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Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser laid out the Office of Tourism’s goals for 2019 in a speech at the Baton Rouge Press Club. Nungesser says he wants to build on international tourism.

Recently, international flights from Germany and London started offering service to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International airport and he says bringing in more out of country visitors could mean big bucks for Louisiana.

“The international traveler stays longer and spends more money. We just got back from a trip from China and the Chinese spent an average of $6,900 dollars per person when they traveled.”

Nungesser is also looking at ways to bring in more dollars to help improve some of the state’s tourist destinations like state parks. Nungesser says there are around 15 public-private partnerships near completion but before they can be finalized he has to talk to the legislature.

“We need to go back this year in session and fix a couple things. There is some language that needs to be added to allow us to do some of the things that we want to do.” 

And Nungesser says he wants to keep the relationship alive between New Orleans and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve. The past three years the popular TV program featured the Big Easy on New Year’s Eve, with a television audience of 20-30 million viewers. He says the contract to have the show in NOLA has reached its end and he wants it renewed.

“We could not afford to pay for this kind of advertising. A Grammys’ commercial cost two and a half million dollars for 30 seconds, more people watch this than watched the Grammys last year.”

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President Donald Trump is in New Orleans today to speak at the American Farm Bureau Convention. Rice and soybean farmers say the tariffs and now the government shutdown have hurt their ability to make money off their crop. Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat said despite the tariff issues, he expects the crowd to welcome the President.

"Farmers love him. Middle America, the Heartland of America, overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, so speaking to the farmers is smart. He'll probably talk about the tariffs are they are hurting some farmers," said Pinsonat.

This is Trump’s first visit to New Orleans since a 2016 campaign stop. Pinsonat said the President is popular in the Bayou State.

"In Louisiana, Donald Trump got more votes than the last governor's race, both candidates combined in the runoff, so he's extremely popular in Louisiana as he is throughout the deep south," said Pinsonat.

Pinsonat said to expect plenty of media attention on the Big Easy.

"New Orleans will get a lot of attention with his speech being in New Orleans. PLus whatever else he decides to do, so yeah, it's great for New Orleans, and great for Louisiana," said Pinsonat.

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A Rockefeller Institute of Government study shows Louisiana receives $1.52 in federal spending for every tax dollar it sends to D.C. Director of Fiscal Analysis Laura Schultz says the Pelican State gets a higher return, because it doesn’t pay a lot in federal taxes, compared to other states.

"Louisiana ranks 42nd in the amount of taxes paid to the federal government," said Schultz. 
 
That means the state receives $3,785 more in federal money per person than it sends, good for 17th lowest in the nation. Schultz says most of that comes from programs for older residents.
 
"Federal spending is really driven by two programs, Social Security and Medicare, it looks like 61% of all of the federal spending in Louisiana comes from those two programs," said Schultz. 
 
Schultz says despite the lopsided give and take, Louisiana still receives fewer contracting dollars on average than most states.
 
"That would be construction that would be contracts to companies to provide goods and services to the government or provide new technologies," said Schultz.   

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The Saints are heading to the NFC Championship game after beating the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 in a hard fought game. New Orleans climbed back from an early 14-to-0 deficit to take the lead in the third quarter and then they held on for a six point win in front of a jubilant Superdome crowd.
 
"There are going to be games where you are going to fall behind, we've played in a handful of those already, I think there's great faith in both sides of the ball and the kicking game to weather any storm like that and we were able to do so today," said Saints Coach Sean Payton. 
 
After giving up two first quarter touchdown drives, the Black and Gold defense took control of the game, only allowing 97 yards after the first quarter. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore had two interceptions, including one that sealed the victory late in the fourth quarter. 
 
"We didn't really make too many adjustments, we just started playing better, and we were executing everything they were calling, so we didn't really make too many adjustments, so we had to go in and play with some swag and be physical with their receivers" said Lattimore. 
 
Quarterback Drew Brees threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns after throwing for an interception on his first pass of the game. The first T-D pass came in the second quarter on fourth and goal to Keith Kirkwood, the second went to Michael Thomas to cap off a massive 18-play, 92-yard drive in the third quarter. Brees on the importance of going ahead at that time. 
 
