Eight people were arrested in Acadiana on multiple charges of Medicaid welfare fraud. Attorney General Jeff Landry says there is a tremendous amount of abuse in Louisiana and his office will continue to fight to root out welfare fraud. He says Louisiana spends 14 billion dollars a year under the Medicaid expansion.
“When you compare it to states like South Carolina that spend only $7 billion, you know that there is a tremendous gap in the amount that we’re spending in Louisiana and what other states are spending.”
The individuals arrested were allegedly submitting time sheets and service logs for Medicaid services while working other jobs. Landry says we need to save these taxpayer dollars for services Louisiana needs, like new roads and higher education.
“Every time someone defrauds or abuses this program, they are taking away from those who need it the most. What we want to do is do our part and ensure that this program is run efficiently.”
Landry says Medicaid fraud occurs when providers use the Medicaid program to obtain money they are not entitled to. He encourages residents to report Medicaid fraud or abuse to his office.
“Report Medicaid fraud or abuse or the neglect of residential care facilities. People can call our Medicaid fraud hotline at (888) 799-6885.”
The Caddo Parish Commission has voted seven to five to remove a Confederate monument that has stood in front of the courthouse for 111 years. Commissioner Louis Johnson voted in favor of removal. Johnson says he cast his vote based on his constituent’s feelings.
"The more exposed that I got to the issue itself, the more concern that I understood as it related to what it represented itself and what the courthouse is designed to represent", Johnson said.
A motion was made to put the issue up for a public vote, but that recommendation was voted down. Gulf Coast Patriot Network’s Rex Dukes is upset the public is not being allowed to make the decision on keeping or removing the statue.
"Basically they're saying they're above the citizenry. That's a form of tyranny. And that's exactly what we have in Caddo Parish when it comes to the council", Dukes said.
Dukes claims the Parish Council forced the vote through, not taking into account how others living outside of Shreveport felt about the issue. He says the majority no longer rules.
"Only a small minority wanted it removed and that was the black minority. As usual, the minorities always get their way anymore", Dukes said.
Dukes says a federal lawsuit has been filed to stop the removal of the monument, something Johnson and the full council expects. Johnson says he can’t control the courts. He needs just to make sure the will of the people is accomplished.
"That is not an area of the process that I can control. My role is not to litigate. My role is to simply identify the majority of my district to try to represent them with respect and integrity," Dukes said.
The lawsuit was filed by the Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which owns the monument and they claim the statute is on private property.
Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise is hopeful that President Trump’s tax reform package will be passed, giving relief to millions of American’s pocketbooks. The House Majority Whip says the Republican's proposal will simplify the tax code bringing a couple of benefits.
"Over 90 percent of Americans would actually be able to do their taxes on a post card," Scalise said. "Imagine that. You could actually do your taxes on a post card and you would be paying less because we would be lowering rates for everybody."
Scalise says their plan would help a somewhat stagnant economy take off. He cites a recent study which shows there would be a large increase in take home pay.
"The average American would see a four-thousand-dollar increase in their paychecks by cutting taxes. It actually works, it's been proven to work by the way every time it's been done", Scalise said.
Scalise says the current corporate tax structure is scaring away companies from staying here and moving to other countries. He says he wants to work with corporations in helping them stay here.
"What I do is I meet with them and say what it is going to take to bring those good jobs back to America and the answer is universal. It's just make America competitive again. Being the highest corporate rate in the world is killing our middle class."
Coming off of two wins, LSU fans are excited to travel to Oxford, Mississippi to watch the Tigers take on the Rebels. LSU Alumni Association Senior Director of Alumni Engagement Sally Stiel says they have a sold out trip and are already on the road where they will stay at a casino hotel in Tunica, Mississippi.
“We have a bus trip taking us from Tunica to Oxford, round trip to the game and we have a tailgate planned for the Lyric Theater in the Square in Oxford. So we have a pretty fun filled weekend ahead of us.”
Kickoff is at 6:15 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Stiel says the momentum is up after the Tigers’ win last weekend to Auburn. She says plenty of activities will be waiting for the Traveling Tigers when they arrive in Oxford.
“We have a tailgate planned from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. with drinks and food and just a lot of Tiger fun. We have over 150 people booked right now for that tailgate party. It’s looking like we’ll have a good crowd.”
