Accomplishments: 2024 2nd Extraordinary Session

   

We have been talking about this for quite some time here at Citizens for a New Louisiana. Increasing crime rates and a lack of transparency in our criminal justice system. In a recent four-part series following the issuance of the Violent Crime Task Force report back in December, we discussed our local police, corrections, prosecutors, and courts. Now, our Governor and Legislature have taken swift action in an attempt to address the volatile situation head-on and swiftly.

Governor Landry calls for 2nd Extra-Ordinary Session

Article 3, Section 2 of the Louisiana Constitution authorizes the Governor to convene an Extraordinary session and to limit the session to items specifically enumerated in the Governor’s Proclamation. That is what Governor Jeff Landry did on February 8, 2024 when he issued proclamation number 13 JML 2024 calling for a special session to begin on February 19, 2024 to address twenty-four specific items.

Leading the charge with bringing legislation to address the Governor’s topics were some familiar names: Senators Blake Miguez (R 9/10); Alan Seabaugh (R 9/10); Valarie Hodges (R 9/10); Beth Mizell (R 8/10); Heather Cloud (R 8/10); Rick Edmonds (R 8/10); as well as Representatives Danny McCormick (R 10/10); Julie Emerson (R 9/10); Tony Bacala (R 8/10); Debbie Villio (R 7/10); Laurie Schlegal (R 7/10); Jack McFarland (R 7/10) and Mark Wright (R 7/10).

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So how effective was the 11 day 2024 Second Extra Ordinary Session? Well, that is for you to judge. Here’s what happened.

Items 1 – 4: Sentencing, Probation and Parole

Items 1 through 4 of the Governor’s proclamation dealt specifically with the areas of sentencing, probation, and parole. Representative Debbie Villio brought three bills to address these areas, with two bills being brought by Representative Mark Wright, and Senators Stewart Cathey (R 6/10) and Patrick McMath (R 5/10) each bringing one bill. Portions of the proposed legislation sought to roll back or make changes to laws that were passed five years earlier under former Governor John Bel Edwards. These have become known as the Justice Reform Initiative or Justice Reinvestment. Those ten bills which passed back in 2017 were brought by six Republicans, two Democrats, and one independent lawmaker. Only one of those nine lawmakers remains in the legislature.

Representative Villio’s HB09, HB10, and HB11 all passed both chambers and have been sent to the Governor for ratification. Likewise, SB05 by Senator McMath and SB10 by Senator Cathey passed and await the Governor’s signature. While HB13 and HB14 by Representative Wright stalled out in the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee.

Villio’s package of bills seeks to restrict parole eligibility, to restrict or repeal the earning of good time and earned compliance credits, and to expand criteria for which probation and parole may be revoked for technical violations. Cathey’s bill specifically addressed restricting good time for a person who commits a subsequent crime of violence or is involved in the death of a first responder. While McMath’s bill provides for unanimous parole decisions, to be eligible for parole an offender must not have any major disciplinary offenses for three years compared to one year presently in law.

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Item 5: Transparency

Senator Seabaugh and Representative Bacala each brought a bill aimed at requiring electronic access to criminal records and certain juvenile delinquency proceedings. Seabaugh’s SB13 never made it out of the Senate Judiciary B Committee, while Bacala’s HB01 was subject to fourteen different attempts to amend it, many withdrawn or rejected on the floor. Once signed into law the Truth and Transparency in Louisiana Criminal Justice System Program will be established.

Items 6 and 20: Funding

Democrats Edmond Jordan (D 1/10), Jason Hughes (D 1/10), and Marcus Bryant (D 2/10) all brought bills related to these items, DID YOU KNOW? But, it was House Appropriations Chairman Jack McFarland’s HB19 that crossed the finish line. The largest benefactor of the bill would be the Louisiana State Police who would receive an additional $22.3 million.

McFarland also proposed HB17 which made it to the Senate, but was never called up for a vote. Jordan’s HB21, HughesHB18, and Bryant’s HB20 all failed to advance to the Senate.

Items 7: Public Defender

Senator Mike Reese (R 4/10) brought SB08 to create the office of the public defender within the office of the Governor. Despite criticism about the public defender being moved under the direction of the Governor, there was just as much criticism over monies that were allocated to the current office being spent in a manner other than what the legislature had approved. There was also much discussion about the large resources of the office being spent on a handful of legal firms in the New Orleans area.

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Items 8, 9, 12, 22 and 24: Specific Crimes

Representative Mike Johnson (R 6/10) brought HB05 seeking to add illegal use of weapons and dangerous instrumentalities to the list of crimes of violence. HB07 by Representative Schlegel sought to increase the penalties for the crime of carjacking. Schlegel also brought HB08 which seeks to criminalize fentanyl further if it were to “reasonable appeal” to minors. Senator Beth Mizell’s SB09 would allow the prosecution of a sex offense to occur after the legal delays have lapsed in the event “newly discovered photographic or video evidence” later surfaced. All were successful in both chambers and are awaiting the Governor’s approval.

