June 26 Legislative Update

The 2009 Regular Legislative Session of the Louisiana Legislature came to a close yesterday. The Cowen Institute is pleased to share with you updates from the session, including a recap of the bills that came up this week and which bills have been enacted into law. We will continue to update you in the upcoming weeks as Governor Jindal signs bills into law.

This week’s update includes information on the following:
School Facilities Legislation Update
End of Session Wrap-up
Charter Schools and Federal Stimulus Funds

If you would like more information on specific bills, please contact Nash Molpus at nmolpus@tulane.edu.  

School Facilities Update

SB 90, which would have created the Louisiana Statewide Education Facilities Authority, failed to pass out of the House Appropriations Committee on Sunday, June 21. This would have been one of the final steps to enacting this piece of legislation. With the failure of SB 90, Louisiana’s schools remain without an additional funding source and oversight authority to help take them out of their current deplorable state. Click here to read a press release from Senator Cheryl Gray Evans on SB 90.

HB 689 would have created the Louisiana Statewide Education Facilities Fund, but was recreated on the Senate floor as the Higher Education Restoration Fund. However, another bill, HB 364, was amended in the Senate Finance Committee to include the original language from HB 689. HB 364 was pending final passage in the Senate but was not passed before the close of the legislative session.

We would like to thank Senator Cheryl Gray Evans and Representative Karen Carter Peterson for their authorship of SB 90 and HB 689. They worked tirelessly with the legislature and the Governor’s office to get these pieces of legislation enacted. Additionally, we would like to thank the numerous organizations and legislators who worked hard in supporting SB 90 and HB 689. While the Louisiana Statewide Education Facilities Authority and Fund did not become a reality in the 2009 legislative session, decision makers in Louisiana are better informed about the pressing needs of our public school facilities.

Legislative Session Wrap-Up

The 2009 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature ended Thursday, June 25. All bills adopted by the legislature will move to the Governor Jindal ’s desk for approval. In accordance with the Louisiana Constitution, the governor has ten days after a bill is delivered to him to veto if the legislature is still in session on the tenth day after delivery. Otherwise, the governor has twenty days if on the tenth day after delivery the legislature has adjourned. Thus, for all bills that reached the Governor’s desk on June 16 or later, he will have twenty days from the day it reached him to veto the bill. Bills that do not require his signature will become effective after the time allowed for his veto has passed.

We will continue to keep you updated as bills from this session become effective as laws.

NOTE: * During the legislative session, the Cowen team provided a summary of the House and Senate resolutions related to education along with an update on “Top 20 Bills to Watch” and a summary of education, school and student related pre-filed bills filed in the legislative session. You can find the final copy of those documents here.

Charter School Bill Will Help Louisiana Receive Federal Stimulus Funds

HB 519, authored by Representative Walt Leger, was amended and reported favorably by the Senate Education Committee on June 18, adopted by the Senate on June 21, and sent to the governor on June 25. This bill sets a minimum fee that can be negotiated between a school chartering authority and a charter school to cover the administrative costs of the chartering authority. The minimum amount of the fee will be 2% of the per pupil funding amount received by the school.

The amendment adopted for this bill removes the limit on the number of charter schools allowed in Louisiana. Under current law, Louisiana may only charter up to seventy schools. This cap will no longer exist with the enactment of this legislation. The amendment is in response to a teleconference held by the U.S. Department of Education in which the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told listeners that states with caps on the number of charter schools allowed by law would be looked upon unfavorably when Race to the Top competitive grants are awarded. Race to the Top is a competitive grant program that will reward states that have made the most progress toward the standards and assessment, data systems, teacher quality, and school support goals as detailed in the four assurances required from each state to receive this funding. There is $4.35 billion in grants available under this program. For more information on Race to the Top grants, please visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

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