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State lawmakers vote to advance "JaJa's Law"

Louisiana State Capitol
Posted at 10:44 PM, May 01, 2023

Lawmakers Monday in Baton Rouge unanimously voted to advance a bill that would make it easier for victims of fentanyl poisoning and their families to sue fentanyl distributors — even the countries where the drugs are made.

It now awaits action on the House Floor.

The measure is HB586, also known as "JaJa's Law." Prefiled by Rep. John Stefanski, who is running for attorney general, it was created through a partnership with Lafayette attorney Bob Broussard.

Broussard's youngest daughter, 20-year-old JonTerez who is lovingly referred to as "JaJa," died from fentanyl poisoning back in 2021 after consuming cocaine laced with fentanyl. It's a tragedy the family says happened just 13 days before her 21st birthday.

"We've all decided that we are going to save as many lives as we can in her name to glorify her and glorify God," Broussard tells KATC. "Because every time we save a life in her name, we keep her name alive."

While Broussard has attended state senate meetings to fight for higher criminal penalties for fentanyl traffickers, this time he is working with Stefanski, a Republican representing District 42, to get a civil measure underway. He says this is the first bill of its kind in America, referring back to 2015 as data from the Louisiana Department of Health shows deaths skyrocketing that year by more than 500 percent.

2019 data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency shows fentanyl coming most often from China, Mexico, and India.

"Passing laws like this state by state and urging the federal government to get involved are what it's going to take in order to get this epidemic, it really is," Stefanski tells KATC. "Ultimately, the way you can hit somebody the hardest sometimes is in their pocketbook and if we can start holding these foreign entities and these individuals who are bringing these massive quantities into the country, if we can hold them accountable, I think that's ultimately one of the ways which we are going to stop this."

Stefanski says he expects the measure to hit the House Floor within the next week. In the meantime, Broussard has a message for those using recreational drugs.

"Get a prescription, get a prescription, get a prescription," he says. "Don't touch anything that doesn't have a prescription, or else take your chances."

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