Overview of 2022 Session
The Louisiana Legislature began its 2022 session with an historic opportunity to make long-overdue investments in people and communities. A combination of surplus dollars, federal pandemic relief money and a surge in state tax collections left legislators with unprecedented amounts of revenue to distribute among Louisiana’s many needs. Lawmakers used the extra cash to give modest raises to teachers, college faculty and some low-paid state workers and to spend heavily on transportation projects and other infrastructure needs. We missed opportunities to make systemic change in the minimum wage and closing the wage gap for females.
The LCCB goals for the 2022 session were to stabilize the most vulnerable in our intermediate care facilities, support pro-life from conception to natural death, maintain parental choice and religious freedom, continue the restorative justice reforms, address poverty and care for our common home.
Below is an outline of progress on the goals aligned with principles of catholic social teaching.
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
- HB 459 Rep. Owen’s Life Sustaining Care Act, which would have allowed families to move loved ones to other facilities to provide more life-sustaining care, was stalled with the fiscal note and opposed by insurance companies.
- HB 537 Rep. Davis to allow for IVF was defeated at the final step in the Finance Committee. LCCB was able to have a religious exemption from Rep. Davis. This bill was substantially amended to include only those undergoing chemotherapy.
- HB 1061/Act 513 Hughes, provides information about emergency contraception after a negative pregnancy test to victims of sexual assault along with medication to prevent ovulation and follows the Ethical and Religious Directives per consultation with Fr. Jose Lavastida.
- We were not successful in eliminating the death penalty despite a very coordinated effort from the catholic community. The Governor has noted this as a key agenda item for his last year in office.
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable (Especially Those in Intermediate Care Facilities)
- Due to the great work of Lee Eagan, we were able to secure more funding for our intermediate care facilities in New Orleans, Alexandria and Shreveport areas. Of note, there will be a study to determine how best to address the direct care staffing issues in these facilities.
- HB 55 Rep. Davis provides dental care for those in Intermediate Care Facilities.
- LCCB actively opposed HB 813 which would have criminalized women who are seeking abortion and which was ultimately defeated.
- SB 342/Act 545 Jackson triggers abortion laws that have no exception for rape and incest.
- We provided public testimony at the Senate Finance Committee on the budget as a moral document that should be focused on the poor. Although we were not requesting funding, Sen. Barrow allocated $225,000 for poverty reduction programs. She requested that Catholic Charities programs be engaged by the Department of Children and Family Services for possible funding.
- We were able to successfully oppose HB 37 Rep. McCormick’s permit-less carry gun bill. We testified twice, and LCCB was interviewed on WAFB TV Baton Rouge as opposing the legislation.
- Nursing Home Related
- SB 30/Act 531 Sen. Mills requires a facility need review if a new facility proposed.
- SB 33/Act 253 Sen. Mills requires on site permanent electrical back up power with fuel on site.
- HB 933/Act 562 Rep. Stagni improves accountability by DHH to approve evacuation plans to include transportation arrangements
Sacredness of the Human Family/ Parental Choice and Religious Freedom
- We were able to support adoption-related bills to improve the post-adoption process through both Rep. Bacala HB 727/Act 633 and Rep. Edmonds HB 274/Act 456 to provide more education on adoption in schools.
- HB 650 and 651 Rep. Hilferty provides for Medicaid and insurance coverage of prescription breast milk.
- HB 450/Act 470 Rep. Owen to allow for the adoptee to have access to the original birth certificate passed. This was debated passionately by both sides.
- HB 568/Act 733 Rep. Edmonds protects families that may be subjected to birth mothers who intentionally deceive them for financial gain during the adoption process.
- Under parental choice in education, LCCB fought hard and defeated attempts to privatize the school nutrition programs and to remove the non-public school appointee to the BESE Board.
- Education Savings Accounts SB 342 was closely monitored which would give private schools $5,400.00 for children not reading at 3rd grade level to transfer from public schools. The Governor vetoed this.
- There was a flurry of study resolutions at the end of the session to improve school safety, including quarterly active shooter drills and study to determine effectiveness of arming school teachers and resource personnel. The USCCB recently sent us information on Safer Communities Act for potential funding for private schools to support improved school safety.
- HB 953 Rep. Seabaugh afforded churches the least restrictive requirements in cases of public health considerations. This however was vetoed by the Governor as he compared this to keeping emergency rooms open.
- HB 54 Rep. Bagley was vetoed by the Governor which would have provided civil penalties for public institutions that required vaccination status for entry.
- HB 344 Rep. McCormick, which would have allowed Louisiana to not follow Supreme Court ruling regarding Roe vs. Wade, did not get heard and LCCB would have opposed it.
Solidarity in Restorative Justice
- LCCB supported, with a Floor Note, HB 298/Act 246 Jordan, which will add a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to remove language in the constitution which refers to the term involuntary servitude as punishment for crimes.
- In addition, we actively supported, with a Floor Note, HB 248/Act by Rep. Willard, to remove Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Memorial Day from the list of legal state holidays. Although not observed I was told it meant a lot to African American legislators that we actively supported. .
- We supported HB 746/Act 496 Duplessis that will improve the conditions and uses of solitary confinement for juveniles.
- HB 334/Act 151 Rep. Duplessis allows those convicted of lessor offenses to be a peer support specialist.
Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
- There were several minimum wage bills, all which were defeated. We did support and provided informational testimony for the most reasonable approach based on Arkansas law, which put the minimum wage on the ballot and now has an $11 per hour minimum wage.
- Two bills, supported by LCCB, to improve workforce development in North Louisiana parishes to families on public assistance and remote workforce development training sites in Central Louisiana using broadband in rural areas passed.
Care for God’s Creation
- We were not successful with basic air quality monitoring again this year. However, some small steps to preventing littering and some wind energy legislation passed. However major federal legislation just passed which will limit the EPA and carbon emissions monitoring could have a detrimental effect on the Governor’s Climate Change Strategic Initiative.
- Also, an attempt to limit single use plastics failed but did generate a study resolution.
- On the hurricane front, SB 212/Act 591 Stine’s Hurricane Mediation Program and HB 831/Act 558 Rep. Firment to require insurance companies to pay for living expenses while evacuated both passed and should be helpful.
We did make some progress toward our goals. There was an attempt roll back some of the criminal justice reforms which we anticipated. There may be some funding for a Statewide telehealth pregnancy continuum of care that may include opportunities to subcontract to Catholic Charities agencies through Rep. Edmonds HB 909/Act 561.
Moving forward we can anticipate the study resolution for IVF, more gun legislation, more legislation to help pregnant and parenting moms before and after birth of their child and another attempt at ending the death penalty.