Bill to parole inmates by age goes to Jindal

A bid to make certain inmates eligible for parole based on their age is headed to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk.

The Senate voted 31-4 in favor of giving final legislative approval to House Bill 138 by state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, Monday.

The legislation would apply to inmates 60 and older who did not commit a sex crime or a crime of violence. They would have to complete certain criteria, including obtaining the equivalent of a high school diploma.

State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, said the legislation would make few inmates in Louisiana prisons eligible for parole.

Death benefit bill for soldiers OK’d

Legislation to give the families of 32 fallen Louisiana soldiers a $250,000 death benefit is pending House concurrence.

The Senate voted 35-0 Monday in favor of House Bill 143 by state Rep. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans.

The bill seeks to correct a mistake that the Legislature made in 2007 when it created benefits for members of the Louisiana National Guard killed or permanently disabled in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The bill omitted soldiers killed or injured between Sept. 11, 2001, and July 6, 2007.

The benefit pays $250,000 for deaths and $100,000 for permanent disabilities.

State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, amended the legislation to make it a duplicate of his own similar legislation, Senate Bill 1.

Senate advances bill on releasing felons

Legislation potentially allowing nonviolent felons to be released from prisons earlier was easily approved Monday by the state Senate.

The legislation still requires House concurrence on technical amendments before heading to the governor’s desk.

House Bill 416 by state Rep. Joseph Lopinto, R-Metairie, would apply to first- and second-offense nonviolent felons like drug dealers, but would not apply to murderers and sex offenders.

State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, said the proposal is about saving the state money and improving the state’s sentencing guidelines.

“This is just a good first step in taking a look at the way we incarcerate people and the costs involved,” Martiny said. “It’s not going to balance the budget.”

Felons have to serve 33 percent of their sentences on first offenses and 50 percent on second offenses before becoming eligible for parole.

Lopinto’s legislation would only require inmates to serve 25 percent of their sentences on first offenses and 33 percent on second offenses to become eligible for parole.

Third-offense felons are not eligible for parole.

The Senate overwhelmingly voted 37-2 to approve the legislation. Only Sens. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, and Jody Amedee, R-Gonzales, voted in opposition.

The legislation follows recommendations from the Louisiana Sentencing Commission.

Housing programs consolidated in bill

The House on Monday altered, then approved, a Senate-passed bill that would consolidate state housing programs.

The House voted 99-0 for the legislation then shipped it back to the Senate for concurrence in House changes.

House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, told representatives that he expects Senate Bill 269 to end up in a House-Senate conference committee to iron out differences between the two chambers.

SB269 creates the Louisiana Housing Corp.

Abolished would be the Louisiana Housing Finance Authority and the Louisiana Land Trust.

The new entity would take over the responsibility to provide access to “decent, safe, sanitary, accessible, and affordable housing” that is currently invested in multiple housing entities.

Ellington will not seek re-election

State Rep. Noble Ellington, R-Winnsboro, announced Monday that he will not seek another term in the House.

“It’s been a great ride,” Ellington told the House.

Ellington was eligible to serve until 2016. However, he said he decided not to try to return for another four years.

Death benefit OK’d for victims’ families

The House endorsed legislation Monday that will provide a death benefit to the families of two state insurance fraud investigators killed while doing their job.

The House voted 97-0 for the Senate-passed legislation and shipped it back to the Senate for concurrence in a minor House change.

Senate Bill 271 would provide a $250,000 benefit to the spouses of investigators Kim Sledge and Rhett Jeansonne and $25,000 for surviving children.