May 25, 2017 03:37 PM

The Senate Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works moved three bills changing aspects of the driver’s license acquisition process in Louisiana, including how to deal with traffic cops, online courses and an additional fee.

Additionally, the committee moved to the full Senate for debate a resolution that urges the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to consider sound-reduction methods, such as the planting of bamboo, along I-10 in Ascension Parish.

House Bill 241, by Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, would require the Department of Public Safety to create and implement a curriculum within the 30-hour driver’s education course regarding routine traffic stops.

HB241’s mandates that new drivers be instructed on the importance of officers, drivers, and passengers maintaining integrity and respect during traffic stops, as well as “demonstrations of appropriate interactions with law enforcement.”

“Every situation is unique,” Brown noted,. “This is essentially saying, ‘Listen to the officer’s instructions and comply.’”

HB241 also seeks to add information about the negative impacts of littering to the curriculum.

House Bill 437 by Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, would make driver’s education curriculum accessible online for new drivers over the age of 18.

This bill would not affect first-time drivers under 18 who will continue to be required to take portions of the 30-hour classroom course. New drivers over 18 would be able to take the 6-hour course online, currently available in a classroom only.

The course must be approved by the Office of Motor Vehicles.

House Bill 547, by Rep. Chris Hazell, R-Pineville, would increase the driver’s license issuance and renewal fee by $1 with the extra buck going to the department of Veteran’s Affairs military assistance fund.

The fund is a “last resort,” according to VA executive officer Holly Talley, who mentioned family emergencies like flooding or a broken water-heater. It is currently primarily funded by donations.

Some committee members were concerned the bill joined two unrelated interests – transportation and veterans’ affairs – and set bad precedent that allows the Legislature to help subsidize any underfunded program out of the driver’s license fee.

Additionally, Sen. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, a veteran, was concerned the HB547 does not explicitly state where the money is going.

“When you force someone to do something, the grants and donations stop coming,” he said. “Right now, the person that contributes out of the goodness of their heart knows exactly what this money can be spent on.”

About 25 percent of the current issue and renewal fee is distributed to the state police and the anti-litter campaign. The rest belongs to the Office of Motor Vehicles.

The bill was moved to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.

Senate Resolution 125, by Sen. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales, requests the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to consider planting shrubbery along I-10 to reduce noise in Ascension Parish.

A decibel study has not been conducted yet.

“Some type of natural barrier like cane or bushes may hold the noise down,” Lambert said. “It might also reduce some of the area that needs to be mowed, too. You would want something that’s an evergreen.”

Lambert also suggested the bamboo could provide some cushion for vehicles that run off the road, and noted the homeowners in the area might be willing to foot the bill.

“[Some bamboo] would also add a little landscaping flare to the interstate,” noted Sen. Dale Erdley, R-Livingston.

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