Last Modified: Thursday, April 10, 2014 12:41 PMBATON ROUGE — The House voted 100-0 Wednesday for a bill that establishes a $40 million fund that higher education institutions can use to pay for high-demand degree programs.
House Bill 1033, by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, moves to the Senate. It had 69 co-authors after it was approved.
Kleckley said a number of state areas are expecting accelerated economic development that will require training in high-demand fields like engineering, computer science and business.
Southwest Louisiana is expecting $65 billion in development in the next three to eight years, he said, and that will create 10,000 permanent jobs and many more construction jobs.
Sasol in Westlake is spending $21 billion to increase its industrial capacity, Kleckley said.
LNG plants in the area are undergoing changes that will make it possible for them to export natural gas to other countries.
The $40 million isn’t in the budget at present, and Kleckley said that is an issue that will be decided by the House Appropriations Committee.
The bill creates the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund, which universities could use to pay for degree programs and the hiring of professors. Universities would have to come up with a 20 percent local match from private interests to pay for their specific degree programs.
The legislation provides that officials with several higher education institutions — known as the WISE Council — would review workforce demands within the state and identify which job fields and degree programs have employment gaps. The Board of Regents would approve the council’s workforce analysis.
The bill requires higher education system presidents to report annually to the WISE council on progress being made toward degree, certificate and research priorities. It also requires the information be posted on board websites.
Staff Writer John Guidroz contributed to this report.