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Session Information

2006 Regular Session Highlights

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Issue by Issue...

by: Brenda Hodge
(225) 342-9737

Overview

At the 2006 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature, legislators faced the task of continuing the efforts of rebuilding and recovery in the hurricane-impacted areas, while also focusing on policy and budgetary decisions key to building a better Louisiana in all parts of our state. With that in mind, legislators introduced over 2100 bills regarding a wide-range of subject matters including government expropriation of property, redesign of government operations in Orleans Parish, changes in Louisiana’s election laws, the use of ethanol-blended gasoline, insurance reforms, smoking and public health, business inducement measures and abortion, as well as a long list of changes in state law arising from hurricane-related issues.

The Money Matters

All things considered, Louisiana’s fiscal picture is much brighter than originally thought. In May, the Revenue Estimating Conference officially increased expected revenue collections over the February estimates by $584 million for this fiscal year and $175 million for the coming fiscal year. The additional revenues, mostly as a result of increased mineral revenues and tax collections related to rebuilding and recovery efforts, enabled the state to avoid expected shortfalls in health care and higher education programs, to restore some of the budget cuts made last fall and to better position the state to deal with hurricane recovery and preparation efforts.

The state budget issues are spread out among the various budget bills including the appropriations bill, the supplemental appropriation bills and the capital outlay bill. ACT 17 (HB 1), the operating budget for 06-07, totals $26.7 billion compared with a 05-06 operating budget as of Dec. 1, 2005 of $19.78 billion after the billion dollar budget reduction during the Nov. special session. The 06-07 budget includes $5 billion in federal funds with most of that ($4.8 billion) earmarked for the Governor’s Road Home program. If you compare the 05-06 and 06-07 budgets without the federal storm relief dollars added to both budgets, the budget growth between the two years is $167 million, or a growth rate of .89%.

Key spending issues include:

  • $95 million for a $1500 a year pay raise for teachers and other certificated personnel including therapists, librarians, guidance counselors and nurses.
  • $23 million for a $500 a year pay raise for school support workers.
  • $2.7 billion to fully fund the MFP. Generally, the MFP provides the hurricane-impacted school districts with a minimal level of support depending on their student losses and anticipated recovery. Otherwise, the formula increases the per student payment by $20 to address increased operation costs associated with insurance premiums and retirement contributions; increases funding for at-risk students; modifies the requirement that 70% of a district’s general fund be spent on instructional activities to exempt central office costs and include principal and assistant principal costs when calculating the 70% requirement and requires 50% of the basic annual increase in the MFP be spent on teacher salary increases except in those parishes where the average salary is above the SREB average (DeSoto, St. James, West Feliciana). Early reductions in funding for state mandated costs for non-public schools are restored.
  • $3.5 million to enhance and expand the early childhood education program.
  • $31 million for a 5% college faculty pay raise. The Board of Regents has taken the position that the exact percentage raise provided faculty members will be decided by the administration at each institution. Some faculty may receive more than 5%, some less.
  • $15 million for targeted workforce training related to the state’s recovery efforts including training for entry level construction trades and shipbuilding.
  • $8.7 million to fund an additional 300 waiver slots for home and community-based care for the developmentally disabled and the elderly.
  • $120 million pool to reimburse private and non-profit hospitals for providing care to the needy and the underinsured.
  • $20 million, a $10 million increase over the prior year, for indigent defense.
  • $40 million to help pay down the unfunded accrued liability of the state employees’ and teachers’ retirement systems.
  • $428 million to help pay the state’s matching part of the hurricane relief dollars sent to Louisiana. So far, the state has received two bills from FEMA totaling $339.7 million.
  • $150 million revolving emergency response fund. If there is money left in the fund at the end of the 06-07 fiscal year, the Blanco administration has agreed to direct $50 million from the fund to help pay down the debt of the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. in an effort to reduce future insurance premium increases that all policy holders pay each year to support the insurer of last resort.

Hurricane Recovery, Emergency Preparedness & Related Matters

The experience of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita exposed many inadequacies in our hurricane protection and emergency response systems as well as the need to fine tune various existing state laws to ensure the laws function properly in emergency situations.

