Sunday, July 21, 2024

Louisiana’s Edwards signs foreign farmland purchase ban bill

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

 Gov. John Bel Edwards recently concluded the 2023 legislative session with his approval to ban foreign adversaries from purchasing land and vetoing several transgender-related bills.

Edwards took action Friday on a long list of legislation that included his promise to veto three controversial bills involving transgender youth, and approval of several tax credits, education changes, and other measures involving renewable energy leases, ports, and rural infrastructure.

The governor’s actions, which included 16 vetoes and numerous line-item vetoes of capital outlay spending, are expected to result in a veto override session later this month, though lawmakers have not yet decided whether to return to Baton Rouge.

Among the bills that gained Edwards’ signature on Friday is House Bill 537, which would ban foreign adversaries from purchasing, leasing, or acquiring land in Louisiana. The measure stemmed from concerns about countries including China, Iran, North Korea and others controlling agricultural property or land near military installations that has prompted similar legislation in other states and in Congress.

Edwards also approved several tax deductions or exemptions, including HB 32 to increase deductions for elementary and secondary school tuition and educational expenses for home schooled children; HB 330 to exempt agricultural fencing materials for commercial farmers; HB 483 for rehabilitation of historic structures; a severance tax exemption for deep-well oil and gas in HB 634; Senate Bill 41’s credit for maternal wellness centers; and a refundable income tax credit for certain adoptions in HB 443; among others.

HB 12, to prohibit students who cannot read from advancing to fourth grade, also gained approval, as did Senate Bill 7, to limit access of minors to explicit material in Louisiana libraries.

Edwards also approved SB 154 to establish rules for renewable energy leases, and HB 540 to create a port and harbor police force for certain facilities. Another approved bill, HB 155, will create a Louisiana Rural Infrastructure Revolving Loan Program to help local governments with certain capital infrastructure projects.

Vetoed bills include HB 81 to require parental permission for schools to change students’ preferred pronouns, which Edwards said “is yet another example of a string of discriminatory bills being pushed by extreme groups around the country under the guise of religious freedom.”

Edwards also vetoed HB 466 to prohibit teachers and other school employees or presenters from engaging in discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Edwards argued the legislation “places vulnerable children at the front lines of a vicious culture war” and would “lead to absurd consequences.” He alleged it could put school employees at unnecessary risk, while also prohibiting teachings about U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence and the Bible.

A third bill aimed at preventing gender transition procedures for minors, HB 648, was also vetoed, with Edwards pushing back on concerns and offering reasons why treatment for gender dysphoria is needed.

“According to the March 2023 Louisiana Department of Health’s Study on Gender Reassignment Procedures on Minors, from 2017-2021 there were zero gender reassignment surgical procedures performed on children in Louisiana, zero,” Edwards wrote. “The proponents of this bill suggest that it is necessary to stop physicians from mutilating our children by performing gruesome sex change surgeries. This is simply not happening in Louisiana.”

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