Louisiana news briefs
OMV testing privatized drivers’ license renewals
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana’s Office of Motor Vehicles has started a pilot program that allows outside contractors to handle drivers’ license renewals.
The privatization program is being tested in Baton Rouge and Metairie. In each city, a public tag agent — a private business that processes vehicle title registrations — is also able to renew state drivers’ licenses.
State Police Col. Mike Edmonson, who oversees Louisiana’s motor vehicle offices, said Monday that the program is designed to expand renewal options in cities with long OMV lines and wait times.
Each of the two locations charges an extra $18 fee to renew the license, on top of the regular fees charged at a state-run motor vehicles office.
Edmonson said if the pilot initiative proves successful, he wants to add it to other cities. But he said the privatization effort won’t shutter any of the state’s 83 existing OMV offices.
“No offices are being closed. No personnel are being laid off,” Edmonson said. “Nothing will change. It just gives you additional places.”
The public tag agents don’t get any money from the state for doing the license renewals, but they can charge up to an $18 transaction fee, which is what both locations have done in the pilot program, Edmonson said.
Anyone getting a first-time driver’s license must still visit the state-run OMV office.
Acadiana crime lab
faces uncertain future
LAFAYETTE (AP) — The crime lab that analyzes DNA, blood, fingerprints and other evidence for Acadiana law enforcement agencies faces an uncertain future if more money cannot be found to shore up the lab’s budget.
Acadiana Criminalistics Laboratory Director Kevin Ardoin sounded the alarm at a recent meeting of the commission that oversees the facility. Ardoin says the lab will need a supplement of at least $500,000 a year and possibly upwards of $1 million.
District Attorney Phil Haney, whose office handles prosecutions in Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes, said the funding crisis comes as the lab has been making steady progress in reducing the backlog and wait time for evidence processing.
He said the need for a local lab that can quickly handle evidence in criminal cases is critical.
The crime lab, in New Iberia, serves eight parishes in the Acadiana region and is funded largely through court costs paid by people convicted of criminal charges, with most of the money coming from traffic tickets.
Court cost collections have gradually declined in recent years, forcing the crime lab to repeatedly dip into prior year’s savings to offset the drop in revenue. The lab this year tapped its savings to the tune of $500,000, and projections for 2014 call for the use of another $640,000 from the reserves, according to budget figures.
That would leave the lab with about $635,000 remaining in the reserve account to plug budget holes in 2015 and dim prospects heading into 2016.
69 ballots thrown out
in Port Allen recall election
PORT ALLEN (AP) — Election officials say 69 of the 190 mail-in and early-voting ballots submitted for the recall election of Mayor Demetric Slaughter were thrown out and never counted.
Slaughter could use that information as grounds to challenge the results from Saturday’s recall election despite the more than 300-vote margin that may solidify her removal from office.
Shortly after Saturday’s results were released, Slaughter said she might contest the results because she heard some early-voting ballots had been thrown out.
Slaughter has until Nov. 25 to contest the election results or she will have to vacate office by 4:30 p.m. If she contests the election, a state District Court judge will have to hold a trial within four days after a lawsuit is filed, according to state law.
to pursue tax for new jail
THIBODAUX (AP) — Councilman Daniel Lorraine said he is going to seek a new tax to build a Lafourche Parish jail after voters rejected a library-tax swap that would have paid for it.
Lorraine said he’s going to propose a 1.5 mill, 20-year tax. The money it generates would be used to build and operate a new jail.
The parish council must agree to put the measure on an upcoming ballot and voters must approve it before it would go into effect.
Lorraine says his aim is to get it the tax in place as quickly as possible. The first available election date is May 3.
The existing jail, built in 1968 and expanded in 1977, is in poor condition and suffers from chronic overcrowding.
Thibodaux council to consider saggy pants law
THIBODAUX (AP) — The Thibodaux City Council is considering a saggy-pants ban.
Terrebonne Parish outlawed saggy pants in April. The Lafourche Parish Council passed its ban in 2007.
The council is considering an ordinance that parallels the rules and penalties already in place in Lafourche and Terrebonne. It would amend the city’s existing indecent exposure law to include “pants that sag below the waist and expose undergarments.”
The saggy pants ordinance is among the items scheduled for discussion at today’s city council meeting.
Coroner: Body found in bayou is homicide victim
BATON ROUGE (AP) — East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s detectives returned to the bayou on Monday after an autopsy determined a woman whose body was pulled from the waters over the weekend died of blunt-force injuries to her head, neck and chest.
Dr. Beau Clark, the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner, ruled the death a homicide. The woman’s identity has not been released.
Clark says the woman could have been killed with a fist or some other object.
Civil rights leader, dies at 95
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The Rev. T. J. Jemison, a longtime Louisiana pastor and civil rights leader, has died. He was 95.
Jemison’s son, Ted Jemison, told The Associated Press that his father died Friday evening of natural causes at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.
Ted Jemison said his father was a longtime pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., and helped organize the Baton Rouge bus boycott in 1953.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sought his advice when organizing the famous bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., two years later, Ted Jemison said.
One thing King wanted to know was how the leaders of the Baton Rouge boycott arranged carpool rides for blacks so they could avoid using the buses, Ted Jemison recalled.
King wrote about T.J. Jemison in his book, “Stride Toward Freedom.”
When King became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, T.J. Jemison was the organization’s first secretary, his son said.
“He came up in a time when there was overt racism, but he always preached togetherness. He also believed that everybody deserves a fair share. I think that’s one of the greatest things about him. He never changed his tune. He believed in a man’s worth, regardless of skin color,” Ted Jemison said Saturday in a telephone interview.
Ted Jemison said his father also was a kind and giving man.
“He made so many people happy by giving up what he had, personally, and he enjoyed doing that,” the son said.
T.J. Jemison also served as president of the National Black Convention, the largest black Baptists organization in the United States, and met with seven United States presidents during his lifetime, Ted Jemison said.
Todd Sterling, a trustee at Mount Zion First Baptist Church, said T.J. Jemison will be remembered as “visionary leader.”
“The world has lost an icon in the Baptist ministry and the civil rights arena,” Sterling told the AP. “He was a pioneer in race relations.”
The Advocate reports that (http://bit.ly/18dr8AO) Jemison was born in Selma, Ala., to a preacher father and became pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist, in 1949, a position he held for the next 54 years.
The Baton Rouge boycott is not as well-known as the one in Alabama, which Jemison attributed to its much shorter duration. Still, the boycott by black riders — aimed at protesting segregated seating on buses that relegated blacks to the back — got attention.
Seats in the front of Baton Rouge city buses were for white riders only. Even if those “white” seats were empty, black riders had to stand if seats set aside for them in the back of the bus were full.
In a 2003 newspaper story marking the boycott’s 50th anniversary, 84-year-old Freddie Green recalled sitting guard duty with a shotgun on Jemison’s front porch. Green remembered crosses burned in the minister’s yard and at the church.