Where are we going? That’s the question everyone asks our leaders to answer. Unfortunately for us, this administration’s poorly-conceived and ideologically-driven vision for Louisiana is only beginning to bear its rotten fruit. This article in the Baton Rouge Business Report is particularly insightful:
Regardless of whatever stats, rankings or carefully shaded reports the Jindal administration puts out regarding job creation or the state of the state’s economy, please know that, in truth, Louisiana is on a high-speed-rail collision course with global economic irrelevance….Economic development wins and massive tax cuts have buoyed the state economy during the national recession, made Louisiana appear more business- friendly and, without question, earned the ballyhoo of the suddenly authoritative Site Selection magazine. Yet all of that good news is effectively eradicated by the financial carnage that’s taken place in higher education under Jindal’s watch. The past four years have seen Jindal and the Legislature slash $360 million in higher education funding, $92 million from LSU, the state’s supposed flagship institution….Blame whatever one wants, but there’s no escaping that higher education is collapsing on Jindal’s watch.
During the early days of this Legislative session, Governor Jindal pushed ferociously to pass a vast, new Statewide government voucher for K-12 education. Critics of this approach warned the administration that, without strict accountability and transparency, this grand experiment would be a disaster for Louisiana’s children and future. Unfortunately for our state, those predictions are coming true even sooner than expected:
The school willing to accept the most voucher students — 314 — is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition.
Learn more about the early, and disconcerting, results of the voucher give-away here. The Washington Post also has a story on this debacle, titled “A Scary, (and telling) School Voucher Story.”
Voters in the Metro New Orleans area will decide in November on whether they will keep, or eliminate, the tolls on the Crescent City Connection. As a result of legislation passed this week, voters will decide the issue on the November 6th ballot. The tolls were created to pay for essential services on and around the bridge and to pay down debt related to the construction of the bridge.
Law that provides for a consumer advocate in the Department of Insurance, and culled from a bill I offered earlier this session, was amended into HB 94 in Conference Committee. The Conference Committee report of HB 94 was subsequently passed by both Houses and now heads to the Governor desk. The language re-created the Office of Consumer Advocacy and the position of Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Advocacy in the Department of Insurance, preserving a key ally for taxpayers in the fight to increase coverage and reduce premiums in our State. The office will be a voice for consumers inside the Department of Insurance, while providing key outreach and addressing complaints by citizens. You can read about the amendment, and the entire bill, by clicking here.
Controversial attempts by the Administration to balance the budget by revising agreements between retirees and public retirement systems have been shelved for this legislative session. Measures that would raise the retirement age, increase state employee contributions to their retirement and effectively reduce their pension benefits by changing the formula by which they are calculated, and prevent cost-of-living adjustments in retiree checks have been shelved for the this session, handing a stunning defeat to the Jindal-backed measures. You can read more about these instruments here.
Shout out and special thanks to Representatives to Walt Leger, Helena Moreno and Chris Broadwater who agreed to craft a compromise in Conference in the waning hours of this Regular Session to pass the Equal Pay Task Force legislation I authored. Read the bill focused on studying ways to close the gender gap in compensation in our state here.
With the retirement of Chief Justice Kitty Kimball, Justice Bernette Johnson of New Orleans will become Louisiana’s first African-American Female Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court. To commend this, among her many and varied accomplishments throughout her career, I worked with my colleagues to author House and Senate resolutions commending Justice Johnson. You can read Justice Johnson’s entire biography on the Louisiana State Supreme Court’s website here. The resolution was sponsored by Representative Walt Leger in the House. In the Senate, I authored the resolution with co-authors Senators Edwin R. Murray, Jean-Paul Morrell, Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, Troy E. Brown, Sharon Weston Broome, Rick Gallot, Jr., Rick Ward, III, Gary L. Smith, Jr., Kenneth Eric LaFleur, Jody Amedee, David R. Heitmeier, O.D., Gregory W. Tarver, Sr., and Elbert L. Guillory.