Senate panel OKs EBR jail funding plan

Legislation that would provide a funding source to establish a misdemeanor jail in East Baton Rouge cleared a state Senate panel on Monday.

The measure, Senate Bill 478, would authorize all courts in the parish to impose a $50 warrant recall fee for all persons who fail to appear for misdemeanor and traffic offenses.

The proceeds would be used to pay expenses associated with operation of a misdemeanor detention facility.

A similar measure, House Bill 915 sponsored by state Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said people are issued summons “and nobody has to face the music when they don’t appear in court.”

“The public knows that and they don’t appear,” he told the Senate Finance Committee.

District Attorney Hillar Moore said there are some 160,000 outstanding warrants in Baton Rouge.

“We would like to put some teeth into misdemeanors,” said Moore. In the long term, he said, it could help lower the crime rate.

A fiscal note estimated that the $50 fee would generate up to $3.2 million annually.

The bill now moves to the Senate floor.