday.
Walker gave up a solo home run in the 3rd inning, but that's all Arkansas could muster. The Texas right-hander went 7.2 innings, allowed five hits, one run and struck out a eight to tie a season-high.
Freshman Josh Smith and sophomore Antoine Duplantis led the Tigers at the plate. Smith was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Smith delivered an RBI single in the 4th inning to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
Duplantis was 2-for-4 with two runs scored. The Lafayette native went 9-for-16 at the plate.
First baseman Nick Coomes also drove in two runs. He walked with the bases loaded in the 4th inning and drove home Duplantis with a sacrifice fly in the 6th inning.
It got interesting in the 9th inning. LSU closer Hunter Newman gave up one run, but was able to record the final out with the bases loaded.
The Fighting Tigers allowed just five runs in four games in Hoover, Alabama.
LSU heads into NCAA Regional play with a 43-17 record. The pairings come out Monday at 11 AM and the Tigers will be a national seed for a 6th consecutive season.
The St. Tammany Sheriff's office says just before 11 a.m. on Sunday two men who jumped out of a plane hit the ground very hard at the Royal Golf Course in Slidell.
Authorities say a skydiving instructor and trainee were performing a tandem jump. For some unknown reason, the instructor lost consciousness shortly after jumping out of the airplane.
The main parachute did not open, resulting in the reserve parachute to open. But it's not known if it opened properly.
The male instructor was pronounced dead and the trainee was airlifted to a New Orleans area hospital.
The instructor was 58-years-old and from Alabama.
"We still aren't 100% sure exactly what happened, but so far, it appears to be a tragic accident," Sheriff Randy Smith said. "Our prayers go out to the families affected by this incident."
Pet owners will soon have more time to claim their lost pets after a disaster. A measure by Gonzales Representative Clay Schexnayder allows pet parents 30 days to claim their fur babies following a state of emergency. Ag Commissioner Mike Strain says his agency takes in abandoned animals after disasters.
“We have a census anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 animals at a time. So as we step down and we send people home, inevitably there are some animals for which we cannot find an owner,” Strain said.
The bill won approval in both chambers and is awaiting a signature from Governor John Bel Edwards. The measure also allows for extensions because of extenuating circumstances like displacement. Strain says shelters will take ownership of the animals after the 30 day period.
“Thirty days after the declared emergency, if the owners cannot be located and after all reasonable attempted have been made, then we can find a new home for those animals,” Strain said.
Strain says 30 days is the national average to reclaim lost pets, and Louisiana needed this law on the books because up until now state law was silent on the matter. He says this new law will gives pet owners more hope of finding their lost pets after natural disasters.
“It allows 30 days after the declared emergency that we can find a home for those animals. Under the local laws, it is generally 10 days,” Strain said.
With the summer in full swing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns the public about bacteria in public pools. Michelle Hlvasa with the CDC says there’s a germ called cryptosporidium that’s causing a lot of outbreaks linked to swimming. She says they’re seeing an uptick in the number of infections.
“We found in 2016 that at least 32 outbreaks linked to swimming were caused by crypto. In 2014, there were 16. So we’re seeing at least a doubling of outbreaks,” Hlvasa said.
Hlvasa says crypto is a parasite that causes diarrhea that can last up to three weeks. She says it gets into the water when someone with diarrhea gets into the water. She says people get infected when they swallow dirty water.
“Don’t swallow the water you swim in. Chlorine kills germs, and it kills most germs within minutes. However, crypto can survive for days in a well-treated pool,” Hlvasa said.
Hlvasa says to protect others from getting crypto, stay out of the pool if you’ve had diarrhea recently. She advises people who have been sick to stay out of the water until you’re diarrhea free for at least two weeks.
“This is because the symptoms can come and go and also because we continue shedding the parasite up to two weeks after our symptoms have stopped,” Hlvasa said.
To learn more about healthy swimming, visit cdc.gov.
Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee made her case to the Senate Finance Committee today, as her department is facing a huge budget cut. Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue says state spending on healthcare has increased $1.4 billion since 2010. LDH spending now accounts for nearly half the state’s total annual budget.
“So what we’re doing in the state of Louisiana is we’re taking money away from everything else to fund healthcare,” Donahue said.
