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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LPR

Louisiana's New Era: GOP-Controlled Legislature Makes Sweeping Changes to State's Politics and Governance

The Louisiana Legislative Regular Session of 2024 has come to a close, marking the end of a three-month gathering of the GOP-controlled body that saw the passage of numerous conservative policies. This session, marked by a Republican supermajority in the Legislature, was the first under Governor Jeff Landry, who took office with a promise to bring sweeping changes to the state. The session saw a major sweep of policy changes on social issues, shaping the future of Louisiana's politics and governance.

After eight years of Democratic governance in Louisiana, the state's new Republican leadership, led by Governor Jeff Landry and his supermajority legislature, has made significant strides in shaping the state's policies. With a dominant majority in the Legislature, Republicans were able to push their conservative priorities through with ease. 

This session saw the passage of a range of measures, including a package of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, migrant enforcement measures, a requirement that the Ten Commandments be displayed in public classrooms, and a law that reclassifies two abortion-inducing drugs as controlled dangerous substances. The rapid pace of policy changes has marked a significant shift in the state's political landscape, reflecting the new administration's ambitious agenda.

Louisiana lawmakers approved a $48 billion budget that prioritizes infrastructure projects and upgrades, economic development, and education funding.The budget also includes funding for criminal justice needs, following a special session in February that saw the passage of several tough-on-crime measures.

One notable provision is a $2,000 one-time stipend for teachers and a $1,000 stipend for school support staff, totaling $199 million in funding. The budget also allocates $17.5 million for differential pay to attract teachers in high-demand subjects.

However, the budget cuts funding for early childhood education by $9 million, which will reduce program slots by 800 seats. In an interview, House Speaker Phillip DeVillier questioned the value of early childhood education programs for babies and toddlers, stating that he only saw benefits for children aged 3 and 4. His comments sparked debate among lawmakers and advocates about the importance of investing in early childhood education.

The budget allocates $94.3 million for maintenance projects at public universities and colleges, which have a $2 billion backlog of infrastructure shortfalls. Additionally, $41.7 million is dedicated to various higher education initiatives, including faculty incentives, athletic program improvements, and building renovations.

The state also invested $390 million in "shovel-ready" construction projects for roads and bridges, with $717 million withdrawn from the state savings account to fund these efforts. Furthermore, lawmakers tapped into the savings account for a total of $1.17 billion to fund infrastructure upgrades, including water and sewer system improvements, prison and fire station renovations, and higher education building repairs.

This move marks the first time lawmakers have drawn from the savings account, which will now contain over $2 billion. The budget also includes a required deposit into the state's "rainy day" fund and a retirement debt payment, as well as one-time expenses for storm recovery, technology upgrades, and other projects.

In the closing hours of the session, Governor Landry achieved a partial victory in his efforts to limit public access to state records. The Legislature passed an amended version of House Bill 767, which prohibits non-residents from making public records requests about the governor.

Governor Landry praised the session as a "great success," highlighting the efforts to address Louisiana's high crime rate.  The session also saw the approval of a special session to redraw the state's congressional map and create a second majority-Black district. While some lawmakers worried that the tough-on-crime policy proposals would undo bipartisan reforms, others believe they will prioritize victims and keep criminals off the streets.


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