By: Pat Austin
While legislators did not legalize recreational marijuana, they did legalize sports betting. The medical marijuana program was expanded, and jail time for small amounts of marijuana has been eliminated. Mandatory kindergarten passed muster, but tougher teacher retirement rules did not. Governor John Bel Edwards agreed to terminate federally enhanced unemployment benefits in exchange for raising the weekly unemployment benefit by $28. An attempt to enact closed party primaries failed.
In other pressing issues, women will no longer pay state sales tax on feminine hygiene products or diapers.
At the last minute, legislators passed “a bill that would prohibit government agencies from refusing to issue licenses, permits, and degrees or barring access to public facilities to someone who hasn’t received a covid-19 vaccine until any of the vaccines have been officially approved by the FDA.” Meanwhile, Louisiana State University plans to have a mask mandate this fall when students return to college classes.
The session was not without tension and drama. Louisiana House member Alan Seabaugh came in conflict with Representative Malinda White over terminology in a domestic violence bill. White became contentious over Seabaugh’s proposed changes and reportedly said either “let me get my gun and finish this or I’m going to get my gun and we can finish this.” Seabaugh took that as a threat and has requested the Louisiana State Police follow up on the matter.
I am frankly shocked that Edwards is agreeing to end the subsidized unemployment benefit, however there is no question that he needs to. Businesses all over town are advertising for help, begging for help, and some are having trouble staying open because they can’t get anyone to work.
It remains to be seen which bills will get the governor’s signature and which will meet the veto. Legislators passed one bill that is certain to receive an Edwards veto: residents would no longer have to have a permit or training to conceal carry.
That’s going to be a big no from Edwards.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.