Dig Baton Rouge

BILLS, BILLS, BILLS

By Nick BeJeaux

The 2014 Legislative Session has drawn to a close after passing 884 laws, though it’s likely this particular session will be remembered for what it didn’t accomplish. Instead of recapping this week (it was really only one day, anyway) we’re going to look back on progress made and missed opportunities during the session.

The state was not able to put regulations on the payday loan industry that would make it easier for debtors to pay their loans as it intended to – the did the opposite, in fact.  The legislation that was passed was supported by the industry and did nothing to stop payday loans that dramatically increase because of high interest rates. Legislation intended to clamp down on “predatory” loans and it’s support from the local community were inevitably drowned out by well-funded and organized lobbying.

Louisiana is still aboard the Common Core boat, despite several bills to kill and replace it. Jindal is probably so miffed by this – or is he? It’s hard to tell about his stance on CC, given that it seems to shift every other week. While it didn’t manage to halt CC adoption, lawmakers were able to push through a bill that protects student data from falling into inappropriate hands, which was a major concern with CC.  Now the state has to pull a 180 and figure out how they’re going to shift existing materials and policies to meet Core Standards.

Thousands of low-income people without health insurance are still without it since the legislature decided to not expand Medicare. TOPS funding is spiraling out of control, and the minimum wage is still too minimum. What you ain’t rich? Sorry.

In return for suffering about $750 million in direct funding cuts since 2008, higher education institutions throughout the state received a lump sum of $40 million to split amongst themselves.  That doesn’t mean that every college and university gets $40 million – that means every college and university gets a piece of $40 million. Chances are most of that will stay within the LSU System, which is already the largest and most profitable system in the state.

The Legislature passed legislation to kill the actions of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, despite claims that such an action would disrupt on-going litigation against BP. Lawmakers have apparently decided that risking the ongoing litigation against BP, which has already paid out billions of dollars, is necessary to preserve its working relationship with the 97 oil and gas companies targeted by the suit. Louisiana is poised to become a major player in global non-renewable energy, particularly natural gas. Legislators opposed this lawsuit from the very beginning to ensure that that position isn’t messed with.

Next fiscal year’s budget was passed after it was balanced with funds the state will have eventually. Every leader has their bad habits. Using funds that actually don’t exist to balance gaps in the budget is Jindal’s.

Unconstitutional laws criminalizing sodomy were not taken off the books, thanks to Family Forum and inaction from law enforcement and lawmakers. This decision shows just how powerful the Family Forum is in policy making, since their opposition to the repeal of these laws was the loudest and they were able to persuade several lawmakers to flip their votes. The big fight was over the theory that repealing this law would flood public areas with displays of male-on-male anal sex. However, this law, called unenforceable by the EBR Sheriff’s Department, states that it is illegal for any couple to engage in sexual activity other than vaginal intercourse.

Jindal’s answer to The Affordable Care Act, “American Next,” was hurriedly approved without a cost estimate or concrete health plans. Lawmakers passed this plan without any thought whether or not the federal government will allow it’s implementation. Supposedly, the department of Health and Hospitals will develop the health plans in the near future. Truthfully, what this program really is is Jindal thumbing his nose at Obamacare.

 

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