BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A bill that would have created a system of automatic expungements for some crimes fell short of enough votes for debate after months of compromise on the bill.
HB707 by Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, looked to update the computer system that handles expungements. It would have taken out the cost to the individual trying to clear their record. But there were some people who were caught up in the cost.
Currently it costs $550 and is a complicated process that often requires an attorney. For those who are low-income this can make it nearly impossible to have records expunged. The bill would fund a system to connect records between the State Police, Louisiana Supreme Court, and local Clerks of Court.
The bill has been in the works for years to create a faster and more affordable way for some records to be cleared when they constitutionally become available. There was over two million dollars even put aside in the budget for the bill, should it pass.
Some found issues with the state paying for expungements and the bill didn’t get enough votes to be debated in the waning hours of the session.
“I’m going to work with all the stakeholders. Work with leadership. But I think it’s crucial we focus on trying to get it done this year because the money’s in the budget and we don’t know what kind of fiscal scenario will be next year,” Rep. Duplessis said.
The bill hit a snag in Senate Finance with some members being against the bill as a whole. An amendment was tacked on that would still fine the individual looking for an expungement and the money would come out of their tax returns.
There was some debate over if that move is legal. But with the amendment on the bill was able to leave the money committee.
This session there were several bills looking to tackle criminal justice reform from Duplessis’ other bill to limit juveniles being put in solitary confinement. Another bill by a senator looked to charge more 17-year-olds as adults. There were several bills that increased punishments for some crimes.
Duplessis believes there are better ways to make change to the state’s high crime rates.
“I understand the reaction. I understand the sense of feeling, the need to do something when there’s been an uptick in crime in the streets as well as an uptick in bad behavior within secure care,” Rep. Duplessis said.
The 2022 Regular Legislative Session is in the final hours and each bill must get a two-thirds majority vote in both the house and senate in order to be debated.
The session must end at 6 p.m. June 6.