Harrison bills focused on elderly, education

Rep. Joe Harrison

By ZACHARY FITZGERALD zfitzgerald@daily-review.com

State Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Gray, has pre-filed 23 bills for the legislative session beginning Monday among which are bills to create a Department of Elderly Affairs, require the election of the state superintendent of education and dedicate all state gaming proceeds toward education.
In 2013, the Legislature created an Office of Elderly Affairs. “I want to solidify our position with that office and make sure that they are getting the funding necessary to assist 800,000 seniors in our state,” Harrison said.
Harrison will bring a constitutional amendment, HB 341, to this session that would put the Office of Elderly Affairs in its own department. An associated bill, HB 246, would include provisions for the department such as officers, employees, rulemaking and funding.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has tried to merge the Office of Elderly Affairs with the Department of Health and Human Services, which Harrison called “the most poorly run, corrupt organization” in government. “We’ve got to put our foot down and say enough of this and make sure that our seniors are well-protected and the right to have what they’ve worked so hard for,” Harrison said.
Over the past year since the Office of Elderly Affairs was created, Harrison said Jindal has taken away most of the employees within the office. Senior citizens represent more than 25 percent of the state, and the state is neglecting to provide basic services for senior citizens, Harrison said.
Harrison expects to get a lot of calls about HB 125 and HB 127 which would require the election of the state superintendent of education. HB 125 is a constitutional amendment while HB 127 could pass without having to be brought to a vote on the ballot.
The state superintendent of education used to be an elected position, but the state got away from that procedure because state officials did not want someone who was not qualified to fill the position. “The ironic thing is we didn’t even open it for applications for the last two people that have served under this administration,” Harrison said.
Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White did not have the basic education or experience required for the position, Harrison said. Therefore, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education exempted White from those requirements, Harrison said.
“His credentials were minimal. He couldn’t even apply for an assistant principal’s job at a school under the requirements that we have, but yet we make him superintendent of education for the state of Louisiana,” Harrison said.
The elected position would give Louisiana voters the opportunity to look at different candidates’ qualifications and listen to those candidates’ plans for education in the state, he said.
Harrison is introducing two more bills that deal with gaming proceeds and education. HB 493 is a constitutional amendment that would create Bet on Louisiana’s Future Fund for the deposit of gaming proceeds.
HB 714 would dedicate all proceeds from state-sponsored gaming in Louisiana to education, Harrison said. The bill includes funding for universities, technical colleges and two-year colleges, secondary education and funding to the debt service on unfunded accrued liability for the state’s pension system.
State gaming proceeds are supposed to be dedicated entirely to education, but the state has taken some of that money to go toward other departments, Harrison said.
The following are the other bills Harrison has pre-filed:
—HB 118 Insurance/ Automobile: Provides relative to the penalties for failure to maintain compulsory motor vehicle liability security.
—HB 152 Government Organization: Abolishes the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Department of Children and Family Services and creates the Department of Health and Social Services.
—HB 341 Government Organization: (Constitutional Amendment) Provides relative to departments of the executive branch of state government.
—HB 358 Schools/ Transportation: Provides relative to school bus transportation for nonpublic school students in certain parishes.
—HB 359 Student/Standards: Provides for a temporary cessation of the letter grade component of the school and district accountability system.
—HB 360 Elderly: Provides for the allocation of appropriations to the office of elderly affairs for the voluntary parish councils on aging.
—HB 385 Student/Loans-Scholarship: Provides relative to Taylor Opportunity Program for Students.
—HB 412 Civil/Procedure: Provides with respect to the payment of court costs and attorney fees in certain cases.
—HB 413 Pardon/Parole: Provides with respect to parole eligibility.
—HB 440 Fishing/Shrimp: Relative to size and configuration of skimmer nets.
—HB 441 Indian Affairs: Abolishes the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs and creates and provides for the Commission on Indian Affairs as its successor.
—HB 470 Insurers: Requires insurers who are admitted to write homeowner’s policies in the state to provide coverage on any residential structure which has been constructed or retrofitted to comply with the Uniform Construction Code.
—HB 641 Coroners: Relative to the office and duties of coroner.
—HB 810 Coastal Resources: Provides for freshwater diversions effects on fisheries.
—HB 836 Schools/Source: Requires the state Department of Education to develop an accountability system for nonpublic schools participating in the voucher program and requires compliance with the system by such schools.
—HB 856 Children/Custody: Provides relative to child custody.
—HB 1020 Motor Vehicle/Driver license: Authorizes removal of license plates on motor vehicles driven by persons with suspended or revoked driver’s licenses.

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