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House Republicans resisting governor’s call for new tax to plug budget hole, setting table for a rollicking debate

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Black lines painted over lines in a recalculation of spacing for Senators' parking spaces, outside the State Capitol Thursday as staff and legislators prepare for the start of the Special Session on Sunday.

When the Louisiana Legislature approved this year’s state budget in June, just about everyone agreed it was actually far out of balance — everyone, that is, but Gov. Bobby Jindal, who proclaimed it a successful day and announced his campaign for president two weeks later. With Jindal gone, newly minted Gov. John Bel… Continue reading →

Homeless treated to some Valentine’s Day love under Baton Rouge overpass

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Jessie Agee, left, who presently lives in a group home, holds hands with Live, Love, Serve volunteer Alexis Self, after he asked Self to pray with him Saturday just before the start of Love Fest, a Valentine's Day get-together put on for the disadvantaged and homeless by Live, Love Serve and other volunteers, under the North Blvd. overpass.

Kisha McMaryion held a pair of bright pink high-top sneakers, admiring them and a bagful of toiletries and other necessities with a look that was a combination of excitement and thankfulness. It’s her first Valentine’s Day away from her family — including her young daughter — who she left back in Texas about eight months ago so… Continue reading →

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia found dead in Texas

Advocate photo by SOPHIA GERMER -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks out about religious freedom, at Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, Saturday January 2, 2016. Scalia has served on the U.S. Supreme Court since 1986, making him the court's longest-serving justice.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Antonin Scalia, the influential conservative and most provocative member of the Supreme Court, died Saturday. He was 79. The U.S. Marshals Service in Washington confirmed Scalia's death at a private residence in the Big Bend area of South Texas. Spokeswoman Donna Sellers said Scalia had retired the previous evening and was found dead in the morning after he… Continue reading →

10 booked on suspicion of DWI from Friday to Saturday

Authorities arrested at least 10 people suspected of driving while intoxicated in East Baton Rouge Parish and booked them into Parish Prison between noon Friday and noon Saturday, booking records show. Those booked and the counts against them: Baltazar Contreras Gonzalez, 37, 6676 Titan Ave., Baton Rouge, third-offense DWI, improper lane usage, reckless… Continue reading →

Lafayette crime blotter for Feb. 13, 2016

Arrests posted Feb. 13, 2016, on the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s web site: CHRISTY BANKS: 48, of the 1100 block of 11th Street, Lafayette. She was booked on three counts of felony bank fraud; identity theft; and seven counts of monetary instrument abuse.… Continue reading →

Fire damages railroad bridge across Bonnet Carre Spillway

Advocate staff photo by Chad Calder-- Railroad tracks on the Bonnet Carre Spillway caught fire early Saturday, Feb. 13.

A fire Saturday morning on a train trestle in the Bonnet Carre Spillway west of New Orleans will disrupt freight and Amtrak passenger train service for an undetermined length of time. Canadian National Railway spokesman Patrick Waldron said crews were working on the railroad bridge across the spillway when the blaze began. The fire damaged several… Continue reading →

Budget proposal includes drastic cuts to state services to close $2.2B shortfall

Legislative budget leaders received a grim overview Saturday of what would happen if lawmakers don’t find a way to fill the $2 billion projected shortfall in the state budget that begins July 1. Higher education funding would be reduced by nearly $400 million. State agencies that oversee Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and Forestry and Economic Development… Continue reading →

UL-Lafayette teams up with IceGators hockey team for study of health effects from repeated blows

University of Louisiana at Lafayette/Doug Dugas -- Randy Aldret, the director for the University of Louisiana at Lafayettes athletic training program and an assistant professor of kinesiology, tests an unidentified player for the Ice Gators hockey team in Lafayette.

Researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have teamed up with the Louisiana IceGators to study the long-term health consequences of repeated contact and the kind of harsh, one-time blows that can knock a player out. Randy Aldret, the director for UL-Lafayette’s athletic training program and an assistant professor of kinesiology, and wife Dr. Stephanie… Continue reading →

Animal rights activists, owners argue in court over best environment for 50-year-old chimpanzee kept at Baton Rouge amusement park

Advocate staff file photo by John Boss --  A police officer returns the stare of Candi, a chimpanzee that escaped from its cage at the old Fun Fair Park near Florida Boulevard and Airline Highway in December of 1991. Candi, now 50 years old, is now living at Dixie Landin' amusement park.

Despite animal rights advocates’ allegations to the contrary, Candy the chimpanzee is healthy and happy at Dixie Landin’ amusement park in Baton Rouge, and efforts to move the 50-year-old primate to a north Louisiana sanctuary could prove harmful or even lead to her death, her owners contend. Responding for the first time to a Continue reading →

Lafayette’s Knight Oil Tools suffering more than most in energy downturn as internal family strife adds to woes

Advocate staff file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- The Knight Oil Tools office in Lafayette.

Slogging through the worst energy downturn in decades, south Louisiana service companies are feeling the squeeze, but one of those companies — family-owned and Lafayette-based Knight Oil Tools — is struggling more than most. In January, Knight Oil lost its two top executives with the departures of Earl Blackwell and Doug Keller. In late… Continue reading →

La.’s DNA collection rates among highest in U.S.

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON --  Louisiana State Police Crime Lab personnel demonstrate DNA analysis in Baton Rouge in this 2013 file photo.

A dozen years ago, just after Derrick Todd Lee was arrested and tied to a string of killings in south Louisiana, the state counted 12,000 DNA profiles in its database designed to help solve crimes. Now, it has about 40 times as many. When Lee died last month while still awaiting execution, authorities were quick… Continue reading →

Early Saturday shooting leaves 2 Baton Rouge police officers wounded, suspect in critical condition

Calvin Smith

East Baton Rouge Parish’s district attorney said two policemen struck by gunfire are lucky to be alive after a 22-year-old man opened fire on their squad cars with a rifle Saturday morning. Baton Rouge police said they initially were dispatched to a call about someone damaging property, which led to a car chase that ended with… Continue reading →

Frank Wilson 2.0: New Orleans native, Fournette family friend Jabbar Juluke hired as LSU running backs coach

Advocate file photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Jabbar Juluke, then the head coach at Edna Karr, yells to his players during the Class 4A state championship game against Neville in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Dec. 7, 2012. Juluke, who later spent three years as an assistant at Louisiana Tech, was announced as LSU's new running backs coach Saturday.

Mark Bonis hates to compare coaches – just like he hates to compare players. Everyone has their own individuality, the Brother Martin coach says. Everyone is their own man. But when it comes to Frank Wilson, LSU’s former running backs coach, and his replacement hired Saturday, Jabbar Juluke, Bonis is in a tough spot. The similarities are just… Continue reading →

Ascension Sheriff: multi-agency drug investigation leads to arrests of major crystal meth dealer and 7 others

Danny Mouton

Undercover detectives arrested a major supplier of crystal meth in Ascension Parish along with seven other people in a four-month, multi-agency investigation that culminated this week, the Sheriff’s Office announced late Friday. The investigation began in November as detectives focused on 27-year-old Christopher Zeringue, of Gonzales, a Sheriff’s Office news release says. Four months later,… Continue reading →

Murder-suicide attempt reported on Wooddale Court in Baton Rouge

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Baton Rouge Police are investigating a double shooting at 1694 Wooddale Court near Tom Drive in Baton Rouge, Friday, February 12, 2016.

An attempted murder-suicide Friday night on Wooddale Court left one person dead and another severely injured. Baton Rouge police were called around 7 p.m. Friday to the 1600 block of Wooddale Court, police spokesman Sgt. Don A. Coppola said. One person died in the shooting, and another was brought to the hospital after the incident, Coppola… Continue reading →

What are worst-, best-case scenarios for Louisiana higher education as special session about to start?