  • Recovery Plan Issues -
  • The Road Home Program -SCR 63 (Hines) - Provides legislative approval of the Housing Action Plan, known as The Road Home Program, that allocates over $10 billion for assistance to homeowners, renters and the homeless to restore, rebuild, relocate or sell damaged housing and provides incentives to developers to create affordable housing.
  • Housing Corporation - ACT 654 (SB 445 Jackson) - Authorizes the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency to create a non-profit corporation to hold title to the properties sold to the state as part of The Road Home Program until the properties are disposed of as determined by local entities.
  • Housing Preservation - ACT 355 (HB 1071 Hunter) - Creates the Louisiana Housing Preservation Act to make it easier for local governments to redevelop and revitalize blighted property. The bill allows local governments to compile a blighted housing property list of residences that have been vacant for at least 18 months and are deemed a public nuisance. Homes on the list will be put into a receivership and redeveloped with the homeowner having the option of holding on to the property and paying for any repairs. Homes impacted by Katrina and Rita will not be included if the owners are eligible and receive assistance from the state’s Road Home program.
  • Infrastructure Repairs & Business Assistance - SCR 19 (Hines) - Authorizes spending $142.5 million in federal block grant funds for state and local infrastructure repairs and another $95 million for the Louisiana Bridge Loan Program.
  • Recovery Authority Reports/Spending - ACT 686 (HB 308 Kleckley) - Requires the Louisiana Recovery Authority to prepare a report by Sept. 1, 2006 regarding the nature and extent of damages from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the impact the damages will have on recovery efforts. The LRA will also be required to notify legislators at least one week before the consideration of any proposal before the authority that requires the expenditure of $10 million or more. The notification must include specific information as to how the funds will be spent, the source of the funding and the beneficiaries of the expenditure.
  • Mitigation Funds -ACT 512 (SB 137 Dupre) - Requires that no less than 75% of the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant monies received by the state due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita be spent in those parishes within the federally declared disaster areas where all categories of FEMA public assistance are eligible for payment. The requirement does not apply to funds expended for the restoration and protection of housing.
  • Utility Restoration Assistance  -
    • ACT 64 (HB 887 Pinac) - Creates the Louisiana Electric Utility Storm Recovery Securitization Act which authorizes Entergy and Cleco to sell storm recovery bonds with the approval of the Public Service Commission. The bonds are expected to carry an interest rate about 3% below normal borrowing mechanisms. Any savings to the utilities through such financing will be passed on to consumers.
    • ACT 503 (HB 1389 C. Gray) - Restructures an existing law to allow for municipal ownership of utility services now provided by Entergy in New Orleans. Provides Entergy with an option for recovery and would make utility services eligible for FEMA assistance as a municipal-operated system in the event of another storm. Entergy, which estimates uninsured damage at $718 million, prefers cash assistance via the LRA and available community development block grants
  • Emergency Response/Evacuations -
  • Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Reorganization ACT 442 (HB 1388 F. Thompson) - Sets up a new, expanded management structure for the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness which is now under the supervision of the governor’s office rather than the LA National Guard. The current 40 person staff is expected to expand to about 100. The reorganization, involving a deputy director and regional directors, will cost about $1.29 million to implement in the first year. The changes are patterned after successful operations in other states.
  • Nursing Home Evacuations - ACT 540 (SB 529 L. Jackson) - Sets up basic guidelines for the evacuation of nursing homes in the event of an emergency or declared disaster. Requires DHH to establish detailed rules regarding the evacuation or sheltering in place plans for nursing homes in 22 storm-vulnerable parishes by April 1, 2007. Until the rules are developed, the nursing homes are required to submit updated evacuation plans to DHH by August 1st of this year. Generally, nursing homes, in cooperation with patients’ families, must develop evacuation plans that include identified shelters, transportation needs, etc. The state will assist with the evacuation of the most vulnerable patients, such as those on respirators or on dialysis. Local governments will assist with transportation if necessary. The costs associated with an evacuation will be borne by the nursing home with the state assisting the facilities in recouping the funds through FEMA. The state will also seek approval from the federal government for Medicaid reimbursement of evacuation costs associated with Medicaid patients. At least 70 nursing home patients died during Katrina and only about one-third of the nursing homes evacuated before Katrina.
  • Pet Evacuations - ACT 615 (SB 607 Fontenot) - Requires local governments, in cooperation with the state, to develop and implement emergency evacuation and shelter plants for household pets and service animals. Evacuees will be allowed to leave with their pets in proper cages or carriers. An identification program will be implemented by state agriculture officials to help evacuees find lost pets. Implementation is dependent on funds being available from the state’s emergency preparation fund and the receipt of funds from other sources. Non-profit organizations have offered to help Louisiana pay for the pet evacuation program. Additionally, there is legislation moving through the U.S. Congress that would require FEMA to reimburse governments for pet evacuations during disasters. It is clear that lives were lost in southeast Louisiana because people refused to leave pets behind.
  • Unidentified Persons
    • ACT 227 (HB 1140 Martiny) - Sets up the Louisiana Repository for Unidentified and Missing Persons Information Program at LSU’s Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) lab. The lab will service as the state’s chief repository for data on missing and unidentified people. The repository will contain data and DNA samples that could be matched with possible survivors to make identifications. The initial start-up cost is $500,000, with an annual operational cost of $407,000.
    • ACT 258 (HB 309 Walker) - Changes state law to allow a court to declare a missing person dead after a two year absence, if the absence occurred between Aug. 26, 2005 and Sept. 30, 2005. The change does not apply to a missing person who is charged with a felony. This is to assist surviving families of the missing settle estates and life insurance policies.
    • ACT 330 (HB 96 Hutter) - Requires funeral homes to include identification tags on caskets in case of a flood or other event that forces caskets from burial sites. The state board that oversees the operation of funeral homes in Louisiana will establish the ID tagging process.
  • Other Public Safety Issues & Consumer Issues -
    • ACT 610 (SB 569 Murray) - Authorizes the attorney general to issue cease-and-desist orders without going to court in times of emergency or when there is a governor-declared disaster. The authority would be limited to those cases where the courts are closed in a parish because of the emergency. This is an effort to give the attorney general’s office more power to tackle problems with price-gouging and other consumer issues during a declared emergency.
    • ACT 714 (HB 794 Powell) - Requires a person who applies for or has received disaster assistance and seeks refuge in an emergency shelter or temporary residence to provide law enforcement officials current, credible personal identification. Further provides that anyone who applies for disaster assistance is consenting to the release of personal identification information by that application.
    • ACT 285 (HB 873 Cazayoux) - Prohibits sex offenders from knowingly being housed in emergency shelters, FEMA trailer parks, hotels, or any other facility where the general population of evacuees is staying. Requires state police to provide the names of convicted sex offenders to operators of evacuation and emergency shelters so that the offenders may be sheltered in areas away from the general population. Shelter officials who become aware of a sex offender housed at a facility must notify local law enforcement officials.
    • ACT 175 (HB 409 Scalise) - Requires sex offenders to check in with state parole officers in times of emergencies or disaster declarations. The Department of Public Safety will set up a toll-free hotline for sex offenders to call. Failure to comply with the notification requirements may result in revocation of parole.
    • ACT 284 (HB 857 Baldone) - Requires sex offenders displaced from their home parishes for more than 30 days to re-register in the parish where they have relocated. The offenders must also notify the police chief or sheriff in their former parish of the re-registration.
    • ACT 275 (HB 760 Scalise) - Prohibits the seizure of firearms from law-abiding citizens during a state of emergency. Allows law enforcement officers to disarm someone when the officer reasonably believes it is necessary for the protection of the officer or anyone else. If an arrest is not made or the weapon seized as part of a criminal investigation, the weapon must be returned.
    • ACT 254 (HB 190 Martiny) - Authorizes local governments to enact tougher gun laws than the state during emergencies and disasters in "high-risk" parishes in an effort to prevent looting of gun shops.
    • ACT 199 (HB 743 Hutter) - Creates the crime of unauthorized entry of a dwelling during a disaster or state of emergency. Stiffer penalties than simple trespassing. Allows fines up to $1500 and/or up to one year jail. does not apply to emergency personnel or persons seeking a safe haven within 72 hours of the emergency.
    • ACT 220 (HB 1007 Baldone) - Prohibits the early release of someone convicted of looting during a hurricane or state of emergency.
    • ACT 165 (HB 264 Scalise) - Deletes from current law regarding increased penalties for looting during an emergency the requirement that the looter must know there was a declared emergency for the higher penalties to apply.
    • ACT 302 (HB 1212 LaFonta) - Requires demolition and construction crews and haulers to cover their vehicles to prevent nails and other materials from littering the highways and proposing a safety hazard. A companion measure, ACT 234 (HB 1210 LaFonta), includes the dropping of roofing nails on public rights of way in the state’s littering laws.
  • Liability Issues -
    • ACT 402 (HB 892 K. Carter) - Protects state agencies and employees from civil lawsuits arising from death, injury or property damage resulting from actions in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The exemption does not apply if there is gross negligence or willful misconduct.
    • ACT 545 (SB 621 Murray) - Limits the liability of public bodies that own or operate buildings that cause damage in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, including post-storm restoration, repair and construction. Lawsuits will be allowed if a public building’s defects are the result of "gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct." The measure is retroactive to Aug. 24, 2005 and expires Aug. 30, 2008.
    • ACT 244 (HB 70 Durand) - Expands the state’s "Good Samaritan Law" to include health-care workers who volunteer during a disaster. Such volunteers will not be held liable for death or injury arising from their assistance.
    • ACT 836 (HB 884 Durand) - Limits the liability of United Way, the Southern Mutual Help Organization, PRC Compassion, Inc. and Catholic Charities when providing disaster relief following a state of emergency.
  • Environmental Recovery Issues -
    • ACT 662 (SB 583 Fontenot) - Requires DEQ to develop a comprehensive debris management plan for debris generated by natural disasters. The plan should focus on recycling and composting, volume reduction, weight reduction, incineration or co-generation and land disposal.
    • ACT 718 (HB 877 Damico) - Authorizes DEQ to assess a fee of twenty cents per ton on construction and demolition waste to offset additional costs incurred by DEQ in monitoring waste disposal operations connected with storm-related cleanup and rebuilding.
  • Other Hurricane Recovery & Emergency Response Issues -
    • ACT 104 (SB 85 Jones) - Requires state corrections officials to maximize the use of inmate labor to assist with remediation activities after a natural disaster or emergency, ensuring that the inmate laborers are not supplanting private sector employees. Authorizes the corrections department to establish community resource centers to provide housing for the inmates assisting after the disaster. Inmates participating in relief efforts are eligible to earn an additional 30 days of good time for every 30 days of service.
    • HCR 201 (Robideaux) - Requires the Department of Revenue to prepare and mail notices to residents displaced outside of Louisiana advising them of their responsibility to pay Louisiana state income taxes on any income earned outside the state as long as they are a Louisiana resident. Taxes paid to other states can be credited toward the Louisiana taxes owed.
    • ACT 564 (SB 47 Nevers/Schedler) - Authorizes a special state license plate to show Louisiana’s gratitude to the rest of the nation for the assistance provided to the state in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. While the design is not complete, the plans are for the plate to feature "Louisiana Thanks You" in one corner with a purple and gold saxophone logo. Motorists desiring the new plates will pay a $3.50 administrative fee, but will not be required to pay the $25 fee normally associated with special plates. The license plate is part of an broader "Louisiana Thanks You" campaign to spread the appreciation message across the country.
    • ACT 200 (HB 796 Martiny) - Establishes "Come Back to Louisiana" by singer-songwriter Jay Chevalier as the state’s official hurricane recovery song. Also designates Chevalier as the official state troubadour.
    • ACT 740 (HB 1354 Karen Carter) - Sets up the Hurricane Katrina Memorial Commission to make recommendations as to an appropriate memorial and suggested locations for such a memorial to recognize and honor those who lost their lives in the disaster.

