Legislative Roundup: What Lafayette lawmakers got done in Baton Rouge

Louisiana State Capitol
Photo by Travis Gauthier

As the dust begins to settle from the 2022 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature that ended Monday, most of Lafayette Parish’s seven representatives and three senators can take satisfaction in seeing their bills pass, even though the legislation may not have made headlines at the time.

Only a fraction of the bills introduced each session becomes law. As of Wednesday, an even 100 have become law this session, with dozens more sent to the governor in the wake of Monday’s hectic last-minute legislation mill. Only a few bills generated statewide interest, like the budget, abortion limits, firearm regulation, redistricting or the transgender athlete ban. 

The rest are of local interest, usually non-controversial, or affect only certain groups. They may seem mundane, but all of them affect somebody. Such bills usually pass both houses unanimously.

The scorecard below tabs up the number of bills each legislator authored and how many were passed:

Senate bills passed
House bills passed

Bills passed by Lafayette legislators this session will affect constituents including massage therapists, disabled veterans, postsecondary students with disabilities, teachers called to military duty, bingo players, fishing boat guides, members of the Krewe of Bonaparte and drunken school bus drivers. One bill provides nine additional prosecutors for the 15th Judicial District, which encompasses Lafayette, Acadia and Vermilion parishes. 

The Current wrangled the instruments authored by the Lafayette delegation and summarized them here. Use the links below to jump to each legislator’s roundup. To read the text of any bill or new acts, click here.

Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette

Boudreaux carried to passage SB480, which restructures Lafayette Economic Development Authority’s board and expands the agency’s scope parishwide.

“While LEDA has performed admirably, this gives it a greater opportunity to operate parishwide,” Boudreaux said in a phone interview with The Current. 

The bill retains a 12-member board, but changes the makeup under a complex system of nominations and appointments. Two members each will be appointed by the Lafayette Parish Farm Bureau, the Lafayette mayor-president, the Lafayette City Council, the Lafayette Parish Council and the president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, one of whom shall be a “racial minority.” One member each shall be appointed by One Acadiana and by the chancellor of South Louisiana Community College, which didn’t exist when the original LEDA bill was passed in 1996. Boudreaux’s bill also updated UL’s name from University of Southwestern Louisiana.

“It just shows you how far out of touch it was,” Boudreaux says of the existing LEDA law.

Boudreaux says UL Lafayette President E. Joseph Savoie himself requested that one of the university’s appointees be a minority. Savoie could serve as board member himself if he chooses, as could Mayor-President Josh Guillory.

SB480 passed the Senate unanimously in April and the House unanimously last Friday. It is on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk for signature.

Boudreaux, whose District 25 takes in southern St. Landry Parish, says he lobbied for the funding included in the capital outlay budget for improvements on the I-49 corridor. 

“We know it’s still a long way off,” he says, “but improvements will be done to the existing U.S. 90, Evangeline Thruway.”

Boudreaux helped secure funding for UL facilities. “Six years ago we wouldn’t have gotten that money,” he says, an apparent jab at former Gov. Bobby Jindal, who sacrificed capital improvements in favor of lower taxes, which led to huge budget deficits.

Boudreaux bemoaned the Legislature’s failure to provide for a second predominantly Black congressional district during the March special session. A federal judge challenged the Legislature’s map, and Gov. John Bel Edwards called a special session that will begin Wednesday to come up with one that will pass muster. 

“You can’t come out of it with everything you want, but I was disappointed over our not being able to do it on our own,” Boudreaux says of congressional redistricting. “There were no changes at all to the (state) House and Senate maps! The Youngsville and Broussard area is the fastest growing in the state and it still doesn’t have its own representative, and the minority areas have been treated in the same manner.”

Currently, Youngsville is divided between Districts 43 and 48 and Broussard is in District 96; both cities are represented by New Iberia legislators.

