Lege Session Opens Today; Nearly 2,000 Bills Filed

Today begins what should be one of the more significant legislative sessions in Louisiana history, as the state is faced with the need for large-scale restructuring of its operations amid a frightening budget picture for this year and next year; and with the passage of Obamacare imposing an additional cost to Louisiana’s Medicaid program of some $345 million per year, the issue of federalism and the potential unconstitutionality of the president’s divisive health-care package looms nearly as large as the state’s budget.

Thus perhaps the most substantial bill among the over 1,900 filed at the legislature could be SB26 by state sen. A.G. Crowe, which challenges Obamacare on several bases and sets down a platform for which Louisiana will join more than a dozen states in filing suits in federal courts challenging the new law.

The mood of the legislature this year, in advance of statewide elections in 2011, is firmly against the imposition of new taxes. There are even bills attempting to roll back an increase in the state’s fee for driver’s licenses.

Among the bills filed in the legislature (Hat tip: The Advocate)…

—Fund state government agencies and services in the new budget year that begins July 1. (House Bill 1)
—Attempt to nullify the federal health care overhaul, arguing the congressional legislation is unconstitutional. (Senate Bill 26)
—Loosen restrictions on firearms to allow handguns at state parks, in churches and near school yards and to exempt weapons made and owned in-state from federal restrictions. (House Bill 68 and Senate Bills 81, 152, 175 and 534)
—Prohibit property insurance companies from canceling policies or raising rates on homeowners who make damage claims stemming from corrosive Chinese drywall. (House Bill 668 and Senate Bill 595)
—Remove legislative authority over college tuition and fee increases, letting the schools substantially raise what they charge their students if colleges meet certain performance standards. (House Bills 767 and 1012)
—Cap the amount of money a student can get from the free college tuition program called TOPS. (Senate Bill 86)
—Shrink the number of higher education governing boards from five to two, with a board for four-year universities and a board for community and technical colleges. (House Bill 996)
—Extend Louisiana’s ban on smoking in restaurants to bars that serve food. (Senate Bill 334)
—Require businesses to give equal pay to men and women performing the same jobs. (House Bill 673 and Senate Bill 249)
—Ban cameras that take photos of speeders and motorists who run red lights. (House Bill 160)
—Rework hurricane recovery spending, to shift federal aid from state control to local control. (House Bill 1175)
—Restructure the Department of Social Services by consolidating offices and eliminating layers of midlevel management. (Senate Bill 257)
—Tweak the state ethics code enforcement structure, changing the way administrative law judges are selected to hear cases, altering the appeals process or reworking the entire system. (House Bills 99, 240, 1143, 1178, 1179 and 1202 and Senate Bills 310 and 418)
—Reverse a $15 price hike in the cost of a Louisiana driver’s license and refund the money to drivers who have paid the increased price. (House Bill 275 and Senate Bill 407)
—Change retirement benefits for new hires in state government. (House Bills 931 and 1103)
—Establish a grading system for food inspections at restaurants. (House Bill 1192)
—Prohibit sign postings on public utility poles. (House Bill 652)
—Make it illegal to wear low-riding pants that expose underwear. (House Bill 103)
—Require someone arrested for drunken driving to stay in jail for 48 hours. (House Bill 104)
—Prohibit someone 70 years old or older from running for elected office. (House Bill 470)
—Toughen Louisiana’s ban on text messaging while driving to make it a primary offense so police officers could stop a driver for that traffic violation without needing another reason. (Senate Bill 9)
—Ban the sale of energy drinks to anyone under the age of 16 because of health concerns about their levels of caffeine. (Senate Bill 128)
—Make more of the records in the governor’s office open to public view. (House Bills 307, 499 and 501 and Senate Bill 593)
—Enact term limits on statewide elected officials who don’t have them and on judges, sheriffs and district attorneys. (House Bills 51 and 101)
—Require drug testing of welfare recipients. (House Bill 611)
—Make it a crime for a person to attend a cockfight, bet on a cockfight or pay admission to any place where people can watch or wager on a cockfight. (Senate Bill 38)
—Name the “tea cake” as Louisiana’s official state cookie. (Senate Bill 250)



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