Senate rejects bid to repeal science act

The state Senate overwhelmingly rejected an attempt Monday to repeal the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act.

Debate on the act, which critics claim promotes the teaching of creationism, ignited during discussion of Senate Bill 205. SB205 deals with foreign language immersion programs in public school districts.

State Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, tried to tack on an amendment repealing the science education act.

“Louisiana made a huge mistake in 2008. Join with me in rejecting the bill passed in 2008,” Peterson said.

The Senate spurned her proposal, with five legislators voting for the amendment and 32 voting against it.

‘Coerced abortion’ bill heads to Senate

A bill aimed at prohibiting abortions for women under age 18 and against their will won approval Monday in the Louisiana House.

The measure, House Bill 278, would add “coerced abortion” onto the list of actions that constitute child abuse.

The House passed the measure 92-0 and sent it to the Senate for further action.

State Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs and sponsor of the bill, said in a recent case the parents of a 16-year-old girl forcibly took her to Florida and Mississippi to undergo an abortion that her parents favored and the teenager opposed.

Hodges said when officials sought to help the girl they were told the abortion efforts were not against the law.

“This would have given the authorities the ability to issue a restraining order until there was a judicial hearing for a judge to decide if it was in the best interest of the child to have an abortion,” she said.

House advances bill on textbook choice

Legislation that would give local school districts new discretion in picking textbooks was approved Monday by the state House.

The vote was 73-22.

The proposal, House Bill 116, next faces action in the Senate.

Under current rules, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education prescribes textbooks used by school systems statewide.

Under the bill, BESE would issue recommended textbooks for math, science, social studies and English but local school authorities would have the final say.

“This puts the responsibility on local school systems,” said state Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe and sponsor of the legislation.

Hoffmann noted that local education authorities still would be required to meet state school standards.

State Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Dubberly, said some House members were concerned that the bill could pave the way for controversial books on evolution and other topics to enter the classroom.

“That is not what this is about,” Hoffmann replied. “I guarantee you that is not my purpose in bringing this act.”

House rejects plan to redistrict BR court

The Louisiana House rejected Monday an attempt to change the racial makeup of the city court in Baton Rouge.

State Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, sought to alter the five districts so three would be predominantly black and two predominantly white in House Bill 318.

Williams said the city’s racial makeup is now more than 50 percent black and the court membership should reflect it.

The House voted 40 in favor and 48 against the proposal.

Retirement plan request clears hurdle

A state Senate panel advanced a House-passed measure that seeks delay for a year of the July 1 implementation of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s cash-balance pension plan for new hires.

The Senate Retirement Committee, without objection, sent House Concurrent Resolution 2, sponsored by state Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Houma, to the Senate floor for further action.

The 401(k)-type pension plan is under court challenge over failing to get the two-thirds vote constitutionally required. The state also has not received a ruling from the IRS on the Social Security equivalency of the plan.

Similar legislation, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, already has passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the House. That resolution is by state Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette.

Compiled by the Capitol news bureau

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