Thursday May 26, 2016

Thursday May 26, 2016

Back-up plan for TOPS; Raise the age; Louisiana leads in certificates and; AG loses budget battle

Back-up plan for TOPS

In the event that the state’s $600 million budget gap means funding cuts for TOPS scholarships, lawmakers have passed a back up plan to make sure 13,000 students do not lose their scholarships. Under current law, low performing students’ are at risk of losing the scholarship completely. Senate Bill 470, by Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish of Jennings would distribute the cuts evenly, meaning all students would get 75 percent of their award. The bill passed the House with amendments. It’s headed to concurrence and then to the governor for his signature. Rebekah Allen of The Advocate has more.


Absent the legislation, lawmakers say the alternative is much harsher for Louisiana’s students. If TOPS is not fully funded, current law states that the difference must be made up by cutting the lowest achieving students first, based on ACT scores. Students earning closest to the minimum eligibility score of a 20 on the ACT would be most vulnerable to lose their award entirely, while students with higher ACT scores would be safe.“This is the equitable thing, and it’s the method that maintains the most integrity to the program,” said state Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, who presented the bill on the House floor. He noted that without the change in the law, some 13,000 students who expect to receive TOPS because they met the requirements would get nothing, and that includes students already in college who have received TOPS for past semesters and count on it to graduate.Lawmakers have said their hope is the backup plan will be unnecessary and that the Legislature will fully fund TOPS this session or in a special session called later this year, ensuring all students receive their full scholarship.


Raise the Age
Louisiana lawmakers have the opportunity to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 this session, and New York lawmakers may soon have the same option. Currently in Louisiana 17 year olds are automatically tried as adults. In New York, 16-year-olds are tried in the adult system. The New York Times editorial board supports the change to 18 as does the United States Supreme Court.


The Supreme Court has said emphatically that it is morally and constitutionally wrong to equate offenses committed by adolescents with those carried out by adults. And research shows that prosecuting adolescents as adults needlessly destroys their lives and turns many of them into career criminals…Louisiana’s current law is particularly onerous. It sends 17-year-olds into adult courts for even for the most minor offenses. This means that a normally well-behaved teenager who gets into a fight at high school can be charged with battery and held in a jail with adults. Advocates for juveniles persuaded legislators to support the new law partly by showing that most adolescents are arrested for nonviolent offenses and that young people handled by the juvenile system are much less likely to become a costly burden to society.


Louisiana leads in certificates

The Lumina Foundation has released the “A Strong Nation” report, ranking Louisiana No. 1 for the percentage of adults with a high-quality post-secondary certificate. Because the report now includes certificates in determining a state’s rate of overall credentials earned, Louisiana moved from last to 26th. Leigh Guidry of Gannett has more.


“Not often do we get to make claims like that in Louisiana,” said Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community & Technical College System, to members of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Sullivan cited Lumina’s findings Tuesday as he testified before the committee with other “witnesses” there to discuss ways to strengthen career and technical education. He told members of Congress that certificates helped Louisiana move from 50th to 26th in post-secondary attainment rate…“A key factor in that dramatic improvement was inclusion for the first time of less-than-associate-degrees credentials,” Sullivan said…“Many certificates, which are predominantly awarded by community and technical colleges, have significant value in the workforce and can provide a family-sustaining income and a gateway for further education,” according to a Lumina release. Louisiana career and technical education programs have seen a push at both the high school and college levels to offer more programs that end with an industry-based certification.


AG loses budget battle

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has lost his fight to have more control over his budget. Senate Finance Committee denied the request that would make the unprecedented move of taking budgetary oversight away from the governor. Senate Finance Chair Eric LaFluer of Ville Platte questioned Landry’s current spending, saying the office recently bought new vehicles at a time when state agencies are pinching every penny. Julia O’Donoghue, Times-Picayune has more on the Republican-backed measure:


No one remembers a similar, previous proposal to take such budgeting authority from a governor. And the Edwards administration, as well as Democrats in the Legislature, had questioned whether it was constitutional. The governor had said he would veto House Bill 105 if it got to his desk. “I don’t think it’s constitutional,” Jay Dardenne, Edwards’ budget chief, told the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday night (May 25). The GOP-controlled House had already approved the proposal that was backed not only by Landry but also the state Republican Party. The measure would have benefited Landry, a conservative Republican, and slightly weakened the authority of the governor, a Democrat… “I just think the AG’s budget is too interconnected to the rest of the state budget,” said Sen. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, who was the head of the House Appropriations Committee previously and used to help write the state budget. “You’ve got to operate with one person at the top handling all the money.”


Number of the Day

40 – The percentage of  full-time private sector workers that say they lack access to either a pension or an employer-based retirement savings plan such as a 401(k). (Source: Pew Charitable Trusts)