Legislature Update: No Soup For LaBruzzo On Welfare Drug Testing

Metairie Republican rep. John LaBruzzo has made it a crusade of sorts since his election to the state House of Representatives to pursue a controversial bill mandating drug testing for welfare recipients.

So far, he hasn’t managed to capture Jerusalem yet on that bill. It doesn’t appear he’s going to get there this year, either.

The bill, HB 611, builds upon existing law providing for drug testing of some recipients of public assistance by expanding that program to include everybody on the dole. It has been assailed as racist and supported as a means of helping to break the cycle of drugs and indolence which so afflicts the nether regions of society.

But LaBruzzo’s bill was sidetracked out of the House Health and Welfare Committee – into the Appropriations Committee, which LaBruzzo was unceremoniously dumped off of last week as punishment for voting against the hand-picked candidate of House Speaker Jim Tucker (R-Westwego) on the Speaker Pro Tem position. Opponents in Health and Welfare justified the reassignment of the bill on the basis that it’s estimated to cost the state some $800,000 per year, which is somewhat plausible. But the irony is a bit much to ignore.

Carter Goes To School On Term Limits

Last year, Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge) put forth a bill that would have imposed term limits on school board members throughout the state. His legislation died amid a good deal of controversy – it had a lot of support, but many legislators freaked out at the prospect of voting to dismantle some of the mini-fiefdoms of school board members in their districts.

Carter learned from that setback, and he’s back with a bill tailor-made for the weak-kneed. This year’s term-limits bill for school board members doesn’t put the onus on the legislature. Instead, HB 410 puts the issue on the ballot this fall. Leges generally hate getting sideways with the local apparatchiks on the school boards, but this is an offer they can’t refuse – who could fail to support giving the public a right to choose? And if, as one would expect, it’s the voters who impose term limits on the school board commissars that’s just too bad.

Pretty good legislating by Carter. And he’s off to a good start with the new bill; it passed out of the House Governmental Affairs Committee with a 14-4 vote yesterday.

In other term limit news, a bill by Simone Champagne (D-Jeanerette) which would put a three-term limit on state officeholders like the Commissioner of Agriculture, Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor passed out of House Governmental Affairs on Tuesday.

Dopey Bill To Ban Incense Clears Committee

You’d think that with a billion-dollar deficit to overcome, leges would recognize now isn’t the time to expand government. You’d be wrong.

One example of this is HB 173, a bill by Rep. Ricky Templet (R-Gretna) which would make a Schedule I narcotic out of a substance called K2, an incense-like product which produces a high not all that different from marijuana.

The substance is actually a mixture of herbs and spices, with a synthetic compound thrown in which gives users a buzz. Some convenience stores carry it and it’s apparently a big hit at the head shops.

But while it gives a buzz, so far nobody has come up with any evidence it’s harmful. As a result, you’d imagine the smart thing to do is to leave people alone until there’s a reason not to. Well, that ain’t happening.

The House Criminal Justice Committee unanimously approved the bill, sending it to the House floor. The standard justifications were put forth – one, that dope addicts are using it to get around drug screenings, and two…get ready now…”it’s for the kids.”

Walt Leger III (D-New Orleans) sought to address the latter concern by offering an amendment to the bill that would make it illegal for minors. Nope – the amendment was shot down by a 9-4 vote.

Two other leges had proposed similar bills – Girod Jackson III (D-Marrero) and Mack “Bodi” White (R-Central). Jackson told the Times-Picayune “We represent … the rich, the poor and the rural. So obviously it’s everywhere.”

Maybe he hasn’t noticed, but so is weed, coke, heroin and crystal meth. It’s not like this stuff being illegal is going to make it go away. Tracy Smith, the lobbyist for the wholesalers of the stuff, had it exactly right: “Immediately, the next day, it will go from the stores to the streets.” People will be able to buy it over the internet, and since nobody else has banned it you’ll see folks trucking it in from Texas or Mississippi and selling it out of the trunks of cars.

This is a perfect example of bad legislation arising out of people attempting to impose their pet causes on the rest of the world. We’re going to be asking the police to enforce yet another law when they’re in over their heads trying to enforce what’s already on the books. And how much money will we spend trying to enforce this ban, on top of everything else?

Congressional Jungle Primary Bill Clears Committee

It’s a dumb idea, but Rep. Hunter Greene (R-Baton Rouge) has managed to drag HB 292 through the House Governmental Affairs Committee. The bill, which would eliminate party primaries in Congressional elections just a few years after they had been reinstated, passed unanimously out of the committee and goes to the floor.

Greene’s bill would require the open primary to be held in the federal election day in November and if a runoff is needed, it would be held in early December. In other words, we could be subjected to an extra month of political commercials every two years. But the truth is, an open primary only dilutes the strength of challengers to Congressional incumbents and makes it easier to re-elect them. The Louisiana Republican Party came out against Greene’s bill yesterday citing another reason to oppose it; namely that members of a political party should have the right to determine by their votes who their party’s candidate is. You can agree with that one or disagree; the fact is the vast majority of the rest of the country doesn’t fool around with jungle primaries and Louisiana’s quality of its elected officials over the years hardly outstrips the nation.

Not to mention the fact that since the state has gone to party primaries, Louisiana has elected Bill Cassidy, John Fleming, Steve Scalise and Joseph Cao to Congress. All of those new Congressmen seem to be either making a name for themselves nationally or at least serving as colossal improvements to the crooks they replaced.

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