RESTORE ACT and the BP Oil Spill
The most significant federal legislation for Louisiana is the Resources & Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 (also known as the RESTORE ACT) or S. 1400 (filed by Sen. Mary Landrieu on behalf of the senators of Gulf Coast states). This act establishes the division of fine money assessed to BP for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The money will be used to reimburse citizens for losses, and Louisiana has preliminarily determined it will use some of the money for coastal restoration projects. An undetermined amount will likely be used for scientific work related to coastal projects, but the destination of those funds is unknown. One proposal forwarded by Sen. Landrieu is the creation of a Water Institute similar to the Netherland's Deltares, and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation has committed $8 million in seed funding. The Congression fight has centered around the access of non-Gulf states to the fine money and the distribution among the Gulf States. The resolution currently sits on the Senate calendar, and debate is expected to occur in spring 2012.
Colleges Costs & Affordability
Congress is actively engaged in efforts to contain college costs with an eye on reducing student debt. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEA) of 2008 required universities to report both the sticker price and the average net price (sticker price minus the average financial aid package). Universities were also required to publish a cost calculator to help parents and students calculate potential cost of attendance. Sen. Bachus went as far as to suggest a required use of university endowments for financial aid in exchange for maintaining universities' tax exempt status. President Obama brought the issue back to the forefront in his 2012 State of the Union address. The President's goals mimic those of the HEA debate.