BATON ROUGE, La. -- Lawmakers are back in Baton Rouge, as the 2012 Louisiana Legislative Session got under way at the state capitol.
Gov. Bobby Jindal pitched lawmakers a wide-ranging education reform package.
This is the first legislative session of the new term, and many freshmen will soon get a taste of the action. It is another tough budget year, with more vital state programs and services on the chopping block.
Many lawmakers are also gearing up for a tough fight over Jindal's bold education reform package. Among the proposals tying teacher evaluation to student achievement, expanding New Orleans' charter school model to the rest of the state, and making private school vouchers more available to students in failing schools.
'To truly make the dollars follow the child instead of forcing children to follow the dollars,' Jindal said. 'You think about it, that's what we're doing today. We fund programs. We don't fund children.'
Most lawmaker agree education reform is needed, but some differ with the governor on how to get there.
'Certainly some of the things that have been presented and diversion of resources specifically to the private sector instead of perfecting private education is a problem,' said state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans.
'It's going to be a delicate balance in trying to preserve those systems like St. Charles Parish while still bringing up the entire education system as a whole,' said state Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco.
More than 1500 bills have been filed for the session, with more to come.
New Orleans-area lawmakers have several major priorities.
'For the New Orleans delegation, I think you'll see one of our prime motivating targets of trying to finish up what we've been trying to do in New Orleans East with the redevelopment of a hospital in New Orleans East,' said state Rep. Walt Leger, D-Speaker Pro Tempore. 'That's an absolute priority.'
Senate President John Alario said, 'We hoping to be able to resolve the Hornets contract issue while we're in session to get them an adequate contract that will keep them on a long term basis.
Carter Peterson said, 'Hopefully figuring out a solution to our indigent defender problem that is really, really going to tie up our criminal justice system.'
The session must end by June 4.