- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Teaching creationism in Louisiana science classes has been declared unconstitutional, but that doesn’t mean a Baton Rouge state senator’s efforts to get a creationism law stripped from the books will be easy.

Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, is proposing to repeal a state law that required public schools to give balanced treatment in science classes and textbooks to evolution and creationism and barred the teaching of evolution as proven scientific fact.

“This is a 33-year-old bill that was found unconstitutional 27 years ago,” Claitor told the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

Despite the court ruling, Claitor faced opposition.

“The legislation in question historically represented the opinion of the Louisiana Legislature in the time that it was passed into law. It’s a matter of history of this body,” said Lennie Ditoro, a member of the public who asked lawmakers to keep the unconstitutional law in place.

Citing the resistance, Claitor asked the Senate committee to report his repeal bill (Senate Bill 70) without action, meaning the committee wasn’t recommending approval or disapproval but simply forwarding it to the full Senate for consideration.

The committee narrowly agreed in a 3-2 vote, with Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, casting the tie-breaking vote that allowed Claitor’s bill to go to the Senate floor.

Voting for advancement without action were Appel, Claitor and Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte. Voting against the motion were Sens. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, and Mack “Bodi” White, R-Central.

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A proposal to put qualification requirements on the people a governor can appoint to Louisiana’s higher education boards won support Wednesday from the House Education Committee, but members didn’t yet agree on what those requirements should be.

The committee agreed without objection to advance a constitutional amendment (House Bill 588) proposed by its chairman, Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, that would say members of the higher education boards must meet the standards included in law.

But the committee stalled action on the bill (House Bill 696) that would set those requirements, with Carter agreeing to delay a vote while he tried to reach a consensus with his colleagues over what the qualifications should be.

Currently, a Louisiana governor has few restrictions on his appointments to the boards overseeing the state’s four college systems and the Board of Regents that sets higher education policy. Existing restrictions involve having to make sure the boards include members from each congressional district. For the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, some board members must be chosen based on nominations from business and education groups.

Carter said the appointment requirements are too lax for boards that oversee important policy decisions and hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I just want to try to get as many people on who are visionary and goal-setting,” he said.

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In other legislative action:

-Senators backed a proposal (Senate Bill 62) that would require the state’s public colleges and universities to develop a common application for potential undergraduates to apply to the schools. Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said it would help parents and their children reduce application paperwork for college. The bill heads next to the full Senate for debate after getting approval without objection from the Senate Education Committee.

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Online:

Louisiana Legislature: www.legis.la.gov

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