Four criminal justice bills -- House Bill 249, House Bill 489, House Bill 519 and House Bill 680, covering easting of debt payments to making occupational licensing requirements easier to meet -- passed through the Senate Monday, marking the final victories for the Gov. John Bel Edwards-backed criminal justice reinvestment package.

Four criminal justice bills -- House Bill 249, House Bill 489, House Bill 519 and House Bill 680, covering easting of debt payments to making occupational licensing requirements easier to meet -- passed through the Senate Monday, marking the final victories for the Gov. John Bel Edwards-backed criminal justice reinvestment package.

Three of the bills skated through easily, while HB680, a bill to suspend prisoners’ child support payments, failed in a 15-11 vote after facing headwinds during its initial appearance earlier in the day. Twelve senators, six Republicans and six Democrats, were absent for the first vote. Upon a reconsideration vote several hours later, it passed, 26-11.

Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, who carried the bill in the Senate, said HB680 cleared up a “deficiency” in the state’s child support laws by suspending child support payments for prisoners to prevent them from emerging from prison with a mountain of debt.

Martiny emphasized the bill doesn’t “get the (parolees) out of paying,” but prevents them from going back to prison if they can’t make payments in accordance with strict court procedure while struggling to procure employment.

House Bill 249 by Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, would send any uncollected debts from parolees and those on probation to the Office of Debt Recovery, where they can later be deducted from the individual's taxes once they get back on their feet financially.

That bill would allow the indebted individuals the chance to follow a payment plan if a judge determines the individual has tried to pay back costs, fines and restitution fees, but cannot afford them.

The bill passed in a 22-9 vote, with all nine votes against coming from Republicans, whose views on the criminal justice reinvestment package remain mixed.

House Bill 489, by New Orleans Democratic Rep. Walt Leger, would reinvest 70 percent of the savings accumulated from prison reform measures back into rehabilitation programs for prisoners and services for victims. The bill easily passed in a 29-0 vote and has been ordered back to the House.

One of the loudest Republican voices behind the criminal justice reinvestment package, Sen. Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge, said Leger’s bill represented the “reinvestment” part of the 10-bill-strong package.

Under HB489, the State Department of Public Safety and Corrections would receive 30 percent of the 70 percent reinvestment for incentive grants to parishes and other entities that expand prison alternatives and take steps to reduce the state’s incarcerated population – the highest per capita in the world.

Another 20 percent would go toward the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Criminal Justice for victim services, and the remainder would be funneled into educational programs, reentry services and transitional work programs to turn former convicts into productive citizens.

Carencro Republican Julie Emerson’s House Bill 519, a measure to streamline the occupational licensing process for ex-offenders, passed with little opposition. The bill would allow ex-offenders to apply for full occupational licenses instead of provisional licenses if they meet all other requirements.

The bill would only apply to work licenses that don’t otherwise explicitly limit ex-offenders from holding licenses. Exemptions were allowed for law enforcement, the board of nursing and the State Board of Medical Examiners.

Emerson’s bill will now move to the governor’s desk to be signed into law, while the others head back to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.