TOPS

House and Senate committees worked on numerous bills Wednesday, while awaiting today’s main event: the House floor debate on the budget. Several of those bills were previously featured here on Capitol Access.

Jack Donahue’s Senate-approved bill to uncouple TOPS from college tuition found favor with the House Education committee, helped along by the widow of the program’s founder, Phyllis Taylor.

“I would never stand here and support anything that limited the TOPS program,” Taylor told the committee. “We are seeking certainty, not limitations.”

As lawmakers wrap up week two of the fiscal session, their efforts to steer the budget bus keep hitting curbs. Now they’re starting to exhibit some road rage.

In the Senate Education Committee Wednesday, a bill that would uncouple TOPS scholarship amounts from future college tuition hikes — in order to contain the cost to the state — drew opposition from the administration.

“This legislation would negatively impact the program,” Jindal policy advisor Stafford Palmieri stated, “Because we’ve broken our promise to fully pay for their tuition to go to college.”

“You oppose this plan?” Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor asked. “Then show us your plan. How do you propose to support higher education?”


Taming TOPS

Apr 2, 2015

It happens every session: lawmakers, seeing the quarter of a billion dollar price tag on TOPS, look for ways to tweak the college scholarship program. This time, they might succeed.

“By establishing a ‘baseline’ tuition, future tuition increases will not be reflected in the state budget,” says Senate Finance committee chairman Jack Donahue, who is the author of Senate Bill 48. “This will allow the legislature to do a better job predicting the overall cost.

“It it’s not broken, let’s don’t try to fix it,” Senator Francis Thompson of Delhi summed up the sentiment of a majority of the Senate regarding TOPS.

TOPS isn’t broken, but many lawmakers see curbing the cost of the college scholarship program as part of the fix for the state budget. A measure that would have saved an estimated $24-million per year, by raising the standards for TOPS was argued on the Senate floor Monday.

Raising the TOPS Bar

May 12, 2014

Every year, lawmakers look at the climbing cost of TOPS--$217-million this year, $235-million next year—and then start looking for ways to rein in the runaway expense. Dozens of bills are filed, and all usually die in committee.

Of the 20 TOPS bills filed for the current session, one has broken out of the usual pattern. SB 520, by Mandeville Senator Jack Donahue, is being heard by the full Senate today.

 

   The House Appropriations Committee got a different look at the cost of six years’ worth of higher education cuts Monday, as the push is on for colleges and universities to better prepare students to fill new jobs coming to Louisiana.

THURSDAY: Former LSU Chancellor Jim Wharton

May 15, 2013

Jim talks with former LSU Chancellor James Wharton about the TOPS college tuition grant program and the state of Higher Education in Louisiana.


Lawmakers have put the final nail in the coffin to close LSU’s public hospital in North Baton Rouge. In Wednesday’s Joint Budget Committee, the Baton Rouge delegation pointed to gaps in care for pregnant women, prisoners and mental health services.

Sen. Sharon Broome said she was appalled that the decades-old initiative to revamp facilities at Earl K Long morphed into moving services.  “And we tried our best to get a new facility," Broome said. "Administrations change, goals change. I understand that. But I am very concerned when goals change and people are not considered.”