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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 photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- From left to right, 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. Tuesday afternoon. Anti-Planned Parenthood demonstrators including Louisiana Students for Life, representatives of the Louisiana Right to Life and Louisiana Abortion Recovery Alliance called for an investigation and cuts of all federal funding at the rally, one of 55 planned across the country designed to call attention to recent allegations of Planned ParenthoodÕs involvement in selling fetal body parts, according to news release from Louisiana Right to Life. Planned Parenthood officials  say some affiliates help women donate fetal tissue used for medical research, and no sale of fetal body parts goes on. They  call recent allegations another unfounded attack by anti-abortion groups designed to damage the organization. Undercover  video that opponents use to back the claim has been heavily edited to distort contents, Planned Parenthood officials said.

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 →

State troopers get hefty back-to-back pay raises in 6 months

Six months after receiving a sizable raise from lawmakers, Louisiana’s State Police got a second salary boost this month that, when combined, increased a trooper’s pay by 30 percent on average despite continued state budget difficulties. State senators added the latest $11 million pay hike into Louisiana’s budget in the final days of the legislative session, with… Continue reading →

Session to consider overriding Bobby Jindal vetoes canceled; Senate President John Alario: 'Gathering would be a waste of taxpayer money'

Advocate Staff Photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK   -- Senate President John Alario, R- Westwego announced committee chairman,  Wednesday January 11, 2012, at his office at the state Capitol.

The Louisiana Legislature will not convene for a veto session later this month. Twenty-six senators returned signed declarations rejecting any attempt to override Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of a cost-of-living adjustment for retired state employees and teachers or any of the other bills he rejected from the 2015 legislative session. Jindal also red-lined some items in the… Continue reading →

LSU hospital manager slaps competitor with federal lawsuit

The operator of LSU’s Shreveport hospital sued its regional competitor Thursday, accusing it of violating federal antitrust laws and trying to take away university-affiliated doctors and paying patients. The lawsuit, filed in Shreveport by the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, or BRF, is an outgrowth of continuing tensions with LSU since the foundation took control of… Continue reading →

Capitol Hill lawmakers back company responsible for decade-old Gulf oil leak

FILE - This March 31, 2015, aerial file photo, shows an oil sheen drifting from the site of the former Taylor Energy oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana.  Capitol Hill lawmakers from Louisiana have intervened on behalf of Taylor Energy Company that has failed to stop a decade-old oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico but lobbied for a refund of money reserved for spill containment work, according to letters obtained by The Associated Press through public records requests.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Capitol Hill lawmakers from Louisiana have intervened on behalf of a New Orleans company that has failed to stop a decade-old oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico but lobbied for a refund of money reserved for spill containment work, according to letters obtained by The Associated Press through public records requests.… Continue reading →

New Orleans East apartment manager calls tenants ‘inmates,’ as bid for state housing aid fails

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Though gated, the Hidden Lakes Apartments gates are broken allowing anyone to enter as seen in New Orleans, La. Thursday, July 16, 2015.

After the manager of the Hidden Lakes apartment complex called his tenants “inmates,” the State Bond Commission rejected an effort by his employer to get low-cost financing for the New Orleans East affordable housing facility. Homeowners living near the complex said they didn’t oppose selling the 442-unit Hidden Lakes complex on Martin Drive; they just didn’t… Continue reading →

Risk Management contract award “bias” dispute continues

The award of a lucrative contract to run the state’s self-insurance program is subject to a new round of protests from unsuccessful bidders. The decision by Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols comes in response to an appeal by a disgruntled bidder on a contract awarded to Memphis, Tennessee-based Sedgwick Claims Management Services. York Risk Services Group —… Continue reading →

LABI releases legislative scorecard; tax votes weigh lawmakers down

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry has released its scorecard from the 2015 legislative session, and the results are not pretty for many Louisiana lawmakers — even those who have traditionally sided with the business interest group. Ninety-four of the 105 state legislators got F’s from LABI this session, while a single senator and 11 House… Continue reading →

Thanks to LSU athletics, Parade Ground getting makeover that'll be ready for football season

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Piles of dirt sit on the LSU Parade Grounds with more being brought in by trailer and dump truck in late May.

Work on LSU’s Parade Ground, a popular spot for tailgaters during football season, should be completed by late August. Over the summer, mounds of sand have dotted the normally-grassy field as crews have prepped the lot at the heart of campus for re-surfacing. According to LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard, soil and fiber re-enforced sand that was… Continue reading →

LABI releases legislative scorecard; grades 'not very good' for many Louisiana legislators

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry has released its scorecard from the 2015 legislative session, and the results are not pretty for many Louisiana lawmakers — even those who have traditionally sided with the business interest group.

Ninety-four state legislators got Fs from LABI this session, while only a single senator and 11 House members were given As.… Continue reading →

Louisiana legislator Rep. Mike Johnson questions ethics disclosure requirement

State Rep. Mike Johnson is wondering whether he needed to file a report disclosing some legal work he’s doing for the state.

The Benton Republican argues that the contract isn’t specifically with him.

Johnson stands to make tens of thousands of dollars as part of the legal team in a federal court lawsuit challenging state abortion clinic restrictions.

The $400,000 contract… Continue reading →

Southern University civil rights pioneer D’Army Bailey dies at age 73

Photo by JOHN H. WILLIAMS  Visiting at a reception following Southern University Law Center's Speakers Series lecture on 'Progressive Lawyers During A Recession [Depression?]' March 12  featured speaker Tennessee Circuit Court Judge D'Army Bailey, Bailey was one of the students expelled from Southern University in the early 1960s for participating in demonstrations against segregation.

Before his death Sunday at the age of 73, Memphis native D’Army Bailey was known as a respected judge, lawyer and civil rights pioneer. Much of that can be traced back to his time at Southern University in Baton Rouge, where he was expelled for leading anti-segregation demonstrations as a student in the 1960s. “He was… Continue reading →

Safety vs. traffic flow: Proposal would convert inside shoulder on I-12 to another travel lane

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Eastbound traffic passes under the Millerville overpass during rush hour, Monday, July 13, 2015. Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, is requesting that DOTD see if it is feasible to use the inside shoulder of east and westbound I-12 to add another travel lane in both directions between the I-10/I-12 split and Walker.

Louisiana Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, is asking state leaders to weigh an unusual move for improving traffic in and out of Baton Rouge by widening a stretch of Interstate 12. How would it be done? By converting the inside shoulder of I-12 to a travel lane between the I-10/12 split and the Walker exit, a roughly… Continue reading →

Another Louisiana agency selling advertising on state property

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- From left to right, La. State Police Capt. Doug Cain, State Farm Claim Section Manager Martin Cantu, Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development (DOTD) Secretary Sherri H. LeBas and Motorist Assistance Patrol (MAP) driver Matt Tircuit look at new markings on a MAP patrol car and tow truck (background) outside DOTD headquarters Tuesday, after a press conference held to announce the sponsorship of MAP vehicles  by State Farm insurance company. Motorists who have a breakdown on the major interstate highways around Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport should be aware the vehicle approaching them will have a new look, sporting enhanced, highly reflective safety markings bearing the State Farm logo. State Farm has committed to three years in the new public-private relationship, at a cost of $250,000 per year. The MAP program helps improve traffic flow and provides safety and comfort to those stranded. MAP drivers' uniforms will also have a State Farm logo. Basic operation of the program remain unchanged.

Another state agency trolling for cash is getting ready to allow paid advertising on its public property. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries oversees more than 1.5 million acres of land and fleets of vehicles and vessels — all of which could be fair game for business promotion for the right amount of money. Parameters… Continue reading →

Regulators, customers question Entergy on spike in Baton Rouge-area power outages

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- One of many Baton Rougeans trying to get back into their normal routine after an April shower, jogger William Barnes makes a detour around a large downed tree and electrical wires blocking sidewalks, on Stanford Avenue.

Those near-daily thunderstorms and downpours with intense lightning and high winds this year so regularly knock out electricity that state regulators want Entergy, the privately owned utility company that services half of Louisiana, to explain why. Entergy reports almost 1 million instances in which homes and businesses statewide lost power during the first six months of… Continue reading →

Group Benefits Office opens enrollment to same-sex couples

The state Office of Group Benefits health insurance plan opened enrollment to spouses in same-sex marriages Friday. Officials had delayed the sign-up awaiting an IRS determination whether the spouses could be added to policies outside the normal annual enrollment period. No IRS guidance came, but Group Benefits decided to open a “limited” enrollment period anyway. The… Continue reading →

Group of 130,000 retired Louisiana employees putting pressure on legislators for veto session to override Bobby Jindal

The Retired State Employees Association is trying to put some political pressure on legislators to override Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of a cost-of-living raise for retirees. The association circulated a message pointing out that many of the legislators are up for re-election and adding that support for a veto session should be the litmus test at… Continue reading →

Louisiana lawmakers weigh possible veto session to override some of Bobby Jindal's decisions

. It’s up to legislators now whether they want to return to Baton Rouge and try to override some of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s vetoes from the 2015 session. Odds are it’s not going to happen even though there’s some discontent over Jindal’s veto of a small cost-of-living raise for some 130,000 retired state employees, teachers and others. A veto… Continue reading →

Treasurer John Kennedy on next governor: Needs to be cross between Socrates, Dirty Harry

Advocate Photo by WILL SENTELL -- State Treasurer John N. Kennedy told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge Wednesday that Louisianas next governor needs to be a cross between Socrates and Dirty Harry to get a handle on out-of-control government spending.

Louisiana’s next governor needs to be a cross between Socrates and Dirty Harry to get a handle on out-of-control government spending, state Treasurer John Kennedy said Wednesday. “This problem can be fixed,” Kennedy said of state spending practices. “But it is going to take some spending discipline,” he said. “That is what is lacking.”… Continue reading →

5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel decides no air-conditioning for most of Louisiana's death row inmates

Photo provided by U.S. Distric Court -- Fans low into cells in death row at the Louisiana State Penitenary at Angola. Some inmates have complained about the conditions at the prison.

Louisiana’s death row doesn’t need to be air-conditioned, but three condemned killers with medical ailments who claim the extremely hot conditions there make them more susceptible to heat-related injury are entitled to some relief, a federal appellate court ruled Wednesday. That relief could involve diverting cool air from the guards’ pod on death row into… Continue reading →

Ex-Southern law center Chancellor Freddie Pitcher Jr. rejoins Phelps Dunbar firm in Baton Rouge

Former Southern University Law Center Chancellor Freddie Pitcher Jr. has rejoined Phelps Dunbar’s Baton Rouge office as a senior partner in the litigation division, the firm announced Tuesday. Pitcher, who is also a retired judge, was a partner at the firm before becoming chancellor in November 2002. He will focus on commercial, appellate and toxic tort… Continue reading →