Entergy probing 'equipment failure' for outages in BR

Photo provided by Entergy -- Nearly 30,000 Baton Rouge area Entergy customers had no electrical service Wednesday evening.

Nearly 30,000 Entergy customers in the Baton Rouge area lost power for a few hours Wednesday night due to an equipment failure. It wasn’t clear Wednesday night where the failure happened or what caused it, but an Entergy spokesman said the company will provide more details once it completes its investigation into the outages. More … Continue reading →

Council approves annexing Costco, Celtic and SAIF

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle, left, questions and comments to councilman Ryan Heck, right, as councilmen Buddy Amoroso and Joel Bo watch and listen concerning the solid waste collections contract.

Baton Rouge got a little bit bigger Wednesday — but just a little bit. The Metro Council approved a measure that expanded the boundaries of the city to fully include Costco Wholesale, Celtic Studios and SAIF Credit Union, three businesses that straddled the line between Baton Rouge and the proposed city of St. George. … Continue reading →

Medicaid expansion bill fails in Senate committee

Advocate Photo by MARSHA SHULER -- State Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, speaks at a Wednesday rally in support of legislation allowing Louisiana voters to decide if the state should expand Medicaid.

An attempt to go around Gov. Bobby Jindal and put the issue of Medicaid expansion to Louisiana voters failed to clear its first legislative hurdle Wednesday. After more than four hours of testimony, most of it from supporters, including leading Democratic Party elected officials, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 6-2 to defer action on the … Continue reading →

Baton Rouge police and fire briefs for April 24, 2014

Detectives are investigating the Tuesday night robbery of the Chicken Shack restaurant on North Acadian Thruway. Two men armed with handguns entered the restaurant through an employee entrance shortly before 11 p.m. while employees were cleaning, said Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge police spokesman. … Continue reading →

Adley makes changes to levee board bill, expects opposition

The chief sponsor of legislation that would revamp control over the southeast Louisiana levee boards challenged opponents Wednesday after making what he called concessions. “They’re being unreasonable, and I want this body to see it,” state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, said in an interview pointing to the Senate chamber. Adley had just left the … Continue reading →

Ascension seeks federal road funds for La. 44 connection

The Ascension Parish Council authorized Parish President Tommy Martinez on Wednesday to apply for federal transportation dollars to build a planned road connecting the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center with La. 44. The parish is seeking funds from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, a discretionary grant program, which is … Continue reading →

Marathon proposes La. refinery expansion

Advocate photo provided by Marathon Petroleum -- The Marathon refinery in Garyville, which completed a $3.9 billion expansion in 2009 that doubled its capacity, is being considered for another expansion of up to $2.5 billion.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. said it is taking the next step toward a potential $2.2 billion to $2.5 billion upgrade to the company’s Garyville refinery and expects to make a final decision on the project by early 2015. The St. John the Baptist Parish project would create 65 new direct jobs, with an average annual salary of $115,000 … Continue reading →

Two booked in Gonzales on drug charges

A joint drug investigation in Gonzales led to the arrest of two people and seizure of illegal and prescription drugs, Ascension Parish sheriff’s deputies said Wednesday. Narcotics detectives with Gonzales Police and Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office searched a home at 2014 E. Asphodel St. on Monday, after authorities received complaints that illegal … Continue reading →

Interviews set for three finalists for EBR planning post

Updated at 7:08 p.m. – The City-Parish Planning Commission will interview three planning director finalists on May 5, including the person serving as interim director. Commissioners voted Wednesday to consider interim Planning Director Ryan Holcomb for the job, based on his experience serving in that role since former Planning Director Troy Bunch retired in November. The move follows a … Continue reading →

St. George bill clears Senate

St. George supporters would have until July 23 to collect signatures under a bill that won Louisiana Senate approval Wednesday night. The vote was 32-6. The deadline was added to a bill that would apply a moratorium on incorporation efforts statewide but allow St. George organizers to continue collecting signatures in hopes of a Nov. 4 … Continue reading →

House rejects changes to legislative Tulane scholarship program

The Louisiana House rejected legislation Wednesday that aimed to bring new regulations to the 130-year-old Tulane legislative scholarship program. The program grants each of the Legislature’s 144 members the power each year to award a one-year scholarship to the recipient of their choice. The scholarships are worth more than $46,000 each, or roughly $7 million annually. … Continue reading →

Amedisys’ $150 million settlement finalized

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Amedisys Inc., headquartered in Baton Rouge on South Sherwood Forest Boulevard, has finalized a $150 million settlement wityh the Justice Department. The settlement involves allegations of improper Medicare billing that took place between 2008 and 2010. The company did not admit to any wrongdoing.

