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WISE bill unanimously approved

Emily Stephan

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The state legislative session is far from over as there are still many bills to be discussed.
A few weeks ago, the WISE bill (Workforce Innovation for a Stronger Economy, also known as HB 1033) was unanimously approved by the House with a 100-0 vote. The WISE bill is now moving into the Senate Finance Committee. It’s goal is to support higher education and students seeking to complete their degrees by aiding in workforce development. It also seeks to keep funding secure, as well as allow academic institutions to retain some of the additional revenue from the next fiscal year’s tuition increases.
The WISE bill’s approval has not occurred without protest and problems, however; some are cautious about the bill’s request for a sum of $40 million since the budget has been deemed shaky.
There will be further discussion among the Revenue Estimating Conference on the matter of the state’s budget in the second week of May. More information on the status of the budget is expected to arise then.
Outside of the approval of the WISE bill, HB 6 was also passed and then referred to the Senate Committee on Senate Retirement. This bill relates to the Optional Retirement Plan, which was conceived as an alternative to the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana. It is described on the Louisiana State University System website as “a ‘defined contribution plan’ to which you, as an employee, and the LSU system make contributions to be invested in a retirement annuity contract in your name.”
The ORP employer contribution rate has been on the decline in recent years and is expected to continue to do so in the coming ones, even dropping as low as four percent.
In response to these statistics, HB 6 plans on putting a minimum ORP employer contribution rate into place. This minimum contribution rate is to be 6.2 percent. This extra contribution must be supplied by the institutions, meaning that Southeastern will have to pay around half a million dollars.
Other legislation action involving higher education includes HB 433, which involves the authorization of interstate reciprocity agreements for online teaching, and HB 588, which sets down criteria for higher education board membership. SB 62 desires to set up a common state application for all of the higher education institutions. The writer of the bill has put the bill on hold until the schools draw up suggestions which would enhance the bill’s effectiveness.
 

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