Associated Press

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Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has picked up a challenger to his re-election efforts.

Political newcomer Matt Parker, a businessman from West Monroe, officially announced his candidacy Monday for the Oct. 24 election.

Both men are Republicans.

In a statement, Parker criticized Donelon for taking campaign contributions from the insurance industry, saying that leads to higher insurance rates. Parker described his campaign as a "crusade for the consumers ofLouisiana."

ACLU

Five Monroe police officers enter the final stretch of field testing new body camera equipment that may be distributed to all officers after May.

Monroe Police Chief Quentin Holmes says field tests of body cameras by police officers will be completed in late April.

After the events in Ferguson, Missouri, Holmes decided to begin field testing body cameras on selected officers.

Officers have worn the body cameras since November while evaluating the performance of the cameras to determine if they benefit the department.

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Governor Bobby Jindal will propose to scale back spending on tax credits and offer lawmakers money-generating ideas to keep colleges from facing deep, damaging cuts next year.

The governor's recommendations for closing a $1.6 billion gap in the fiscal year that begins July 1 will be presented to the Legislature's joint budget committee Friday. The Associated Press received a preview Thursday.

Jindal chief of staff Kyle Plotkin says the goal was to protect higher education.

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  Louisiana taxpayers who quickly filed their state taxes and are eagerly waiting for their tax refunds will have to keep waiting.

The state Department of Revenue announced Wednesday that it won't start issuing refunds until the week of March 2.

The department said it was taking "extra precautions to verify the filings" because of concerns about fraudulent tax returns that had been discovered around the country.

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  Reports outlining the fundraising and spending that candidates for statewide elected positions did last year are due to the state ethics board.

One of the heftiest campaign accounts belongs to state Treasurer John Kennedy. The Republican, serving his fourth term as treasurer, brought in more than $715,000 in 2014 and wrapped up the year with just under $3.5 million.

Kennedy hasn't yet announced what position he'll be seeking in the Oct. 24 election, saying he's considering running for governor, attorney general or re-election to his current job.

IBM to Create 400 Jobs in Monroe

Feb 17, 2015
North Louisiana Economic Partnership

 IBM will create 400 new jobs in Monroe during the next 10 years.

Gov. Bobby Jindal says the state also will provide $4.5 million in higher education funding at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Louisiana Tech University and Grambling State University to create more computer science graduates to meet workforce needs.

IBM's service center, which will be built on U.S. Highway 165 North across from CenturyLink's headquarters, will serve both CenturyLink and other customers.

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  The Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to restore 24-hour service to the most important locks on the Ouachita River navigation system after more than two years of lobbying from the Ouachita River Valley Association.

Bill Hobgood, executive director of the association, says 24-hour service will be restored on the Jonesville and Columbia locks, where more than 90 percent of commercial navigation takes place, by late summer or fall. The two uppers locks, Felsenthal and H.K. Thatcher in Arkansas, will continue to operate on two eight-hour shifts each day.

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  Treasurer John Kennedy says state officials, seeking to stave off a downgrade to Louisiana's credit rating, asked a national rating agency to give Louisiana time to clean up its budget mess.

Moody's Investors Service notified the state its rating committee will meet later this week to decide whether to drop Louisiana's credit rating.

Kennedy said he, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and the chairmen of the legislative budget committees held a conference call Wednesday with Moody's to urge against the downgrade.

 A Monroe police officer has been fired because of racially offensive comments made on social media following a white Ferguson, Missouri, policeman's shooting and killing of a black suspect last fall.

Chief Quentin Holmes said Monday that Officer Doug Lambert was fired following an internal investigation. The News Star reports Lambert had been on administrative leave since November.

In one Facebook post Lambert said, "I've got an idea how to clear the streets in Ferguson, Missouri. Let's have a crop duster fly over and drop out job applications. That'll do it."

Grambling State Univesity

  Louisiana's budget problems are making Grambling State University's presidential search more difficult.

University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley released a letter from the search firm hired to recruit candidates that says the threat of deep budget cuts has stymied efforts to find a new Grambling leader.

The Hollins Group says potential candidates won't consider applying until the financial future of the university is clearer. The search firm says candidates want to make sure Grambling has a "positive future" before they'd accept a job offer.

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