17 May 2016

Committee action, May 17: SB 260, SB 473

SB 260 by Sen. Dan Morrish would repeal the local charter authorizer portion of state law. Currently, BESE may designate up to 40 statewide, and these may bypass local boards. He stressed to the House Education Committee they were not elected, unlike the other entities, and didn’t like the idea that chartering could occur without elected official participation.

Supporters of the bill testified that to allow this was akin to having a nongovernment organization making law, that meritorious schools will get charters through elected bodies, that multiple authorizers tend to produce schools with lower outcomes, and duplicated regulation. However, they admitted through questioning that no authorizers existed, and only two applicants ever.

Opponents noted authorizers also were adjuncts of government agencies, faced rigorous qualifications and oversight as well as any schools the authorized, and maximized choice. Rep. Chris Broadwater, however, wondered whether a system never used ought to be retained and what should happen to encourage its use. He was told the rigor and lack of knowledge of the system might be the cause, and noted in other states this worked. It was supposed to be stringent to ensure quality; indeed, these were higher standards than any other schools in the state.

Rep. Pat Smith asked whether such standards would recruit away from other schools better students. She was told current law would prevent this. Smith insisted they could get around this, and claimed in the past two instances their applications were treated in a biased fashion.

Morrish closed by saying he did not want to have the bill altered. He said the state was doing a great job without charters authorized under this law. It passed 7-5, with all present Democrats in favor and all Republicans except Broadwater and Rep. Reid Falconer against.

SB 473 by Ronnie Johns would restore the Louisiana Health Insurance Premium Payment Program. This has the state pay an employer premium, which can be more cost efficient, he told the House Health and Welfare Committee. Some amendments offered clarified potential eligibility to make sure of cost effectiveness, and it would involve greater costs, although some would have to be incurred because of other Department of Health and Hospitals activity. These were adopted without objection.

Another amendment offered by Rep. Dustin Miller that would encourage home health agencies to offer insurance, also accepted. Rep. Kenny Cox wondered how the program would be affected by Medicaid expansion. He was told that the crowding out of private insurance by Medicaid was predicted to be only 10-15 percent, so LaHIPP would help this segment. The amendment was adopted without objection, as was the bill.

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