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Lawmakers to consider nearly 30 tough-on-crime bills in special session

Louisiana State Capitol in April 2022.
Kezia Setyawan
Louisiana State Capitol in April 2022.

Lawmakers will consider nearly 30 tough-on-crime bills during a special session focused on combating crime in Louisiana that kicked off Monday afternoon in Baton Rouge.

The 17-day convening was called at the direction of Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican, and is the second special session he’s called since taking office in January. The first addressed congressional redistricting after a federal court gave the Legislature a deadline to redraw the state’s map.

Several of the more than two dozen bills seek to undo some of the criminal justice reforms passed under former Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

“Our criminal justice system has lost its balance,” Landry said in an address to lawmakers at the start of the session. “The steps we take to restore that balance may be difficult to accept for some. However, when promises are made to a victim's family and friends, granting them that justice restores the balance.”

Among the dozens of bills filed, several look to limit parole eligibility and cut back on sentence reductions for good behavior while incarcerated. Others would allow for permitless concealed carry, which is currently prohibited except for veterans and active duty military members.

Another controversial policy would expand execution methods in Louisiana to include electrocution and nitrogen gas hypoxia.

Landry is pushing for lawmakers to pass all of those bills. He made fighting crime a centerpiece of his campaign for governor and promised voters on the campaign trail that he would hold a special session to address the issue.

“No one, regardless of their neighborhood or zip code, should feel unsafe,” Landry said in his call for the session. “We all want safer communities.”

Landry gave a rousing speech to lawmakers at the start of session where he introduced multiple victims of crime, including the family members of people who were murdered.

A majority of the mostly-Republican Legislature stood to applaud Landry multiple times during his address.

Democrats and members of Louisiana’s Legislative Black Caucus acknowledge the pain of victims and agree with Landry that they need to reduce crime in the state. But they disagree on how to tackle the issue.

“The governor talked about the victims of crime, yet every proposal that his team has put forward is reactive. None of it will help to reduce crime and keep our community safe,” Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, said in a press conference following Landry’s speech.

Willard, who is chair of the Democratic Caucus, and other Democrats objected to sending each House bill to committee — a bill’s second stop after introduction — arguing the legislative process is being rushed.

Members of the Democratic and Black Caucuses also said they were excluded from giving input on the session. Several members said they filed bills that Landry rejected, saying they were not germane to the session.

The special session continues on Tuesday morning with multiple legislative committee meetings. It can end no later than March 6.

Molly Ryan is a political reporter and covers state politics from the Louisiana Capitol.

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