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Lawmakers pass final budget with teacher stipends, less for early education. See what else passed.

The Louisiana State Capitol on April 4, 2023, in Baton Rouge, La.
Stephen Smith
The Louisiana State Capitol on April 4, 2023, in Baton Rouge, La.

Louisiana teachers will get stipends, rather than permanent raises, while early childhood education will get less money than expected under a state budget approved by the Legislature on Sunday. Lawmakers ended the session on Monday after approving the judicial budget and some other legislation.

House lawmakers had originally cut $24 million from early childhood education and millions from teacher stipends earlier this session. That was done before the state’s income forecasting panel increased its revenue projections, giving lawmakers additional money to spend this year.

Lawmakers on a Senate committee then restored the $24 million to early childhood education and brought the funding for teacher stipends back to its original amount.

But under a final state budget approved in the Senate on Friday and the House on Sunday, only $15 million were restored for early childhood education. That’s a cut of about $9 million compared to last year, which advocates say could result in hundreds of children losing access to early education programs.

Lawmakers also opted to repeat a strategy they used last year, giving teachers a modest stipend instead of a permanent pay raise. Gov. Jeff Landry proposed the stipend again this year, citing the state’s looming deficit.

Funding for the second round of teacher stipends was also reduced in an earlier version of the budget but later brought back to the $198 million that had been originally proposed. That’s enough to give each teacher another annual stipend of $2,000.

Lawmakers also allocated $17.5 million for differential teacher pay. That money can be distributed to high-performing teachers or teachers in hard-to-fill positions, like high school math and science or special education.

Louisiana judges are also set to receive a one-time stipend under lawmakers’ final state budget, and $3.6 million will be used to draw down tens of millions in federal funding for a summer feeding program for children. Plus, almost $100 million has been set aside for lawmakers’ pet projects, or local projects that are important to individual legislators.

The budget now heads to Gov. Jeff Landry’s desk along with several other items awaiting his approval. Landry can use his line-item veto power to remove any items he disagrees with from the budget.

A closely watched bill calling for a constitutional convention did not pass this session. Landry supported the proposal, which passed the state House but stalled in the Senate. It’s one of the few items Landry advocated for this year that did not pass, though lawmakers could potentially call a convention at another time this year.

Lawmakers approve ESAs, Ten Commandments in classrooms — and more education-related items

In what will likely be a monumental shift for public education in Louisiana, a bill creating education savings accounts — which give parents tax dollars to spend on private school — passed the full Legislature and is waiting on Landry’s final approval. The policy is his signature education proposal, and he’s expected to sign the bill.

Lawmakers also approved a bill banning discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in all K-12 public classrooms. Critics refer to the legislation as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It mimics legislation that first passed in Florida and has since popped up in several Republican-led states. A large part of Florida’s policy was overturned as part of a court settlement earlier this year.

A bill that requires students to have parent permission to use pronouns that do not match their assigned sex at birth passed the Legislature. Landry is expected to sign both bills, which also passed last year but were vetoed by then-Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat.

The Legislature also approved a bill requiring all public schools and universities to report on diversity initiatives and related spending. And if Gov. Landry signs another bill that lawmakers sent to his desk, Louisiana could soon become the first state to require all public schools to display the Ten Commandments in each classroom.

Louisiana becomes first state to classify abortion-inducing drugs as controlled dangerous substances, bill to protect IVF fails

Beginning Oct. 1, two commonly used pregnancy medications will be classified as controlled dangerous substances, adding extra barriers to their use.

Gov. Landry signed into law a bill listing mifepristone and misoprostol under Schedule IV of the state’s Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law, a move that adds criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison for possession without a prescription and is aimed at curtailing widespread access to the drugs online by women seeking abortions in Louisiana, despite the state’s near-total ban.

But the medications are also routinely used in miscarriages, hemorrhaging after birth and other health care — and they are not addictive, unlike the majority of narcotics, stimulants and depressants they’ll now be listed alongside. Pharmacy experts said the drugs are “outliers” and warned that the law could undermine the main purpose of scheduling medications: to control access to highly addictive drugs to protect the public health and an individual patient’s health and safety.

The bill passed despite opposition from nearly 300 doctors and medical students, who warned it will add delays to pregnancy care and worsen maternal health.

Lawmakers also failed to pass legislation to protect fertility clinics from criminal and civil liability, in the wake of an Alabama Supreme Court decision that upended access to in vitro fertilization earlier this year. The bill accrued amendments from anti-abortion lawmakers that fertility physicians said could end up increasing restrictions on IVF in the state, and the bill’s author pulled it before a final House vote.

Here’s a list of some other items that passed the Legislature. The bills that have already been signed by Landry are underlined.

  • House Bill 46: Bans public schools from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine to enroll or attend classes.
  • Senate Bill 388: Makes it a crime to be in Louisiana if the person entered the country illegally.
  • House Bill 611: Gets rid of the state’s three-year rule, a consumer protection policy that prevents providers from dropping customers who have had policies with them for at least three years.
  • Senate Bill 323: Gives insurance companies more time to settle property damage claims.
  • Senate Bill 295: Allows insurers to change rates without prior approval from the insurance commissioner.
  • House Bill 156: Removes a required 20-minute lunch break after five hours of work for 16 and 17 year old workers.
  • Senate Bill 214: Allows anyone over the age of 21 to conceal carry a gun in restaurants that serve alcohol.
  • House Bill 173: Makes it a crime to come within 25 feet of an on-duty police officer if told by them to stay back.
  • Senate Bill 462: Gives the governor more power to choose the chairs of dozens of state boards and commissions.
  • Senate Bill 371: Allows judges to order surgical castration for people convicted of sex crimes against children under the age of 13.
Molly Ryan is a political reporter and covers state politics from the Louisiana Capitol.
Rosemary Westwood is the public reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.

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