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Louisiana lawmakers inch closer to passage on bills designed to reduce crime

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(The Center Square) — Several bills are inching closer to the finish line in the second week of an extraordinary legislative session on crime, with measures on concealed carry permits, juvenile justice and the statute of limitations for rape poised for passage.

Representatives in the House will vote Tuesday evening on Senate Bill 3, by Turkey Creek Republican Sen. Heather Cloud, after the legislation cleared the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice with a vote of 10-4 on Monday.

“We are reconsidering basically the raise the age legislation that was passed in 2016 and implemented in 2019 and 2020,” Cloud told the committee. “Many of you have heard … the public outcry that the number one problem that’s currently facing law enforcement, prosecutors and judges is violent juvenile crime.”

SB 3, which would lower the age for consideration as a juvenile in the criminal justice system to 17, passed the Senate last week, 30-9. Supporters including the state’s sheriff’s and district attorneys’ associations have cited rising gang violence, deadly shootings, home invasions and carjackings, while opponents including the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, families of incarcerated juveniles, some academics and child advocates have pointed to the immaturity of teenagers and the increased costs for incarceration.

“Nearly every city, town and village across the state has suffered immensely from the consequences of the provisions” in the raise-the-age legislation, Cloud said.

Cloud’s Senate Bill 4 also cleared the House committee with a 13-1 vote on Monday following amendments that gained the support of juvenile detention officials. SB 4 provides minimum mandatory sentences for juvenile offenders convicted of violent crimes including murder, rape and kidnapping and is now pending floor action.

The full House will also vote on Senate Bill 5, by Republican Covington Sen. Patrick McMath, to increase requirements for parole to include good behavior, completion of pre-release programming and completion of an education or training program. SB 5 cleared the House criminal justice committee with a vote of 10-4 on Monday, after a 28-11 vote last week in the Senate.

Committee members also voted 10-3 to approve Senate Bill 1, by New Iberia Sen. Blake Miguez, to allow law-abiding citizens over the age of 18 to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. The upper chamber voted 28-10 to approve SB 1 last week and it now moves to the Legislative Bureau for review.

“It’s time to empower Louisiana citizens with the means to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Miguez told the committee.

Gun rights advocates testified in support, citing studies that illustrate a decline in violent crimes in places without concealed carry permits. At the same time, New Orleans city and police officials opposed the bill over concerns about violence during large events such as the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras and the city’s numerous festivals.

Julia Fleckman, an associate director with Tulane University’s Violence Prevention Institute, disputed research presented by gun rights advocates and argued “we would be putting our law enforcement officers in danger” with the bill.

Other measures pending a House floor vote include House Bill 15, by New Orleans Democrat Delisha Boyd, to broaden the statute of limitations for third-degree rape to give victims more time to pursue justice. The House Committee unanimously approved HB 15 on Monday.

The committee rejected House Bill 21, by Baton Rouge Democratic Rep. Edmond Jordan, to impose fines on the Department of Corrections for every day the department holds inmates beyond their release date.

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