Senator Hewitt Gives Capitol Report – May 20, 2019

Senator Hewitt Gives Capitol Report – May 20, 2019


Hi everyone, I’m Senator Sharon Hewitt.
It’s Monday May 20th and this is the Capitol Report.
So the last couple of weeks have been very busy. I’ll try to update you today
on the status of the tort reform and insurance work that we’ve been doing, my
sexual harassment settlement bill, the work on the budget and a few of the
activities that happened last week and this week looking ahead So let me first start with an update on
the tort insurance reform work as you know in Louisiana we have the
second-highest car insurance rates in the country
and so there has been an effort or an interest in the last couple of years in
passing legislation that might help address that. I began part of that effort
last year with my seatbelt gag bill that would allow a judge to decide if it’s
relevant and if a jury should be told that you were not wearing your seatbelt.
Currently in Louisiana law, the jury is prevented from knowing that
information. That bill died in Jud A last year. I brought the bill back again
this year and after hearing the bill the first time, and losing a quorum, then I
came back the next week and the committee voted the bill down.
Representative Talbot brought an omnibus premium reduction Act bill that
does a number of things that many people in the industry believe again would help
reduce jury Awards and reduce your car insurance premiums. That bill also met
the same fate in the Senate Judiciary A Committee. And so I want you to know that
there’s a number of us who are fighting to help reduce your car insurance rates,
we’re just not able to get the bills through the Senate Judiciary A Committee,
even though they have enjoyed wide support in the house. I’m also working on
sexual harassment. As you recall, last year I worked on legislation that
established a framework and a policy in our state relative to sexual harassment.
You know we know that we spent 10.4 million dollars over the last ten
years. settling 83 sexual harassment cases and
that over 300 cases have been reported in the last five years. So my action this
year was to draft a bill that would hold the sexual harasser accountable
financially for his or her actions and that bill has
been well-received. We’re working on a framework to establish the process
within the Attorney General’s Office to give it some teeth so that victims who
report sexual harassment know that they can report it without fear of
retribution. And that the cases will be fairly investigated and that action will
be taken and the harasser if guilty will be held liable to some extent
financially for their actions. I’ve also continued to work on statutory
dedications to eliminate as you know the idea that certain funds, over 400 of them
get their money right off the top rather than having to compete with funding like
everyone else. This is becoming a growing problem in our budget between statutory
dedications and fees. We have about 8.7 billion dollars dedicated and we
have about 9.7 billion dollars of state general fund dollars
and so collectively it’s about 50/50 and we don’t spend enough time in the
legislature really scrutinizing those funds. So Representative Edmonds and
I’ve been working together to eliminate many of those funds. That bill was
relatively controversial last year and it’s not as controversial this year and so I
think that’s good policy. Finance Committee is spending a lot of time
right now on the budget. it’s a 32 billion dollar budget the state’s
share of that continues to go up – it’s the largest budget in the state’s
history. We have been working hard to scrub the budget so that we could find
ways to fund what I believe are high priorities and in groups that really
need our help like CASA, so they can deliver food and
hot meals to homebound senior citizens; Help for at-risk foster kids;
some additional funding for the disabled; and of course invest in Education. The
teacher pay raises have been a big topic of conversation this year. As you
know, the governor proposed that teachers get a thousand dollar pay raise
this year and support workers five hundred the house actually upped the ante to twelve hundred and six hundred dollars. And even though we know that
that still doesn’t bring us up to the southern average, we think that it moves
us a step in the right direction. But the big topic of debate appears to be the
thirty nine million dollars that the governor included in the budget to go
directly to the school districts. And although the school districts haven’t
gotten any additional increase in funding over the last half a dozen years
or so, they are funded on a dollar per pupil basis at a level that is pretty
competitive with the other southern states. So a lot of the discussion within
the legislature right now has to do with should that thirty nine million dollars
actually go to the districts or should we maybe use some of that money to
increase teacher pay as the house has done to twelve hundred and six hundred
dollars respectively. Or perhaps we should spend it on some of the other
things that I mentioned earlier. there’s also a great desire to fund early
education so that those children ages birth to four that are from
underprivileged homes have an opportunity to arrive and start
kindergarten with the social skills and the basic learning skills you know ready
to compete with their peers. And although there is some funding in the budget, most
people don’t believe that it’s enough so we’ll continue to work on that. we’ve
heard testimony from all the agencies we’ll have public testimony on Friday. So
if you’re in the area or if you have an opinion about the funding for anything
that you’re especially interested in, come to the Capitol and let us hear your
input. I had a little fun last week in that I was invited to meet President
Trump when he descended Air Force One on the tarmac at the New Orleans Airport.
So that was quite an experience and one that I’ll never forget. and
appreciate really the honor and the privilege to meet the most powerful man
in the world. He was very kind and very easy to talk to and so it was quite the
honor. This week we have a couple of exciting activities happening. Tomorrow
the robotics kids will all be here. it’ll be the third annual festival De Robotique that I have hosted. It showcases students of all ages from all around the
state. I think we have 27 teams competing tomorrow in robotics activities and what
I love about robotics programs is that not only are the students learning lots
of different technical skills but they’re learning soft skills and it simulates a
very real-world application. So I believe the students are learning so
much that they have no idea that they’re really learning. I started a robotics
team in our children’s high school in 2006 and so it’s always been
something very important to me and very special to me. So I look forward to
continuing to support the robotics kids. This week we’ll also honor the military
families who have lost a loved one this last year and that’s one of the most
solemn occasions in the State Capitol and one that we always look forward to.
Being able to honor our heroes. it’s been a busy week. Next week promises to be
even busier. We have a little over two weeks left, so if you want to keep up
with me feel free to go to SharonHewitt.com and subscribe to my email updates and follow the links to follow me on social media. I appreciate all of your input. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers. God Bless Subscribe Subscribe

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