Louisiana Progress Closes Out Another Successful Legislative Session

Published 2:09 pm Thursday, June 22, 2023

Louisiana Progress’s 2023 legislative policy agenda, which was built around decriminalizing poverty, found relative success amidst a session that saw “tough on crime” proponents largely control the debate.

BATON ROUGE, LA | June 22, 2023—During this year’s Louisiana legislative session, Louisiana Progress, a non-profit political advocacy group based in Baton Rouge, and its ally organizations, found success with initiatives that are intended to provide solutions to our state’s systemic problems with persistently high poverty and crime rates.

One of those victories was House Bill 89 (Act 217), by Rep. Denise Marcelle, which requires the Louisiana State Police to collect and publish traffic stop data. Once this data is made public, starting in 2024, we’ll gain greater transparency into police practices and find out if racial profiling is taking place, and whether law enforcement officers are disproportionately pulling over poor people for minor infractions. Our hope is that other law enforcement agencies will follow LSP’s lead in the years to come.

Other successes include HB286 (Act 342) by Rep. Delisha Boyd, which will make it easier and cheaper for people to expunge an arrest for first-time simple marijuana possession from their criminal records, and HB477 (Act 87) by Rep. Vincent Pierre, which requires state and local agencies that refer uncollected debt to the state’s Office of Debt Recovery to provide more data and transparency on those debts.

“All three of these bills get to the heart of reforming Louisiana’s out-of-control, government-run debt creation and collection scheme by ensuring greater transparency and reducing the financial burden the state levies on its people,” said Peter Robins-Brown, executive director of Louisiana Progress. “This scheme primarily victimizes our poorest residents, but it also harms our state as a whole by trapping people in cycles of poverty and criminalization.”

Louisiana Progress also provided support on Senate Bill 111, by Sen. Royce Duplessis, which will significantly reform Louisiana’s expensive and burdensome criminal record expungement process and House Bill 568 (Act 377), by Rep. Tammy Phelps, which provides a five-day grace period the first time someone’s auto insurance lapses before they start being charged fines and fees.

Even some of the bills we worked on that didn’t make it through the process helped to create change. House Bill 422 by Rep. Denise Marcelle would have reduced the Office of Debt Recovery’s collection fee from 25% to 15%. It failed in committee, but the effort led Department of Revenue Secretary Kevin Richard to issue internal rules lowering that fee.

House Bill 620, by Rep. Barbara Freiberg, would’ve established a taxation framework in the event the legislature ever legalizes recreational marijuana, with some of the projected revenue being dedicated to early childhood care and education, as well as to create a judicial system funding program that would directly replace certain criminal fines and fees. It, too, failed to pass, but the healthy debate on the bill provided an opportunity to discuss these issues more deeply.

“None of this success would have been possible without our many partner organizations, including the Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana, the Louisiana Budget Project, and the Marijuana Policy Project, as well as our remarkable cohort of College Fellows,” according to Robins-Brown. “We believe all of these bills can help move our state forward by removing some of the burdens we place on Louisianans who are the least able to shoulder them.”