Legislative briefs: Hairstyle bill fails in House; Senate OKs anti-social media censorship; Senate levies hefty sports wagering fees

The Senate unanimously passed the Stop Social Media Censorship Act, by West Monroe Sen. Jay Morris, on Thursday. Photo by Robert Buckman

Hairstyle anti-discrimination bill fails on 47-47 tie

A bill aimed at banning discrimination against Black public school students on the basis of their hairstyles was defeated in the House Thursday afternoon on a 47-47 tie, which Speaker Clay Schexnayder chose not to break although he was in the chair.

The bill, HB382 by Rep. Candace Newell, D-New Orleans, was reported favorably by the Civil Law and Procedure Committee Monday on a narrow 8-7 vote.

Besides Schexnayder, 10 other members did not record a vote, including Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, who had just ushered through his constitutional amendment on income tax reform.

The remaining Lafayette Parish members split evenly, with Republican Jean-Paul Coussan joining Democrats Vincent Pierre and Marcus Bryant in support of the bill while Republicans Beau Beaullieu, Julie Emerson and Jonathan Goudeau voted against it. 

Yet, moments after defeating the hairstyle bill, the House approved, 70-29, HB498 by Rep. Kathy Edmonston, R-Gonzales, that bans discrimination on “the basis of vaccination or immunity status.”

Lafayette’s seven members split 5-2 along party—and racial—lines on the bill.

Social media censorship bill passes Senate unanimously

The bill to allow Louisiana residents to sue their social media platforms for allegedly censoring their content, which fell one vote short of passage in the Senate two weeks ago, abruptly received unanimous Senate approval on Thursday.

SB196 by Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, received 19 yea votes and 18 nays on May 4, one short of the 20 required for passage. But the opposition evaporated Thursday when it sailed through 37-0 without discussion.

It would allow residents to seek up to $75,000 in actual civil damages if they can demonstrate that a social media platform “censored” their political or religious views.

The bill has been championed by conservatives who say tech giants like Facebook and Twitter are unfairly policing conservative speech. Copies of the bill have been filed all over the country. 

Model language for the bill was created by Chris Sevier, an anti-LGBTQ activist and lawyer behind legal stunts like trying to marry his computer as a protest against same-sex marriage and suing Apple for his porn addiction. Sevier represented religious extremists Warriors for Christ in its suit over a Drag Queen Story Time event planned at the Lafayette Public Library. 

The bill would not protect “hate speech,” obscenity as defined by law or incitement to violence. The company could be liable for up to $75,000 in actual damages. 

It now goes to the House.

Senate OKs bill establishing fees for sports wagering

By a vote of 32-4, the Senate on Thursday passed HB697 by Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, which establishes the fees for sports wagering operators and the permits for sports wagering platform providers.

Stefanski’s bill is a companion to SB247 by Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, which legalizes sports wagering. It passed the Senate Wednesday 31-6

HB697 establishes a fee of $250,000 for the initial application for a sports wagering license, and $500,000 for the license itself, which will be non-refundable. A license will have a five-year duration and will be renewable.

The application for a platform provider, meaning a contractor who operates a sports wagering mechanism at the operator’s establishment, will be $100,000 and the permit itself will be $250,000. 

Under Cortez’s bill, only 20 licenses will be issued, with priority going to the state’s existing 16 licensed casinos.

Lafayette Parish’s other two senators, Republican Bob Hensgens and Democrat Gerald Boudreaux, joined Cortez in voting for the bill.