Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry delivers his address to state lawmakers on opening day of the regular legislative session, Monday, March 11, 2024, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. (John Ballance/The Advocate, Pool)

Landry prioritizes education policy, insurance deregulation, revised constitution as session begins

BATON ROUGE (Louisiana Illuminator) — Gov. Jeff Landry urged lawmakers to change state education policies and overhaul Louisiana’s constitution, but he didn’t say what specific proposals he supports during his opening speech of the state’s regular lawmaking session Monday. 

The governor spoke in generalities about cutting government regulations and briefly touched upon Louisiana’s crippling insurance crisis, but he never mentioned which particular bills he favors. Lawmakers have filed around 1,000 pieces of legislation for consideration so far, with more measures expected over the next couple of weeks.  

By not getting behind specific bills, Landry can avoid taking a political hit for any measures that might prove unpopular or fail. Nevertheless, the governor signaled education issues and government restructuring would be priorities. 

MORE: Read Gov. Landry’s remarks at first regular session

Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry delivers his address to state lawmakers on opening day of the regular legislative session, Monday, March 11, 2024, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. (John Ballance/The Advocate, Pool)

More funding for private education

The governor never mentioned education savings accounts by name in his speech, but he alluded to support for such a proposal when he said the state should “let the money follow the child.”

Education savings accounts (ESA) are publicly funded bank accounts popular with political conservatives that allow families to use taxpayer dollars to cover a broad spectrum of private education needs including school tuition, tutoring and transportation.

The measures are essentially the evolution of government private school voucher programs that became popular with conservatives in the 1990s, though ESAs are set up to avoid some voucher pitfalls. 

Handing out vouchers became complicated in certain states because of restrictions on government funding going to certain private institutions, including religious schools. ESAs circumvent those limitations by dispersing the funding directly to a family, who can then use it to pay for any school or tutoring they desire. 

Landry said parents should be able to keep their children “free from the dangers of uncontrolled classrooms” and “free from being indoctrinated by the latest radical social cause.”

In other states, the per-pupil funding available for an individual ESA has sometimes been tied to the amount of funding spent per public school student, but it’s not clear what Landry is backing yet. Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, is expected to file legislation the governor’s staff helped draw up but hasn’t submitted a bill for public review yet.

The cost of launching an ESA program will likely be a significant concern. Allowing families to use public funding for private education needs could come with a massive price tag in Louisiana, and the state is already facing a $600 million budget deficit in the 2025-2026 fiscal year. 

MORE: Updated roundup of legislative special session on crime

‘Deregulatory measures’ for insurance industry

The governor said he “agrees” with Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Tim Temple’s approach to the state homeowner insurance crisis, which is making it difficult for state residents to afford their houses. 

“Commissioner Temple believes, and I agree with him, that the deregulatory measures he is undertaking will improve market conditions,” Landry said during his speech.

But Landry didn’t say which of Temple’s several proposals he supports.

One controversial measure Temple backs would remove a consumer protection called the three-year rule. It prevents insurance companies from dropping Louisiana property insurance customers who have held policies for at least three years and paid their bills.

Temple said the rule keeps insurance companies from doing business in Louisiana.

“The three-year rule is a red flag for insurers considering Louisiana,” he wrote in The Times-Picayune. “Eliminating it shows we are serious about reforming our market. 

State lawmakers would have to agree to phase out the three-year rule. Two lawmakers, Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollack, and Sen. Adam Bass, R-Bossier City, have filed legislation to make it happen. 

MORE: Louisiana House approves permitless concealed carry bill

Rewrite the constitution

The governor closed out his remarks by saying lawmakers need to look at rewriting the state constitution in order to allow more governmental restructuring, but he didn’t didn’t mention what particular areas of the document should be reworked.

“Our current system of constitutional protectionism simply does not allow our Legislature to implement needed change, which often leaves solutions coming far too late,” Landry said. “Let us clean up the constitution and place matters in their appropriate statutory context.”

The governor is behind a proposal to relegate parts of the Louisiana Constitution to state statute, where he and legislators could repeal or amend them more easily, but it’s not clear yet which sections of the document Landry wants to target.

He’s likely interested in moving some budget and tax policies out of the constitution, but Landry and lawmakers could also target government worker protections, local government and public employee retirement benefits – to name just a few other areas of general interest to conservative Republicans.

Legislation to call a constitutional convention to rewrite the document isn’t expected to go public until next week. Even if legislators manage to draft a new constitution, it would need voters’ approval before it could go into effect.

Editor’s Note: The following article from author Julie O’Donoghue was originally published by the Louisiana Illuminator, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization with a mission to cast light on how decisions in Baton Rouge are made and how they affect the lives of everyday Louisianians. Read more from The Louisiana Illuminator @ www.lailluminator.com

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