La. lawmakers want to make it more difficult to cut police budgets

Updated: Oct. 5, 2020 at 5:42 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A House committee Monday advanced a plan that would allow the legislature to penalize local governments and universities that reduce police and sheriff’s budgets.

Any municipality that cuts police funding by 10 percent or more would have to explain their decision to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. If lawmakers agree the move has a “significant and harmful effect on public safety,” it could withhold tax revenue from the governing authority and delay construction projects in the area.

“Every city that has defunded their police department - the crime statistics are staggering and they’re on their way up," the bill’s author, Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, said. "We don’t need that in Louisiana.”

Harris acknowledged that there are no municipalities or schools that have “seriously considered” cutting their law enforcement budgets, as big cities in other states have done in response to protests prompted by deaths of Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Republicans contend that stripping law enforcement of their funding will lead to spikes in crime that impact tourism and the local economy. Democrats argued the bill takes some control over local budgets away from local governments.

“I can only imagine if someone came to me and my business and said, ‘You have to make these cuts unless you come report to me?’ I don’t report to you. I run my own business," Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, D-New Orleans, said.

Other democrats argued a budget committee should not get to decide matters of public safety.

“We can’t even agree to wear masks for public safety," Rep. Frederick Douglass Jones, D-Monroe, said. "We need a measurable test other than, ‘Wil this have significant harm on public safety.’”

Lawmakers advanced the legislation, mostly along party lines. It now heads to the House floor for full debate.

Watch the full story from WAFB’s Matt Houston tonight on 9News at 6.

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