Stiel says after the tailgate party, fans will gather into the stadium to watch the Tigers take on the Rebels. She says the Traveling Tigers are also planning to travel to the next away games.
“We have some more trips after Ole Miss coming up with Alabama and Tennessee and Traveling Tiger spots are still available on those trips so we’re just hoping that we keep the momentum up and keeping booking them and go to support our Tigers.”
The Salmonella outbreak in Caldwell Parish has state health officials urging Louisiana residents to be careful of cross contamination when preparing food. Dr. David Holcombe with the state Office of Public Health says poultry is the most common cause of Salmonella.
"If you're cutting up poultry and you're using a cutting board and then you're cutting up celery after that, cross contaminated, that's a bad deal."
There are 49 confirmed cases of Salmonella in Caldwell Parish and 31 people were hospitalized after eating jambalaya at charity softball game. Holcombe says the symptoms of the gastrointestinal illness are abdominal cramping, fever and diarrhea. He says make sure you cook chicken thoroughly and don’t let it sit out.
"If it's cooked and it’s not cooked to 160 degrees then once it's cooked and it's not maintained at the proper temperature and is allowed to cool down and have bacteria that survived proliferate."
Holcombe suggests using a meat thermometer when cooking meat and poultry. He says another big problem associated with Salmonella poisoning is inadequate refrigeration.
"This happens every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas with people with inadequately stored dressing and poorly prepared turkeys and all that."
An LSU Health Sciences Center researcher says military veterans with brain injuries and disorders showed a reduction in suicidal thoughts after undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Dr. Paul Harch has studied the therapy's effects on 30 veterans since 2008. He knew some symptoms would be reduced, but was surprised at the final results.
"Nearly all of them that were suicidal, were not suicidal at the completion of the study", Harch said.
After H-BOT, 52-percent of military patients no longer met the criteria for the diagnosis of PTSD. Harch says the therapy helps to increase oxygen levels to treat the disease.
"We expected to see them improve neruologically and cognitively, but what also happened very early on we found that it benefited their PTSD", Harch said.
He has also treated professional football players and after seeing success with the therapy presented the NFL with his findings.
"We had a meeting with them. Tried to show them all of this, how it could improve their outcomes to get players back on the field sooner. They were not interested", Harch said.
It is estimated that 300-thousand military veterans who return from service in Afghanistan or Iraq have PTSD or major depression.
State health officials suspect jambalaya is the cause of an outbreak of Salmonella poisoning in Caldwell Parish.
Dr. David Holcombe with the State Office of Public Health says there are 49 confirmed cases of a gastrointestinal illness with 31 people hospitalized. He says salmonella is usually associated with chicken and eggs.
“It’s usually problems associated with preparation, cross contamination of cutting boards or poor storage techniques for either the raw product or the cooked product.”
Holcombe says they know that 300 plates of jambalaya were served at a softball charity event over the weekend. He says one person who showed symptoms associated with Salmonella poisoning died but it is still unclear if that is what caused his death.
“The usual symptoms are abdominal cramping, fever and diarrhea. It can occur any time between six hours up to three days and it usually lasts between four and seven days.”
Holcombe says very rarely will salmonella travel into the blood causing sepsis and eventually death. He also notes salmonella is difficult to spread from person to person.
“So with adequate hand washing and not contaminated fecal matter than you’re getting in your hands, people should do fine.”
NOAA released their winter outlook saying La Nina will dictate a warmer and drier winter in Louisiana for a second year in a row, moving winter weather away from the southeastern U.S. State Climatologist Barry Keim says the weather could be setting up for a repeat of 2011.
"The Midwest was exceptionally wet, we were exceptionally dry and in drought here in Louisiana", Keim said. "But yet it was so wet up in the Midwest, all this water came raging down the Mississippi River, while we were still in drought here."
Keim says the last few weeks of dry and warm weather are a precursor of this coming winter according to NOAA.
"We've been running exceptionally dry across the state, running well below 50 percent of normal. We're actually teetering on the edge of drought even now. The forecast for the next several months does not really bode well", Keim said.
Does this mean there won't be cold snaps to affect Louisiana? Keim says don't put the coats away.
"Just because the long term forecast does call for warmer than normal, it doesn't mean we won't get an Arctic intrusion and we won't get a cold blast here or there", Keim said.
