By: Claire Sullivan and Gabby Jimenez | LSU Manship School News Service
Tony Plohetski, an Austin American-Statesman reporter who spent weeks covering the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, got a late-night call that was a turning point in the massacre’s coverage.
“Come get the video,” the call’s source told him.
The gut-wrenching, 77-minute security camera footage showed law enforcement officers standing idly by for over an hour while a gunman fired shots in a closed elementary school classroom.
Plohetski and his top editor, Manny Garcia, spoke to students at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication on Monday about the video’s consequences and what it was like to cover one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. The gunman killed 19 children and two teachers.
By: Gabby Jimenez, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Service) – The Task Force on State Recognition of Indian Tribes met Wednesday, March 1, for the last time without establishing any set criteria for recognizing tribes in Louisiana.
House Bill 660 established the Native American Commission in 2018 to promote Native American culture and identify the needs facing that community. One member from each of the 15 tribes already recognized serves on the commission.
Part of the commission’s responsibility includes establishing clear criteria for tribes seeking formal state recognition by the Legislature.
The task force was formed during the 2022 legislative session to look further into the issue. Senate Resolution 198 says the task force was scheduled to end by March 1, 2023.
By: Molly Ryan and Claire Sullivan, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE − Gov. John Bel Edwards proposed a budget Friday that includes a $2,000 pay raise for K-12 teachers that could climb to $3,000 if more money becomes available.
He also called for a $1,000 pay raise for support workers at schools.
Those basic raises would cost the state about $200 million each year. Teachers could receive the additional $1,000 raise, bringing the total increase to $3,000, if the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference increases its revenue projections again in May.
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said that would finally push teacher salaries in Louisiana to the Southern regional average and cost an additional $74 million annually.
In unveiling his final budget proposal, Edwards touted his sixth year in a budget surplus after inheriting a $2 billion deficit in his first term. Edwards’ second term ends in January.
By: Claire Sullivan and Gabby Jimenez, LSU Manship School News Service
Ashley Parker was enjoying sleeping in on a fall Saturday in 2019, her husband tending to their young daughter. Then her phone started vibrating nonstop.
President Donald Trump had tweeted out that Parker and her Washington Post colleague were “nasty lightweight reporters” who “shouldn’t even be allowed on the grounds of the White House because their reporting is so “DISGUSTING & FAKE.”
She had earned what political rivals and many covering Trump often received–a dismissive nickname. She kept her head down and kept working.
Parker, a senior national political correspondent at the Post, and her husband, Michael C. Bender, an author and White House correspondent for The New York Times, visited the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication Thursday to share their experiences as journalists covering Trump during his attacks on the press.
By: Claire Sullivan, LSU Manship School News Service
The Legislature approved bills on Friday to spend up to $45 million to lure home insurers back to the state.
The next stop is Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk. The governor called the special session at the heeding of the state insurance commissioner and is expected to sign both bills into law—one to appropriate the funds for the Insure Louisiana Incentive Program and the other to prevent insolvent or bankrupt companies from receiving any of the money.
House Bill 1 to appropriate the funds passed the Senate 37-1 and the House 91-8. House Bill 2 to allow only solvent companies to receive the funds passed the Senate unanimously Friday after passing the House on Thursday.
Insurance companies will apply for grants, which will range from $2 million to $10 million. The companies will be required to match the state funds dollar for dollar, and they will have to remain in the state for at least five years or to return the money.
The plan is modeled after an incentive fund created in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
The urgency of the insurance crisis drove legislators to address the issue this week instead of waiting until the regular legislative session begins on April 10.
By: Claire Sullivan and Molly Ryan, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE – The House on Wednesday approved bills to spend up to $45 million to encourage insurance companies to return to the state and to prevent firms that went bankrupt or were declared insolvent from using the money.
The House Appropriations Committee approved the two bills Tuesday before sending them to the House, where representatives questioned state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon about the details of the program.
The funds would be used to reduce the financial risk for insurance companies that resumed writing home and other property insurance policies in the state.
Donelon emphasized the urgency of the program for the 125,000 residents covered by the state’s insurer of last resort, the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp, as well as for those who cannot afford insurance at all.
Without the program, Donelon said, “Thousands of people are going to lose their homes.”
The bill now goes to the Senate, where the president, Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, has voiced support for it.
By: Claire Sullivan, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROGUE, La. (LSU Manship School News Service) – Could the Louisiana of 2073 face less flood risk from hurricanes than it does today?
According to Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority officials, the answer could be “yes,” if their latest coastal master plan, released as a draft earlier this month, is fully implemented and predictions for more moderate environmental conditions prevail.
Officials brought the $50-billion draft plan to protect the coast before the authority’s board Wednesday, Jan. 18, in a pit stop in its months-long journey to approval from the Legislature, during which the plan will undergo public comment and revisions.
The coastal master plan is updated by the authority every six years, as required by state law. It lays out the 50-year future for Louisiana’s coast in terms of coastal land loss and flood risk–with and without its implementation.
By: Drew Hawkins and Claire Sullivan | LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards apologized Wednesday (Nov. 16) on behalf of the state to former Southern University protest leaders and the families of two Southern students who were killed by an unidentified sheriff’s deputy 50 years ago.
“To the extent that the state of Louisiana can try to make this right, that’s what we’re gonna try to do,” Edwards said at an event at the Old State Capitol building to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the shooting.
Edwards said that on the morning of the shooting, students “bravely and peacefully” protested the disparities of educational opportunities in Louisiana.
He said the nine protest leaders who were banned from Southern’s campus following the protests were “unjustly punished.” He said he wanted “to make amends to those who were victims to injustices perpetrated by the state,” including the families of Leonard Brown and Denver Smith, the two 20-year-old students who were shot and killed.
He said wished to “recognize the lost potential of the lives” of the two young men.
The governor then signed a proclamation formalizing the apology.
By: Claire Sullivan, Brittany Dunn, Shelly Kleinpeter And Allison Allsop | LSU Manship School News Service
Last in a four-part series
Shunda Wallace was 3 months old when her father, Leonard Brown, and another student, Denver Smith, were shot dead by a sheriff’s deputy on Southern University’s campus in Baton Rouge in November 1972.
Fifty years later, Wallace still does not know who killed her father. The anger and the grief for a dad she never got to know burn in her, especially when her 18-year-old daughter, Raven, asks questions she cannot answer.
“I tell people, don’t ever say you don’t miss something that you didn’t have,” she said. “And I tell people all the time, something was taken from me at a very early age that was senseless.”
In the aftermath of the shooting lay a future marked with grief for family members of the victims and a period of uncertainty for protest leaders, who were expelled from Southern. But the protests also helped produce some of the changes that the students wanted to see. And the shooting brought to the fore questions about excessive police force that still haunt Baton Rouge and the nation today.
The shooting came after several weeks of protests and class boycotts over what the students saw as poor funding, dilapidated buildings and little response to their concerns.