Louisiana ‘truth in labeling’ bill for food products advances

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(Photo credit: WWL TV)

Published: May 31, 2019

By: Lauren Heffker, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. — A proposal that would call for “truth in labeling” of food products, including meat, sailed through the House Agricultural Committee on Thursday. The state’s top agricultural chief and conventional agricultural groups backed the bill, arguing it would protect the state’s farmers and give consumers clear choices.

A similar proposal, which would prohibit companies from labeling their plant-based products as milk, passed the House floor the same day in a 70-27 vote.

“We’re simply saying that what is on the label has to be what is in the product,” Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain told committee members. “You cannot manufacture something to sell it using a standard that we know.”

Both labeling bills are sponsored by Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, who said they aim to protect the state’s meat and dairy industries by identifying the source of food.

Traditionally, agriculture has been one of the state’s economic backbones for decades. But prices for dairy have plummeted and the number of dairy farms in the state has declined rapidly over the last decade. In 2004, Louisiana had over 300 dairy farms, according to The Dairy Alliance. Now the state has around 100.

Supporters argue that the milk labeling bill would help consumers by defining milk as “milk of hooved mammals” and prohibiting plant-based drink manufacturers from marketing almond milk, oat milk and coconut milk as milk.

The bills have received bipartisan support throughout this legislative session.

While opponents of the bill, including plant based food companies, said the proposed law would violate their First Amendment rights, Thompson and Strain said that could be decided through litigation.

Read more in WWL TV.

State GOP lawmakers in the House committee back pay raises for teachers, increased funding for schools

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Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, expressed his approval of the originally proposed budget presented by the Board of Education and Secondary Education on Thursday in the House Education Committee. (Photo credit: Madeline Meyer/LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: May 31, 2019

By: Madeline Meyer, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — GOP-lawmakers in the House Education Committee on Thursday backed the governor’s $3.8 billion proposal for public school funding, including the $1,000 teacher pay raises and $500 raises for support staff, as well as the $39 million block grant.

This legislative session has been marked by a budget standoff between the Board of Education and Secondary Education, or BESE, and Republican House leaders.

Although legislators from both sides of the aisle signaled support for giving teachers a pay raise, the main point of contention has been the education budget proposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and BESE.

Each year, the board sets a budget to fund schools across the state. BESEsplan, called the Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP, includes a proposed budget of $1,000 teacher pay raises and $500 supporting staff pay increase, and $39 million for public school funding.

Governor Edwards, a Democrat running for re-election in the fall, has touted his plans for funding K-12 education, and last Tuesday, he increased pressure on the House after announcing plans to raise early childhood education funding by $18 million.

On Wednesday, the governor and other school officials rallied on the steps of the State Capitol for passage of their proposal.

“Teachers and support personnel in the schools give so much to our students every day, and we are now one step closer to giving them a pay raise that is long overdue and well deserved,” the governor commented in a press release on Thursday.

Earlier this month, the board’s proposal was met with opposition by the House Appropriations Committee, which advanced a $30 billion state operating budget that would have increased the pay raises to a one-time $1,200 for teachers and $600 for supporting staff. But the additional $39 million for schools was not included.

Read more in the Bossier Press-Tribune.

‘Truth in labeling’ of food products proposal sails through the House committee

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Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, asks questions about a bill that would tighten labeling requirements for food. (Photo credit: Madeline Meyer/LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: May 30, 2019

By: Lauren Heffker, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE–A proposal that would call for “truth in labeling” of food products, including meat, sailed through the House Agricultural Committee on Thursday. The state’s top agricultural chief and conventional agricultural groups backed the bill, arguing it would protect the state’s farmers and give consumers clear choices.

A similar proposal, which would prohibit companies from labeling their plant-based products as milk, passed the House floor the same day in a 70-27 vote.

“We’re simply saying that what is on the label has to be what is in the product,” Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain told committee members. “You cannot manufacture something to sell it using a standard that we know.”

Both labeling bills are sponsored by Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, who said they aim to protect the state’s meat and dairy industries by identifying the source of food.

Traditionally, agriculture has been one of the state’s economic backbones for decades. But prices for dairy have plummeted and the number of dairy farms in the state has declined rapidly over the last decade. In 2004, Louisiana had over 300 dairy farms, according to The Dairy Alliance. Now the state has around 100.

Supporters argue that the milk labeling bill would help consumers by defining milk as “milk of hooved mammals” and prohibiting plant-based drink manufacturers from marketing almond milk, oat milk and coconut milk as milk.

The bills have received bipartisan support throughout this legislative session.

While opponents of the bill, including plant-based food companies, said the proposed law would violate their First Amendment rights, Thompson and Strain said that could be decided through litigation.

“If we go to court over it that’s fine,” Thompson said. “If they can prove Tofu is meat then maybe I’m in the wrong ballpark.”

Read more in KALB.

