“Praise the Lord,” state Rep. Patricia Smith said Wednesday after Gov. Bobby Jindal signed her legislation that possibly could free some elderly inmates.
“I just didn’t know what he was going to do,” said Smith, D-Baton Rouge.
The governor is working his way through the hundreds of bills that made it to his desk from the two-month legislative session that ended June 23.
The latest batch of bills to get his signature includes Smith’s House Bill 138 as well as legislation creating breastfeeding areas in state buildings and a crime prevention district in Broadmoor neighborhood.
Smith worked for several years to pass the proposal in HB138. The legislation makes certain offenders eligible for parole once they reach their 60th birthday.
The proposal comes with several strings. Offenders cannot be violent offenders or sex crime offenders. They must serve at least 10 years in prison, achieve the equivalency of a high school diploma and behave themselves in prison.
“What I hope it achieves is for those individuals who are incarcerated right now who have not gathered all the criteria, that it gives them hope,” Smith said.
The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates the bill currently applies to 15 offenders. Freeing those 15, the office determined, could save the state $136,054 annually.
Jindal also signed Senate Bill 80 despite criticism from his office of key provisions in the measure. The legislation puts into state law the recent reorganization of the state Department of Education.
But it also requires state Senate confirmation of two additional department employees, which Jindal’s office said earlier could interfere with school reform efforts.
One of the jobs is held by Erin Bendily, who is chief of department support. The other post is held by Rayne Martin, who is chief of innovation. Both are paid $140,000 per year.
The governor also signed:
House Bill 174 by state Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, to allow visually impaired truck drivers to haul non-hazardous materials. The drivers would have to have at least 20/40 vision in one eye and be able to distinguish traffic signal colors.
House Bill 292 by state Rep. Jim Morris, R-Oil City, to continue a $1 driver’s license fee. The money will be used for litter abatement.
House Bill 313 by state Rep. Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs, to require state buildings to provide breastfeeding and lactation stations for nursing women.
House Bill 485 by state Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, to create a crime prevention and improvement district in Broadmoor subdivision. The district would be able to collect an annual fee of up to $100 per parcel.
House Bill 628 by state Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, to allow the state’s dental school and medical schools to increase tuition and fees by up to 5 percent a year for five years.
Will Sentell contributed to this report.