"That was the turning point in the game, the crowd was with all us all today, they were awesome, Dome field advantage, but the defense played phenomenal as well and we made enough plays down the stretch to get the win," said Brees. 
 
The Saints will host the Rams for the NFC Championship on Sunday January 20th at 2:05 PM. New Orleans beat L.A. 45-35 on November 4th.  
 
 

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LSU couldn't protect a 13-point 2nd half lead in Fayetteville, but the Tigers rebounded in overtime to hold off Arkansas 94-88 to improve to 2-0 in the SEC.
 
Freshman Naz Reid led the way as he scored 27 points and was 4-of-4 from 3-point territory. He hit a big 3-pointer to put the Tigers up by four in OT with over three minutes left. 

Reid also played most of the second half with four fouls. Arkansas big man Daniel Gafford took advantage as he scored 32 points and seven rebounds. 
 
Marlon Taylor had a career-night for the Tigers as head 21 points and seven rebounds, a couple of big offensive rebounds as well. 
 
Tremont Waters played well again as he had 17 points and 11 assists. 
 
It's LSU's first road win since beating Arkansas on January 10th last year. 
 
The Tigers will be back on the road again on Tuesday night when they visit Ole Miss. The Rebels are 3-0 in league play after beating 14th ranked Mississippi State 81-77.  
 

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Eric Prudholm was serving a life sentence for an aggravated rape and armed robbery that happened in a Bossier City motel in 1981, but he’s now a free man. A DNA test of bed linens and the victim’s nightgown led to the vacating of his original conviction and sentence.
(Photo Courtesy of Innocence Project New Orleans)

Innocence Project New Orleans Executive Director Jee Park says Prudholm gained his freedom by pleading no contest to robbery with credit for time served. 
 
Given the weakness of previous evidence, the Bossier Parish DA reached an agreement for an Alford plea, allowing him to maintain his innocence and be freed immediately. Park says a lesson from this case is the importance of preservation of evidence.
 
"Not to destroy evidence, they actually can help exonerate someone, actually free someone, decades from now," said Park. 
 
Due to the agreement, Park says Prudholm will not receive compensation for his time behind bars. He was 21 when he went to prison, and has a daughter who was born in the months following his incarceration that will help him as he begins his new life at age 58. Park says Prudholm is hoping to land a job in food service.
 
"He's going to need all the help he can get from generous folks in the community, but while he was in Angola he was a short order cook, he worked in the kitchen for many, many years." 
 

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Despite the recent talk of a slight uptick in the oil and gas business, when comparing 2008 to 2018, nearly 11,000 jobs were lost in the Acadiana area.
 
President and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority Gregg Gothreaux says the drop in the oil industry has seen a domino effect in job losses in other sectors.

“Those 11,000 jobs particularly since 2014 have caused another 10,000 plus jobs also to go away, and so about 20,000 people have lost jobs.” 
 
Gothreaux says while much of the loss is linked to the drop in oil prices, about a thousand jobs were lost due to changes in the energy industry. 
 
“They are related to the energy industry becoming much more efficient, but the roughly 10,000 or close to it are directly related to the drop in oil prices.”
 
Gothreaux says many of the workers are diverse in their skills and have found jobs with petrochemical projects. He adds with the volatility of this oil industry, any comeback would likely be modest.
 
“The general sense is that they will not come back completely and in fact they may never come back completely because the oil industry has changed so much.”  

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A poll finds that about half of Louisiana voters approve of Governor John Bel Edwards’ job performance. Morning Consult, which polls the popularity of governors, found Edwards has a 49-percent approval rating, 30-percent disapprove and 21-percent are undecided. ULM Political Science Professor Joshua Stockley...
“Governor John Bel Edwards approval rating is strong for a democrat in a highly conservative and very republican state.”
 
Stockley says Edwards is doing well as a Democrat in the red state, because of his pro-gun and pro-life stance and his ability to bring budget stability. 
 
“There were whispers that this could be the first session since 2007 that we had gone into a possible surplus year.”
 
Edwards is up for re-election on October 12th and there are two announced Republican challengers. Stockley says a positive approval rating is one thing, but getting re-elected as a Democrat in a red state is a whole different story…
 
“I firmly believe that even if is approval rating was 60 percent he would still have a very competitive and tough reelection on his hands.” 