Boudreaux introduced eight other bills, five of which have passed both houses and have been sent to the governor:

  • SB22 extends the sunset date of the Palliative Care Interdisciplinary Advisory Council by three years, to Aug. 1, 2025.
  • SB97 provides for reciprocity with other states on the licensure of pharmacists. The bill states that Louisiana will recognize the licenses of pharmacists moving to Louisiana provided that the state where the license was granted recognizes Louisiana’s licenses.
  • SB136 makes the identities of persons receiving assistance under the Louisiana Military Family Assistance Fund exempt from disclosure under the public records act. It also tweaks some definitions.
  • SB192 would create the Louisiana Postsecondary Inclusive Education Fund, designed to “increase independent living and employment opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
  • SB455 changes the name of the Office of Broadband and Connectivity to the Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity and moves it from the governor’s office to the Division of Administration. It authorizes the office to contract with a private entity or third-party consultant to develop and maintain the state broadband map. It states that any contact between the office and a private entity or third-party consultant for the purpose of developing and maintaining the state broadband map shall include a confidentiality agreement prohibiting the disclosure of any broadband data; any data compiled would be exempt from disclosure under the public records act. 

Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia

Beaullieu, whose District 48 encompasses part of Youngsville, spearheaded a constitutional amendment to give disabled veterans an ad valorem property tax break, which passed both chambers unanimously.

“Without a doubt the piece of legislation that I am most proud of is the constitutional amendment that will allow our disabled veterans to receive a property tax exemption if they are totally disabled and allow our partially disabled war heroes a partial exemption,” he wrote. “We owe this respect to our soldiers that have returned home with the scars of battle.  We aren’t ‘giving’ our veterans an exemption; they have earned it!,” he said by email. 

The proposed amendment, HB599, uses a sliding scale based on the percent of disability. In addition to the usual $7,500 homestead exemption, veterans with a 50-70% disability would have their exemption increased by $2,500; for 70-100%, by $7,500; for 100%, a total ad valorem tax exemption.

A constitutional amendment does not need a gubernatorial signature. It will go before the voters for ratification Nov. 8. 

Beaullieu withdrew his HB917 to lower the state income tax rate from 4.25% to 3.99%, an incremental measure intended to inch Louisiana closer to ending the income tax altogether.  “Once filed, we realized that if passed, it would jeopardize the federal monies currently coming down from D.C. so we had to abandon ship.  I may have lost that battle, but the war on reducing the income tax continues on,” he says. “My goal is to make Louisiana a zero, personal income tax state.”

Beaullieu also has five bills on their way to the governor, passed by the skin of their teeth this week.

  • HB130 requires a police officer investigating an accident to send the accident report to any medical institution that treated an injured party. 
  • HB359 requires election officials to report any federal election directive to the House speaker and Senate president within five business days. This bill encountered more opposition than the others, along partisan lines. It passed the House 66-27 in April, but passed the Senate unanimously on June 1. That one may be a candidate for Edwards’ veto pen.

Asked to clarify the purpose of the bill, Beaullieu responded, “It simply requires legislative approval of all federal policy and spending initiatives in Louisiana.  We would have difficulty not complying with federal law. [But] most all of our election laws are state laws, not federal, though you do have federal guidelines that we must comply with, like the Voting Rights Act and others.

“Second, this bill is not an attempt to supersede federal law, it is an attempt to cross-check federal overreach in our state’s elections that are not written in law and brought forth with mandates or under the disguise of grant opportunities. It doesn’t prevent federal spending and policy, it just requires our oversight of the initiatives to make sure everyone has an equal access to the ballot.”

  • HB 374 hikes the maximum fine for tire littering or failure to obtain a generator identification number from $500 to $5,000, and in addition to the fines makes litterers responsible for disposing of the tires. 
  • HB622 requires the Louisiana Workforce Commission to check the state’s office of vital statistics on a weekly basis to determine if unemployment compensation benefits are being paid to dead or ineligible people.
  • HB736 creates a bonus program of up to $6,000 to induce qualified athletic trainers to relocate to rural schools.

Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro

Emerson acted as House floor manager for SB342 by Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, which enforces a total ban on abortion in Louisiana, with no exceptions for rape or incest. 

It passed the Senate 29-3 in May and the House 72-25 on June 2. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling this term that may diminish or end abortion rights altogether. Louisiana is among 26 states with trigger laws on the books that would outlaw or substantially restrict abortion access should constitutional protections for abortion rights be overturned. Rep. Vincent Pierre was the only Lafayette legislator voting against it. It has been sent to the governor.

Emerson said she was unable to steward a bill for Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-Monroe that would have recognized professional licenses granted by other states when those professionals move to Louisiana. It twice passed the Senate unanimously, the second last Sunday, but stalled before it came up for a House vote Monday.

