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Louisiana at 2 a.m. on Friday.

Good morning, Louisiana editors.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration announced Thursday that the governor will seek to boost state sales taxes even higher than previously discussed to help cover the costs of eliminating state income taxes. Jindal's proposal would increase the state sales tax from 4 percent to 6.25 percent, rather than the 5.88 percent outlined by the governor. By Melinda Deslatte.


NEW ORLEANS — The city of New Orleans might have to fire or furlough police officers if it has to pay for millions of dollars in improvements that the sheriff has to make at the local jail due to a pact with the U.S. Justice Department, Mayor Mitch Landrieu told the City Council on Thursday. Sheriff Marlin Gusman later disputed the mayor's contention that the jail agreement could cost the city $22 million a year — a figure the mayor's office says came from conversations with the Justice Department. By Kevin McGill.

AP Photos LAORS101-0328131022.


NEW ORLEANS — About 1,300 sperm whales in the northern Gulf of Mexico may be different enough from others in their endangered species to be considered for specific protections, the federal government said Thursday. Many of the sperm whales, most of which are female or young, live in deep water near the mouth of the Mississippi River, said Randall Davis, a Texas A&M marine biology professor who was among those who reported on them in 2001. By Janet McConnaughey.


NEW ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff's Office has submitted a school crisis response plan to the school board outlining new security recommendations to better protect the school district's five campuses. Sheriff Bud Torres also handed the board a proposal on Wednesday to spend about $120,000 a year to hire three certified school resource officers to serve the school system. The board took no action on the proposals, deciding instead to determine how to proceed after cost assessments of the upgraded security measures are presented to the board in April. Torres' plan calls for parking marked police vehicles in high-visibility areas as deterrents to outside threats. Other elements include fencing off campuses, creating main entrances and equipping faculty and staff members with two-way radios.


BATON ROUGE — A state judge has set an Oct. 28 trial date for a man accused of fatally shooting two employees of a CarQuest Auto Parts store in Baton Rouge in March 2011. Wednesday was the two-year anniversary of the slaying of 43-year-old Edward Gurtner III, of Denham Springs, and 55-year-old Randy Chaney, of Greenwell Springs. Gurtner managed the store. The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty against 23-year-old Lee Turner Jr., who was hired by the company less than two weeks before the killings and worked at other CarQuest locations. Turner is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Authorities say the employees were killed during a robbery.


BATON ROUGE — A proposal to allow alcohol sales at Baton Rouge parks cruised through the Metro Council. The proposal to allow alcohol sales at public parks creates a special class of parish alcohol license for Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission. Under the new ordinance approved Wednesday, BREC facilities will be able to apply for a "Class P" license and can serve alcohol between the hours of 10 a.m. and midnight, seven days per week. BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said earlier this week that only three golf courses would operate regular alcohol sales in concert with their clubhouse restaurants. McKnight says BREC intends to secure licenses for about 26 other venues, but alcohol would be offered at those facilities only in connection with special events.


LAFAYETTE — The school year hasn't ended yet, but more Lafayette Parish school system teachers are leaving the classroom early based on the number of resignations and retirements logged through mid-March. In the first six months of the school year, at least 130 Lafayette Parish school system teachers resigned, with the majority citing relocation, transfers, jobs outside of teaching or teaching conditions as the reasons for their departure. Bruce Leininger, the district's human resources director, said the figure is nearly four times the number who resigned during the same time frame last year. In addition, Leininger says 69 teachers as of March 19 had either retired or submitted retirement papers for exits effective through June — and more are expected before the school year ends.


SLIDELL — Slidell Mayor Freddy Drennan's administration has drafted a budget for the 2014 fiscal year that predicts shoppers won't be beefing up their purchases inside the city limits any time soon. The draft keeps the total operating budget at $41.7 million, about a half-million less than the current year. After a sudden drop in sales tax revenue beginning summer, the city council was forced to cut costs, including trimming vacant jobs from the payroll. The city council is scheduled to hold a public hearing, and possibly make a final vote, on the budget on April 23.


Editors: The following brief items moved Thursday on AP's Louisiana wire and may be of interest for your Friday editions.


