Foreign adversaries couldn’t buy Louisiana property under proposal

Published: May 24, 2023

By: Allison Allsop, LSU Manship News Service

Louisiana State Representative Valarie Hodges speaks on the Louisiana State Capitol steps on Tuesday, March 21, 2023, during a rally against the arrest of Donald Trump. (Photo by Matthew Perschall)

The House passed a bill 78-22 Tuesday that would prohibit certain foreign adversaries or people connected to them from acquiring immovable property in Louisiana.

House Bill 537, authored by Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, caused a stir at a recent committee hearing with many people protesting that it would allow landlords and home sellers to deny access to immigrants from countries deemed adversaries.

The bill lists China, Hong Kong, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela under the leadership of President Nicholas Maduro as adversaries.

The bill was amended several times both by the committee and on the House floor to address the concerns.

Read more at Louisiana Illuminator

Bill advances to restrict minors’ access to explicit library material

Published: May 24, 2023

By: Claire Sullivan, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. — As controversy swells in Louisiana over library content, the House Committee on Education voted 8-3 Tuesday to advance a bill that would require public libraries to limit minors’ access to sexually explicit material.

Under the bill, authored by Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, libraries would have to create card systems through which parents would decide whether their child could check out explicit material. Cloud pitched her bill as protecting parental rights.

Libraries would also have to take community standards into consideration when acquiring materials for minors. Critics worry this would target LGBTQ content, which has been a major source of opposition at local library control meetings.

Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican running for governor, was at the hearing to support the bill. As libraries have become political battlegrounds in Louisiana, Landry has pushed to restrict children’s access to material.

Landry released a “Protecting Innocence” report in February that included book excerpts he described as “extremely graphic sexual content.” The books included “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson and “The Bluest Eye” by Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison.

Read more at KTBS

Bill that aims to allow survivors to track their rape kits advances legislature

Published: May 23, 2023

By: Allison Allsop and Jenna Bridges, LSU Manship School News Service

Photo by: Francis Dinh/LSU Manship School News Service
Sen. Beth Mizell wants to require criminal justice officials to track rape kits more closely.

BATON ROUGE, La. — A House committee passed a bill Monday that would require the state to create a sexual assault collection kit tracking system.

The system would indicate the location and status of rape kits throughout the stages of the criminal justice process.

Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, presented Senate Bill 169, saying it would put Louisiana on the same level as 40 other states who have similar programs. Mizell placed a rape kit in front of her as she presented the bill.

“We are outliers, as we are in many things, but we are outliers in the way we handle rape kits and sexual assaults from that point,” Mizell said about tracking the kits.

Meanwhile, in another part of the Capitol, the Senate Finance Committee was hearing from domestic violence shelters about their lack of funding.

Read more at KATC

House committee passes bill to expand free school meals

Published: May 22, 2023

By: Jenna Bridges | LSU Manship School News Service

(Metro Creative Services)

BATON ROUGE — A House committee advanced a bill that would provide free breakfast and lunch for K-12 students who are eligible for reduced-price meals.

Rep. Kyle M. Green Jr., D-Marrero, and Stephanie Loup from the Louisiana Department of Education presented HB 282 to the House Appropriations Committee Monday.

“We have children in certain school districts whose parents meet an income threshold where they qualify for reduced (price) lunch,” Green said. “What I don’t want to have is that unfortunate situation where a child could be denied a decent meal simply because their parents weren’t able to pay.”

Currently, students who qualify for reduced-price meals pay about 70 cents a day. That adds up to about $14 per month for breakfast and lunch.

Loup said the bill would remove the copay for students who eat reduced-price school meals. It would cost the state about $860,000 per year. The money would have to be appropriated each year through the Legislature. If it receives final approvals, Green said, the bill would go into effect starting with the 2023-2024 school year.

Read more at American Press

Bill advances to let parents opt into corporal punishment at schools

Published: May 18, 2023

By: Claire Sullivan, LSU Manship School News Service

Credit: Sengchoy Int –

BATON ROUGE, La. — The Senate Committee on Education advanced several bills Thursday, including one prohibiting schools from disciplining students with physical force unless the parents give written consent for corporal punishment to be used. 

The committee also advanced bills to grant civil immunity for teachers breaking up fights, encourage Bible classes in public schools, and to require all public schools to display “In God We Trust” signs in classrooms. 