The winter forecast will be revised by NOAA in Mid-November.
Pineville Police have made an arrest in the stabbing death of 42-year-old Latish White. A passerby found her body near the Pineville Expressway early Wednesday morning. Pineville Deputy Police Chief Darrell Basco says they learned 29-year-old Matthew Sonnier of Pineville was responsible for her death and arrested him in Alexandria.
"We had a short pursuit in Monroe/Levin street area", Basco said. "After he wrecked the vehicle the officers with the assistance of the Alexandria Police Department patrol division, we were able to apprehend him."
Basco says Sonnier was a known acquaintance of White and the two were together at the time of her death.
"From the information we've been able to ascertain as of this time, the initial stabbing of the victim occurred inside of his vehicle that was in the vicinity of where the victim was dropped out of the vehicle at the intersection", Basco said.
It has been a quiet year for the Pineville Police Department. Basco says he is glad his department worked quickly to apprehend Sonnier.
"It was a good thing that this was our first homicide of the year and it's a great thing we were able to clear it within 24 hours", Basco said.
Sonnier is charged with second degree murder and aggravated flight from an officer. He is in the Rapides Parish Detention Center without bond.
The Caddo Parish Commission will likely vote today to remove the statue of a Confederate soldier outside of the parish courthouse in Shreveport. LSU Shreveport Associate Professor of Political Science Jeffery Sadow says last month the council preliminarily voted to support the removal of the monument.
“The vote kind of indicated that when the formal vote of the ordinance to remove the monument it would succeed. Of course we have to wait on the vote but the indication is that they are going to vote to remove that monument.”
The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the statue and the parish has kept no official record of who currently owns the land which it stands on. Sadow say this could create problems if the council does vote to remove the monument.
“The UDC or somebody else might sue them saying they don’t have ownership and therefore they can’t move it. If that’s what happens then this probably is not over, it probably will drag on for some time.”
Sadow says the monument was placed on the location of the last capitol of the Confederacy. He says the statue received the designation to be on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 but that likely won’t affect if the monument can be removed or not.
“Just because something is designated as that does not prohibit a local government from doing something to it. That is certainly something would discouraged it’s movement, it is a historically recognized object, not just the object itself but where it’s situated.”
Sadow says the community has not made much public noise keeping up the monument or removing it.
In a couple of few weeks, hundreds of inmates will be released in Louisiana as a result of a criminal justice reform package signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards. Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator voiced concern that violent criminals will be released early without proper rehabilitation. But Edwards says Prator didn’t have the best information.
“It’s all modeled off other southern conservative states who are years ahead of us in these reform efforts. So we the impact they had elsewhere and took best practices.”
Prator also said it was important to keep “good” prisoners incarcerated, so they can pick up trash, wash cars, and cook for first responders. Edwards says these are the individuals Louisiana wants to release early, because they have proven themselves trustworthy and did not commit a violent offense.
“Those are the ones that all states are targeting for criminal justice reform measure and it’s a real world concern but it’s not one that should control the policy debate.”
The goal of the criminal justice reform is to reduce the state’s incarceration rate, to lower inmate costs and use the savings to fund more rehabilitation programs. Edwards says the majority of inmates will only be released about two months early. He says these reform efforts will help do more than just reduce the incarceration rate.
“It’s also about reducing recidivism, improving public safety, and reinvesting our money to make sure we’ll be successful, the money we’re going to save.”
A Jackson Parish paper mill will continue to play a vital role in north Louisiana's economy. WestRock will perform a 200-million-dollar expansion, saving about 400 jobs at the mill in Hodge and another 3,700 indirect jobs. State Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson says it's a big economic development win.
"To really understand the impact you got to look outside the fence line at four or five seven Parishes, maybe more, that feed Louisiana timber into that mill", Pierson said.
The mill’s annual payroll is some 28-million-dollars. To help with their payroll and other operating costs, Pierson says WestRock will receive tax breaks.
"The state will rebate a portion of the income tax that we collect from the mill will lower their tax assessment for five years", Pierson said.
State Representative Jack MacFarland says if the facility closed down, it would be catastrophic, since the mill also provides needed utilities.
"Those living in that community would have to have the assistance of the state to financially overcome the loss of electricity and wastewater treatment", McFarland said.