The U.S. Department of Justice has finalized a $150 million settlement with Amedisys Inc. involving allegations that the Baton Rouge company submitted false home health care billings to the Medicare program. The total includes more than $26 million to settle six whistleblower lawsuits in Pennsylvania and one in Georgia. The whistleblowers were primarily former … Continue reading →

Crime Blotter for April 24, 2014

Arrests posted April 23, 2014, on the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office website: JOHNNY ALEJANDRO III: 40, of the 100 block of Sun Village, Lafayette. He was booked on felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated. LONDON ALEX: 17, of the 200 block of Randolph Street, Lafayette. He was booked on … Continue reading →

American Freight Furniture to open BR store

American Freight Furniture and Mattress will open its first Louisiana store Thursday near the intersection of Airline Highway and Florida Boulevard. The warehouse-style store will be in the old Ethan Allen building. It will carry a variety of discount furniture and mattress sets. The store specializes in carrying unclaimed freight, cancelled orders, closeouts, overruns and special buyouts … Continue reading →

Around Baton Rouge for Thursday, April 24, 2014

RED STICK MOBILE FARMERS MARKET: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Delmont Service Center, 3525 Riley St., and noon to 2 p.m., Dr. Leo S. Butler Community Center, 950 Washington St. The mobile farmers market will provide wellness resources and food options. COUPONING 101: 6 p.m., Fairwood Branch Library, 12910 Old Hammond Highway. Learn how … Continue reading →

Grand jury charges two in Lafayette with killing children

A grand jury charged two Lafayette Parish residents with murder Wednesday in separate cases involving the killing of children. Raven Senegal, 20, of Lafayette, was charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 29 suffocation death of her daughter, Miracle, who was not yet 6 months old. The grand jury also … Continue reading →

Bill could limit federal aid spending

Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of the House Health and Welfare Committee. The Department of Children and Family Services already has enacted the restrictions in emergency rules. House … Continue reading →

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, posted on April 18, 2014, an anti-Bashar Assad activist group, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, two women and a young girl are treated by a medic in Kfar Zeita, a rebel-held village in Hama province some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Damascus. Syrian opposition activists and other witnesses tell The Associated Press that Syrian government forces have attacked rebel-held areas with poisonous chlorine gas in recent months. They say the attacks left scores of men, women and children coughing, choking and gasping for breath. The reports have been denied by the Syrian government and have yet to be confirmed by any foreign country or international organization. But if true, they highlight the limitations of the global effort to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network)

BEIRUT — Syrian government forces have attacked rebel-held areas with poisonous chlorine gas in recent weeks and months, leaving men, women and children coughing, choking and gasping for breath, according to Associated Press interviews with more than a dozen activists, medics and residents on the opposition side. Syria flatly denied the allegations, and they have yet … Continue reading →

Bill mandates life support for pregnant women

Louisiana lawmakers are considering a bill that would require doctors and hospitals to use life support to keep a brain-dead pregnant woman alive until the birth of her child, no matter her family’s wishes. The House Health and Welfare Committee backed House Bill 348 Wednesday without objection. The measure by state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New … Continue reading →

State Senate to consider equal pay proposal

Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job. The equal pay proposal, Senate Bill 334, by New Orleans Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, a Democrat, received the backing Wednesday of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. Supporters said Louisiana has … Continue reading →

Legislators get Bible lesson as debate during payday lending bill reignites

Advocate Photo by MICHELLE MILLHOLLON -- Robert Gorman with Catholic Charities in the Houma-Thibodaux diocese sorts through Bibles Wednesday that will be delivered to legislators as part of a request for changes to payday lending practices in Louisiana.

Two state Senate committees offered drastically different outcomes Wednesday for payday lenders in Louisiana. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs advanced the payday loan industry-favored House Bill 766. HB766 would make loans unenforceable unless creditors get licenses from the Office of Financial Institutions. The requirement would force online lenders to play by the … Continue reading →

House panel shoots down gun safety legislation

Advocate staff photo by MICHELLE MILLHOLLON -- State Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, looks on with displeasure as her legislation is criticized Wednesday. Norton wants to make it a crime to expose young children to firearms.

