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Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, asks a question of attorney Winston G. DeCuir Jr, LSU Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, who was answering questions during the Senate Select Committee's third hearing on how LSU officials have handled accusations of fumbling sexual misconduct complaints, etc. Thursday April 8, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La.

Gov. John Bel Edwards Wednesday announced that he signed the third bill in a package passed in reaction to the LSU sexual misconduct scandal.

House Bill 409, sponsored by New Orleans Democratic Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, mandates that whoever hears of the sexual harassment complaint at a public college or university must report it, imposes discipline on those who don’t follow the new rules, details who will staff the offices that handle complaints and specifies how much the universities must pay them.

“Born out of disappointment and frustration over the troubling allegations of sexual misconduct at our state’s flagship university, the bill establishes the framework that strengthens and clarifies Title IX reporting and procedures on our college and university campuses. It ensures that when a student reports such a violation, the Title IX process happens timely and thoroughly and that there are severe penalties in place if it does not,” Edwards said in a statement. Title IX is the federal law that governs the handling of sexual harassment complaints.

Also, among the 16 bills Edwards said he signed includes legislation that makes the official Louisiana song “You Are My Sunshine” and “Southern Nights” the official cultural song.

About 34 bills passed by the Legislature in the recent session still await the governor’s decision. He has signed 478 measures into law.

LSU has reeled from reports that top administrators, particularly in the athletic department, knew of complaints made by women students but did nothing or covered up the conduct. LSU President Tom Galligan, who was not in charge at the time of the incidents, commissioned a law firm to investigate. In the scathing report, the Husch Blackwell law firm named names and detailed widespread coverups.

Les Miles was accused of improper behavior towards female students, which he denies. But the allegations cost him his new job in Kansas. Former LSU President F. King Alexander was forced to resign from his new job at Oregon State on allegations that he covered up some of the reports. The LSU Board of Supervisors fired their longtime law firm and removed the statistics of running back Derrius Guice from LSU record books.

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Some administrators were only suspended briefly, largely because LSU had a confusing set of rules about how to handle sexual harassment complaints and a poorly staffed office to investigate allegations.

Legislators held a series of hearings on the scandal, often eliciting emotional testimony from victims who were harassed while attending LSU.

Sens Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, and Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, each sponsored measures that Edwards signed into law earlier. The new laws require campus police to report sexually-oriented criminal offense data to each institution’s president, chancellor, and Title IX coordinator, then post the compiled information annually on the institution’s website. Also, a Power-Based Violence Review Panel is being created under the jurisdiction of the Board of Regents to evaluate policies of the universities and gather information about the claims and how they were handled.

House Bill 351, now Act 471, was aimed by Rep. Vincent J. Pierre, D-Lafayette, to honor Allen Toussaint, the influential New Orleans pianist, songwriter, and producer.

Toussaint’s songs were covered by some of the most popular groups of the 1970s, '80s and '90s. Country singer Glen Campbell’s version of “Southern Nights,” inspired by Toussaint’s visits with relatives in rural Louisiana, was top seller on both pop and country charts in 1977.

Pierre discovered what many a legislator had learned before: the fastest to start a fight in Louisiana is to proclaim a state song.

But with his signature, Edwards approved the compromise and removed “Give Me Louisiana” as state’s official song, making Gov. Jimmie Davis’ “You Are My Sunshine,” the official state song of Louisiana and “Southern Nights,” the official state cultural song of Louisiana.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.