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Lawmakers looking for ways to balance the budget

The Louisiana State Capitol building in Baton Rouge.

Louisiana legislators are throwing out all sorts of ideas to see what sticks in hopes of short-circuiting possible layoffs and deep budget cuts. State government will bring in about $1.4 billion less next fiscal year than is needed to pay for the current level of services. Come Monday, that hole could get much larger. To bring… Continue reading →

Capitol Buzz: Poll shows uptick in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s approval

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Jerome Zeringue, Executive Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Activities, speaks at the Baton Rouge Press Club about coastal issues facing Louisiana.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has seen a slight uptick in Louisianans who view him favorably, according to a new poll of likely Louisiana voters. The poll, conducted by Jindal’s campaign pollster Wes Anderson of OnMessage Inc., found 46 percent approve of Jindal’s job performance heading into the final year of his final term, while 45 percent view… Continue reading →

Thousands turn out for Bobby Jindal's prayer rally at LSU; students, activists protest too

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Pro-life supporters exit busses in preparation of Gov. Bobby Jindal's speaking engagement near the LSU Greek Theatre prior to a prayer rally, called

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s day of prayer went off without a hitch Saturday — and without much commotion. Jindal didn’t make “the big announcement” regarding a presidential run. About 3,000 to 4,000 people prayed, hands lifted to the sky, for reconciliation among the races, the old and the young and men and women. The crowd sang uplifting, contemporary… Continue reading →

BR Diocese officials sticking with plan to close Redemptorist

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Redemptorist High and Junior High are scheduled to close in May 2015.

After considering a pitch to keep Redemptorist High School open, the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge announced Saturday it is closing the school for good. Redemptorist supporters earlier this month asked the diocese to cut ties with the school so it could become an independent Catholic school run by parents and alumni.… Continue reading →

Middle school kids imagine cities of future in competition at LSU

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- A city on the move, 'Aquacropolis' is taken to the judging room by Scotlandville Middle Magnet team members, left to right, Deylen Colligan, Dante Hicks, Juliet Walker, Danesha Caldwell, coach Ingrid Cruz and Craig Ferguson, inside LSU's Energy, Coast & Environment Building Saturday. Theirs was one of the teams of middle school students from Louisiana and Mississippi participating in the 2015 Future City Competition Regional Finals, vying for a chance to go to the competition's National Finals in Washington, D.C., February 15-18, 2015.

Using models built from bottles and broken toys, middle school students from Louisiana and Mississippi did their best on Saturday to convince judges of a concept still well in the future — creating a self-sustaining city that relies on renewable resources. Students presented their visions to a panel of judges at… Continue reading →

Narcotics agents arrest three in Breaux Bridge drug bust

Photos provided by the St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office -- From left, Christopher Alexander, Christopher Celestine and Damien Joubert.

St. Martin Parish sheriff’s narcotics agents on Saturday arrested three Breaux Bridge men accused of carrying stolen guns and drugs that had an estimated street value of $40,000. Investigators executing a search warrant on Zin Zin Road in Breaux Bridge, found a “significant amount” of high-grade marijuana, methamphetamine, carisoprodol, and hydrocodone, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Ginny… Continue reading →

Do-Re-ME! Music program helps Acadiana youngsters learn

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Preschool students, from left, Ke'ani Page, Scarlett Brooks, Sa'niya Broussard, Harlee Burkhart, and Khylen Taylor, practice using

Each day, a chorus of “Hello! Hello!” starts a lesson for a group of 4-year-olds at Truman Early Childhood Education Center, a ritual designed to reinforce what students are learning in the classroom through fun songs, movements and music. The music lessons are taught through Do-Re-ME!, a curriculum created by faculty at the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra… Continue reading →

No bombs found on 2 planes at Atlanta’s main airport

Law enforcement officials stand beneath a Southwest Airlines airplane as a bomb squad vehicle stands by at left on the tarmac at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Atlanta. Police were searching the Southwest plane and a Delta plane at Atlanta's main airport after authorities received what they described as credible bomb threats. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

ATLANTA (AP) — Police who searched two airplanes in Atlanta found no bombs following online threats made against the aircraft.

FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett said law enforcement officials finished their search Saturday night at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The threats targeted Southwest Airlines Flight 2492, which arrived from Milwaukee, and Delta Air Lines Flight 1156, which arrived from Portland, Oregon.

Both flights arrived… Continue reading →

Business Briefs for Jan. 25, 2015

SCORE is holding a free workshop titled “Simple Steps for Starting Your Business” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library at 7711 Goodwood Blvd. Topics include myths and realities of entrepreneurship; critical success factors; know your options; components… Continue reading →

People in Business for Jan. 25, 2015

Russell Mosely, of Long Farm Village and Mosely Law Firm

Russell Mosely, developer of Long Farm Village and partner of Mosely Law Firm, has been elected president the Baton Rouge Growth Coalition board of directors.… Continue reading →

Business Honors for Jan. 25, 2015

Lisa Skemp, Our Lady of the Lake College

Lisa Skemp, professor of nursing at Our Lady of the Lake College, was inducted as a fellow by the American Academy of Nursing for her leadership in education, management and policy focused on improving health and also as a fellow by the Gerontological Society of America for outstanding contributions to the field… Continue reading →

Business Meetings for Jan. 25, 2015

BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU WHEN: Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. WHERE: Holiday Inn Baton Rouge South, 9940 Airline Highway, Baton Rouge TOPIC: “Become a Volunteer of the Better Business Bureau” COST: Complimentary event for BBB-accredited… Continue reading →

‘Little things’ could mean state tax savings

Associated Press photo by PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS -- Tax preparer Richard Sowell works with Courtney Mayhew at H&R Block offices in Atlas District in Washington. The Internal Revenue Service started last week accepting electronic returns and processing paper ones.

Although no major changes took place in the Louisiana tax code, accountants and financial advisers want taxpayers to remember the little things, like claiming often-ignored tax credits and exemptions. “Some of the things that people should be aware of that they sometimes miss are the little things, like the Citizens Insurance tax credit,” said Jennifer McGinnis, director… Continue reading →

Persuading a judge to declare Tom Benson mentally unfit will be a tall order, experts say

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle Benson pose for a photo with his granddaughter, and Pelicans co-owner Rita Benson LeBlanc, second left, general manager Dale Demps, left, and head coach Monty Williams, right, at the Pelicans NBA basketball media day in Metairie, La., Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) ORG XMIT: NYOTK

In their explosive lawsuit filed Thursday, Tom Benson’s heirs — daughter, Renee Benson and grandchildren Rita and Ryan LeBlanc — describe the Saints owner as tottering on the brink of senility, being manipulated by his wife and demonstrating “bizarre” behavior. They’ve asked a judge to appoint Renee to oversee his business affairs. But persuading a… Continue reading →

Documents break down buyout details as John Chavis planned to leave LSU for Texas A&M

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU head coach Les Miles, left, talks with defensive coordinator John Chavis before the Sam Houston State game, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva sent a letter to former defensive coordinator John Chavis requesting the coach pay a $400,000 buyout three days before Chavis officially resigned, documents show. The letter gives Chavis a deadline to pay the buyout and outlines payment options. The documents, which shed light on the buyout situation between the school and Chavis,… Continue reading →

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally preparing for thousands

Associated Press file photo -- Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit Sept 26 in Washington, D.C.

Thousands of people are expected to be on LSU’s campus Saturday for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally — either to support it or in protest of it. Jindal, who is considering a run for president in 2016 and is scheduled to speak three times at the prayer rally, will be joined at the event by several conservative… Continue reading →

Controversial strip club returns to St. Helena Parish

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- The Oak Ridge Lounge, located on Highway 16 in Pine Grove, La., photographed Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015.

For years, St. Helena Parish warred with the strip club in a nondescript warehouse building. A few years ago, the owner pleaded guilty to running an illegal gambling den. The lounge has closed twice under inauspicious circumstances — torched by a suspected arson and shuttered after inspectors found a used condom… Continue reading →

Baton Rouge jury finds for DuPont in trial

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Dupont plant on LA-44 in Burnside, La..

