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Legislative notes from Baton Rouge

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BATON ROUGE, La. (KNOE 8 News/AP) - A proposal to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors in Louisiana continues to win support from state lawmakers.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill (House Bill 208) by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, without objection Thursday, sending it to the full House for debate. A similar measure (Senate Bill 12) already has received the unanimous backing of the Senate.

The bills would add e-cigarettes, vaporizers and other alternative nicotine products to the list of items that, like cigarettes, cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18 in the state.

E-cigarettes and vaporizers are battery-powered devices that provide users with aerosol puffs that typically contain nicotine, and sometimes flavorings like fruit, mint or chocolate. Users get their nicotine without the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes.

Lawmakers still don't agree on how and if they want to add wine-infused ice cream to supermarket shelves around Louisiana.

For a second hearing, the House Judiciary Committee postponed a vote on the bill (House Bill 471) by Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, because of concerns that minors could get access to the alcohol-laced ice cream.

The state's Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control says lawmakers need to authorize sale of the products before they can hit grocers' freezers.

But lawmakers are questioning how many restrictions Louisiana should put in place before stocking items like Buzz Bars, ice cream bars that contain whiskey, cognac, rum or lemon vodka among other flavors.

Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, wanted the ice cream sales limited to outlets that have licenses from the ATC to sell alcohol.

"I want to make sure we're protecting our kids," he said.

Hunter shelved his bill temporarily to try to work out a compromise, but that was the second time he had to delay, so it was unclear if he'd be able to reach a deal with his colleagues.

In other legislative action:

Public school teachers would be able to accept gifts from their students within some state-specified limits, under an exception to the state ethics code that received the backing of the House in an 85-3 vote Thursday. The bill (House Bill 500) from Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, would allow gifts of no more than $25 at a time, capped at $75 per year from one person. The gifts only would be allowed from a student or former student. The measure moves to the Senate for debate.

A proposal that could lessen prison sentences for some offenders narrowly won approval Thursday from the House of Representatives. The bill (House Bill 732) by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, would waive minimum sentence requirements for certain crimes of violence. It heads next to the Senate for consideration after getting support in a 54-24 House vote, one vote more than was needed for passage.

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