- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A West Monroe lawmaker is back again with his yearly attempt to ban smoking within 25 feet of the entrances to state-owned office buildings, as a way to lessen exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke.

The House voted 78-11 Wednesday for the bill by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, a Republican. The proposal (House Bill 168) has received House backing in prior years, but has repeatedly run into opposition from senators.

Louisiana prohibits smoking in restaurants, public places, public buildings and many places of employment. Hoffmann wants to extend the ban to within 25 feet of public entrances to state office buildings and to their wheelchair ramps.

Violators would face a $25 fine the first time, a $50 fine for a second offense and a $100 fine for subsequent offenses.

The measure heads next to the Senate for debate.


A package of bills seeking to lessen prison sentences for certain types of crimes got the approval Wednesday of the House Criminal Justice Committee.

The proposals would decrease the percentage of a sentence a person who committed a crime of violence must serve to become eligible for parole from 85 percent to 75 percent and would make more convicted offenders eligible for participation in drug courts, which involve substance abuse treatment with probation supervision, rather than long prison sentences.

Another bill would waive minimum sentence requirements for certain sex offenses and crimes of violence.

Committee members advanced the proposals by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, without objection. They move next to the House floor for debate.


In other legislative action:

-The Senate unanimously agreed Wednesday to boost pension payments by 1.5 percent for retired state workers, public school employees and others in the four statewide retirement systems. It would be the first cost of living adjustment for most of the retirees since 2008. The proposals (Senate Bills 16, 18, 19 and 21) head next to the House for debate. The dollars would come from better-than-expected investment gains for the retirement systems.

-The House voted 94-1 to toughen Louisiana’s penalties for heroin use and distribution. The bill (House bill 332) would require a mandatory two-year jail sentence for heroin possession and would double the minimum mandatory sentence for distribution and production from five years to 10 years. The measure, by Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, moves to the Senate for debate.



Louisiana Legislature: www.legis.la.gov



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