But Gee says this budget reduction will force cuts to mental healthcare and pediatric programs. She says without matched state funds, we won’t be able to draw down federal funding. She adds that healthcare funding benefits the state as a whole, not just LDH.
“It’s not just healthcare. Healthcare helps the economy. In many rural areas, these healthcare jobs are the best jobs and some of the only growth industries in those areas,” Gee said.
But Donahue says the Medicaid spending has increased 250 percent over the last decade, and the state can’t afford it. He says we can’t even afford the system we have now.
“It’s burying us, and it’s not sustainable. We won’t be able to continue to provide these services to the people of Louisiana even if we want to,” Donahue said.
A deadly virus is threatening Louisiana crawfish. Aquaculture specialist Mark Shirley with the LSU AgCenter says the white spot syndrome virus showed up in Acadiana about a decade ago. He says the virus is showing up again in ponds across southwest Louisiana, and it’s hurting the crawfish harvest.
“Bottom line is it kills them. It makes them sick for a brief period. They lose their mobility. They lose their coordination, and pretty rapidly they die,” Shirley said.
Shirley says how the virus got into Louisiana waters is still a big unknown. He says it originated in shrimp ponds in Thailand and Southeast Asia in the early 1990s. That’s why it’s called the white spot syndrome.
“On the shell of a shrimp there is a white blotchy spot on the shell about the size of a pencil eraser, but on crawfish you don’t see that white spot,” Shirley said.
Shirley says this virus can greatly affect a crawfish farmer’s income by killing off the harvest. But he says it won’t affect consumers as much. He says this virus only affects crustaceans, and the dead crawfish shouldn’t make it to the boiling pot.
“They’re pulled out. Only live crawfish are put in the sack and delivered to the market. So you’re not going to get a bunch of dead, infected crawfish in your sack of crawfish,” Shirley said.
Louisiana Economic Development, along with several partners, has created a business startup program for military veterans. LED Secretary Don Pierson says many soldiers have a desire to start a small business once returning home.
He says the idea for the Louisiana Veteran Entrepreneurship Program came after hearing LSU’s Baton Rouge campus was helping disabled veterans in a similar way.
“Hey, what we could really do is work with the National Guard and put together a program that demonstrates and instructs veterans on how they can proceed with establishing a small business.”
The Louisiana Veteran Entrepreneurship Program is an intensive boot camp at the outset and includes ongoing counseling by small business partners. Pierson says the program will feel like an LSU course, as classes take place on the school’s campus.
“We’ll have over the year’s timeframe enough room to take on 108 veterans in our first year and we’re hoping that somewhere around 30% of them well step forward and start their own business.”
After the first year, there are plans to expand the program to other regions of the state. Pierson says they hope this free program for veterans will raise at least 5 million dollars in startup capital and create 100 new jobs. He says this is a great way to return the thanks back to those who fight for our freedom.
“Our veterans have served our country, so the opportunity for our state to serve our veterans in this way and make their life meaningful after the service and contribution they’ve made.”
For more information on the Veteran Entrepreneurship Program call (225) 578-7555.
A sales tax discount is available for hurricane preparedness items this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, residents can purchase flashlights, batteries, portable generators and other emergency supplies at a reduced sales tax rate.
Department of Revenue spokesperson Byron Henderson says...
“Eligible items will be subject to only 3% state sales tax, that is a 2% discount from the normal 5% state sales tax.”
But Henderson says the full amount of any local sales tax applies to all purchases. He says lawmakers approved this tax holiday to encourage families to buy emergency supplies prior to the start of the hurricane season
“Instead of waiting until the aftermath to try to buy things like batteries, storage coolers, cell phone batteries, things that might have disappeared from the shelves in the aftermath of a storm.”
Henderson says for more information on what is eligible under the sales tax discount visit revenue.louisiana.gov. He says the exemption applies to the first $1,500 of the purchase price of each eligible item.
“If one of those items costs more than $1,500, let’s say the generator costs $1,600, then you would only pay the full 5% sales tax on the difference.”
The author of a bill to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 17-cents continues to work on the legislation so it can receive the 70 votes necessary to get approval from the House. Baton Rouge Representative Steve Carter says he is looking at a variety of options, like lowering the proposed increase. But he says not everyone is pleased with that.
