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Reynolds: TOPS funding needs to be addressed

by Minden Press-Herald

Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 10, says he will not vote in favor of any TOPS bill that doesn’t offer a solution, and so far, he’s seen nothing that fixes the state’s free tuition program.

“They don’t address the immediate problem,” he said. “They’re trying to change the ACT scores, change the GPA, and they’re trying to do all these things, but it doesn’t affect the fact that we just plain don’t have the money for TOPS. There’s no money there. That’s what needs to be addressed.”

Several bills dealing with Taylor Opportunity Program for Students were heard in the Education Committee Wednesday, but only one made it out, he said. HB438 would allow a TOPS student to transfer from a technical college to a four-year college. Reynolds says he voted against the bill because students can already do this and does absolutely nothing to deal with the immediate issue, which is funding.

“Until I see something that has the potential to solve the problem now, I’m going to vote no,” he said. “There’s no use in cluttering everything up if you don’t have to.”
The bill passed 7-6 and will head to the House floor.

TOPS was left with a $28 million shortfall this fiscal year, which meant colleges across Louisiana absorbed the tuition for those students. And unless a solution is found, the outlook is even bleaker for this coming fiscal year.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to unveil his plan for TOPS in the administrative committee Tuesday.

In other legislative news, HB1043 was referred to the Committee on Health and Welfare Wednesday. The bill would eliminate the licensure restrictions on the Board of Pharmacies that currently is allowed to issue 10 licenses across the state for medical marijuana.

“There was some concern on the floor the other day that maybe 10 wasn’t enough to cover the whole state,” he said.

HB920 was heard in committee Wednesday, March 30, and if passed would prohibit a member of the Board of Pharmacies from producing or dispensing medical marijuana.

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