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Sunday, June 16, 2019

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A look at what passed and failed in Louisiana's regular legislative session

A look at what passed and failed in Louisiana's regular legislative session

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Lawmakers filed more than 1,400 bills for consideration in the legislative session that ended Friday, with the heaviest debate focused on state finances. But other measures dealing with gun laws, criminal sentencing changes, public education, sexual harassment, hazing, abortion and pay issues also drew debate time over 10 weeks.

Some of what passed and failed:


A $28.5 billion state operating budget that contains steep cuts across government agencies was sent to the governor, (who vetoed it only minutes after lawmakers ended their regular session), largely with Republican votes.

Democratic critics wanted lawmakers to wait until the special session that starts this week to determine if they will replace expiring temporary taxes and close a hefty gap. The spending plan would have kept nursing home residents from eviction and safety-net hospitals operating, but steeply cut education, public safety and social services programs. Even lawmakers who voted for the budget said it wasn't workable without additional money.


Gun debates spurred by the massacre at a Florida high school ended with little change to Louisiana laws. Proposals by Democrats to enact gun-control provisions and measures by Republicans to loosen firearm provisions were rejected.

Bills that sought to let armed civilians act as campus security guards and allow teachers to carry guns at school were shelved. Lawmakers did agree to let schoolchildren carry bulletproof backpacks to class.


Spurred by the death of an LSU student, lawmakers approved bills to make hazing resulting in death a felony, to levy fines on organizations that knowingly allow hazing to occur and to require fraternities to report hazing to schools.

The parents of 18-year-old Maxwell Gruver, who died after a night of heavy drinking that authorities called hazing related, championed the changes.


Voters will decide on the November ballot whether to get rid of Louisiana's law that allows serious felony convictions to be decided by split juries. Laws against bestiality will be toughened. Last year's sweeping overhaul of criminal sentencing laws will be tweaked. Lawmakers spurned a proposal to end Louisiana's use of the death penalty.


Edwards' push to prohibit public schools from penalizing students because they have unpaid lunch debts was scrapped. Lawmakers refused efforts to substantively rework the TOPS college tuition program. They agreed to cushion the blow of an expected drop in public school letter grades by issuing two different grades.


Louisiana will enact its first government-wide policy against sexual harassment, requiring state and local agencies to enact anti-sexual-harassment policies that include a process for handling complaints and mandatory prevention training.

The House refused to ban employers from requiring their workers to sign contracts that keep them from filing sexual harassment lawsuits in civil court.


Lawmakers passed a ban on abortions after 15 weeks, but it only takes effect if a federal appeals court upholds a similar prohibition in Mississippi. They've asked Attorney General Jeff Landry to file a legal brief in federal court to support Mississippi's ban.

The House and Senate also agreed to give Louisiana's health department the ability to shutter an abortion clinic if the facility intentionally destroys or falsifies patient records.


Legislators refused Edwards-backed proposals to raise Louisiana's minimum wage and to enact new laws aimed at lessening the pay gap between men and women. It was the third year Edwards has seen minimum wage and equal pay measures fail to win support.


The House and Senate agreed to expand Louisiana's medical marijuana program to cover people with glaucoma, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson's disease and autism spectrum disorder. They refused to lift a cap that keeps the number of medical marijuana pharmacies limited to 10.


Public records exemptions were granted for documents that identify anyone who reports a violation of a student code of conduct or safety policy on a college campus and documents involving active economic development negotiations with ports.

The agriculture department will be allowed to hide some records about Louisiana's medical marijuana program, along with the location of emergency fuel for disasters. Jury polling slips will be placed under seal, unless a court orders otherwise. A measure to give a sweeping public records exemption to documents involving sexual misconduct allegations stalled.


Louisiana Legislature: