Wallis Watkins

Lawmakers Pivot Towards Remainder Of Term With Fiscal Cliff Behind Them

It took multiple special sessions, but the Louisiana Legislature avoided the fiscal cliff. With a budget crisis behind them, Stephanie Grace, columnist for The Advocate, says lawmakers, including the Governor, will focus their attention on other issues, like an upcoming election. Grace discusses which policy issues may or may not get traction in an election year with Capitol Access Reporter Wallis Watkins.

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FBI To Start Using A 2nd Database For Gun Background Checks

A major change that aims to keep more weapons out of the wrong hands is in the works for the FBI's gun background check process. Examiners will be given access to a large, previously untapped database of more than 400 million records as they determine when gun purchases can go through nationwide. But for the survivors and victims' families of the 2015 church massacre in Charleston, S.C., the change did not come soon enough. "It's amazing it's taken more than three years before an initial step...

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Voters Consider CATS Transit Tax

Apr 20, 2012

Baton Rouge's bus system is in crisis. The future of the Capital Area Transit system, or "CATS," will be determined in a special tax election on Saturday. As WRKF's Tegan Wendland reports, the system is facing a $2.1 million deficit in a budget currently projected at $12.6 million. The tax revenue would not only close that gap, but totally overhaul the existing system, and if it doesn't pass? Proponents say the buses could shut down in July.

Neglected Louisiana Graveyards Face Continued Disrepair

Apr 19, 2012

Baton Rouge's historic cemeteries are part of the backdrop of everyday life here. You probably drive past them on your way home from work or see the above-ground tombs when you drop your kid off at school. But many of the state's graveyards have been beaten up by hurricanes and other natural disasters, and remain in a stunning state of disrepair. In fact, as WRKF's Tegan Wendland reports, there are few resources to keep them from crumbling away.


Drop-Out Study Argues for Truancy Intervention

Apr 18, 2012

While the legislature has approved Governor Bobby Jindal's proposals for getting teachers to up their game and providing more school choice, an effort to keep some of the most at-risk kids in the classroom may be falling by the wayside.

The Truancy Assessment and Service Center, or TASC, program, addresses truancy among elementary school students, intervening early so they don't drop out later.

Administrators of TASC, which serves students from 21 parishes at 14 sites around the state, pleaded with the House Appropriations Committee earlier this week not to cut its funding.


Cecile Guin, Director of Research at the LSU School of Social Work, helped develop the program 13 years ago. She spoke with WRKF's Amy Jeffries in the studio along with LSU economist Stephen Barnes about TASC and the study they recently co-authored to bolster the argument for its preservation.

Ricky Shaffer is President of the Sherwood Forest Civic Association and past president of the Sherwood Forest Eye-Watch.
WRKF

Last week, George Zimmerman pleaded not guilty in the death of Treyvon Martin. The neighborhood watch volunteer shot and killed the unarmed black teen while patrolling his gated community in Sanford, Florida on Feb. 26.

Zimmerman's attorneys have said they will use Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground Law as his defense.

Louisiana has a similar justifiable homicide law.

Here in Baton Rouge, Ricky Shaffer heads the Sherwood Forest Civic Association in one of the city's largest neighborhoods, and is the former president of Sherwood Forest Eye-Watch.

Shaffer says he opposes the idea of watch group volunteers patrolling their neighborhoods.


East Baton Rouge Population Growth Slows to a Crawl

Apr 13, 2012

Five hundred and fifty nine -- that's the number of residents the Census estimates East Baton Rouge Parish gained between 2010 and 2011, according to newly released figures.

The total parish population, about 441,000 as of July 2010, grew just .1 percent over the year.

WRKF's Tegan Wendland asked LSU demographer and sociology professor Troy Blanchard what to make of the dramatic drop off in growth.


Tegan Wendland / WRKF

The full house will consider a bill Monday that would overhaul early education in Louisiana. The bill, part of Gov. Bobby Jindal's education reform package, would challenge child care centers to prove that very young children are learning.

WRKF's Tegan Wendland talked with Renee Casbergue, interim assistant dean of Education at LSU and a specialist in early childhood education, about the proposed legislation, which she says is being overshadowed by the governor's bids to change how teachers get tenure and support private school vouchers.


Communications Strategist, Stafford Kendall, says you have to eat pie to design a proper street sign. Kendall, who is the principal and co-founder of Baton Rouge-based Covalent Logic, says she and her employees get the creative juices flowing by eating pie. WRKF's Tegan Wendland had a conversation with Kendall about the value of creative thinking for design.

Late Thursday night, the state house passed a bill that would allow public school dollars to be used to send students from low-income families attending failing schools to private schools instead. The legislation, which is a cornerstone of Governor Bobby Jindal's education reform plan, could hit the Senate floor this week.

The voucher program is modeled in part after a program in Florida, which was the first state to try vouchers on a large scale a decade ago.

David Figlio, a professor of education, social policy, and economics at Northwestern University in Illinois, has been studying Florida's program since its inception.

He was skeptical at first.


Candidates Stumping in La. Tackle Energy Policy

Mar 22, 2012

In Mississippi, they ate grits. In Louisiana, Republican presidential hopefuls have been trying to impress local voters by talking about oil and gas ahead of Saturday's primary.

Don Briggs, President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, told WRKF's Amy Jeffries, especially with gas prices on the rise, the candidates would have been remiss if they didn't tackle energy policy on the stump.


Jindal Kicks Off ‘Education Session’

Mar 12, 2012

While only a handful of the more than 1500 bills pre-filed for consideration by lawmakers over the next 12 weeks address education, debate over Gov. Bobby Jindal's reform proposals are expected to get a large share of the floor time.

Jindal kicked off the session Monday with a 25-minute speech pitching his plans for improving Louisiana's standing in national education rankings.

"If we demand excellence on the football fields as we should, we should be demanding excellence in the classrooms as well," Jindal said. 

The governor again urged lawmakers to go along with plans to tie teacher pay and tenure to student achievement and use public school funding to pay for a private school voucher program.

The proposals could be voted on in committee as soon as Wednesday.


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