BATON ROUGE — Smoking will be banned near state-owned office buildings, drunken driving statutes will be rewritten and payday lenders will have to offer no-fee installment plans as nearly two dozen laws take effect with the start of the new year.
The measures were passed in the last legislative session. They are mostly minor changes, as most new laws approved by lawmakers each year begin in August.
Louisiana’s driver’s license will be able to carry a state university logo, for an added fee, if a college chooses to participate in the program created by Sen. Fred Mills, R-Breaux Bridge.
A measure by Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, will let teenagers 16 years old or older register to vote when obtaining a driver’s license, though they still won’t be able to vote until they turn 18.
One of the more significant pieces of legislation to kick in with the start of 2015 is a 41-page rewrite of Louisiana’s laws governing the crime of driving while intoxicated, a measure sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Perry, R-Kaplan.
The bill cleans up discrepancies across multiple statutes dealing with DWI offenses, in a move lawmakers hope will make it easier for judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to follow what’s required in law when a person is convicted.
Due as the new year begins is a tally from law enforcement agencies of the number of untested rape kits on their shelves. The law requiring the numbers to be reported to the Louisiana State Police crime lab took effect in August, but the deadline to provide the information is Jan. 1.
“The sooner we can collect this data, the sooner we can fix the problem and work to find justice for hundreds of rape victims,” bill sponsor Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, said in a statement.
Smoking will be prohibited within 25 feet of public entrances to state office buildings. Passage was a victory for Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, who spent years trying to add the restriction as a way to lessen exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke. A person violating the new law can be fined $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense and $100 for subsequent offenses.
Online payday lenders will have to register with the Office of Financial Institutions and be subject to the same regulations as storefront lenders. The bill by Rep. Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge, also gives borrowers the right to enter into an installment payment plan for no extra fee if they cannot pay back loans on time.
Payday loans are short-term credit offered at high interest rates. Ponti’s bill was pushed by the payday loan industry to crush efforts to try to add tougher restrictions on the businesses.