By Minden Press-Herald - May 24, 2023
BATON ROUGE, LA – Senate Majority Leader Sharon Hewitt’s SB163, known as the “Back to Basics in Math Bill”, advanced out of the House Education Committee. Hewitt’s bill will provide 4th through 8th grade math teachers with additional support in teaching mathematics by building on foundational math skills. Louisiana 4th graders currently rank 40th in the nation, according to NAEP, for math scores and 8th graders rank 44th. The bill aims to dramatically increase these rankings by going back to basic principles in teaching math.
“It is unacceptable as a parent and grandparent that our kids rank near the bottom in math” Hewitt said. “My bill is a common sense approach that goes back to the basics of teaching math, the same math that I learned growing up in the Lake Charles school system and used while earning my engineering degree from LSU.”
This proposed law is a critical step in ensuring that students in public schools receive high-quality math education. By improving the foundational numeracy skills of teachers, students will be better prepared for success in math and other subjects. This bill, along with Hewitt’s past legislation, continues to show why she is the “Louisiana Leader in Education.”
by: Shannon Heckt | BRProud
BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – As the fentanyl crisis in the state continues to grow, one of the many bills filed this legislative session looks to increase the penalties for people who are running makeshift labs in their homes and spreading the drug.
The bill increases the punishments for the first, second and third offenses of running a clandestine laboratory. Under the bill, the first offense is 10-40 years, 10 of those years are not allowed parole, probation or a suspension of sentence. It also makes the fine $50,000. The second offense is 30-40 years and a $500,000 fine. Third and subsequent offenses are 99 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
The labs could include basic things like blenders, pill presses, and other tools to cut fentanyl and be sold under a different name. Some of the doses are proving to be fatal or people are unaware fentanyl has been put into the drug they are buying.
“It takes very little equipment and they’re taking fentanyl and cutting it, you know, so that it only takes a little bit of fentanyl and any of these prescription drugs to be deadly,” Hewitt said.
These labs are becoming more common as the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office is seeing. Since January of 2022, there have been over 340 fentanyl-related deaths in the parish.
“All of that fentanyl that they were using was recut or reprocessed here in Baton Rouge. When we receive fentanyl as a community from source cities, most times it’s processed in these home labs,” said EBRSO Capt. Tanner Jenkins.
Hewitt said as she tours the state for her campaign, fentanyl is an issue that impacts people everywhere she goes. She hopes this move will be successful as they saw with increasing the penalties around heroin in the state.
“I will have literally at least one person either stand up publicly in that meeting or maybe speak to me privately afterwards with tears running down their cheeks because they lost a son or granddaughter or a nephew or a neighbor that they were close to to fentanyl overdoses,” Hewitt said.
Other bills moving through the session are taking aim at dealers and other penalties. This bill just has one more stop on the House floor before it’s sent to the governor’s desk.
BATON ROUGE, LA – The Louisiana Senate voted in favor of Senate Majority Leader Sharon Hewitt’s SB 113, known as the “Fortified Roof” bill. The legislation is aimed at lowering insurance costs for Louisiana.
The “Fortified Roof” Bill requires insurers to provide discounts and other adjustments to reduce insurance premiums. These lower insurance rates shall be offered to homeowners who build or retrofit their roofing structures to comply with the State Uniform Construction Code or the fortified home or commercial standards created by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. The reduced insurance premiums shall be actuarially justified.
“Homeowners and business owners in Louisiana are tired of seeing their property insurance rates increase. In some cases, private insurance is not even obtainable,” Hewitt said. “This is common sense and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting Louisiana homeowners and their families.”
Rates will continue to increase if insurance providers keep leaving the state. This bill will not only reduce rate premiums for homeowners and business owners, but will incentivize insurance companies to do business in Louisiana by reducing the risk of catastrophic damages due to roofing issues during major weather events.
BATON ROUGE, LA -The Louisiana Senate passed SB 49, known as the “Clandestine Labs” bill.
Senate Majority Leader Sharon Hewitt’s bill sets higher penalties for those convicted of creating or operating a clandestine lab for the unlawful manufacturing of fentanyl, carfentanil, or a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl, carfentanil, or its analogues.
“These criminals who are operating illegal labs to produce deadly drugs are responsible for the deaths of our youth and for putting our brave law enforcement officers and first responders at risk,” declared Hewitt. “We cannot stand idly by and watch as our communities are destroyed by this epidemic. This legislation is a stern warning to those who engage in the manufacture of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl or carfentanil: we will not tolerate your actions, and you will be punished to the full extent of the law.”
