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Legislature wraps session, passes education, crime-related bills

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(The Center Square) — The Louisiana Legislature wrapped up the 2024 regular session on Monday.

Here are some bills you need to know about:

Education

Senate Bill 313 enacts the Louisiana Giving All True Opportunity to Rise Scholarship Program, creating educational savings accounts that allow parents to choose their child’s K-12 schools. Despite opposition from some public school supporters who say this will strain an already thin budget, the program will begin enrolling participating students as soon as March 1, 2025, for the 2025-2026 school year once Gov. Jeff Landry signs it into law.

This session’s budget talks also approved a $2,000 one-time stipend for public school teachers and a $1,000 stipend for public school staff members.

House bills 121 and 122 represent the Legislature’s cultural agenda by preventing the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity and limiting the use of certain names and gender pronouns in public schools.

Despite Landry’s conservative proposals and activity in surrounding conservative states, higher education largely remained out of the cultural discussion. Instead, HB 940 increased university funding for maintenance and eliminated some red tape for the schools to receive those funds.

Colleges and universities also gained the power to reduce or increase tuition and fees without legislative approval. However, HB 862 only allows them to decrease tuition and fees unless it’s for graduate programs and high-cost undergraduate programs. The bill would also give university boards complete control over mandatory fees.

Insurance

The governor signed a bill earlier in the session that repeals the three-year rule saying an insurer cannot cancel or fail to renew a customer’s policy unless for a provided reason like lack of payment or fraud.

Under House Bill 611, upon filing a plan with the commissioner, an insurer may non-renew up to 5% of its customers’ policies per calendar year for any reason, provided that no more than 5% of the insurer’s policies included within the plan to be nonrenewed are in one parish.

This was one of many bills passed to deregulate the insurance market and invite competition back to the storm-riddled state. SB 295 is another, which allows insurance companies to raise premium rates without having to get approval from Insurance Commissioner Tim Temple.

Crime

Crime made an appearance despite the special crime session earlier this spring. Unique bills were passed directed at sex offenders and sex traffickers when their victims are minors.

SB 371 allows for surgical castration of certain offenders whose victims are under the age of 13 at the time of the crime. SB 306 applies life in prison without the possibility for parole to any offender charged with trafficking persons under the age of 18. This bill passed both chambers unanimously.

Miscellaneous

Supporters of free information were worried about SB 482, which would’ve barred access to any records reflecting advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations regarding the process of governmental decisions and policies. Instead, we got HB 103, which increases the number of public bodies required to broadcast meetings live via television or the internet.

Louisiana worked to separate itself from international organizations, like The World Health Organization, United Nations, and the World Economic Forum, with SB 133 stating they shall have no jurisdiction or power within the state of Louisiana.

HB 577 prohibits social media companies from collecting data to use for targeted advertising to minors.

HB 608 was named the “Women’s Safety and Protection Act” and defines what women and girls are, and their physical differences from biological men, as a way to provide more protective spaces for females from assault and abuse.

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