Posted on: June 3 2014 | Posted in: Latest NewsBy: The Associated Press June 3, 2014
BATON ROUGE â€” Louisiana lawmakers wrapped up their three-month regular legislative session Monday. A look at what passed and failed:
BUDGET: Lawmakers approved a $24.6 billion budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1. It will increase spending on services for the disabled, higher education and public schools, and give pay raises to rank-and-file state workers and state troopers. Gov. Bobby Jindal can strip individual items he doesn’t like with his veto pen, but lawmakers gave the governor most of what he sought in his original budget proposal. The budget relies on more than $70 million in “efficiencies” recommended by a consulting firm hired by the Jindal administration, along with nearly $1 billion in patchwork financing that isn’t expected to reappear a year later.
EDUCATION STANDARDS: Efforts to scrap Louisiana’s use of the Common Core education standards adopted by most states and of the associated standardized testing failed to win the support of the House and Senate education committees, despite Jindal’s backing. Critics of Common Core are urging the governor to try to remove Louisiana from the standards and testing unilaterally.
COLLEGES: Proposals to put new limits on Louisiana’s free college tuition program known as TOPS failed to gain traction in the Legislature. Senate-backed efforts to put restrictions on the Tulane University scholarships that lawmakers control were rejected in the House. Lawmakers agreed to create a higher education incentive fund that will steer money to high-demand programs and to spend $40 million on the effort next year.
MEDICAID EXPANSION: Democrats ran into roadblocks at every turn in pushing the expansion of Louisiana’s Medicaid program, as allowed under President Barack Obama’s health care law. None of the bills passed.
MARIJUANA: Medical marijuana still won’t be dispensed in Louisiana, and three convictions for marijuana possession still can get you a prison sentence of 20 years. Sheriffs and district attorneys successfully stonewalled efforts to lessen penalties for simple marijuana possession and to allow medical marijuana for people with serious illnesses.
GUNS: The Senate refused to let state lawmakers carry concealed handguns in the Louisiana Capitol, but lawmakers agreed to give themselves expanded weapons rights elsewhere, to let them carry concealed weapons in most public buildings. A proposal that would have let school employees who possess concealed handgun permits bring their weapons to work was shelved. Legislators agreed to let concealed handgun permit holders and armed off-duty police officers carry their guns in restaurants serving alcohol.
ABORTION: New abortion regulations will require doctors performing the procedure to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Abortion-rights supporters say the legislation will shut down three of Louisiana’s five abortion clinics. In addition, women seeking the procedure will have to get pamphlets describing possible psychological effects, the illegality of coerced abortions and services available to human trafficking victims.
LEVEE BOARD LAWSUIT: The oil and gas industry won a significant victory in the Legislature, receiving final passage of a bill aimed at killing a lawsuit filed by a New Orleans area levee board against 97 oil and gas companies. But Jindal’s effort to get more authority over the members of the levee board itself failed to gain support.
GAY RIGHTS: Gay rights organizations pushed expansive proposals seeking to extend new protections in state law against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but those measures went nowhere.
UNCONSTITUTIONAL LAWS: The House refused to repeal Louisiana’s unconstitutional anti-sodomy law, though a U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively struck down such laws a decade ago. The Senate refused to repeal a law that mandates the teaching of creationism in public school science classes, though it was found unconstitutional in 1987 by the U.S. Supreme Court and is unenforceable.
MINIMUM WAGE: Louisiana won’t boost its minimum wage for hourly workers. The House and Senate labor committees rejected bills that would have set the state minimum wage higher than the hourly federal rate of $7.25 and would have allowed local governments to set their own minimum wage.
PUBLIC RECORDS: Bills to open more of the governor’s records to public scrutiny were filed in both the House and Senate but never even received a hearing. The Jindal administration has opposed such proposals in previous sessions.
RELIGION: A Shreveport lawmaker pulled his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana’s official state book. Lawmakers agreed to give Louisiana’s public schools explicit authority to put up nativity scenes and Christmas trees as part of a holiday display, if the display either represents more than one religion or includes one religion and at least one secular symbol.
PAYDAY LOANS: Lawmakers refused to cap the fees that are charged for the short-term, high-interest loans offered by payday lending businesses or the number of loans a person could take out each year, despite a push from groups that advocate for the poor and elderly.
DRONES: The House and Senate agreed to prohibit drones from flying over petroleum and alumina refineries, chemical and rubber plants and nuclear power plants. But a more sweeping proposal to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property failed to gain final passage.
ODDS AND ENDS: Proposals to ban anyone under the age of 18 in Louisiana from using tanning beds and from buying electronic cigarettes are becoming law. A bid to loosen helmet restrictions for motorcyclists was rejected. Attempts to put new restrictions on traffic cameras faltered. An effort to legalize the sale of alcohol-infused ice cream received a chilly reception and was rejected in the House. Senators refused to protect the sport of “chicken boxing” from Louisiana’s ban on cockfighting.