Increased penalties for those convicted will increase from five to fifteen years in prison with up to a $25,000 fine to the following:
First-time offenders will face imprisonment at hard labor for 10 years to 40 years, of which at least 10 years will be without the possibility of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Additionally, the offender may be fined up to $50,000.
Second-time offenders will face imprisonment at hard labor for 30 years to 40 years, of which at least 10 years will be without the possibility of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Additionally, the offender may be fined up to $500,000.
Third-time offenders will be imprisoned for life, or 99 years, to be served without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence, and may be fined up to $500,000.
By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor
(The Center Square) — The Committee on Senate and Governmental Affairs has approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a Republican candidate for governor, to establish rules for virtual public meetings.
Senate Bill 201 "basically provides a comprehensive framework that establishes the requirements for public entities to meet remotely via electronic means outside of a gubernatorial declared disaster or state of emergency," Hewitt told the committee, which she chairs.
The Slidell Republican explained video conferencing during the pandemic revealed many benefits of remote meetings, including increased government transparency, increased participation and reduced travel costs, and opportunities for disabled citizens to take part, either as a citizen or board member.
A legislative task force for remote operations held numerous public hearings over the last year to develop rules and regulations to leverage those advantages while ensuring in-person meetings for local boards and those making decisions involving significant spending or public impact, she said.
That work culminated with Senate Bill 201, which requires local public bodies to always meet in person, while allowing boards that are "beyond a regional scope" to hold a third of meetings remotely. The legislation would prohibit back-to-back remote meetings.
The bill includes some exceptions requiring in-person meetings for certain statewide boards with far-reaching spending and policy powers, including the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Board of Regents, Board of Ethics, the State Civil Service Commission, the board for Louisiana Citizens insurance, the Board of Commerce and Industry, and the Board of Supervisors for state universities.
SB201 also provides an exception for statewide bodies dealing with disability issues to always meet remotely, and stipulates disabled citizens "shall be given an opportunity to participate in a meeting via electronic means at both the local and statewide meetings," either as a board member or citizen, Hewitt said.
"It will be up to the public bodies to adopt rules around how they’re going to do that," she said.
Other provisions of the bill spell out rules boards must follow for remote meetings. They include offering an anchor location for the public to attend in person, rules for public participation, required recording and archiving of meetings, making meeting materials available online in real time, meeting notification requirements, and required roll call votes.
The bill also stipulates that remote meetings that experience technical difficulties must be halted and can be recessed for up to two hours to fix the issue, then adjured and rescheduled if the problem is not resolved.
SB201 further tasks the Louisiana Legislative Auditor with reviewing implementation of the legislation to recommend improvements.
Numerous disability rights advocates testified or submitted cards in support of the bill, which was also backed by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.
"This is a sea change or at least the start of a sea change in how we do public meetings," PAR President Steven Procopio said.
Procopio noted that the intent behind the bill is to avoid a patchwork of different virtual meeting rules for hundreds of different commissions and boards.
"I really appreciate trying to get everything under one roof," he said.
Procopio explained that citizens became more engaged through virtual meetings during the pandemic, and SB201 will ensure that continues.
"Under COVID, citizens got used to a lot more access to their public meetings, they were able to see things online and participate," he said. "I think once they got involved, they don’t want to lose that."
There was no opposition to the bill, which now moves to the Senate floor.
The drug is responsible for a growing number of overdose deaths, about 93% in St. Tammany Parish.
ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. — A Northshore state lawmaker is seeking up to life in prison for criminals convicted of manufacturing fentanyl.
The drug is responsible for a growing number of overdose deaths, about 93% in St. Tammany Parish.
Last month, 8 people in the parish died in just 12 days after taking the drug.
Last year, 140 people died in St. Tammany from fentanyl poisoning.
This year, the parish is on pace to double that number.
“Doing the math, 2 to 3 a week at least,” St. Tammany Coroner Dr. Charles Preston said. “It seems like every overdose death certificate I’m signing now has fentanyl on it.”
"We’re seeing fentanyl-laced in just about everything, marijuana, all types of different pills from Adderall, Xanax, Percocet,” St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office Major Danny Culpepper said. What we’re also seeing is the amount. The smallest amount can kill.”