A six-member jury, after eight hours of deliberation, on Friday night found for DuPont in a failed whistleblower lawsuit, deciding there was not enough evidence that leaks from its Burnside plant constituted a substantial risk to the public and required reporting to EPA. Because of the verdict, plaintiff Jeffrey M. Simoneaux, of… Continue reading →

Scotlandville band director fired after accused of raping student, EBR schools official said

Robert Lewis ORG XMIT: BAT1501222223478426

Scotlandville Magnet High School’s band director was fired Friday, a day after he was accused of having sex with a student on at least two occasions — one of them consensual but illegal and the other a rape, authorities said. Keith Bromery, East Baton Rouge Parish school system spokesman, said staff at the north Baton Rouge… Continue reading →

MetroBuzz: Smoking ban coming to Baton Rouge bar scene?

The New Orleans City Council on Thursday unanimously approved the landmark decision to ban smoking in bars and casinos in a city known for equal parts indulgence and tourism. Could Baton Rouge be next? Councilman John Delgado says maybe. Delgado, who owns three bars himself, said he is considering proposing a smoke ban in the… Continue reading →

Save the best for last, Gaines Award-winning novelist tells Baton Rouge students

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Ernest Gaines Award winner Mitchell S. Jackson, left, who wrote ÒThe Residue Years,Ó speaks to 5th graders at Westdale Heights Academic Magnet School on College Drive.

Mitchell S. Jackson amazed a group of 10- and 11-year-olds with a simple fact. “What if I told you I’ve been working on this book as long as you’ve been alive?” Jackson asked, prompting gasps from the fifth-graders who crowded the classroom floor on Friday. “I’ve been working on this book,” he paused for effect,… Continue reading →

University Presbyterian holds summit on gay inclusion; same day as Gov. Jindal prayer rally

It’s only a coincidence that on Saturday, Presbyterian Church leaders will be discussing the inclusion of gays, lesbians and transgender people into the church. The conference of regional church leaders will happen at the same time and near the same place that Gov. Bobby Jindal headlines The Response at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, a prayer… Continue reading →

Battle over Louisiana pension funds shaping up

More than $300 million is sitting in state employee and teachers pension system accounts reserved for future cost- of-living raises for retirees. A state senator wants the 90,000-plus retirees to get an immediate boost in their pension checks. But some of the Louisiana Legislature’s budget committee members are eyeing the dollars to help close a $1.4… Continue reading →

LSU Police: Teen with drugs found in LSU locker room, admits to taking shoes

Rodney Hamilton

Inside a Tiger Stadium locker room on Thursday night, police found someone who didn’t belong. The teenager, Rodney Hamilton, was chewing on beef jerky he allegedly stole from the LSU football team’s locker room when he told investigators he was a McKinley High School basketball player who had permission to lift weights there, according to LSU… Continue reading →

Baton Rouge Crime Briefs: Food Bank truck driver arrested in theft from agency

Andre Coates

A truck driver for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank was arrested Thursday, accused of delivering food from grocery stores to his house instead of the food bank. Andre Lester Coates, 48, was seen delivering thousands of dollars worth of food from local stores — including Associated Grocers stores, Costco and Trader Joe’s… Continue reading →

Amite Christian principal, wife accused of having gun at school

Photo provided by LPSO -- Caroine Mons, left, and Frank Mons

The principal of a private school in Denham Springs and his wife were arrested Friday for bringing a gun on campus, according to the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office. Frank Mons, 46, Linda Lee Drive, Denham Springs, admitted putting an unloaded Springfield XD 9 mm handgun in his desk at Amite Christian Academy, La. 1019 and Amite… Continue reading →

Livingston Parish legal fees to total $300,000 after settling longstanding disputes with engineering firm

In an about-face from two months ago, Livingston Parish officials agreed to settle their legal disputes with engineering firm Alvin Fairburn & Associates without any money changing hands. Under the deal approved Thursday, the parish and Fairburn agreed to dismiss a pair of lawsuits against each other stemming from a terminated road engineering… Continue reading →