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The state has completed the purchase of a 515 acre track of land to resettle the residents Isle De Jean Charles community who will lose their homes on an island that will one day be covered by the Gulf of Mexico. The 11.7 million dollar purchase of 515 acres of farmland in the Schriever area is the first step in relocation.

State Office of Community Development executive director Pat Forbes says they hope to start construction on the new community later this year.
 
"We are working through the process, we got our environmental reviews done, which were necessary before we could actually close on the property, we've done that now. We have our preliminary master plan," said Forbes. 
 
The island in south Terrebonne Parish has lost 98% of it’s landmass since 1955, and is at major risk of flooding. While the new site is in development, Forbes says inhabitants of the island have been offered rental assistance to find interim housing.
 
"We've got almost 20 families who have decided to take the rental assistance and live off the island, while we get the project done," said Forbes.  
 
Forbes says the planning and construction of the homes and community will emphasize and maintain the unique culture created by the mostly Native American inhabitants of the quickly disappearing island.
 
"We know that it's got to be economically viable community, it's got to be safe for them and it's got to be affordable for them. There will be commercial development on the highway frontage."  
 
The site was selected after an extensive search and environmental impact study, and was overwhelmingly supported by its future residents. The initiative is being funded by the feds in a first of its kind re-location project. 

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A female Shreveport Police officer is dead after being shot multiple times outside of a home last night around 8:30 as she was on her way to start her shift. The officer was identified as Chateri Payne, who had graduated from the police academy in November. Police Chief Ben Raymond says the murder of an officer is a catastrophic event to a law enforcement agency.

“Well let me assure you we will not lose focus, we will not falter we will fulfill our obligations not only for the citizens of Shreveport but for the men and women who so graciously put on this uniform every day.”

Raymond says at this time, law enforcement agencies from all across the northern portion of the state are assisting in the investigation and adds they are looking for the public’s help as well.

“We will use every resource at our disposal and aggressively track all leads to bring her killer, or killers, to justice.”

Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins had a message for officers who may be a little on edge about putting on the uniform after an incident of this nature.

“The reason they signed up to be police officers is still there. As a matter of fact, this is a moment of mourning but it is also a moment to remind us that there are bad people in the world.”

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Georgia-Pacific will be laying off at least 650 workers in March from its Port Hudson paper facility, in a major blow to the North Baton Rouge economy. Baton Rouge Senator Regina Barrow says it’s a huge loss, and a drastic shock to a community that relied on those union jobs to provide a good quality of life. 

“It’s been an anchor in our community. It’s been one of those things that’s allowed us to have middle income families because of the salaries of the individuals working there.”

Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broome says the city will activate a Rapid Response employment program to help displaced workers find new employment.

Barrow says with more and more people going digital, and sending correspondence through email and text, the need for traditional paper that the facility specialized in has diminished.

“Certainly it is a shock, and hearing the reason why I can understand it, as it relates to the lack of need and demand for paper products, copy paper, white paper.”

Barrow says the closure should reemphasize the need for additional resources being allocated to programs that help prepare workers for the new, digital economy.

“I believe that we need to be making sure that we are preparing our young people to be able to take on those digital electronic jobs so that when those positions become available, they are in a position to take them.”

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Two Bossier City women are dead after an overnight double homicide shooting. Public Information Officer Traci Landry says officer’s arrived to a tragic scene after getting an 8:30 PM call from a neighbor who heard gunshots.

“They located two unresponsive females inside the complex. They were pronounced deceased by the Bossier City fire department from apparent gunshot wounds.”

22-year-old Shandrell and 40-year-old Maeisha Simoneaux are believed to have been murdered by the father of Shandrell’s two kids, 22-year-old Fred Jackson, who has been arrested. Landry says it didn’t take long to apprehend the alleged murderer.

“He was quickly located in Shreveport by members of the US Marshall’s service task force and brought into our location for questioning and interviewing.”

Landry says enough evidence was collected to charge Jackson with 1st Degree Murder. Landry says Jackson and Simoneaux’s two children were in the apartment at the time of the shooting, and have been turned over to a responsible party.

“The department of child services were also on scene. The children were taken into custody into a safe area and before the end of the evening they were turned over to family members.”

Jackson has been booked into the Bossier City Jail on a 7.5 million dollar bail.

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President Donald Trump will visit New Orleans on Monday, so he can speak at the American Farm Bureau Convention. Louisiana Farm Bureau President Ronnie Anderson is glad to see the President will be at their centennial convention.

With the problems with the trade negotiations, the border wall, labor, and everything else going on right now it’s an ideal time for him to address the farmers of this country.” 

Rice and soybean farmers say the tariffs and now the government shutdown has hurt their ability to make money off their crop. There’s also concern among producers about whether documented workers living in Mexico can return for the growing season. Anderson says farmers are eager to hear from the president.

“Explaining some of the things that are going on and hopefully an idea of when these negotiations will be wrapped up and some of the other issues that are causing us problems right here.”

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The Louisiana Legislative Women’s Caucus has asked the state ethics board to reconsider a previous ruling that said political candidates can not use campaign funds to pay for child care costs.
 
"It's a pretty simple thing, we just would like them to reconsider that vote and look back at the logic they used it in the first place," said Franklinton Senator Beth Mizell.  

A female candidate running for a House seat in the Baton Rouge-area has been told she could be penalized if she used campaign funds to pay for babysitter while she attended campaign events.
 
But in 2000, the Ethics Board issued an opinion that said campaign funds could be used to cover child care expenses if it was related to their campaign. 
 
But the board recently voted 5-2 against campaign funds for child care expenses. 
 
"They actually went against their prior vote, which allowed it when a male candidate asked to vote against it when a female candidate, so that was a problem," said Mizell. 
 
Mizell says candidates may not have the financial means to cover the cost of child care for the time it takes to run a campaign. 
 
"It's really opportunity for people who may not be able to afford running for office, it gives them the ability to use that as needed as they run their campaign," said Mizell.   
 
 

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The state has completed the purchase of a 515-acre tract of land to resettle the Isle De Jean Charles community that will lose their homes due to coastal erosion. The 11.7 million dollar land purchase outside of Schriever is the first step in relocation.

State Office of Community executive director Pat Forbes says they hope to start construction on the new community later this year.

“We are working through the process. We got our environmental reviews done which were necessary before we could actually close on the property, we have done that. Now we have our preliminary master plan.”

The island in south Terrebonne Parish has lost 98 percent of its landmass since 1955 and is at major risk of flooding. While the new site is in development, Forbes says inhabitants of the island have been offered rental assistance to find interim housing.

“We have got almost 20 families who have decided to take the rental assistance and live off the island while we are getting the project done.”

Forbes says the planning and construction of the homes and community will emphasize and maintain the unique culture created by the mostly Native American inhabitants of the quickly disappearing island.

“We know that it has to be an economically viable community, it has to be safe for them, and it has to be affordable for them so there will be commercial development on the highway frontage.”

The site was selected after an extensive search and environmental impact study and was overwhelmingly supported by its future residents. The initiative is being funded by the feds in a first of its kind re-location project.

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Louisiana has received a one-point-two million dollar federal grant to assist child victims of human trafficking. Governor John Bel Edwards says the money is needed, because a report released last February found 681 adults and juveniles identified as victims of human trafficking in 2017.

"And I assure you that while the numbers are grim, we are making a difference and we are going to make a bigger difference going forward," said Edwards. 
 
Louisiana is one of seven states since 2015 to receive this type of funding, which will be used on a project known as the Louisiana Child Trafficking Collaborative.
 
First Lady Donna Edwards has attempted to raise awareness about human trafficking and says this it's an issue everyone should be concerned about. 
 
"Very difficult to hear what happens to these young women, young girls and children, so it's not always pleasant to be a part of this process, but gosh we have to do this, we have to make a difference," said Donna Edwards. 
 
In 2016, Shared Hope International ranked Louisiana number one in the nation for its anti-trafficking laws. Edwards says the state is making progress in trying to stop modern-day slavery, which is why the Department of Justice trusts Louisiana with this federal grant. 
 
"They can have more confidence that the dollars will be properly invested and spent and produce results that will yield best practices that then can sent around the rest of the country," said Governor Edwards.  

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An Acadiana restauranteur and chef has died following a plane crash while on a hunting trip in California. Lionel Robin is fondly remembered in his community and his food crawfish etouffee was once featured on the Food Network. Henderson Mayor Sherbin Collette said he has known Robin is whole life.