Insurance Issues

  • Rate Increase Notification - ACT 784 (HB 1073 Hutter) - Requires insurance companies that raise rates to explain the reason for the increase to policyholders in the premium notice sent to consumers or otherwise notify consumers how they can obtain additional information about the rate hikes within 60 days.
  • Damage Settlements -
    • ACT 802 (HB 1302 Burns) - Gives Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims another year to settle damage claims with insurance companies, regardless of what limitations may be included in the insurance policy. For Hurricane Katrina victims the deadline is extended to Aug. 29, 2007. For Hurricane Rita, the new deadline is Sept. 24, 2007. Without the extension, hundreds of thousands of property owners will be forced to file suit to protect their rights to continue the pursuit of their insurance claims.
    • ACT 739 (HB 1289 Morrell) - This measure also gives Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims another year to settle damage claims with insurance companies, with the same extended deadlines as HB 1302. Also prevents any insurance policy issued in Louisiana that limits the right of action against the insurer to a period of less than 12 months. Also provides that the attorney general shall seek a declaratory judgment within 10 days of the effective day of this new law as well as HB 1302 to determine the laws’ constitutionality.
    • ACT 813 (SB 620 Murray) - Increases penalties against insurance companies that arbitrarily, capriciously or without probable cause do not make timely payments on property claims. Increases the current penalty of 25% of the damage owed or $1000 to 50% of the damage owed and requires the insurance company to pay the policy holder’s attorney and court fees. Current law requires that claims be paid within 30 days of proof of the damage amount as established by law. The increased penalties do not apply to life, health, accident or personal vehicle damage insurance.
  • Adjuster Licensing Standards -
    • ACT 806 (HB 1384 K. Carter) - Sets up a system to require the licensing of public adjusters - those adjusters hired by policy holders to help prepare and file insurance claims. Requires exams and sets up professional practice standards. Prohibits services on a contingency fee basis. Requires the posting of a bond. The public adjuster cannot render legal advice as part of his services. ACT 763 (HB 520 K. Carter) sets the licensing fee at $55. The new system takes effect June 30, 2007.
    • ACT 783 (HB 1056 Farrar) - Sets up a system to require the licensing of claims adjusters employed by insurance companies or under contract with insurance companies as independent adjusters. Requires exams and sets up professional standards. ACT 762 (HB 518 Farrar) sets the licensing fee at $10.50. This system takes effect June 30, 2007.
  • Citizens Premium Costs - ACT 787 (HB1141 Hebert) - Exempts wind and hail coverage offered by the Louisiana Citizens Property Corporation, the state created insurance source of last resort, from the current requirement that insurance policies offered by the corporation carry premiums 10% higher than the policies offered by private companies in the area. The exemption expires Jan. 1, 2009. Requires the corporation to notify policy holders in writing of any rate increase. Authorizes the corporation to borrow money from the FAIR or Coastal Plans under its jurisdiction to cover any shortfall in either plan to pay claims pending the sale of bonds or other funding sources. Requires the corporation to seek reinsurance.
  • Credit Status/Premium Rates - ACT 688 (HB 318 Richmond) - Prohibits insurance companies from using credit information that shows a change in credit status to increase premiums on a policy renewal. The prohibition applies only to those policies that expire between the effective date of the prohibition and the end of this year.

Business Development, Workforce & Consumer Issues

  • Ethanol-Blended Gasoline -
    • ACT 313 (HB 685 Thompson) - Requires that ethanol-blended gasoline and other alternative fuels be sold in Louisiana once production reaches adequate levels in the state, although gas stations are not mandated to sell the fuel. Two percent of the total gasoline sold in Louisiana will have to be agriculture-based when ethanol production reaches 50 million gallons annually, biodiesel reaches production 10 million gallons each year or production of other alternative fuels reaches 20 million gallons a year. The Commissioner of Agriculture is responsible for implementing the requirement. The new law is seen as a boost for the state’s agriculture industry and a way to improve our environment. Opponents are concerned that the alternative fuel mandate will drastically increase fuel prices, an issue addressed in SB 454. There is a 51-cent-a-gallon federal price support in place now, but that break expires in 2007. Some states offer tax breaks to hold down the costs of alternative fuels. No such incentives are in place in Louisiana at this time. It is estimated that it will take at least two years for the production of the alternative fuels to reach the required level for consideration of implementation.
    • ACT 656 (SB 454 Ellington) - Creates "The Louisiana Renewable Fuels Production Accountability Act" to encourage the use of competitively priced Louisiana crops by renewable fuels plants. Requires notice and reports to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture regarding anticipated production levels and specific feedstock requirements. Also adds a price trigger to the implementation of the ethanol-blended gasoline requirement outlined in HB 645. The requirement will not be implemented until it is determined that the average wholesale price of Louisiana produced ethanol, minus any federal tax incentives, is equal or less than the average wholesale price gasoline for 60 days. The price information will be determined by a three member panel composed of a qualified college faculty member, a representative of the Oil Marketers Association and a representative of the Louisiana Farm Bureau. The agriculture commissioner will make a decision on proceeding with the ethanol-blended gasoline requirement.
  • Legacy Oilfield Sites - ACT 312 (SB 655 Adley) - Addresses the process for the clean-up of so-called "legacy sites", sites where landowners have leased property for oil and gas drilling and are later sued for alleged contamination from oil-field wastes and saltwater. Allows a property owner and the company to agree to work with DNR to develop an acceptable clean-up plan with the responsible party paying for the clean-up. Property owners may opt to file suit against the company with the courts deciding fault and awarding damages. If the company is found to be at fault, DNR will hold a public hearing and within 60 days develop the most feasible clean-up plan for submission to the courts. The courts must adopt the DNR plan unless another plan is proven to be more feasible. All funds earmarked for the clean-up must be used for that purpose. Oil and gas exploration companies have complained that doing business in Louisiana has been hampered by the inconsistent and costly handling of such legacy lawsuits in recent years.
  • Environmental Permitting -
    • ACT 586 (SB 292 Fontenot) - Authorizes DEQ to develop and implement a program to expedite the processing of permits, modifications, licenses, registrations or variances for environmental permits. ACT 779 (HB 870) establishes a fee structure for the expedited permits.
    • ACT 115 (SB 209 Fontenot) - Eases approval of air and water environmental permits for low-level polluting activities . DEQ will develop criteria that applicants must meet to qualify for the low-level permits.
  • Internet Ticket Sales - ACT 238 (HB 1299 Montgomery) - Allows the resale of tickets to sports and entertainment events via the Internet for above face value if the sports team or entertainment promoter agrees. Internet sites reselling such tickets will have to agree to refunds if the event is cancelled, the buyer is not allowed admittance to the event or the ticket is not delivered as promised. The authority to resell tickets at above face-value price does not apply to university sports event tickets allocated to Louisiana legislators or to student tickets issued by universities for sporting events.
  • Internet Auction Sales - ACT 550 (SB 642 Ellington) - Changes the state’s auction licensing law to restrict it to a traditional public auction. Exempts individuals and businesses engaging in auctions over the Internet.
  • Internet Consumer Protections -
    • ACT 549 (SB 641 Michot) ACT 201 (HB 798 Hutter) - Regulates phishing, the creation or operation of a Web site purporting to be a legitimate business with the intent of obtaining the user’s personal data. Criminalizes junk e-mail that pretends to be from a legitimate business or encourages consumers to provide identifying information such as bank account or social security numbers to a phony Web site.
    • ACT 392 (HB 690 Schneider) - Outlaws activities to plant viruses or anything that could damage a computer’s hardware or software.
    • ACT 556 (SB 5 Cain) – Prohibits Internet service providers from disclosing information about their subscribers without expressed written or electronic authorization from the subscriber, except when requested by court order or law enforcement, as authorized by law.
  • Unemployment Taxes - ACT 116 (SB 217 Nevers) - Declares that unemployment benefits paid out as a result of executive orders issued in connection with Katrina and Rita will not be used in determining an employers experience rating which is used to determine an employer’s annual tax contribution rate. Also prohibits the use of the social charge account tax to repay benefits paid as a result of the executive orders into the social charge account. Benefits paid out and not tied to a specific employer are paid out of the social charge account. It is estimated that $700 million was paid out as a result of the executive orders. Without a change in the law an employer’s annual tax contribution rate and social charge account tax would increase to a prohibitive level.
  • Illegal Workers/Contractors - ACT 636 (SB 753 Cravins) - Sets up procedures and penalties for enforcement of the current state law that bans employers from hiring workers who are illegally living or working in the U.S. Employers will have to maintain documents that show workers meet eligibility rules required by federal immigration law. Employers found to have knowingly hired illegal workers will be subject to cease and desist orders. If they fail to act, they will face fines of up to $10,000.
  • Louisiana Product Sales -
    • ACT 808 (HB 1387 Toomy) - Repeals the LA Native Wine Law and provisions relating to taxes on wine. Authorizes a wine producer to sell or serve its product at retail directly to consumers at its winery or at fairs, festivals and farmers’ markets. Authorizes the sale and direct shipment of wine to a consumer in Louisiana by a manufacturer or retailer domiciled outside of the state or by a wine producer domiciled inside or outside of the state. The in-state sales by a wine producer directly to a consumer are limited to 48 750 milliliter bottles per calendar year. requires permit fees for wine producers.
    • ACT 124 (SB 525 N. Gautreaux) - Creates the Cajun and Louisiana Creole Goods and Services Consumer Protection Law to establish the terms "Cajun" and "Louisiana Creole" as unique and distinctive to a region of Louisiana and provides for the adoption of "Cajun" and "Louisiana Creole" as certification marks. Authorizes the agriculture commissioner to enforce the use of the certification marks.
    • ACT 661 (SB 573 N. Gautreaux) - Prohibits the deceptive use of the terms "Cajun" and "Louisiana Creole" in commerce.
  • Frivolous Lawsuits Against Businesses - ACT 684 (HB 290 Durand) - In an effort to crack down on "frivolous" lawsuits against businesses, this measure mandates jail time for runners who try to convince people to sue and the lawyers who hire them. Runners are hired to go to locations like hospital emergency rooms, where lawyers are prohibited from soliciting clients, to persuade accident victims to hire a particular attorney and file a lawsuit. For a first offense, there is a mandatory 90 days in jail. Additional offenses require at least three years in prison.
  • Local & Regional Economic Development - ACT 839 (HB 1130 Richmond) - Creates the "Local and Regional Economic Development District Act". Authorizes the creation of multiple-parish or multiple-municipality economic development districts for the purpose of pursuing major business projects and industrial development opportunities. The creation of an economic development district is contingent on a approval by voters in the municipalities and parishes in the proposed district. The districts will be able to acquire land, build infrastructure and incur debt to promote manufacturing, research and commercial and wholesale trade. The districts will not have expropriation powers. The boards can raise sales or property taxes with a majority vote of all voters in the district as well as a majority vote by each participating parish or municipality.

Expropriation & Eminent Domain Issues

  • ACT 851 (SB 1 McPherson) (CA) - Proposes a change in the State Constitution to limit the power of government to expropriate private property. Voters will consider the change in a statewide election in September and, if approved, government will not be able to take a person’s home for economic development purposes. Currently, the constitution allows expropriation of private property by government for "public purposes" such as flood control, street repairs and other public improvements. That power will remain, but what is a "public purpose" will be more clearly defined.
  • ACT 859 (HB 707 Farrar) (CA) - Proposes a change in the State Constitution to prohibit the transfer or lease of expropriated private property deemed not necessary for the completion of a "public purpose" project without first offering the property for sale back to the original owner on a pro-rata basis. If the original owner does not opt to buy back the property within three years of the completion of the project, the state or governmental entity may sell the property to the public by competitive bid. Sets up a timetable for the governmental entity to determine if property is not needed. Property which has been held for more than 30 years before it is determined to be surplus is not impacted. Voters will consider the proposed change at the Sept. 30, 2006 statewide election.
  • ACT 853 (SB 27 Dupre) (CA) ACT 567 (SB 64 STATUTE) - Limits the payment to property owners for property taken in connection with hurricane protection to the amount and circumstances required by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or the fair market value rather than the "full extent of loss" as now required. The measure will not apply to property or structures damaged or destroyed by an event designated as a natural disaster or emergency when the expropriation occurs within 3 years of the event. Louisiana is the only state in the nation that defines land values in that fashion. Voters have already agreed to limit payments to property owners for property taken in connection with coastal restoration projects to fair market value.
    Proposed amendment will be considered in the Sept. 2006 statewide election.

Transportation, Flood Control & Hurricane Protection

  • Construction Work/Peak Hours - ACT 727 (HB 1173 Crowe) - Specifically prohibits construction and maintenance work on major highways between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays. Construction or maintenance work on major highways that restricts traffic flow is already prohibited during "peak hours". Also would allow DOTD to use one appraiser rather than two appraisers when appraising properties of expected value of under $30,000.
  • Construction of Megaprojects -
    • ACT 304 (HB 1294 Quezaire) - Allows the state through the Louisiana Transportation Authority to enter into partnerships with private entities to build roads and bridges financed by tolls. The authority is limited to so-called "megaprojects", those projects costing at least $250 million. The private entity will build the projects, maintain the project and receive the revenues from the tolls. After a period of time, the project will revert to the state. The House and Senate transportation committees will hold a public hearing on any proposal, but does not have the power to reject any deal.
    • ACT 685 (HB 299 Daniel) - Sets up the Transportation Mobility Fund to assist with the funding of major, high cost road projects, known as mega-projects. The fund is designed to bridge the gap between projected toll revenue collections for a toll project and the estimated costs of the project. Projects must qualify and be approved by the Louisiana Transportation Authority. There is currently no funding source for the fund.
  • State Highway Improvement Fund - ACT 708 (HB 728 Lambert) - Establishes the State Highway Improvement Fund to finance improvements on state highways not eligible for federal assistance. Monies from state truck and trailer registration and license fees and taxes will be deposited in the fund and appropriated on an annual basis. Beginning in the 2007-08 fiscal year, 25% of the available truck and trailer fees and taxes, an estimated $10.3 million, will be deposited in the fund. The dedicated amount increases by 25% each year after until 100% of the available fees and taxes, about $44.3 million, are placed in the fund in the 2010-11 fiscal year. About 10% or 6,000 miles of state roadways do not qualify for federal highway dollars.
  • Hurricane Protection -
    • ACT 652 (SB 269 Dupre) - Provides local levee districts more leeway to develop and oversee its own projects for the construction, restoration and rehabilitation of levees. State law previously limited such authority to projects costing $100,000 or less. This measure raises the limit to $1 million for the next two years with the legislature having the option of renewing the authority in 2008. Increased authority does not apply to projects involving federal maintenance funds.
    • ACT 66 (SB 26 Dupre) - Authorizes the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to serve as the local sponsor for construction, operation and maintenance of all hurricane, storm damage reduction and flood control projects in areas under their jurisdiction. As the local sponsor, the authority may enter into contracts with the federal government, the state, local governments or private individuals and serve as the entity to provide any needed matching funds for projects.
    • ACT 181 (HB 452 Dove) - Requires the nine levee boards in the coastal zone with tidal levees to submit a report to DOTD every three years regarding the height of the levees, problems with sinking and suggested corrective actions.
    • ACT 297 (HB 1086 Dove) - Requires a minimum 8-foot dune height for barrier island projects and requires DNR to track the condition of the barrier islands on a regular basis and report annually to the legislature.

