Rosemary Watson, of Baton Rouge, celebrated her 16th birthday Tuesday by getting her driver’s license.
Watson arrived at the Office of Motor Vehicles on Independence Boulevard at 8 a.m. More than eight hours later, she still was in line to get her photograph taken for a new license.
The culprit for the long wait was a piece of legislation that becomes law on Wednesday.
Tuesday was the last day for many first-time drivers to get a license without completing added instruction hours.
Rick Pizzolato, office manager at the Independence Boulevard Office of Motor Vehicles, said the law change created a rush for licenses Tuesday, resulting in long waits, an increased workday for the office’s employees and two minor accidents in the parking lot.
“Parents are rushing to bring kids in. Kids are not prepared,” he said.
Louisiana adds more than 500 new laws to the books on Wednesday. Legislators drew inspiration from the state’s forefathers, headlines and accident statistics involving teen-age drivers.
March is “Irish-American Heritage Month” in Louisiana. The pirogue is the official state boat.
“This being our 200th anniversary it just went hand in hand with the fact that the pirogue was extremely important in those early times,” said state Rep. Bubba Chaney, R-Rayville.
Other changes include:
- Subjecting parents or guardians to up to 50 years in prison for failing to report the disappearance of a child who later is found dead. The new law stems from Florida prosecutors’ failure to convict Casey Anthony of murder in her daughter’s death.
- Making the killing of a taxicab driver punishable by the death penalty, regardless of whether robbery can be tied to the crime.
- Tweaking mandated health insurance coverage for children with autism to raise the age expiration from 17 to 21.
- Changing the legal process for dealing with so-called “legacy lawsuits” that seek millions of dollars in damage claims and that oil and gas companies claim are stymieing energy exploration in the state.
- Banning certain sex offenders from Facebook and other social networking websites. The ban tweaks an earlier law thrown out by a federal judge.
One new law bans abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, except in limited medical cases where the mother’s life is in danger. Another new law forbids anyone who is not a licensed doctor in the state to perform an abortion here.
Another new law requires a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy to get an ultrasound 24 hours before the procedure and she must be offered the ability to hear the fetal heartbeat.
“This law builds upon the ultrasound before abortion,” said state Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge and chief sponsor of one of the bills.
“With our body of law, Louisiana definitely is considered the most pro-life state in the country,” said Benjamin Clapper, executive director of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation.
“We can pass more laws in the atmosphere we have to further restrict abortion, but to ban abortion we have to wait for the federal government and the Supreme Court to allow us,” he added.
A law stemming from legislation sponsored by state Rep. Tony Ligi, R-Metairie, outlaws the sale of dogs and cats along highways and at public playgrounds, flea markets and retail parking lots unless an animal welfare group is sponsoring the transaction. Violators face a fine up to $250.
“Basically, we hope it’s going to help curb the pet overpopulation problem,” Ligi said.
Ligi said many of the pet purchases are impulse buys that end up with the animals going to shelters.
Another new law allows school systems to punish parents who refuse to participate in a parent-teacher conference deemed necessary by a teacher.
State Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, said the conference can take place in person or by phone.
He said one punishment idea is to publish the names of parents who refuse to comply in a local newspaper.
The goal, Long said, is to put a little pressure on parents and guardians.
“Teachers were calling me and they were obviously upset that the burden of everything seemingly fell on their shoulders,” he said.