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L A E ’s CAPITOL CONNECTION Your weekly legislative update from the LAE lobby team June 8, 2012 SINE DIE: THE 2012 LEGISLATIVE SESSION COMES TO A CLOSE! Overall, the 2012 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature proved to be one for the history books. The session was marked as one of the most contentious in LAE history. Nearly 2,000 bills were filed for consideration; more than 520 house bills and 370 senate bills received final approval. Governor Jindal’s education reform bills were among those approved. JINDAL & CREW WIN BATTLE OVER SWEEPING EDUCATION CHANGES BROUGHT FORTH IN HB 974 & 976 The session began with the Governor’s proposals calling for major changes to Louisiana’s public schools. These proposals came in the form of unprecedented attacks on teacher tenure, the freezing of school employee salary schedules, trimming the authority of local school boards, and expanding vouchers for students to attend private and religious schools. The legislation also expanded the types of groups that are allowed to authorize charter schools. After a several rallies at the Capitol and much debate, the bills passed the Legislature and were sent to the Governor’s desk to be signed. School districts, teachers and school employees soon face much harsher working conditions, including more work with less pay. LAE INFLUENCES LAWMAKERS TO REJECT MAJOR RETIREMENT BILLS LAE was instrumental in influencing lawmakers to reject bills that would have changed the retirement age to 67 (SB 749) and charged public workers more for their pensions (SB 52). Lawmakers scrapped Governor Jindal’s attempts to make it harder for retirement systems to pass cost-of-living adjustments for retirees (SB 740). The Governor’s attempt to change the calculation for the monthly retirement payment on an employee’s top five years of salary instead of three (SB 47) was also thrown out. The only significant retirement bill that made its way to the Governor Jindal’s desk was HB 61; the legislation will create a “cash-balance plan” similar to a 401K for public employees hired after July 1, 2013. LAE SUCCEEDS IN STOPPING BILL THAT STOOD TO PREVENT EMPLOYEES FROM HAVING ASSOCIATION DUES DEDUCTED FROM THEIR PAYCHECKS The payroll dues deduction bills HB 88 and HB 1023 were never discussed during the 2012 Session. This was a major win for the LAE. We also saw several other successes with wins on such retirement bills as SB 494, which helps to protect and expand extended sick leave benefits for teachers, school bus drivers and other school employees. The LAE Lobby Team was also successful in working to establish and expand anti-bullying provisions to provide for training, professional development, and reporting of bullying. LAE LEADERS BROUGHT FORTH ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION LEGISLATION LAE leaders brought forth several pieces of legislation that competed with what Governor Jindal was proposing. LAE- sponsored SB 650 called for the revamping the current teacher evaluation system brought forth in ACT 54. The legislation offered more reliable and valid methods of teacher evaluation, peer assistance teams, and a better system of data collection to support the teacher and school evaluation process. LAE also offered HB 879, legislation that called for the streamlining of the tenure process, as well as a regional hearing board to administer tenure hearings. BUDGET BILL WINS FINAL APPROVAL ON LAST DAY OF SESSION The proposed operating budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2012 won final approval. After being amended several times, the version of the bill that was passed uses more than $300 million in one-time money to offset budget shortfalls. Colleges will face significant cuts next year and nearly $205 million will be used from the “rainy day” fund to shore up the budget deficit for this year. Even though the state continues to face hard times economically, these budget woes did not stop Governor Jindal from pushing tax breaks for corporations. A recent report by the Legislative Auditor’s Office shows a total of nearly $5 billion being lost through tax credits and other exemptions over a six-year period. The LAE is continuing to push lawmakers to close corporate tax loop-holes that are draining our schools and communities of much needed resources. EDUCATION BUDGET PASSES BY VERY NARROW MARGIN By a very narrow margin of 51-49, the House of Representatives voted to fund Governor Bobby Jindal’s education budget, which calls for the use of public money to fund private and religious schools, virtual schools, and schools established by corporations. The formula will freeze education funding for the fourth year in a row. In a surprising move to garner enough votes to pass the Education MFP Resolution (SCR 99), Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley chose to ignore the Louisiana Constitution and rule that the resolution only needed “the votes of a majority of those members present” instead of the 53 votes required by the Louisiana Constitution. Many members of the House were extremely upset with the ruling. Representative Stephen Ortego told members that under the proposed resolution, Lafayette Parish Schools would receive $5 million less due to the fact that the formula blatantly violated the tax and education codes by using local sales tax revenue to decrease the allocation to local schools districts. Representative Kenny Havard said heard a number of concerns from his constituents upset over the fact their public tax dollars will be used to fund private schools teaching Islam. Representative Sherman Mack also raised several concerns including MFP dollars going to fund higher education. Legal challenges are already under review over this legislation. LAE leaders will be in touch next week with what we intend to do regarding legal action. Voting to ACCEPT the MFP Resolution with Senate changes (51): Speaker Kleckley and state Reps. , Abramson, Adams, Arnold, Badon, Barras, Berthelot, Billiot, S. Bishop, Broadwater, Burford, H. Burns, T. Burns, Carter, Champagne, Connick, Dove, Fannin, Foil, Garofalo, Harris, Henry, Hensgens, Hoffmann, Hollis, G. Jackson, Jefferson, Lambert, N. Landry, Leger, Ligi, Lopinto, Lorusso, Moreno, Jay Morris, Jim Morris, Pearson, Pylant, Robideaux, Schexnayder, Schroder, Seabaugh, Shadoin, Simon, St. Germain, Talbot, Thibaut, Thierry, Thompson, Whitney and P. Williams. Voting to REJECT the MFP Resolution (49): State Rep. Anders, Armes, Barrow, W. Bishop, Brossett, Brown, Burrell, Carmody, Chaney, Cox, Cromer, Danahay, Dixon, Edwards, Franklin, Gaines, Geymann, Gisclair, Greene, Guillory, Guinn, Harrison, Havard, Hazel, Hill, Hodges, Honoré, Howard, Hunter, Huval, K. Jackson, James, Johnson, Jones, T. Landry, LeBas, Leopold, Mack, Norton, Ortego, Pierre, Pope, Price, Pugh, Reynolds, Richard, Ritchie, Smith and Willmott. Not Voting (5): State Reps. Miller, Montoucet, Ponti, Richardson and A. Williams.
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