Louisiana’s 105 representatives and 39 state senators considered nearly 2,000 bills during the three-month, general 2012 legislative session. Winning final legislative approval were a total 521 House bills and 372 Senate measures, according to the Louisiana News Bureau.
Some of the more important issues included:
House Bill 61
The only significant measure Gov. Bobby Jindal won to overhaul the retirements of state government employees was 401(k)-like pension benefit for the newly hired. Called “cash balance,” government employees hired after July 1, 2013, will receive in retirement the monies contributed by the employee and the state employer plus investment earnings rather than a guaranteed lifetime benefit. After changes in both chambers, HB61 was approved on motions to agree with the amendments. The Senate passed the measure on a vote of 26-8, then the House voted 68-36.
A “Yes” vote approved creating the “cash balance” pension plan for employees hired by state agencies. A “No” vote opposed HB61.
Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 99
The Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP, authorizes $3.4 billion in basic state aid for about 700,000 public school students for the 2012-13 school year. Usually, the MFP debate does not rouse strong passions. But it did this year, mostly because this year is the first time that MFP dollars are to be widely used for some low- and middle-income students attending low-performing public schools to move to private and parochial schools. The House added conditions to the MFP, which the Senate stripped. The conference committee removed the House’s conditions. The Senate on June 3 approved the conference committee report on a vote of 24-15. The next day, the House adopted the report, thereby finally passing the measure on a vote of 51-49.
A “Yes” vote approved the MFP. A “No” vote opposed the conference report.
House Bill 974
Under the bill, current teachers rated as “ineffective” — likely the bottom 10 percent — would immediately lose the job protection, called tenure, and could face dismissal proceedings.
New teachers would have to be rated as “highly effective” — the top 10 percent — for five out of six years to become tenured.
The evaluations will start in the spring of 2013. Louisiana has about 50,000 public school teachers.
The Senate voted 23-16 on April 4. The House voted 60-43 on April 5 to approve the teacher tenure bill.
A “Yes” vote concurred with Senate amendments and sent the teacher tenure to the governor. A “No” vote opposed HB974.
House Bill 976
As part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education overhaul, HB976 would expand eligibility for some low-income students to attend private and parochial schools with state dollars.
The change applies to low-income students who attend “C,” “D” and “F” schools, as rated by the state.
The money would come from the Minimum Foundation Program, which largely finances public schools.
Another provision in HB976, which would pave the way for more charter schools, would allow universities, nonprofits and community groups to become charter school authorizers if they meet state rules.
The Senate voted 24-15 to approve the legislation. The House voted 60-43 on the final vote for HB976.
A “Yes” vote concurred with Senate amendments and approved the legislation that expanded eligibility for some low-income students in poorly performing schools to use public money to help pay for private and parochial schools. A “No” vote opposed the legislation.
Senate Bill 303
SB303 is a proposed gun-rights constitutional amendment that would require approval by a majority of Louisiana voters in November to become law.
The measure would declare that the right “to acquire, keep and bear, possess, transport, carry, transfer and use” arms is a fundamental right. SB303 calls for any denial of that right to be subject to “strict scrutiny” by a court.
“Strict scrutiny” is considered a tougher legal obstacle that would require courts to determine whether the state’s gun laws demonstrate “a compelling governmental interest” and are “narrowly defined.”
Opponents say SB303, if approved by voters, would make it difficult to enforce laws that forbid carrying guns into churches and schools.
The House approved the measures on a 77-22 vote. The Senate voted 34-4 to back SB303.
A “Yes” vote backed a constitutional amendment applying “strict scrutiny” to guns rights cases. A “No” vote opposed the measure.
Senate Bill 299
A two-bill package would have moved 10 schools from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system to a newly-created school zone called the Southeast Baton Rouge Community School District.
The new district would extend southeast from the Interstate 10/12 split, south of I-12 and east of I-10 to the parish lines.
Both chambers approved the enabling legislation. But the constitution requires majority approval of those voting across the state and in East Baton Rouge Parish to enact the law. The Senate approved, by a vote of 29-7, SB299, which would have allowed the statewide vote to change the Louisiana constitution. Backers failed to win a two-thirds majority — 70 votes out of 105 members — in the Louisiana House. The measure failed on a vote of 61-35 in the House.
A “Yes” vote was for the constitutional amendment necessary to set up a new school district in southeast Baton Rouge. A “No” opposed SB299.
Senate Bill 577
The legislation authorizes a study on differences between what men and women are paid in the work place. “Equal pay” is a national issue, with legislation before the U.S. Congress, that is pitting Democrats against Republicans in a presidential-election year.
SB577 went to conference committee for lawmakers to work out differences. The state Senate voted 30-1, with 8 absentias, to approve the conference committee report. The House voted 73-12, with 20 representatives not voting, to pass the bill.
A “Yes” vote would create Louisiana Equal Pay Task Force to study and make recommendations relating to equal pay issues in Louisiana before March 1, 2014. A “No” voted opposed creating the seven-member task force. The governor vetoed the bill on June 8.
House Bill 1
The legislation authorizes the spending of $25.6 billion in public revenues for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Usually HB1, the state budget bill, is approved overwhelmingly. This year, however, a group of House members calling themselves “fiscal hawks” delayed passage of the legislation, arguing against the wisdom of paying recurring state expenses with revenues from sources unlikely to produce money next year.
The Senate voted 39-0 and the House voted 62-40 to approve the budget.
A “Yes” vote approved the state spending plan. A “No” vote opposed the budget, which included “one time money.”
House Bill 609
The legislation would have removed the geographic limitations on the Louisiana Legislature’s authority to create new school boards and on provisions relative to financing education.
Basically, the measure would negate the requirement of having a statewide constitutional vote for neighborhoods wanting to create a “breakaway” school district.
The legislation cleared the House Committee on Education and then the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure. But on May 9, the House voted 53 yeas and 44 nays. The bill, not having received two-thirds vote of the elected members, failed to pass. A motion to reconsider the vote sat on the calendar for the rest of the session as supporters attempted to find the necessary votes.
A “Yes” vote approved the measure. A “No” vote opposed HB609.
Senate Bill 52
Senate Bill 52 was part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s pension revamp package. It was heavily amended and passed the Senate on May 14 with 24 senators voting yes and 12 senators voting no.
The measure then sat on the House calendar and was scheduled for a June 1 debate. But the House leaders passed over SB52 and announced that no further retirement overhaul bills would be debated.
As amended, SB52 would have increased the contribution rate by 2 percent of pay from its current 8 percent for most state employees.
It would have been phased-in a half-percent at a time over four years but only after the employees got a 4 percent or better pay raise.
A “Yes” vote was for increasing the amount state employees contributed to their retirement funds. A “No” opposed the measure.
House Bill 865
The legislation gives power to the Capital Area Transit System board to determine appropriate fares, rentals and other charges for transportation and determine appropriate routes and schedules. Today, the parish governing authority must approve such changes.
The legislation allows the board to increase the regular fare by more than 25 percent in any 12-month period only after a public hearing. The board will also have to provide written notice to the governing authority of the parish or parishes in which the proposed change would occur, which could then also conduct a hearing and submit recommendations.
In addition, the legislation sets out parameters for selection of CATS board members. It would exempt an appointment from Zachary, whose voters did not approve a tax proposition to support the financially ailing system. The state Senate voted 20-15 for HB865 and the House voted 68-26 to concur in the Senate’s amendments and thereby pass the legislation.
A “Yes” vote was to approve changes to the CATS board. A “No” vote opposed the changes to the bus system governing board in East Baton Rouge Parish.
The governor vetoed the bill.