Louisiana 2014 Legislative Session: Items to Watch Part IX

by Courtney C Horne @FireezDragon

This is part of my ongoing effort to highlight and provide brief summaries of legislative items in the 2014 session. If you have an item you would suggest I keep an eye on, drop me a line through the contact form. 

This entry covers:  SB308, SB311, SB312, SB313, SB323, SB330, SB352, SB356, SB361


Senate Bill 308 (SB308) (Crowe) – This is a constitutional amendment effort to establish “rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children and that parents have the right to direct and to make decisions regarding where and with whom the child shall reside, the educational, moral, ethical, and religious training of the child, the medical, psychiatric, surgical, and preventive health care of the child, and the discipline of the child.”  It seems to re-enforce parents denying children medical care for religious reasons and make an effort to enshrine such in the state constitution. It states that it “shall not be interpreted to require a child to be returned to a parent if the child has been removed by a court of competent jurisdiction for reasons of abuse or neglect committed by the parent.” However, I expect that the constitutional amendment could make it more challenging to remove children from abusive/ neglectful parents by offering them a strong shield to hide behind when claiming religious basis for their behavior.

Senate Bill 311 (SB311)  (Morrell) – This bill is an effort to outlaw some forms of electronic gambling. It seems likely to be targeting the “electronic bingo parlor” sort of places that effectively function as rooms of slot machines. It also addresses some computer gaming. It does clarify that it does not apply to current legally covered gaming facilities, stock market, and clarifies that internet providers are not in violation of the law for providing internet that someone uses to violate the law.

Senate Bill 312 (SB312) (Crowe) – Senator Crowe seems very concerned about “parental rights” as this bill addresses that topic as well as his SB308. This bill lists nine items as rights of parents of public school students :

(1) To examine the textbooks, lesson plans, curriculum and supplemental material used in their child’s classroom.
(2) Inspect their child’s school records, including academic records, medical or health records, records of any mental health counseling, or records of any vocational counseling.
(3) To be notified when medical services are being offered to their child.
(4) To be notified if a criminal action is deemed to have been committed against their child.
(5) To be notified before the school allows law enforcement personnel question their child.
(6) To be notified before their child is taken or removed from the school campus.
(7) To request and expect their child’s family religious beliefs to be respected.
(8) To receive written notice and the option to opt their child out of any surveys that include invasive questions about student’s sexual experiences or attractions, the student’s family beliefs, morality, religion, or political affiliations as well as any mental health or psychological problems of the student or a family member.
(9) To receive written notice and have the option to opt their child out of controversial instruction on topics associated with sexual activity.

I am concerned that 2 and 3 could both be used to make it much more difficult for students to get mental health care and I think minors should be able to get accurate information about sexual health- regardless of their parent’s opinions. But I clearly have a different view of the balance of rights between minors and parents than Senator Crowe who seems to believe parental authority is absolute and that minors lack any rights to privacy about their health care..

Senate Bill 313 (SB313)  (White)  – Adds a mandatory minimum sentence to the crime of home invasion (regardless of whether they are armed) of five years.

Senate Bill 323 (SB323)  (Morrell)  – Reduces marijuana possession penalties for all offenses to to a fine of up to $100, or imprisonment for up to six months, or both and removes marijuana from enhanced sentencing guidelines for repeat offenders. The sentencing guidelines for synthetic cannaboids are not changed by this bill.

Senate Bill 330 (SB330)  (Claitor) – This creates a crime for using drones to capture images in specific circumstances. There are a bunch of exceptions listed and the law seems primarily to apply to individuals and the press but not government usage. It does require the police to offer reports to the legislature on their use of drones.

Senate Bill 352 (SB352) (Mills) – This would give courts the ability to depart from mandatory minimum sentences if both “1) Imposition of the mandatory minimum sentence or the benefit restrictions would result in substantial injustice to the defendant.” and “2) Imposition of the mandatory minimum sentence or the benefit restrictions is not necessary for the protection of the public.” The proposed change would not apply to cases where any of these three apply: “(1) The offense included the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon by the defendant against another person or resulted in the serious bodily injury of another person. (2) The offense involved a sex offense as defined in present law against a person under the age of 18 years. (3) The offense is punishable by life imprisonment without parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.”

Senate Bill 356 (SB356)  (White) – This bill would make it illegal to use a drone to collect images of “critical infrastructure” which the bill states includes (but is not limited to) a broad range of things such as : “gas and oil production, storage, or delivery systems; certain facilities described in present law relative to hazardous materials; water supply and treatment systems; telecommunications networks; electrical power generation or delivery systems; financing and banking systems; emergency services; transportation systems and services; and facilities subject to the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.” There seems to be a potential damaging effect on press efforts to collect images given the broad spectrum of restrictions.

Senate Bill 361 (SB361)  (Riser) – This bill is a broader version of the many bills to let cops carry guns in bars. It would allow  cops and retired cops to carry concealed firearms in any place in the state that is open to the public. It does (fortunately) state that this would not applied when said individuals are intoxicated. (A related news item)