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Jun 06, 2013
Governor Jindal Highlights 2013 Legislative Package Successes

BATON ROUGE – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal highlighted successes from the 2013 Regular Legislative Session. 

The below legislation from the Governor’s package was approved by the Legislature during the 2013 Regular Legislative Session:

Mental Health and Gun Safety

SB 135 by Senator Neil Riser requires increased reporting standards to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database. This legislation will help keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill while maintaining confidentiality of individuals’ mental health records. Increased reporting standards will include individuals who are ineligible to purchase firearms based on their involuntary commitment to an inpatient mental facility, found not guilty by reason of insanity, found not competent to stand trial or convicted of a violent crime. This legislation also establishes a mechanism that allows an individual whose mental illness diagnosis has been reversed to regain their right to possess a firearm through a petition to the court. 

*Representative Henry Burns authored identical legislation (HB 717) that will also be signed into law.

Sentencing Reforms 

HB 442 by Representative Joe Lopinto significantly increases access to drug treatment for drug offenders. This legislation removes certain eligibility restrictions on consideration for the judicial Drug Court probation program and administratively expands the use of mandatory substance abuse treatment for eligible non-violent, non-sex drug offenders by authorizing the Department of Corrections (DOC) to create a DOC-managed substance abuse probation program. For similar but currently incarcerated offenders, the legislation also incentivizes treatment by offering early release and intensive parole supervision to first and second, non-violent, non-sex offenders who have served two years, are within one year of release and have successfully completed a 90-day drug treatment program. This reform is smart on crime by ensuring that offenders whose offense is related to their substance abuse receive the treatment they need, which will lower recidivism rates and reduce Louisiana’s prison population.

Juvenile Justice Reform 

SB 107 by Senator Rick Ward creates a structural outline for a transition to an integrated case management system. This legislation allows for proactive treatment of youth who are involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems (“crossover youth”). An integrated case management system will build on the Coordinated System of Care (CSOC) created in 2011 for youth with severe mental illness by completing the continuum of care for non-secure, secure and child welfare populations. This will improve outcomes, reduce costs and focus on proactive instead of reactive intervention.

Veterans 

SB 32 by Senator A.G. Crowe assists in identifying rehabilitative resources available to veteran offenders at sentencing. The legislation helps veterans access veteran-specific mental health or substance abuse services by granting judges, when sentencing veteran defendants, the authority to require that the Department of Corrections partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify existing support programs. This will help ensure the opportunity exists to offer mental health and/or substance abuse treatment specifically tailored for veteran offenders if treatment is appropriate, ultimately helping to reduce recidivism rates among Louisiana’s veteran population.

SB 60 by Senator Robert Adley cracks down on individuals or entities posing as veterans or veteran owned businesses to receive special benefits or privileges afforded to veterans. Currently, the federal government, states and many private sector companies administer programs that give preference to doing business with veteran-owned businesses. This legislation will protect veteran-owned businesses from fraudulent competition by criminalizing the impersonation of a veteran or disabled veteran-owned company as a misdemeanor.  Deterring fraudulent impersonation will prevent the state from designating preferential status for contracts to non-veteran-owned businesses, saving valuable taxpayer dollars. Additionally, the bill will also protect individual veterans by prohibiting impostors intending to fraudulently secure any special privilege or advantage from posing as veterans.  

SB 72 by Senator Francis Thompson and Representative Henry Burns helps protect grieving families of veterans by creating a buffer zone that prohibits the disruption or obstruction of a funeral procession, funeral or burial. Under the bill, protests within 300 feet of a funeral, memorial service or burial are prohibited, and any obstructions within 500 feet of the event are also prohibited. In addition, protests or any disruptive behavior on procession routes to the funeral, memorial service or burial are barred. The protective buffer zone will be effective from two hours before the service until two hours after the service, and SB 72 raises the fine for disruption of funeral and memorial services and routes from $100 to up to $500.

HB 312 by Representative Nick Lorusso helps returning service members, veterans and their spouses who have relocated come back to Louisiana by extending the time periods for renewing their state or professional licenses. Currently, the requirements for payment of a license fee, reinstatement fee and continuing education are suspended just 90 days for service men and women after their release from service or discharge from active duty. In addition, the spouses of military service members who must relocate out of the country are not afforded any extension upon their return. Under the bill, the 90-day limit is extended to 180 days for service members and veterans, and military spouses who relocated overseas with their loved ones will be afforded the same 180-day window for license renewal, reinstatement or continuing education. 

Public Safety 

HB 145 by Representative Jay Morris clarifies that out of state sex offenders, who are given lifetime sex offender registration status in a different state, are subject to the same number of in-person renewals as those sex offenders who are given lifetime registration status under Louisiana law. This legislation will help keep our communities safe by ensuring that sex offenders are properly identified and registered.