Senator Hodges was the lone member of either chamber of the legislature who sought to address item 12. Her SB12, much like HB07, sought to increase the penalties for the crime of carjacking but it did not advance past the Senate Judiciary C Committee.

Representative Delisha Boyd (D 2/10) brought HB15, which sought to address the time limitations of the crime of third-degree rape. That bill didn’t make it out of the Senate Judiciary C Committee. Boyd also filed HB16, which would require a license plate on the front of vehicles but later withdrew the bill.

Item 10: Specialty Courts

Representative Rhonda Butler (R 6/10) brought HB03, the only bill about this item. If the Governor approves, the bill would require persons, as a condition of bail, to submit to drug test and screening for substance abuse disorders. The bill also provides for various other intervals for testing and screening while the case remains active in the criminal justice system.

Item 11: Lowering (Returning) the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction

Senator Cloud brought both SB03, lowering the age of juvenile jurisdiction, and SB04 which deals with a juvenile who has committed more than one act constituting a crime of violence and addresses other various items.

Senator Cathey brought SB11, also addressing the age of juvenile jurisdiction. However, the bill didn’t make it out of the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee. Likewise, Senator Katrina Jackson’s (D 4/10) SB15, which sought to enact a dual sentencing system similar to that which exists in other states, failed to advance past the Senate Judiciary C Committee.

Item 13: Immunity

Two bills were brought forward about granting additional immunity to peace officers and public entities. SB06 by Senator Seabaugh and HB02 by Representative Bacala contained very similar language. While SB06 didn’t make it past the Senate Judiciary B Committee, HB02 advanced through both chambers and now awaits the Governor’s signature. If signed into law the bill would bar any state law claims against peace officers and the public entities they work for unless an act or omission of the peace officer would constitute criminal, fraudulent, or intentional misconduct.

Item 14: Supreme Court Boundaries

A bill seeking to redraw the boundaries of the Louisiana Supreme Court Districts to comply with any order of the court or terms of settlement in the matters of Louisiana State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, et al. v. State of Louisiana, et al. was brought by State Representative Mike Johnson (R 6/10). HB22 ultimately died in the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Item 15: Death Sentence

Representative Nicholas Muscarello (R 6/10) brought HB06 which seeks to make various changes to carrying out the death sentence in the state of Louisiana, including providing anonymity to certain persons and companies that participate in the process or procurement. There were multiple amendments along the way which allowed the bill to advance to the Governor’s desk.

Item 16: Ignition Interlock Devices

SB07 by Senator Edmonds, which sought to make various changes to the law concerning ignition interlock devices, also cleared both chambers. One such change would require the courts to prohibit an offender on probation for the offense of operating while intoxicated from driving for no less than six months unless an ignition interlock device is installed.

Item 17: Post Conviction Relief

Representative Emerson brought HB04 concerning this item, which also cleared both chambers. The bill makes various changes to repetitive applications for post-conviction relief. In addition to serving the District Attorney, the bill requires service on the Attorney General for any application filed after the first application for relief. Both the District Attorney and the Attorney General shall have a right to suspensively appeal any order granting relief. Additionally, the bill clarifies that all limitations in the Article are jurisdictional and shall not be waived or excused by the court or the District Attorney.

Items 18 and 19: Concealed Carry

One of the more exciting items for the average citizen was the anticipated changes to Louisiana’s concealed carry laws. Leading the charge in this area was Senator Miguez, who brought SB01 and SB02, and none other than Representative McCormick, who brought HB12. Although McCormick has long championed bills seeking “constitutional carry” in Louisiana, HB12 stalled out in the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee. At the end of the day, it was Miguez’s bills that made it to the Governor. Now that it’s been signed into law, it brings Louisiana in line with the constitutional carry laws of the other bordering states. The instrument also limits liability to concealed carry permit holders, certain peace officers, and military personnel.

Senator Gary Carter (D 1/10) also proposed legislation in this arena, but SB14 didn’t advance past the Senate Judiciary C Committee.

Item 21: Attorney General

Freshman Michael Mellerine (R 7/10) carried his first bill, HB23, which awaits the approval of the Governor. If signed into law, notice must be provided to the Attorney General of constitutional challenges in either civil or criminal law. The purpose is to ensure that the AG’s office may intervene or take action on behalf of the state on relevant matters.

Item 23: No Bills Brought

The only item in the Governor’s proclamation that did not see any legislative action taken was the call to “amend or repeal Act 354 of 2023 Regular Session.” Act 354 was initiated by House Bill 475 by former Representative Tanner Magee. Through this law, a prohibition on the use of “creative or artistic expression is not admissible in a criminal case to prove the character of a person.” In other words, song lyrics are not admissable in court.

Despite this, much progress was made by our State Legislature during the 2024 Second Extraordinary Session which lasted from February 19th through the 29th. If this is the caliber or performance we can expect to see from our elected officials in the Regular Session there is a chance we can turn this thing around and usher in the era of a New Louisiana.

The regular session begins on Monday, March 11th.

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