18 May 2005

Floor action, May 18: SB 323, HB 492, HB 736

Whether you agree with the long-standing Supreme Court decision that mandates that a lawyer be made available to anyone accused of a crime, if something is going to be done, it needs to be done right. State Sen. Lydia Jackson’s SB 323 takes a step in Louisiana to get indigent defense done right.

On the Senate floor today, Jackson took up the bill (after it had been previously held over) and summarized the shortcomings of the system (which for one parish are elucidated here). She counseled that it did not change everything overnight, but would put it on the right track.

Minor amendments were unanimously added. It passed 26-7.

Reps. Eric LaFleur and Blade Morrish presented their competing bills concerning cloning. The difference between his HB 492, as he noted repeatedly, is that it bans all cloning but, he argued, would allow research to continue. LaFleur insisted only his bill, HB 736, would allow the necessary research capacity, that HB 492 was too strict, pointing to testimony by state university researchers to that effect.

The bill passed 75-23, and picked up 39 co-authors at the end. Then LaFleur got his turn. The importance of this bill was underscored by the fact that co-sponsor state Sen. Don Hines left his presiding post to hang out in the House for this one.

LaFleur insisted that whatever gets created by the process his bill (the practice he noted is now not regulated) would not be cloning and not create a human life because it is not viable except by human intervention after 14 days. (Of course, no human life is “viable” even after birth for a long time – infants need human intervention to survive.) Various “no” voters on HB 492 threw softball questions at LaFleur to help him hammer home these points. LaFleur also pointed out a board would be created to vet researchers.

Rep. Danny Martiny, however, a supporter of HB 492, got LaFleur to admit that, in essence, neglect of these cells, which LaFleur said scientists did not consider human, would have to occur for them to die out. Going further, another HB 492 supporter Rep. Gary Beard also brought up that these cells could in fact be cloned, according to the American Medical Association and President’s Council on Bioethics, because they are in fact embryonic in nature. LaFleur argued they were still different. Rep. Shirley Bowler also pointed out a loophole where the bill allowed for the cells to be frozen, and then nothing in the bill would prohibit these cells from being shipped out of the state’s jurisdiction. LaFleur admitted he would allow an amendment to this effect.

Morrish moved to put the bill back on the calendar, essentially killing it, but failed 50-47. After a little more debate, the bill failed 50-48, to applause.

QUOTES OF THE DAY: “Let me rephrase that … let’s clone Monica Walker

LaFleur to Beard, coming up with an example about how cloning occurs, referring to a District 28’s representative.

“Mike Foster is in favor of it … I don’t know if that helps …”

LaFleur, responding to a question about who favors stem cell research.

THURSDAY: HB 444 is scheduled to be heard by the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee; HB 21 is scheduled to be heard by the House Municipal, Parochial, and Cultural Affairs Committee; HB 123 is scheduled to be heard by the House Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee.

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