Access to high-quality early care and education programs have been shown to improve education outcomes and reduce crime. Unfortunately, the state budget lawmakers recently approved cuts state support for these critical programs and adds significant dollars for youth prisons and jails. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue has an excellent rundown of the state budget where she explains how some legislative leaders don’t prioritize – or understand the effectiveness of – investments in young children:

Lawmakers reduced funding for early childhood education by $9 million from the current year. Advocates said this will reduce the number of program slots by 800 seats. Over the past few years, state lawmakers have typically provided enough funding for 16,000 seats annually. In an interview, House Speaker Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice, questioned whether babies and younger toddlers benefit from early education. He said he agreed such programs could help children who were 3 and 4 years old, but he wasn’t sure the state needed to spend money on babies and toddlers.

Proposals to shield Gov. Jeff Landry’s office and state and local governments from most public records requests were defeated during the 2024 legislative session. But as the Public Affairs Research Council’s Melinda Deslatte explains, it wasn’t a complete victory for open records: 

On the final day of the session, lawmakers also crafted language behind closed doors and slipped it into another bill, giving the governor a new public records limitation that only allows Louisiana residents to request public records from his office. A requester will have to provide identification to demonstrate state residency. The maneuver was disappointing, as is the unnecessary limitation on access to the governor’s records. 

The Legislature also rolled back transparency on economic development projects: 

Meanwhile, the House and Senate passed a separate public records exemption for local government agencies, letting them shield documents involving certain economic development projects for up to two years. Initially a broad exemption with few restrictions on what could be considered economic development, lawmakers added more guardrails on what types of projects qualify, though the potential for misuse of the records exemption remains concerning.

More oversight is needed for less-regulated insurance affiliates, according to the insurance ratings agency AM Best. Eleven of the 12 Louisiana property insurers that went belly-up after a costly string of hurricanes in 2020 and 2021 used the affiliate model. Under this model, managing general agents, or MGAs, write and profit from risky policies, but pass the financial obligation off to insurance companies. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Sam Karlin reports

(T)he report found a correlation between insurers using the affiliate model and the eventual likelihood of insolvency. In fact, use of the affiliate model was the third-leading cause of insurers being placed into receivership or liquidation over more than two decades, according to the report, behind only catastrophe losses and fraud. And AM Best’s review of 13 recent insolvencies from around the country found that virtually all of the premiums written by the companies were sourced through affiliates.

Opting out of the ACT

Louisiana students could opt-out of taking the ACT, a college-readiness test, under recently passed legislation that is awaiting Gov. Jeff Landry’s signature. House Bill 762 would allow students who plan to enter the workforce instead of pursuing a higher education degree to be allowed to take the WorkKeys test or the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery instead. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Patrick Wall reports

Proponents of the latest measure, House Bill 762, say it will spare students who have no intention of attending college from taking the ACT while also improving Louisiana’s education ranking, which the bill’s backers say is dragged down by low-scoring students. … Critics of the bill also said it will undermine the state’s efforts to promote college-going, especially among students who are under-represented in higher education. “It’s going to put Black kids and poor kids at a gross disadvantage,” said Rep. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans. “We’ll move backwards.”

26% – Percentage of flexible pandemic recovery funds Louisiana spent on investments in water infrastructure through September 2023. (Source: Pew analysis of data published by the U.S. Department of the Treasury