By Piper Hutchison, Louisiana Illuminator
The office of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday he has signed 97 more bills into law, including multiple measures to protect hurricane victims and patients who use medical marijuana.
The national spotlight was on vulnerable Louisiana residents last August in the wake of Hurricane Ida, the second most destructive hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana. The evacuation of more than 800 nursing home residents to an unsuitable warehouse in Tangipahoa Parish revealed that no state agency was tasked with approving evacuation plans for nursing homes and other medical facilities. Fifteen people died following the evacuation, with at least five deaths linked to the squalid conditions at the warehouse.
House Bill 291, sponsored by Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, charges the Louisiana Department of Health with approving the emergency plans. Previously, it was simply tasked with reviewing them.
Similarly, House Bill 933, sponsored by Rep. Joe Stagni, R-Kenner, requires nursing homes to submit new emergency preparedness plans to the state and calls for the health department to either approve them or list needed changes.
Renters will also be getting post-hurricane protections under a new law Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans. sponsored. House Bill 160 creates an exception to abandonment of a property in parishes in a federally declared disaster area. It prevents landlords from permanently removing tenants who have evacuated for a storm.
House Bill 260, sponsored by Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, creates firearms hold agreements that allow an individual to surrender their firearms to a federally licensed dealer for an agreed upon amount of time and have them returned in accordance to the agreement. Magee said that the intent of his bill was to help veterans who might be struggling with mental health concerns.
House Bill 365, sponsored by Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, adds possession of a firearm by a felon to the list of crimes of violence.
House Bill 585, from Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, requires sheriffs to file an annual report to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice on firearm transfers from people convicted of certain crimes. The report would include information regarding the number of civil and criminal orders to transfer firearms and information regarding the recipients of the transfers.
After the first medical marijuana dispensaries began operating last year, a number of bills were filed to address problems that arose and expand access.
House Bill 135, sponsored by Rep. Joe Marina, I-Gretna, allows for the state’s dispensaries to sell medical marijuana to non-Louisiana residents who have a medical marijuana card from another state.
House Bill 137, also a Marino bill, gives those visiting patients immunity from prosecution for possession of medical marijuana.
House Bill 190, authored by Rep. Travis Johnson, D-Vidalia, adds certain nurse practitioners to the list of healthcare providers authorized to recommend medical marijuana.
House Bill 775, a proposal from Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, excludes equipment used to consume medical marijuana from the state’s drug paraphernalia laws.
Also signed by the governor was House Bill 629, sponsored by Rep. Marcus Bryant, D-New Iberia, which specifies that the odor of marijuana alone is not probable cause for police to conduct a search without getting a warrant first.
House Bill 729, from Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, limits the release of police booking photos of suspects arrested for nonviolent crimes. The bill was originally intended to apply to most mug shots, but the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and news media lobbyists ultimately limited the exclusions. Regardless of the seriousness of the crime, all booking photos will be subject to release once a person is convicted or pleads guilty.
Another Duplessis proposal signed by the governor, House Bill 746, prohibits the use of solitary confinement for juveniles except as a temporary safety measure.
Other new laws of note
House Bill 1061, sponsored by Rep. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, requires that survivors of sexual assault be offered information about emergency contraception.
House Bill 142, sponsored by Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Jefferson, provides civil remedies for parents of minors exposed to online pornography or other explicit material if websites do not have reasonable verification procedures in place.
House Bill 248, from Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, removes Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Memorial Day from the state’s list of legal holidays. It also adds Mardi Gras and President’s Day to the state holiday calendar.
House Bill 516, sponsored by Landry, requires public high schools to adopt policies for students who are pregnant or parenting. They must allow for excused absences for pregnancy-related reasons and when the student’s child is ill.
The new law gives the student permission to breastfeed or pump milk during school hours. It also requires schools that already provide childcare to allow students with children to enroll them in the childcare service.