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Mar 29, 2010 12:41 PM by Melissa Canone

Tweaking Louisiana Current Laws

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A ban on low-riding pants and on the
cameras that snap photos of motorists who run red lights. The
expansion of term-limits for elected officials. Tweaks in state
ethics laws. A new twist on the crackdown against cockfighting.
Apparently state budget woes haven't sidetracked lawmakers from
many of the state Capitol's perennial debates.
Louisiana's worsening financial troubles will take center stage
for the annual legislative session that starts Monday. But amid
ideas for budget cuts and government streamlining moves, lawmakers
also are proposing to revisit a series of defeated ideas and to
rewrite current laws that they debate tweaking annually.
They'll again discuss whether Louisiana's ban on smoking in
restaurants should be extended to bars that serve food. They'll
again haggle over a state mandate that would require businesses to
give equal pay to men and women performing the same jobs. And
they'll again consider a proposal to make more of the records in
the governor's office open to public view.
Legislators are a tenacious bunch, to say the least.
Of course, every lawmaker thinks his idea is a great one, so
they'll keep trying. Maybe they took Sen. John Alario's
oft-repeated words to heart: "In my experience, a good bill takes
two or three years to pass. The bad ones we seem to pass the first
time we see them," Alario, D-Westwego, has said repeatedly over
the years.
So, there will be more attempts to enact term limits on
statewide elected officials who don't have them and on judges,
sheriffs and district attorneys as well.
Rep. John LaBruzzo is back with his divisive idea to require
drug testing of welfare recipients. The bill was rejected last year
amid complaints it would unfairly target one group of people who
receive state public assistance.
But LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, argues the proposal could help
families get addiction treatment and could save the state money
from long-term health care problems caused by drug abuse.
The argument isn't expected to fare any better with lawmakers
this year.
Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, and others again are trying to
ban the cameras that snap photos of speeders and motorists who run
red lights. But they face the same objections as last year, from
police chiefs and mayors who say the cameras make the streets safer
- and who want the money those traffic fines generate.
Rep. Rickey Hardy, D-Lafayette, is reviving the failed bill of a
former lawmaker, trying to make it illegal for people to wear
low-riding pants that expose underwear.
The measure would outlaw sagging pants or any other clothing
style that "intentionally exposes undergarments" or more. The
idea was proposed twice before by former Sen. Derrick Shepherd and
generated jokes among lawmakers and around the country. The House
killed the proposal in 2004, and the Senate killed the bill in
2008.
Lawmakers again will consider a litany of proposals to adjust
ethics laws, determining who should be exempt from disclosure
requirements and how ethics laws should be enforced.
And while legislators banned cockfighting a few years ago,
they'll again be discussing the rooster fights amid complaints they
continue even though outlawed. Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner,
proposes making it a crime for a person to attend a cockfight, bet
on a cockfight or pay admission to any place where people can watch
or wager on a cockfight.
If that's not enough of a diversion from the grim budget cut
discussions, there's even a bill to name an official state cookie.
Sen. Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, wants it to be the "tea cake."
Sen. Troy Hebert sums it up by saying the financial matters may
absorb the time of the House Appropriations Committee and the
Senate Finance Committee, but not all lawmakers.
"The budget's going to be consuming to the budget committees,
as always," said Hebert, I-Jeanerette. "The rest of the
Legislature is going to be a lot like the Piccadilly. You can go in
there and take your pick, whatever issue you want to consider, you
have the time to do so."

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