Dig Baton Rouge

Bill or Kill

By Nick BeJeaux

As any Schoolhouse Rock alumnus can tell you, not every bill becomes a law. Most don’t even make it past their respective committees to the house or senate floor for debate.

A few weeks ago, DIG pointed out a few bills being passed around the 2014 Louisiana Regular Session we think are worth paying attention to, and we’d like to give an update on their progress. Also, as we covered the session (or attempted to) we’ve stumbled upon other interesting bills. Unfortunately, though fortunately for some, not all of them have done well.

However, if you feel the urge to be a responsible citizen, go cover the session yourself by visiting www.legis.la.gov.

Here are some new bills you should know about:

HB 340, written by State Rep. Edward C. James II, D – Baton Rouge – Establishes the Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act

This is a win and apparently the House agrees. The Act was created unanimously: 99 yeas, 0 nays. School administrators now have no right or power to force a student to provide access to their social media feeds.

HB 485, written by State Rep. Pat Smith, D – Baton Rouge – Would have removed the box on State employment applications asking if the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime

This bill failed to make it past the Committee on House and Governmental Affairs after a 2-7 vote. Smith said the intent behind the bill was to help ex-cons get job interviews, not jobs, and help decrease the likelihood they will return to prison due to steady employment. However, there were concerns of discrimination suits and dishonesty on the part of the applicant.

SB 291 and 292 – Grants immediate divorce and punitive damages to divorcees who suffered domestic abuse

By their powers combined, this package is possibly the most comprehensive protection for abused spouses we’ve seen in a while. These bills have been referred to the Committee on Civil Law and Procedure.

Here are the bills we covered in our last installment of Session coverage:

SB 79, written by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton – Could hamper lawsuits against several oil companies.

This bill would terminate the precedent-setting lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies that cost environmentalist and historian John Barry his seat on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East. Basically, the Jindal administration didn’t approve of the lawsuit so they showed him the door – that’s putting it mildly. Anyway, this bill is still under review by the Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public works.

SB 330, written by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge – Criminalizing unofficial drones in LA

If you’re flying a drone over someone’s property and you’re not the cops or military using that drone for warranted official business, you are trespassing. Also, this is Louisiana, so it’s likely if you’re breaking this law someone will shoot your pricey toy out of the sky. This bill is still under review by Judiciary Committee C.

SB 46, written by Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa and 123, written by Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge – Minimum Wage to be raised

Both Bills would provide a boost in Louisiana’s minimum wage, effective January 1, 2015. Both have been referred to the Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations for review.

HB 503, written by State Rep. Thomas Carmody, R- Shreveport – Bible as the state book

Carmody’s bill calls for one very specific Bible, possibly the oldest book in the state, to be labeled the State Book of Louisiana. This specific Bible, published by Johannes Prevel from 1510 to 1518 (before the land that would eventually become Louisiana was even discovered by Europeans) is currently on display in the Louisiana State Museum. This bill is still under review by the Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs.

HB 559, written by State Rep. Barry Ivey, R – Central – Louisiana’s own education standards

Common Core is one of the defining issues of this year’s regular session. Governor Bobby Jindal – and pretty much everyone else – has denounced the federal standards and promised that Louisiana will create its own education standards. This bill is still under review by the Committee on Education, but if passed, it will do just that.

HB 494, written by State Rep. Barry Ivey, R – Central – The right to keep and carry a concealed handgun without permit or license

Still under review by the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice.  If it makes it to the house and passes, expect a sharp rise in gun-related crime.

HB 521, written by State Rep. Barry Ivey, R – Central – Establishes a closed federal election in October

Federal elections in Louisiana are always a circus, but this bill aims to stream line the process.  LA currently chooses it’s elected officials through an open primary election. Basically, all of the candidates – regardless of political party – run against each other on Election Day in November. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates go into a run-off election to decide who wins the office. Ivey’s bill would streamline this process by holding elections for the nominees in October. Voters registered as either Democrat or republican will be restricted to their own parties primary under this law, if passed. Independents will be allowed to vote in any primary they choose. The bill has been referred to the Committee on House and Governmental Affairs.

Again, a full fist of bills and updates on their progress can be found at www.legis.la.gov.

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