BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Monday marks the start of the 2023 Regular Session. With over 800 bills filed, there is a lot of ground to cover.
It is a fiscal year meaning changes to revenue streams can be proposed and legislators are limited to just five non-tax related bills. It is also an election year in Louisiana, which could drive or stifle some arguments.
Fiscal years are the chance to cut taxes or create new ones. There has already been extensive discussion over doing away with the state’s income tax. The income tax brought in over $4 billion last year, so replacing the revenue will be tricky. On the other side of things, people want to cut back on the number of exemptions and tax credits the state allows.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is pushing for the state to establish its own minimum wage to finally raise it from the federal wage of $7.25.
Louisiana has one of the most restrictive abortion laws on the books in the country. Last year a trigger law was passed in an attempt to consolidate the years of bills that had been passed. Now HB461 has been filed in an attempt to clarify the “non-viable” definition that allows for some abortions to take place.
HB346 adds exceptions for rape and incest to the abortion law. Gov. Edwards, the anti-abortion rights Democrat, has said he is in favor of adding the changes, but it will be a challenge to convince the heavily anti-abortion rights GOP that holds a supermajority in both chambers.
Sen. Katrina Jackson, the Democrat who brought the abortion bill last year, is back with SB105 which would allow people to claim a fetus as a dependent. This would open up the conversation of when personhood begins and could have implications for many aspects of the law.
The national debate over LGBTQ rights is coming to Louisiana. HB463 aims to deny gender-affirming care to juveniles. The bill was brought in 2022 but did not get a committee hearing.
Another bill making a return is similar to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. HB466 restricts teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity both in lessons and about their personal lives. Two bills would also prohibit teachers from using pronouns or preferred names that do not align with what is on a student’s birth certificate without written permission from parents.
Libraries are taking the hot seat across the state as library boards respond to calls to pull books with “sexually explicit” content to avoid them getting into the hands of children. The initiative is being pushed by the state attorney general. Advocacy groups are against the legislation because many of the books deal with LGBTQ themes.
On the other side of the fight, HB40 would ban discrimination in employment based on gender identity and sexual orientation. This would create protections for LGBTQ people in the workplace from being fired for their identity.
Criminal Justice Reform
Gov. Edwards recently revealed for the first time in his administration that he is against the death penalty. HB228 abolishes the death penalty. It was a narrow vote in committee to deny advancing the bill in 2022.
Rep. Laurie Schlegel has a series of bills aimed at increasing the punishment for certain crimes. In response to several car break-ins in the New Orleans area, HB16 expands the definition of simple burglary and increases the punishments.
Multiple bills have been filed to greatly increase the punishment for the distribution of fentanyl. All corners of the state have seen an increase in deaths from the drug.
HB24 decriminalizes marijuana and allows the sale for recreational use. Rep. Candace Newell is carrying the bill as she has every year since she joined the legislature.
Legislators have a number of ideas on how to reform the insurance business with the Department of Insurance rolling out its own package of bills to tackle the issue.
Lawmakers already have put $45 million into an incentive fund to draw in insurance companies to write policies as several have gone insolvent, putting consumers on the insurer of last resort. LDI is asking for an additional $20 million to put into the fund to cover the requests of the companies.
There is also a push to fund a grant program to fortify roofs. Legislation filed is asking for $20 million to allow homeowners to get a grant to help afford the extra cost when replacing their roof.
The governor has already laid out his proposed $45 billion budget that is seeing major surplus and excess money being invested into one-time projects. He is trying to give teachers another pay raise to bring them close to the southern regional average pay. He is asking to put hundreds of millions towards DOTD for road and bridge projects. There are also bills looking to give first responders supplemental pay.
There are hundreds more bills to be debated in the session that runs from April 10 through June 8. Click here to read more about them.