La. Legislature’s notes

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Lawmakers are considering whether the state should start paying Emergency Medical Service workers the same monthly supplement that local law enforcement officers and firefighters receive.
A Senate judiciary panel agreed without objection Tuesday to a constitutional amendment that would add full-time EMS workers to the list to receive a $500 monthly paycheck from the state on top of their local salaries.
The proposal would cost at least $3.7 million a year and likely more, depending on how many EMS workers qualified, according to legislative fiscal analysts.
Supporters of the bill (Senate Bill 285) by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, said EMS workers promote health and safety of the public, just as local police and firefighters do. Critics have raised questions about whether the state should be in the business of helping pay local emergency responders, instead of leaving that responsibility to parishes and cities.
The proposal is expected to run into budgetary concerns because of its price tag.
The constitutional amendment is expected to head next to the Senate Finance Committee for a budgetary review. If approved by both the House and Senate, the proposal also would need the support of voters in the Nov. 4 statewide election.
Judges would no longer be forced to retire after reaching age 70 and finishing their current terms, under a proposal backed Tuesday by a Senate judiciary committee.
Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, reintroduced the constitutional amendment this session after it easily passed the Senate last year but fell short of the votes needed in the House.
Supporters describe the proposal (Senate Bill 11) as a fairness issue that gives voters who elect judges the ability to decide if they think someone should no longer serve. They said it was discriminatory to have an age restriction on when someone must leave office.
Opponents say the restriction in the state constitution acts as a term limit on judges.
The Senate Judiciary A Committee approved the bill without objection. The measure heads next to the full Senate for debate. If it wins approval from both the House and Senate, it also would require approval from voters in the fall statewide election.
Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish isn’t giving up on a bill that has been twice vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, which would create a new exception to the state ethics code.
Morrish’s proposal (Senate Bill 122) would allow a member of a local governing authority in a town with 5,000 residents or less to do business with people who have contracts with the town.
Jindal has vetoed the bill for the last two years, saying he saw no reason for the exception.
“Either the third time’s a charm or three strikes, you’re out,” Morrish, R-Jennings, told members of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Morrish said small communities in his area have trouble finding people to serve in office because of current ethics restrictions. The committee decided Tuesday that it will consider the proposal next week, after hearing whether the state ethics board takes a position on the bill.
In other legislative action:
—Senators on a judiciary panel agreed without opposition to tighten regulations on explosives licenses in Louisiana. Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, said he proposed the changes (Senate Bill 129) after an explosion in October 2012 led to an investigation at Camp Minden, in which a Louisiana State Police investigator discovered millions of pounds of improperly stored military propellant. The bill heads next to the full Senate for debate.
—The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee stalled a bill (Senate Bill 60) that would let candidates appear on an election ballot as “independent” if they aren’t registered with a political party. Committee members deadlocked in a 4-4 vote. Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, said he’ll bring the proposal back at a later date.
—The House agreed to reduce the time people sentenced to life in prison are required to wait between applications for a pardon or commutation of sentence. Currently, an inmate can apply 15 years after being sentenced with the Board of Pardons. If the application is denied, the inmate must wait at least seven years. The bill (House Bill 8) by Rep. Dalton Honore, D-Baton Rouge, would cut the time to five years after a denial. The proposal heads to the Senate for debate.

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