Senators hear from public on next year's budget
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - People who rely on the state for health care and educational programs traveled to the Louisiana Capitol to ask senators to pay for those services in next year's budget.
For hours Friday, the Senate Finance Committee heard requests for cuts to be reversed, for programs to be continued and for spending to increase on services with long waiting lists.
It was the day for public testimony, as senators decide what changes they want to make to the 2013-14 budget proposal forwarded by the House.
People pleading for their causes spilled into the halls, waiting their turn. Some women wept as they spoke about the dollars they sought for disabled children, domestic violence shelters and the state's voucher program.
The Finance Committee will craft its version of the budget next week.
MUSIC-BAYOU COUNTRY SUPERFEST
Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert at country fest
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The sounds of country music take over the City of Baton Rouge as the Bayou Country Superfest brings some of the genre's biggest names to LSU's Tiger Stadium for a Memorial Day holiday jamfest.
Headlining Saturday are Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Darius Rucker and Aaron Lewis, the former frontman for rock band Staind. The 2-day festival concludes Sunday with performances by Zac Brown Band, Luke Bryan and The Band Perry.
Festival producer Quint Davis says the talent and free fan fest held before the nightly concerts help to entice attendees. In its fourth year, the festival drew 75,000 people last year.
Visit Baton Rouge executive vice president Renee Areng says Superfest has encouraged people to travel to Baton Rouge on a traditionally sleepy weekend.
NEW ORLEANS JAIL
Court filing: New jail won't fix old problems
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Inmates' lawyers and the U.S. Justice Department say the current design of a $145 million jail under construction in New Orleans won't meet requirements of a reform agreement signed by Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman.
In papers filed Thursday at federal court, they say the facility lacks space to separately house mentally or physically ill inmates, suicidal inmates, youthful offenders or others who need to be separated from the general inmate population.
And they claim design flaws will make direct supervision of inmates difficult, hampering efforts to curb prison violence.
Gusman says the jail was designed in accordance with American Correctional Association standards and meets requirements of a city ordinance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is providing construction funds.
La. ranks high in gun violence, low in gun safety
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A recent national study says Louisiana has the highest rate of gun violence in the nation and the weakest gun safety laws. But state lawmakers are moving to expand the already permissive laws.
According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit group that tracks gun regulations around the nation, Louisiana's push is contrary to a national trend towards strengthening firearm laws.
The most far-reaching gun proposals in the Louisiana Legislature seek to preempt federal law, as a states' rights issue. They have been easily approved in the House and await action in the Senate.
One would prohibit enforcement of any federal restrictions on semi-automatic weapons.
Another would allow gun buyers to circumvent any federal gun law if the weapon was manufactured in Louisiana and remained in state.
Weekly claims for unemployment insurance rise
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - First-time claims for unemployment insurance in Louisiana for the week ending May 18, increased from the previous week's total.
The state labor department figures released Friday show the initial claims increased to 2,738 from the previous week's total of 2,327. Initial claims were below the comparable week a year earlier at 3,547.
The four-week moving average, which is a less volatile measure of claims, increased to 2,518 from the previous week's total of 2,488.
Continued unemployment claims claimed for the week ending May 18 decreased to 20,735, compared to the previous week's total of 22,517. The four-week moving average for such claims decreased to 22,353 from the previous week's average of 22,902.
CADDO SCHOOL BUDGET
Caddo school board looking for budget solution
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - The Caddo Parish School Board will have to find another way to start correcting its $21 million budget shortfall.
Nearly three hours of debate ended with the board right where it began before Thursday's meeting, leaving the teachers in attendance exhausted but relieved.
As part of its proposed 2013-14 spending, the board planned the elimination of 212 positions, including 94 from special education, 107 teaching positions from elementary and high schools and 11 at Central Office. Officials said layoffs wouldn't be necessary, and the cuts would be achieved through attrition.
The plan also would have changed the scheduling of Caddo schools, reducing the amount of time granted to teachers for weekly lesson planning.
The Times reports the board is scheduled to adopt the full $479 million budget in June.
STORM SURGE-COMMUNICATING THE DANGER UPDATE
Hurricane center: Beware of the storm surge
MIAMI (AP) - During a hurricane, storm surge is 1 of the greatest threats to life and land, yet many people don't understand the dire warnings from forecasters to get out of its way.
This season, forecasters hope to offer easy-to-understand, color-coded maps and change the way they talk to the public.
Simply put, storm surge is the abnormal rise of sea water. Predicting it is far more complicated, and so is explaining it. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami discovered that again during a review of Superstorm Sandy.
Forecasts during Sandy were exceptionally accurate, but often confusing. Perhaps because so many things contribute to storm surge: intensity, pressure, forward speed, size, where it makes landfall and other factors.
Texan charged with vehicular homicide in La.
LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - A 74-year-old Texas woman has been indicted on a charge of vehicular homicide.
The American Press reports a Calcasieu Parish grand jury returned an indictment against Millie Adams Francis Powell of Port Arthur on Thursday for the March 1 death of 92-yeaer-old Rubye McGown Jones.
State police said Powell was traveling north on La. Highway 109 when she rear-ended a vehicle which was waiting to turn into a private driveway.
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