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Sanctuary cities, death penalty, equal pay, spanking on radar


May 5, 2017
By Greg Hilburn
Originally Posted on The Advertiser

BATON ROUGE — Four controversial bills that clawed their way out of committee, including two that needed panel chairmen to cast the tie-breaking votes, could get a wider hearing in the Louisiana Legislature next week.

All four of the bills — penalties for so-called sanctuary cities, abolishing the death penalty, equal pay for women and banning all corporal punishment in public schools — are back from past years for another run.

Sanctuary cities: Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, seizing on one of President Donald Trump's favorite catch phrases, said her House Bill 135 "puts America and Americans first."

It would require local authorities to cooperate with federal immigration agents or face losing state funding.

Hodges is bolstered by the support of Attorney General Jeff Landry, a consistent critic of what he believes are sanctuary city policies in New Orleans. Lafayette, which was once identified as a sanctuary city, has been dropped from the list.

Hodges' bill likely will come before the full House next week. A similar bill cleared that hurdle last year before dying in the Senate.

The Texas Legislature passed a similar bill this week, where Gov. Greg Abbott said he will sign the legislation into law.

Death penalty: Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, calls his legislation to abolish the death penalty in Louisiana a pro-life bill.

He and Acadiana lawmaker Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, each filed duplicate bills before settling on Claitor's in the Senate, where it had the better chance to clear the Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Landry presented Claitor's bill in front of the panel, which Claitor chairs.

There was passionate testimony on both sides of the issue.

"I still fundamentally believe there should be a moratorium on the death penalty," Landry told USA Today Network after the committee hearing. "It has cost us too many dollars and too many lives. The tough part now is to take it to the full Senate and later to the House."

Senate Bill 142 could be called before the full Senate any day next week.

Equal pay: Sen. JP Morrell has brought an equal pay bill to the Legislature for the past four years, each year inching the bill forward.

Last year Morrell won full Senate approval before the bill died in the House Labor Committee. The bill that would require men and women to be paid equally for the same job.

"You hope for incremental change, and last year we had substantial change by getting full Senate approval," Morrell said in a recent interview with the USA Today Network. "I'm hoping to take it through the full measure this year."

But the bill faces stiff opposition from business groups, including the powerful Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, and will be a long shot again if it reaches the House.

The bill is part of Gov. John Bel Edwards' legislative package. Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards played host to an Equal Pay Rally before the session.

House Bill 2 cleared the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee this week and heads to the full Senate for debate.

Corporal punishment: House Bill 497 by Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, which would completely ban corporal punishment in public schools, squeaked out of the House Education Committee after a tie-breaking vote from panel Chair Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette.

It will face even stiffer opposition in the full House next week. Norton said she's been told the Louisiana Family Forum and the Louisiana School Boards Association will oppose the bill.

The House unanimously passed a separate bill to ban paddling of special needs students this week, but approving a complete ban is a long shot.

Still, Norton said she will press on.

"It doesn't work today; it didn't work yesterday," Norton said.