Louisiana's 2021 Regular Legislative Session began on April 12th. This year, the American Heart Association's top priority is to improve water access in schools by urging lawmakers to pass House Bill 132 by Rep. Vincent J. Pierre. The bill would ensure water bottle filling stations are installed in newly constructed public schools and public schools undergoing major renovations.
We continue to monitor bills as they're filed to identify which ones may impact our mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. Right now, we've noted the following bills:
Bills we oppose:
- House Bill 525 by Representative Lance Harris – This bill updates the definition of smokeless tobacco products and removes such products from the 20% state excise tax on tobacco. This legislation intends to change the definition of smokeless tobacco with the purpose of creating a loophole for new, harmful products being promoted by the tobacco industry as “tobacco-free”, only containing pharmaceutical nicotine and thus, should not be taxed. Synthetic or pharmaceutical nicotine was historically very expensive to produce, but is now becoming more affordable. New products that resemble Nicotine Replacement Therapy drugs – but have not been approved by FDA for NRT purposes – claim to contain synthetic nicotine. These claims in recent ads and websites about synthetic nicotine are being made to avoid tobacco regulatory requirements (excise tax, youth access) and give the impression that these products are more "pure," and perhaps less harmful. In addition to scientific fact that any level of nicotine is harmful, the substances in these new products are widely unknown.
Bills we support:
- Senate Bill 133 by Senator Regina Barrow – As many organizations are rightfully prioritizing equity, the same is being done within the many departments of Louisiana state government. This session Senator Barrow is sponsoring a bill to ensure the Louisiana Department of Heath will serve as a foundation and resource for addressing health care disparities in vulnerable populations and contribute to the progression and improvement of Louisiana's health care rankings. We support this bill as written.
- Senate Bill 150 by Senator Regina Barrow – This legislation requires the Office of Group Benefits to cover bariatric surgery techniques for the treatment of severe obesity. Bariatric surgery is one of the most evidence-based treatments to address severe obesity. We are supportive of evidence-based obesity treatment that adheres to clinical guidelines and emphasizes the need for lifestyle/behavior change and will support this bill as written.
- House Bill 486 by Representative Mandie Landry – This legislation will expand Medicaid to provide postpartum insurance coverage to eligible pregnant individuals who qualify under the state’s Medicaid plan, one year after the end of their pregnancy. We are supportive of expansions of Medicaid to provide for maternal health and will support this bill as written.
- House Bill 368 by Representative Buddy Mincey, Jr – This legislation will require instruction in elementary and secondary schools on the health risks of vapor products. As we strive to reach our “tobacco endgame” goal of eliminating tobacco use and nicotine addiction in the U.S., we support this bill as written to educate youth on a new generation of addictive tobacco and nicotine products.
Watch your inbox for future You're the Cure alerts as we advocate together throughout session, which is expected to end on June 10th.
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Ashley Hebert, Louisiana Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association, contributed to this post.
Julie M. Howell is a Grassroots Manager for the American Heart Association, engaging volunteers and staff across Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Puerto Rico in public policy efforts.