Voting rights bill for some felons wins passage

After years of fighting for the change, an effort to restore the voting rights of thousands of Louisiana's convicted felons still serving probation and parole was successful Thursday, winning final passage amid cheers, high-fives and hugs.

A 54-42 House vote gave final passage to the bill by Rep. Patricia Smith, a Baton Rouge Democrat who had faced repeated defeat for the proposal. The measure squeaked out of the chamber, reaching the governor's desk with one vote more than it needed.

Here is how Houma-Thibodaux representatives voted on the bill:

For: Truck Gisclair, D-Larose, Tanner Magee, R-Houma, Dee Richard, independent-Thibodaux, and Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma.

Against: Beryl Amedee, R-Houma. 

Smith's bill will allow someone on probation or parole for a felony to register to vote after being out of prison for five years, though not someone convicted of a felony involving election fraud or other election offenses.

Gov. John Bel Edwards intends to sign the change into law, according to spokesman Richard Carbo. It will take effect on March 1, 2019.

Smith needed three votes this session to even get the measure out of the House for consideration in the Senate, which backed the legislation in a 24-13 vote Wednesday. Convicted felons seeking passage of the legislation spent hours talking to lawmakers and walking the halls of the Louisiana Capitol, building support.

Louisiana's 1974 constitution allows suspension of voting rights for people who are "under an order of imprisonment" for a felony. A law passed two years later specified that people on probation or parole for a felony are included in that definition, leaving some unable to ever vote again after incarceration.


Lawmakers OK bill to clarify school gun boundaries

It would be clear that concealed carry permit holders in Louisiana are allowed to bring their firearms up to the edge of a school campus under a measure heading to the governor's office.

The House on Thursday gave final passage to the proposal by a vote of 88-6.

Here is how Houma-Thibodaux representatives voted on the bill:

For: Beryl Amedee, R-Houma, Truck Gisclair, D-Larose, Tanner Magee, R-Houma, and Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma.

Absent: Dee Richard, independent-Thibodaux.

Republican Rep. Blake Miguez says his proposal is intended to clarify current law that lets concealed carry permit holders have their guns within 1,000-feet of the edge of a school campus.

A previous version of his bill would have allowed school visitors with concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns onto campuses, but that provision was stripped from the measure.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards's office didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.


Bid to allow 'granny cam' in nursing homes passes

Louisiana families should be able to install video monitoring systems in their loved ones' nursing home rooms, lawmakers have decided.

The measure , nicknamed the "granny cam" bill, sailed through the House with a 94-0 vote Thursday, the final vote needed to send it to the governor.

Nursing homes would be prohibited from ousting or retaliating against residents who choose to install the monitoring device. Cameras would be voluntary, and a long list of requirements would have to be met to use them.

The Louisiana Nursing Home Association raised concerns the live-streamed video could be hacked.

But that couldn't slow the bill by River Ridge Rep. Kirk Talbot, as people told stories about wanting to keep track of family members who can't take care of themselves.


Student death prompts tougher hazing penalties

The parents of a college student who died in a drinking gantlet last year have persuaded lawmakers to toughen anti-hazing laws.

House lawmakers late Wednesday gave final passage to two proposals that would make hazing resulting in death a felony; levy fines on organizations that knowingly allow hazing to occur; and require fraternities to report hazing to schools.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to sign both bills, both of which passed the House by a vote of 88-1 and have won widespread support in the Legislature.

Here is how Houma-Thibodaux representatives voted on the bill:

For: Beryl Amedee, R-Houma, Truck Gisclair, D-Larose, Tanner Magee, R-Houma, and Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma.

Absent: Dee Richard, independent-Thibodaux.

Legislators took action at the urging of the parents of Louisiana State University freshman Maxwell Gruver.

One bill , known as The Max Gruver Act, would create a felony hazing charge of up to five years in prison when a victim dies or is seriously injured. Sponsored by Rep. Nancy Landry, the bill also would increase the current penalties for hazing from up to 30 days in jail to a maximum of six months. Organizations that knowingly allow hazing could also face a fine of up to $10,000 and be barred from operating if the Republican's measure becomes law.


Louisiana "Raise the Age" law to be delayed

Louisiana's plans to raise the age of adult prosecution will be delayed slightly.

Lawmakers gave final passage with a 31-0 Senate vote Thursday to legislation postponing a plan they approved in 2016 to stop automatically routing 17-year-olds through the adult criminal justice system when arrested.

The juvenile justice system was supposed to start handling 17-year-olds charged with non-violent crimes July 1. Offenders charged with more serious or violent crimes join two years later.

Under the bill, those charged with non-violent crimes will move to the juvenile justice system on March 1, 2019. Those charged with more serious crimes will be moved on July 1, 2020, as previously planned.

Thursday's vote sent Republican Sen. Ronnie Johns' bill to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who supports the change.


Tweaks to criminal justice revamp approved

Louisiana appears ready to tweak a sweeping overhaul to the state's criminal justice system passed last year.

The Senate voted 31-0 on Thursday to send the measure to the governor, who is expected to sign it into law.

It would allow judges to extend a person's probation two additional years when last year's rewrite capped the maximum term at three. The proposal also lets judges, rather than probation officers, decide if someone's probation should be shortened for good behavior.

Judges and prosecutors have pushed for changes to last year's revamp of sentencing and rehabilitation laws, saying they are trying to fix unforeseen problems. But some advocates say the proposal is a rollback, arguing that it's too soon to start making changes to the new policies.


The Associated Press