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A look at what passed, failed in the Legislature


A look at what passed, failed in the Legislature
Lawmakers wrapped up their two-month regular legislative session Thursday. A look at what won approval and what fell short of passage:

WHAT PASSED:

—BUDGET: A $25 billion budget will finance ongoing operations of state agencies, services and programs in the fiscal year that begins July 1, while closing a $1.6 billion budget gap with a patch of one-time funds, cuts and other financing changes. An estimated $323 million in one-time money is slated to pay for ongoing agency expenses, and about 3,450 jobs will be eliminated.

—COLLEGES: Tuition hikes will fall on students at community and technical college campuses and public medical schools. The University of New Orleans will be moved away from the LSU System and into the University of Louisiana System. Public colleges will get freedom from some contracting, purchasing and budgeting requirements put on other state agencies, if they meet certain performance benchmarks on graduation rates and student improvement.

—TAX BREAKS: Tax breaks were given to an array of businesses, including those in the digital media industry, those that grant high-paying jobs with benefits and those that develop software. Sales tax exemptions will be granted for breastfeeding items, bottled water and property involved in a hurricane recovery program in New Orleans.

—CIGARETTES: A 4-cent cigarette tax renewal will be on the fall ballot for voters to decide if they want to extend the tax beyond its June 2012 expiration date.

—REDISTRICTING: Political district lines for the eight elected seats to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education were redrawn.

—CRIME: Probation and parole fees were increased. State prisoners will be barred from establishing a Facebook account or using any other social networking sites, along with certain sex offenders who were convicted of sex offenses against a minor and who are out of jail. Low-risk offenders will be eligible for parole after serving fewer years of their sentences. Chemicals sold as bath salts and snorted like cocaine were banned, and an existing prohibition on synthetic marijuana sold like incense was broadened.

—ABORTION: Abortion clinics must give more information to women before they can terminate a pregnancy, including new signs telling pregnant women that they cannot be coerced into abortion, that fathers are liable for child support and that adoptive parents may pay for prenatal care and birth expenses.

—IMMIGRATION: Penalties were boosted for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Contractors with the state will have to verify the citizenship status of workers on any project funded by the state.

—HEALTH CARE: Legislative reauthorization will be required in 2014 to continue Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to turn over much of Louisiana's Medicaid program to private insurance companies.

—MILITARY: Retroactive benefits were given to the families of Louisiana National Guard soldiers who died while on active duty to Sept. 11, 2001, to pick up 32 families who aren't able to get the lump sum payments under current law.

—ELECTIONS: Louisiana's presidential primaries will be pushed back from February to March. Candidates who aren't affiliated with a political party will be listed as 'independent' on Louisiana ballots beginning in 2012.

—EDUCATION: Businesses will be able to get a share of charter school board seats if they provide a facility or land for a charter school or significant upgrades to an existing campus. In exchange, the business can get a minority percentage of seats on the board that runs the school and will be assured 50 percent of the school's enrollment capacity for its workers' children.

—INSURANCE SHOOTINGS: Compensation will be given to the families of two unarmed Louisiana insurance fraud investigators who were shot and killed earlier this month while looking into a fraud case.

—HOUSING: State housing assistance program management will be consolidated under a new corporation.

—RAINY DAY FUND: The rules of Louisiana's "rainy day" fund will be adjusted, if voters agree this fall, so the fund wouldn't have to be repaid as soon as it's used.

___

WHAT FAILED:

—BUDGET: No legislative earmarks were added to next year's budget.

—TAXES: A bid to repeal the state's personal income tax was shelved, along with a proposal to expand the state's property tax exemption for homeowners. A proposed 70-cent per pack cigarette tax hike failed.

—PRISONS: Three state prisons won't be sold.

—RETIREMENT: Retirement contributions by state employees won't be boosted.

—COLLEGES: The historically black Southern University at New Orleans won't be consolidated with the largely white University of New Orleans. The governing boards of public colleges and universities won't be merged into one management board. The largest tuition increases proposed for four-year college students failed.

—SALARIES: Limits for the pay packages of higher education system presidents and public college leaders were removed from the budget.

—WELFARE: Welfare recipients won't face random, mandatory drug testing.

—IMMIGRATION: Toughened immigration laws, similar to the controversial enforcement law in Arizona, won't be enacted here.

—PUBLIC RECORDS: Most records in the governor's office will continue to be shielded from public scrutiny.

—ABORTION: An outright ban on abortion was derailed.

—BIRTHER BAN: A requirement that President Barack Obama and other presidential candidates prove their U.S. citizenship before their names can be included on a state ballot never got out of committee.

—TEN COMMANDMENTS: A monument of the Ten Commandments won't be placed at the Louisiana Capitol.

—TEXTBOOKS: A law that allows public school science teachers to use supplemental materials in their classrooms beyond state-approved textbooks wasn't repealed. Lawmakers also refused to give more freedom to local school districts to choose the textbooks they want to use.

—OIL SPILL: Dispersants won't be banned in responding to oil spills in Louisiana waters.

—OTHER ITEMS: Bans on hand-held cell phone use while driving and smoking in bars and casinos failed. Lawmakers didn't allow concealed weapons on college campuses. They also wouldn't agree to let two unmarried, same-sex adults to adopt a child together in the state.

___

Online:

Louisiana Legislature: www.legis.state.la.us

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