State Capitol Baton Rouge politics

Advocate file photo -- The Louisiana State Capitol.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Convictions of serious felony crimes in Louisiana will require unanimous jury verdicts, “granny cams” could show up in nursing home rooms, and government agencies must have anti-sexual harassment policies, as two dozen state laws take effect Tuesday.

Boat registration fees are growing by $9. The student identification cards issued by Louisiana’s public four-year universities must contain the information needed to be a valid voter ID card. And breast cancer screening mandates for health insurance companies are changing.

Lawmakers approved most of the provisions during their 2018 regular session. The student ID measure won passage in 2016, with a lingering start date to give campuses time to ready for the requirement. The unanimous jury law won overwhelming voter support in November after lawmakers placed the constitutional change on the ballot.

UNANIMOUS JURY VERDICTS

The most high-profile change hitting the books with the start of January ends Louisiana’s Jim Crow-era law that allowed split juries to convict people of serious felony crimes. All jury verdicts for felony offenses committed Tuesday and thereafter will have to be unanimous to convict, leaving Oregon as the only state to allow split-jury verdicts for felonies in the future.

But cases winding their way through Louisiana’s prosecutorial system for crimes committed before 2019 still will be subject to the old rules, which allowed some felonies — including some murder cases — to be resolved when 10 out of 12 jurors agree on a person’s guilt.

Passage of Louisiana’s unanimous jury requirement drew an unlikely, bipartisan coalition of support across the political spectrum, from conservative and religious groups to liberal activists.

GRANNY CAMS IN NURSING HOMES

Louisiana families will be able to install video monitoring systems in their loved ones’ nursing home rooms, to keep track of residents who often can’t speak for themselves. Under the “Nursing Home Virtual Visitation Act,” nursing homes can’t prohibit the cameras or retaliate against residents who want to install them.

Cameras will be voluntary, and several requirements have to be met to use them. Signs must be posted, notifying people of the video monitoring systems. Costs have to be paid by the nursing home patient or family member. Roommates or their legal guardians have to agree to the installation, and if not, the nursing home has to try to move the resident to another room.

Nursing homes have to provide forms to nursing home residents or their legal guardians outlining the ways the cameras can be installed. The state Department of Health sent notices and consent forms to nursing homes in mid-December to distribute to residents and their families.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Though Louisiana’s first government-wide policy against sexual harassment takes effect Tuesday, agencies were encouraged to enact the provisions as soon as Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the measure.

The law requires state and local government agencies to enact anti-sexual-harassment policies that include a process for handling complaints, a ban against retaliation when someone files a complaint, and mandatory prevention training each year.

Agency heads have to compile annual reports documenting the number of employees who have completed the training requirements, the number of sexual harassment complaints received over the last year, and the number of complaints that resulted in disciplinary action. Those reports are due in February and must be made available to the public.

OTHER LAWS

Health insurance plans will have to cover follow-up preventive cancer screenings if a woman has had a bilateral mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis. Those plans also will have to cover a procedure that creates a digital 3D image of a breast for patients getting mammograms.

Many of Louisiana’s college students should be able to use their university ID cards to vote in state elections. The law requires the state’s public higher education system governing boards to ensure the student ID cards that campuses issue meet voter ID requirements. Community and technical colleges are excluded from the requirement.