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Louisiana lawmakers advance bills designed to combat crime

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(The Center Square) — Louisiana lawmakers approved numerous bills on Thursday during the fourth day of a special session focused on crime.

Legislators approved bills to eliminate the requirement for a concealed carry permit, lower the age for consideration as a juvenile in the justice system and increase penalties for carjackers and those who sell fentanyl in a way that appeals to minors.

In the upper chamber, senators sent New Iberia Republican Sen. Blake Miguez’s Senate Bill 1 to the House with a vote of 28-10. The bill will allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns lawfully without a permit.

They also voted 27-11 to approve Senate Bill 2, also by Miguez, to limit liability for those with concealed handgun permits.

Senate Bill 3, by Turkey Creek Republican Sen. Heather Cloud, passed 30-9 to lower the age for consideration as a juvenile in the criminal justice system to 17, effectively reversing reforms implemented in 2019.

A similar measure, Senate Bill 11, by Monroe Republican Sen. Stewart Cathey, also cleared the upper chamber with a vote of 33-4.

Other Senate bills to cross over on Thursday involved penalties for driving while intoxicated, the creation of an office of state public defender, time limitations for prosecuting some sex offenses and reforms to probation and parole proceedings and good time calculations.

In the House, representatives approved Metairie Republican Rep. Laurie Schlegel’s House Bill 7 to increase the penalties for carjacking. The bill, sent to the Senate on an 89-15 vote, would boost the mandatory minimum from two years to five and the maximum from 20 years to 30 for those who cause serious bodily injury.

Another Schlegel bill, House Bill 8, that aims to impose a mandatory prison sentence of 25 to 99 years for selling fentanyl in a manner that would appeal to minors was approved on a vote of 91-13.

Schlegel noted during floor debate that the FBI warned in 2022 about drug cartels targeting minors with attractive pills that have since been detected in 22 states.

Representatives approved House Bill 4, by Carencro Republican Rep. Julie Emerson, to impose limits on post-conviction appeals with a vote of 72-31, as well.

The lower chamber also approved measures to impose mandatory drug testing for drug and specialty court participation for some offenders, designate crimes with illegal use of weapons as a crime of violence and provide immunity from civil liability under certain circumstances for peace officers and their public employers.

The House considered on second reading House Bill 6, by Hammond Republican Rep. Nicholas Muscarello, to expand options available to carry out the death penalty from lethal injection also to include nitrogen hypoxia and electrocution.

The move sets the bill up for final passage.

Committees in opposing chambers are expected to vet further the bills approved on Thursday in their respective committees before floor votes in the coming days.

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