Highlights from the 2021 Louisiana Legislative Session
The nine short weeks of the 2021 Louisiana Legislative Session resulted in over 480 new measures signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
That’s a lot to track, but we’ve got you covered.
Throughout the session, United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s public policy team worked closely with legislators, collaborative partners, and advocates to advance bills that help create opportunities for everyone in our community to be healthy, educated, and financially stable.
Keep reading for wins you should know and dig into our full legislative recap here.
While the year began with fears of major budget shortfalls, an infusion of federal COVID-19 relief dollars helped stabilize key programs, create new initiatives, and boost other areas.
Our biggest education win this session was the dedication of 25% of sports betting revenues, up to $20 million, to the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund. This fund provides a dollar-for-dollar match on local investments in early care and education, helping to expand access to quality child care across the state.
This new funding stream is the result of United Way and our Ready Louisiana Coalition partners holding legislators to their promises to prioritize early care and education.
Other notable education legislation:
• Mandatory kindergarten beginning at age 5
• New workforce training program (M.J. Foster Promise Program)
• Training requirements for teachers on adverse childhood experience and trauma-informed education
Did you know that Louisiana exempts some necessities - like groceries and prescription drugs - from state sales taxes, but not diapers and feminine hygiene products? That will change in July 2022 thanks to a bill to eliminate the “pink tax” by Rep. Aimee Adatto-Freeman. Our team worked closely with Rep. Freeman to rally advocates and help this bill overcome hurdles. Together, we removed an unfair financial burden on women and families with children.
More wins for the financial stability of Louisiana residents:
• Extension of the sunset date on the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
• Better accommodations for workers who are pregnant through the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
Domestic violence continues to be a pervasive and deadly issue in Louisiana. A new bill will help survivors of domestic violence get protection quickly by removing the notarization requirement on temporary restraining order petitions.
Other supports for survivors of sexual assault passed this session:
• New safety and sexual misconduct reporting requirements for college campuses
• Survivors can end a housing lease early and without penalty so they don’t have to re-live their assault or feel unsafe in their home
• Establishment of the Louisiana Maternal Mental Health Task Force
• State request that certain state agencies address the impacts of maternal depression and anxiety and provide evidence-based preventive care, early identification, and treatment services
• State request that the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education study health and safety best practices for the use of school-issued digital devices
• Support for families following the delivery of a stillborn child or pregnancy-related death through income tax credits
• Creation of a state office of human trafficking prevention
• An increase to the time a person can remain in a voting machine and extension of the early voting period
• Protections for renters
• Prohibition of employment discrimination based on criminal history records
Criminal Justice Reform
• Decrease of probation and parole fees for certain offenders, reducing the risk of reincarceration because an individual cannot pay
• Enactment of the Foster Youth’s Bill of Rights
Public policy decisions shape our communities, from the physical environment to how resources are spent. By focusing on removing barriers and creating opportunity for vulnerable households through policy, we can create systems-level change.
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Executive Vice President & COO
United Way of Southeast Louisiana