Louisiana news briefs
Jindal agrees to change teacher firing appeals
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The law governing teacher appeals of firing decisions has been tweaked.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office announced Tuesday the governor has signed the bill by Bossier City Rep. Jeff Thompson. It took effect immediately.
Teachers unions said policies pushed into law by Jindal in 2012 violated their due process rights because they weighted appeals hearings against a teacher.
The 2-year-old law created a system where a tenured teacher accused of being ineffective and fired could request a review before a three-person panel, with appointees from the superintendent, the principal who did the firing and the teacher.
Under the new law, superintendents will name a hearing officer to consider appeals, and both the superintendent and teacher can challenge the decision in court.
fox pen hunting
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Fox pen hunting is officially considered part of Louisiana’s folklife heritage.
Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law this week a bill by Republican Rep. Sherman Mack, of Livingston, that declares the sport should be preserved.
The sport involves fenced-in preserves where hunting dogs are trained to pursue foxes.
Supporters of the bill say Louisiana has a rural tradition of fox pen hunting.
Critics of the proposal call it a “blood sport” in which a fox is run down by 20 or 30 dogs that attack it until it dies.
But Mack has said opponents were looking at information about fox pen hunting in other states. He said that in Louisiana the foxes are chased up a tree and aren’t killed.
American Idol auditions coming to New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Auditions for the 14th season of American Idol are coming to New Orleans.
The national singing competition show will begin its nationwide search for the best undiscovered talent in the country in Minneapolis, Minn., on June 18.
The search continues in New Orleans, on June 25; Long Island, N.Y., on July 23; Nashville, Tenn., on July 30; and San Francisco, Calif., on Sept. 29.
dies in house fire
ANACOCO (AP) — The state fire marshal is investigating a fatal fire in Anacoco.
Firefighters say the body of 88-year-old Donald Beebe was found in the master bedroom after the fire was extinguished Monday night.
Investigators say the fire originated in the living room where candles were being used following a power outage.
Baker council refuses to increase utility fees
BAKER — Despite facing a $171,000 shortfall in the city budget, the Baker City Council has voted against raising sewer and water rates.
The move might mean decreased police and fire services and possibly salary cuts for elected officials and department heads.
Fire Chief Danny Edwards said Tuesday the fire department will have difficulty maintaining its current level of service.
The proposal called for increasing the flat water fee from $9 to $15 per month for residents inside the city. The per gallon usage would have gone up from $1.50 to $1.75 per thousand gallons.
The sewer rate would have gone up from $14 to $16 per month for residents.
UNO gets grant
to improve turtle excluder devices
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The University of New Orleans has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to improve a device used on shrimp boats to protect sea turtles.
UNO researchers will use the funds to enhance the design, test and implement the device which helps a captured sea turtle escape when caught in a fishing net.
The Nekton Research Laboratory at UNO is spearheading the project. Once the changes are in place, UNO students will lead the outreach effort to train fishermen on how to construct, install and operate the devices.
UNO is collaborating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, Coastal Communities Consulting, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy and the Louisiana shrimp industry on the project.
restricts off-track betting parlors
THIBODAUX (AP) — The Lafourche Parish Council has approved restricting the location of any new off-track betting businesses.
The measure, approved 8-0 Tuesday night, prohibits any business with more than three video poker machines from locating within a mile of any National Register of Historic Places site, public playground, residential property, church, synagogue, library or school.
UL-Lafayette banning tobacco
LAFAYETTE (AP) — With a few exceptions, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is banning tobacco from its campus.
The university says in a Tuesday news release that its tobacco-free policy takes effect Aug. 1.
Joey Pons, associate director of Public Safety at UL-Lafayette, says the policy is designed to eliminate second-hand smoke from campus and aid those who want to quit using tobacco.
Smoking will still be permitted in personal vehicles parked in university lots or on public streets on campus — but not in vehicles that are parked in university parking garages. The new policy allows the use of electronic cigarettes in most outdoor areas, but not indoors.
Previously, smoking was permitted outdoors at least 25 feet away from building entrances.
Claim investigator: Fisherman should repay $50,000
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A court-appointed investigator says a fisherman should return more than $50,000 in BP oil spill claim money.
Louis Freeh, the former FBI director appointed to investigate claims arising from the 2010 disaster, filed a federal court motion Tuesday to force the return of the money.
Freeh says the money was paid to Jarrod A. Burrle based on false claims, including the assertion that he landed over eight tons of seafood per month from a 16-foot aluminum boat without any deckhand assistance. Freeh also said Burrle vastly overstated the amount of seafood he caught for himself and family members. And, Freeh said Burrle alleged sales of blue crabs to non-existent businesses.
Ponchatoula eyes city bus service
PONCHATOULA (AP) — Ponchatoula’s budget next year includes money for public transportation and raises for Ponchatoula city employees, the mayor, chief of police, city clerk and tax collector but not the city council.
The City Council voted Monday on amendments to the current fiscal year’s budget as well as next year’s budget.
Mayor Bob Zabbia said the city will partner with the Tangipahoa Parish Voluntary Council on Aging, which already provides a bus in Hammond.
The council voted 5-0 to add funds to the budget to go toward a city bus service.
Former lawmaker Melvin Irvin Jr dies
GONZALES (AP) — Former state Rep. Melvin Irvin Jr. has died.
Family friend Tanzie Jones said Tuesday that Irvin, who’s also a former president of the Ascension Parish School Board, died Saturday of cancer. He was 72.
Irvin was elected in 1983 to the Louisiana House of Representatives, serving two terms that ended in 1992. His last term was marred by a 1991 conviction for bribing two Baton Rouge public housing officials. He served six years in federal prison.
Prior to election to the Legislature, he served on the Ascension Parish School Board from 1972 to 1983 and was president from 1976 to 1978.
“He met no strangers,” Jones said. “He was affable and comfortable around national figures, state office holders and everyday citizens, not only in Gonzales but around the world.”
In addition, Irvin worked as a high school math teacher, an operator at Vulcan Chemical, a director at the Superdome and a real estate developer. He also established the River Road Urban League, Ascension Parish’s first branch of the organization, and was president of the River Area Improvement League.
Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Friday at Christian Assembly Full Gospel Church in Gonzales.