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In radio ad, Sen. David Vitter says “moving” Washington Street exit could offer traffic relief in Baton Rouge

Advocate Staff Photo by Travis Spradling. DIT.  Picture shot on 3-10-01.    Julian Ledet (left) and Alton Rogers, traffic signs workers for the La. Department of Transportation and Development, gingerly remove the exit sign for Washington Street hanging above the roadway on the Mississippi River Bridge entrance ramp to I-10 eastbound, at about 2:40 p.m. Saturday afternoon.  The sign had vibrated loose, and was a hazard to passing vehicles, causing traffic problems for several hours Saturday.       Keyword Public Works

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, in his bid for governor, is running a radio advertisement that says “moving the Washington Street exit” is one way to trim traffic problems in Baton Rouge. The exit is one of the choke points on a 4-mile corridor that is under review by the state Department of Transportation and Development, and the… Continue reading →

Despite failed efforts in past, DOTD official sees 'momentum building' to widen I-10 between bridge, I-10/12 split

Reopening a volatile topic, Louisiana transportation leaders said Monday that they want to get public comments for adding lanes on Interstate 10 between the new Mississippi River bridge and the I-10/12 split. “What we are looking at is adding a lane in each direction, eastbound and westbound, and what are the best ways and are there ways… Continue reading →

In small town known as speed trap, police chief says mayor pushes for still more tickets

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK --  Ronelle "Bruce" Broussard, chief of police for the city of Washington, speaks to The Advocate Thursday, August 20, 2015, at his home in Lafayette, La.

While critics call it one of Louisiana’s most notorious speed traps, the police chief of Washington, said he is under relentless pressure from the mayor to issue still more tickets. “We should not have to work under these conditions, putting a quota on us telling us that we are not writing enough tickets,”… Continue reading →

Broome gets low marks from Louisiana Family Forum

The influential Louisiana Family Forum gave its lowest ranking in the state Senate to a Democratic candidate for Baton Rouge mayor who attended an evangelist’s university and sponsored numerous anti-abortion bills over the years. The Baton Rouge-based group, which advocates conservative Christian values in government, graded Senate President Pro Tem Sharon Broome at… Continue reading →

Firm sues whistleblower for ‘false statements’ after losing out on $200M Louisiana contract

The firm that lost a $200 million state contract sued a whistleblower, claiming his “false statements” led to the Jindal administration canceling the pact. Client Network Services Inc., known as CNSI, is seeking $30 million-plus in damages from Stephen Smith, the company’s former senior vice president. Smith cooperated with a state grand jury probe that led to… Continue reading →

Louisiana Treasurer asks Bobby Jindal to slow down, wait on Big Charity Hospital sale

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD  State Treasurer John N. Kennedy on Monday addressed the Press Club of Baton Rouge. He wants Gov. Bobby Jindal to wait for the next governor to decide the fate of Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

State Treasurer John N. Kennedy wants the Jindal administration to let the new governor and new Legislature decide how to renovate the former Charity Hospital building in New Orleans. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Division of Administration this year asked developers to submit ideas for renovating the five-building, million-square-foot facility on Tulane Avenue, which was closed in 2005… Continue reading →

Despite debt, state pension plans for workers, teachers in a ‘relatively good financial position,’ analysis finds

Despite a staggering debt, the state’s two largest pension plans — for state employees and teachers — are sustainable and are in a “relatively good financial position,” the Legislature’s retirement financial guru reports. And the state government retirement systems are still cheaper than the cost of enrolling teachers and state workers in the federal Social Security program,… Continue reading →

Legislators approve cuts to Louisiana operating budget, will have to find at least $713 million for next fiscal year

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, reviews changes to the state's budget bill at Friday, Aug. 14, 2015 meeting of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee on the Budget.

