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Legislators review work in Baton rouge

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Now that a week has passed since the Louisiana Legislature adjourned for the final time this year, legislators are putting their months of work into perspective.

“You never accomplish all the things you want to, but there was some satisfaction for me,” said Representative Henry Burns, R-Haughton.

He said it was another tough budget year, but the legislators all pulled together to make a spending plan that would work for Louisiana. They passed a nearly $25 billion budget with several days to spare before the June 2 deadline.

“It’s year to year…but it’s like making a quilt — we were able to get enough pieces together to get it covered,” said Burns.

“So much of the underlying reason for conflict was resolved when we saw our efforts pay dividends, including no mid-year budget cuts to health care and education during this last year,” added Representative Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City.

Senator Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, said the elephant in the room when it comes to the budget is the financing of the public-private partnership hospitals. The federal government recently denied the plan to private the state’s public hospitals, including University Health in Shreveport.

“Hopefully the center for medicaid and medicare will fund that partnership. The model we’re doing is a better management style. By doing these public-private partnerships provides health care closer to home,” said Peacock. “The problem is that Louisiana is doing better, so the government is cutting back on our medicaid payments. If financing is approved, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

As for the other hot topic in Baton Rouge this session, Common Core State Standards, Burns noted he is still “not a fan of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).”

“Supporters say we’re ready but they admit that not all areas of the state are technologically capable as other areas. So we’re not all on an even playing ground,” said Burns.

While the legislature passed tougher restrictions on student information to prevent data mining, the federal curriculum designed to create a nationally comparable standard and its PARCC assessment test remain largely unaffected.

The last ditch effort to remove the state from joining Common Core would see Gov. Bobby Jindal pull Louisiana out with an executive order. Burns said it’s a possibility.

“Other states have done it. He’s trying to feel the pulse of the community and if there’s enough people who are uncomfortable with it, he may pull us out.”

Personally, Burns saw his HB 10 be drafted into Representative Joe Lopinto’s HB 72. The legislation allows law enforcement officials to retain their weapon with them while in a restaurant that serves alcohol.

As for his other legislation, he expects five of his bills to be signed into law:

HB 1263 — local bill that devised adjustments to the Bossier Sheriff’s Office retirement and insurance program to allow for sustainability,

HB 126 — requires law enforcement officers to check for car insurance, which was tied to Ivy’s bill providing a real-time insurance data base for law enforcement,

HB 404 — recreates the Department of Veteran Affairs

HB 466 — deals with discerning who can determine the disposition of military members’ remains

HB 46 — has judges print their name on all judgements.

Peacock said he is glad to be back in northwest Louisiana to hear from his community about his performance and their concerns about the most recent session. He did say he left Baton Rouge feeling positive with what was accomplished.

“I think we had a good session, some people have criticized and said we haven’t done much in this session. But we dealt with legacy lawsuits that negatively impacts the oil and gas industry,” Peacock noted. “With the Haynesville Shale here, we don’t want companies to say they will take their business to another state.”

During this session, Peacock worked with the northwest delegation to secure $11.435 million from the Department of Transportation and Development for rehabilitation of the Jimmie Davis Bridge in the Capital Outlay Budget. He also requested $1.8 million in the outlay budget for increased parking space at Bossier Parish Community College, and $150,000 for acceleration lane on Hwy. 171.

As for the bills he authored, according to the state legislature website, five of Peacock’s bills have been sent to, or signed by, Governor Jindal.

SB 7 — Creates a prestige license plate for Sci-Port Discovery Center in Shreveport.

SB 89 — Provides for use of entry age normal valuation method by the State Employees’ Retirement System and the Teachers’ Retirement System.

SB 269 — Provides relative to the annual limit on authorized donations that a curator may make on behalf of an interdict.

SB 353 —  Provides that certain records relative to jury selection and jurors are not public records.

SB 461 — Provides relative to electronic assets of a decedent.

Thompson said this past session was one of progress.

“We made progress in addressing the challenges facing our state.  There are good jobs out there, but to lure those jobs to Louisiana we need to offer a skilled work force and the ability to train individuals for specific industries looking to hire.  We did that, and we set a priority on funding educational and job training opportunities,” he said. “We also needed to take ownership of the woeful state of affairs in funding higher education and providing health care, and while there is much still that needs to be done, we did make progress.”

Thompson had eight bills either already signed or have been sent to Gov. Jindal for signature:

HB 145 — Provides relative to the general exemptions of certain property from seizure

HB 146 — Creates the “Hunters for the Hungry Louisiana” license plate

HB 370 — Prohibits drivers from using certain cellular devices while traveling through school zones during effective hours

HB 782 — Deposits proceeds collected by the state from the use or withdrawal of surface water into the Aquatic Plant Control Fund for aquatic weed control and eradication

HB 1066 — Provides with respect to federal background checks for concealed handgun permit holders

HB 1115 — Provides relative to high school graduation requirements and Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) core curriculum requirements

HB 1277 — Provides relative to teacher tenure and the removal of teachers

HB 1284 — Provides for a special hunting season for Louisiana residents who have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces