Louisiana’s next insurance commissioner – elected without opposition when his only opponent dropped out – has outlined his vision for how to address Louisiana’s homeowners insurance crisis. Tim Temple’s plan hinges on reducing oversight of the insurance industry and allowing companies to raise rates more often and drop longtime customers. But the next governor will also play a critical role in addressing the crisis of unaffordable property insurance The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue asked the major candidates for their plans: 

[Former president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry Stephen] Waguespack also believes allowing companies to raise rates more frequently could actually help keep rates lower over the long term. … Former state transportation administrator Shawn Wilson, the only Democrat in the race, also said smaller increases in premiums throughout the year might “make more sense,” though he would want to “run the numbers” before officially endorsing it. Political independent and trial attorney Hunter Lundy was the only candidate who was skeptical that rates should be raised more than once per year. “I don’t necessarily agree with that, but we will have a conversation,” he said. Landry declined to answer the question.

State tax revenues declining
A strong post-pandemic recovery, combined with federal relief dollars, has produced better-than-expected tax collections for states across the country, including in Louisiana. But the supercharged economy is beginning to cool as federal pandemic aid expires and inflation remains high. Pew’s Justin Theal and Alexandre Fall explain the challenges facing states:

Monthly data from the Urban Institute shows that total inflation-adjusted receipts fell in all but one month from July 2022 to June 2023, signaling that state tax revenue has passed an inflection point. Moreover, after two years of historic and widespread growth, initial estimates indicate that most states closed their 2023 budgets with inflation-adjusted annual declines. … The simultaneous weakening of tax revenue growth and decline of temporary federal aid may prove especially challenging, because such trends do not typically occur at the same time throughout business cycles.

Note: Cumulative tax collections still remained below pre-Covid growth trends in Louisiana. This is important, as the state’s temporary budget largesse is being used as an excuse not to renew or replace a temporary state sales tax and the more than $400 million it generates each year. 

Louisiana’s new watchdog for children
Former East Baton Rouge Juvenile Court Judge Kathleen Stewart Richey was announced as Louisiana’s first child ombudsman on Wednesday. The position was created by Sen. Regina Barrow’s Act 325 and was in response to how the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services has handled increased reports of neglect, abuse and death among the children under its supervision. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Andrea Gallo  explains how the new office puts Louisiana in line with most other states and will help the underfunded – and overburdened – child welfare agency. 

One of the strongest pushes for the ombudsman came from Rick Wheat, president of Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services. His research shows that the five states ranked worst in the nation for child well-being all lack ombudsman services. … Lawmakers initially had proposed placing the ombudsman in the governor’s office, but moved the role to the Legislative Auditor’s Office over concerns about keeping the role free from political influence. The law says the ombudsman should review complaints and propose systemic changes, including annual reports to the Legislature. 

Louisiana can’t attract top professors 
Talented professors from conservative states are looking elsewhere as their academic freedom and tenure are threatened by culture war politics. But according to a recent survey of professors in these states, only 30 out of 2,400 said they were considering Louisiana. As the Louisiana Illuminator’s Piper Hutchinson explains, Louisiana’s low pay for college professors and subpar investments in higher education hamper the ability to lure top talent.

Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System, said if the state can preserve academic freedom and close the gap in resources between its universities and others in the region, it would give Louisiana a competitive advantage for recruiting top faculty.  “I think you would see us realize the Louisiana that has eluded us for generations,” Henderson said in an interview. But it’s not quite that easy. Both tasks will prove challenging for higher education leaders

While Louisiana has prioritized higher education spending in recent years, the increases have not been enough to make up for years of cuts under the previous governor. Things could get much worse if leaders follow the reckless path of other states by removing tenure. 

Even the most vocal anti-tenure legislator in Louisiana has conceded that abolishing tenure, as he’d like to do, would make it harder for Louisiana to recruit good faculty. Tenure is so important that some higher ed leaders have expressed concern that even legislative attempts to study tenure or codify tenure practices — both have happened in Louisiana — amount to a public relations problem for faculty recruiters. 

Number of the Day
1.25% – Percentage of 2,400 faculty members in states where academic freedom is coming under attack that said they were considering relocating to Louisiana. (Source: Louisiana Illuminator