The mill produces 800-thousand tons of container board paper each year.
LSU political communication professor Mike Henderson finds that voter turnout for statewide elections has been on a decline for the last 30 years. In 1983, 54-percent of the eligible voters voted for governor and in 2015 the voter turnout was down to 33-percent. Last weekend’s special election saw only a 13-percent turnout. Henderson says the voting public seems to be burned out on state politics.
"We've had a lot of competitive statewide elections the last few years, so maybe there's less campaigning going on", Henderson said. "But what's also going on is this is a long term decline in Louisiana participation."
Henderson hopes more information on the issues and the candidates could help increase voter participation, but it could also backfire.
"So even if we sort of got it out there all the time, are people going to pay attention to it? Even if trying to push this stuff more, it would help but probably not help a lot", Henderson said.
Is it possible that having statewide elections on Saturday hurts voter turnout? Henderson says there are two trains of thought.
"Maybe fewer people are working and therefore they have more time to go and participate in the election. The other thing you sometimes hear in Louisiana is that Saturdays elections in the fall could run up against the football game. But there's no real evidence that it pushes things down much."
The Iberville Parish Council has made it illegal to burn a flag. Council Chairman Matt Jewell says the move is in response to an Ohio incident when a flag was burned causing consternation among war veterans there. Though there has not been any incidents in Iberville Parish, he and others want to make sure it doesn't offend Veteran’s there…
"I promised them at the last Veteran's Day Memorial celebration that I would pass something in Iberville Parish to discourage that", Jewell said.
The ACLU says Iberville Parish can’t stipulate any laws to prevent First Amendment rights. Louisiana ACLLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman says the council made a mistake.
"What they've done is pass a law they know is unenforceable, that is illegal", Esman said. "And that sets a really bad example for the public. What that tells the public is that the elected officials don't care what the law of the land is".
Jewell brushes off any comment made the ACLU as the organization's usual rhetoric.
"The ACLU is doing their job. That's what they do. They flag these things and comment on it. If they're not commenting, they're not doing their job. We are going to enforce it."
Iberville Parish leaders reason they passed the law since their community is very patriotic. Burning flags will result in a one-thousand-dollar fine and possibly six months in jail. Esman says the passage of the law is just the opposite.
"The laws of this county protect people's rights to do the things they just banned. So in fact an act of patriotism would be to uphold the laws of the land and not violate them by passing unenforceable or unconstitutional laws", Esman said.
The law is expected to go into effect in 30 days.
According to the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, Louisiana ranks 42nd on tax competitiveness. Senior Policy Analyst Jared Walczak says the reason for this low rating is because the Bayou State has one of the nation’s most complex tax structures. He says Louisiana has a number of taxes that most states have foregone.
“An ideal tax code raises the necessary revenue without unduly picking winners and losers. It doesn’t put a thumb on the scale to guide economic decision making.”
Wyoming ranked number one in the nation when it comes to tax competitiveness and New Jersey came in 50th. Walczak says Louisiana’s complex tax code makes it difficult for new companies to conduct business.
“You file in every location, you pay on different things. What you might pay a sales tax on in one parish, you won’t pay it in another. That’s needlessly complex, it’s hard to comply with, it makes it harder to do business with in Louisiana.”
The index reports Louisiana ranks 50th for the state’s sales tax structure. Walczak says Louisiana could benefit greatly if it simplified its tax code.
“The sales tax could be on a unified base across the state. There could be simplifications and consolidations of collections. I know these are difficult things but they are worth doing.”
A tiger who became a roadside attraction in Grosse Tate was euthanized. Tony the Tiger had lived at an Iberville Parish Tiger Truck Stop since 2001. Due to health issues, he was put to sleep on Monday. Attorney Jennifer Treadway says despite what protesters say, Tony died peacefully and was very loved by his caretakers.
"Every one of his caretakers was there to pat him and hug him and I was watching grown men weeping", Treadway said.
There have been ongoing legal battles between Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Sandlin’s attorney Jennifer Treadway says Sandlin plans to get another tiger which he has the proper permit to do so.
"He has a zoo license from the USDA, Federal government under the Animal Welfare Act just as LSU does.", Treadway said.
Senior Staff Attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund Tony Eliseuson claims Tony lived in deplorable conditions.