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- From left, LSU president F. King Alexander, Gov. John Bel Edwards, and Louisiana commissioner of administration Jay Dardenne at the new LSU gymnastics training facility, Saturday, February 6, 2016, during an open house and ribbon cutting in Baton Rouge, La.

In a best case scenario, Louisiana’s colleges and universities are going to struggle with shaving a shared $70 million from their budgets — which is already their largest mid-year cut in state history. In a worst case scenario, one that would require almost total inaction by the state Legislature, the cuts to higher education could be so… Continue reading →

Solar panels at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center saving big bucks for Ascension Parish government

Photo provided by Ascension Parish -- The Lamar-Dixon solar project consists of a 300-plus kilowatt rooftop system located on three barns

Solar panels at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center are saving Ascension Parish government about $15,000 to $20,000 per month on electricity bills for the big parish-owned multiuse complex. Those monthly savings from the panels, which were funded through a federal environmental settlement, translate into $180,000 to $240,000 per year, parish officials… Continue reading →

Charter schools once again dominate District 4 race for East Baton Rouge School Board

Dawn Collins

A political consultant and a Navy veteran-turned-substance abuse counselor are battling it out in a March 5 special election to fill the open District 4 seat on the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, which recently was vacated by longtime occupant Tarvald Smith. Dawn Collins and Robert Maxie, both black and registered Democrats, are running in… Continue reading →

Ascension coroner still mum about Dec. 4 death of worker at CF Industries plant — federal probe continues

What led to the death of a Texas contractor two months ago at the CF Industries fertilizer complex in Donaldsonville remains under wraps while a federal workplace safety probe continues, authorities said. The Ascension Parish Coroner’s Office has refused to say what killed Teodoro Silva Jr., 30, of Mercedes, Texas, and on Thursday pointed to Continue reading →

One dead, two injured in single-vehicle crash in Eunice

A 24-year-old Eunice woman was killed and two others injured Friday in a single-vehicle crash on US 190 near La. 758 in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana State Police reported. Shinequia Anderson was driving a 2005 Ford Escape west on US 190 around 4:30 p.m. when, for unknown reasons, she drove off the right side of the… Continue reading →

Lafayette Zoning Commission to tackle lifting downtown ban on new bars

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK --  Artmosphere Bistro is pictured Tuesday, September 1, 2015, at the corner of East Convent and Johnston Street in Lafayette, La.

The Lafayette City-Parish Zoning Commission is scheduled to begin discussions Monday on whether to end the 13-year-old ban on new bars in downtown Lafayette. The City-Parish Council last month asked the commission to research allowing bars as a conditional use under downtown’s zoning code, which would open the door for new bars as long as they… Continue reading →

Lafayette’s Freetown-Port Rico neighborhood — once a safe haven for freed slaves — named to National Register of Historic Places

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK --  A Freetown sign is pictured at the corner of General Mouton Avenue and Pinhook Road Friday, February 12, 2016, in the Freetown neighborhood of Lafayette, La.

Freetown-Port Rico, a Lafayette neighborhood that once was a safe haven for freed slaves, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The long-sought designation, which came this week, is expected to boost the ongoing redevelopment of the neighborhood, mainly through tax credits. “The historic designation on the National Register not only proves… Continue reading →

KATC-TV: Man accepts plea deal in 2012 killing, shooting

A man accused of killing a woman and shooting two other people, including the former Breaux Bridge police chief, pleaded guilty on Friday, KATC-TV reported. Darrin Duhon will be sentenced April 7 after pleading guilty to one count of manslaughter and two counts of attempted manslaughter in the 2012 shooting death of Mildred Hebert and the shootings… Continue reading →

Police: Denham Springs councilman kicks truck door, causing it to hit wife’s head; he faces misdemeanor domestic battery count