Louisiana legislators approved Friday morning cuts to the state’s operating budget for the fiscal year that started July 1. The move by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget also means that after elections this fall, the new governor and new legislators will need to find $713 million to balance the budget for next fiscal year. And… Continue reading →

Eyes on the road: Bobby Jindal administration installs unique GPS systems on 10,000-plus state-owned vehicles

Republican presidential candidate Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks during a pre-debate forum at the Quicken Loans Arena, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. Seven of the candidates have not qualified for the prime time debate. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Jindal administration started installing tracking devices in the entire state government’s fleet earlier this week. All 10,543 vehicles owned by state government agencies are being outfitted with Global Positioning System, or GPS, devices that follow the routes chosen, monitor speeds and chart driving habits, feeding all the particulars into a computerized database. “You’re more self-aware… Continue reading →

Transportation advocate says Louisiana needs higher gasoline tax: 'Good roads cost money ... bad roads cost more'

Kenneth Perret, president of the Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association, waits Monday to speak before the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Despite huge political hurdles, Louisiana’s gasoline tax needs to rise by at least 10 cents per gallon for road and bridge improvements, the president of a transportation advocacy group said Monday. Ken Perret, who heads the Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association, said the increase would generate up to $280 million per year and start to… Continue reading →

Consumer group questions Cleco sale

Advocate Photo -- Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge, speaks to reporters Wednesday.

A New Orleans-based consumer group asked Thursday that state regulators reject efforts by a group of investors led by an Australian firm to buy Cleco Power for $3.53 billion. The deal is based on shaky finances that will pay Cleco shareholders a premium but could leave the utility’s customers in parts of north shore, Acadiana… Continue reading →

Funeral arrangements finalized for late Baton Rouge Rep. Alfred Williams

Arrangements have been finalized for Baton Rouge Rep. Alfred Williams’ “Homegoing Celebration” on Monday in Baton Rouge. Williams, 64, died unexpectedly Tuesday following complications from knee surgery. Here are the funeral details, per the Louisiana House communications office. All take place in Baton Rouge on Monday. Viewing: 8-11 a.m. at Living Faith Christian Center, 6375 Winbourne Avenue Service: 11 a.m. at… Continue reading →

Important rating agency Moody's holds off on downgrading Louisiana's credit rating -- for now

One of the influential financial rating agencies Wednesday affirmed the state’s credit rating — neither dropping it nor increasing it — in advance of a $73.7 million sale of bonds to fund segments of the Interstate 49 south of Lafayette. Moody’s Investors Services maintained Louisiana’s credit rating and gave the upcoming bond a favorable Aa3 rating.… Continue reading →

Private firm hired to oversee how state implements FMLA, with hopes of saving $5 million this year

The Jindal administration has hired a private firm to oversee state agency practices in implementing federal Family and Medical Leave Act requirements. ComPsych is working under a $497,000 one-year contract, which can be renewed for two additional years. The federal law provides employees with unpaid leave of absences of up to 12 weeks per year for… Continue reading →

Louisiana's license plates, produced with early 1900s technology, in line for upgrade, facelift, new number sequence

Believe it or not, the state of Louisiana is low on the mix of letters and numbers that go on license plates. “At some point you are going to run out of numerical combinations,” Stephen Campbell, commissioner of the state Office of Motor Vehicles, said Wednesday. That point is less than a year… Continue reading →

Friends, colleagues remember Baton Rouge Rep. Alfred Williams

Advocate Photo  -- The House of Representatives on Wednesday placed flowers on the desk of Baton Rouge Rep. Alfred Williams, who died unexpectedly on Tuesday.

