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Veto bill weakening education accountability

A last-minute end-around sabotaging Louisiana’s school accountability measures that prominently featured two Bossier Parish Republican legislators with extensive connections to local schools now may be stopped only by GOP Gov. Jeff Landry.

HB 762 by Republican state Rep. Dennis Bamburg originally would have repealed the state’s requirement that students take the ACT, one of the two standardized tests offered for college admission nationally and the one designated by Louisiana public universities to gain admittance. For several years Louisiana statutorily has required this of all students seeking a diploma, one of eight states that does so. Even the career diploma graduates must, although they also can take the WorkKeys test designed for more vocational-oriented learning. The rationale for this has been not only to allow students to have this in place should they wish to enroll in higher education but also as a means of measuring performance of high schools and school districts.

This has chafed among legislators generally Democrats and some Republicans like Bamburg, a former Bossier Parish School Board member, with ties to the educational establishment, and has aggravated many local school board members and their district superintendents. This is because the nationally-normed ACT continues to show generally low performance, along with end-of-course tests, among Louisiana students (although ranked in the middle of the eight) that meshes poorly with performance scores given out to high schools that feeds into district scores. Currently, for accountability determinations all ACT scores count unless a WorkKey score equivalent is higher.


Law may force sunshine onto Bossier Jury actions

Many local governments across Louisiana, and inside Bossier Parish especially the parish’s Police Jury, will have to increase substantially transparency as the result of a bill poised to become law.

HB 103 by Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson headed to GOP Gov. Jeff Landry’s desk just before the 2024 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature ended this week. The bill, which Landry is expected to sign into law, expands real-time broadcast of governing authority meetings, in whole or part, for a number of jurisdictions across the state.

At present, any multimember taxing authority in the state must record, by audio or video, meetings of the entire body, but it doesn’t have to broadcast these live. The bill changes that to require live broadcast of parish governing authorities and school boards in jurisdictions of greater than 24,999 residents and for municipalities with populations greater than 9,999. All in all, that means 36 parishes, 58 cities, and 41 school districts, if they already aren’t, by the effective date of Aug. 1 must broadcast (presumably through video and audio) their parish commission or police jury, city council, and school board meetings live and advertise how to view that for each meeting.


Appointments provide fading embers to session

Away from typical flashpoints over the budget and policy, the 2024 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature ended with some controversy over gubernatorial appointments, or lack thereof.

The Senate traditionally vets these on the last day of a regular session, given that any appointments made after the end of the previous regular session remain in effect without confirmation until the end of the next regular session. With Republican Gov. Jeff Landry onboard after last fall’s elections, essentially he cleaned the closet of the roughly 80 executive branch line agency appointees by naming his own appointees.

With one exception. Landry didn’t name a new Department of Public Safety and Corrections secretary to replace Jimmy LeBlanc, but expects him to stay on the job referring to statute that says public officers are to hold office until a successor is inducted. However, the Constitution states that the governor “shall” appoint the head of each department in the executive branch whose election or appointment is not provided for in the Constitution, leaving the question whether the “governor” is a previous one.


Amend LA civil service to improve performance

As in the case of other bills that would expand the governor’s appointive powers, reform opponents produce stale if not gamey arguments in the case of stalled SB 181.

The bill by Republican state Sen. Jay Morris would amend the Constitution to give the governor more discretion in appointments to the State Civil Service Commission and the Legislature the option to include more appointments to executive branch line departments. At present, although the bill drew a solid majority in a House of Representatives vote last week, it fell eight votes short of the two-thirds requirement to pass along an amendment to voters.

Currently, the seven-person Commission has six gubernatorial appointees, in the form of the governor picking from nominations made by six private university presidents, three each, serving staggered fixed six-year terms. The only stipulation is that a president’s nominees all must come from different congressional districts. The final member is elected by members of the state’s classified civil service, who in fiscal year 2023 numbered around 34,500.