April 29, 2007

2007 Session Opens

by Sheila McCant
Public Information Officer
The 2007 Regular Session, the last regular session of this term, opened at noon today. One of the first orders of business was swearing in four new members, Elbert L. Guillory, District 40, Opelousas; Nicholas Lorusso, District 94, New Orleans; James Morris, District 1, Oil City; and Patrick Williams, District 4, Shreveport.

A joint session convened at 1 p.m. for the Governor's Address. Governor Blanco told the legislature that the state's future is education and outlined a "High-Five" for success -- five areas in education in which the legislature needs to invest to help students excel academically.

1. Expand the LA-4 Pre-K program ($30 million ).
2. Fully fund BESE's high school redesign program ($16 million).
3. Bring teacher pay to the Southern Regional Average with a $2400 raise this year along with any MFP formula increases. The Governor said support workers deserve raises, as well.
4. Make college affordable to all students by implementing a need-based financial aid program ($15 million).
5. Fully fund the higher education formula. She said colleges and universities damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita need $10 million to recover.

Her address also focused on the need to improve the state's infrastructure which, she said, will help boost the economy. The governor proposes using over one-half of last year's surplus ($450 million) for road improvements. In order to do this, the legislature must raise the cap on spending.

Another project that hinges on raising the spending cap is additional hurricane protection and coastal restoration. The governor proposes an additional $200 million to accomplish this goal.

Other issues she is asking the legislature to consider are improving health care ($180 million), providing affordable and available property insurance, a Consumers Bill of Rights regarding insurance, and targeted tax cuts.

Legislative committees begin work this week on these and other issues.

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