By Wes Muller, Louisiana Illuminator
Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed his last batch of bills from the 2022 legislative session into law and used his veto pen on six proposals Monday.
The governor announced this week his signing of bills related to infrastructure, education, criminal law and civil liability, among others. He also rejected measures on elections, charter schools and juvenile justice.
Senate Bill 467, sponsored by Sen. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, is one of the first legislative instruments related to the proposed passenger rail lines connecting Baton Rouge to New Orleans and a longer connection along Interstate 20 from Mississippi to Texas.
The new law requires the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to start engineering, financial and other studies to begin the projects, which will be funded in part through President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Senate Bill 460, sponsored by Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, urges the Louisiana Public Service Commission to establish a rate structure for companies to profit from electric vehicle charging stations. It also urges the PSC to not classify retail charging stations as public utilities if the company operating the station is not acting as a public utility in any other way.
Lawmakers hope the law will encourage more businesses to open charging stations as automotive manufacturers continue phasing out fossil fuel engines.
House Bill 923, sponsored by Rep. Scott McKnight, R-Baton Rouge, created a uniquely Louisiana law that prevents anyone injured by a Mardi Gras float or other parade vehicle from suing the krewe or any contractors who worked the parade unless the injury resulted from a deliberate action or gross negligence.
House Bill 568, sponsored by Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, expands the crime of adoption deception to apply to a birth mother who intentionally lies in an effort to collect living expenses or other benefits in connection with a purported adoption.
The proposal stirred controversy among House members who warned it could be used to pressure and exploit birth mothers who change their minds about an adoption. The law takes effect Aug. 1.
House Bill 185, sponsored by Rep. Charles Owen, R-Rosepine, limits protests and demonstrations on college campuses by allowing schools to require a permit for such protests. It also makes protests unlawful if they disrupt or hinder anyone else’s activities or communications. The law takes effect Aug. 1.
Senate Bill 145, sponsored by Sen. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, would have allowed any charter school group with a corporate partner to submit a proposal directly to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for approval. Applicants would have bypassed local school board authority in the jurisdiction where the charter school intended to locate.
“The consequences of eliminating local approval of charter schools and diverting MFP dollars far outweighs any administrative benefit that may be received,” Edwards wrote in his veto message.
Senate Bill 379, sponsored by Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, would have applied a weapons possession enhancement to certain crimes committed by a juvenile.
“There are serious constitutional issues surrounding this bill,” Edwards said.
House Bill 359, sponsored by Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, would have required any election official to obtain permission from the House and Senate Governmental Affairs committees before implementing any federal directive or guidance.
“The state and local officials should make every effort to encourage people to vote, make it easier for them to vote, and make sure every legal vote is counted,” Edwards wrote. “This bill does not further that goal, and it should not become law.”