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Better Together asks to intervene in lawsuit that challenges registrar’s work in evaluating St. George petition

Advocate file photo by BILL FEIG -- From left, as CJ Cormier, 1, watches, Dianne Hanley, Linda Walker, M. E. Cormier and Wilmer Barrett check signatures of people who have asked to be removed from the petition. Who is Better Together? They say they're a grassroots group of church volunteers who are interested in keeping the parish together and fear the St. George inc. But the amount of work they've done is kind of astonishing. They reviewed the entire St. George petition and validated it before the actual registrar could, and their numbers appear to be pretty solid. They sent mailers to every single person on the petition asking them to reconsider their signature. They've gone door to door asking people to remove their names.

Anti-St. George group Better Together is trying to break into the St. George lawsuit against the Registrar of Voters Office, so it can more directly try to help defeat the petition as the battle to create a new city moves into the courtroom. The group filed a request in state court on Wednesday asking… Continue reading →

Louisiana to receive several billion dollars as part of massive BP oil spill settlement with Gulf states

Advocate staff photo by Amy Wold -- Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell announces BP has reached an agreement with U.S. authorities on the settlement of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill for $18.7 billion.

BP, the federal government and five states have reached a tentative settlement over economic and environmental damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, a record $18.7 billion deal that will steer much-needed resources into coastal restoration and help replenish cash-strapped local and state coffers across the Gulf Coast. Louisiana is set to receive $6.8 billion, the… Continue reading →

Reelz CEO says decision to air Miss USA pageant not political; 'I completely disagree with (Trump's) comments'

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Miss USA contestants join reigning Miss USA Nia Sanchez in a second line on Third street during an opening reception for the Miss USA 2015 pageant, Thursday, July 2, 2015 in Baton Rouge.

The Reelz Channel has come to the rescue of the Miss USA pageant, which lost its broadcasters this week, and to East Baton Rouge Parish, which invested public money into the event in the hopes of receiving national and international exposure. As the Miss USA contestants continued their activities on Thursday in Baton Rouge, Reelz CEO… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge School Board gives initial nod to expanding Manners of the Heart character education program to 15 schools

A Baton Rouge-based character education program got a boost Thursday as the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board recommended expanding it from two to 15 schools this fall. The expansion would cost about $500,000 a year, of which about $300,000 would be paid for by the school system. The initiative has the support… Continue reading →

State agencies line up to comply with same-sex marriage changes

State agencies quickly started adjusting to the reality of same-sex marriages in Louisiana as the last federal court roadblock came down Thursday. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman rescinded his ruling supporting traditional marriage between a man and a woman, citing last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling which made same-sex marriages the law of the… Continue reading →

The Nature Conservancy buys Atchafalaya Basin land to improve water flow on the property and encourage research

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- From left, Bryan Piazza and Jim Bergan with The Nature Conservancy talks about the Atchafalaya Basin where theyÕre about to close on a tract of land thatÕs more than 5,000 acres. This is the first step in restoring the area, set up a conservation learning center that will be open to the community and their graduate studies program to encourage a new generation of researchers.

In the mid-1800s, German immigrant Anton Wilbert looked on the timber-rich Atchafalaya River Basin and saw the wood he needed to make cabinets and coffins. The property, and many acquisitions after it, have stayed in the family for more than 100 years. Now, the board that handles the properties has agreed to sell about 5,300… Continue reading →

DOTD to the rescue: state agency agrees to fund ‘snake-bit’ roundabout project in Prairieville

A seemingly snake-bit roundabout eyed in Prairieville for more than six years has received a new lease on life. State highway officials committed to foot the entire bill for the $1.96 million roundabout at Parker Road and La. 929, Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez told the Parish Council on Thursday.… Continue reading →

Five barges break loose on Mississippi River near Gramercy; one containing caustic soda overturns

Photo provided by Capt. Ash Williams -- A barge sits capsized in the Mississippi River near Gramercy on Thursday, July 2, 2015.