“So the more that you reduce the 17 cents, the less money people get and it pushes back the problem of a new bridge, here in Baton Rouge.”
Many Louisianans are worried the revenue generated from the proposed tax increase would not go to improving roads or new infrastructure projects. Carter says similar legislation has been shut down in the past but lawmakers need to come together to vote for the measure.
“So somewhere along the lines we’re going to have the courage to solve the problem or we’re going to continue to have mediocrity as far as our infrastructure is concerned and the same thing with us trying to solve the problem with congestion and what have you.”
Carter says there has also been discussion of having the tax increase over time.
“Maybe starting it at 10 cents and increasing it maybe two cents every other year. There are a lot of options, but we just have to come together this weekend because we’re running out of time.”
Carter says he plans to bring the bill up for a vote on Wednesday.
Concertgoers at this weekend’s Bayou Country Superfest in New Orleans can expect even more security after the terrorist attack at a concert in Manchester. Producer Quint Davis says safety is always the number one concern, and everyone should feel comfortable attending the event.
“The Superdome is managed by a company called SMG, which is the largest venue manager in America. They’re at the highest level of alert pretty much always,” Davis said.
Davis says this is the 9th annual B-C-S, but it’s the festival’s first time in the Superdome. He says the three-day festival had to be moved, as the event’s usual venue, Tiger Stadium, is undergoing renovations. He says they’ve made the show even bigger and better for the new locale.
“We’d been having five acts a night in Baton Rouge, and we’ve got six acts a night in New Orleans at the Dome, and we’ve added a free Friday night concert in Champion Square to kick off the weekend,” Davis said.
Davis says they’re thrilled that it won’t be hot or rain inside the new venue. He notes the indoor arena gives them a chance to go all out with the production this year to go along with the superstar performances. He says there’s lots of big name acts, and there’s sure to be something for everyone.
“We have Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Thomas Rhett, Hank Williams Jr., Brooks and Dunn reunion, Rascal Flats. Yeah, it’s big,” Davis said.
Davis says it’s the first time Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert will share the stage since there separation, even if it is on different nights.
Students with disabilities would be protected from corporal punishment in public schools under a proposal heading to the Senate floor. Baton Rouge Representative Franklin Foil says his bill would prohibit school employees from spanking students with developmental disabilities.
“What we’re saying to local school districts is if a child has a disability, you cannot administer corporal punishment to that child. You can use other forms of punishment, but not corporal punishment,” Foil said.
Foil’s bill has already been approved by the House and received the backing of the Senate Education Committee on Thursday. An amendment has been added to the proposal to also include students ADHD. Foil says his legislation also defines what constitutes corporal punishment.
“Believe it or not, we looked under state statute, and there is no definition of corporal punishment. It’s a readily understood term, but we put a definition to make it clear it’s the physical spanking or paddling of a kid,” Foil said.
Foil says the Governor’s Office asked him to carry the measure as part of their education package. He says he was surprised to learn schools were spanking children with disabilities at all.
“I think part of it might be ignorance on the part of the school system why this child is acting out in class, and a lot of times they’re acting out in class because of the disability, and they can’t help themselves,” Foil said.
AAA projects the number of expected travelers for this Memorial Day weekend will be the highest it's been since 2005. Spokesman Don Redman says they project 39.3 million Americans are taking to the roads, skies, rails and water, which is a million more than last year.
Redman credits an improving economy.
"It's far from robust, but there's more confidence," said Redman. "That really seems to be what's driving those numbers up."
88% of travelers are driving to their destinations this year, which is an increase of 2.4% from 2016.
Redman says it's been 12 years since this many people decided not to stay home for the unofficial kick-off to summer holiday. He says it's been steadily increasing since then.
"If you look at the lowest point in 2009, we're talking roughly 30 million people traveled for the holiday," said Redman.
He says this is the third year in a row of growth in Memorial Day travel.
Kentucky's tall right-hander Sean Hjelle came into Thursday night's game as the SEC Pitcher of the Year. But LSU's Alex Lange and the Tiger bats were not intimidated as they scored double digits off one of the best pitchers in college baseball.
