13 June 2006

Committee action, Jun. 13: HB 169, HB 1260

HB 169 would allow disciplinary actions to be completed in 120 days rather than 60 days. Author Rep. Austin Badon and New Orleans Police Chief Warren Riley said to the Senate Judiciary C Committee that officers actually would admit guilt to criminal activities because they knew the investigations would not be finished in time, and gave examples of where the 60-day limit had prevented discipline. They argued this change was needed in state law in order to change the ingrained culture in New Orleans that encouraged the misuse of trust granted to police officers by some on the force.

But opponents noted that this would affect the entire state and would put more of a burden on officer who may be innocent because it would make the officers wait longer and during that time would place restrictions on their activities such as in earning overtime. Sen. Ann Duplessis said this should be an internal matter rather than changing state law, that the NOPD should become more efficient in its processing. With that, she moved to defer the bill, and it was done so without objection.

HB 1260 would impose penalties on students on threaten teachers. Currently, author Rep. Mike Powell said the only penalties occurred when a threat was carried out. The bill also would tighten up the definition of what is teacher assault. The law would empower removal of the student from the classroom of the threatened teacher (if credible evidence of the threat is found) to another school if a reasonable substitute can be found. “We can’t afford to wait to prevent this when we have a warning sign,” Powell said.

Duplessis asked about the “suitable school” exception, wondering how it would work in Orleans Parish’s depleted environment. Powell said it came from present law concerning the actual battering of a teacher, and admitted it may not be possible to relocate that student. Home schooling could be an alternative, Duplessis suggested, and Powell said it the exception may encourage school districts which had not set up alternative schools for problematic students to move forward on that, and Orleans should do that.

A motion was made to report favorably, and was done so without objection.

WEDNESDAY: HB 1382 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

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