$30 billion state budget passes in Senate; teacher pay raises, school district funds included

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The Louisiana Senate passed on Thursday in a 35-2 vote a $30 billion state operating budget for next year. (Photo credit: Hunter Lovell/LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: May 30, 2019

By: Tryfon Boukouvidis, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Senate passed on Thursday in a 35-2 vote a $30 billion state operating budget for next year that includes pay raises for school teachers, across-the-board increases for school districts and a boost for early childhood education.

Sen. Eric LaFleur, a Democrat from Ville Platte who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said on the Senate floor “I think we have a budget that we can be proud of.”

The Senate Finance Committee on Monday amended the budget bill to better reflect the proposals of Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Board of Education and Secondary Education, or BESE, on public school funding. But the proposal differed from what House Republican leaders pursued.

Earlier this month, House Republican leaders had sent the budget proposal to the Senate after an almost unanimous vote that included $1,200 pay raises for teachers and $600 raises for support workers but excluded the governor’s plan for an additional $39 million block grant for school districts.

Yet, BESE refused to back down from the $39 million state aid proposal.

But eventually GOP lawmakers in the House Education Committee on Thursday backed the governor’s proposal for public school funding.

The Senate-amended budget includes a $140 million increase for K-12 schools, comprised of $1,000 and $500 pay raises for teachers and support workers, respectively, and $39 million funds for school districts.

Read more in The Advertiser.

Protesters stage stand-in to oppose ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill

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Abortion rights protesters staged a “stand-in” at the State Capitol Thursday in response to Wednesday’s final passage of the “fetal heartbeat” bill by the Louisiana House that Gov. John Bel Edwards signed. (Photo credit: Hunter Lovell / LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: May 30, 2019

By: Hunter Lovell, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — Nearly 300 abortion rights demonstrators gathered at the Louisiana State Capitol on Thursday to protest the “fetal heartbeat” anti-abortion bill, which Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law later that afternoon.

The protesters staged a silent “stand-in” outside the House and Senate chambers in opposition to the bill that landed on the governor’s desk after a 79-23 House vote Wednesday.

The law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around six weeks of pregnancy and before many women are aware they are pregnant. Louisiana’s “fetal heartbeat” law does not provide exceptions for victims of rape and incest.

The law will not go into effect unless a similar Mississippi law, which has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge, is upheld by a federal appeals court.

“In 2015, I ran for governor as a pro-life candidate after serving as a pro-life legislator for eight years,” Edwards said in a statement Wednesday. “As governor, I have been true to my word and my beliefs on this issue.”

Abortion rights demonstrators showed up at the Capitol to fight against the abortion ban.

“These bans hurt women,” said Rochelle Tafolla, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the abortion rights group that organized the protest. “We’re here to show that we’re against (the law).”

Read more in The Advertiser.

‘Fetal heartbeat’ abortion bill passes La. House

Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, and Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, commented on the successful passage of the ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill outside the State Capitol after the House votes on Wednesday. (Photo Source: Hunter Lovell/LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: May 29, 2019

By: Tryfon Boukouvidis, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Service) The Louisiana House on Wednesday passed in a 79-23 vote anti-abortion legislation that would effectively ban abortions in the state, echoing similar legislative efforts by other Republican-controlled legislatures in the South.

A bill by Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, would outlaw the abortion of a fetus with a detectable heartbeat, which usually occurs around six weeks and before many women are aware they are pregnant.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a pro-life Democrat who is up for re-election this fall, commented after the vote that he would sign the bill into law.

“In 2015, I ran for governor as a pro-life candidate after serving as a pro-life legislator for eight years. As governor, I have been true to my word and my beliefs on this issue,” the governor said in a statement.

“As I prepare to sign this bill, I call on the overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators who voted for it to join me in continuing to build a better Louisiana,” Edwards added.

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, who presented the bill, said, “In Louisiana, we have a culture of love of life, love of family, and love of God. Nothing is more precious to any of us than the heartbeat [of a baby].”

Read more in KALB.

Legislation expands foster care programs and infant drop boxes

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Members of the Senate and House Health and Welfare committees consider bills Wednesday that would expand the state’s foster care programs and implement Safe Haven infant drop boxes. (Photo credit: Lauren Heffker/LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: May 29, 2019

By: Lauren Heffker

BATON ROUGE — Bills that aim to improve youth foster care programs and implement safe haven infant drop boxes in the state are headed toward final votes in the Louisiana Legislature.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, would establish an extended foster care program for young adults up to age 21.

Louisiana’s current foster care system ages out children when they turn 18.

“Foster care is traumatic,” said a 22-year-old college student who had been in the state’s foster care system for many years.

In an emotional testimony to the House Health and Welfare Committee, she voiced support for the bill.

“I moved around six times. I was even separated from my little sister. I was told that people cared about my well being – but I felt like I was worthless and just another number.”

Under Barrow’s proposed law, foster care would be extended to young adults who are full-time employees, involved in job training and educational classes or who cannot go to school or work due to medical reasons.

The bill previously passed the Senate floor without opposition, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who is up for re-election in the fall, has included foster care in his budget proposal.

Barrow’s foster care bill has been sent to the House floor for consideration.