LSU scored five runs in the 2nd inning, five more in the 5th inning for a 10-0 victory and a 9th straight victory.
Shortstop Kramer Robertson capped off the scoring with a towering home run over the left field fence to make it 10-0.
Antoine Duplantis also had a big night as he went 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Lange was sensational as he did not allow a run in seven innings. He struck out seven and surpasses Ben McDonald with 374 career strikeouts, second most in school history.
The game ended in the 7th inning thanks to the SEC Tournament rule.
Hjelle's final line, 5 IP, 11 hits, 10 runs, 9 earned runs, zero walks and 10 strikeouts.
And LSU is averaging eight runs a game during this 9-game winning streak.
Up next: LSU has Friday off and the Tigers will play again on Saturday in semifinals of the tournament. They'll face the winner of today's game between Kentucky and South Carolina.
But it seems like everyone is waiting for Sunday and a possible match-up between LSU and Florida in the tournament title game.
Legislative leaders and Governor John Bel Edwards agree another special legislative session is likely to address the state’s looming $1.3 billion dollar fiscal cliff. In July 2018, over a billion dollars in temporary sales taxes expire. President of the Council for a Better Louisiana Barry Erwin says the push to address this latest fiscal problem is not there.
“There’s not the sense of urgency there on half of them and I just don’t see any movement or traction that’s going to get us out of here without having to come back.”
Democrats are blocking the financing bill for construction and criminal justice reform measures in an effort to push Republicans to develop a budget balancing plan rather than going to a special session. Erwin says this kind of move is part of the political process.
“They are efforts to jam the process a little bit, to force conversation and negotiation if it’s possible and certainly you can’t rule that out that it might happen but it also creates a lot of ill will.”
This legislative session is set to end June 8th. Erwin says waiting to the last minute to come up with solutions always happens during the session but…
“When you start reading the tea leaves or at least looking at the activity and the things you’re hearing, you don’t really get a sense that there is a plan or really any movement to get us over the fiscal cliff during this session.”
The House rejects a proposal to prohibit children under 12 from using Uzis or automatic weapons. Shreveport Representative Barbara Norton authored the measure after a child in Arizona accidentally killed a gun safety instructor with an Uzi.
“There is no need for a child 12-years-old and under to have a machine gun where he or she is responsible for taking someone’s life,” Norton said.
Lafayette Representative Stuart Bishop raised concerns about automatic weapons not being defined in the bill. He says the bill would not allow kids to use pellet guns either, which he says many children have to learn about gun safety.
“Under this my child is not allowed to have a paintball gun or an airsoft gun, and so I’m trying to figure it out. I really don’t want to go to jail for 6 months,” Bishop said.
Norton argues the measure is about keeping children safe. But River Ridge Representative Kirk Talbot asked why the bill only included automatic weapons. He says any gun can be dangerous in the hands of an unsupervised child.
“A single-shot rifle in the hands of a 9-year-old unsupervised or by a careless, irresponsible parent is just as dangerous as a fully automatic weapon,” Talbot said.
The measure failed on a 59-21 vote.
NOAA predicts an above average 2017 Atlantic hurricane season with the potential for as many as 17 named storms and a half a dozen hurricanes. Acting administrator Ben Friedman says they are anticipating a weak or nonexistent El Nino, which typically leads to an above normal season.
“The Atlantic hurricane season will produce a range of 11 to 17 tropical storms. Five to 9 of those storms will become hurricanes,” Friedman said.
Friedman says they predict two to four of those hurricanes will become major hurricanes of category 3 strength or higher. Freidman says when an El Nino is nonexistent, conditions are more conducive for tropical development.
“Near or above average sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean and average or weaker than average vertical wind shear across that same region,” Friedman said.
Friedman says their predictions cover the entire 6 month season in the Atlantic. He says they do not predict when, where, or how these storms might hit and if they will make landfall. He says we can’t prevent hurricanes, but we can prepare.
“It is very important for us to prepare for this season now. The most dangerous part of a storm is not the wind. It’s not the rain. It’s the flooding and the storm surge that occurs afterward, and so we need to be prepared,” Friedman said.
