The full House has approved a bill making hazing a felony in Louisiana when it results in serious bodily injury or death.
Right now, hazing is only a misdemeanor.
"Currently it's $10 to $100 fine for hazing and up to a 30-day sentence in jail," explained Rep. Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette).
Rep. Landry says that punishment is "woefully inadequate." Under her bill, a person convicted of hazing could face five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 when someone is seriously injured or killed.
The same fine would apply to organizations, like a fraternity, if they knew hazing was going on, but failed to alert law enforcement.
Landry says the goal is to clarify what is criminal behavior and what isn't. If students know that hazing is illegal, she says that may keep them from doing it in the first place — and that could save lives.
"That's why we have criminal laws," she told members of the House of Representatives Monday, "we have them to deter, to punish and to raise awareness. And I think this bill does all three of those things."
But Rep. Larry Bagley (R-Stonewall) questioned why more laws were needed.
"We can't legislate all of it, and to me," he said, "this seems like we're maybe trying to do that."
He pointed out that hazing doesn't just happen between students on a college campus, but could take place in groups not associated with an educational institution, which this bill specifically addresses.
Landry says the measure focuses on hazing at universities because that's where it occurs most frequently.
Rep. Landry decided to author the legislation following the death of Maxwell Gruver, an LSU student who died as a result of hazing in September. Four people were charged in Gruver’s death — three on counts of hazing and one for negligent homicide.
The bill passed unanimously and is headed to the Senate for consideration.