Monday, May 7, 2012

Please send messages to the capitol!

Take action now!

Two important LFT Action Center campaigns are underway

Please click on the links below and send important messages to members of the Louisiana Legislature!
A proposed constitutional amendment would create a new, breakaway school district in East Baton Rouge Parish. Please tell the House Education Committee to vote against SB 299 and SB 563 by Sen. Bodi White (R-Central). The amendment created by these bills would be bad for public schools across the state, as well as in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Recently, the legislature passed a bill (HB 969) allowing individuals and businesses to get tax rebates for donating money to tuition funds for private and religious schools. If it's right to give tax incentives for such gifts to private and religious schools, then it should be right to donate to public schools as well.

Retirement bills stall in legislature

Given the speed at which Gov. Bobby Jindal's education bills sailed through the legislative process, observers are somewhat surprised that his retirement package has slowed to a crawl. One bill that capitol watchers expected to pass easily was subjected to several legislative tricks before being approved by the House.
That bill was HB 61 by Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), which would mandate that new members of some state retirement systems enter a "hybrid" cash balance plan instead of a traditional pension plan. It could wind up actually costing the state more money, while reducing the retirement benefits for future state employees.
As a rule, the bill would have required a two-thirds majority vote to pass. But thanks to a ruling by Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), a simple majority vote was permitted, despite objections from Rep. Robert Johnson (D-Marksville). Others who attempted to enforce the two-thirds rule were Reps. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite), Rep. Sam Jones (D-Franklin) and Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill (D-Dry Creek).
At one point, Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray) introduced an amendment allowing new hires to enter Social Security. At that point, Rep. Pearson returned his bill to the calendar.
The next day, debate began anew and the Social Security amendment was stripped from the bill on a motion by Rep. Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette). Eleven members switched their votes and supported Rep. Robideaux's amendment, which put HB 61 back in play.
It passed the House by 55-45 after an amendment by Rep. Major Thibault (D-New Roads) was added which said "the division of administration shall conduct a cost benefit analysis of providing an increased pay scale for employees hired on or after July 1, 2013, to provide employees with the opportunity to develop a retirement plan or other investment opportunities in addition to the plan established by this Act."

Status of other controversial retirement bills

HB 61 was one of several bills for which LFT launched an Action Center campaign last week, and which resulted in thousands of messages being sent to lawmakers. Here is the current status of the other bills in that campaign:
  • HB 1198 by Rep. Pearson would merge the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana and the Louisiana School Employees Retirement System. It is subject to call for final passage in the House, and will likely be heard next week.
  • SB 33 by Sen. Elbert Guillory (D-Opelousas) would require employers to keep contributing to the retirement systems after an employee enters the DROP plan. It is subject to call for final passage in the Senate. It would then have to be approved by the House Retirement Committee and the full House.
The Senate Finance Committee is slated to hear the remaining three bills, all authored by Sen. Guillory.
  • SB 52 is essentially a three percent tax on employees who would contribute more of their salaries to the retirement system. Employer contributions remain unchanged while workers are asked to foot the bill in the name of "sustainability."
  • SB 47 decreases employee pensions by calculating the final average compensation (FAC) on an employee's top five earning years instead of three. Future retirees would have less security and smaller incomes at the end of their careers.
  • SB 749 (formerly SB 51) creates a tiered system of pension benefits for public employees. It will result in smaller pensions for all new employees as well as for many current employees who are not close to retirement.

John White slates virtual town hall meetings

State Superintendent of Education John White will hold a series of virtual town hall meetings as an extension of the meetings currently being held with teachers and administrators around the state.
Those planning to participate in Supt. White's virtual meetings may want more information before logging on. To explain more about the new teacher evaluation plan and how it will affect your salaries and professional rights, the LFT has updated our Value Added Model resource page. Click here to visit the Web page and see some questions you might want to ask Supt. White.
During the 90-minute virtual Town Halls, White will provide an overview of the new teacher evaluation plan and respond to questions submitted via email before and during the live broadcast. The schedule of virtual Town Halls is as follows:
  • May 8, 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
  • May 11, 4 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
  • May 14, 4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
  • May 14, 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
The live broadcast of the Virtual Town Hall Meeting will be accessible online via the agency's website at Archived videos of the Town Halls will also be posted to the agency's website.
Questions may be submitted to Superintendent White beforehand, as well as during the live broadcast, by emailing

LFT Weekly Legislative Digest online

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