What The ?: Battles Over Beasts, Bouquets and Bulletproof Backpacks

Perhaps it was just me, but it seemed nearly every bill debated in Louisiana’s House and Senate Monday left me scratching my head over one argument or another, beginning with Sen. Mike Walsworth’s SB 178, a bill to allow parents to equip their children with bulletproof backpacks. “I never thought in my wildest nightmares that I would have to bring a bill like this, the West Monroe Republican said, “But our laws currently prohibit students wearing body armor . And we just saw 17 young people gunned down, with nothing to protect them.” Walsworth explained there are currently two options: an insertable metal plate that costs about $50, and Kevlar backpacks reinforced with metal plates, that run about $200. “I can’t imagine a parent who couldn’t financially afford that,” Senator Gerald Long (R-Winnfield) nodded approvingly. But then he asked a logical question: “These are backpacks, correct? How will it protect the front of a student’s body?” “They can put the backpack in front, and sit with their back to a wall,” Walsworth explained. “The teacher can have them do that. And these can provide protection from a handgun or a shotgun, but not an AR-15.” Say what? “This is not a Captain America shield,” Sen. J.P. Morrell argued against passing the bill. “My two brothers are police officers, and they’ve explained to me how Kevlar works. The tight weave stops a bullet, and the heat of the bullet hardens the Kevlar. But grown men who get shot while wearing it still suffer bruising, broken bones and even ruptured organs. Children’s bodies are more fragile, so this would be giving parents a false sense of security. “Someone will make money from this, but it’s not a life saver,” Morrell concluded. “I hope we never have to prove it works,” Walsworth responded, as he urged a yes vote on the bill. “But let’s give parents a chance to have this tool for protecting their children.” And with a 34-2 vote, the Senate sent the bill to the House for consideration. Then the Senate approved creating two new TOPS award categories, expanding the scholarship program that’s currently slated to take an 80% funding cut when the new fiscal year begins July 1. Right. It wasn’t long after that when Sen. Morrell’s bill criminalizing bestiality came up for final passage in the upper chamber. Explaining that part of Louisiana’s “crimes against nature” statute was made unconstitutional by the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, Morrell said the Humane Society had requested this bill, detailing what particular sexual acts with and involving animals could be considered criminal acts. Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) offered an amendment which would remove the unconstitutional “sodomy between consenting adults from the old “crimes against nature” law, to which Morrell objected. “I fully support repealing that part of the statute, but not with this bill,” Morrell argued. “If we pass it in Sen. Claitor’s format, the bill will die in the House. And a ban on bestiality is needed.” Senators listened, rejecting the amendment. “This law may be awkward to discuss, but it is necessary,” Morrell said in his closing. “On the internet, there is a huge market trafficking animals for sex acts. That is not currently covered in law. Webpages, many based here in Louisiana, are filled with ads from men looking for a dog to copulate with wife, for a puppy ‘ready to play’. “In New Jersey, a man was arrested for oral copulation with a farm animal. Yet he couldn’t be prosecuted because – quote– ‘the animal was not harmed’. Yet research has shown there’s a direct correlation from abusing animals to abusing people, and those who abuse animals often wind up being serial killers. “This is not a joke. God forbid you vote against this bill, for if you do, good luck explaining that to your constituents,” Morrell concluded. 25 said yea, 10 voted nay. That last comment was a direct jab at the Louisiana Family Forum, which brands itself as “an organization committed to defending faith, freedom and the traditional family.” The group had sent floor notes to all the Senators, urging them to vote against the bill. Really. Some of the least logical arguments of the day were raised in the House, however, in response to Rep Julie Emerson’s (R-Carencro) bill to eliminate the state occupational licensing exam for florists. Louisiana is the only state to require this. “Isn’t this an argument against going to school to learn your trade?” asked Rep. Barbara Norton (D-Shreveport). Aren’t we sending the wrong message here?” “There currently is no education requirement for being a florist,” Emerson replied. “Just testing. So this is not eliminating education, just testing.” “This is doing away with quality,” Rep. Steve Pugh (R-Ponchatoula) complained. “This will cause us to lose mom and pop florist businesses,” Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales) insisted. That was in direct contradiction to the social media campaign supporting the bill, which had been waged by Americans for Prosperity, LABI, and NFIB — the group comprised of small business owners. “And we won’t be safeguarding the consumers back home,” Schexnayder pressed. “Has anyone actually been injured or harmed by poorly arranged flowers?” Emerson responded. Good question. The House approved the bill 60-29. Yet, as I said at the beginning, maybe it’s just me. After all, I found myself shaking my head at a laundry detergent commercial – advertised “for their sensitive skin” – when it showed a little girl jumping in mud puddles and rolling in the grass, all while wearing a white dress. Mom was watching it all, blissfully unconcerned. What the?
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Sue Lincoln
Sue Lincoln is a veteran and widely-respected reporter who has been covering Louisiana politics for nearly three decades. Originally from Long Beach, California, Sue’s career in journalism began on the radio in Los Angeles. After moving to Louisiana, Sue earned her bachelor’s degree. For ten years, from 2000-2010, she was the Assistant News Director at Louisiana Network. Sue also worked as the education reporter for Louisiana Public Broadcasting and has contributed to various state publications as a freelance journalist. But she is perhaps best known as the voice of the popular politics Capitol Access.