Highway Safety Issues -

  • Child Safety/Motorcycles - ACT 98 (HB 985 Baldone) - Requires children at least five years old to wear safety helmets on motorcycles. Prohibits infants or toddlers from riding motorcycles if they are otherwise required to be in a child car safety seat.
  • Minor Alcohol Sales - ACT 570 (SB 101 McPherson) - Increases the penalties for serving or selling alcoholic beverages to minors. The fines would increase from $100-$500 to $500 - $1000.
  • Accident Deaths -
    • ACT 294 (HB 1043 Greene) - Increases the minimum mandatory jail sentence for vehicular homicide from one year to three years. Keeps the maximum 30 year sentence.
    • ACT 523 (SB 256 Adley) - Requires the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident in which there is a death to submit to a drug test and requires the coroner to conduct drug tests on the deceased.
  • Funeral Processions - ACT 751 (HB 240 Greene) - Prohibits a pedestrian or vehicle from breaking into a funeral possession and requires all vehicles in the procession to use headlights and flashers. Drivers would be allowed to pass processions, just not break into the procession. Clarifies existing state law that prohibits operating tv screens in the view of the driver to include video player screens.
  • Underage Drivers - ACT 650 (SB 222 Mount) - Increases the penalties for a minors and others caught driving without a license and holds a parent responsible for granting permission to an unlicensed minor to drive. The unlicensed driver faces up to $500 in fines and/or 6 months incarceration. If the unlicensed minor is involved in an accident that results in serious bodily injury or death, the fine increases to $1000. The parent faces up to $1000 in fines. The measure is in response to an incident in Moss Bluff in 2004 when an unlicensed minor driver struck and killed a young boy.
  • Traffic Violations - ACT 195 (HB 694 Smiley) - Increases the penalties for drivers who run stoplights, stop signs and yield signs. A driver faces the loss of their license if injury results.

Public Safety Issues -

  • Sex Offenders & Child Sexual Abuse -
    • ACT 325 (HB 4 McDonald) - Increases penalties for the crime of molestation of a juvenile when the victim is 12 years of age or younger and increases penalties for the crime of aggravated incest when the victim is under the age of 13 and the offender is 17 years of age or older. The penalties are 25 years to life with at least 25 years served without benefit of probation or parole. Upon release, the offender is monitored by electronic means for the rest of natural life with the offender picking up the cost of the monitoring if possible.
    • ACT 103 (SB 2 N. Gautreaux) - Increases penalties for certain sex crimes committed against a juvenile under 13 years of age by an offender over the age of 17. Minimum 25 years in prison without suspension of sentence, probation or parole. After release, offender must wear electronic tracking device - at the expense of the offender - for the rest of his natural life. The increased penalties apply to the crimes of sexual battery, second degree sexual battery, oral sexual battery, pornography involving a juvenile and molestation of a juvenile. Penalties will also increase for the crime of indecent behavior with a juvenile when the victim is under the age of 13 and the offender is over the age of 17 with up to 25 years in prison and at least two years without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. The new law is known as the "Mary Jean Thigpen Law" in memory of a four-year-old Calcasieu Parish child who was raped and murdered by a twice-convicted sex offender who had recently been released from prison.
    • ACT 242 (HB 1369 Geymann) - Requires that sex offenders whose victims are under the age of 13 shall be subject to supervised release after the completion of their sentences. Supervised release includes mandatory monthly meetings, registration, drug testing and possible curfews. Applies to those convicted after Aug. 15, 2006.
    • ACT 186 (HB 572 Cravins) - Creates the Sex Offender Assessment Panel to evaluate every sex offender prior to release to determine if he is a sexually violent predator. An offender determined to be a sexually violent predator upon release will be required to register and provide community notification for life and to be monitored electronically for life. If possible, the offender will be required to pay for the monitoring. Applies to convictions and releases on or after Aug. 15. 2006.
    • ACT 72 (HB 9 Smiley) - Adds the crime of aggravated incest to the list of crimes designated as a violent crime.
    • ACT 137 (HB 64 Dorsey) - Creates the crime of harboring or concealing a sex offender. $5000 fine and/or up to five years jail with two years mandatory.
    • ACT 663 (SB 612 Mount) - Requires the drivers’ licenses of convicted sex offenders to include the words sex offender in orange type. requires sex offenders to also carry an identification card with the same information. Both the license and the identification card must be renewed yearly. Requires state police to establish a predator alert system that includes notifying local law enforcement when a sex offender is released from jail.
    • ACT 354 (HB 983 Cazayoux) - Establishes the Sexual Predator Apprehension Team in the attorney general’s office to enhance the state’s effort to apprehend sexual offenders and persons required to register as a sex offender.
  • Minors & Video Games -
    • ACT 441 (HB 1381 Burrell) - Bans the sale of violent video games to minors (under 18 years of age). The new felony crime carries a sentence of up to one year in prison and a maximum $2000 fine. Establishes a three-prong test for judges to use to determine whether a game is violent including whether an average person would find that the game appeals to the minor’s morbid interest in violence; whether a game depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to the prevailing community standards and whether the game lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors. ***U.S. District Judge James Brady has issued a temporary restraining order barring authorities from enforcing this new law after associations representing video game merchants and developers filed suit raising questions about the law’s constitutionality.***
    • ACT 529 (SB 340 Cain) - Prohibits the sale of sexually explicit video games to minors. Basically brings video games into the existing state law that bars the sale of sexually explicit magazines, newspapers and other suggestive materials to minors. Requires identification to purchase such videos. Violators face up to one year in prison and a maximum $2000 fine.
  • Domestic Abuse -
    • ACT 559 (SB 10 N. Gautreaux) - Increases the penalties for domestic abuse battery when a child is endangered or when the victim of the domestic abuse is pregnant.
    • ACT 613 (SB 597 Dardenne) – Requires the Secretary of State to establish a procedure to shield addresses of registered voters who are victims of abuse and fear for their safety. The addresses remain shielded for 4 years, except when requested by court order or law enforcement, as authorized by law. Program participants waive their right to vote on election day or in early voting, but may vote by mail.
  • Citizens’ Self-Protection Rights - ACT 141 & ACT 786 (HB 89 & HB1097 LaFleur) - These two measures strengthen existing law regarding a citizen’s justifiable use of lethal force to protect themselves from an intruder in their homes, businesses or vehicles. The measures state that there shall be a presumption that the use of force is necessary in such cases and that the criminals or their families cannot sue the person using the force.
  • Resisting Arrest Crimes - ACT 132 (HB 26 Martiny) - Adds to the crime of resisting an officer to include interfering with or resisting an officer in the lawful act of detaining a person. Includes the refusal of the detainee or arrested person to identify themselves as obstruction.
  • Computer Assisted Hunting - ACT 745 (HB 52 Hammett) - Prohibits computer assisted hunting which involved using a computer to remotely control a gun without being on site to shoot the animal.
  • Funeral Disturbances -ACT 805 (HB 1364 Thompson) - Adds disturbances at funerals to the crime of disturbing the peace with increased penalties for the crime. $100 fine and/or 6 months jail.
  • Unauthorized Use of a Soldier’s Name -ACT 239 (HB 1304 Robideaux) - Outlaws the use of a deceased soldier’s name or photo to sell items or advertise businesses without the consent of the soldier before his death or the consent of the soldier’s family.
  • Drug Abuse Crimes -
    • ACT 51 (HB 51 Schneider) - Increases penalties for unlawfully prescribing, dispensing or assisting in illegally obtaining controlled dangerous substances from a fine of $5000 to $50,000 in the Pain Management Clinic Drug Abuse and Overdose Prevention Act.
    • ACT 676 (HB 153 Johns) - Proposed in cooperation with pharmacists and physicians to tackle so-called doctor shopping, this measure requires the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy to develop an electronic prescription monitoring program to improve the state’s ability to identify and inhibit the diversion of controlled dangerous substances and drugs. The program will be funded through a fee imposed on pharmacy permit fees and licenses.
    • ACT 600 (SB 467 Fontenot) - Requires pharmacists to require patients or the patient’s representative to show photo identification when purchasing or receiving any controlled dangerous substance, unless the person is known to the pharmacist. Encourages all practitioners to notify law enforcement when they have a good faith belief that an individual is obtaining a fraudulent prescription for a controlled dangerous substance.
  • Release of Defendants -
    • ACT 327 (HB 87 White) - Requires hospitals to notify law enforcement officials when a person with an outstanding arrest warrant or summons is released if the officials have certified the warrant or summons in writing to the hospital and have requested in writing that the hospital provide notification of the release. The notification must be made as soon as reasonably possible.
  • Flag Burning - ACT 506 (SB 25 Cain) - Creates a state crime of burning the American flag punishable by 90 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $1000. The law is not enforceable until an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting desecration of the flag is proposed and approved.
  • Fire Retardant Mattresses - ACT 557 (SB 6 Shepherd) - Requires all bed mattresses and box springs sold or made in Louisiana to meet certain fire-resistance standards. The bill is in response to a Marrero apartment fire last year that killed 11 people.