A state judge has ruled Ronald Gasser’s arrest in a similar road rage incident can be admitted in his trial in the shooting death of former-NFL player Joe McKnight. Legal analyst Tim Meche says like most states, Louisiana allows prior incidents of a similar nature into evidence if it is relevant. But he says in this case, it’s a stretch for the prosecutor.
“I’d be very careful and cautious about using it because it’s so remote in time and it’s not exactly a similar enough incident,” Meche said.
The incident occurred 10 years ago at the same intersection in Terrytown where Gasser allegedly gunned down McKnight. Meche says the ruling to allow this as evidence is wide open for reversal on appeal. But he says if the incident is brought up in the courtroom, the defense could even use it to their advantage.
“The defense can argue, ‘My goodness ladies and gentlemen, look what they’re doing to this guy. They’re bringing up an incident that happened 10 years ago, and they’re doing that because they have a weak case,’” Meche said.
In the decade-old case, Gasser was charged with a misdemeanor and never prosecuted. Meche says the prosecutor should think twice about using the prior incident as evidence. He says it’s possible with Gasser’s testimony, it could backfire.
“Probably the defendant will testify, and he’ll be able to explain that away. It’s not as powerful as one might think,” Meche said.
A trial date has not been set.
With only two weeks left in the legislative session, lawmakers are not close to agreeing on a budget for next fiscal year and addressing the loss of over a billion dollars in temporary taxes that are set to expire in July 2018. That’s according to Jeremy Alford of LaPolitics.com.
“Two weeks to go, there’s no compromise on the budget yet. Next year’s $1.3 billion fiscal cliff isn’t likely to be addressed in full.”
Alford says the majority in the House despise creating new taxes to solve a looming budget deficit, while the majority in the Senate and the governor believe that is the solution. He says there is no clear path for where this session will end.
“It’s a wait and see process, a lot of what’s going on is a political game of chase. The House is staring at the Senate, the Senate is staring at the House, the legislature is staring at the governor and I would bet the governor is wondering the same thing as us, exactly what’s going to happen.”
Alford says while action on the budget is stagnant, the legislature is moving ahead with criminal justice reform. He says the package that lawmakers will agree on is not as ambitious as what the governor originally proposed.
“But I think the governor, at the end of the day, will be able to say he brokered some compromises and put some notable policies on the books.”
More people may have been affected by the Great Flood of 2016 than we thought, according to a recent LSU survey. Dr. Michael Henderson with the LSU Public Policy Research Lab says 18 percent of residents took on water during the March and August floods. He says 30 percent of workers were also impacted.
“We found that statewide about one in five people lost income as a result of flooding, and in the Baton Rouge area it’s more like one in three,” Henderson said.
Henderson says 14 percent of respondents say they housed a flood victim during the aftermath of the storms. He says while the impact could be felt in almost all corners of the state, some areas were more affected by the rising waters.
“You look in areas like Baton Rouge, that’s where you get the biggest. In parts of north Louisiana, there’s been significant impact, and then in parts of the Acadiana area as well,” Henderson said.
The survey also finds the share of low income residents affected by the flood was nearly twice the rate of higher income households who were impacted. Henderson says respondents did not give favorable ratings to FEMA or the state government for their response to the floods.
“We asked people to rate from 0 to 100 how good was the job. So in the Baton Rouge area the average rating was a 54. So that’s not a super rating, and then FEMA got a 41 so a little worse. Statewide, the gap was about the same,” Henderson said.
The Senate Education Committee will discuss today whether a task force should be formed to study how to ensure the TOPS scholarship program long-term liability. Senate Education Chairman Blade Morrish says the taxpayer funded program has not been examined since it was created over 20 years ago.
“I thought it was time for us to maybe take a step back, take a look at where we’ve come, how TOPS was originally proposed, what it came from and where it has come to.”
Morrish says the higher education landscape has changed since TOPS was put into place. He says there are now admission standards and a large community college system. He says it’s time to take a comprehensive look at TOPS.
“My goal is to get everything you always wanted to know about TOPS but didn’t want to ask.
Morrish says the task force’s findings will provide good information for lawmakers when they consider proposed changes to the scholarship program in the future.
“So when they begin to look at proposing legislation to either chance TOPS or change the way TOPS is funded, that they’ll have good information to work with.”
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