Monday, May 27, 2024

Legislative Roundup: Conservative agenda continues to move forward through session

by BIZ Magazine

By Elizabeth White | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE–Louisiana legislators continued Wednesday to advance conservative priorities, pushing forward bills to limit discussion of gender and sexuality in schools and to stop teachers from using a child’s preferred name or pronouns without parental consent if they differ from the child’s biological sex.

Lawmakers also advanced measures this week to limit bathroom use by biological gender and to provide state money for private school education. Other bills would authorize police officers to arrest migrants who are not in the country legally and prohibit protests outside of an individual’s home.

The House Education Committee voted 9-3 Wednesday to advance House Bill 122, which would prohibit teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools. This would include teachers discussing their own sexual orientation and facilitating discussions pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity during classroom instructional time. 

“This does not condemn anyone’s lifestyle choice, but protects the children,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, said. “It keeps the conversation between the parent, the home and the child.” 

Critics raised concerns how the bill would be enforced as there are no penalties or procedures for reporting a teacher. Horton said these specifics would be determined by individual school boards. 

The committee also voted 9-3 Wednesday to require teachers to use the names and pronouns on a child’s birth certificate. 

Also this week, the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure advanced House Bill 608, which would require schools, domestic violence shelters and other facilities to designate bathrooms and sleeping areas based on sex, not gender identity. It would ban transgender people from these spaces.

Critics voiced concern that the bill would harm federal funding for domestic violence shelters since federal regulations require they screen clients based on gender identity. 

Louisiana Atty. Gen. Liz Murrill said she would take the federal government to court if shelter funding was affected by the bill passing.  

All of these bills will go to the House floor for debate.

The full House voted 71-32 Monday to approve Bill No. 745, which would allow parents to use tax dollars to send their children to private schools of their choice. The bill now goes to the Senate. 

The program, known as LA Gator, would award families from $5,000 to $15,000 to use on tuition, textbooks, uniforms and other school expenses. The most money would go for children with learning disabilities, and other families would receive from $5,200 to $7,500 for each child depending on family income. 

Any family would be able to apply for the program by its third year. The measure will add at least $258 million a year to state costs by 2027, and some lawmakers fear that it will eventually lead to reductions in state support for public schools.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, said: “I truly believe this program will only provide better education outcomes for our students by allowing their parents to choose the best education for them.” 

Senate Bill 388, based on at Texas law, tasks Louisiana law-enforcement officials with enforcing immigration laws. It advanced through the Senate and is onto the House. 

If the bill is passed and the federal court upholds Texas’ law, people living in Louisiana without legal immigration status could face up to a year in prison and $4,000 fine and up to two years in prison and $10,000 fine on their second offense. 

House Bill 737 advanced through the House by a vote of 85-18. It would prohibit anyone from protesting near an individual’s residence in a way that disrupts or harasses the individual.

Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, expressed concern that the language of the proposal could be unconstitutional and would eliminate the First Amendment right to assembly on public property. 

“I don’t think the way that this is written that this is even constitutional,” Jordan said. “People have a right to assemble.”

In other action, Senate bill No. 379, which would reverse legislation passed in 2022 to double fines and implement speeding cameras on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, advanced out of the Senate. 

House Bill 5, which would require Louisiana colleges and universities to accept cash at all events including sporting events, passed through the House Education Committee. 

House Bill 429, which would prohibit schools that receive state funding from serving imported seafood in cafeterias, passed the House. 

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