Tuesday – Senator Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, who is also running for governor, announced she has filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session that seeks to crack down on the illegal manufacturing of the deadly drug.
“I believe this legislation is going to send a message to those criminals that we don’t want your labs in Louisiana,” Hewitt said. “It’s time to pack up and get out of our neighborhoods.”
Right now, manufacturing a controlled dangerous substance in Louisiana can result in a 5-to-15-year prison sentence.
Under Hewitt’s bill, if you’re caught cooking up fentanyl or combining it with other drugs, you could face a minimum of 10 and up to 40 years in prison.
A second conviction could get you no less than 30 and up to 40 years. Three strikes and you’re out. A third conviction carries a mandatory 99-year jail sentence.
“As far as I’m concerned, I would like it to be two strikes and you’re out when it comes to fentanyl,” St. Tammany District Attorney Warren Montgomery said. “Hopefully we can drive down the supply of fentanyl and save lives.”
The new penalties for fentanyl would also include up to $500,000 in fines.
Senator Hewitt’s bill goes after the drug manufacturer, but she says she is co-authoring another piece of legislation with Rep. Debbie Villio, R-Kenner, that proposes similar strict penalties against people who deal fentanyl.
The bill is expected to be discussed during the upcoming legislative session which starts next month. It can be read here.
Decision puts her at odds with GOP-endorsed gubernatorial foe Landry
(The Center Square) — Louisiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Sharon Hewitt is promising to shut down all coastal litigation involving alleged damage from energy companies.
"On my first day in office, I will instruct my Secretary of Natural Resources to immediately pause all coastal litigation," Hewitt, the Senate majority leader, told the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association in Lake Charles on Monday. "I will not allow baseless litigation to be weaponized against the oil industry, holding producers to made-up standards fabricated to enrich trial lawyers. I will not do it."
Hewitt's comments follow a decision by officials at the Department of Natural Resources in late October to override the objections of local leaders to sign onto a proposed $100 million settlement with Freeport-McMoRan on behalf of four parishes that refused.
The settlement involves one of 43 ongoing lawsuits from coastal parishes that allege more than 200 energy companies damaged the coastline by creating canals and other development, despite federal permits authorizing the work.
The Freeport-McMoRan settlement would require the company to pay $23.5 million over the next two decades to fund coastal restoration projects, while the remainder of the money would be funneled into an environmental credit scheme that critics have likened to a political slush fund.
Councilmen in multiple parishes have criticized the proposed settlement, alleging the trial attorneys behind it stand to reap millions from the deal.
The pro-energy Grow Louisiana Coalition has worked to urge parishes to reject the settlement, as well, pointing to $435 million the oil and gas industry has contributed to coastal work since 2017.
"The number one reason is it's better to work with the oil and gas industry in south Louisiana than to work against it," Marc Ehrhardt previously told The Center Square.
Research from the Pelican Institute shows the state lost 2,000 jobs in the two years after the coastal lawsuits were first filed in 2013, resulting in $70 million in lost wages. The policy group estimates between $43 million and $113 million in annual economic losses since the lawsuits were filed, which equates to a $22.6 million loss for state and local governments for schools, roads and other infrastructure.
Before becoming a lawmaker, Hewitt worked for Shell for two decades, initially on an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico before working her way up to a high-ranking executive charged with overseeing hundreds of employees and billions in deep water assets.
In Lake Charles, the Slidell Republican called for an in-depth review of any allegations by the DNR's long standing regulatory and administrative enforcement authority.
"We know that over the last 40 years, DNR has issued hundreds, if not thousands, of citations for violations of our coastal laws and regulations," she said. "Unlike these lawsuits, DNR has never sued or cited anyone for things that took place before any laws or regulations were in place. We don't have ex post facto laws in Louisiana — it's a violation of the most basic principles of our legal system. True violations should be handled through citations, in accordance with DNR regulations and state law."
Hewitt's position on the coastal litigation stands in contrast to her Republican competition for governor, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who in 2021 signed off on the Freeport-McMoRan settlement.
Former Shell engineer turned state lawmaker hopes to be the 'right candidate"
By Alena Noakes
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - A life in politics is not something State Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-District 1) set out to do in her career. But, of course, life changes, and in 2015 Hewitt made the decision to enter into the realm of state politics to make a difference, feeling that the state was “heading in the wrong direction.”
