Capitol Views by Maginnis: Second-chance bill passes on second try
Reversing course from Monday, the Senate today approved a bill to grant parole eligibility to those serving life sentences for nonviolent or nonsexual crimes. The vote on reconsideration of House Bill 543 was 23-12, after the Senate rejected the bill, 18-19, on Monday. Handling the revote, Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, said some members had the wrong impression that the bill would include violent offenders. He said many affected inmates would be those convicted during a five-year period when the original habitual offender statute applied to any three convictions, which the Legislature later changed to only violent offenses. Under the bill, lifers who were 18 to 25 years old when sentenced could be eligible for a parole hearing after serving 25 years. Those between 25 and 35 when sentenced would have to have served 20 years. It would be a 15-year wait for those sentenced between the ages 35 and 50, and 10 years for those over 50 when sentenced. They would also be required to have clean prison records and to have earned a general equivalency degree and received any necessary substance abuse treatment. Angola prison warden Burl Cain testified for the bill in committee. The bill by Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, is one of several bills moving through the Legislature (others are by Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie) that address the state's world-leading incarceration rate. Read the full column here for additional coverage of other action Capitol today, including a bill to tighten teacher sick leave and another to lighten oversight on Medicaid networks in the state.
(John Maginnis will publish a daily update throughout the legislative session on Daily Report PM. The report is also available to LaPolitics Weekly subscribers on the Subscribers Only page at LaPolitics.com. Registration is available on the homepage.)
Louisiana Public Broadcasting is providing a daily video update featuring highlights of the session, which you can see beginning at 6 p.m. here.
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