Legislative Report

Signings turn bills into laws as special session begins Bills by Coussan, Miguez signed by Edwards. Justice Reinvestment signings set for Wednesday

by Mike Stagg

Some bills approved by both chambers in the regular session of the Legislature that ended last week have been signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards with a major ceremony set for signing of the Justice Reinvestment bills on Wednesday afternoon.

File Photo

Three bills by two Acadiana legislators have been signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards as bills passed in the final days of the regular session that ended last Thursday made their way to his desk for action.

Reps. Jean-Paul Coussan and Blake Miguez have each had bills signed into law by the governor while a major signing ceremony is set for the Justice Reinvestment package of bills on Wednesday.

Coussan's HB299, which transfers ownership of the Louisiana Immersive Technology Enterprise Center to UL Lafayette and dissolves the LITE Center Commission that ran the facility for a decade was signed into law by Edwards on June 1. It became Act 12 of the 2017 Regular Session.

The transfer of ownership will become official on Aug. 1.

Edwards also signed Miguez's HB75 into law on June 1. The bill, which became Act 7, streamlines the process of obtaining death certificates in instances involving small successions.

The governor also signed Miguez's HB4, which adds school nurses to the list of retirees covered by the Teacher Retirement System of Louisiana who can now be rehired by school systems without losing the ability to collect their retirement benefits while working. Act 15 places an earnings cap on those retirees returning to work identical to that of other TRSL retirees who were already able to be rehired under existing law.

The governor's office and the coalition that endorsed the Justice Reinvestment Task Force criminal justice reforms have announced that there will be a signing ceremony in the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon where Edwards will sign 10 bills included in that package into law.

Edwards will sign SB139, SB220, SB221, HB249, HB489, SB16, HB116, HB519, HB680 and HB681, according to an announcement from Louisianians For Prison Alternatives, one of the groups that supported the successful legislative effort.

Passage of the criminal justice reforms is considered the highlight of an otherwise dismal session that ended on June 8 without the House and Senate having reached agreement on the state's major money legislation affecting the current and approaching fiscal years.

Edwards had called a special session that began 30 minutes after the regular session ended. The governor called it as a precautionary measure on May 27 when the possibility of the House and Senate not being able to bridge their differing approaches to state finances appeared possible.

The House and Senate each took the weekend off after the regular session ended. The House reconvened on Monday. The Appropriations Committee began holding hearings on the budget, taking testimony from department and agency heads on the impact of the House version of HB1 on their missions. Committee chair Rep. Cameron Henry and House Speaker Taylor Barras both said on Monday that the goal is to get HB1 to a vote on the House floor by Wednesday.

The Ways and Means Committee on Monday unanimously approved the Capital Outlay bill — the state's construction budget.

The Appropriations Committee was scheduled to convene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday to continue its review of HB1. The full House is scheduled to convene at 5 p.m.

Because all revenue bills must originate in the House, the Senate will not have any legislation to consider until the House approves either the budget, the Capital Outlay bill, the bond bill that would finance that bill, or the supplemental budget used to pay the final bills owed by state at the end of the fiscal year. The Senate will reconvene on Wednesday at 4 p.m.