Louisiana news briefs
Compromise surrogacy bill advances in House
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana lawmakers reached a compromise Tuesday with most Christian conservative groups over creating a regulatory framework for surrogacy births that the conservatives initially opposed.
That support could help sway Gov. Bobby Jindal, who vetoed a similar bill last year because of moral and ethical objections raised by social conservatives and religious leaders.
Louisiana law currently has few regulations governing surrogacy, the arrangement in which a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for another couple. It isn’t illegal in the state, but contracts between a couple and its surrogate aren’t enforceable in court. The woman who gives birth is presumed to be the child’s mother.
Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, said he’s pushing the legislation to add restrictions to surrogacy births that are taking place without guidelines, to spell out who can be a surrogate and what the legal rights are for the parents, the surrogate and the child.
“I really cannot overstate the need for legal regulation here. The only statute that Louisiana has on surrogacy is 30 years old. It was drafted at a time when in-vitro fertilization, which is what gestational surrogacy relies on, was not even possible in the United States,” said LSU law professor Andrea Carroll.
The House Civil Law and Procedure committee advanced the proposal without objection Tuesday. It heads next to the full House for debate.
Homer mayor booked for malfeasance
HOMER (AP) — State police say a north Louisiana mayor has been arrested on six counts of malfeasance in office.
Monday’s arrest of Homer Mayor Alecia Smith, 41, followed an investigation by state police, the Legislative Auditor’s Office and the Claiborne Parish District Attorney’s Office.
Investigators allege that Smith misused public funds from 2011 to 2013, taking non-work-related trips paid for by the town, using town credit cards for expenses during those trips and falsifying records to justify the expenses. They allege that Smith used town credit cards to download non-work related audio files and data to her home computer. And they say Smith failed to pay hundreds of dollars in water bills.
bill backed by Senate committee
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A bill requiring chain restaurants to provide calorie information on their menus received the narrow backing Tuesday of the Senate’s health committee.
The proposal would require restaurants with at least 15 locations, one of which is located in Louisiana, to label the caloric content of their food items and beverages, including alcoholic drinks.
Chains that fail to comply with the requirements would face fines of $250 to $1,000, after getting a written notice and 60 days to meet the labeling mandate from the Department of Health and Hospitals.
Senators voted 4-3 to advance the bill to the full Senate for debate, with Chairman David Heitmeier, the bill’s sponsor, casting the tie-breaking vote.
Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, introduced the proposal as part of a package of anti-obesity measures that he said were prompted by recommendations from Tulane University health researchers.
No one spoke in opposition to the proposal during the committee hearing. But after the hearing, Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas, said he had concerns about the bill’s economic impact on restaurants.
“I’m not prepared to tamper with the business community to that extent,” he said.
Sen. Dan Claitor, who also objected to the proposal, described it as unnecessary regulation.
Claitor, Guillory and Sen. Sherri Smith Buffington, R-Keithville, voted against the bill.
Voting for the bill were Heitmeier and Sens. Bret Allain, R-Franklin; Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge; and Dale Erdey, R-Livingston.
The measure would exclude condiments, prepackaged food that already has calories listed and custom-ordered food from the requirement.
Lafayette school committee urges guard at meetings
LAFAYETTE (AP) — A security guard could soon be in attendance at all Lafayette Parish School Board meetings.
The board’s executive committee recommended recently that the board president have the authority to request security for all regularly scheduled board meetings rather than on an as-needed basis. The recommendation will go before the full board within the next few weeks.
Last month, the full board agreed to give its president the ability to decide when he or she wanted security at meetings. Lafayette School Board President Hunter Beasley convened the committee to discuss whether security should be present regularly.
Board and executive committee member Shelton Cobb said he felt it best for a security guard, likely a school resource officer, attend all regular meetings.
“I think having security is a good idea,” Cobb said. “I don’t know if we should have options, because you don’t know what’s going to happen at a board meeting.”
Beasley said he would not anticipate requesting security at non-regular meetings, or other meetings.
Board and executive committee member Tommy Angelle said he envisions the security being in place to ensure order among audience, while also giving the public the proper opportunities to speak on issues.