Current state law allows public school teachers, principals and administrators to use corporal punishment on students, including “hitting, paddling, striking, spanking, slapping, or any other physical force that causes pain or physical discomfort,” 

But use is up to the discretion of the school districts, and 27 of Louisiana’s 46 school systems ban corporal punishment, The Advocate reported in 2022. 

House Bill 242, advanced Thursday would prohibit the general use of corporal punishment at all schools, but it would allow parents to sign a form saying school officials could physically discipline their child.  

Read more at WWL-TV

Louisiana surplus swells as revenue predictions increase by $483 million for 2024

Published: May 18, 2023

By: Allison Allsop, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. — A $483 million increase in revenue for the state’s general spending fund is now being estimated for 2024, adding to a giant pile of money that the state Legislature has at its disposal.

Under the new projections, the state’s general fund also will take in $323.4 million more than previously expected in the current fiscal year, bringing the total surplus from the last two years to over $2.1 billion.

The new projection was made Thursday by the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference. It updated revenue forecasts for both the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and for next year.

The increased projections come as the House and the Senate are split over what to do with all the extra money.

Under a formula that places a cap on spending, the Legislature could only spend $500 million of the surplus funds in fiscal year 2024 on recurring budget items, and the additional revenue forecasted Thursday will not increase the cap.

Read more at WWL-TV

House approves free menstrual products in schools

Published: May 18, 2023

By: Allison Allsop, LSU Manship School News Service

(Francis Dinh/LSU Manship School News Service)

BATON ROUGE–The House passed a bill 79-17 Wednesday that would provide free menstrual products to students in public schools.

House Bill 117 would require public schools to provide free tampons and pads in easily accessible locations. Charter schools are exempt from the bill.

The Legislature would have to approve funding each year for the bill to be in effect that year.

The funding for the products would come from the state’s general fund. Schools may provide the products in bathrooms, offices or other locations.

Read more at The Houma Times

House panel calls for registry of people who hit children

Published: May 17, 2023

By: Piper Naudin, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE–The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice moved a bill
forward that would create a registry of people who commit battery against minors.

Rep. Troy D. Romero, R-Jennings, proposed House Bill 31 to protect children. Terry Mann
tearfully testified how he had discovered after two weeks of intensive medical care that his 7-year-old grandson had suffered from two skull fractures.

He said the bill was necessary to protect children from people who might harm them.

Sarah Whittington, an attorney for the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana, testified in opposition. She said the bill would be ineffective in protecting children because all the information that it attempts to publicize is already available to law enforcement officers.

Read more at Bossier Press-Tribune

Louisiana’s $50 billion coastal plan heads toward approval

Published: May 17, 2023

By: Claire Sullivan, LSU Manship School News Service

(Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority photo)

Louisiana’s most recent plan to restore and protect its coast at a cost of $50 billion advanced Wednesday through the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment.

The coastal master plan is updated by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority every six years, as required by state law. It lays out the 50-year future for Louisiana’s coast in terms of coastal land loss and flood risk–with and without its implementation.

The plan represents a vital need in a state that has lost more than 2,000 square miles of land, an area the size of Delaware, since the 1930s, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Louisiana’s problems are exacerbated by devastating hurricanes and rising seas from climate change.

Though the coastal plan rests on the latest science and engineering, it also emerges from a highly public process. The coastal authority received more than 200 public comments and held close to 100 public meetings in South Louisiana about the plan, the coastal protection board’s chairman, Kyle R. “Chip” Kline Jr., said.

Read more at Louisiana Illuminator

Plan advances to test for virus in infants with hearing loss

Published: May 17, 2023

By: Molly Ryan, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE – A bill that would, in certain circumstances, require newborns to get tested
for cytomegalovirus, or CMV, cleared another hurdle Wednesday as it advanced out of the
Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

House Bill 643, also known as “Journie’s Law,” requires newborns in Louisiana who fail their
hearing tests to be screened for CMV, a common virus that can lie dormant and be passed from mother to child during pregnancy. It can have serious health implications for children if it goes undetected.

Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Bossier, the bill’s author, said a failed hearing test is an immediate sign an infant may have the virus. The bill is named after one of Horton’s constituents, Journie, who was not tested for the virus after failing her hearing test.

Journie is now blind, has cerebral palsy and needs to be fed with a feeding tube. Horton said
Journie could be walking and talking if the virus had been detected earlier.

Read more at Bossier Press-Tribune