“He married one of my cousins. He was a great, great man. You couldn’t get a better person than that. Anybody that went to him for help, if possible, he’d help them,” said Collette.

Robin had owned and operated Robin’s Restaurant in Hersonville for about four decades but had recently been working as the hospitality chef for Tabasco Pepper Sauce. Collette said Robin had a passion for hunting.

“We talked a lot about his hunts in California. He’d bring pictures, and he’d kill ducks over there. He had a very good friend over there and he’d go hunting with him just about every year. It’s something he wouldn’t miss,” said Collette.

Collette said Robin was a happy guy and his crawfish etouffee was so popular, he canned the dish and it was distributed around the country.

“It’s not often you see this guy without a smile. He was that kind of a person. The restaurant, when he had it open, was one of the top three restaurants in St. Martin Parish. The food was fantastic,” said Collette.

Robin was 70 years old.

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After a 2015 GOP gubernatorial blood bath that saw the ascendance of The South’s only Democratic governor, Louisiana Republican operative Scott Wilfong, on Talk Louisiana, said the party is taking a hard look in 2019 at throwing their weight behind just one candidate before the October open primary. Wilfong says the party will be discussing that question, and soon.

“We’re meeting in two weeks actually, we’ve already got a plan to look ahead and settle on one candidate ultimately.”

Louisiana operates a “jungle” primary where candidates from all parties are pitted against one and other, with the top two making the run-off. GOP state leaders have requested closed primaries where each party sends their winning candidate to a general election, but Wilfong says that’s yet to materialize.

“Unfortunately the legislature will not give us the closed primaries that we have been asking for, so we are going to try to do what we can as a party to winnow the field down to one so that we will be united behind that one candidate.”

Wilfong says potential candidates will be given an opportunity to build support and compete for the Louisiana GOP’s backing, and he hopes that once a frontrunner becomes clear, the other competitors will bow out gracefully.

“I know that the party wants to give both candidates an opportunity to make their case to the voters, but at some point we would like to see one of them get out.”

The only two Republicans in the race so far are Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, and Congressman Ralph Abraham.

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Educators are keeping their finger on the pulse of sports betting in Louisiana after Governor John Bel Edwards says he’s open to dedicating any revenue from the additional gaming toward doing better to prepare children for kindergarten. Edwards said if the state really wants to make a difference in the lives of children, more needs to be done about early childhood education.

“If we are serious about education in Louisiana, this is just something we are going to have to do. We cannot wait until kindergarten any longer,” said Edwards.

While he expects the gains to be modest, Edwards said the sports betting is also an important aspect in making sure the state doesn’t see a decline in gaming revenue.

“I believe we will be less competitive to sister states such as Mississippi and gaming revenue will actually decrease, and I do not think that’s in our best interest,” said Edwards.

Edwards said at this point, the legislator has commissioned a study on sports betting to inform their decision moving forward.

“There are many different ways that sports betting can be undertaken, and different states have different models, but we are trying to figure out what works for Louisiana,” said Edwards.

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Congressman Garret Graves supports pending legal action against several federal agencies for refusing to distribute RESTORE funds to families who fall into the “duplication of benefits” loophole after the 2016 floods.

Graves says the agencies had 45 days to write policy for the money to be distributed, but departments, like HUD, have ignored the Congressional mandate passed in October.

“It is going to be filed, we are not playing games with the agencies in the case. The law is crystal clear in what its intention is and they need to follow the law.”

Flood victims who received Small Business Administration loans after the 2016 floods were not eligible to receive RESTORE grants for flood damage. But in October, Congress approved legislation to allow it.

Legal challenges can sometimes take ages to come to a conclusion, so Graves says they’ve consulted legal experts and found a way to get a much faster resolution.

“Rather than going through a full judicial proceeding that could potentially take months or even years, we are looking at a dec action which should have a much faster path through the court.”

The suit could potentially free up almost a quarter billion dollars in grants for 2016 flood victims.

Graves puts the blame on a group that’s opposed the regulatory change from the beginning because he says they erroneously fear it would result in flood victims getting paid by both the SBA and HUD.

“There are federal bureaucrats from different agencies including FEMA, HUD, and the office of management budget that were fighting us tooth and nail throughout this entire process.”

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