Now, in her second term as senator for District 1, she is looking to continue doing that from the state’s highest seat as Louisiana’s 57th governor.
”I think you need a leader that knows how to focus on the things that are most important, that are going to move our state forward, they’re going to be able to streamline our operations,” said Hewitt. “You know, much like a very large oil company, our state is fat and bloated and very bureaucratic. Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to look at that and to be able to see how to do things differently, not just kinda continue to nibble along the edges and hope that things get better.”
Hewitt joined the field of Republican candidates on Friday, Jan. 13, and she jumped right into campaigning on the road with a media tour the next week, including a stop in Alexandria to sit down with News Channel 5 and visit members of Rotary.
“We’re introducing ourselves to the voters, and you can do that one of two ways. Of course, you can buy that with money and advertising, and you can also do it the old-fashioned way and hit the ground and shake a lot of hands,” said Hewitt.
While Hewitt said many people assume she is starting from ground zero in having name recognition around the state, she said she is no stranger to this part of the state.
“I have always spoken and traveled the state really since being elected. And it’s because I came to realize very early on that my vote impacts everybody in the state, not just my district,” explained Hewitt. “And that it was important for me to understand industries all around the state, as someone that has always been very committed to economic development.”
Those industries include agriculture, cybersecurity happening in northwest Louisiana and the military bases scattered across areas north of I-10.
Hewitt noted the need for improved infrastructure, aid for farmers working in the agribusiness, expanding broadband across rural Louisiana and repairing water and sewer systems across the city.
“People expect the government to be able to provide water and sewer and safety and those core things,” said Hewitt. “And so, those are all things that we’re going to want to focus on and that I’ll continue to focus on as governor.”
Legislatively, Hewitt has focused much of her work on solving problems in the education system, developing STEM programs and building the state’s workforce, but she highlighted the need to address generational issues moving forward.
”We do a lot of talking, and we don’t take enough action, and I see myself more as a doer. We have for decades talked about our failing tax structure, our struggling schools, rising crime in our cities but have lacked the courage and leadership, in my opinion, to really move our state forward,” she said.
Overall, Hewitt believes people want their personal freedoms preserved.
“Less government and more personal freedom so that people have the opportunity to make choices,” said Hewitt.
With a growing field of candidates, especially from members of her own party, Hewitt believes what sets her apart is the background that has defined her approach to issues.
In college, Hewitt was one of few women pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at LSU, an educational decision that led her to big things with Shell plc, an oil and gas company. During her first year in the early 1980s, she was assigned to a drilling rig offshore.
“Just like anything else, you demonstrate that you’re gonna work harder than anybody else and that you’re smart, and you deserve to be there, and you’re gonna be a team player, and you ultimately kind of win them over and win their respect,” said Hewitt.
Her career spanned 20 years, managing a big part of Shell’s Central Deepwater Gulf of Mexico business with billions in assets, thousands of employees and 10% of the company’s production when she left to be a stay-at-home mom because her 3rd-grade son was struggling with his multiplication tables.
Her decision to run for governor, however, will present a new challenge, with the Louisiana GOP’s unprecedented endorsement of Attorney General Jeff Landry before any other contenders even entered the field.
”It is not up to a small group of individuals to sort of choose who that person is going to be, and that’s exactly what the state party has done. What the state party is supposed to do is to support all Republican candidates until you have one Republican in the race. They’ve chosen not to do that,” said Hewitt. “It’s a false narrative to believe that the reason we lost in past elections was because we didn’t all get behind one candidate. I would submit to you the reason we lost these past elections is because we didn’t have the right candidate.”
Landry’s campaign has already garnered $5 million in cash. However, Hewitt said while Landry’s campaign will have the largest amount of monetary support, it will not determine the success of his campaign.
“We know that money doesn’t necessarily win elections. If it was just about money, we’d have Eddie Rispone for governor and we’d have Hillary Clinton for president,” Hewitt said.
She said her campaign will be smart with money, and they are confident they will raise enough to have a competitive one.
Hewitt is not alone as a contender, though. In addition to Landry, she faces Republican challenges from her colleague, State Rep. Richard Nelson, State Treasurer John Schroder, and Xan John, as well as Independent candidate Hunter Lundy.
