News for Tuesday 020717
By Dave Graichen
Governor John Bel Edwards released his deficit elimination plan for lawmakers to approve when they gather for a special session that’s scheduled to start next Monday. The governor’s communications director Richard Carbo says large cut in state spending would occur with the Louisiana Department of Health, but he says vital services for patients and hospitals that provide care for the poor would not be impacted. The plan also calls for the use of 119-million dollars in the rainy day fund, something many republican lawmakers oppose.
A class action lawsuit filed today claims Governor Edwards and the state public defender board are doing a poor job funding public defenders. The suit states Louisiana relies mostly on court fees to fund public defender legal services, which includes a fee assessed against indigent defendants. One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, Mark Cunningham, says that means public defender offices receive more funding for losing cases than winning.
An Alexandria woman accused with her brother in a 2015 double homicide pleaded guilty on Monday to a lesser charge, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. Both 26 year old Melissa Hayes and 31 year old Mark Hayes were arrested by the APD in February 2015 in connection to the deaths of 25-year-old Richard Prenell and 18-year-old Kiasha Clovis. Mark Hayes is scheduled to stand trial today.
LSU Student Government believes proposed changes to the TOPS scholarship program made by the Board of Regents will have detrimental effects on students and might force some to attend schools in other states. President Zack Faircloth says one proposed change by the board is to require students to take 30 credit hours a year in order to keep the scholarship.
Faircloth says they’ve written a two-page letter with their concerns to the board that oversees public colleges. The Board of Regents also proposed that freshman on TOPS should only have 80-percent of their tuition paid for by the state, while sophomores receive 90-percent, and juniors and seniors receive 100-percent.
Officials estimate that it will cost more than $62 million and years of work to repair flooded schools in Baton Rouge. The Advocate reported that of the 10 schools that were forced to temporarily relocate because of the August flood, just one has been fully repaired and has reopened. Four administrative centers have also been closed since the flood.
Barksdale Air Force Base and Fort Polk will have more protection from potential troop or mission drawdowns after 5th District Congressman Ralph Abraham’s latest House Armed Services Committee assignments. Abraham was assigned the following House Armed Services subcommittees: Emerging Threats and Capabilities; Seapower and Projection Forces; and Military Personnel. The congressman, himself a veteran, lobbied hard to land a spot on Armed Services and said the subcommittee assignments will add to his influence.
State Senator JP Morrell is again bringing equal pay legislation before lawmakers for the upcoming session. The Democrat from New Orleans authored a similar bill last year that failed to make it out of a House committee. Morrell says one of the changes to this measure is that employers would be given a chance to correct a pay inequality. Morrell says business groups asked him to give companies the benefit of the doubt that if they didn’t know about a pay inequality, they should change it themselves before litigation would be on the table. He says this bill also includes language that says equal pay laws should cover both women and men.
The 55-year-old Terrytown man accused of fatally shooting former NFL player Joe McKnight entered a not guilty plea Monday to a charge of second-degree murder. After the arraignment hearing in Jefferson Parish, Ronald Gasser’s attorney told reporters it was a justifiable homicide. A trial date has not been set.
State Education Superintendent John White says increasing the benchmarks for a school to achieve an A in the state’s rating system is one way to raise expectations and help the state comply with a federal education law. He says currently, students only have to earn the most basic math a literacy test scores for a school receive an A rating.
State Superintendent of Education John White travels to Caddo Parish to host a public meeting tonight to discuss recommendations on improving struggling schools in Shreveport. White says 15 out of 66 schools in the parish have “F” letter grades and 22 have “D” letter grades. He says a plan dealing with the future of these schools will be presented to BESE next month, so White says they want to get the public’s input on how to improve them.
A East baton Rouge High School student has been arrested after deputies say he fired a gun in a school hallway. East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Casey Rayborn Hicks says detectives took the juvenile into custody along with the weapon about 10 minutes after the shooting was reported. Hicks says no one was injured. Closer to home, A Glenmora Elementary School student was cited for allegedly bringing an unworkable pellet pistol to school and threatening another student last week.
The Lafayette Police Department has made an arrest in the case of a man who crashed through the front doors of a church this Monday morning. They believe 47-year-old Christopher Guillot was high on drugs when he struck Fatima Church around 7am, and he’s been charged with driving while intoxicated and Aggravated Criminal Damage to Property.
Pop star Britney Spears is asking for prayers for her eight-year-old niece who was injured Sunday in an ATV accident in Tangipahoa. Officials say Maddie Aldridge is in critical but stable condition. The singer from Louisiana posted a photo of Maddie on Twitter, saying she needs all the wishes and prayers for her niece.
Two men have been sentenced in Cameron Parish for their role in the theft of over 500 alligator eggs. Adam Einck with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says 48–year-old Paul Canik took the eggs illegally, and 25-year-old Christopher Trahan transported them. Trahan was ordered to pay a $293 fine. Canick’s fine is $593 and he’s had his egg collection privileges suspended for 18 months.
The former CEO of Hancock and Whitney banks is taking over the reins of a troubled New Orleans bank. First NBC Bank Holding Co. said Monday that it has named Carl Chaney as CEO, pending regulatory approval. First NBC is selling nine branches and $1.3 billion in loans to the Whitney unit of Hancock after regulators cited credit problems in November.