Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

Child care regulations fall short; Budget and revenue bills signed into law; No COLA for state retirees; and Film lobbyist will sue to keep subsidies flowing


Child care regulations fall short

The recent death of a 22-month-old Baton Rouge girl who was left unattended in a sweltering van has brought fresh attention to the lack of licensing standards for child-care providers. As Charles Lussier reports in The Advocate, child-care centers that operate with six or fewer children operate without state oversight. A 2013 study by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana counted more than 8,000 such unlicensed businesses that care for more than 40,000 children.


Louisiana established the seven-child licensing threshold decades ago when day care was viewed mostly as a form of baby-sitting. Child care advocates and professionals say it’s a standard that’s long overdue for change, in large part to ensure young children are better prepared for when they enter school. Advocates, too, say allowing so many children in unregulated environments could lead to tragedy.


So why haven’t things changed? For one thing, it would cost money, and Louisiana currently devotes no general fund dollars to child-care assistance for low-income families. And for another, it is opposed by self-styled family values crusaders like Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum.


Budget and revenue bills signed into law

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the $25 billion state budget into law late Friday, along with a set of revenue-generating measures that help avoid deep cuts to higher education and health care programs.  The budget package includes more than $300 million in budget cuts and other “efficiencies” along with several short-term financing mechanism. It also includes revenue from higher cigarette taxes and new fees on car buyers and others. As Mark Ballard reports in The Advocate,


The budget includes $2.36 billion to fund higher education across the state and $265 million for the popular Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, which pays college and university tuition for qualified students. Additionally, the $9.65 billion in funding for the Department of Health and Hospitals is an increase of 1.5 percent over the previous fiscal year, according to the administration. “It’s certainly a good thing that with the deficit we had that they did not resort to any more critical cuts to services,” said Jan Moller, head of the Louisiana Budget Project, a Baton Rouge-based think tank that analyzes fiscal issues from the perspective of how they impact low- and moderate-income families.


No COLA for state retirees

Gov. Bobby Jindal used his veto pen to kill a bill, approved in the waning minutes of the legislative session, that would have given a cost-of-living increase worth about $30 per month to tens of thousands of retired teachers and state employees. In his veto message to the Legislature, Jindal cited concerns about the state’s credit rating. But as’s Julie O’Donoghue reports, Democrats are furious about the veto and are accusing the governor of going back on his word.


The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Sam Jones of Franklin, said a veto threat had hung over the bill for much of the session. But he was nonetheless vitriolic in his condemnation of Jindal, saying he is “the most deceitful, hateful governor I’ve seen in my lifetime. “Whatever his burning hatred is for state employees and teachers, I guess on his way to Iowa he had to stick his finger at them at one more time,” Jones said.


Film lobbyist will sue to keep subsidies flowing

The head of Louisiana’s film lobby, angry over Gov. Bobby Jindal signing a law that temporarily limits state spending on movie subsidies at $180 million per year, told The Advocate over the weekend that he will go to court in an effort to maintain the open-ended state entitlement program that has made the movie industry possible in Louisiana.


Will French, the head of the industry’s association, said Saturday that HB829 will subject the state to lawsuits by impacted taxpayers and will result in the loss of a large number of production jobs. The changes will violate existing contractual arrangements and will cause uncertainty that could lead companies to film elsewhere, he said. In the coming weeks, the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association will present a new plan to fix the damage and properly control program costs in light of the current budget situation, French added in an email. “We will also be filing a challenge to the constitutionality of the new law in the appropriate forum,” he said.


Number of the Day


121,742 – Number of retirees from four major state retirement systems that would have been eligible for a modest cost-of-living increase under House Bill 42, which was vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal (Source: Actuarial note)