Legislative session concludes with no action on biggest issues

Legislative session concludes with no action on biggest issues
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Louisiana Politics

POSTED: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 5:00am

UPDATED: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 5:04am

State lawmakers can celebrate the fact that they do not have to return to the State Capitol today.

The legislature adjourned sine die to end the 2014 legislative session Monday evening.

“We’ve had a great session and I would like to thank the Legislature for their hard work," Gov. Bobby Jindal said. "With their help, we have accomplished new achievements for the people of Louisiana."

"I think this session was all about things that we didn't get accomplished, a lot of missed opportunities," State Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) claimed.

"We accomplished some things," countered fellow State Rep. Dalton Honore (D-Baton Rouge). "We didn't cut education like we've done in the last several years."

There was little movement during the 85-day session on the most-talked about issues of the year: Medicaid expansion, Common Core, and the minimum wage. Bills related to all three caused lots of debate, but no change. And none had enough steam to make it to the final days of the session.

The idea that led to the most passionate debate locally was the reform of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. Bills created by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber were designed to take power away from the school board and give it to principals. Those bills came close, but ultimately did not pass.

"I believe that that was good for our delegation," James stated, "because we had almost 100 people show up in opposition to that bill. And I think that defeating that bill spoke volumes for our commitment to our school district." 

"This was brought to a head on several occasions in the House to discuss it," said Honore, who brought a BRAC bill that would have shrunk the board, "and I see that the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board is making an attempt to make some of the changes that we suggested."

The state budget was approved last week, and the debate surrounding it lacked the drama that often comes with a last-minute agreement.

"I am excited about what we were able to do with the budget," James said. "It's not a perfect budget, but we were able to give state workers an increase for the first time in five years; we were able to give additional money for higher education and to the Council on Agings across the state. So I'm encouraged by those numbers."

The budget could be good for the growth of East Baton Rouge Parish.

"I think that we were able to get a lot of good projects in Capital Outlay," James stated. "Unfortunately, that bill is loaded with $388 million of projects when there are only about $50 million of money available for those projects." 

"When we began in March, we said our priority this year is building Louisiana’s workforce and growing our economy. We accomplished these goals by passing a budget that will increase funding for higher education, legislation that will crackdown on frivolous lawsuits, and legislation that will prepare Louisiana students to better compete in the new global economy. We also signed bills to help support our military men and women, and plan to sign bills to help us further crackdown on human trafficking, and increase healthcare funding for persons with disabilities."

One of the last things the legislature did was to call for a new Department of Elderly Affairs. Voters will decide if they want it during the November election by voting on a constitutional amendment.

Gov. Jindal signed nearly 400 bills before the session closed, and may yet sign many more.

"When we began in March, we said our priority this year is building Louisiana’s workforce and growing our economy. We accomplished these goals by passing a budget that will increase funding for higher education, legislation that will crackdown on frivolous lawsuits, and legislation that will prepare Louisiana students to better compete in the new global economy. We also signed bills to help support our military men and women, and plan to sign bills to help us further crackdown on human trafficking, and increase healthcare funding for persons with disabilities."

He signed a bill Monday that will likely restrict the number of legacy lawsuits filed against oil companies.

“Exploitation of the legal system destroys its purpose and discourages investment by an industry that has continued to grow our economy over the past century," he stated. "A fair legal system is critical to protecting the rights of our citizens who have legitimate claims, as well as the rights of those who are accused of wrongdoing. This bill will help deter frivolous claims and ensure our legal system is fair for those that need it most. Many have come together to work on this bill, and I am proud to sign it into law.”

The next legislative session will begin on April 13, 2015.

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