BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A bid to give local school districts more freedom to choose the textbooks they use received the backing Wednesday of the House Education Committee without objection.
The measure (House Bill 116) by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, would establish that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education can't require local school districts to purchase specific textbooks or instructional materials.
Erin Bendily, assistant superintendent for the Department of Education, said the bill dovetails with the department's efforts to hold local school leaders accountable for results, without micromanaging them.
"It's autonomy for the local school systems," Hoffmann said.
Hoffmann said a state-recommended textbook list still will be developed, and he said he expects 98 percent of books to be taken from that list.
Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, questioned how the state would continue to ensure that schools don't use textbooks that glorify the Ku Klux Klan or teach inaccurate history, for example.
Bendily said laws require schools to teach to state content standards, and she said schools get judged through student test scores.
Hoffmann unsuccessfully pursued similar legislation two years ago, with critics charging it was a back-door attempt to include creationism in science classes.
Tammy Wood, a science teacher from Zachary, said the current regulations and restrictions governing textbooks were needed to ensure educators and subject matter experts scrutinize the materials introduced to students.
Wood said Hoffmann's proposal "opens the door for the inclusion of substandard materials to be purchased with unlimited public dollars without appropriate state oversight."
The proposal heads next to the full House for debate.
A Vermilion Parish lawmaker's repeated attempt to put term limits on all statewide elected officials has again failed to gain support in the Louisiana Legislature.
The House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 6-2 against Rep. Simone Champagne's proposal (House Bill 88) Wednesday.
Champagne wants to limit statewide elected officials to three consecutive four-year terms. The bill would have applied to the lieutenant governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, insurance commissioner, secretary of state and treasurer.
Louisiana's governor already is limited to two consecutive terms.
Champagne has tried the idea for several years, but it has never won passage in the House. If the term limit proposal got the backing of lawmakers, it would also have needed approval from voters in a statewide election.
Lawmakers in the House unanimously agreed Wednesday to place the penalty money that Louisiana will receive because of the Gulf Coast oil spill into the state coastal fund and protect it in the constitution.
The measure (House Bill 118) by Rep. Simone Champagne, R-Erath, deals with money that could be received by the state for violations of federal pollution standards under the Clean Water Act. That could be billions of dollars.
The coastal protection fund, where the money would be placed, is used for coastal restoration projects and hurricane protection efforts.
The Clean Water Act dollars already are earmarked for coastal protection in statute, but Champagne wants the language added to the Louisiana Constitution so lawmakers couldn't easily change the allocation.
Champagne's bill heads to the Senate for debate. If approved by both the House and Senate, it would need backing from voters in a 2014 statewide election.
A new fee would be charged of anyone convicted of a domestic violence offense, with the dollars dedicated to pay for shelters for battered women and their children, under a bill that received passage from the Senate in a 29-6 vote.
The measure (Senate Bill 251) by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, would allow fee up to $500, with the discretion left to the courts to decide the specific amount.
Morrell proposed the charge as a way to offset cuts that have already hit shelter programs for domestic violence victims and to counteract additional rounds of budget slashing that are proposed.
The proposal heads next to the House for debate.
In other legislative action:
—A Senate committee reversed course and supported legislation aimed at ensuring that women and men are compensated equally for doing the same work. The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee a week ago deadlocked on the proposal (Senate Bill 153) by Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans. But the committee Tuesday revived the measure and advanced it to the full Senate without objection, despite opposition from business groups.
—The Senate Transportation Committee agreed without objection to a bill that would remove the requirement that drivers of a three-wheel, fuel-efficiency vehicle called the Elio must wear helmets and get a special license endorsement. The House-approved measure (House Bill 218) heads to the full Senate for further consideration.
"I know you're going to say, 'Oh, he's a flaming liberal,' and I am. And that flame's not going to go out."
--Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, speaking to the Senate and asking lawmakers to consider the poor when they craft next year's budget, on a visit to the Louisiana Capitol.