Business News

Notes from the Legislature's regular session

by Leslie Turk

Surrogacy births, ethics exemption for Heitmeier, term limits and increased penalties for heroin distribution.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Legislation to regulate surrogacy births in Louisiana is nearing final passage.

The House-approved measure (House Bill 187) by Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, quickly sailed through a Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday.

Louisiana law has few regulations governing surrogacy, the arrangement in which a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for another couple. Lopinto's bill would spell out who can be a surrogate and what legal rights the parents, the surrogate and the child have.

Surrogacy would be allowed only for married couples consisting of a man and woman.

To be a surrogate, a woman would have to be at least 25 years old and no older than 35, have previously given birth, and undergo mental and physical evaluations. She would have to agree to relinquish all rights to the child she would be carrying for the married couple.

The surrogate wouldn't be able to receive any compensation for carrying the child, except for medical expenses and certain other costs related to the pregnancy.

Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed a similar bill last year because of moral and ethical objections raised by social conservatives and religious leaders. But Lopinto has worked with the groups and has reached compromise language that removed many of the objections.

The bill moves next to the full Senate for debate.


The House has agreed to carve out a special ethics exemption that would allow former state Sen. Francis Heitmeier to lobby the Legislature even though his brother, David, is currently a state senator.

The bill (House Bill 459) by Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, passed with a 58-24 vote Tuesday.

It heads next to the Senate for debate.

Arnold said similar exceptions have been made for other legislators' family members in prior years.


An annual attempt to put term limits on all statewide elected officials in Louisiana has again stalled in the House.

Without objection Tuesday, the House and Governmental Affairs Committee shelved the proposal (House Bill 313) by Rep. Simone Champagne, R-Erath.

Champagne wants to limit statewide elected officials to three consecutive four-year terms. The bill would have applied to the lieutenant governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, insurance commissioner, secretary of state and treasurer.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne supported the idea. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell opposed it.

Champagne has pushed the proposal unsuccessfully for several years.

Louisiana's governor already is limited to two consecutive terms.


The House criminal justice committee rewrote, then approved, a measure that would increase the penalties for heroin distribution or intent to distribute.

As passed by the Senate, the bill (Senate Bill 87) by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, would have made the prison sentence anywhere from five to 99 years, a change from the current sentence of five to 50 years.

But Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Livingston, suggested the minimum sentence should be raised to 10 years. Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, sought to drop the maximum back down to its original 50 years.

The committee approved those changes Tuesday, then voted 9-3 for the bill. It moves next to the full House for debate.


In other legislative action:

-The full House will consider whether to shorten the length of some legislative sessions. Currently, the Legislature holds 60-day sessions in odd-numbered years and 85-day sessions in even-numbered years. The proposal (House Bill 373) by Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, would make all sessions last 60 days, though with differing rules on what can be considered in each. The House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 3-2 to advance the proposal with its chairman, Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, casting the deciding vote.