BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana is poised to become the first state in the nation to expand its hate-crime laws to protect police, firefighters and emergency medical crews.
The move could stir the national debate over the relationship between law enforcement and minorities.
If signed by the governor this week, the new law would allow prosecutors to seek additional penalties against anyone convicted of intentionally targeting first responders because of their profession.
Louisiana law already provides for additional penalties if a victim is targeted because of race, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or affiliation with certain organizations.
Lawmakers in five other states have recently tried to pass similar so-called Blue Lives Matter bills, but those efforts stalled.
Critics regard the bills as unnecessary and say they could weaken current hate crimes statutes.