The original instrument and the following digest, which constitutes no part of the
legislative instrument, were prepared by Carla S. Roberts.
DIGEST
SB 12 Original 2020 Second Extraordinary Session Robert Mills
Present law (R.S. 29:760-772) provides for Louisiana Health Emergency Powers Act, which allows
the governor to issue an executive order or proclamation declaring a public health emergency,
following consultation with the La. Dept. of Health (LDH), if he finds a public health emergency has
occurred or the threat thereof is imminent.
Present law (R.S. 29:762(12)) defines "public health emergency" to include an occurrence or
imminent threat of an illness or health condition that is believed to be caused by the appearance of
a novel, previously controlled, or eradicated infectious agent or biological toxin.
Present law (R.S. 29:770(B)) provides that, during a declaration of a state of public health
emergency, the LDH secretary or his designee will provide information about and referrals to mental
health support personnel to address psychological responses to the public health emergency. Present
law further defines "mental health support personnel" to include psychiatrists, psychologists, social
workers, and volunteer crisis counseling groups.
Proposed law retains present law but adds members of the clergy to the list of mental health support
personnel for which the LDH provides information and referrals during and after public health
emergencies. Proposed law defines "member of the clergy" as any priest, pastor, rabbi, duly ordained
clerical deacon or minister, Christian Science practitioner, or other similarly situated functionary of
a religious organization.
Proposed law provides that the LDH may include the availability of no-cost or reduced-cost
counseling or mental health support services offered by members of the clergy, religious
organizations, or other nonprofit organizations when providing information about and referrals to
mental health support personnel to address the psychological responses to the public health
emergency.
Proposed law defines "inpatient health care facility" to include all of the following:
(1) A hospital licensed under present law (R.S. 40:2102-2115).
(2) A nursing home as defined in present law (R.S. 40:2009.2).
(3) An adult residential care home as defined in present law, including but not limited to assisted
living facilities (R.S. 40:2166.3).
Proposed law requires that, during the COVID-19 public health emergency or any other contagious
or infectious disease for which a state of public health emergency has been declared, an inpatient
health care facility provide patient or resident access to members of the clergy for prayer, mental
health support or religious counseling, the sacraments of Holy Communion, Anointing of the Sick,
and Last Rites, and other such customary religious services that would normally be offered to
patients or residents if the health care facility was not subject to a declaration of a state of public
health emergency. Proposed law further requires that such religious services will be permitted in the
same manner that would normally be permitted by the inpatient health care facility during such times
when the health care facility is not under a declaration of a state of public health emergency.
Proposed law provides that a member of the clergy who volunteers to visit a patient or resident in
an inpatient health care facility must:
(1) Submit to a health screening, including but not limited to a temperature check.
(2) Wear the same personal protective equipment as the medical staff of the health care facility.
(3) Sign a written waiver of liability acknowledging the health care facility's immunity from civil
liability, as provided in proposed law, if required to do so by the health care facility.
(4) Comply with all other safety requirements that the inpatient health care facility imposes on
its staff or other health care workers.
(5) Not disrupt clinical care.
Proposed law requires that the inpatient health care facility identify and prescribe the type of personal
protective equipment to be worn by members of the clergy. If the inpatient health care facility
provides the personal protective equipment to a member of the clergy, then the inpatient health care
facility may recover the actual costs of the equipment from the member of the clergy.
Proposed law provides that the legislative purpose of proposed law is to protect the religious liberty
of each patient or resident and to protect inpatient health care facilities from costly lawsuits and
administrative complaints on the basis of religious discrimination by affording each patient or
resident access to members of the clergy when those members of the clergy volunteer to enter the
inpatient health care facility, agree to and comply with the safety requirements provided for in
proposed law, accept the risk associated with such entry, and waive liability in order to visit and
minister to the patient or resident.
Present law (Title 23) provides certain protections for certain employees, such as unemployment
benefits and workers compensation benefits, and also provides certain benefits to independent
contractors, such as requirements for safe workplaces.
Proposed law provides that no member of the clergy who is an employee or independent contractor
of a religious organization shall, as a condition of employment or a condition of contract, be required
by the religious organization to visit or minister to a patient or resident of an inpatient health care
facility during a state of public health emergency that is declared to combat COVID-19 or other
contagious or infectious disease. Proposed law further provides that the member of the clergy may
choose to enter the facility or refuse to do so. Regardless of his decision, his rights under present law
(Title 23) or any other provision of law will be preserved.
Proposed law provides that, during a state of public health emergency, which is declared to combat
COVID-19 or any other contagious or infectious disease, no inpatient health care facility will be
liable to a member of the clergy who visits the inpatient health care facility for any civil damages for
injury or death resulting from an actual or alleged exposure to COVID-19 or any other contagious
or infectious disease. Proposed law further provides that this limitation on liability will not apply to
a facility that fails to substantially comply with the applicable procedures established by the LDH
that governs the health care facility operations and the injury or death was caused by the health care
facility's gross negligence or wanton or reckless misconduct.
Effective upon signature of the governor or lapse of time for gubernatorial action.
(Amends R.S. 29:762(intro para) and (7) through (16), 770 (heading) and (B), and 771(B)(2)(c); adds
R.S. 29:762(17) and (18) and 770(C))