Five barges broke loose after two tow boats collided on the Mississippi River on Thursday afternoon, with one loaded with hazardous caustic soda overturned, officials said. The towing vessels American Heritage and David G. Schert collided near Vacherie on the west and Gramercy on the east within the jurisdiction of St. John the Baptist Parish, officials… Continue reading →

Under pressure from the state, St. Landry School Board moving ahead with new cafeteria for Leonville Elementary

The St. Landry Parish School Board on Thursday approved a preliminary cost estimate range from $985,000 to $1.25 million for a new cafeteria at Leonville Elementary. The district also plans to spend $11,487 to repair the existing cafeteria, Assistant Superintendent Joseph Cassimere told the board. Architect Donald D’Avy said that while… Continue reading →

Coastal restoration efforts get big boost from BP settlement

For the first time in the long history of rebuilding Louisiana’s shrinking coast, the state is poised to receive a substantial stream of steady funding for those efforts — a direct result of one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation’s history. A proposed settlement between the state and BP puts Louisiana in line to… Continue reading →

Lafayette board’s decision to curtail public comment period may be extended to board members as well

The Lafayette Parish School Board’s decision to cut the time it traditionally set aside at the end of its meetings for the public to approach members on any issue could lead to board members no longer having the same privilege. Board President Tommy Angelle removed the public comment section that was reserved for… Continue reading →

Tax dispute involving The Bluffs golf course leads to investigation of Louisiana Tax Commission

Advocate photo by Howard Arceneaux  -- The 526-yard par 5 18thhole hugs the natural contours of Thompson Creek and provides a challenging finish to a round of golf.

Since it opened in 1988, The Bluffs Golf Resort’s 18-hole course, which meanders along a 60-foot bluff overlooking Thompson Creek and through the same West Feliciana Parish backwoods where naturalist John James Audubon once explored, has hosted numerous amateur and professional tournaments. But there’s trouble in this golfer’s paradise —… Continue reading →

Florida Boulevard office building sold

A 91,000-square-foot office building on Florida Boulevard designed by renowned architect A. Hays Town has been sold for $1.7 million. GNL Properties of Dallas sold the building at 10225 Florida Blvd. to BR Florida Street Property LLC in a deal that closed Wednesday, said Jim Allen of Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate. Allen represented the buyer,… Continue reading →

Registration to begin for schools in Lafayette Parish

Registration for Lafayette Parish public schools will be held at the student’s zoned school, and parents should contact the school for summer hours before attempting to visit the school site, Lafayette Parish school officials are advising. The school system previously organized a central registration process on select days in the summer. Officials advise parents to… Continue reading →

Supreme Court overturns lower court, says Vermilion superintendent did not violate teacher’s due process during firing

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- New Vermilion Parish Schools Superintendent Jerome Puyau is leading an initiative to save his district and others across the state money on everything from online classes for students to curriculum resources.

The Louisiana Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s February ruling and declared a law enacted in 2012 giving school superintendents wide latitude in firing teachers as constitutional. The state’s high court said the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal erred when it ruled tenured Vermilion Parish teacher Kasha LaPointe’s termination in 2013 violated her due… Continue reading →

Five booked on DWI between Wednesday and Thursday in East Baton Rouge

Authorities arrested at least five people suspected of driving while intoxicated in East Baton Rouge Parish and booked them into Parish Prison between 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and 2:30 p.m. Thursday, booking records show. Those booked and the counts against them: Brittany Francois, 20, 1122 S. River Road, Denham Springs, first-offense DWI.… Continue reading →

Baker mother accused of choking, beating daughter

Deshona Mobley

A woman arrested Tuesday is accused of choking her daughter, abuse that began out of town the weekend of June 21 and continued on Sunday, authorities said. Deshona C. Mobley, 4511 W. Evans, Baker, punched, choked and beat her daughter with a belt and buckle, a Baker police report says. The Department of Child Protection Services… Continue reading →

Lafayette sets workshops on new development rules for architects, engineers

A series of public workshops on new rules to guide development in Lafayette are planned in July to help prepare architects and engineers for the changes that take effect in December. The workshops on the Unified Development Code are mainly geared toward professionals, with two scheduled so far for architects and two for engineers, although additional… Continue reading →

Donald Thornton Jr., Lafayette High’s former assistant principal, is tapped to fill school’s top post

Advocate file photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK --  Lafayette High School

Former Lafayette High Assistant Principal Donald Thornton Jr. will return to the campus as its principal, Superintendent Donald Aguillard announced Thursday. Thornton replaces Patrick Leonard, who retired June 30 after serving as the school’s principal for the past 12 years. Thornton returns after serving as principal at Lafayette Middle School. He holds a bachelor’s degree… Continue reading →