Source: KALB - by Alena Noakes
St Tammany Corporation - Sep 22, 2020
Today, Chris Masingill, St. Tammany Corporation CEO, is pleased to announce an award was presented by the St. Tammany Parish Development District at its September Board of Commissioners meeting to Senator Sharon Hewitt honoring her as a St. Tammany Champion of Economic Development. The award recognizes her service to St. Tammany Parish during the 2020 First Extraordinary Legislative Session and the 2020 Regular Session.
Senator Hewitt continues to provide ongoing support of resources and tools for business retention, expansion, and attraction at the state level, and champions sustainable economic development in St. Tammany Parish as a valued partner of St. Tammany Corporation. Her efforts to secure additional funding to local entities has also provided St. Tammany Corporation with critical resources to continue economic development activities while the local economy experiences the ongoing effects and impacts of the pandemic.
“I am humbled to be recognized by the St. Tammany Corporation for my support of economic development in our parish. Not only does a healthy economy generate tax revenue to fund needed services for our community, but it also creates jobs for our citizens that allow them to better provide for their families. I look forward to continuing to partner with St. Tammany Corporation to bring new opportunities to our parish.”
“We are grateful to have Senator Sharon Hewitt representing our community in the state legislature. I sincerely appreciate her guidance, leadership, and sound advice as it relates to economic development priorities and initiatives,” said Masingill. “We started our St. Tammany Champions of Economic Development campaign in May 2019 to highlight the importance of economic development in St. Tammany and to honor public servants, business and community leaders who support job growth, wealth creation and the efforts of St. Tammany Corporation. Senator Hewitt is very deserving of this honor.”
“Senator Hewitt is a leader in the state delegation who values the role of economic development at the local, regional, and state levels,” stated Marty Mayer, St. Tammany Parish Development District Board President. “She fosters collaboration amongst stakeholders and partners to build coalitions as a tireless leader in workforce development, talent retention, and STEM education.”
(Senate Bill 203, by Senator Hewitt, passed the legislature but was vetoed by Governor Edwards).
(The Center Square) — A bill to create a Reading Education Savings Account Program for struggling students cleared the Louisiana Senate.
Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 203, sponsored by Senator Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, with a vote of 24-13 to create accounts parents of students struggling to read can use to improve their education outside of the public school system.
Students who are not reading at grade level by second or third grade would be eligible for the accounts funded with the per-pupil state allotment for qualified education expenses, which include tuition, fees, textbooks, instructional or tutoring services, curriculum, and technological devices.
"If you’re a parent of a second- or third-grade student who is not reading on grade level, time is of the essence," Hewitt said on Monday. "You know that if your child is not reading by the fourth grade, they’re destined for a lifetime of challenges."
Hewitt said over half of second- and third-graders in Louisiana are not reading at grade level, and touted the accountability measures in the bill to ensure SB 203 is working to improve their situation.
"Those children will have to take tests, accountability tests, so we’ll know whether this new school environment is working or not," she said. "Those providers who are providing that education will also be evaluated to whether or not they’re really performing and doing a good job, if they’re not they’re taken off the approved list."
Hewitt noted that the bill would dedicate the average amount for per-pupil funding of about $5,500 to each account, but would leave local school funding in place. The bill also allows the state to use up to 5% of the funding for administrative expenses to ensure parents are using the money for qualified expenses.
Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, questioned whether lawmakers have given other programs designed to improve reading enough time to work, but Hewitt countered that parents of struggling students don’t have time to wait it out.
"If you have a child that’s in second or third grade, you’re in crisis mode, you can’t wait … and said I’m going to wait a few years for these programs to work, because now your child is in the fourth grade or fifth grade or whatever and they’ve missed the window," Hewitt said.
"We have a very small window from kindergarten to third grade to get these kids reading on grade level," she said. "And so that’s my sense of urgency is giving them some choices right now and when we get all these programs up and running, I hope we have the best literacy program in the country and we don’t have an ESA account because everybody is going to want to be in our public schools."
Some lawmakers questioned how the bill would impact the retirement system for teachers, while others raised concerns about diverting public funds to private institutions.
"We are institutionalizing defunding public education with an idea we don’t know if it’s going to work or not," said Sen. Joe Bouie, D-New Orleans.
"One thing we do know is for those kids who are not reading on grade level, we have to do something now," Hewitt said. "We have to have such a sense of urgency that we’re doing all of the above."
She also stressed that providers for the Reading Education Savings Account program must be approved by the Louisiana Department of Education under the bill, and students who participate will take accountability tests "so we’re going to know if they really did improve or not."