HB 167 by Representative Simone Champagne requires Louisiana State Police to include an arrest record for sex offenses and crimes of violence and a complete conviction record in background checks requested by postsecondary institutions. This legislation will decrease the likelihood that college students and high school students on college campuses are exposed to university employees who are sex offenders or violent offenders.

Streamlining Government 

HB 629 by Representatives Chris Broadwater and Ted James establishes the office of debt recovery at the Department of Revenue for the collection of delinquent debts owed to certain governmental entities. This legislation will strengthen and enhance the collection of debts owed to the state by centralizing debt collection through the creation of the Centralized Recovery Unit (CRU) within the Louisiana Department of Revenue, which will collect state debt alongside the Attorney General’s office. These collection reforms are expected to generate savings for the state by as much as $158 million over the next five years.

HB 156 by Representative Clay Schexnayder abolishes certain boards and commissions and provides for legislative review of boards and commissions that fail to report required financial information. This legislation will help reduce the size and scope of state government and create greater financial accountability.

Early Childhood Education Reform 

SB 222 by Senator Mike Walsworth updates the licensing of early childhood learning centers and childcare facilities to bring this regulatory process in line with the new Early Childhood Care and Education Network. Providers that receive public funds other than food and nutrition will be moved to a new licensing classification called Type III.  This classification maintains current health and safety regulations while being less burdensome to providers, recognizing that these providers are held to a higher bar for quality through the Network. Other types of licenses will be transitioned to a numerical type for clarification purposes, but will see no change health and safety or programmatic regulations.

Environmental Regulation Reform 

SB 139 by Senator Rick Ward and Representative Karen St. Germain helps ensure industry compliance and public safety by increasing the potential fines for violating any regulation or order regarding the creation or use of underground caverns. The current maximum fine of $5,000 per day for a violation is raised to a maximum of $32,500 a day, and a company can be also be fined up to $50,000 a day for failing to comply with orders from the State. The civil penalty may also include unpaid state costs associated with response to violations. For intentional violations that result in irreparable environmental damages or that endanger human health, a penalty of $1 million may be 
issued.

HB 493 by Representative Karen St. Germain and Senator Rick Ward requires stricter regulations on the creation or use of underground caverns. This bill sets out guidelines for the assessment and monitoring of areas in and around salt domes as well as the duties and responsibilities of permit holders to provide support and assistance during evacuations. The bill also expands upon DNR rules proposed in February, which include requiring all cavern operators to conduct appropriate tests to prove mechanical and structural integrity, such as Mechanical Integrity Tests (MIT) and sonar surveys. The proposed rules would also require that all solution-mined caverns have a minimum boundary of 300 feet from the edge of salt. Three hundred feet is currently required for exploration and production waste disposal caverns. The proposed rules also deal with closure, plug-and-abandonment and post-closure activities and monitoring for solution-mined caverns.

HB 494 by Representative Karen St. Germain protects buyers of property bordering underground caverns by requiring property disclosures and the filling of formal notices. A property disclosure statement must specify whether a cavern lies under the property or the property is within half a mile of a cavern well, and a cavern owner must file a notice with clerk of court identifying the location of the cavern. 

Strengthening Families 

SB 220 by Senators Mike Walsworth and Rick Ward codifies existing regulations to provide for assistance with educational needs for adopted children, grant subsidies to assist families with adoption costs and expedite the judicial process in adoption proceedings. Under the bill, kids will be allowed to stay in the school they are currently attending when adopted for the duration of the school year, and they will be granted the opportunity to enroll in a new school in their new home district the following year. In addition, the state will subsidize the adoption of children with special needs—including maintenance costs, medical and surgical costs and other costs associated with the care, training or educational needs of that child. Lastly, wait times for finalizing adoptions will be shortened by applying waiting periods retroactively, waiving home study periods in certain instances and expediting the judicial process for prospective parents who have been previously approved for foster care.  

Protecting Life 

HB 278 by Representative Valerie Hodges adds the coercion of a female child to undergo an abortion to the definition for child abuse. This bill defines “coerced abortion” as the use of force, intimidation, threat of force, threat of deprivation of food and shelter, or the deprivation of food and shelter by a parent or any other person in order to compel a female child to undergo an abortion against her will.

SB 90 by Senator Fred Mills institutes protections for women who are administered a drug or chemical to induce an abortion. The bill requires a physician licensed in obstetrics and gynecology to be physically present when a patient is administered a drug or chemical to induce an abortion.  It also requires that the doctor give the patient instructions to return for a follow-up appointment to assess the woman's medical condition. Any person who knowingly or negligently performs or attempts to perform an abortion without complying with proposed legislation will be subject to a fine of no more than $1,000, per incident, imprisoned for not more than two years, or both.

 
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