Gov. John Bel Edwards highlighted the bills in his 2019 Legislative Session package today. The governor’s legislative priorities aim to improve the quality of life for Louisiana’s families through tangible, practical and meaningful state policy.
“Our state is back on the right track because of our willingness to work together through partnership rather than partisanship. With that said, we still have work to do,” Gov. Edwards said. “Too often, our state policies leave Louisiana’s families and our most vulnerable citizens behind. We have an opportunity in this legislative session to have a real impact in the lives of people up and down our state by raising the minimum wage for working families, prioritizing the needs of our veterans, charting a new course in addressing the opioid epidemic and investing in our drinking water infrastructure. I look forward to working together in a bipartisan, bicameral way to uplift our families and put the people of Louisiana first through policy that works."
Raising Teacher Pay
SCR 3 by Sen. Blade Morrish, HCR 1 by Rep. Nancy Landry
Gov. Edwards’ number one priority for the 2019 legislative session is to take the first step in a multi-year plan and invest in K-12 schools, teachers, and school support personnel.
The governor’s proposal includes a $1,000 raise this year for teachers and a $500 increase for school support staff, who are essential to our children’s learning experience.
Louisiana’s classrooms have been neglected for too long. Historically, the per-pupil allocation received annual increases of 2.75%, but in the past ten years, it has happened only once.
Gov. Edwards supports a 1.375% increase in the per-pupil allocation in Level 1 of the MFP. The per pupil allocation can be used by districts to provide for greater investment in school supplies, books, smart boards and cutting edge technology to prepare our youth for the workforce of tomorrow. The extra dollars will also help to relieve the burden teachers are feeling of having to pay out of pocket for their school supplies.
TOTAL MFP INCREASE: $134.7 MILLION
o Level 1 Per Pupil - $37.5M
o Level 2 Raises (Teachers) - $72.2M (Impacts roughly 57,000 employees)
o Level 3 Raises (Support Personnel) - $25.0M (Impacts roughly 39,000 employees)
Modest, but Meaningful Increase to the Minimum Wage
SB 155 by Sen. Troy Carter
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has not increased since 2009. Since then, the cost of goods has increased by 17 percent, which has had a significant impact on our families, communities and employers.
Gov. Edwards will seek a modest, but meaningful increase to the minimum wage by supporting a constitutional amendment by Sen. Troy Carter to provide for a state minimum wage of $9.00 per hour in Louisiana effective July 1, 2020.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
SB 136 by Sen. J.P. Morrell
Last week, Gov. Edwards announced his backing of Sen. J.P. Morell's legislation, SB 136, to establish pay parity in Louisiana. Our state continues to have the highest gender wage gap in the nation.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Institute, Louisiana’s working women will not reach equal pay until the year 2115. Women in Louisiana earn an average of 69 cents for every dollar a man makes. That discrepancy worsens for Black and Latina women who make only 48 and 52 cents on the dollar when compared to White men.
Sen. Morrell's legislation promotes pay transparency by prohibiting employers from taking actions against employees for inquiring about, discussing or disclosing their wages or those of other employees.
Increasing Prescription Drug Transparency
SB 41 by Sen. Fred Mills
Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) are third-party administrators, “middlemen,” contracted by health plans, employers, and government entities to manage prescription drug programs on behalf of health plan beneficiaries.
While their role goes mostly unnoticed, the lack of transparency in the traditional PBM business model can add hidden costs and lead to higher prices for patients. Last year, some PBM-related bills were passed to ensure that consumers receive the best deal possible for prescription drugs.
The governor will support legislation sponsored by Sen. Fred Mills to provide the regulatory framework necessary for the Louisiana Department of Insurance, Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, and Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners to respond to consumer and provider complaints against PBMs. The three regulatory bodies will have specific licensure requirements that must be met to be in good standing and operation in Louisiana.
Charting a New Course in the Fight Against Opioids
HB 243 by Rep. Dustin Miller
Gov. Edwards continues to chart a new course in addressing opioid-related harms through policy change and recent legislative wins that limit opioid prescriptions. Gov. Edwards will support legislation authored by Rep. Dustin Miller to establish an enhanced data reporting of fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses where opioids were suspected or present. This legislation will create mechanisms for rapid surveillance of fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the state. Enhanced capabilities will lead to data-driven decisions for targeted prevention, intervention, and treatment in areas of the state with the most prevalent challenges.
The proposed legislation will require suspected opioid-related overdoses presented in emergency rooms to be reported to the Louisiana Department of Health via the existing Louisiana Early Event Detection System for surveillance purposes. Second, the bill will open the sharing of data between LDH and ambulance services, first responders, and law enforcement by allowing the dispatch reports on suspected overdoses to become available for opioid surveillance activities upon request.
Prioritizing the Needs of Our Veterans
HB 391 by Rep. Franklin Foil
Gov. Edwards will support legislation authored by Rep. Franklin Foil to establish “The Veterans First Business Initiative", a statewide initiative to identify veteran-owned businesses in Louisiana, create a veteran-owned business designation through the use of an official insignia for those businesses to use on their storefronts and collateral materials, and produce a database for Louisianans to search for these businesses.
Investing in Rural Water Infrastructure
SB 170 by Sen. Francis Thompson
Louisiana's drinking water infrastructure needs immediate attention and action. Approximately 58 percent of water systems in Louisiana are more than 50 years old, creating the potential for more frequent system breakdowns and need for repair and replacement of components. Rural water systems in many cases are inadequately funded, and not designed to meet today’s demands and often require emergency actions to provide potable water to the community when they fail.
Gov. Edwards is committed to increasing funding and upgrading Louisiana's drinking water infrastructure. The governor will support legislation by Sen. Francis Thompson to establish a rural water infrastructure committee to provide the following:
• Establish criteria that water systems must meet to receive funding.
• Develop financial incentives for fiscally responsible and compliant water systems to consolidate smaller systems that are struggling with water quality, infrastructure and management issues into their systems.
• Create a mechanism for providing or recommending technical assistance to local governments and non-profits to improve their infrastructure and bring them into compliance with all State and Federal regulations.
• Establish and provide educational support to municipal and non-profit boards in addition to operators.
• Establish a system for holding non-compliant water systems accountable by requiring a legislative audit along with more management training in combination with multi-agency inspection and enforcement processes.
Prioritizing Dual Enrollment
SB 194 by Sen. Blade Morrish
Dual enrollment is a tool that allows high school students to accumulate college credits by enrolling in college courses. According to data gathered by the Education Commission of the States, students who participate in dual enrollment courses are more likely to meet college readiness benchmarks, less likely to place into remedial English or math and boast higher college completion rates.
The governor will support legislation by Sen. Blade Morrish designed to ensure universal access to dual enrollment for all eligible juniors and seniors across the state of Louisiana. These students should be given the opportunity to receive at no cost at least two dual enrollment courses per year.
SB 46 by Sen. Barrow Peacock enacts the Louisiana Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act.
A Senate Concurrent Resolution to be filed by Sen. Danny Martiny provides for the development and authorization of a Planning Conference and Table Top Execerise with respect to cybersecurity.
The governor's complete 2019 legislative agenda can be found here.