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This Hour: Latest Louisiana news, sports, business and entertainment

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VETERANS-HEALTH CARE-LOUISIANA

Southwest La. veterans clinics included in deal

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.

That's according to U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, who each announced Monday that the clinics made it into the agreement between the leaders of the U.S. House and Senate veterans affairs committees.

In separate news releases, both Landrieu and Boustany said authorization for southwest Louisiana's new clinics has moved too slowly, but each said the deal represents a significant step in seeing health care access expanded for veterans in the state.

Landrieu's office says 50,000 veterans live in the region.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill by the end of the week, before Congress leaves for a five-week recess.

PRESCRIPTION FRAUD CHARGES

Doctor's girlfriend pleads guilty in fraud case

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - The girlfriend of a Louisiana physician has pleaded guilty to five counts of prescription forgery.

The Vicksburg Post reports Pattie Carr, who prosecutors say had her live-in boyfriend write her fraudulent prescriptions for more than 13,000 pills, will be sentenced Aug. 4.

Carr and Dr. Lawrence Francis Chenier III were indicted on 74 counts each of prescription forgery. Chenier, who lives in Vicksburg and has a medical practice in Tallulah, Louisiana, is also charged with a count of conspiracy.

Chenier is scheduled for trial Sept. 21.

Prosecutors allege Chenier wrote prescriptions under assumed names to Carr. Authorities say Carr picked up the painkillers hydrocodone and Lyrica at a Vicksburg pharmacy using the prescriptions written by Chenier.

Carr pleaded guilty this past week in Warren County Circuit Court.

KATRINA-BURNED BODY

Re-sentencing delay for McRae in burned-body case

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The re-sentencing date has been postponed for the New Orleans police officer convicted of burning Henry Glover's body after he was fatally shot by another officer.

Gregory McRae's hearing had been set for Tuesday but U.S. District Judge Lance Africk delayed it until Aug. 15. NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune said the reason for the delay was not immediately known.

McRae is currently in prison serving a 17-year sentence. He was one of five officers charged in the case, which involved the death of Glover four days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall and the disposal of the body.

Tuesday's hearing had been scheduled after an appeals court vacated one of McRae's four convictions and granted his bid to be re-sentenced on the remaining three.

ANGOLA HEAT LAWSUIT

Attorney fees at issue in death row heat case

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Attorneys for three condemned killers who filed suit over hot conditions on Louisiana's death row are asking a federal judge to make the state pay more than three-quarters of a million dollars in fees and costs.

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson in December said the heat on death row constituted cruel and unusual punishment. He also indicated that the inmates' lawyers would be entitled to attorneys' fees.

In May, Jackson approved a remediation plan. An appeals court delayed implementation of that plan with a stay order in June.

The Advocate reports that state lawyers argue that the request for attorney fees and costs violates that stay order. Lawyers for the inmates say the appeals court only stayed implementation of the remediation plan, not all proceedings in the case.

AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER

Ag commissioner seeks preservation of La. farmland

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana's top agriculture official is concerned about the loss of farmland in the state.

Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said Monday that 15,000 acres of farmland in Calcasieu and St. Charles parishes have been lost in the last year to wetlands mitigation projects.

In St. Charles Parish, landowners were paid to turn farmland over to expand levee protection. In Calcasieu Parish, Strain said the landowners were paid to convert farmland into wetlands by industrial construction projects that are required to enhance or restore wetlands as a trade-off when their plants will have an environmental impact.

Strain says he's talking to federal officials about ways to encourage sustainable farmland preservation when considering mitigation projects. He says the country needs to keep its agricultural lands intact to meet the future projected food demand.

OFFICER SUSPENDED

New Orleans police officer suspended without pay

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A 33-year-old New Orleans police officer is on emergency suspension without pay after being arrested for allegedly trying to run over a man with her car.

Police said Monday that Officer Stephanie Caldwell got into a fight with a 47-year-old man about 3:30 a.m. Sunday. Investigators say as the man ran Caldwell pursued him in her personal car, driving against traffic and hitting a parked car. She later hit a wooden post, cracking it in half and disabling her vehicle.

Caldwell, who was off-duty, was booked with domestic aggravated assault, domestic simple battery, reckless operation of a vehicle, hit and run and driving against traffic.

The victim, whose name was not released, was not injured.

Caldwell is a 10-year veteran assigned to the Special Operation Division Tactical Unit.

CONSTRUCTION JOBS

Contractor fearing construction worker shortage

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - An Acadiana contractor says there are fears of a labor shortage on the horizon.

The National Bureau of Labor Statistics has released figures showing the construction industry's need for workers will grow twice as fast as the average for all industries. This means that builders could face a 1.6 million-worker shortage by 2022.

However, Seth Lemoine of the Lafayette-based general contractor The Lemoine Co. tells The Advertiser that the shortage could hit Louisiana sooner.

He notes major projects such as South Africa-based Sasol's new $16 billion ethanol plant in Westlake and Cheniere Energy's plan for a receiving terminal in Cameron Parish. And he says some are forecasting a shortage of 80,000 to 85,000 workers in Louisiana over the next three years.

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