Christopher Davis

The Denham Springs City Council member arrested Thursday in a domestic abuse incident is accused of hitting his wife with the door of his truck, though his wife has since said it was an accident. Chris Davis, 40, faces one misdemeanor count of domestic abuse battery. Police reported the incident… Continue reading →

Ascension deputies investigating car burglaries in Geismar

Ascension Parish sheriff’s deputies are looking for a man suspected of breaking into vehicles in the Geismar area, armed with what, in surveillance video, appears to be a shotgun. Several residents in Cypress Ridge subdivision and other nearby neighborhoods in Geismar reported the vehicle break-ins over Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, an… Continue reading →

Arson suspected in early morning fire in New Iberia

Iberia Parish sheriff’s deputies are seeking information on a suspected arson early Friday in New Iberia. Witnesses reported a fence and part of the building of the Menard Brothers grocery store at 901 Bank St. were on fire around 2:20 a.m., according to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office. Detectives believe the fire was started outside… Continue reading →

U.S. rig count drops 30; Louisiana gains 1

Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. declined by 30 this week to 541. The Houston company said Friday 439 rigs sought oil and 102 explored for natural gas amid depressed energy prices. A year ago, 1,358 rigs were active.… Continue reading →

At least two people accused of DWI from Thursday afternoon to Friday morning in East Baton Rouge Parish

Authorities arrested at least two people suspected of driving while intoxicated in East Baton Rouge Parish and booked them into Parish Prison between noon Thursday and noon Friday, booking records show. Those booked and the counts against them: James Wilkinson, 22, 3342 O’Neal Lane, Baton Rouge, first-offense DWI, failure to maintain control and… Continue reading →

Ascension authorities searching for runaway teen missing since Feb. 4

Charity Cook

Ascension Parish sheriff’s deputies are seeking the public’s help in finding a 16-year-old girl who ran away from home Feb. 4. Lt. Col. Bobby Webre said in a statement Friday that Charity Cook was last seen wearing a turquoise sweatshirt and black pants when she left her home in Prairieville. She… Continue reading →

'Say farewell to college football,' Gov. John Bel Edwards says, but don't tear up those tickets yet

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The LSU football runs onto the field for the first half Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Tiger Stadium.

Gov. John Bel Edwards knows how to get your attention — threatening the demise of college football in Louisiana... Continue reading →

Gov. John Bel Edwards on radio show: I can’t guarantee TOPS will be fully funded next year

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU's Memorial Tower, or Campanile, as it is sometimes called. It's a 175-foot tall clock tower near the Student Union.

Update, Feb. 12, 1:15 p.m.: Conservative activist Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, issued a statement casting doubt on Gov. John Bel Edwards recent statements ... Continue reading →

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump's blunt style fires up massive, 'amazing' Baton Rouge crowd

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Thursday, February 11, 2016, at the Baton Rouge River Center.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump fired up a rowdy crowd of thousands of supporters in Baton Rouge on Thursday night. The boisterous New York billionaire had nearly 10,000 people rolling through a steady cycle of waving signs, cheering for veterans and tax cuts, and booing politicians — in particular, Trump’s rivals for the GOP nomination. “Politicians… Continue reading →

‘We can hear gravitational waves. We can hear the universe’ — LIGO scientists’ breakthrough confirms Einstein’s prediction

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- As Staff Scientist Joe Betzwieser, right, watches, Controls Engineer Adam Mullavey, left, explains different aspects of the Control Room. LIGO scientists detected the existence of gravitational waves. If true, the discovery would confirm Einstein's general theory of relativity -- on the centennial of its publication, no less -- and be the odds-on favorite for the Nobel Prize in Physics, experts say.

More than a billion years ago, two black holes collided and merged, creating gravitational waves that, until now, scientists could only theorize about. On Thursday, a team of scientists working in Livingston Parish and Washington state announced the first recorded detection of those waves, confirming a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s general… Continue reading →