“It ran into too many roadblocks at the end. I’m disappointed in that. This legislation is really needed to make it easier for Louisiana to attract more people and businesses to our state. It removes red tape in obtaining an occupational license if you previously had one or worked in that field before moving here,” she says. “I was the first person to bring up that concept in 2020. Couldn’t get it out of House committee.”

Still, Emerson, whose District 39 includes southern St. Landry Parish, did get some licensing bills passed into law. 

  • HB81 adds the speaker of the House, the president of the Senate and the chairs of the House and Senate Commerce Committees, or their designees, to the Occupational Licensing Review Commission. Edwards signed it on May 30.
  • HB240 will allow graduates of state-approved, Louisiana-based massage therapy schools to receive one three-month provisional license upon graduation. Edwards signed it into law May 17. 

Both bills passed both houses unanimously, and both go into effect. Aug. 1. Other members did not respond to email requests to discuss their bills.

Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette

As senate president, Cortez, usually gets what he wants. This session, he authored nine bills, most of them statewide in scope, and all nine breezed through both houses. Edwards has already signed four, and the other five are on his desk.

Probably the most important is Cortez’s SB277, which creates the Megaprojects Leverage Fund, with separate funds earmarked for the I-49 North and South projects, the new Mississippi River bridge and the new I-10 bridge over the Calcasieu River. Monies will be deposited into the four funds through a complex formula. It received final House passage on Monday and was sent to Edwards on Tuesday.

The most controversial is probably Cortez’s SB435, which doubles the existing fines for exceeding the 60 mph speed limit on the I-10 bridge over the Atchafalaya Basin. The current fines are $175 for a first offense and $500 for a subsequent offense. The bill also mandates security cameras on the bridge. It passed the Senate 33-0 in April and the House 78-12 last Thursday. It is on Edwards’ desk. 

Three of Cortez’s bills fine-tune some gambling laws Cortez passed last session, two dealing with horseracing and one with sports wagering. 

  • SB84 authorizes special license plates that say “Maddie’s Footprints,” honoring the organization established in 2010 for families dealing with grief from miscarriages, stillbirths or infant deaths. 
  • SB85 will allow part of an individual income tax refund to be donated to Maddie’s Footprints.
  • SB490 tightens up security for the State Capitol, including creating the post of director of Capitol security.
  • SB422 authorizes the sale of a tract of state land along Surrey Street to the Krewe of Bonaparte. It’s Cortez’s only bill of local importance, and it took effect May 17.

Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette

Bishop, another Lafayette powerhouse, represents District 43 and is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Each session he authors the budget and capital outlay bills.

Three of Bishop’s other bills already signed into law by the governor deal with littering. All three go into effect Aug. 1

  • HB397 creates separate accounts within the Conservation Fund for litter abatement and for environmental education. 
  • HB749 transfers the responsibility for litter control and awareness from the Department of Education to the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. 
  • HB750 stipulates that the proceeds of littering fines imposed by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will be divided between the department and the Litter Abatement and Education Account. 

Edwards has also signed Bishop’s HB276, an esoteric telecommunication bill which, among other things, excludes streaming services from the legal definition of “video service” and “cable service” for the purpose of franchise fees. It took effect upon Edwards’ signature on May 26.

Bishop’s HB742 removes the requirement that a licensed truck stop have a restaurant, while HB983 authorizes a rollover of account funds in the Student Tuition Assistance and Revenue Trust (START) program, a college education savings program, into the START K-12 account. Current law prohibits a rollover into K-12 START accounts. Both have been sent to the governor.

Rep. Jean-Paul Coussan, R-Lafayette

Coussan, whose District 45 includes downtown Lafayette and the UL campus, introduced seven bills, two of which have been signed into law and four more that have been sent to the governor.

  • HB339 bans a coordination of health-care benefits provision that permits a plan to delay or deny payment to a healthcare provider for rendered services “solely on the basis of the insured’s failure to provide the health insurance issuer with notice of the existence of an additional plan or lack thereof.” It also requires a contracted healthcare provider to share with a plan any coordination of benefits information obtained by the provider from the insured. Edwards signed it into law on May 26 and it becomes effective Jan. 1, 2023.
  • HB1035 authorizes the Department of Environmental Quality to issue grants totaling not more than $150,000 each for the voluntary upgrade of single-wall underground motor fuel storage tanks. Edwards signed it last Friday and it becomes effective Aug. 1.

