Today, Governor Bobby Jindal held a press conference following adjournment of the 2010 Regular Legislative Session where he said the budget for the upcoming fiscal year is responsible, makes strategic reductions and protects critical services. The Governor also highlighted pieces of his administration's legislative package that were approved, including bills to reform K-12 and higher education, bills to protect children and families and bills to crack down on sexual predators and drunk drivers.
Governor Jindal said, "We passed a responsible budget that makes targeted reductions, while protecting critical services for our state and helping to prepare us for future budget challenges. Some wanted to see more reductions to higher education and healthcare. Others wanted to restore funding for some of the reductions. No one got everything they wanted, but it's a good budget.
"We have a responsible budget that does four key things. First, the budget protects critical services, especially health care and higher education funding. Second, this budget makes strategic reductions and streamlines services to help us prepare for future budget challenges. Third, the budget addresses the current deficit of $261 million, which is critical so we did not end with the state in a deficit posture. Fourth and finally, the budget does not include federal FMAP dollars from Washington, since we still do not have that funding and there is not a definite timeline on when that legislation will pass Congress."
While protecting critical services and streamlining government operations, the FY 11 Budget includes more than $1 billion less in General Fund direct funding. This means that the FY 11 Budget reflects a decrease of more than $4 billion compared to the FY 10 total budget.
The FY 11 Budget also reduces the number of full-time, appropriated positions in the executive branch by 2,945. Following prior reductions of 3,326 full-time appropriated positions through budgetary actions in FY 09 and FY 10, approval of this FY 11 recommendation would mean a total of 6,271 fulltime, appropriated positions reduced since 2008.
HIGHLIGHTS OF GOVERNOR'S 2010 LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE
Below is the Governor's legislative package that was approved during the 2010 Regular Legislative Session.
Encouraging Flexibility & Accountability in K-12 Education
The passage of HB 1368, or the Red Tape Reduction and Local Empowerment Act by Rep. Jane Smith reduces red tape in the state's education system and provides schools the flexibility needed to improve student performance. The new law accomplishes three main goals, including reducing burdensome regulations currently placed on schools that may hinder academic growth, equipping low-performing schools on the verge of state takeover with the tools needed to improve before they are placed in the Recovery School District (RSD), and helping to scale up comprehensive school reform in struggling schools to ensure that every Louisiana child has access to a high-quality education.
* Specifically, HB 1368 authorizes an optional program for local school districts that would allow them to seek a waiver of state laws and BESE policies, with some exceptions. The bill empowers local public school districts to tell policymakers what they need to improve school performance and gives them the ability to be released of red tape and regulations that impede their progress.
* Under HB 1368, any public school may apply for a waiver through its local school board upon receiving a favorable vote of a majority of the school's classroom teachers. Academically unacceptable schools covered by a waiver will be required to make certain changes, based on best practices, designed to improve school performance. During the waiver period, they will not be subject to the sanctions of accountability, meaning they will not be subject to state takeover and placement in the Recovery School District (RSD).
* The passage of HB 1033 by Rep. Frank Hoffman enacts the use of value-added data to improve teaching and student achievement. This new law will incorporate student growth data as a component of teacher and administrator evaluations. This evaluation system will enable school districts to identify and reward highly effective teachers and deliver targeted professional development to teachers and school leaders who need it. Specifically, this new law calls for value-added assessment and works by establishing expectations for what students should learn throughout the year. Actual performance of students is then assessed and results are compared to what students with similar characteristics statewide learn on average. This value-added model helps to identify teaching strengths and weaknesses so that teachers can be rewarded for strong performance and receive targeted professional development if they need help improving their instructional techniques.
* The passage of SB 344 and HB 962 by Sen. Ann Duplessis and Rep. Steve Carter respectively will improve the charter school application process and grant automatic charter renewals to high-performing charter schools. These news laws will also require local school districts to publicize the application process for charter schools, including any application forms, timelines, required information, primary points of contact, and review process. The charter school application and review timelines will be coordinated between local authorizers and BESE so that any applicants denied have sufficient time to prepare an appeal as a Type 2 charter school applicant.
* The passage of HCR 20 by Rep. Steve Carter urges reform of the school funding formula to make it more efficient and effective. Specifically, the resolution urges BESE to make certain changes to the MFP funding formula, including increasing the percentage of MFP funds spent at the school level, having funds "follow the child" when students are transferred to juvenile justice facilities, adjusting funding (up and down) based on accurate student enrollment data, and targeting more MFP funds to dropout prevention.
