24 April 2006

Floor action, Apr. 24: HB 108, HB 109, HB 311, HB 547, HB 760, HB 815

HB 108 by Rep. Peppi Bruneau would eliminate a loophole in current ethics law that allows contract lobbyists who spend not more than $500 not to register as a lobbyist of the executive branch. Bruneau argued that anybody who appears in somebody else’s behalf should register, with the penalty for doing can void the lobbyist’s contract. He said all the state needed to know is who is representing who, and nothing else. It wouldn’t affect “citizen” lobbyists, and even if there is no remuneration for the contract, it would apply. It wouldn’t matter whether the contract was oral or written.

The bill passed 97-1.

Bruneau also authored HB 109, which is like HB 108 except it covers the legislature. Rep. John Alario, who had queried about this for HB 108, had accepted an amendment that contracts be filed with the Clerk of the House of Secretary of the Senate (implying they do have to be written). Bruneau had no objection.

The bill passed 103-1.

Bruneau also spoke for HB 311 dealing with whistleblower statutes. The bill created one procedure for an employee victimized of an unfair reprisal due to revelation of illegal activities in government. The bill states that cases brought before a court if resolved there would remove any obligation for the Board of Ethics to review the case and resolve it. Previously, either route could be taken.

The bill passed 98-0.

HB 547 by Rep. Troy Hebert got sent back to the calendar at his request. This tries to legislate that a governor, governor-elect, or gubernatorial can’t influence the picking of the Legislature’s leadership. Since Gov. Kathleen Blanco can be expected to veto this bill which would make any progress towards its becoming law futile, and Hebert gave notice he would recall it at a later date, something is going on behind the scenes with it.

HB 760 by Rep. Steve Scalise would prevent confiscation of firearms during an emergency unless there is reasonable suspicion that the weapon where it can be carried legally would be used illegally. Scalise pointed out that during Hurricane Katrina confiscations occurred at the whim of local authorities. He said it would not make legal arms already illegal, and observed over 700 confiscated guns still had not been returned in Orleans Parish and the law would bring the state into compliance with the Second Amendment.

Rep. Jack Smith argued it might reduce the latitude of peace officers in preserving order. He used the example of an intoxicated person having a firearm on the street not being able to have his firearm confiscated under this law. But Scalise said the law allowed an officer who thought this person was a threat to make an arrest for public drunkenness and therefore confiscate the firearm. He noted that the deterrent effect of having a lawfully-armed public would aid in keeping order in emergencies.

Rep. Cedric Richmond argued that the law would require a physical arrest for a firearm to be confiscated. Scalise pointed out unlawful possession was not covered by the bill, and that as long as weapons are not concealed, possession is lawful.

Rep. Ken Odinet objected to blaming law enforcement for being too zealous in confiscation, but did not argue against the bill. Richmond later clarified his objections, saying he thought the bill should apply for people in their homes, but thought the bill should state only a citation to appear in court, not an arrest, could trigger the provision allowing for confiscation. He argued, again, the bill would force a physical arrest which either reduced law enforcement latitude too much or would result in overzealous arresting to the detriment of the accused. He offered an amendment to that effect.

Rep. Mike Strain, however, pointed out that Richmond’s amendment would be too restrictive, that even something like failure to move on or obey a police order could be used as spurious reasons for confiscation. Scalise also pointed out that even traffic enforcement officers could confiscate weapons with this amendment, and said the amendment would gut the purpose of the bill. “You don’t want to have a gun confiscated just because you parked illegally” during an emergency, he argued.

Smith supported the amendment, saying “bad guys” had guns too, not violating laws, and police couldn’t prevent suspicious people with unconcealed weapons in questionable places from being disarmed. “You’re endangering them,” he said, referring to police officers, with the bill in its current posture. “We don’t need vigilantes” he remarked, implying that police ought to be able to prevent people from roaming streets with legal arms during emergencies. But Rep. Pete Schneider said the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association approved of the bill in its current form.

Richmond closed, agreeing the bill should protect those on their property, but that officers should have more discretion with people on the street or elsewhere. The amendment failed 30-65.

The bill passed 102-0.

HB 815 by Rep. Bodi White was returned to the calendar. It creates a school district around the new city of Central, to the consternation of some and was the object of a contentious committee meeting. However, it passed committee easily so it was interesting that White would pull it for now, announcing his intention to call it later.

I don’t know about every parish … in Orleans Parish, it’s sometimes encouraged.
Scalise, in discussing public drunkenness relative to HB 760.

They fall out of the sky and write you a citation.
Scalise, talking about how quickly it seems parking citations get written up in Orleans Parish.

His constituents should rest assured I have his wife unload it every morning.
Rep. Ernest Wooton, after Rep. John LaBruzzo said he regularly carried a firearm.

TUESDAY: HB 29, HB 84, HB 148, HB 640, and HB 992 are scheduled to be heard in the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee; SB 25 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Judiciary C Committee.

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