"Having a majestic animal like Tony living in a truck stop environment where he's being exposed to diesel fumes every day and being in a small cage ultimately led to his demise", Eliseuson said.
Eliseuson says they stand ready to prevent another tiger from living at that truck stop.
"Louisiana in its wisdom passed the Louisiana Big Cat ban in 2006. That should prevent Mr. Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop from ever getting another tiger." Eliseuson said.
Open enrollment for the Medicare program is now until December 7th for 2018 plans.
State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says this is the only time of the year when senior citizens can shop around for their plans and compare prices.
He says it’s important to find a plan that goes along with your current doctors.
“You must always be mindful of the need to have your important healthcare providers, your doctors, in your network, so that you are eligible to get coverage through the Medicare system.”
Donelon says there are different plans with different pricing structures available during this period, so there is a good chance for savings.
“By moving from one plan to another, a plan may have lowered their premiums or you may not have been aware of a cheaper available option when you signed up last year.”
Staff with the Senior Health Insurance Information Program are available to talk with Louisiana residents. Donelon says call L-D-I to reach someone who can help with the shopping process at 1 (800) 259-5300. He says there are assistance programs to help some individuals pay for healthcare premiums.
“They are means tested so you would have to meet the eligibility based on your income. We can help you determine if you are eligible.”
Two years from now, Louisiana voters will likely be gearing up for a gubernatorial runoff election. GOP Chairman Roger Villere says they plan to go after current Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards in a big away. He says Edwards does not share many of the conservative beliefs of Louisiana voters.
“I think he’s moderate to liberal on a number of other issues. His brand of politics is more moderate than I like. Even if he was a Republican, I’d be pushing to get a more conservative Republican in there.”
Villere says one big name that has been mentioned a lot for the 2019 election is U.S. Senator John Kennedy. He says Kennedy is an extremely formidable candidate for the position.
“He has the ability to raise the money. He has high name recognition having just run for the U.S. Senate. Also, I believe he served for 17 years as the state treasurer.”
Villere says many other potentially strong Republican politicians have voiced interest in running for Governor.
“Taylor Barras, Senator Appel, Conrad Appel said he was looking at it. Garret Graves said he was looking at it. [Ralph] Abraham said he was looking at it.”
An 18-month-old is dead following a gruesome murder. New Orleans Police says the father, 45-year-old
Mark Hambrick told police “God made him do it.”
Police Chief Michael Harrison says Hambrick called himself into police several
hours after he killed the child.
"The call came from the resident who actually lives at that location, who told us over the phone that he had stabbed and suffocated his 18-month-old child", Harrison said.
Hambrick gave a detailed description to police of himself and the child and told them he would be found on his porch when police came on the property. Harrison says the father remained strangely calm while they arrested him…
"Because he told us he would be waiting, certainly that speaks to his mental state that we can reasonably suspect that is not normal," Harrison said.
Harrison says the exact motive is still unknown, however police say they are seeking any information about Hambrick that can help them with the investigation.
"We are searching for any and all evidence that could be related to this incident. We're looking for anyone who has information about Mr. Hambrick to give us a call or call Crimestoppers at 822-1111", Harrison said.
Hambrick is in custody with charges to be filed later.
The state Department of Children and Family Services has posted an online mapping tool called Safe Haven Facility Locator in an effort to prevent newborn abandonment. Child Protective Services Program Manager Mona Michelli says a mother can visit louisianasafehaven.com to find a place where they can give up a child less than 60 days old.
“To be able to raise awareness of where the facilities are and to bring about an easy way for any mother who would want to take advantage of the Safe Haven Relinquishment Law.”
A 13-year-old Baker mother left her new born baby at her teacher’s house yesterday, according to police. Michelli says the locator website was just launched last week but they’re hopeful mothers will use it to their advantage.
“We want to prevent any death that is not necessary. It’s a safe alternative to abandonment without any legal ramifications to the mother.”
If a mother or parent is not able to locate a facility, call 911 and an emergency responder can transport the child to a facility. Michelli says there are many Safe Haven locations for a mother of a child under 60 days old to relinquish her newborn.
“To an employee of a designated Safe Haven site and a Safe Haven site includes hospitals, health units, police stations, fire stations.”
Michelli says it’s important to remember a mother faces no legal recourse if she follows the Safe Haven laws.
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