Associated Press

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Louisiana's seat belt usage is at a record rate.

 

According to a new study commissioned by the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that the usage rate for drivers and front-seat passengers is at an all-time high of 87.8 percent. That's nearly a 2 percentage point increase over the previous year.

 

LHSC Executive Director Dr. Katara Williams is celebrating the record, but says the state will relentlessly pursue the ultimate goal of 100 percent usage.

 

Louisiana's debate over how to rework its criminal justice system is heading to state lawmakers.

 

A study group Thursday approved its package of recommendations for a sweeping rewrite of Louisiana's criminal sentencing laws and its approach to prisoner rehabilitation.

 

The effort aims to lessen Louisiana's highest-in-the-nation incarceration rate and provide more training and treatment to reduce inmates' chances of returning to prison after release.

 

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A law enforcement officer charged with murder in a 6-year-old boy's fatal shooting is heading to trial.

 

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday for Derrick Stafford's trial in Marksville, the central Louisiana town where he and another deputy city marshal fired at a car during a November 2015 traffic stop.

 

The shooting killed first-grader Jeremy Mardis and critically wounded his father, Christopher Few. Video from a police officer's body camera showed Few had his hands raised inside his car while the deputies fired.

 

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U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite (puh-LEET) says a former head of the Ponchatoula Housing Authority has admitted spending $27,000 in federal money on herself.

 

Polite's news release says 46-year-old Wanda Wells Cornish of Ponchatoula pleaded guilty Tuesday to theft of government funds.

 

He says she could get up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled June 29.

 

An enforcement agent for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries who was shot in a January traffic stop is back home in Ouachita Parish, but multiple surgeries from returning to work. 

Tyler Wheeler is awaiting surgeries to reattach a portion of his skull and to repair jaw damage. He says until the skull surgery, someone must monitor him around the clock and he can't do most physical activities.

Louisiana's public school districts charge fees for everything from uniforms and school supplies to lockers and parking.

 

A new report prepared for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education urges districts to use "extreme caution" in enacting such fees in a state where many students come from low-income households.

 

The News-Star says the report is included in documents posted for the education board's upcoming meetings, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

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Letters have gone out to inform nearly 125,000 New Orleans-area residents and businesses that checks will be mailed soon in a 2009 settlement over flood damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

 

The money won't be major in most cases: Joseph Bruno, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the suit told Nola.comThe Times-Picayune that payments will range from $2.50 to $3,700.

 

The $20 million settlement came in a lawsuit involving the East Jefferson, Orleans and Lake Borgne Basin levee districts.

 

The floods that inundated Louisiana in August also damaged rice harvested as seed for this year's planting. 

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain says he's temporarily relaxed certification requirements to ensure farmers can buy enough for a chance at a good crop. 

Department seed programs director Lester Cannon says farmers will have to buy more of some lots to make up for the problem, but sellers will drop the price to make up for it. 

A government official says the Trump administration will revoke guidelines that say transgender students should be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their chosen gender identity. 

The decision would be a reversal of an Obama-era directive issued in May. It required public schools to grant bathroom access even if student records differ or others are uncomfortable. The White House says President Donald Trump believes the issue is for the states to decide without federal involvement. 

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With time running short, Louisiana's lawmakers have moved the pieces of a budget-rebalancing deal into place.

 

But final passage of the plan to close a $304 million deficit remained far from certain. 

The special legislative session called by Gov. John Bel Edwards to eliminate the gap must end Wednesday.

 

The broad outlines of a negotiated deal between the House, Senate and governor were reached Monday by legislative leaders. But Republican House leaders acknowledged Tuesday they don't necessarily yet have the votes to pass it.

 

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