Jim Beam column: Legislator targeting Edwards

Published 6:35 am Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Republican state Sen. Alan Seabaugh of Shreveport has set a spiteful goal for the GOP Jeff Landry administration and the supermajority Republican Legislature that is currently holding its first regular session. Two special sessions gave voters a preview of what’s coming.

“John Bel (Edwards) and his people weren’t shy about forcing some things down our throats just because they could,” Seabaugh said in a news report by The Advocate. “Now the shoe is on the other foot, and I don’t see any reason we shouldn’t try to undo every single thing that was done over the past eight years.”

Edwards cast a number of vetoes that Republican lawmakers didn’t like, but they happened to be well-deserved. His administration also left Louisiana in great financial shape. Unlike the new administration, Edwards managed to work well with a good number of Republican legislators.

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Thanks to that cooperation, the Legislature passed a 0.45% state sales tax that rescued the state from the financial disaster left by the former Gov. Bobby Jindal Republican administration. Landry and GOP legislators made it clear during those two special sessions that they aren’t interested in anything Democratic legislators have to say.

The more drastic proposals coming from Landry and lawmakers deal with education. The Advocate said at the top of Landry’s to do list is helping more families afford private school. Louisiana would join other states that have created education savings accounts (ESAs) that give parents the tax dollars allocated to their children’s schooling.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education sent its proposed funding formula for K-12 schools to the Legislature that gives public schools $4,015, the base amount they receive per student from the state. However, the ESA program is expected to require a separate, new appropriation of state general fund dollars.

Parents could use the money for tuition, tutoring, textbooks, special education services, and home schooling materials.

State Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, who will carry the ESA bill, said, “We want you (parents) to have more of an ability to choose how your child is educated, where they’re  educated, with the tax dollars that you’re giving us.”

The Advocate said when Arizona opened ESAs to everyone, participation soared from about 12,000 students to nearly 62,000. The cost more than tripled to $587.5 million.

Insurance reform is expected to be the next most important topic. Tim Temple is the new state insurance commissioner who wants to make some major changes.

Modifying or ending the “three-year rule” will be one of the more controversial proposals. Companies can’t currently ban coverage for customers who have been policyholders with them for at least three years. Companies say it makes the state noncompetitive.

Legislation up for debate would allow insurers to raise premium rates without getting prior approval from the insurance department. Other bills deal with how claims are settled, the curbing of lawsuits against companies, and expansion of the program offering grants to property owners for fortifying roofs.

Landry told legislators, “I urge you to listen carefully to this debate and arrive at the solutions that are fair to the consumer and will work to attracting the companies we need to insure them.”

The Advocate said Landry didn’t say whether legislators would serve as delegates to a proposed summer constitutional convention, whether the homestead exemption might be reduced and whether a new constitution would make it easier to cut K-12 school funding that is protected.

The governor didn’t say, and that is his usual method of operation. He and his spokespersons seldom reply to questions and often ignore requests for comments. So the voters are pretty much left in the dark on critical issues.

Greg Hilburn, who covers the Legislature for the USA Today Network and Gannett newspapers, offered a good summary on “X,” formerly Twitter, of what we can expect during the current session.

Hilburn said, “GOP lawmakers face little resistance as they press #MAGA-style conservative agenda to open the legislative session with the numbers and the will to make it happen.”

EV Trapper had a good response: “Greg. We can’t use conservative as an adjective for much if any of the legislation. The conservative way would  be to govern by good policy & less government.”


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