June 5, 2017 01:32 PM

Bills to rename the state's premier high school and to deregulate natural hair braiding have stirred passions in the session. Both face key votes on Monday afternoon.

The bid to rename the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts will be up for a House debate and vote on Monday afternoon as members of the school's alumni association continue their fight against the change. SB1 is scheduled for House action on Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Senate is scheduled to debate Rep. Julie Emerson's HB486, which would deregulate the practice of natural hair braiding. The bill was scheduled for Senate action on Friday but it did not get called from the calendar. At the time, Emerson said she was expecting attempts to be made to amend the bill. The Senate had not yet considered the bill at press time on Monday.

SB1 by Sen. Francis Thompson of Delhi seeks to honor his late friend Jimmy D. Long, Sr., by naming the school that Long helped found after the former state representative and member of the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors.

Long is widely recognized as one of the Natchitoches school's four founding fathers, along with Gov. Dave Treen, Sen. Don Kelly and Dr. Robert Alost, the school's first executive director. Long was killed in an automobile accident in Natchitoches in August 2016. At the December 2016 meeting of the LSMSA governing board it was announced that the school would name its new dormitory after Long. Sen. Gerald Long, Jimmy Long's brother, was present at the meeting and noted that legislation would be needed to honor his brother and that he would ask Sen. Thompson to handle it.

Alumni and others associated with the school were stunned to learn in February that Thompson's bill did not name the dormitory after Jimmy Long but named the entire school after him.

The head of the LSMSA Alumni Association told the House Education Committee that he felt the school and his association had been "bamboozled by two grieving men," referring to Sens. Long and Thompson. The LSMSA is one of about a dozen state-sponsored high schools for high achievers in the country, all of which operate under the name of their state.

The House Education Committee heard about three hours of testimony on the subject, most of it by alumni and friends of the school who oppose the change.

The committee voted to favorably report Thompson's bill by a 5-2 vote. If the bill wins House approval today, it must return to the Senate for concurrence as Thompson had the bill amended in the Education Committee so that the name change would not affect the school's branding.

The delay of consideration on Emerson's bill cannot be viewed as a positive development for it. The bill seeks to remove the Board of Cosmetology's regulation of the practice which does not involve dyes, chemicals or other items that are commonly involved in services regulated by the board.

Those regulated by the board have pushed back against the bill saying it will harm their businesses. Emerson said the reason to deregulate the practice is that there are no schools providing the training required under current law. The bill was amended in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs on May 31. If it wins Senate approval, the bill must be returned to the House for concurrence in the amendments made in committee and any that might be made on the floor when it is considered.

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