Flags across the state are being flown at half-staff in memory of a Baton Rouge lawmaker who died unexpectedly this week, following complications from knee surgery. Democratic state Rep. Alfred Williams died Tuesday after nearly a week in the hospital suffering severe knee pains, according to his longtime friend East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip… Continue reading →

EBR government launches user-friendly budget site, illustrating where tax dollars go

Do you want to know where and how your tax dollar are being spent in East Baton Rouge parish? It just got easier. Mayor-President Kip Holden announced the launch of “Open Budget BR” today, a website that breaks down city-parish spending and allows people to drill down into department, program, construction and service spending and funding. The announcement follows the release of… Continue reading →

Treasurer John Kennedy: Louisiana constitution needs clarifying after taxes approved with simple majority in session

State Treasurer John Kennedy is proposing a constitutional change in the wake of legislators approving nearly $400 million in taxes without the required two-thirds vote.
Legislative leaders ruled that a majority vote would suffice on many of the revenue raisers approved in the 2015 session to help fill a $1.6 bilion budget hole.
But Kennedy said if they are right… Continue reading →

Colleagues honor memory of Louisiana state Rep. Alfred Williams, 'a spirited and thoughtful leader,' who died Tuesday

Alfred Williams

Louisiana state Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, died Tuesday at the age of 64.
State leaders and William’s legislative colleagues have responded with an outpouring of condolences since news first broke Tuesday evening. Here are some of their reactions:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: “We were deeply saddened to hear the news of Alfred Williams’ passing yesterday. During his… Continue reading →

Gov. Bobby Jindal questions Planned Parenthood’s truthfulness

Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday called upon Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast executives to be honest about the organization’s activities involving the sale of fetal body parts. Jindal used the release of a fifth video purportedly showing a Planned Parenthood official talking about the fetal sales to question the truthfulness of information the organization provided state health… Continue reading →

Louisiana AG Buddy Caldwell on criticism by environmental group: 'I must be doing something right'

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell spoke Tuesday, May 12, 2015, to the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish about the accomplishments of his office.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is responding to a national pro-environmental group that’s targeted him for opposition to the Obama administration’s new EPA carbon emissions rule.

Americans United for Change launched a week-long digital ad campaign aimed at Caldwell and seven other attorneys general to get them to drop court challenges to the rule. The ads calling the eight… Continue reading →

Ethics Board charges former state agency audit chief for charging about $270,000 to agency-issued credit card for gas, hotel rooms, NBA tickets

A former state agency audit director is facing ethics charges related to a fraud case for which he’s already serving federal prison time. The Louisiana Ethics Board said Delrice Augustus used his agency-issued credit cards to make approximately $270,0000 in purchases to which he was not entitled. State ethics law bans public servants from receiving “anything of… Continue reading →

New state law increases cost of buying auto insurance

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- North and southbound traffic on Bluebonnet backs up at 5:45pm, Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Baton Rouge.

An innocuous bill got an expensive hitchhiker during the 2015 session of the Louisiana Legislature: a fee increase generating $21.8 million for State Police operations that some say will add to the cost of buying car insurance. The rider allowed the Office of Motor Vehicles to increase by $10 the cost of a report on a… Continue reading →

26 years later, uncompleted road plan helps shape Louisiana transportation spending

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The newly renovated and expanded Huey P. Long bridge in Jefferson parish Thursday, June 13, 2013.

More than a quarter of a century after Louisiana voters approved funding for 16 road and bridge projects, the list is far from done. In addition, the costs of the work will take an increasing bite of Louisiana’s key transportation fund amid constant bickering over shrinking resources and demands for improvements. The overhaul, which voters… Continue reading →

New La. law taking effect Saturday targets ‘revenge porn’

Sending “revenge porn” can land you behind bars, new housing protections are being extended to domestic violence victims and enforcement of sea turtle protection laws is tightening as hundreds of new Louisiana laws take effect Saturday. The provisions of more than 260 bills passed by state lawmakers earlier this year kick in Aug. 1. Many of the… Continue reading →

‘Revenge porn’ can now lead to prison as hundreds of new Louisiana laws take effect Saturday

Sending “revenge porn” can land you behind bars, new housing protections are being extended to domestic violence victims and enforcement of sea turtle protection laws is tightening as hundreds of new Louisiana laws take effect Saturday. The provisions of more than 260 bills passed by state lawmakers earlier this year kick in Aug. 1. Many of the… Continue reading →

Louisiana Association of Business and Industry makes legislative, BESE endorsements