State Rep. Barbara Norton repeatedly insisted Wednesday that her House Bill 1189 would just protect young children — not strip people of their guns. Critics saw it differently. Sitting behind the testimony table in the House Criminal Justice Committee’s meeting room, Jay D. Hunt III, treasurer of the Louisiana Shooting Association in Slidell, … Continue reading →

Common Core backers submit signatures

Common Core supporters said Wednesday they submitted 6,000 signatures to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office that show support for the new academic standards. “We have continued to hear the governor suggest that parents are not supportive of Common Core and PARCC,” said Yolanda Braxton, a parent leader with Stand for Children, in a prepared statement. … Continue reading →

Socialite Easterling goes out as she wanted—with a party

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- After passing away April 14, Mickey Easterling, a New Orleans socialite known as much for her grand lifestyle and outlandish hats as for her civic, cultural and political activism, sits on a bench surrounded by flowers and some of her other favorite things at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, April 22, 2014.   Her family declined to release her age, noting she once said, Age is a number, and mines unlisted.  Easterling, born Marycathyren Gambino, hosted many charity and political fundraisers at her home, welcoming such guests as singers Paul Simon and Robert Goulet, actor Larry Hagman, writer and composer Paul Bowles and a range of political figures including former Gov. Edwin Edwards and retired Gen. Wesley Clark.

Most of those in attendance seemed to agree that Mickey Easterling went out Tuesday evening just the way she would have wanted to — well-dressed and in the thick of things. Friends of the local philanthropist, socialite and party hostess packed the gleaming marble foyer of the Saenger Theater on Canal Street, plucking champagne … Continue reading →

Bill would alter teacher appeals

Legislation to revamp how public school teachers appeal dismissal and other disciplinary action passed the House Education Committee on Wednesday. The proposal, a substitute for House Bill 987, would allow a hearing officer to hear teacher appeals rather than a three-member panel, which teacher union officials said were tilted against teachers. “Hopefully we have a product … Continue reading →

BRPD investigating restaurant robbery.

Baton Rouge Police detectives are investigating the armed robbery of the Chicken Shack restaurant on North Acadian Thruway Tuesday night, according to a statement issued by the BRPD Wednesday. Two men armed with handguns entered the restaurant through an employee entrance shortly before 11 p.m. while employees were cleaning, the statement said. The pair demanded employees … Continue reading →

Spy plane outlasts Cold War, but not defense cuts

This Oct. 12, 2008, file photo shows a U.S. U2 reconnaissance plane taking off at the U.S. airbase in Osan, south of Seoul, South Korea. The U-2 spy plane outlasted the Cold War, outlived its successor and helped avert the worlds nuclear annihilation a half century ago. Defense cuts now threaten to knock the high-flying reconnaissance aircraft -- nicknamed the Dragon Lady -- out of the sky. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U-2 spy plane outlasted the Cold War, outlived its successor and proved crucial a half-century ago when two superpowers were on the brink of nuclear war. But defense cuts now threaten to knock the high-flying reconnaissance aircraft out of the sky. The Air Force wants to gradually retire the fleet of 32 … Continue reading →

Dow Chemical quarterly income jumps 75%

Dow Chemical said Wednesday its first-quarter net income jumped 75 percent, helped by easy comparisons to a prior-year period weighed down by hefty one-time charges. Its earnings beat Wall Street estimates, while revenue was short. The Midland, Mich.-based chemical company posted a profit attributable to common shareholders of $964 million, or … Continue reading →

U.S. weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is encouraging nonviolent federal inmates who have behaved in prison, have no significant criminal history and have already served more than 10 years behind bars to apply for clemency, officials announced Wednesday. The initiative is part of a broader Obama administration effort to trim the nation’s prison population, ease sentencing disparities … Continue reading →

IRS approves Lamar Advertising for REIT conversion

Associated Press file photo -- A worker tightens bolts on a Lamar  Advertising billboard in Texas. The Baton Rouge outdoor advertising company has received Internal Revenue Service permission to convert to a real estate investment trust.

Lamar Advertising Co., the Baton Rouge billboard giant, has received permission from the Internal Revenue Service to convert to a real estate investment trust. The company’s conversion is expected to be effective as of Jan. 1, 2014. Part of that process involves merging Lamar into a new, wholly owned subsidiary. Shareholders must approve the merger. … Continue reading →

Union protests postal counters in Staples stores

WASHINGTON (AP) — Postal workers plan protests in 27 states Thursday against the opening of postal counters in Staples stores that are staffed with Staples employees. Last year, Staples office supply stores began providing postal services under a pilot program that now includes some 80 stores. The American Postal Workers Union objects because the program replaces well-paid … Continue reading →

Obama: US-Japan treaty applies to disputed islands

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe depart Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi restaurant in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Opening a four-country swing through the Asia-Pacific region,  Obama is aiming to promote the U.S. as a committed economic, military and political partner, but the West's dispute with Russia over Ukraine threatens to cast a shadow over the president's sales mission. Japanese at right in the background reads:

TOKYO (AP) — President Barack Obama confirmed Wednesday that America’s mutual security treaty with Japan applies to the islands at the center of a territorial dispute between China and Japan. “The policy of the United States is clear,” he said in a written response to questions published in Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper before his arrival in Tokyo at … Continue reading →