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2024 Louisiana Legislation Watch

Take Action About This Bill



 
HB 545
Sponsored by Rep. Beryl Amedee
Analysis & Talking Points

 

Analysis

Text of the Bill

 

Section D of RS 14: 106 exempts certain entities (churches, schools, currently public libraries) from criminal prosecution for having what are considered to be "obscene" materials.  
 

House Bill 545 seeks to remove this exemption from criminal prosecution for K-12 schools.
If these passed, educators in K-12 schools could be prosecuted for having obscene materials. The Miller test would still be applicable in said prosecution, so the work as a whole would still be weighed; however, this would come after a librarian had already been charged.


Governor Landry’s own Protecting Innocence Report states that none of the books he found break obscenity laws.


This bill could see educators face the possibility of up to 3 years of jail time and up to a $5,000 fine for providing obscene material to minors as the bill seeks to remove protections for educators that already exist in state statute. 


This bill will require schools to purchase liability insurance similar to police departments. Who will fund these insurance policies for already overburdened schools?


80% of parents say that they have confidence in what materials their libraries select (Hart Research Associates, March 2022).


Polling shows that 78% of voters are less likely to support a candidate who supports book bans (Ipsos, October 2023).

Talking Points

  • Librarians do not provide access to legally obscene materials. To be considered legally obscene materials must meet several criteria established by the Miller Test that must be decided in a court of law.  There are no court cases in Louisiana involving any school library materials having been subjected to this assessment and been found to be legally obscene.

 

  • This bill will only increase the shortage of qualified educators and school librarians who feel safe working in Louisiana. There is already a shortage of school librarians, and this will make it even more difficult for schools to find qualified candidates to fill these vital positions that are required by Louisiana accreditation standards.

 

  • These bills will result in a drastic waste of taxpayer money as school districts are forced to fight unnecessary legal battles. Cost for school districts and public libraries to carry liability insurance for all educators, school librarians, and public library workers would require additional funding and would be of similar cost to that of insurance carried by police officers.

 

  • These bills are government overreach that will burden Louisiana courts with an issue that is already overseen by local governing boards. This bill will remove local control from individual school districts and library boards.

 

  • This bill is seeking a solution to a problem that does not exist. There has been zero evidence that any school or public library in the state of Louisiana is breaking obscenity laws. What this bill does is open up the door for further harassment and continued attacks on librarians in our state. 

 

  • If there was any evidence of obscene materials in school or public libraries, the legislature would have taken up this bill during the special session on crime. 

 

  • Governor Jeff Landry himself has publicly stated that the material his office has examined in libraries does NOT fit the legal definition of obscenity in his Protecting Innocence Report. Why then, if this is not happening, are we entertaining this bill which is a waste of taxpayer time and money? This is pure political theater. 

 

  • There are several types of organizations that are protected by the defenses to prosecution including educational institutions, libraries, art galleries, medical practitioners, and religious groups. The legislature intended this because it recognized that for Louisiana communities to succeed, access to information is vital.

  • If passed, librarians across the state will live in fear that they may be sentenced to jail and fined for providing access to books and information. HB 545 risks their livelihood and freedom.

 

  • All libraries have collection development policies detailing the acquisition of books and other resources, as well as policies to challenge books already on the shelves.

 

  • This bill further opens the door to censor and ban books by and about historically marginalized communities under the guise of obscenity. 

 

  • This bill will cause harmful self-censorship in libraries from librarians who are scared to be charged with a crime because they have art history books with nude paintings, popular adult fiction like the popular 50 Shades of Gray series, books on sexual reproduction, and books on animal husbandry to name a few.

 

  • This could have unintended consequences that would stifle sex education programs and materials, and also criminalize school nurses, school counselors, and teachers of art, history, and anatomy. 

 

  • These bills insinuate that librarians in Louisiana are not concerned about the families and children that they serve. On the contrary, librarians serve our Parishes with professional integrity and deep concern for children, families, and our communities. Libraries already have in place systems of review and selection for children and teens and consider the age-appropriateness of material in deciding where those materials will be placed within the library. Passing laws mandating what is already a common practice is unnecessary and redundant.(from LLA online statement)

 

  • These bills are a part of a larger campaign to adopt state laws that advance social and cultural priorities largely associated with conservative values and politics.  

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