Other Coussan bills awaiting the governor’s action:

  • HB131 updates an old World War II-era law that states that the salary of a teacher whose employment is interrupted by military duty will be calculated as if there were no interruption. The bill updates the law to include teachers called up from the Vietnam era to the present. 
  • HB477 provides new assistant district attorneys for 14 of the state’s judicial districts. It increases the number of prosecutors for the 15th district, which includes Lafayette Parish, from 19 to 28.
  • HB655 requires a permit for a solar power generation facility and assesses a fee of $15 per acre to be paid to the Department of Natural Resources.
  • HB1060 would remove the current requirement that a freshwater charter boat fishing guide have a valid captain’s license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Rep. Marcus Bryant, D-New Iberia

Bryant, whose amoeba-shaped District 96 includes parts of St. Martin Parish, Broussard and a sliver of Lafayette around the airport, has had one bill signed into law with seven more on their way to Edwards’ desk, four of them crime-related.

Last week Edwards signed Bryant’s HB848, which requires that when a report of child abuse has been determined to be inconclusive or unjustified, “all files, records, and information . . . shall be released to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, military authorities, prosecuting authorities, and coroners in the course of investigations or legal proceedings upon request when the requesting agency has good cause to believe that the files, records, or information contain information which may be constitutionally required to be disclosed.” It takes effect Aug. 1.  

Current law gives a school bus driver accused of incompetence, neglect of duty or being drunk on duty 20 days from the notice of charges to request a hearing. Bryant’s HB349 changes that to 20 days from the superintendent’s disciplinary action.

  • HB363 would change the system for annual public school teacher evaluations by adding a requirement that each teacher and his/her evaluator meet to discuss the student learning targets (SLTs) of each student. It would prohibit SLTs not discussed in such a meeting from being used in the evaluation.
  • HB627 drastically reduces the penalties for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Currently it is a fine of up to $5,000 and/or two years in prison. Bryan’s bill reduces that to  $1,000 and/or six months.
  • HB628 toughens parole eligibility. It states that the current eligibility requirements do not apply “to any person who has been convicted of an offense that is both a crime of violence and a sex offense when the offense was committed on or after Jan. 1, 1997.
  • HB529 stipulates that just the odor of marijuana coming from inside a residence does not constitute probable cause for a search warrant. 
  • HB630 names parts of La. Highways 31 and 675 in Iberia and St. Martin parishes after three local judges. 
  • HB996 provides complex rule changes for charitable bingo games. Among others, it raises the maximum cost for electronic charitable bingo games from $1 to $4 and raises the maximum “mega jackpot” for electronic charitable games from $10,000 to $30,000; the minimum remains $4,500. It also increases the number of games a charitable organization can have per hour from six to 30.

Rep. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette

Pierre, who represents District 44 in eastern Lafayette Parish, introduced only five bills, four of which never got out of their House committees. The one that got through both houses and made it to the governor was HB669, which fine-tunes the criminal background check process for instructors of private drivers training schools. Pierre’s bill requires additional records, including a national fingerprint check. It passed the House 100-1 and the Senate unanimously. It was sent to the governor on May 31.

Rep. Jonathan Goudeau, R-Lafayette

Goudeau, whose District 31 takes in much of southwestern Lafayette Parish west of Camellia Boulevard and eastern Vermilion Parish, introduced only four bills, only one of which passed both houses. HB1073 requires a license to sell used catalytic converters. It is on Edwards’ desk.

Sen. Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville

Hensgens, whose District 26 encompasses Vermilion Parish and part of western Lafayette Parish, sponsored five bills, three of which were signed into law on May 13 and a fourth that received House approval last Friday and was sent to Edwards on Wednesday.

  • SB26 removes the current requirement that members of the Louisiana Equine Promotion and Research Advisory Board serve terms concurrent with the commissioner who appointed them. It became effective when Edwards signed it on May 13.
  • SB38 is a complex tweaking of the law governing notification by a well owner or non-participating owner of intention to drill. It takes effect Aug. 1.
  • SB91 extends the life of the Coastal Restoration and Restoration Authority, which was scheduled to sunset on July 1, 2024, until June 30, 2028. It becomes effective June 30.

Hensgen’s SB447 would tighten the rules by which the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries regulates and reports on the harvesting of menhaden. It received final House passage last week and went to the governor.