BATON ROUGE, La. -- Four weeks into Louisiana legislative session, and there is a battle brewing that has nothing to do with the state's money woes.
At the center of the debate is a bill by Slidell state Sen. A.G. Crowe.
The measure re-enforces current state law forbidding discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national ancestry, age, sex or disability.
It also prohibits state agencies from considering other factors when imposing anti-discrimination clauses.
"Basically, all it does is it affirms current state law, number one and number two, that no additional groups, sub-groups, whatever are added to what the state law is," said Crowe. "That is pretty much all it is."
But, New Orleans state Sen. Ed Murray questions that. He fears the bill could open the door to state funded, but independently run charter schools denying admission based on sexual orientation, a student's ability to speak English or a child's athletic ability.
"It would let the charter school know and the voucher schools, the non-public schools, that they don't have to accept every student, they can discriminate," said Murray. "That's what this bill allows."
Some charter operators have complained the state Department of Education is forcing additional anti-discrimination classifications, not protected by state law including sexual orientation.
However, Louisiana Association of Charter Schools director Caroline Roemer says Crowe's bill will have no effect on the students they teach.
"Unfortunately, politics are in play here, and frankly at worse some fear mongering and misinformation dragging charter schools into a bill when it really has nothing to do with charter school enrollments," Roemer said.
Murray said: "I think the bill, if it's allowed to pass in its current form, would allow people to discriminate in this state. I don't think that's the right thing to do."
Crowe said he's not sure when his bill with come up for a vote in the Senate, but he hopes to clarify the measure between now and then to make sure there are no unintended consequences in the legislation.
"It has nothing to do with kids in school and charter schools," said Crowe. "I don't know what that's all about."
A spokesman for Gov. Bobby Jindal had this to say about Crowe's bill: "We're watching the bill through the process. We're against discrimination, but we don't believe in special protections or rights."