state legislature

House Education Committee members worked into the night Wednesday, taking testimony on bills that would halt or slow implementation of Common Core state standards and the accompanying standardized tests.

Louisiana is one of 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, that signed onto Common Core. The state is also one of 17 in a consortium using the PARCC tests to evaluate student progress on the new standards.

A bill that would change how civil lawsuits are handled in state courts is headed to the House floor. The tort reform bill removes the threshold for having a civil case heard by a jury, instead of only by a judge. Current state law allows a jury trial only if the amount involved exceeds $50,000.

The House Appropriations Committee advanced a bill establishing the WISE (Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy) Fund on Monday. The proposal, authored by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley and now headed to the House floor, sets up a system to pay bonuses to colleges that turn out graduates prepared to fill the high-demand jobs soon coming to Louisiana. Colleges will also have to come up with a 20 percent match from private firms in order to be eligible for a portion of the $40 million fund.

A package of bills to help prevent domestic violence deaths is pending debate on the House floor, but without a controversial piece of the puzzle.

Louisiana is known as a foodie paradise, but wine ice cream--one of the latest gourmet trends--can’t be sold here without a change in the current alcohol laws. Monroe Representative Marcus Hunter’s bill to allow sales of the new product was heard in the House Judiciary Committee Friday, and members were quick with the quips.

Do Heroin, Do Time

Mar 27, 2014

While state lawmakers will be considering moves toward decriminalizing marijuana later in this session, they’re heading the other direction when it comes to heroin. Law enforcement officials say that drug has become a lethal epidemic.

Lissandra Melo / <a href="">Shutterstock</a>

The House Education Committee shot down a bill that would change eligibility for Louisiana's TOPS program and require repayment of the free college tuition if students lose their awards.

Napoleonville Representative Joe Harrison was pushing the TOPS changes as a way to cut costs for a program expected to cost about $235 million next year.

Several lawmakers said they were worried about the long-term financial stability of the program, but that didn't generate enough votes for Harrison's proposal to put limits on the popular program.

Penny Fisher says she got caught in the payday loan trap.

“I borrowed $300 back in ’95, and ended up paying $4,983.30 back.”

Thelma Fleming had two jobs, and lost one. She went to a payday lender to borrow money to pay her bills.

“And I borrowed $300. That really changed my life because I lost my car. My checking account was closed.”

State Senator Ben Nevers of Bogalusa says enough is enough.

The Senate Finance Committee got an outline of the proposed state budget Monday, and Houma Senator Norby Chaubert was curious about something.

“I notice that the majority of the statewide offices saw an increase in funding,” Chaubert said. “But I did not see the Lieutenant Governor’s budget getting any bump.”

The Lieutenant Governor’s office, which oversees the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, is indeed struggling to make ends meet.

Ed Brown

Louisiana drivers will not face new restrictions on using handheld cellphones while driving. An effort to require drivers to use hands-free devices stalled Monday in the House Transportation Committee.

Republican Rep. Mike Huval of Breaux Bridge voluntarily shelved his proposal after criticism that the cellphone ban was too broad.

Louisiana has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country. Reducing the risk of accidents by limiting cellphone use while driving could help to lower those costs.