Corrections & the Judiciary -

  • Judgeship Qualifications - ACT 860 (HB 13 Greene)(CA) - Constitutional amendment to increase the years of experience required to run for the office of judge at the district, appellate and supreme court level. Requires a minimum of eight years experience as a member of the Louisiana bar prior to the election for district level judges and a minimum of 10 years for appellate and supreme court judges. Reduces the time in which a candidate for judge must reside in his respective district prior to the election from two years to one. The proposed change will be considered by voters in the Sept. 2006 statewide election. The requirements will be effective with elections on or after Jan. 1, 2008.
  • Sentencing & Release Issues -
    • ACT 572 (SB 129 Jones) - Allows future inmates who begin their sentence after August 15, 2006 to reduce their sentences by 35 days for every 30 days of earned "good time". The reduced sentence will not apply to those convicted of violent, drug-related or sex crimes.
    • ACT 581 (SB 228 Jones) - Allows judges, with the consent of the district attorney, to sentence certain third offenders convicted of non-violent or drug crimes to drug court programs with the alternative sentencing running no less than two years or more than five years.
    • ACT 113 (SB 180 Jones) - Limits the time served by someone on probation or parole who commits a technical violation to 90 days rather than having to serve out the rest of their original sentence. A technical violation includes things like not checking in with a parole officer in a timely fashion.
    • ACT 45 (SB 126 Jones) - Expands the state law allowing certain qualified convicted criminals to seek a reduced sentence before the Louisiana Risk Review Panel to include those who committed crimes, were convicted or sentenced prior to June 15, 2001.
    • ACT 811 (HB 1403 Richmond) - Prevents the release of any defendant on his own recognizance if the arrest is in connection with an alleged felony offense involving the use, discharge or possession of a firearm.

Children & Family Issues

  • Marriage & Divorce -
    • ACT 743 (HB 1379 E. Alexander) - Changes state divorce laws to require a couple with children under the age of 18 to live separate and apart for one year, rather than the current six month requirement, before a no-fault divorce is granted. The longer waiting period will not apply to families where a hearing determines that there is physical or sexual abuse in the home. The effective date of the new requirement is Jan. 1, 2007. Twelve other states have waiting periods of one year or longer.
    • ACT 249 (HB 121 Johns) - Clarifies current state law regarding covenant marriages to prevent the dissolution of such a marriage by mutual consent of both parties. A spouse in a covenant marriage may only obtain a divorce by proving adultery, abandonment, abuse, living separate and apart or a felony conviction with a sentence of death or hard labor.
  • Child Support Enforcement -
    • ACT 375 (HB 355 Triche) - Provides the state with additional tools to collect owed child support. Authorizes the state child support enforcement agency to administratively access cell phone, cable TV and other records in an attempt to locate the offending parent. A court order is now required for such access.
    • ACT 121 (SB 407 Lentini) - Requires parents who are behind on child-support payments to surrender payments from progressive-slot machine jackpot annuities to DSS. The Louisiana Gaming Control Board will set up procedures for withholding such payments.
    • ACT 772 (HB 778 Hunter) - Authorizes a parent who has obtained a judgment of past due child support to file a notice of privilege over the motor vehicle of the person owing the support. The notice will be filed with the Office of Motor Vehicles. Although the privilege will be subordinate to existing loans on the vehicle, the courts may order the delinquent parent to surrender the vehicle title to the owed spouse.

Education Issues -

  • Unfunded Mandates on Local Schools - ACT 855 (SB 296 Quinn) - Proposes a change in the State Constitution to prohibit the legislature from passing laws that cost local school systems significant dollars unless the state provides the funding or the new law is approved by two-thirds vote of the legislature. This requirement already exists for other local political bodies. The unfunded mandates prohibition will not apply to the MFP or the school accountability program. Voters will consider the constitutional amendment at the statewide general election in September, 2006.
  • Dual Enrollment Pilot Program - ACT 668 (SB 749 Nevers) - Sets up a two-year pilot program in two parishes beginning in 2007 to allow dual enrollment between high schools and community technical colleges for students between the ages of 16 and 21. BESE will oversee implementation of the program with plans to expand it statewide by 2010. This is an effort to address the state’s high school dropout rate by providing alternative job training and educational programs for the students. The goal is to enroll at least 10% of the identified potential dropouts in the participating school systems in the dual enrollment programs.
  • Textbook Inspections - ACT 804 (HB 1334 Crowe) - Expands the length of time from 60 to 90 days for the public to inspect proposed new public school textbooks at various public libraries around the state. Increases the number of libraries that must offer the textbooks for inspection and allows the public to check out the books for further review.
  • Foster Children College Tuition - ACT 738 (HB 1287 C. Gray) - Provides free college tuition and exemption from mandatory fees for foster care children at public colleges and universities. The program does not take effect until the money to fund the program - about $425,000 a year - is appropriated.
  • College Student Vaccinations - ACT 711 (HB 768 Strain) - Establishes a phased-in process for the required vaccination of Louisiana college students against bacterial meningitis, beginning with first-time college freshmen and students living in campus housing. Students who have a medical reason to not be vaccinated or have religious objections are exempt. ***Because of a shortage of the vaccine, this measure replaces an earlier bill passed at the session that mandated the vaccination for all students at public colleges and universities beginning with the 2006 fall session.