* The passage of SB 297 by Sen. Jack Donahue transfers the adult education division from the Louisiana Department of Education to the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS). Specifically, SB 297 shifts adult educational services to serve adult students and provide them more access to career counseling and job training resources they might not have at a high school. The new law also provides measures to discourage 16 year-old students from dropping out of high school and directs them to enroll in a GED program with demonstrated positive outcomes, if they choose to leave.
* The passage of HB 303 by Rep. Cameron Henry will allow qualified home schooled students to play interscholastic sports at local public and nonpublic schools, subject to the approval of the public school principal or private school governing authority. HB 303 offers any student enrolled in a state-approved home study program the eligibility to play interscholastic sports at their local Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) member public high school or a LHSAA member nonpublic school.
* The passage of SB 302 and HB 925 by Sen. Conrad Appel and Rep. Austin Badon, respectively, requires BESE, in consultation with parents, teachers, school administrators, and other education stakeholders, to develop a letter grading system for use with the statewide accountability system. These bills provide a more effective method of communicating public school performance to parents and the general public, offering a greater understanding of students' academic proficiency and growth.
The passage of HCR 148 by Rep. Austin Badon urges and requests BESE to study the feasibility of making changes to two prekindergarten programs -- LA 4 and the 8(g) Model Early Childhood Program -- to eliminate unnecessary and costly duplications. Specifically, the resolution calls for BESE to study the feasibility of consolidating the administration and evaluation of the LA4 and 8(g) prekindergarten programs and adopting identical standards for the LA4 and 8(g) prekindergarten programs in order to provide high-quality early childhood experiences and support services to four-year-old children to ensure that they are prepared for future academic and social success.
Improving Outcomes in Higher Education
The passage of HB 1171, or the LA GRAD Act (Granting Resources and Autonomy for Diplomas Act) by Speaker Jim Tucker enacts performance expectations and incentives at colleges and universities in order to increase student performance, better meet state and regional needs and improve institutions' overall competitiveness, effectiveness, and efficiency.
* All public postsecondary institutions will be given the option to enter into a six-year performance agreement with the Board of Regents -- and in doing so, they will agree to meet specified performance targets aligned with their unique role, scope, and mission. In addition to annual financial audits, participating institutions will be required to submit certain organizational data to the Legislature and the Legislative Auditor in order to evaluate efficiency and overall effectiveness.
* In exchange for meeting established performance targets, participating institutions will be eligible to receive limited tuition and operational flexibility subject to the approval of their management boards.
* The Board of Regents will annually monitor each institution's progress and report to the Legislature. It may revoke an institution's agreement at any time for failure to abide with the specified terms. At the end of the six-year agreement period, a PERC-like panel will conduct a comprehensive review of each participating institution's performance. Based on this review, the Board of Regents may recommend renewal of any institution's performance agreement to JLCB, which will approve or deny the renewal request.
Standing up for Children and Families
* The passage of HB 1247 by Rep. Frank Hoffman protects the life of mothers and unborn children by ensuring that taxpayer dollars will not be used to subsidize abortions in Louisiana as part of the new federal healthcare Act. HB 1247 prohibits the funding of elective abortions--defined as abortions for reasons other than preserving the life of the mother--in all health plans to be offered through the new state health exchange.
The passage of SB 53 by Sen. Nick Gautreaux provides for the withholding of payments and annuities to persons who have outstanding child support arrearages or child support overpayments. SB 53 authorizes DSS to intercept and seize certain gaming winnings over $1,200 for the payment of child support and overpayments owed to the department. With this new law, DSS will provide real-time, immediate access to information regarding parents who have outstanding child support obligations allowing access to the information necessary to determine those who must have winnings withheld.
Cracking Down on Sexual Predators
* The passage of HB 290 by Rep. Kirk Talbot provides stronger sentencing options for the distribution and production of illicit pornographic materials. This new law will give prosecutors additional options for charging individuals with distribution and production of pornography, which will carry higher sentences of 5 to 10 years for distribution and 10 to 20 years for production.
The passage of HB 291 by Rep. Ernest Wooton creates an additional sentence option for those who initiate sexual crimes against a minor through a computer. HB 291 provides a penalty option of between 7 and 10 years when computer-aided solicitation results in actual sexual conduct and the age difference between the perpetrator and the victim is greater than five years. This new law will provide a stronger penalty option than the current felony carnal knowledge statute, and prosecutors can use this statute when an individual has sexual contact with a victim by first soliciting them online.
