As the 2005 session of the Louisiana Legislature neared its end, legislators rejected a bid to allow paddlewheel gambling out of New Orleans.
As the 2005 session of the Louisiana Legislature
neared its end, legislators rejected a bid to allow paddlewheel
gambling out of New Orleans.
The legislative session must end no later than
Thursday at 6 p.m. At press time, several issues were still pending as
legislators scrambled to pass bills.
However, one push to expand gambling in the state appeared to have been derailed.
House members had approved a measure to allow
gambling on paddlewheel boats out of New Orleans. However, the measure
failed to gain support in the Senate, where legislators voted 19-15
The vote came after Gov. Kathleen Blanco made it
clear she was against the move. A Blanco spokesperson testified against
the bill in Senate committee, and the governor publicly voiced her
hopes it would be rejected by the full Senate. Blanco has said
throughout her term that she is opposed to any expansion of gambling in
At press time, there still was uncertainty about the
measure, with supporters saying they may try for another push. However,
time was running short.
Meanwhile, backers of a bill to allow school
vouchers in the New Orleans area acknowledged their effort had failed.
The House had approved a measure to allow the vouchers by students in
failing New Orleans elementary schools on a 62-37 vote.
However, the measure failed to get out of Senate
committee on a 3-3 vote. A move then was made to force the issue to the
floor of the Senate. However, senators voted 23-10 against doing so.
Some senators said it would be improper to bypass the committee
process, while most of the New Orleans delegation simply argued against
the idea of vouchers themselves.
Under the four-year pilot program, the students
could have used a voucher from the state to attend a private school,
including religious ones. Indeed, it was not clear what private schools
other than Catholic ones in New Orleans would participate in the
Vouchers have been a heated topic in various areas
and has met with limited success in state legislatures. Bills to allow
vouchers in Louisiana have failed for decades.
Supporters say vouchers allow students to get out of
failing schools. However, opponents say they undermine public
education. Some opponents also argue that public tax money should not
be used to allow students to attend private religious schools.
Despite the defeat, supporters of vouchers said they
were encouraged by the House vote, a first-ever success for a voucher
measure in Louisiana.
The superintendent of Catholic schools in New
Orleans said the House vote should reinvigorate supporters to push the
voucher issue. He also said he has plans to talk to state
Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard about the New Orleans
archdiocese taking over one of the failing elementary schools in the
On another front, legislators entered the final week
of their session having given final approval to an alcohol-related
bill. House Bill 101 addresses a loophole in Louisiana law. Currently,
persons age 18 can enter a liquor establishment – such as a bar – but
cannot legally drink until age 21. That law is difficult to enforce
because persons older than 21 simply can buy alcohol for the younger
person. Fines and penalties exist for both the adult and the younger
person who engage in such a practice. However, the approved measure
adds an additional penalty – the possible loss of one’s driver’s
license for up to six months. The measure was approved by the House on
a 60-32 vote and by the Senate on a 36-1 vote. It now awaits the
governor’s signature into law.
Following the close of the legislative session, the
Baptist Message will report on other pending measures related to moral
and social concerns and how they fared.