School bullying bill headed to governor
Legislation designed to curb bullying in Louisiana’s public schools gained final legislative passage Friday.
The Senate voted 37-0 to concur with House changes, sending the measure to the governor’s desk for signing into law.
Senate Bill 764, sponsored by state Sen. Rick Ward III, D-Maringouin, would require the student code of conduct to specifically address behavior constituting bullying; the effect the behavior has on others, including bystanders; and the disciplinary and criminal consequences along with a definition of bullying.
Under the bill, all school employees would have to undergo four hours of training annually with respect to bullying. The training would include how to recognize it, how to identify those most likely to become victims of bullying, procedures for reporting incidents to school officials and information on suicide prevention.
SB764 also contains a provision that spells out that nothing in the proposed law is intended to infringe on the right of a school employee or student to exercise his right of free speech.
Prior to Jan. 1, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, with the state Department of Education, must develop and adopt rules and regulations to implement the new law.
Board appointment plan to go to voters
Louisiana voters will be asked Nov. 6 to approve a proposed constitutional amendment involving the governor’s appointment of members to state boards overseeing higher education, State Civil Service and the State Police Commission.
The Louisiana Senate endorsed House Bill 524, which would alter the way appointments are made in the future. The Senate voted 35-1 for the proposition.
Some or all of the appointments to the boards involved are based on congressional districts. The state is losing one of its seven districts because stagnant population growth over the past decade necessitates a revamp.
If a board currently has seven seats appointed from congressional districts, six of those seats would be appointed from congressional districts and the seventh from the state at large under the proposal, said state Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe.
In the case of the 15-member higher education boards, two members would be appointed from each of the new six congressional districts and three from the state at large. Today, two members are appointed from each of seven congressional districts with one from the state at large.
A companion statutory change, House Bill 768, which lists other nonconstitutionally based boards that would be affected, also won Senate approval.
House forwards plan for vets’ exemption
The Louisiana House endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment Friday that would extend the current property tax exemption for certain disabled veterans and their surviving spouses.
The House voted 95-0 for the measure, returning it to the Senate for concurrence in of a House change.
Current law provides an exemption from property taxes on the first $75,000 of assessed value of homes and an additional $75,000 exemption for homes of veterans with a 100 percent service-related disability. Surviving spouses retain the exemption.
Senate Bill 337 would provide the property tax break to surviving spouses even if the enhanced exemption was not in effect prior to the veteran’s death.
The proposed constitutional amendment would require the spouse claiming the exemption to own and occupy the homestead-exempt property.
House passes college campuses merger
The state House gave final legislative passage Friday to a bill that would merge South Louisiana Community College with several Acadiana-area Louisiana Technical College campuses.
Provided the governor signs Senate Bill 284, SLCC will absorb Louisiana Technical College’s Lafayette, Acadiana, Charles B. Coreil, Evangeline, Gulf Area, T.H. Harris and Teche Area campuses effective July 1.
SLCC’s main campus shares a parking lot with LTC’s Lafayette campus.
Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Joe May said the merger would save the system money through the consolidation of human resources, information technology and accounting departments.
The merger, however, comes with a tuition hike for future technical college students. Current LTC students pay lower tuition than their community college counterparts.
Under SB284, a bill by state Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, current LTC students would be “grandfathered” in at the lower price for two years. Technical college students enrolling two years from now, however, would be required to pay the more expensive community college prices.
Abortion ban makes way to governor
Legislation to ban some abortions in Louisiana cleared the House on Friday.
Senate Bill 766 by Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, targets abortions in which the fetus has the ability to feel pain. Exceptions would be made for unsustainable fetuses and dangerous health conditions that endanger the mother’s life.
The Louisiana House voted 96-0 in favor of the legislation, which now returns to the state Senate for concurrence on changes.
State Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, said fetuses can start feeling pain in the 20th week.
“If an unborn child feels pain, an abortion cannot be done,” he said.
Hoffmann said SB766 would save the lives of more than 100 children a year.
Later in the day, the state Senate voted 38-1 in favor of concurring with the House’s changes, sending the bill to the governor for his signature.
Lawmakers send tax refund bill to Jindal
The Louisiana House gave final legislative approval Friday to a bill that would allow taxpayers to opt against receiving their income tax refunds on debit cards.
House Bill 1092 by state Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, goes to Gov. Bobby Jindal for his signature after the House voted 92-0 in favor of concurring with the Senate’s changes.
Fannin offered the proposal after the state Department of Revenue shifted from paper checks to debit cards for refunds to state taxpayers. Complaints arose that elderly residents found the debit cards confusing.
Under the bill, taxpayers would have a menu of options — check, debit card or direct deposit — for receiving their refunds.
Compiled by the
Capitol news bureau