The state’s major business lobby on Thursday endorsed the re-election bids of 51 legislators as well as the candidacy of two challengers over incumbents. The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s political action arm also threw its support to Baton Rouge Democratic state Rep. Dalton Honore in his run for the seat held by term-limited state Sen. Sharon Broome.… Continue reading →

LSU rejects offer for outside mediator to settle disputes with foundation that manages Shreveport, Monroe hospitals

The foundation that manages LSU’s Shreveport and Monroe hospitals under a privatization deal says it has sought to bring in an outside mediator to work out disputes with LSU, but the university has rejected the effort. LSU has charged that the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, known as BRF, failed to live up to its contract.… Continue reading →

Delays expected on I-10 West in Iberville Parish starting Friday night because of repairs

Heavy traffic delays are expected on westbound Interstate 10 in Iberville Parish starting Friday night, the state Department of Transportation and Development announced Thursday morning. The right lane of westbound I-10 a quarter-mile past Exit 139 at Grosse Tete will be closed to repair the approach slabs at Railroad Overpass, DOTD said in a prepared statement. The… Continue reading →

Scott McKnight challenges Dan Claitor for Senate District 16 seat

Baton Rouge state Sen. Dan Claitor’s attracted opposition Wednesday in his bid for re-election to the Senate District 16 seat. Businessman M. Scott McKnight announced that he’ll be a candidate in the Oct. 24 primary election. The 34-year-olf McKnight is vice president and director of business development for BancorpSouth Insurance. He is a reserve deputy for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s… Continue reading →

Veterans would get help as entrepreneurs via bill by U.S. Senator David Vitter that wins committee approval

. Washington – Veterans would get help starting businesses after they leave military service, under a bill by U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., that won committee approval Wednesday. The Veterans Small Business Ownership Improvements Act of 2015 authorizes federal programs to assist veterans become entrepreneurs. Its unanimous approval by the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee advances the measure… Continue reading →

Five state college institutions removed from negative credit watch

As a result of increased higher education funding recently approved by the Louisiana Legislature, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, one of the big three rating agencies, on Wednesday removed many of the state’s public universities from its credit watch. Standard & Poor’s lifted the negative fiscal connotation on bonds issued by several Louisiana universities, including the University… Continue reading →

150 abortion opponents rally in Baton Rouge as part of national 'Defund Planned Parenthood' effort

Advocate staff file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- From left, Lafayette's Julie Campeaux, Prairieville's Carter LeBlanc and daughter Gabby LeBlanc, 10, and Katelin Arabie, a Dallas resident studying at The University of Louisiana-Lafayette, hold signs at the 'Women Betrayed' rally outside Planned Parenthood Baton Rouge at 3955 Government St. on July 28, 2015.

Presidential hopeful Gov. Bobby Jindal and anti-abortion activists pushed Tuesday for defunding Planned Parenthood — using recent allegations that it is involved in the selling of fetal body parts to fuel the drive that brought the national political fight to Louisiana. Jindal, through his presidential campaign operation, launched a petition drive calling on Starbucks, Bank of America… Continue reading →

Anti-Planned Parenthood rally set in Baton Rouge to draw attention to allegations of selling fetal body parts

Anti-abortion activists are scheduled to rally at Planned Parenthood’s Baton Rouge facility Tuesday, calling for an investigation into the group’s practices and yanking of federal funds.

The rally — one of 55 planned across the country — is designed to call attention to recent allegations of Planned Parenthood’s involvement in selling fetal body parts, according to news release… Continue reading →

Planned Parenthood responds to Jindal probe, two Planned Parenthood Louisiana locations do not perform abortions

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s top executive responded Monday to the Jindal administration’s questions about fetal tissue handling at its abortion clinic operations. “Some Planned Parenthood affiliates may help patients who wish to donate fetal tissue, just like other health care providers do. Stem cell research and other tissue research can lead to important scientific and medical… Continue reading →

Gov. Bobby Jindal lands in controversial gun-control spotlight following Lafayette theater shooting

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK --  La. Gov. Bobby Jindal, Lafayette city officials and law enforcement officers walk out of The Grand Theatre 16 Friday, July 24, 2015, after touring the scene inside a screening room where a shooter killed two people and injured nine before shooting himself dead Thursday night in Lafayette, La.

