Abortion, insurance, LGBTQ issues top Louisiana state agenda


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Louisiana’s budget and bills about abortion access, the state insurance crisis, teacher pay and LGBTQ rights will top the state legislative agenda when lawmakers return to the Capitol Monday.

The state Constitution requires the two-month long session to focus on fiscal and budgetary matters every other year and 2023 is one of them. Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is unable to run for re-election this year due to term limits, put forth his final proposed budget in February. The Democrat outlined a $45.7 billion spending plan for 2023-24, similar to the previous budget.

The state is, however, forecasting $2.2 billion in extra revenue, which Edwards proposes using for one-time transportation projects, teacher pay raises, paying off disaster-related debt owed to the federal government, and to offset expiring federal pandemic relief funds used to provide early learning access.

Although the session focuses on budgetary and tax-related bills, each lawmaker can file five bills unrelated to finances. More than 800 have been submitted filed between in the Republican-dominated legislature.

Here is a look at some of them likely be at the forefront of Louisiana’s upcoming session.

ABORTION

Louisiana has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. The only exceptions are for cases in which there is a substantial risk of death or impairment to the patient and for “medically futile” pregnancies – those in which the fetus has a fatal abnormality. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

Lawmakers have put forth multiple abortion-related bills, including one to further define a “non-viable” pregnancy and another that would add exceptions for rape and incest.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

Legislation to abolish the death penalty and increase punishment for certain crimes – including simple burglary and distributing fentanyl – have been submitted.

A proposal to decriminalize marijuana has been filed again, though similar bills have failed in the past.

INSURANCE

Louisiana lawmakers and the state Insurance Commissioner previewed a 2023 legislative package they hope will stabilize the state’s property insurance market, which has been beset by skyrocketing premiums and insurers fleeing the state due to the high cost of frequent hurricanes. The proposals include setting timelines for insurers to receive a claim, begin adjusting it and requesting specific information they need from policyholders to substantiate losses. Another bill would fully implement the Louisiana Fortify Homes Program, which would provide direct incentives to homeowners to hurricane-proof their roofs.

During a special legislative session in February, lawmakers approved $45 million for an incentive program to entice more insurers to Louisiana. The state’s insurance commissioner is asking for an addition $20 million for that fund.

LGBTQ-RELATED LEGISLATION

Debate over curtailing transgender health care and restricting discussion about gender identity and sexuality in schools has gripped statehouses across the country this year, and Louisiana is no exception.

One bill filed this session aims to deny gender-affirming care to juveniles. Another piece of legislation is similar to Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law, which restricts teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity both in lessons and when it comes to personal lives.

Library books will also be on the agenda, as GOP politicians call for books with “sexually explicit” content to be restricted, a move that activists fear is being used to censor LGBTQ content.

Across the aisle, a Democrat has filed a bill that would prohibit intentional employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.


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