Our View: Session reveals state awash in Red
Louisiana is awash in red, and the recently concluded legislative session indicates that the coating is thick enough to cover any semblance of blue.
The Republican House and Republican Senate chambers were without the Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal for most of the session, but his priorities align with their priorities anyway, and that is the story of the 2014 lawmaking period.
Oil and gas won perhaps the premiere battle, as legislators agreed to scuttle a flood protection authority’s lawsuit against 97 companies that sought billions of dollars in damages for their alleged negligence in exacerbating coastal erosion. The bill’s intent was to eliminate the suit before it could be ruled upon in court.
Industry also rallied behind the state’s creation of a fund for colleges geared aiming to incentivize workforce development programs.
Democrat-championed issues, like allowing for medical marijuana dispensaries, expanding Medicaid to align with the Affordable Care Act, instilling stricter regulations on payday lenders, implementing a minimum wage higher than federal law or expanding protections against demonstration for people who are gay or transgender, went nowhere.
New regulations on abortion will likely shutter three of the state’s five remaining clinics, according of supporters of the right to choose, after a new law that requires doctors who perform the procedure to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Although the session was mostly a litmus on binary issues, there were some matters that didn’t fall completely in line with one party philosophy or the other. Chief among them was Common Core.
The Legislature ultimately sided with industry and against Jindal in declining to dismiss Common Core State Standards and related testing.
The furor expressed by opponents of the heightened learning benchmarks expected of students will not likely dissipate. Critics have instead looked to the governor to find ways to eliminate the standards via executive privilege.
The state’s free college tuition program TOPS was another state issue without a clear partisan boundaries, and it received no meaningful reform despite concerns about its long-term stability.
The state’s 2014-15 budget was approved at $24.6 billion. It relies upon $70 in state expenses being cut, as recommended by a consulting firm, and upon $1 billion in what The Associated Press characterized as “patchwork funding that isn’t expected to reappear a year later.”