BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A slew of new Louisiana laws, recently passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, went into effect Tuesday.
Among the laws are those that increase punishments for fentanyl-related crimes, require every public school classroom to display the phrase “In God We Trust,” and add to the state’s age verification law about access to pornography websites.
During this legislative session, a package of anti-LGBTQ+ bills drew the most debate. Lawmakers passed a “ Don’t Say Gay ” bill that broadly bars public school teachers from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in the classroom, and a measure requiring them to use the pronouns and names that align with those assigned to their students at birth. Both bills were vetoed by the governor and blocked from becoming law.
In addition, a ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2024. In the meantime, a new law restricting minors’ access to library material deemed inappropriate goes into effect Tuesday, however libraries have until June 2024 to implement the new policy.
Here’s a closer look at some of Louisiana’s new laws that went into effect Tuesday.
ACCESS TO ADULT SITES
Last year, Louisiana became the first state to pass a law requiring pornography websites to verify its users are at least 18 years old, by methods such as uploading one’s driver’s license. This year, lawmakers added teeth to the law — allowing the Louisiana attorney general to investigate and fine — up to $5,000 a day — any pornographic sites that fail to comply.
Multiple states have passed age verification laws similar to Louisiana’s, but they’ve faced challenges. In June, an adult entertainment group filed a lawsuit, with plaintiffs describing Louisiana’s law as unconstitutional.
NEW CRIME CHARGES
In the tough-on-crime state, which routinely reports one of the highest incarceration rates per-capita in the country, lawmakers created new criminal charges.
Among them is a law that designates “simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling” as a crime of violence if a person is home at the time of the incident — and a law that specifies theft or criminal access of an ATM.
In addition, legislators passed a law that criminalizes the creation and possession of “deepfakes” of minors engaging in sexual conduct. Under the legislation, deepfake technology is described as: “any audio or visual media in an electronic format, including any motion picture film or video recording, that is created, altered, or digitally manipulated in a manner that would falsely appear to a reasonable observer to be an authentic record of the actual speech or conduct of the individual or replace an individual’s likeness with another individual and depicted in the recording.”
HARSHER PENALTIES FOR FENTANYL
As in the rest of the country, Louisiana’s fentanyl drug-related deaths have drastically increased over the years — from fewer than 200 in 2017 to nearly 1,000 in 2021, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Health.
Legislators passed a law that puts in place harsher penalties — including a life sentence — for those convicted of selling fentanyl or products laced with it.
Prior to the law, if a person is convicted of illegal manufacturing of a controlled dangerous substance, they face five to 15 years in prison and can be fined up to $25,000. The new law increases jail time to a minimum of seven years in prison for the first offense, 10 years for the second offense, and life in prison for the third offense. Someone who is caught with over 250 grams (8.8 ounces) of fentanyl, or products with a trace of the drug, will receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
POLICIES IN SCHOOL
State legislators passed a bill requiring every public classroom to display the phrase “In God We Trust ” — as well as a law that mandates children in kindergarten through fifth grade have at least 15 minutes of recess every day.
Lawmakers also passed a measure that prohibits the use of corporal punishment on students, unless a parent provides written consent to do otherwise. The prior law granted local school boards discretion in the use of corporal punishment on students.
LIBRARY BOOK BANS
This year, in statehouses across the country, lawmakers debated what material should be accessible in public and school libraries, often focusing on books with LGBTQ+ themes.
In Louisiana lawmakers passed a law that requires public libraries to create a card system that would prevent children from checking out what they called “sexually explicit material” unless they have parental approval. Additionally, the law makes it easier for parents to bring books they consider to be inappropriate to a local board for review.
Opponents of the law, fear it is a targeted attack to censor LGBTQ+ stories. Proponents say the law is to protect children and to strengthen parental rights.
While the law goes into effect Tuesday, libraries have until January of 2024 to adopt a policy, and until June of 2024 to implement it. If libraries do not implement a policy, the local governing authority and state can withhold funds.
For a full list of the bills that passed during Louisiana’s 2023 legislative session and to see when they go into effect, visit legis.la.gov