Saturday, June 5, 2010

With heavy amendments. "Red Tape" act advances

With an overflow crowd of educators as witnesses, the Senate Education Committee on Friday approved a heavily-amended version of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s pet legislation, the so-called “Red Tape Reduction and Local Waiver Empowerment Program,” HB 1368 by Rep. Jane Smith (R-Bossier City).

The bill, described by LFT President Steve Monaghan as the “most dangerous” item on the session’s agenda, would allow local school superintendents, with the permission of the school board, to ask for a waiver of virtually any law or policy regarding public education. In its original form, only health and safety issues could not be waived.

Under heavy pressure from the governor's office, wary lawmakers have moved the bill through the process while trying to chip away at its worst aspects.In the House of Representatives, for example, it was amended to ensure that school food service rules could not be waived.

As HB 1368 made its debut in the Senate Education committee, Chairman Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) admitted that his preference would be to scrap the bill and start over. Since legislative rules don’t allow that, Sen. Nevers introduced a pile of amendments aimed at making the bill “palatable” to teachers and school employees.

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