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Stick a fork in it

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2014 Louisiana session wraps up

The Louisiana legislature adjourned Monday evening, after almost three months discussing educational and social issues as much as state spending and budget.

In addition to passing a $26.4 billion state budget, legislators discussed Common Core, abortion laws and, locally, a bill that would increase funding for sports tourism.

The Louisiana Legislature has sent 884 bills to Gov. Bobby Jindal for consideration since they convened March 10. Approximately 392 have become laws to date and Jindal has vetoed three pieces of legislation.

The Legislature failed to repeal the Common Core State Standards or delay implementation of its much maligned Partnership for Assessment or Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test. But Jindal has indicated that he might pull the state out of Common Core himself.

Critics of Common Core believe the federal academic curriculum is an intrusion into education. Most local legislators told the Press-Tribune during the session that they favored the rigor of Common Core and its ability to measure Louisiana students progress with other states, but were concerned over the timing of implementation and the PARCC assessment.

Legislators did pass a bill that will tighten standards on student information to prevent data sharing — another concern of parents in relation to Common Core.

In other events, legislature passed a bill that would effectively shutter all abortion clinics south of Shreveport-Bossier.

Rep. Katrina Jackson’s bill would require doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana to have the ability to admit patients to a nearby hospital. That resolution would mean the closure of three of the state’s five clinics, all of which are south of Shreveport-Bossier.

Locally, the legislature approved State Representative Roy Burrell’s, D-Shreveport, House Bill 1191 which would increase the hotel/motel occupational tax to 2 percent.

The increase will be used to put more funding towards the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission, Arkla Regional Air Service Alliance, and the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.

The bill will now go before a public vote of Bossier and Caddo Parishes this November. If HB 1191 is passed by the voters, it should provide approximately $2 million to support the successful future of the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.

In a reverse trend of recent years, legislators seemed to by in sync on the state’s $24.6 billion state spending plan for 2015.

Local legislators had all pledged fiscal responsibility and were committed to spending money that was available, not using one-time funds to plug holes in the budget.

The budget will include an increase state workers’ pay, funding for disability services, and money for higher education institutions that want to invest in high-demand jobs.