Website combines business services from several Louisiana agencies

Officials marked a $1.8 million overhaul of the secretary of state’s GeauxBiz.com website, which merges some of the services from the Department of Revenue and the Louisiana Workforce Commission to streamline the process for creating a new business. By folding in some of the services from the Revenue Department and Workforce Commission, people can now… Continue reading →

Arrests of 38 people cap off federal investigation into alleged violent drug trafficking network

Murder plots, using children to transport drugs, storing cocaine at a Baton Rouge day care center — those are among the allegations in an indictment of 39 people in what federal prosecutors are calling a “violent drug trafficking” network out of Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes. U.S. Attorney Walt Green on Thursday announced the unsealing of… Continue reading →

‘We’re going to be nasty’: LSU’s 2016 football recruiting class could be program’s first consensus No. 1 haul — with a twist

Advocate staff photo by Bill Feig-- The LSU football team get fired up before taking the field against Sam Houston State Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

LSU’s 2016 recruiting class is mesmerizing even to those who are a part of it. Texas linebacker Rahssan Thornton, for instance, spent a few minutes recently researching each one of the other 16 commitments who make up the group. He found similarities with most of them: They’re ranked in the upper echelon at their position nationally.… Continue reading →

LSU breaks its silence on fired professor, says verbal abuse and intimidation were the reasons for the firing, not only her use of vulgar language

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU professor Teresa Buchanan says she was dismissed in a 'witchhunt' over her occasional use of profanity in the classroom.

LSU broke its silence Wednesday about the June 19 firing of associate professor Teresa Buchanan, saying she was fired not only for isolated incidents of using curse words and making sexually themed jokes but also because of “documented evidence of a history of inappropriate behavior that included verbal abuse, intimidation and harassment of our students.” In… Continue reading →

Scouting LSU football opponents: Syracuse at a glance, biggest threat, weak spot

Summer Scouting is a daily weekday post analyzing LSU football’s 12 opponents for the 2015 season. From McNeese State (June 29) to Texas A&M (July 11), we’ll give you an early scouting report on the one dozen teams on LSU’s schedule.

Game reset

When: TBA, Sept. 26
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, New York
Early spread: LSU -20
Who’s before and after: Auburn and… Continue reading →

Acadiana Crime Blotter for July 2

Arrests posted July 2, 2015, on the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s website. DEVONE ALEXANDER: 24, of the 300 block of Macklyn Street, Lafayette. He was booked on contributing to the delinquency of juveniles and three counts of simple burglary. TIMOTHY BERNARD: 47, of the 200 block of Ena Street, Lafayette. He was booked on… Continue reading →

Wildlife and Fisheries sets Louisiana teal, dove seasons

Louisiana hunters will have another 16-day special September teal season and, for the second year, a 90-day dove season this year after the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved dates and bag limits at its meeting Thursday in Baton Rouge.
With continental teal numbers estimated to be more than 4.7 million, the floor for a "liberal" 16-day special teal… Continue reading →

Vacherie man returned to Louisiana to face charges in 2014 hit-and-run that resulted in the death of an LSU student

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Janneh Trench, 36, left, of Vacherie, La., is walked into Baton Rouge Police Department's First District on Plank Road Thursday morning by BRPD traffic homicide detective Cpl. Brandon Blust, right, as he is returned to Baton Rouge after his arrest on June 15 in Georgia by Clayton County Sheriffs and U.S. Marshals officers. Trench was wanted in connection with the traffic crash death of LSU student Eric Fabre, who was killed in the 9700 block of Airline Highway on June 20, 2014. Trench was to be booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on charges of negligent homicide, felony hit and run,reckless operation, obstruction of justice and operating a vehicle without a license.

The man accused of causing a hit-and-run that killed an LSU student last year was extradited from Clayton County, Georgia to Baton Rouge Thursday morning. Janneh Trench, 36, of 1574 W. Ninth St., Vacherie, is accused of fleeing the state after his vehicle struck 20-year-old Eric Fabre, who was riding a scooter around… Continue reading →

The show must go on: Miss USA contestants keeping positive attitudes despite massive fallout from Trump’s comments on Mexican immigrants

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCLELLAND -- Miss USA contestants pose for a photograph at their first official Baton Rouge event Wednesday at the Perkins Road Extreme Sports park.