The same but different. The aftermath of the horrific shooting in a Lafayette theater Thursday was not the first time Gov. Bobby Jindal provided a public response to a similar tragedy as a player on the national stage. The day after the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, that killed nine people… Continue reading →

Harrah’s New Orleans revenues down again, official blames smoking ban as gamblers flock to riverboat casinos to puff and play

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER --  Revenue at HarrahÕs Casina is down. The casino is blaming it on the cityÕs new smoking ban.

Revenue dropped 30 percent at Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel and Casino in June, and its top executive put most of the blame on the city’s new indoor smoking ban. It marked the second straight month since people were forbidden to smoke inside that the state’s largest land-based casino reported a significant decline in revenue.… Continue reading →

Report: Baton Rouge, New Orleans roads costing drivers well above national average in annual extra expenses

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Drivers pass by a large pothole surrounded by barricades, Thursday, July 23, 2015, on Highland Road at Nelson Drive.

Touching on a volatile topic, Baton Rouge has the 11th-worst roads among midsized cities in America, according to a national report issued Thursday. A total of 38 percent of the roads in Louisiana’s capital are rated as poor based on federal data, according to the Washington, D.C.-based TRIP transportation research group. TRIP is financed by highway… Continue reading →

Another accident at Louisiana capitol marks 11th incident involving new parking lot security system

Photo provided by WBRZ -- A Nissan Altima sits perched on a the bollards in front of the Louisiana State Capitol on Friday April 17, 2015.

Problems continue to plague the multimillion-dollar State Capitol security upgrades, and more work is expected to add to the headaches soon. The parking lot security system, which has challenged motorists since opening in April, has been involved in at least 11 wrecks, the last of which was Tuesday. Ten of the crashes, according to police reports,… Continue reading →

Louisiana money leaders want firms to adjust the state's ratings from negative to stable to boost bond sales for I-49 expansion near Lafayette

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK --  A "Future Corridor I-49" sign, one of many along US Hwy. 90, is pictured Tuesday, July 21, 2015, near the St. Martin and Lafayette Parish line.

State financial leaders Tuesday lobbied the big New York rating agencies, arguing that in light of the results of the recent legislative session, the influential firms should adjust the state’s credit score upwards from negative to stable. How the agencies view Louisiana’s finances, now that the numbers are in from the changes made by the Legislature, will… Continue reading →

Speeding led to at least 27% of Louisiana traffic deaths in 2013, report says

Speeding was a factor in at least 27 percent of Louisiana traffic fatalities in 2013, according to a report issued Tuesday. The state had 703 traffic fatalities two years ago and 193 stemmed in part from speeding, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study using the latest available statistics shows. More than 9,600 people nationally died… Continue reading →

New report: Louisiana $300M-plus short to fully fund healthcare for elderly, poor, uninsured; state says it'll 'move things around'

Now that the numbers from the recent legislative session are in, the Louisiana Legislature’s fiscal advisers say the money to fully fund health care for the elderly, poor and uninsured — roughly one-fourth of the state’s population — is short by about $335 million. In a new report, the Legislative Fiscal Office stated that for… Continue reading →

State spending plan not as bad as projected but here is rundown of how cuts were made to budget

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain speaks during the Baton Rouge Press Club's weekly luncheon Monday about the low-water condition of the Mississippi River and the effect it is having on river traffic upstream of Baton Rouge.

Ask Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain what government services were cut as a result of the six-month effort to fill the state’s massive budget deficit, and he answers, “Whole Foods.” A couple of weeks ago, when New York sanctioned the upscale Whole Foods Markets in that state for widespread overcharging… Continue reading →