After four straight years of defeats, a bid to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act is back on the legislative agenda Wednesday.
The law, which breezed through the Legislature in 2008, was touted as a way to promote wide-open discussions in public school classrooms, especially on evolution.
But critics have complained since then that the measure actually allows for the teaching of creationism — the view that life began about 6,000 years ago as described in the Bible’s book of Genesis.
The fifth repeal plan — Senate Bill 74 — is supposed to get a hearing in the Senate Education Committee after the Senate’s Wednesday morning adjournment.
Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, as in the past, is the sponsor.
One twist this time is language in the proposal that says it can be called the “Intelligent Outcomes Wanted Act,” or IOWA.
That appears to be a dig at Gov. Bobby Jindal, who backs the law and is a frequent visitor to Iowa while he weighs a possible bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Peterson, who is also chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, did not return telephone calls Tuesday left at the party office, or her Baton Rouge or New Orleans offices.
The repeal push this time follows four consecutive years of failure in the same committee, which means its legislative journey has never gotten past the initial stop.
The repeal bid has collected a total of five committee votes in four years.
A similar proposal failed last year 1-3 despite the annual, fervent pleas of some college students, professors and high school science teachers.
Previously, 78 Nobel laureates signed a written denunciation of the measure, which was sponsored by state Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa.
Nevers, who is ending his 17-year career in the Legislature this year, said Tuesday that he is not aware of any court challenges on the law since it was enacted in 2008.
“There are a number of people that seem to think it is offensive, but I can tell you the bill is very plain,” he said.
“There are no secret codes, and no secret wording was involved in the legislation,” Nevers said. “Some people seem to think there was an ulterior motive from my standpoint.”
Jindal remains in support of the law.
“The purpose of the law is to promote the discussion of different views,” Kyle Plotkin, the governor’s chief of staff, said in a prepared statement.
One thing has changed since last year.
State Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, has left the seven-member panel and been replaced by state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans.
Whether that will help get the measure out of committee is unclear.
Morrell did not return a call for comment.
One thing that has not changed is that, according to the state Department of Education, no one has filed a complaint citing the law on how science classes are being taught.
The key part of the statute allows teachers to use supplemental materials “that promote critical thinking skills, logical analysis and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied,” including evolution.
Backers say that means students can have academic discussions without worries that educators will run afoul of what can and cannot be argued.
Opponents view the law as making it appear that evolution is still under debate in Louisiana.
Leaders of a national science group crossed off New Orleans as a possible meeting site for their national convention in 2011 because they said the law could turn the teaching of evolution upside down.
The bill is set to get a hearing on the second week of a two-month session dominated by the state’s $1.6 billion shortfall to keep state spending at current levels.
Opponents of another bill that touches on religion — a House measure touted as protecting individual rights on issues like same-sex marriage — say such measures have no place on the 2015 legislative agenda amid time-consuming state financial problems.
Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.