Despite Miss USA losing all of its scheduled musical performers and another judge on Wednesday, contestants are refusing to let the controversy ruin their pageant experience. In fact, they spent the night rock climbing at BREC’s Extreme Sports Park. “We’re gonna present the same pageant as we would if we were on TV,” said Miss… Continue reading →

Music festival promoter defends decision to feature Dukes of Hazzard car and the Confederate flag painted on its roof

Advocate file photo by ADAM LAU -- Fans line up to see a "General Lee" 1969 Dodge Charger and cast members of the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV show at Henderson Auctions in Livingston on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012.

Dozens of Confederate flags will be on display at the annual Livingston Parish Cajun Country Jam on Independence Day, but the most prominent won’t be waving and snapping in the breeze. The festival is welcoming attendees to show off their replica General Lee cars from the TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard,” which on the show… Continue reading →

Gonzales residents get a peek at a draft of the city’s new master plan

Provided by the Center for Planning Excellence - This illustration shows what the possible first phase of a commuter rail station development, including a platform and plaza, might look like for Gonzales one day.

The new master plan in development for Gonzales not only addresses land use and street design but also offers ways to attract higher-paying jobs and more affordable housing. At a public meeting on the master plan Wednesday night, Janet Tharp, associate planning director for Baton Rouge’s Center for Planning Excellence,… Continue reading →

State ending program that pays for private insurance for some Medicaid recipients

The state health agency will end a special program under which it has been paying for private insurance for some Medicaid recipients. The Louisiana Health Insurance Premium Payment, or LaHIPP, program serves 1,500 households and will go away Dec. 1 as a cost-saving measure. LaHIPP provides help for a Medicaid-eligible member of a household to be… Continue reading →

Developers close on $8 million land purchase for Conway Plantation mixed-use community in Gonzales

Provided by Southern Lifestyle Development - A community swimming pool, shown here in an artist's rendering, will be offered in the Conway Plantation development coming to Gonzales.

Developers of a mixed-use community coming to Gonzales closed on the $8 million purchase of the property Tuesday. “We are the proud owners of approximately 345 acres, and we hope to be in the ground this fall some time,” said Robert Daigle, cofounder of Southern Lifestyle Development, of Lafayette, which will build… Continue reading →

Fire destroys home Wednesday in Baton Rouge

A fire Wednesday evening destroyed the home at 4076 Accardo, Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman Mark Miles said. When firefighters arrived at the scene, fire was coming from the front room of the house. Crews gained access through the front door and the front room was fully engulfed in flames, Miles said in a news release.… Continue reading →

St. James Parish Council gets 'extremely good' remarks on audit report

Demographer says he could have some school rezoning lines ready for the Lafayette School Board by December

The demographer hired to map new lines for Lafayette Parish school zones told the School Board on Wednesday that he could have zoning recommendations to them before Christmas break and advised the board to involve the public through workshops to show them current student populations and the impact of any changes. The board recently received push-back… Continue reading →

Baton Rouge man arrested in cyber attack on Georgia-Pacific computers

A 43-year-old Baton Rouge man recently fired by Georgia-Pacific has been indicted and arrested for a cyberattack on the company’s computer system, U.S. Attorney Walt Green said Wednesday. Brian P. Johnson, a former systems administrator for the company, is charged with intentionally damaging protected computers and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, Green… Continue reading →

18-year-old Baker man accused of aggravated rape of minor

Blair Ray Copeland

The Sheriff’s Office arrested an 18-year-old man Wednesday after a witness told deputies he saw the man engaging in oral sex with a boy under the age of 11. The witness walked into the boy’s room and found Blair Ray Copeland, a family friend, in bed with the boy, the arrest report says. The boy told… Continue reading →

High court upholds decision to overturn conviction in Lafayette’s scared-to-death case: No evidence 86-year-old’s heart attack caused by burglar

The Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s decision overturning a jury’s manslaughter conviction of a burglar accused of literally scaring an elderly Lafayette woman to death in 1999 when she returned home and found him inside. Because prosecutors did not present medical or forensic testimony to explain how Willie James Robertson may have caused… Continue reading →