Tuition freedom issue gets recharged

Special to the Herald-Guide
August 02, 2013 at 10:48 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

By Jeremy Alford and John Maginnis

While legislation granting university boards more control over tuition increases failed to gain the momentum needed in this year’s regular session, the issue is already picking up steam for a 2014 return.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said that improvements to higher education should be the focus of the last two years of the current term and that he supports tuition freedom so that the Southern Regional Average can finally be achieved without the required two-thirds vote of the House and Senate.

That authority, however, should only be granted if universities are willing to provide greater accomplishments in exchange, he said.

“I have already reached out to the university presidents and board members and regents for them to come together and create a plan they can support,” the speaker said. “If they do that, I told them I’d be the point man on it next session.”

It’s the same kind of policymaking model Kleckley used with some success this year on the health care financing front. Already, LSU’s new president and chancellor F. King Alexander seems to be warming. Alexander told a gathering in mid-July that he wanted to pursue a “balanced tuition” approach.

“For something like, we’re going to expect flagship results,” Kleckley said.

House Education Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, said both of their positions could be the opening that supporters of higher tuition in exchange for greater outcomes have been waiting for since the session adjourned.

“We’re starting to fundamentally take on this issue again so we can discuss it next year,” Carter said. “But it’s all about improving performance and outcomes.”New Laws Take EffectWith the dawning of August, 227 new laws went into effect as a result of the work legislators did during this year’s regular session. But Aug. 1 is not the only effective date for laws passed during the session; another five will go on the books later this year, 18 are slated for 2014, not including eight constitutional amendments that will face voters; two are scheduled for 2015; and there are a handful contingent upon other mechanisms that are not date specific.

Hundreds of others were enacted in the weeks following the session’s adjournment.  

Among the highest profile new laws are those involving school safety. In the wake of last year’s school shootings, Rep. Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, filed and passed House Bill 718 to require school boards and principals to develop new crisis management and response plans that include special kinds of drills, much like fire drills. Also taking effect Aug. 1 was House Bill 6 by Rep. John M. Schroder, R-Covington, which allows off-duty law enforcement officers to carry firearms on school property.

As of Thursday, Senate Bill 36 by Sen. David Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, also requires all public post secondary education institutions to develop smoke-free policies for its campuses. Meanwhile, Senate Bill 153 by Sen. Edwin R. Murray, D-New Orleans, sets up the Equal Pay for Women Act. Back on the theme of guns, House Bill 8 by Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, exempts from public records law the names of individuals with concealed handgun permits.

Editorial leaders from around the country have blasted the new law since it makes it criminal for reporters and editors to publish the names of concealed handgun permit holders and applicants. Additionally, House Bill 265 by Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, creates the first ever lifetime concealed handgun permit.

For those who like their beer cold and crawfish hot, House Bill 147 by Rep. Mike Huval, R-Breaux Bridge, allows drivers to obtain specialty license plates carrying the message of either “I’m Cajun” or “I’m Creole” from the state for a small fee. Plus, Senate Bill 205 by Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, establishes foreign language immersion programs in public school districts. To review all of Louisiana’s new laws, visit Senate Outsider Tries for TractionU.S. Senate hopeful Rob Maness of Madisonville calls himself the “contrast candidate,” and with $25,000 in the bank it’s easy to see why, compared to $3.2 million for Congressman Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and $4.86 million for Sen. Mary Landrieu, the incumbent Democrat from New Orleans. The three are expected to square off on the 2014 ballot.

Maness’ campaign states its $43,000 raised “shows early momentum.” The Republican political newcomer, a retired Air Force colonel and self-styled “constitutional conservative,” will certainly need momentum, as he has just started building a staff. He now has a campaign manager, John Kerry of Thibodaux, and a communications director, James Hartman of Covington.

Maness hopes to raise his profile by speaking at the RedState conference in New Orleans Aug. 3, after which he embarks on a statewide tour. Around then, he plans to make the ultimate campaign commitment by becoming a full-time candidate. Currently, he is on a “long-term leave of absence” from his job at Entergy as director of safety and technical skills training.

Even if he doesn’t yet threaten the two major candidates, at this point his significance is that he could pull right-wing support from Cassidy and force a December runoff, but only if the Republicans combined keep Landrieu under 50 percent.Quotes From the Quorum“You will not escape.”—Gov. Bobby Jindal, to criminals, on the new beefed-up State Police crime lab“But let me tell you something, while I am here in New Orleans today, everyone understands there is no way I am leaving this city without a good meal. No way. Not happening.”—First Lady Michelle Obama to the National Council of La Raza’s gathering in New Orleans, about healthy eating habits for children, just prior to her visiting John Besh’s Lüke

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