Voters to decide on retirement issue

A proposed constitutional amendment that would send some state surplus dollars to repayment of state retirement system debt is heading to voters for approval.

The Senate voted 34-2 to give final legislative approval to the legislation Wednesday.

House Bill 384, sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, would require a minimum of 5 percent of any state dollars certified as nonrecurring to go toward paying off teachers and state employees pension system debts.

“We have never addressed that debt properly,” said state Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City. “It makes sense to pay off that debt until we bring in any more.”

The 5 percent surplus would go toward the unfunded accrued liabilities, or UALs, for the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System and the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 fiscal years.

After those years, the minimum amount of nonrecurring revenues going toward the debt payments would grow to 10 percent.

The UAL is the money that would be required to pay off all benefits if the systems shut down today. According to the Legislative Fiscal Office that debt is $9.45 billion although Gautreaux argued it is closer to $18 billion if every employee retired today.

The proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters in an Oct. 22 election.

Abortion sign act forwarded to Jindal

A requirement to add to the information that abortion providers must give women before they can have the procedure received final approval Wednesday from lawmakers.

The heavily rewritten House Bill 636 by state Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, heads next to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who supports it.

It builds on the 1995 Women’s Right to Know law that first established what information abortion providers must present to women seeking to end a pregnancy. The new requirements would mandate that abortion clinics post signs telling pregnant women that they cannot be coerced into abortion, that fathers are liable for child support and that adoptive parents may pay for prenatal care and birth expenses.

But lawmakers stripped from the bill attempts to rewrite and expand Louisiana’s conscience protection law, which allows health-care providers to opt out of certain services because of their moral beliefs.

Illegal immigrant worker bill advances

Lawmakers agreed to boost penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

House Bill 646, sponsored by state Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, will increase the fine for a first violation from $250 to $500, on a second violation from $500 to $1,000 and on a third violation from $1,000 to $2,500. Third-time violators also will face jail time of at least 30 days and up to six months.

The changed penalties, however, won’t apply to health-care facilities licensed by the state health department, which has other restrictions and requirements.

The bill was sent Wednesday to the governor with an 89-0 House vote.

Democratic senator blasts Jindal policies

A state senator from Morgan City took the opportunity at the end of his last legislative session to criticize the policies of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal as he campaigns for re-election.

Democrat Butch Gautreaux on Wednesday took issue with Jindal’s plans to privatize a state worker health insurance program and eliminate an estimated 149 jobs.

Gautreaux also said the governor traveled too frequently for political reasons, and he criticized Jindal as resisting disclosure to the press and the public.

“While he has purported himself to be the transparent governor, he has done everything he can to coerce legislators to pass laws that allow him to act in secrecy,” Gautreaux said.

Kyle Plotkin, a spokesman for the governor, said in a prepared statement: “We disagree with the senator.”

Gautreaux said he was motivated to make the rare political speech from the Senate floor out of frustration and because he wants to see Jindal replaced in the fall.