2016 Legislative session to address gun, marijuana, job laws
The regular session of the Louisiana Legislature got underway March 14 and continues through June 6. While the big question concerns how lawmakers plan to balance the state’s gaping billion-dollar-plus budget hole, a variety of bills concerning guns and drugs are being monitored by criminal-defense lawyers and other legal observers.
Near two-dozen bills on the table involve handguns and concealed-carry rights. For example, Rep. Barry Ivey, a Republican from Baton Rouge, filed a bill to amend the Louisiana Constitution to allow anyone 21 or older to carry a concealed weapon without a permit unless they already are banned legally from carrying a firearm. The amendment would require a two-thirds vote of lawmakers and statewide voter approval. A similar bill filed by Ivey does not require a constitutional amendment, and would only need a majority vote of the Legislature and the governor’s approval.
Conversely, a bill filed by New Orleans Rep. John Bagneris, a Democrat, falls in the gun-control category. It seeks to impose a 10-day waiting period for purchasing a firearm. Violators would face fines of $1,000 to $5,000 and imprisonment for one to five years.
Meanwhile, as marijuana-law reform is sweeping the nation, Louisiana continues to take baby steps. Last year, a narrow medical marijuana law allowing prescriptions for a handful of conditions met the approval of lawmakers, and this year promises more of the same.
Sen. Fred Mills, a Republican from Parks, successfully sponsored last year’s bill that legalizes the drug for those with glaucoma, chemotherapy and spastic quadriplegia. Mills has authored a new bill that includes people suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions. Another Mills bill would let medical marijuana patients from other states legally possess the substance in Louisiana as long as it was in a form allowed under current state law.
Another bill on the radar of defense attorneys, observers of the criminal-justice system and the business community concerns hiring practices. Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, would create a “Ban the Box for State Contracts Act,” which would cease to allow certain contractors from asking about a job seeker’s criminal history on an application. People with prison records already have a tough enough time re-entering society without being forced to check a box to disclose a forgettable part of their past.