NEW ORLEANS — Forecaster William Gray says he expects a very active hurricane season, but he's not yet giving likely numbers of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes. Gray told hundreds of people at the National Hurricane Conference on Thursday that the first numeric predictions will come out April 10.


NEW ORLEANS — BP's cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 will continue presenting its defense next week at a trial over the deadly catastrophe. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier heard testimony Wednesday by a Halliburton employee who was a cementing engineer for the company and visited the Deepwater Horizon rig before BP's well blowout. The trial started Feb. 25 and is scheduled to resume Tuesday after a break for Easter.


DONALDSONVILLE — The Donaldsonville City Council has approved two line-item issues for next year's budget, both aimed at improving the city's image. One item will bring $780,000 in state funding to the city for use with its plan to renovate Donaldsonville's Mississippi riverfront.


BATON ROUGE — Authorities say a 31-year-old Baton Rouge man accused of fatally shooting another man on Jan. 5 outside an abandoned Baton Rouge house was arrested by a U.S. Marshals Task Force Wednesday night at a hotel in Lafayette. Baton Rouge police spokesman Cpl. Tommy Stubbs said Shingo Edwards will be booked on one count of second-degree murder.


BATON ROUGE — A 30-year-old man has been convicted in Baton Rouge federal court on a charge that he was a felon in illegal possession of a firearm in May 2009 when two police officers stopped him for a traffic violation. Lonnie Poydras, of Baton Rouge, became a convicted felon in 2001 when he admitted he was part of a three-man crime spree that included the shooting death of Demetrius White.


NEW ORLEANS — A former NOPD officer accused last fall of falsifying a police report to cover up an alleged hit-and-run accident in his personal car has pleaded to a lesser charge. Roger Jones Jr., 39, admitted Tuesday he was guilty of criminal mischief. Jones received a suspended, 60-day jail sentence, and he must pay a fine and court costs totaling $235. Criminal mischief carries a maximum fine of $500 and up to six months in jail.


LAFAYETTE — A 24-year-old Lafayette man accused in the brutal beating of his live-in girlfriend has been indicted on a charge of second-degree murder. Adam Batiste III was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury in the death of 18-year-old Gabrielle Spencer in January.


LAFAYETTE — A Lafayette Parish grand jury has indicted a mother and her boyfriend in the beating death of her 3-year-old son last year. The indictments against Laura Smith, 22, and Landon Broussard, 21, were handed up Wednesday night.


SHREVEPORT — A 61-year-old Minden man faces charges in at least six parishes and one Texas county in connection with an alleged scam that involved selling bogus newspaper ads. Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator says David Edward Dix is accused of going into several Caddo businesses and stating that he works for a local newspaper.


DEQUINCY — Authorities say an 81-year-old DeQuincy man was killed in a collision involving a Kansas City Southern train and a pickup. DeQuincy police officer Doug Phillips said Curtis Sandifer died Wednesday after his pickup was struck at railroad crossing. Phillips says the vehicle was dragged about a half mile until it stopped.


LAKE CHARLES — State police have arrested a Lake Charles couple for stealing $165,000 worth of cars, trailers and farm equipment in Louisiana and Texas. Troopers said Katherine Larocca, 49, and Ronnie Larocca, 51, were arrested Tuesday after a nearly 1 1/2-year investigation.


GRETNA — Officials say six Mardi Gras krewes complied with Jefferson Parish's parade law this year, escaping fines. Citizens Affairs Director Sean Burke said no violations were noted in the Argus, Caesar, Centurions, Excalibur, Isis and Napoleon parades in Metairie.


BOSSIER CITY — A Shreveport woman is accused of battery after police say she hit a co-worker with a bottle of steak sauce. Bossier City police say Lashonda Turner, 30, and Heather Mattingly, 23, were working at steak house Sunday when they got into an argument and Turner allegedly grabbed a bottle of A-1 steak sauce and hit Mattingly in the head.


PORT SULPHUR — The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says a 50-year-old Port Sulphur man has been booked with attempted murder after allegedly attacking a fisheries agent who tried to make him stop harvesting oysters in a polluted area. Enforcement spokesman Adam Einck says state police, Plaquemines Parish sheriff's deputies and wildlife agents arrested Jonathan Ragas on Tuesday at his home.


NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans attorney has been sentenced to more than four years in jail for mail fraud. U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente says U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman sentenced 67-year-old Robert Hackett to 51 months in prison Wednesday and ordered him to pay $727,230 in restitution to his victims.


BATON ROUGE — Louisiana Lottery officials say one ticket won the $240,000 Easy 5 drawing Wednesday night. It was purchased in Franklin. There were no winners Wednesday in the multistate Powerball jackpot or the Louisiana Lotto.



RIDGELAND, Miss. — BancorpSouth is setting aside a $500 million loan fund aimed at Mississippi businesses, saying it will work with state officials to find qualified borrowers. Gov. Phil Bryant appeared with BancorpSouth executives to laud the move Thursday. Officials spoke at the headquarters of C Spire Wireless, citing the eight-story office building as an example of a project that cooperation between BancorpSouth and a state program made possible. The fund underscores bank efforts to step up lending as their coffers swell with deposits. More loans would help restore bank profitability to pre-recession levels. Bank loans fell sharply during the recession and officials with Tupelo-based BancorpSouth say some would-be borrowers still think banks aren't lending. The move echoes a $1 billion pool Regions Financial Corp. announced for Alabama businesses in February. By Jeff Amy.



BATON ROUGE — Red River Bancshares Inc. in Alexandria says it has received all necessary shareholder and regulatory approval for the acquisition of Fidelity Bancorp Inc., the holding company of Fidelity Bank of Baton Rouge. The merger, effective Monday, will make Red River Bank the seventh-largest community bank in Louisiana with about $1.3 billion in assets. Joanie Netterville will serve as the Baton Rouge market president of Red River Bank.


MOSS POINT, Miss. — VT Halter Marine has christened and launched the seventh in a series of new oceanographic vessels for the Navy. The ceremony was held Wednesday at VT Halter's shipyard in Moss Point.



BATON ROUGE — Nikki Caldwell declared a practical edict during a cool down period in the locker room after the Lady Tigers toppled third-seeded Penn State in the second round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament. "We were going to enjoy the win last night," the LSU coach said. "Then at 12:01, you need to move on from it." Laying down a rule and enforcing it, though, is another matter entirely, and the sixth-seeded Lady Tigers (22-11) didn't necessarily pay heed after leaving the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in the wake of earning a match-up with No. 2 seed California (30-3) in the Spokane Regional at 10:32 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2. By Matthew Harris, The Advocate.


Take heart, Heat. Look out, NBA. When the Los Angeles Lakers' 33-game winning streak ended, they hit a bit of a lull before rolling through the playoffs and winning the NBA title. By Tim Reynolds.

AP Photos CXA120-0327132027, CXA114-0327132134, CXA124-0327132049.


NEW ORLEANS — An internal investigation at Southeastern Louisiana has revealed that 137 ineligible athletes competed for the Lions in unspecified sports between 2005 and 2010. In a statement released Thursday, Southeastern, which is located in Hammond, La., said most violations occurred between 2005 and 2007 and involved instances in which the university failed to comply with NCAA academic requirements by mistakenly certifying athletes as eligible. By Brett Martel.


AUSTIN, Texas — Duke's Curtis Beach won the Texas Relays decathlon on Thursday, topping the field in the closing 1,500-meter run to secure the victory. Trailing Texas-Arlington's Romain Martin by 53 points after nine events, Beach won the 1,500 in 4 minutes, 17.94 second — more than 12 seconds ahead of everyone else — to finish with 8,011 points. Martin was second, 107 points back, and defending champion Isaac Murphy of Texas was third, 253 points behind.



METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis says the Saints and free agent linebacker Victor Butler have agreed to terms on a two-year contract. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Butler has spent the past four seasons with Dallas, which drafted him in the fourth round in 2009. In New Orleans, he'll rejoin new Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who held the same position with the Cowboys the past two seasons.


NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans general manager Dell Demps says the Hornets have signed guard Terrel Harris for the remainder of the season. The move on Thursday comes after the 6-foot-4 Harris completed his second 10-day contract with the club. Harris was first signed by New Orleans on March 8, two days after rookie guard Austin Rivers broke his right hand.

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