BATON ROUGE - Today, Governor John Bel Edwards signed several bills into law that provide benefits and protections for veterans, law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and first responders.

House Bill 953 establishes additional protections and enhanced penalties under Louisiana's hate crimes law for police officers, firefighters and first-responders who are targeted as victims because of their profession.   

“Coming from a family of law enforcement officers, I have great respect for the work that they do and the risks they take to ensure our safety,” said Gov. Edwards. “The men and women who put their lives on the line every day, often under very dangerous circumstances are true heroes and they deserve every protection that we can give them. They serve and protect our communities and our families. The overarching message is that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Louisiana.”

Prior to becoming law, hate crimes in Louisiana included offenses against any person because of their perceived race, age, gender, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry. This new law adds police officers, firefighters and emergency medical service personnel.

“The signing of this bill gives us all an opportunity to pause and remember the extraordinary acts by seemingly ordinary people who serve our state as first responders. Whereas citizens flee danger, police, fire and EMS personnel run to it,” said Colonel Mike Edmonson, State Police Superintendent. “My heart remains heavy following the tragic loss last year of Senior Trooper Steven Vincent who simply responded to assist an individual in a ditch when he was met with gunfire. For those individuals who choose to target our heroes, the message formalized in this legislative act should be clear and the consequences severe. On behalf of first responders throughout Louisiana, we thank the legislature and the governor for helping to make this law a reality.”

“I am very pleased that the legislature saw fit to pass this legislation,” said Michael Ranatza, Executive Director of the Louisiana Sheriff's Association. “This is an indication of where our priorities are in Louisiana as far as protecting our law enforcement officials. I appreciate the governor’s signing of the legislation.”

Gov. Edwards also signed into law several pieces of legislation that will help meet the needs of our brave soldiers who have returned home from active duty.

"These bills will improve the support assistance we provide to Louisiana’s veterans. On this Memorial Day, they remind us of the service and sacrifice of our veterans,” said Joey Strickland, Secretary of Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Veterans’ issues were always a priority in my work in the legislature and continue to be now as governor,” said Gov. Edwards. “I am proud to stand with the brave men and women who sacrifice so much to keep our country safe and secure and provide them with the resources they need to transition back into civilian life.”

The governor signed the following five bills into law related to veterans’ issues:

HB 1141: Expands the list of veterans eligible to participate in Veterans’ Court programs

HB 988: Expands the list of veterans eligible to participate in the Military Family Assistance Fund

HB 55: Provides for dismissal of certain criminal charges upon completion of the Veterans Court probation program

SB 72: Authorizes private employers to provide employment preferences for veterans

SB 389: Creates 100% DAV military honor license plate