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November 16, 2018 - 12:00 am

MEDICAID AUDIT

Computer upgrade aims to improve Medicaid eligibility checks

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration told lawmakers a computer upgrade will address concerns the state Medicaid program has paid millions on people not eligible for the coverage.

The Legislature's joint budget committee Friday approved the contract extension for the upgraded system.

The legislative auditor's office released an audit this week that said Louisiana's Medicaid expansion program may have spent as much as $85M on ineligible enrollees. Auditors suggested more double-checking of Medicaid recipients' income.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne says the upgraded system will do quarterly checks of eligibility, rather than the annual checks that have been done, and will use more data for comparison.

Discussion of the audit sparked the latest disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over management of a Medicaid program that costs nearly $13 billion a year.

LOUISIANA CONGRESSMAN-LEADERSHIP

Louisiana congressman elected to Republican leadership job

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana has a new leadership job, elected chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee for the congressional term that begins in January.

The group of about 150 House lawmakers is influential in GOP decision-making. Johnson, in his second term as a congressman from the Shreveport area, will take over as the House shifts to Democratic control.

His election to the two-year chairman's term was announced Friday. In a statement, Johnson said the position will give Louisiana greater influence in Congress and he'll use it to "fight for the core conservative values I and so many other Louisianians hold dear."

Previous chairmen of the caucus include Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, who will be the No. 2 GOP leader next term.

SERIAL KILLER-INVESTIGATION-THE LATEST

The Latest: 2 Georgia slayings solved after man confesses

DALLAS (AP) — Authorities in Georgia say they have closed the decades-old slayings of two women based on confessions by a man being held in Texas who says he killed as many as 90 people over four decades.

Two Bibb County investigators traveled to Decatur, Texas, to question 78-year-old Samuel Little.

The Bibb County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that one victim was killed in 1977 and another in 1982. In the 1982 case, a woman's body was found in the backyard of a Macon home. She had been strangled. Police identified her as Fredonia Smith.

The 1977 victim was never identified. Her skeletal remains were found at the edge of some woods in a local backyard.

The Bibb County Sheriff's Office says Little gave them specific details and information" linking him to both slayings, and Smith's family was notified about the new developments.

Little was already serving a life sentence in California when he was interviewed by a Texas investigator that resulted in the confessions.

Authorities in Louisiana say they've closed two longstanding murder investigations because of confessions by a man being held in Texas who says he killed as many as 90 people over four decades.

An internal Louisiana State Police memo obtained by The Associated Press says 78-year-old Samuel Little provided details on two killings in the Gulf Coast town of Houma "that only the murderer would have known."

Fifty-nine-year-old Dorothy Richard was found dead in 1982 and the body of 40-year-old Daisy McGuire was discovered in 1996. Both had been strangled.

The memo says Little has confessed to other killings in Louisiana and those claims are being investigated.

Little is being held on a murder charge in West Texas.

He was already serving a life sentence in California when he was interviewed by a Texas investigator that resulted in the confessions.

STRIPPERS SUE

Judges: Louisiana breast-and-buttocks law is clear enough

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court panel has reversed itself and cleared the way for Louisiana to enforce its law setting a minimum age of 21 for exotic dancers in bars and nightclubs.

In September, the panel had agreed the law was too vague regarding how much of a young dancer's breasts or buttocks must be covered.

But the same three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Friday that the law is clear enough to pass constitutional muster.

The abrupt reversal was a defeat for three would-be strippers who were 18, 19 and 20 when they challenged the law last year.

EX-BAILIFF-CHILD PORN

Ex-sheriff's office bailiff sentenced in child porn case

(Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com)

GRETNA, La. (AP) — Court records show that a former bailiff in Louisiana has pleaded guilty to one count of possession of pornography involving juveniles under the age of 13.

Nola.com/The Times-Picayune reports that 37-year-old Scott Cassard enter the plea Thursday. The former Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office bailiff was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to serve the entire sentence without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.

Cassard was first arrested in May 2016 and booked with 13 counts of possession of child pornography following an investigation by the Louisiana Attorney General's Cyber Crime Unit. Authorities say agents found sexually explicit images of children on a computer linked to Cassard.

The sheriff's office fired Cassard on the same day he was arrested.

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LOUISIANA GOVERNOR

Possible candidates in Louisiana governor's race dwindling

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The list of Louisiana Republicans eyeing a campaign against Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in the 2019 election is shrinking.

Stephen Waguespack, president of the powerful Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said Friday he won't enter the race.

Waguespack's announcement comes two days after Attorney General Jeff Landry told The Associated Press he will run for re-election rather than challenge Edwards.

Focus remains squarely on whether U.S. Sen. John Kennedy will try to keep Edwards from a second term in office. Kennedy has said he'll announce his intentions by Dec. 1.

Also considering whether to jump into the most high-profile race on the state political calendar are U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and state Sen. Sharon Hewitt.

One Republican has announced a gubernatorial campaign: Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

LOYOLA UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT-INAUGURATION

Loyola celebrates inauguration of first female, lay leader

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Loyola University New Orleans is celebrating the inauguration of the first woman and first layperson to lead the Jesuit institution.

The university announced earlier this year that Tania Tetlow would be its next president. Her inauguration is Friday in the university's church.

Tetlow didn't attend Loyola but has numerous family ties to the institution. She says she "grew up on this campus" and calls the new position a good fit.

She comes to the university as it's recovering from a budget downturn after admissions dropped in 2013.

But she says the university is now on solid financial footing.

Tetlow sings classical music, and one of the perks of the new job has been singing with the student choir. She says she joined the choir for rehearsal once.

BC-NORTH KOREA-THE LATEST

The Latest: US official: American on plane from North Korea

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — A U.S. official says an American citizen detained last month by North Korea has been deported and is on a flight back to the United States.

The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. He declined to provide any additional details.

North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency has named the American citizen as Bruce Byron Lowrance. KCNA said Friday that the man was detained on Oct. 16 for illegally entering the country from China and that he would be deported.

In the past, North Korea has held arrested American citizens for an extended period before high-profile U.S. figures travelled to Pyongyang to secure their freedom.

Matthew Lee in Washington, D.C., contributed to this item.

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