2019 Legislative Session Begins Today
The 2019 Louisiana Legislative Session begins today, Monday, April 8, and will adjourn no later than June 6. Here is a quick legislative summary, including information on two proposed budget bills, sports betting and early care and education, and other bills of interest. All of the bills listed below can be tracked on the Policy Institute's website.

Budget Bills

In an unusual situation, there are two separate budget bills this year - one filed by the Democratic Speaker Pro Tempore of the House, Representative Walt Leger III ( House Bill 103), and one filed by the Republican Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative Cameron Henry ( House Bill 105). 

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican budget bill currently contains an increase in funding for early care and education. This lack of an increase in funding has generated much concern (see below), and it is hoped that funding will be added during the Legislative Process. 

State Leaders Express Concern about the Urgent Need for ECE Funding this Year

At its March meeting, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education submitted a resolution urging the Legislature to implement the recommendation of the Early Childhood Care and Education Commission. The Commission said Louisiana should invest $86 million to expand access to and quality of the state’s early care and education programs. 

Many legislators and the State Superintendent have called for funding the Child Care Assistance Program, the only state early care and education program for children under age four. The program currently has 3,500 children on the waiting list and has been cut from serving almost 40,000 children ten years ago to 15,000 children today. 

In addition, Louisiana is under a corrective action from the federal government because our subsidy rates for the Child Care Assistance Program are so low. Currently, the subsidized rate is below what 80% of child care centers actually charge for tuition statewide, making high quality centers out of reach for most parents, as they have to make up the difference. 

Numerous articles have been written about this lack of increased funding for early education being a primary issue during Session once it begins, including articles in the Advocate and the American Press.

What’s Next?

It is hoped that the Governor and the Legislature will amend the budget to include at least $40 million for early care and education this year. 

A $40 million appropriation for Early Care and Education would:

  • Raise the subsidy rates for children in the Child Care Assistance Program to respond to the federal corrective action that is threatening the current 15,000 slots covered by a federal block grant. 
  • Provide subsidies at the new rates for the 3,500 children on the current Child Care Assistance Program’s waitlist.
  • Replace federal grant funding that is ending for 800 Pre-K slots for four year olds.

This is long overdue because: 

  • Two-thirds of children birth through age five in Louisiana have both parents, or their single parent, in the workforce
  • Child care costs almost as much as a public college tuition, over $7000/year statewide. 
  • Even at that cost, child care teachers earn on average only $8.95 an hour, half of what kindergarten teachers earn in Louisiana. 
  • Yet, less than 15% of low income families with children under age 4 can access ANY public funding for early care and education. 
  • Businesses are affected. Child care breakdowns have a substantial impact on workforce productivity, costing Louisiana employers $816 million a year and resulting in a $1.1 billion loss annually for Louisiana’s economy.
  • 90% of brain development happens between birth and age four. This is why children who begin kindergarten behind, generally remain behind, and why there is up to a 13% return on investment in early childhood investment. 
  • Over 40% of Louisiana’s children enter kindergarten already behind, resulting in higher rates of special education, grade repetition, high school drop outs, and involvement in the criminal justice system. 

Sports Betting and Early Care and Education 

There are a number of proposed bills related to the legalization of sports betting, and there has been much discussion about dedicating those funds to early care and education to provide a stable source of funding in the future. It should be noted that although this could provide a secure source of funding down the line, which is important, it would only fund a small portion of what is needed and would not provide any funds for the coming year. 

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way last year for states to legalize wagers on sports, and now sports betting is legal in eight states, including Mississippi and Arkansas. Bills related to sports betting include the following, as well as a bill providing a fee on gaming winnings: 

Senate Bill 153 Martiny (R): Legalizes sports wagering.

House Bill 469 Glover (D) : Provides relative to sports wagering

House Bill 495 Abramson (D): Levies a state tax on the net gaming proceeds of fantasy sports contests, dedicates the avails of the tax, and authorizes a fee for issuance of certain licenses or permits.

House Bill 498 Abramson (D): Levies a state tax on the net gaming proceeds of sports wagering, dedicates the avails of the tax, and provides for a fee.

House Bill 500 Abramson (D): Levies a state tax on the net proceeds of fantasy sports contests and sports wagering gaming, dedicates the avails of the taxes, and provides for fees.

Senate Bill 196 Morrell (D): Authorizes local governments to charge a fee on certain gaming winnings to fund local early childhood programs.

Other Bills of Interest

House Bill 395 Carter (R): Amends the Early Childhood Trust Fund to clarify potential usage of the funds. This Trust Fund has never been funded, but would receive any funds directed to it from sports betting.

House Bill 430 Leger (D): Establishes an annual refundable tax credit for certain teachers and early childhood educators.
The Louisiana Policy Institute for Children (LPIC) advances policies to ensure that Louisiana's young children are ready for success in school and in life. We are a source of nonpartisan, independent information on issues concerning children ages birth through four in Louisiana. We also develop policy proposals informed by data, research, best practices and the experiences of other states for improving the outcomes of Louisiana’s young children, and then provide educational and outreach activities around these recommended policy solutions.

To learn how to support LPIC, click here . For the latest news and updates on early care and education, visit our website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, contact Melanie Bronfin, mmbronfin@policyinstitutela.org.