TOPS, criminal justice reform and proposals to raise the gasoline tax are some of the big topics up for discussion as the legislative session begins today.

There are bills filed that raise the minimum GPA to qualify for the TOPS scholarship. Political Analyst Bernie Pinsonat says this proposal will face fierce opposition from the legislative black caucus.

“That’s a very tough pill to swallow, especially in certain areas in schools where kids don’t come from the higher income schools.”

There’s also a push to raise the state’s gasoline tax, which is currently 20-cents. Supporters say a higher gas tax is needed for better roads. But Pinsonat says passing a tax hike is difficult. He says many lawmakers are concerned that the additional revenues will not go towards their intended purpose.

“How are we going to spend the money? Is there a guarantee that we won’t be spending it on State Police or other areas in government that rob the funds for our actual roads and transportation structure?”

Governor John Bel Edwards is pushing for criminal justice reform as part of his legislative agenda. The governor is seeking to lower the state’s incarceration rate, which has been referred to as the highest in the world. Pinsonat says the concept is easier said than done.

“Any time you start letting people out of jail or reducing sentences, the public gets more involved, legislators start questioning why are we letting this person out or this group out.”

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