There are only a few weeks remaining until legislators will adjourn their regular session on June 2. For bills that have not passed their house of origin, time is a factor.
The $25 billion operating budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1 has made it through the House and is now pending action in the Senate. Still to be answered is how the state will address the federal government’s rejection of the governor’s hospital privatization plan.
That’s because the administration, citing the impact will be felt in later years, has been able to calm lawmakers’ concerns about the initial rejection, which it plans to appeal. It is still putting the last privatization piece in place this session with a bill to close Huey P. Long Hospital in Pineville.
A new funding formula for public schools is likewise pending review by the Senate Education Committee after the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was unexpectedly forced to rewrite the plan.
Meanwhile, a couple of attempts to derail Common Core standards have so far succeeded where others have failed. Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, was able to soften the impact by getting a floor amendment attached to HB 953 that would prevent school letter grades from dropping after only two years of implementation. Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, also attached an amendment to the operating budget, found in HB 1, to require that BESE solicit different testing options, other than Common Core, which the board could still select.
A constitutional amendment that would have steered more gaming-related proceeds toward education in the state has been deferred by the House Appropriations Committee. It targeted money generated by the Louisiana Lottery, casinos, racetracks and video poker machines.
Optometrists are staring down ophthalmologists in their bid to perform some surgical procedures under HB 1065, which passed the House after a heated lobbying battle got personal. A robocall by the ophthalmologists described the effort as a “money grab” by Sen. David Heitmeier, an optometrist. It caused House members to come to the New Orleans Democrat’s defense and probably helped to send the measure to the Senate, where it passed last year.
A bill that could close down most of the state’s abortion clinics has been sent to the Senate floor. Unlike a similar law passed in Texas, HB 388 by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, the head of the Black Caucus, has sparked little opposition.
Two bills in the crusade by Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-Algiers, against traffic light cameras won more yea votes than nays, but fell short of absolute majorities in the House.
In other action, a House committee shot down SB 330 to restrict drone flights over private property, while the full House has approved the sale of raw milk but not wine ice cream.
Finally, major legislation sought by the oil and gas industry, clarifying the process for cleaning up contaminated oilfields and for awarding damages to landowners, is headed to the House floor. By a 9-3 vote, the House Civil Law Committee restored SB 667 to its original version by stripping a Senate amendment that made it apply to future lawsuits only. As amended, the bill would apply to lawsuits for which a trial date has not been set.