Louisiana news briefs for Wednesday, June 2

House committee advances education spending formula

The Louisiana House’s education committee advanced the state’s $3.9 billion K-12 education formula Wednesday.

The new Minimum Foundation Program contained in Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 calls for spending about $19 million more than the current formula. The cost is fully covered in House Bill 1, the state’s annual operating budget that was approved last week, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office.

The only significant change in the new proposed MFP is an $800 raise for teachers and a $400 salary increase for support staff. An initial proposal of $400 and $200 raises was bumped up thanks to an improving state revenue picture, though legislative leaders did not include funding for the $1,000 and $500 raises that some lawmakers had sought.

White House approves Louisiana’s request for disaster declaration

The White House has approved Louisiana’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration after flash flooding in mid-May damaged several thousand homes and left five people dead, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Wednesday.

President Joe Biden’s approval makes affected residents in Ascension, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Iberville and Lafayette parishes eligible to apply for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The White House also approved Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding statewide. If additional parishes have sufficient damage identified through the state’s preliminary assessment, Edwards’ request will be amended to include those parishes.

“As people continue to recover, I encourage everyone who was affected in Ascension, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Iberville and Lafayette parishes to register for FEMA aid,” Edwards said in a statement. “If your parish is not yet declared and you suffered damage, you may continue self-reporting it online at damage.la.gov.

Senate committee approves tax break for diapers, feminine hygiene products

The state Senate’s tax policy committee approved House Bill 7 by Rep. Aimee Freeman, a New Orleans Democrat, on Wednesday. It calls for exempting diapers and feminine hygiene products from state sales tax. The bill also would extend local governments’ ability to do the same with their local sales taxes.

Supporters argue imposing a “pink tax” on items that are necessary for women and parents is unnecessary and unfair. Instead, such items should be exempt from sales tax similar to medicine and food for home consumption, they said.

The change could save consumers about $11 million a year, costing the state the same amount, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office. Freeman said she didn’t have a mechanism to cover the state’s cost. The effective date was pushed out to the beginning of the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2022, so as not to affect the budget for the upcoming year that legislators already have approved.

This article was originally posted on Louisiana news briefs for Wednesday, June 2

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