Baton Rouge - Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards released details on the legislation he will propose during the 2017 Regular Session to advance policies that value Louisiana families in very practical and real ways.

“We often say that we value Louisiana families, but the lack of state policies that ensure families are supported in meaningful ways suggests otherwise,” said Gov. Edwards. “Louisiana has the highest gender wage gap in the country, is one of only five states that has not adopted a state minimum wage and is now facing an opioid epidemic that is impacting families in every part of our state. If we want our families to do better, then we must do better by them. That is why I am proposing legislation that will help eliminate the wage gap by ending pay secrecy, raise the minimum wage in a realistic way and address opioid abuse in our state. When our families thrive our state thrives.”

Equal Pay for Equal Work

The governor announces this portion of his 2017 legislative agenda on Equal Pay Day, a national day highlighting the gap in earned wages between working women and men across the United States. Louisiana has the highest gender wage gap in the country, with the average Louisiana woman making only $0.66 for every $1 a man makes. Meaningful and enforceable equal pay legislation has been a priority for Gov. Edwards since his time in the state legislature and this portion of his legislative agenda is an expression of his commitment to advancing equal pay for women and families throughout Louisiana.

House Bill 222 Authored by Rep. Helena Moreno (D-District 93) would promote pay transparency by prohibiting employers from taking actions against employees for inquiring about, discussing or disclosing their wages or those of other employees.

“Establishing an equal pay law is the first of many steps we must take to end pay discrimination,” said Rep. Helena Moreno. “Learning how to successfully negotiate is critical, whether it’s for that next job or a current job. One way to help women and men know whether they are being compensated equally is pay transparency. As it stands right now, employees could lose their jobs for sharing information. When there is transparency there is fairness, and our laws must lay the foundation for what is right.”

"It's important to establish that Louisiana is committed to ensuring everyone is paid equally in the work place,” said Sen. JP Morrell (D-District 3), longtime supporter of equal pay legislation. “Our state leads the nation in single family households living in poverty—single mothers working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. Establishing pay parity means these brave women can make a living wage while caring for their families."

Modest Increase to the Minimum Wage

Louisiana is one of only five states that have not adopted a state minimum wage. Forty percent of Louisiana working families do not earn enough to cover basic monthly expenses. Gov. Edwards committed to working to address this issue during his run for governor and he plans to work with legislators on both sides of the isle to follow through on that commitment.

Senate Bill 153 authored by Sen. Troy Carter (D-District 7) would provide for a modest, but meaningful increase to the minimum wage – up to $8.50 over a two year period.

"There hasn't been an increase to the minimum wage since 2009 but the cost of goods has increased by 35 percent, which impacts families, communities and employers," said Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Ava Dejoie. "It's essential we work together to raise the minimum wage to strengthen families, grow our economy and build a stronger workforce."

Extending the Children’s Cabinet

The Children’s Cabinet is responsible for coordinating funding and programs at the state and local levels that serve Louisiana children and their families. It consists of the cabinet secretary of each state department. While the cabinet is working on several issues concurrently, members are presently focused on improving public private partnerships, leveraging resources and tapping federal, state and local resources in order to implement best practices for eliminating child hunger. The cabinet is also coordinating the successful implementation of the governor’s “raise the age” policy as nearly 300 youths become newly eligible for probation and parole supervision.

Senate Bill 66 authored by Sen. Regina Barrow (D-District 15) would extend the sunset of the Children’s Cabinet to August 15, 2022 and expand the duties of the Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board to focus on child poverty prevention initiatives.

“Now more than ever, we need to go beyond the traditional methods to create positive outcomes that will address the many challenges that our children face in Louisiana,” said Sen. Regina Barrow. “Child hunger, for example, is an issue facing thousands across our state every day. My legislation focuses on enacting policies that will strengthen families and decrease poverty in a very real way.  I’m especially proud to partner with Gov. Edwards in this effort as we seek to improve the quality of life for everyone in our state.”

Tackling the Opioid Epidemic

Opioid abuse is a national epidemic. According the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 91 Americans die every day from opioid overdose. In fact, Louisiana is one of twenty states across the nation with a significant increase in opioid deaths. 2014-2015 data from the CDC show that Louisiana had a 12.4 percent increase in deaths resulting from opioid overdose. According to the National Prescription Audit, Louisiana is one of 13 states that have more painkiller prescriptions than it has people. From 2012 data, 122 prescriptions were prescribed per 100 people.

House Bill 192 authored by Rep. Helena Moreno (D-District 93) and co-authored by Rep. Kirk Talbot (R-District 78) would limit first-time prescriptions of opioids for acute pain to a seven-day supply, and all acute pain opioid prescriptions for children to seven days. The bill would not apply to prescribing for chronic pain, cancer or palliative care and would allow for individual exemptions for acute pain when medically appropriate with a note in the patient’s record indicating that a non-opioid alternative was not appropriate.

“We are losing far too many lives to opioid abuse in our state,” said Rep. Helena Moreno. “That’s why I am proposing smart, reasonable legislation that will help prevent and reduce dependency on prescription opioids in Louisiana.”

Senate Bill 55 by Sen. Fred Mills (R-District 22) seeks to strengthen the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) by requiring that prescribers check the system upon initial prescription of a Schedule II drug, including opioids, with exceptions for cancer and hospice patients. The legislation would also require three hours of continuing medical education for prescribers every three years.

“The opioid epidemic is one that we must fight with every tool available to us, and I believe that SB 55 is going to be critically important in addressing this serious problem affecting our families and communities," said Sen. Fred Mills. "Empowering our prescribers with information on their patients' use of controlled dangerous substances through the PMP and increasing prescriber education on this issue are national best practices and very basic steps we can take to help save lives."

Click here to see the governor’s full legislative agenda for the 2017 Regular Legislative Session.