14 November 2005

Floor action, Nov. 14: SB 71, SB 49, HB 162

SB 71 is a first step towards taking the patchwork of different authorities and trying to coordinate them as far as coastal restorations and protection. Its author Sen. Reggie Dupre argued for the new board for its planning and coordinating. It also would be the coordinating agency for DNR and DOTD launching projects from its fund. Sen. Joe McPherson worried whether a situation of separate levee boards would arise without much coordination. Sen. Walter Boasso (whose SB 95 goes even further in south Louisiana by creating a “superagency” levee board) wondered the opposite, whether local needs would be subject to political whims. Dupre emphasized local agencies’ revenues and federal projects would not be affected by this. Only the fund’s money (from a constitutional amendment passed in 1989) and nonrecurring funds would be controlled by it. Boasso thought it too tilted to the state, but Dupre argued it was a kind of accountability measure. “This is not a takeover of local jurisdictions … it is an oversight measure,” he argued. Boasso also thought north Louisiana districts should be included, but Dupre said they were just too far removed from the central thrust of the bill.

This bill never was in doubt, with 24 co-authors, and passed 38-0. Underscoring its importance, Gov. Kathleen Blanco was there listening, and thanked the Senate for its support of the bill afterwards.

SB 49 also is a first step, towards educational reform, stressed by author and part-time singer Sen. Ann Duplessis. She said “it’s all about the children,” maybe some special interests are left out, but it’s a better method of educating children in New Orleans affected by problems now. Not rushing to it, “if not now, when; it’s not a new topic or problem.” Officials must act now, the public expects it, she claimed. Other issues will have to wait. “Shame, shame on anybody who says they want to take care of failing schools and elect not to vote for this piece of legislation … you’d rather give those children 100% of nothing rather than a 50% chance of success.” She briefly outlined the bill: it transfers failing schools into recovery district, only one method of which is chartering. It would requires community input, with an eventual transfer back. Further, it does not restrict collective bargaining. It picked up 21 co-sponsors and passed 34-4.

Interesting, simultaneously in the Senate as SB 49 went through and SB 70 lifted the cap on the number of charter schools, in the House Rep. Karen Carter argued with her HB 161 that such efforts in Algiers could be halted by the attorney general. Several members questioned why that official should overrule a specified power of local officials (her objection in part being that local officials should not control a charter school district board). For example, Rep. Mike Walsworth pointed out this kind of action could be overruled by a judge on citizen suit. Carter said it was an emergency situation and she was trying to protect the public. Rep. Jeff Arnold said the bill was narrowly targeted that would continue delay the opening of Orleans schools, and pointed out legally that elected school board members could be on it, that there was no real problem or controversy there. Rep. Cedric Richmond said the board was controlled by the essentially same entity who financially mismanaged the Orleans system, but Arnold pointed out the Board of Elementary and Secretary Education would oversee charter schools. Rep Jim Tucker said this innovative way of educating would produce immediate access to money to operate and its governing board was an initial compromise that would change into a mostly community-based board. The bill failed 29-71.

THE BAD: HB 162 by Willie Hunter in part would undo cuts made by Gov. Kathleen Blanco by executive order prior to the session. The cuts were justified and undoing them would cause things such as the Tuition Opportunity Performance Scholarship program to be cut instead.

TUESDAY: SB 95 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee.

“Happy birthday to you …”
The “Supremes,” composed of female senators led by Sharon Weston Broome, serenaded Sen. Pres. Hines on his birthday.

Total House introductions: 163; total Senate introductions: 95.

Total House good bills: 6; total Senate good bills: 6.

Total House bad bills: 12; total Senate bad bills: 3.

Total House good bills heard in committee: 4; total Senate good bills heard in committee: 2.

Total House bad bills heard in committee: 6; total Senate bad bills heard in committee: 2

Total House good bills passing committee: 3; total Senate good bills passing committee: 1.

Total House bad bills passing committee: 2; total Senate bad bills passing committee: 0

Total House good bills passing House: 1; total Senate good bills passing Senate: 1

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