551 new laws take effect Friday in Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Slug a referee at your child's sports game? You'll face jail time. Sixteen and trying to improve your tan? You'll have to head outside because minors are barred from the tanning bed. Want to snoop in your employee's social media accounts? You'll hit roadblocks.
Those are among 551 new laws on the books that take effect Friday, passed by lawmakers in the legislative session that ended in June.
Many laws are minor, like naming the mayhaw tree as Louisiana's official state fruit tree and offering new specialized license plates for U.S. Army Rangers, supporters of artist George Rodrigue, Louisiana "master gardeners" and NRA members.
Other new or rewritten statutes impact health care options, change educational programs and reach into people's everyday activities. Many of the laws focus on crime.
Louisiana's ban on cockfighting has been broadened to sweep in more types of birds and to criminalize the buying and selling of the spurs and knives used in the chicken-fights. Aiming a laser at an aircraft and flying drones over chemical plants are newly prohibited, carrying possible prison sentences for violators.
Jail time is now required for parents who attack referees at their children's football games, soccer matches and other athletic events. The bill by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, set a minimum sentence of five days in jail — or 10 days if the referee is seriously injured.
Henry said referees in his parish asked for heightened penalties, to discourage such behavior and improve their safety.
"They just felt the existing fines weren't enough of a deterrent from parents going after referees at these events," he said during testimony on the bill.
A package of law changes were aimed at helping domestic violence victims in a state that leads the nation in domestic abuse deaths.
New bail restrictions have been added in domestic abuse cases, certain types of domestic abuse crimes have reduced eligibility for parole or probation and those convicted of domestic abuse battery won't be able to have a gun for a decade.
One of the more sweeping new laws reaches into Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Lawmakers have given new protections to personal email, social media and other online accounts, refusing to let employers and public schools, including colleges, demand access to the sites. Firing or disciplining someone who refuses to provide the information is banned.
Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, pushed the law for two years before he got it passed.
In health care, lawmakers are allowing terminally-ill patients in the state to use experimental drugs or treatments not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as long as the patients' doctors approve. The Right to Try Act was sponsored by Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner.
"This reform restores dignity to our dying friends and family members, by giving them back the power to make decisions regarding their bodies, their health and their lives," Stokes said in a statement. "These are choices that should be left to patients and their doctors."
New disinfectant requirements have been added for public water systems after a killer amoeba was found in two systems. Anyone under the age of 18 now will be prohibited from using tanning beds, to lower skin cancer risks. Minors will have to get prescriptions for over-the-counter cough medicines that include an ingredient teenagers have been using to get high.
In education, students have to receive instruction on sexual assault prevention, schools have to provide new paths for special education students to receive a high school diploma and teachers can receive small gifts from students without running afoul of the ethics code.


MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press

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