Public Health & Health Care Issues -

  • Smoking Issues -
    • ACT 815 (SB 742 Marionneaux) - Establishes the Louisiana Smokefree Air Act which bans smoking in most public facilities including restaurants. Allows smoking in casinos, race tracks, bars, designated smoking rooms in hotels, retail tobacco stores, privately hired limousines, outdoor areas at restaurants and designated, well-ventilated areas at nursing homes. Smoking will also be allowed in state, local and private correctional facilities until Aug. 15, 2009. Violators of the state smoking ban face fines of $25 to $500 depending on the number of offenses and whether or not the violator is a smoker or a facility that does not comply. It is estimated that about 1200 deaths each year in Louisiana are attributable to second-hand smoke. The effective date of the smoking ban is Jan. 1, 2007.
    • ACT 838 (HB 1010 Gary Smith) - Prohibits smoking in a vehicle carrying a child in a child restraint or safety seat. Children up to 8 years of age are usually required to ride in safety seats. Violators face $150 fine or community service.
  • Health Care Policy & Financing -
    • HCR 127 (Durand) - Creates the Louisiana Health Care Redesign Collaborative, composed of a cross-section of health care interest groups, to assist in the development of recommendations and plans to for the redesign of the health care system in the Orleans area. A committee of the collaborative will serves as an advisory body to the secretary of DHH for the development of recommendations and plans for the redesign of the health care system in the Hurricane Rita-impacted areas. Reports on both efforts are due no later than Dec. 31, 2007. *Since the passage of the resolution, the LRA and representatives of the collaborative signed an agreement to provide the federal government with a plan to build a new health care delivery system in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes by Oct. 20, 2006. The federal government wants the new system to provide for health-care dollars to follow patients rather than institutions; to pay doctors and hospitals more for improved care and services; to give senior citizens and the disabled more options for home-based care rather than institutional care.
    • ACT 465 (SB 562 Bajoie) - Creates the office for aging services within DHH to better focus and coordinate the delivery of long-term care services to the elderly.
    • ACT 848 (SB 613 Cheek) - Places in state law the Medicaid reimbursement formula for nursing homes previously defined by state rule. Also allows a nursing home to have its rates adjusted every three months, instead of once a year. State budget cuts to nursing homes will still be allowed, but only according to the formula. Supporters say the law is needed to provide more stability for the industry as to financing.
    • ACT 801 (HB 1262 Salter) - Requires DHH to develop a plan to increase pharmacy dispensing rates up to $15 per prescription, with the increased rates taking effect Jan. 1, 2007. The increase is dependent on available funds appropriated for the increase and funds generated from savings realized through the implementation of changes in other reimbursement rates mandated by the federal government. The plan will be submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and, if approved, then submitted to the Commissioner of Administration and the Joint Budget Committee for approval. The rate increases are necessary because of action taken by Congress that significantly reduced the reimbursement rates for the ingredient costs of generic prescription drugs in the medical assistant program. The federal rate reductions are threatening the existence of small, independent pharmacists.
  • Donation of Surplus Drugs -
    • ACT 643 (SB 19 McPherson) - Requires hospitals, health care facilities and governmental entities enrolled in the Medicaid program, except those operated by an agency or department of the executive branch, to attempt to donate intact single-unit doses of surplus medications to charitable pharmacies. If the pharmacy is located more than 20 miles from the facility, the charitable pharmacy will have the responsibility of picking up the drugs.
    • ACT 797 (HB 1235 Labruzzo) - Authorizes the same hospitals, health care facilities and governmental entities outlined in SB 19 to offer the surplus drugs to the state corrections department for use in penal institutions.
  • Community & Family Support - ACT 555 (SB 746 Broome) - Creates the Community and Family Support System Fund to accept money generated from the sale or lease of property operated by the state Office of Citizens with Developmental Disabilities. The use of money, appropriated on an annual basis once funds are available, is limited to increasing the number of "waiver" slots available for developmentally disabled citizens opting for home and community-based services. This year there are almost 15,000 people on the waiver waiting list with the average wait to be eligible for the alternative assistance 11 years. About 1500 people are still living in nine state-run development centers, down from about 6000 several years ago. About 400 new waiver slots have been added over the past four years and the 06-07 budget includes funding for additional 200 slots.

Government Reform, Ethics & Campaign Finance -

  • Orleans Parish Government Consolidiation -
    • Courts, Sheriffs, Etc. - ACT 621 (SB 645 Mount) - In an effort to address the fragmented and inefficient Orleans Parish court system and related offices, this measure consolidates the various operations of the judiciary. Creates the 41st Judicial District Court as of Jan. 1, 2009, merging the civil and criminal courts with the current juvenile court merged into the new district by Jan. 1, 2015. Combines the criminal and civil sheriffs into one office and the civil and criminal clerks’ offices into one civil clerk office by May 3, 2010. The offices of recorder of mortgages, register of conveyances and custodian of notarial archive will be abolished Jan. 1, 2009 with the duties transferred to the civil clerks’ office. The measure allows all current elected officials to complete their full terms to 2010. Starting Jan. 1, 2007, the expense funds of the courts will be merged with an eight-judge panel to administer the fund. A previously authorized state Supreme Court study to determine the number of judges needed in all courts across the state will continue.
    • Assessors - ACT 863 (SB 141 Duplessis) (CA) ACT 622 (SB 647 Statute) - Proposes a change in the state constitution to reduce the number of assessors in New Orleans from seven to one. Will be considered at Nov. 7 2006 statewide election. The constitutional amendment must be approved by a majority of the voters statewide and by a majority of the voters in Orleans Parish. If approved by voters, the consolidation detailed in the statute will be effective Jan. 1, 2007. Supporters estimate the move will save the parish over $650,000 a year.
    • Public Contracts - ACT 849 (HB 850 Beard) - Prohibits people with contracts, subcontracts, etc. for hurricane recovery activity when those contracts are not publicly and competitively bid from making campaign contributions to elected officials with jurisdiction over the work. Prohibits elected officials from receiving such contributions. Prohibition effective for three years from the effective date.
    • Secretary of State Campaign Contributions Prohibition - ACT 415 (HB 1051 Cazayoux) - Prohibits the secretary of state as the state’s chief elections officer from being involved in national, state, or local party politics and prohibits that person from endorsing a candidate or raising money for other candidates. The restrictions are similar to those imposed on judges.
    • Nepotism Exceptions -
      • ACT 833 (HB 675 McVea) - In an effort to meet the needs of small, rural school districts as to qualified administrators and the retention of qualified educators in the school system, this measure expands exceptions in current ethics law as to the employment of an immediate relative of a member of governing authority by that authority to allow parishes with a population of 26,000 or less to promote a classroom teacher to an administrative position, even if the classroom teacher is the relative of a school board member of school superintendent.
      • ACT 798 (HB 1239 Monica Walker) - Authorizes members of zoning commissions in parishes with fewer than 50,000 people to not vote on issues before them when a conflict of interest arises.

