The Louisiana Legislature wrapped up its regular session on Monday, ending a 90-day lawmaking sprint that brought mixed results for supporters and opponents of Gov. Jeff Landry’s agenda. Invest in Louisiana Executive Director Jan Moller explains how policymakers missed important opportunities to make new, needed investments in Louisiana’s children, families and communities, and took a step backward on policies that protect and support working people.   

With state revenues holding steady after years of growth, lawmakers steered more money to police and prisons while cutting support for early childhood education. They refused to give public school teachers a raise, and once again failed to establish a state minimum wage. And they made life harder for struggling workers with bills that cut the duration of unemployment benefits and eliminated the state’s ability to get waivers from federal work reporting requirements. Legislators also created a new private school subsidy plan – “education savings accounts” – that has the potential to strain the state budget in future years once it’s fully implemented. 

There were some notable bright spots – in bills that passed and some that failed to gain traction:

Legislators wisely resisted the urge to pass major tax cuts, and set aside new money to help colleges and universities deal with their lengthy backlog of deferred maintenance. Lawmakers also insisted that Louisiana accept available federal assistance to help low-income families put food on the table. … Perhaps most important, state senators listened to their constituents by refusing to go along with Landry’s top legislative priority – a rushed, two-week convention to rewrite the state constitution.

The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s team provides a rundown of the winners and losers of the 2024 session: 

The biggest question when the session began in March was this: After eight years of a Democratic governor, how far would the Republican governor and the Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate pull the state to the right? The answer, it turned out, was somewhat.

The Atlantic hurricane season started this week, and the National Hurricane Center predicts it will be a doozy. Along with the existential angst it brings to many in South Louisiana, this time of year also brings the specter of higher cost of property insurance if another major storm should hit the state. As the Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Bob Marshall explains, if voters in Louisiana want relief from the devastating effects of climate change, they need to stop electing climate-change skeptics: 

Human-caused climate change — the reality our governor and many others refuse to acknowledge — is the cause of this financial pain. Premiums for insurance policies — even their availability — are based on risk. As risks rise, premiums rise to make sure companies can cover damages. Now climate change has made Louisiana one of the riskiest places anywhere for insurers. And the certainty those risks will shortly become even more severe was shouted to the world two weeks ago when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made its prediction for the 2024 hurricane season.

The Senate confirmed Gov. Jeff Landry’s controversial pick to lead Louisiana’s juvenile justice system on the final day of the legislative session. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue explains the scant details surrounding the appointment of Kenneth “Kenny” Loftin: 

[Loftin] was one of hundreds of appointees they approved en masse in a single vote before adjourning the session. No senators objected publicly to Loftin being confirmed, but almost all of the discussion over job appointments takes place in private. Several  senators also declined to speak with reporters about Loftin’s confirmation. They said they were told to keep those discussions confidential. Loftin also did not respond to a request for comment sent to his cell phone. 

Loftin is the founder and longtime director of a youth detention center in Coushatta that was the subject of a scathing 2022 New York Times investigation that documented a horrific pattern of suicides, escapes and physical and sexual assaults against children. Loftin was not accused of abuse.

The expanded Child Tax Credit, which helped cut America’s child poverty rate nearly in half in 2021, showed the transformative power that extra cash can have on families’ well being. Unfortunately, Congress allowed the credit to expire and poverty skyrocketed. In the absence of federal support, some cities and states are experimenting with universal basic income programs, which provide families with monthly payments of no-strings-attached cash. Route Fifty’s Kaitlyn Levinson reports on a study that provided 100 new mothers in four U.S. cities, including New Orleans, with monthly cash payments: 

Data so far shows that about 80% of the cash turns into net income for those families receiving the higher monthly payments, she said, with participants spending the money on child-focused expenditures like books and toys. The second-year follow-up found that parents were buying more fresh produce for their toddlers. Other data found that parents had more time to spend on parent-child activities like reading, storytelling and playing.  Plus, “we’re not seeing [parents] dropping out of the labor force, we’re not seeing large reductions in earnings or other types of sources of income,” Gennetian said. 

$717 million – Amount of money state lawmakers will take out of a state savings account to pay for one-time construction projects, including incurred costs from the state’s renewed effort on mass incarceration. (Source: Louisiana Legislature)