Debate over Louisiana’s finances and a spending road map for state government operations next year won’t be settled when the regular legislative session ends Monday, instead lingering into a follow-up special session.
But lawmakers have decided hundreds of other issues in the three-month session that started in mid-March, sifting through a pile of bills that topped 1,600.
New limits have been placed on abortion that will require most women to wait 72 hours for the procedure and will ban a commonly used second-trimester procedure, called dilation and evacuation.
Public school students will have to learn cursive writing, starting in the 2017-18 school year. Sex offenders won’t be able to work in door-to-door sales. Penalties for possessing and using drug paraphernalia will drop, while fines for disobeying state laws that ban texting or posting to social media sites while driving will grow. Underage drinkers won’t face jail time when they get caught in possession of an alcoholic beverage.
Hate-crime laws will now protect police, firefighters and emergency medical crews. State agencies will be prohibited from asking job applicants about their criminal histories before interviewing them for a position. Strip clubs won’t be able to hire dancers under the age of 21.
Monthly pension checks will grow for thousands of retired state employees, public school workers and teachers. More than 50 New Orleans’ public schools currently under state control will return to the oversight of the local school board. And Louisiana’s neighborhood lemonade stands will soon be off-limits for ticketing.
Lawmakers also agreed to expand Louisiana’s medical marijuana program and made regulatory changes aimed at speeding access to the therapeutic drug into patients’ hands in the next couple of years.
For bills once rejected by Bobby Jindal, legislators called for a do-over.
They passed two bills similar to those vetoed by the Republican former governor, after the issues got support from Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. Drivers will soon be able to get a REAL ID-compliant license, ending questions about whether they’ll have difficulty boarding domestic flights in a few years. And they again voted to create regulations governing surrogacy births in the state.
Rather than what the House and Senate passed, the longer list may contain the bills they stalled or killed outright.
Louisiana won’t wade into the debate over local removals of Confederate monuments, won’t penalize so-called “sanctuary cities” that don’t enforce federal immigration law and won’t create a pilot program allowing law enforcement to automatically scan motorists’ license plates. Helmets will still be required for motorcycle riders.
State senators refused to enact a new law declaring that pastors and churches don’t have to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies or allow them in their facilities. Lawmakers in the House spurned most efforts to give local tax assessors car allowances on top of their six-figure salaries.
An attempt to boost wellness exams for public school students failed to gain support. The House refused to require facilities that break state and federal environmental guidelines to line their fences with air monitors. Lawmakers didn’t enact new anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community.
The state’s academic institutions won’t study industrial hemp. Raw milk still won’t be sold from farmers to the public. Metal detectors won’t be required at Louisiana’s movie theaters. And felons won’t get the right to vote as soon as they exit prison.
Much of Edwards’ legislative agenda foundered. Louisiana won’t raise its minimum wage to $8.50 or widen an equal pay law to sweep in private businesses, as the governor wanted.
His proposals to put new limits on charter school expansion and the state’s voucher program largely stalled.
As lawmakers wrap up their regular session work Monday and 30 minutes later kick off a special session on the budget and taxes, they’ll significantly pare down the topics on the table.
And they’ll know that when hunting season opens in a few months, they could help create a new Louisiana trend. The House and Senate agreed to add “blaze pink” as an alternative to the traditional “hunter orange” that hunters are required to wear under state law.
Melinda Deslatte covers Louisiana politics for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter, @melindadeslatte.