Elections Issues -

  • Early Voting Issues -
    • Pilot Program - ACT 349 (HB 674 Waddell) - Authorizes secretary of state to set up a pilot program in up to four parishes to allow early voting in remote locations. The pilot program requires the pilot between Sept. 1, 2006 and Jan. 1, 2008. The pilot early voting program could not be applied to more than four elections. Requires a report back to the legislature by March 1, 2008.
    • ACT 569 (SB 86 Jones) - Requires registrar of voters’ offices to remain open until 4:30 PM on the Saturday during early voting. Current law sets the Saturday early voting hours between 8:30 AM and noon.
  • Election Dates -

    • ACT 705 (HB 604 Mike Powell)- Eliminates the January election date for local elections. estimated savings of about $525,000. Will still have the July election date specifically for local elections.
    • ACT 560 (SB 18 Fields) - Eliminates the state’s open primary election system for Congressional elections which has been in place for some 30 years and creates a closed "party" system for congressional seats. Republican and Democratic primaries will occur in September with any needed run-off occurring in October. The general election will occur in November as in other states. Independent voters will chose which party primary to vote in, if the party decides to allow independent voting. Effective Jan. 1, 2007, if the new primary process is approved by the U.S. Justice Department.
    • ACT 845 (HB 1307 Hutter) - Moves the date of the presidential preference primary in Louisiana from the second Tuesday in March to the second Saturday in February. If the February date falls during Mardi Gras, the primary shall occur on the third Saturday in February. Supporters hope holding the presidential primary earlier will attract more presidential hopefuls to Louisiana and force the candidates to focus more on Louisiana’s needs. The early primary date will place Louisiana 15th in the list of primaries rather than 32nd and the state will no longer be competing with Texas and Florida for candidates’ attention during the presidential primaries.
  • Candidate Disqualification - ACT 598 (SB 427 Chaisson) - Requires state election officials to disqualify a candidate who signs up to run for more than one office in the same election from all races except the last office for which qualifying papers were filed.
  • Term of Office Changes - ACT 403 (HB 909 Bruneau) - Included in this bill addressing routine changes in state election law is a clause that ties the official beginning of a member of the legislature’s term of office, when that member is elected to fill an unexpired term in a special election, to the date the member takes the oath of office before the full Senate or House. The change effects two current members of the legislature who would be term limited at the end of this term without the change in election law since the delay in the "official" swearing-in date means these two members served less than two years of one term. Generally, a legislator’s term of office elected in a special election begins when the election results are certified and their commission is sworn and signed. However, the state constitution says the members of the legislature judge the qualifications of the membership.

Retirement & Public Employee Issues

  • Retirement Cost of Living Increases - SCR 94 (B. Gautreaux) - Authorizes a 2.4% cost of living increase for most retired state workers. The raise will apply to about 32,000 retired state workers who are members of the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System and are at least 55 and have been retired for at least one year. As required by state law, the raise is funded from better-than-expected return on investments. Retirees last received a raise four years ago. The cost of living rose by 3.4% in 2005 alone.

  • Early Retirement/State Employee Reductions - ACT 672 (HB 45 Triche) - Allows state employees early retirement if at least 50 years old and have ten years of service at a reduced benefit rate. Participants will receive a retirement benefit equal to as much as 2% of their average compensation multiplied by the number of years of creditable service. Only one in every 3 positions left vacant can be refilled in any fiscal year. Certain agencies and departments are exempt from the "no rehire" requirement. To take advantage of the program, employees will have to retire from Jan. 1, 2007 through Dec. 31, 2008. It is estimated that the early retirement, employee reduction measure will save the state about $1 million in the coming year.
  • Retirement Benefit Computation Changes - ACT 780 (HB 922 Schneider) - Beginning July 1, 2006, changes the average compensation calculation period from 36 months to 60 months for new employees in the following retirement systems - assessors, clerks of court, municipal employees, parochial employees, registrars of voters and sheriffs. A series of other bills addressing different issues in the school employees’ retirement system were amended to include school employees in the new calculation requirement.
  • Firefighters’ Survivor Benefits - ACT 480 (HB 586 Greene) - Increases the benefits to the surviving spouse or if there is no spouse, the surviving children of a police officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty from $150,000 to $250,000. Keeps current law that provides an additional $25,000 to each surviving child and $250,000 to designated beneficiary or estate. Makes the changes retroactive to July 11, 2005 to make sure the families of two officers killed in the line of duty last year are eligible for the increased benefits.
  • Public Officials Payraises -
    • ACT 638 (HB 126 Toomy) - Increases the salaries of state judges by nearly 10% over two years. Since sheriffs’ pay is tied to judicial salaries, the measure also increases sheriffs’ pay. The judges’ pay raises amount to between $9000 and $10,000 more a year when the raises are fully implemented. The pay of Louisiana Supreme Court judges will increase to $129,187 from $118,301. The pay of court of appeals judges increases to $122,583 from $112,040 now. The pay of district and municipal judge will increase to $116,400 from $105,780. The cost of the judges’ raises in the coming budget year are $4 million. The Judicial Compensation Commission, which recommended the raises, notes that even with the raises, district judges in Louisiana will still make about $5000 less than the southern regional average. The sheriffs’ salary increases are dependent on local funds.
    • ACT 790 (HB 1178 Toomy) - Increases the salaries of parish assistant district attorneys by $10,000 over two years. The assistant DA’s have not received a state pay raise since 1991. The cost of the raise once fully implemented is $5.8 million.

Gambling Issues -

  • Fair Grounds Race Track Slots - ACT 591 (SB 353 Murray) - Authorizes 700 slot machines, with no required phase-in, at the Fair Grounds race track in New Orleans. As required in current law, the Gaming Control Board has certified that revenues at Harrahs Casino have reached the required level to allow the slot machines at the race track. The measure also increases the allocation of slot revenue from the track for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation from $350,000 to $1 million.

Other Issues -

  • Abortion Prohibition - ACT 467 (SB 33 Nevers) - Prohibits abortions except to save the life of the mother or to prevent substantial risk of death due to a physical condition or to prevent the permanent damage of a life-sustaining organ. There is no exception for rape or incest, although the bill does allow rape and incest victims to seek contraceptive treatment after an attack to try to prevent fertilization. Such treatments are usually administered within 72 hours to be effective. The abortion ban does not take effect unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion procedures. There is already language in Louisiana law that says the state allows abortions only because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that abortions are legal and states that if that ruling is ever overturned then the former policy of prohibiting abortions shall be enforced. Penalties for the person performing the abortion are 1- 10 years in jail and/or fines of $10,000 to $100,000.
  • Ten Commandments Display - ACT 602 (SB 476 Cain) - Authorizes the display of the Ten Commandments, as extracted from the Bible, and other documents of religious historical significance such as the Mayflower Compact in government buildings. The bill is modeled after Texas law that was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States as to the separation of government and religion.
  • Prestige License Plates - ACT 303 (HB 1257 Scalise) - Creates two new prestige license plates, one in support of our troops and one to promote motorcycle awareness and safety. Both tags must have at least 1000 motorists to request the tags before they are issued. The $25 special tag fee for the troops plate will go to Support Our Troops, Inc. The tag fee for the motorcycle tag will finance motorcycle safety programs.
  • State Cultural Poem - ACT 843 (HB 1291 Smiley) - Designates "I Am Louisiana" by Jackson Mississippi radio personality Paul Ott and performed by the late humorist Justin Wilson of Amite as the state’s cultural poem. Louisiana already has an official Senate poem and an official judicial poem.

 



Questions and comments may be directed to websen@legis.la.gov
Baton Rouge, Louisiana.