The passage of HB 193 by Rep. Joseph Lopinto creates administrative subpoena authority for certain law enforcement officials to more effectively obtain electronic information about sex offenders. In order to decrease the amount of time that a child is potentially being victimized, HB 193 would give limited subpoena authority to investigators in child exploitation cases so an investigator can generate an administrative subpoena on departmental letterhead and issue it to the Internet Service Provider to further the investigation.
* The passage of SB 56 by Sen. Danny Martiny allows for certain officials to acquire property involved in the commission of certain sex crimes so the property can be used as a revenue source to fight back against further sexual crimes. Upon a guilty ruling, SB 56 will allow the personal property used by the offender at the time of the offense to be forfeited and sold.
The passage of HB 191 by Rep. Jonathan Perry creates a "Habitual Sexual Offender" law to increase the sentences for habitual offenders. HB 191 will specifically take habitual sex offenders into consideration and offer harsher penalty options applicable to certain sex offenses. If an offender is charged under the proposed "habitual sex offender law" after conviction of a first and second felony sex offense, the offender can be punished by no less than two-thirds of the longest possible sentence for conviction of the second felony and up to three times the longest possible sentence. If the sex offenses are committed against children under age 13, the habitual offender may face a lifetime sentence.
Cracking Down on Drunk Drivers
* The passage of HB 1231 by Rep. Jonathan Perry suspends an offender's driver's license for two years after their conviction of third degree feticide -- killing of an unborn child. This bill will make the killing of an unborn child with a vehicle or watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol receive the same treatment for license suspension purposes as the offense of vehicular homicide or negligent homicide.
* The passage of HB 1240 by Rep. Jonathan Perry provides for a code to be placed on the driver's licenses of individuals who are required to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle as a condition of reinstating their driver's license.
* The passage of HB 1236 by Rep. Walt Leger provides that premature removal of an interlock device from a vehicle or failure to renew an interlock contract prior to the end of a person's prescribed interlock sentence will result in suspension of a driver's license. This bill will statutorily empower the Office of Motor Vehicles to suspend a driver's license upon notice that the driver has prematurely removed (or caused to be removed) his/her interlock device.
* The passage of HB 1276 by Rep. Rickey Hardy requires bus drivers to report DWI-related arrests within 24 hours of receipt or prior to their next shift, whichever time is shorter. This new laws specifies that failure of a school bus driver to report his/her DWI arrest within 24 hours or prior to his/her next shift (whichever is shorter) shall result in termination by the governing authority if the operator is serving a probationary term under tenure law or if the provisions of tenure law are not applicable. If tenure is applicable, violation of this statute will trigger a tenure hearing.
* The passage of SB 686 by Sen. Willie Mount restructures the way that proceeds from seizure and sale of vehicles for 3rd and 4th DWI offenses are distributed. This new law says that law enforcement involved in DWI enforcement and prosecution should receive the funds associated with vehicle forfeitures to enhance their efforts. SB 686 also increases the time of the sentence of imprisonment to be imposed without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence for third and subsequent offenses of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Fighting For Louisiana's Seafood Industry
The passage of HB 1346 by Rep. Gordon Dove will allow the use of up to 10 percent of the deposits made annually to the Artificial Reef Development Fund to assist shrimpers and shrimp processors in participating in a new certification program being developed by the Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Artificial reefs are in and around where the shrimping industry operates and under this new law a portion of the funds associated with the Louisiana Artificial Reef Program will be allowed for use in supporting the Louisiana wild-caught shrimp industry. HB 1346 compliments the passage of HB 890 by Rep. Joe Harrison, which authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to develop certification standards for Louisiana wild fish and seafood, including wild-caught shrimp. HB 1346 directs approximately $800,000 per year toward the certification program.
Protecting Our Communities
The passage of HB 1269 by Rep. Girod Jackson increases the penalties for when someone solicits a minor to join a gang. Specifically, HB 1269 enacts a new law and penalty for solicitation of a person under the age of 17 to become a member of a criminal street gang -- when there is an age difference of at least three years between the solicitor and solicited. Penalties would include fines of not more than $10,000, prison for not more than four years, or both.
The passage of HB 1226 by Rep. Mert Smiley abolishes 17 state boards and commissions and removes statutory references to four additional commissions that no longer exist.