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The Louisiana Legislature’s session begins today. Here’s what’s on the agenda



LOUISIANA— The 2021 session of the Louisiana State Legislature begins Monday, with lawmakers expected to tackle a number of hot-button issues while attempting to move the state out of the coronavirus pandemic that has overshadowed almost everything else for over a year.

Looming on the agenda are bills related to raise the minimum wage, decriminalizing marijuana, making kindergarten mandatory and strengthening background checks for gun purchases.

The last bill in particular is the project of State Rep. Mandie Landry, who says it would keep guns away from people deemed mentally unstable.

Louisiana already has background checks for sales from retailers such as Academy, but Landry’s bill would require private buyers to go through the same process, establishing a trail for guns as they pass from hand to hand.

Some gun advocates wonder how such a bill can be enforced because the state would need to rely on private buyers and sellers to follow the rule rather than simply making the purchase without a background check.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is backing a bill that would make kindergarten mandatory for young Louisianans. Currently, it is an optional program in the state, but State Senator Cleo Fields’ bill would require kindergarten-aged students to attend school and pass an academic readiness test to move on to 1st grade.

Several different legislators have proposed bills that would decriminalize marijuana possession in Louisiana, in a fashion similar to how the drug is handled in New Orleans.

Marijuana is federally classified at the same level as cocaine and meth, but in recent years there has been a push in states across the country to decriminalize and oftentimes legalize it. Taxes on marijuana purchases are a strong incentive to states considering loosening restrictions on it.

And a bill by Karen Carter Peterson — who is running for the U.S. Congressional seat vacated by former Rep. Cedric Richmond — would raise Louisiana’s minimum wage to $15 by 2026.

That bill would raise the minimum wage incrementally over the next few years. Louisiana currently has a minimum wage of $7.25, but her bill, if passed, would raise it to $11 by 2022.

In 2024, the rate would jump another two dollars with a third hike in 2026 bringing the state’s minimum wage to $15.

That $15 minimum wage is a tentpole for many progressive candidates, but it is unclear what kind of support it has in Louisiana’s Republican-controlled legislature.

Also on the agenda are bills related to sports betting, construction and infrastructure projects, and tax law changes.

The legislative session begins Monday at noon.