Two Sonic restaurants sold for $3.5 million

Two Sonic fast-food restaurants that opened within the past six months have been sold for $3.5 million. The Sonics at 505 East Boyd Drive in Baton Rouge and 14620 Greenwell Springs in Central were sold by the developer to businesses associated with Larry Tucker of Baton Rouge, according to documents filed with the East Baton Rouge Clerk… Continue reading →

Initial unemployment claims fall in Louisiana

The state labor department says first-time claims for unemployment insurance in Louisiana for the week ending Jan. 17 decreased to 2,987 from the previous week’s total of 3,601. For the comparable week a year earlier, there were 2,726 initial claims, officials said Friday. The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 2,492, from the previous… Continue reading →

Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks dies at 83

FILE - In this 1970 file photo, Chicago Cubs' Ernie Banks poses. The Cubs announced Friday night, Jan. 23, 2015, that Banks had died. The team did not provide any further details. Banks was 83. (AP Photo/File)

Even as the Chicago Cubs lost one game after another, Ernie Banks never lost hope. That was the charm of “Mr. Cub.” Banks, the Hall of Fame slugger and two-time MVP who always maintained his boundless enthusiasm for baseball despite decades of playing on miserable teams, died Friday night. He was 83. The Cubs announced… Continue reading →

Japan condemns new video, not yet verifying it’s of hostages

In this photo taken Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, Yasuhide Nakayama, a Japanese deputy foreign minister, talks to media in Amman, Jordan. Japan promised Saturday not to give up

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese officials said Saturday they were investigating a purported message from the extremist Islamic State group about the two Japanese hostages it holds. The purported message claims one hostage has been killed and demands a prisoner exchange for the other. The Associated Press could not verify the contents of the message, which varied… Continue reading →

Man wrongly convicted 4 decades ago freed from prison

Christine Mumma, director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, left, and Cheryl Sullivan, staff attorney, hug Joseph Sledge after a special session of superior court in Whiteville, N.C. on Friday, Jan. 23,  2015. Sledge, 70, was freed from prison Friday, after a panel of judges found that he was wrongly convicted in the stabbing deaths of a mother and daughter nearly four decades ago. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman)

WHITEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — For the third time in less than six months, a North Carolina inmate was exonerated by DNA evidence and freed after spending decades in prison for a wrongful murder conviction. This time, 70-year-old Joseph Sledge was set free on Friday after a three-judge panel found that he was innocent of killing a mother… Continue reading →

Louisiana to save millions by refinancing highway projects

Louisiana has refinanced $649 million in highway project borrowing to take advantage of lower interest rates. Treasurer John Kennedy’s office said Friday that the refinancing, done this week, will save the state $109 million over 26 years in lessened interest payments on the debt. Under state law, the savings can only be used to pay for… Continue reading →

Police seek ID of woman who left man at hospital

Photo provided by LAFAYETTE POLICE DEPARTMENT -- Detectives are working to identify the woman captured on surveillance video Jan. 22, 2015, bringing 24-year-old Neil McDaniel of Lafayette to an area hospital, where he soon died.

Detectives are trying to identify a woman captured on video Thursday bringing an unresponsive Lafayette man to the hospital before he died, police said. Neil McDaniel, 24, died around 1 p.m. Thursday after a woman in a silver 2006 Toyota Camry dropped him off at an area hospital, Lafayette Police spokesman Cpl.… Continue reading →

Drunk driving to be focus of Acadiana Press Club forum

A panel of experts will discuss the serious problem of drunken driving and vehicular homicide in Acadiana during the Acadiana Press Club’s monthly newsmaker forum at noon Monday at The Daily Advertiser, 1100 Bertrand Drive. The panel will include: John A. LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission; Jacob Corbell, specialty court director for… Continue reading →

Youngsville police force growing with the city

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Youngsville Police Chief Rickey Boudreaux.

By the end of next week, the city of Youngsville will have four new police officers patrolling the streets, cops who will share public safety duties with the current 10 officers on the city’s roster. Police Chief Rickey Boudreaux said the four new officers are veterans who hail from area police agencies… Continue reading →