Legislature: Election changes possible

By By John Guidroz / American Press

State lawmakers will consider several

election-related measures in the second week of the legislative session,

including bills

that would elect all members of the Board of Elementary and

Secondary Education, lower the voting registration age, and let

voters register as independent.

House Bill 374, by Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, is a constitutional amendment that would require the three BESE members

who are now appointed by the governor to be elected. Now, eight of the 11 board members are elected. The legislation will

be heard Wednesday by the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Geymann said his legislation would require the board to be more accountable to residents. He said that is important, especially

as more parents continue to monitor changes in education like the Common Core standards.

“The (people) don’t have as much of a voice,” he said. “We want education to be brought down to the local level as close as

we can. Every member of the board will have to answer to the constituency in the state.”

House Bill 501, by Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, would let Louisiana residents who are 16 register to vote. Right now,

17-year-olds can register to vote — getting a jump on things before they can actually vote at age 18.

Under House Bill 193, by Rep. Jerome

“Dee” Richard, I-Thibodaux, voters could register as independent,

instead of the current

“no party.” The measure would also allow candidates who file a

notice to run in a primary election to list themselves as independent,

and the party affiliation “I” would be listed on ballots.

House Bill 313, by Rep. Simone

Champagne, R-Erath, is a constitutional amendment that would limit

service for statewide elected

officials, except the governor, to three consecutive terms. The

measure would apply to officials whose terms began on or after

Jan. 9, 2012.

Champagne pushed the legislation last year, and it was involuntarily deferred in committee. Another bill filed in 2012 failed

with a 49-49 House vote.

House Bill 970, by Rep. Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer, would allow qualified voters who are incarcerated to cast an early ballot

and send a voting application to a parish voter registrar 30 days before an election.

Budget

The House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees will continue deliberations on the state-proposed budget for the fiscal

year beginning July 1.

The House committee will hear from the

Departments of Veterans Affairs, Justice, Public Service, Agriculture

and Insurance.

The Senate committee will hear from its fiscal staff about Gov.

Bobby Jindal’s proposed budget and from the legislative auditor.

Both committees will also have to deal

with an $87 million shortfall in the current fiscal year. Kristy

Nichols, Jindal’s

chief budget adviser, said last week that the shortfall is a

“common issue” and that the budget will be balanced, as required

by the state constitution.

Smoking ban

The House Health and Welfare Committee

on Wednesday will consider legislation that would prohibit smoking

within 25 feet of

all state-owned office buildings. House Bill 168, by Rep. Frank

Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, would charge a $25 fine for first-time

offenders who don’t work at government buildings. Employees would

pay a $100 fine.

Hoffmann pushed a similar bill last

year that prevented smoking within 25 feet of government buildings and

public college

campuses. It stalled in conference committee near the end of the

session. A similar measure also stalled during the 2012 session.

Fishing limits

House Bill 523, by Rep. Eddie Lambert,

R-Gonzales, would increase the possession limit for largemouth and

spotted bass caught

in saltwater areas to three times the daily limit, as long as a

landing receipt from a public boat launch is shown. The receipt

must indicate the fisher was “actively on the water or at a remote

camp that can be accessed only by water for two days or

more.”

The House Natural Resources Committee will consider the legislation Wednesday.

Education

House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, said any Common Core legislation will not be considered

until at least the third week of the session.

The committee last week deferred action

on Hoffman’s House Bill 867, which deals with the process to select

textbooks for

elementary and secondary schools. The measure was deferred,

according to Hoffman, so he could meet with school superintendents

and other groups who expressed concerns.

The House Education Committee is scheduled to hear more than 120 bills this session, some of which call for changes to Common

Core standards, or getting rid of them entirely.

Online: www.legis.la.gov.