As chairman of the Sustainable Food Council a few years ago, state Rep. Scott Simon noticed a nagging problem when he visited rural parts of Louisiana. Fast-food options dotted a landscape barren of farmers markets offering fresh fruit and vegetables.
“These are food islands. You can’t find a roadside food stand, but you can sure find a McDonald’s or a Burger King,” he said.
Simon, R-Abita Springs, hopes his House Bill 1270 changes the menu options for the state’s rural residents. The bill — which Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed into law — aims to stimulate local, small-scale food production by easing the regulations on jams, jellies, baked goods, dried mixes and other homemade products. Simon hopes it encourages people to open farmers markets and roadside stands.
“There’s a serious lack of nutritional foods, especially in the rural pockets,” he said.
HB775 is one of a number of bills aimed at the average Joe. For every proposal helping an industry or business or targeting just one person or a specific 550-pound tiger, there are dozens more with widespread impact.
Some bills still await the governor’s signature — or veto. Others already have been signed into law.
Legislators tinkered with auto insurance, property taxes, hunting and fishing licenses, water skiing, Christmas pageants, smoking and driver’s licenses. They addressed what should happen when your car overstays its welcome in a pay-to-park lot, how you should travel with your dog on the interstate and how old you should be before you stretch out in a tanning bed.
Senate Bill 654 would allow you to get a beer with your bucket of popcorn at a movie theater. The governor still is deliberating on it. The Legislature had a tough time with the bill, even though nearly half a dozen movie theaters in Louisiana already sell alcohol at the concession stand. They received their liquor permits prior to Jan. 1, 1994. SB654 would allow other commercial film theaters to sell low-alcoholic-content beverages as long as they get local and state permits.
House Bill 1252 would change the driver’s license renewal from every four years to every six years. HB1252 and the Senate’s version, Senate Bill 582, still are on the governor’s desk awaiting a decision.
Under the bills, renewing a driver’s license still would cost roughly $5 a year, as it does now. Motorists just would fork over extra money when they renew — beginning July 1, 2015, if signed into law — because the license would last an extra two years. For the average personal driver’s license, the cost would be $32.25 instead of $24.50. The cost excludes a service fee in some areas.
House Bill 1082 would slap an extra $7.50 on saltwater fishing licenses purchased between June 1, 2014, and May 31, 2018. The additional money would go into the Saltwater Fish Research and Conservation Fund. The governor hasn’t signed the bill into law.
House Bill 1072 goes the opposite direction and offers a bargain to Louisiana residents or natives who are retired from the U.S. armed forces, the Louisiana National Guard or the Louisiana Air National Guard. They can pick up a retired-military hunting and fishing license for $5. The license — which has been signed into law — encompasses all hunting and fishing privileges. Regular citizens must pay $91 for similar privileges.
Legislators also thought of military widows and widowers, deciding through House Bill 344 that they should only pay $2.50 for hunting licenses and permits if their spouse is killed in combat. The surviving spouses would pay only $2.50 for recreational and saltwater fishing licenses as well. The bill now is state law.
Smoking would be prohibited within 25 feet of a number of state buildings if Jindal signs House Bill 168. The governor also needs to make a decision on Senate Bill 514, which would prohibit smoking within 200 feet of the entrances, exits or outdoor areas of any public or private elementary or secondary school. If your house is within 200 feet of the schoolroom door, no worries. The bill excludes that scenario.
Legislators also sent the governor:
- House Bill 1251 to allow motor vehicle inspection checks when it’s raining. Jindal signed it.
- House Bill 876 to allow public schools to display Christmas nativity scenes as long as they include more than one religion and a secular symbol in the presentation. Jindal signed it.
- House Bill 1091 to prohibit dogs from riding loose in the backs of pickups on interstates. The governor is still deliberating.
- House Bill 180 to authorize Montessori programs to extend through high school. Jindal signed it.
- House Bill 746 to ban those under 18 from using tanning beds. Jindal signed it.
- House Bill 347 to exempt boat trailers from needing inspection stickers. Jindal signed it.
- House Bill 929 to put restrictions on the booting of cars on private property. Jindal is still deliberating.
During the legislative session, legislators also found time to tackle specialty license plates. They advanced legislation creating plates for hunters, golfers, Army Rangers, gardeners, gun rights advocates, animal lovers, future farmers and others.
Follow Michelle Millhollon on Twitter, @mmillhollon. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/ politicsblog.