Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Gov. Edwards signs legislation expanding medical marijuana access, limiting government growth

by BIZ Magazine

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed into law a proposal to expand access to the state’s medical marijuana program.

Present law limits access to patients with one or more of a list of conditions. Act 286 adds several more conditions and also allows any doctor in good standing to recommend medical marijuana for any patient the doctor believes will benefit.

“Many people have gotten really good results from this medication,” state Sen. Fred Mills said shortly before the state Senate voted 28-6 in favor. “I think [the expansion] is just a natural progression of a process that’s been working.”

Other legislation the governor recently has signed include:

Act 186: Allows a concealed handgun permit owner to bring their gun into a house of worship.

Act 231: Calls for disclosure of attorney’s fees in advertisements touting client settlements. However, the bill says the Louisiana Supreme Court “may” adopt rules to enforce disclosure, so enforcement would not be mandatory.

Edwards vetoed a similar bill that would have allowed the attorney general to investigate violations as possible unfair trade practices. The state constitution gives the Louisiana Supreme Court oversight of the legal profession, the governor said.  

Act 237: Doubles daily compensation for jurors in civil trials from $25 to $50 per day and raises compensation for transportation from 16 cents to 58 cents per mile. The changes don’t raise costs for state taxpayers because the party asking for the jury trial puts up a bond to cover the expenses.

Tort reform advocates said the bill was an attempt by opponents to undermine their efforts by increasing the costs of a civil jury trial, which might become more common if lawmakers lower the monetary threshold that triggers the right to a jury trial. But supporters said $25 is a very small amount to compensate someone who may have to take off work to serve.

Act 240: Allows voters to consider a constitutional amendment authorizing cooperative endeavor agreements between local governmental subdivisions and other entities that call for payments in lieu of ad valorem taxes. Critics worry about the potential for abuse in such agreements that could lead to depriving local governments of needed revenue, though supporters say they can be useful economic development tools that allow governments to get additional money up front.

Act 271: Allows voters to consider a state constitutional amendment that would change how the state government’s expenditure limit is calculated.

Rep. Gerald “Beau” Beaullieu, the New Iberia Republican who sponsored the bill, said the current spending limit, based on a three-year average of personal income growth, has gotten “out of whack” compared to the actual state budget. His proposed formula adds three additional factors: population growth, gross domestic product, and the consumer price index, while limiting annual spending growth to 5 percent.

“This does not cut the budget,” Beaullieu said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing. “It’s dealing with the growth in the budget.”

Act 299: Bars local governments from establishing gun regulations that are stricter than what state law provides. The law does not apply to meeting places of local government bodies.

Act 336: Limits liability for individuals, businesses and government entities accused of exposing someone to COVID-19. An entity could not be held liable for injury or death from the disease “unless such damage was caused by gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.” The law applies retroactively to March 11 when Edwards declared a public health emergency in the state.

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