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Friday, Nov. 22

Posted on November 22, 2013

State modifies its commitment to Common Core
Louisiana will overhaul its plans to implement the Common Core state standards in response to sharp criticism from a loose-knit coalition of parents, educators, union leaders and conservative activists. State Education Superintendent John White announced Thursday that schools will be graded on a “curve” to guard against major drops when the new standards are implemented, and teachers will get a one-year reprieve from having their evaluations be based in part on their students’ academic growth. The state also announced that new tests coming on line in 2015 will only apply to students in grades 3-8, not high school. The new standards, which Louisiana adopted without controversy in 2010, have become the focus of increased opposition as the 2014 implementation date drew near.

Campaign finance violations prompt calls for reform
A four-month review of political contributions to state elected officials is leading to calls for reforms to campaign finance laws in Louisiana. As NOLA.com and WVUE Fox 8 News report, the Pelican State is an outlier when comes to donations from corporations and unions, and some advocates think it’s time to rewrite the state’s campaign finance laws. “(Former Gov. Buddy) Roemer and others who have studied Louisiana’s campaign finance law, including the Public Affairs Research Council and several political analysts, highlighted areas they said need to be changed. They include the state’s rules on campaign limits and disclosure; the rules on what politicians can do with campaign donations; and the lax enforcement of current laws,” Nola.com writes.

Panel rejects plan to reduce pot sentences
An effort to reduce Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate suffered a setback Thursday when the Louisiana Sentencing Commission voted down a recommendation to lower the penalties for marijuana possession. As The Advocate reports, the panel voted 9-5 against recommending to Gov. Bobby Jindal that penalties for first, second and third-offense pot possession be reduced to misdemeanors and punishable with a fine. Currently, a second-offense marijuana possession charge can result in a five-year prison sentence – making Louisiana a national anomaly at a time when many states are decriminalizing or legalizing use of the plant and others are making it available for medicinal use.

Landrieu and levee board have higher approval ratings than Gov. Jindal
A majority of Louisianans support the suit against 97 oil and gas companies by the New Orleans-area levee authority, according to a new poll by Southern Media and Opinion Research. The poll also found that Sen. Mary Landrieu’s popularity is waning as she begins her re-election campaign, though she remains more popular than Gov. Bobby Jindal and Rep. Bill Cassidy, her likely opponent in the November 2014 election. State Treasurer John Kennedy received the highest favorability rating (62 percent), closely followed by Lieutenant Gov. Jay Dardenne (60.8 percent).

Group studies employment gap between whites, Native Americans
Native Americans in Louisiana are 8 percent less likely than whites to be employed, according to new figures from the Economic Policy Institute. The Washington-based economics group compares the employment rates for whites and Native Americans in 34 states. Whites have higher employment rates in all those states, with South Dakota posting the largest gap at 32.7 percent and Mississippi posting the smallest at 5.1 percent. That data highlights the fact that Native Americans nationwide experience significantly higher unemployment rates than whites. Since the Great Recession, unemployment rates for whites peaked at 9.1 percent in 2010 while Native Americans endured five years of unemployment rates higher than 10 percent. In the first half of 2013, the Native American unemployment rate was 11.3 percent compared to 6.9 percent for whites.

Weekend Read: Hollywood actor vs. Wal-Mart in Twitter clash over minimum wage
Actor Ashton Kutcher and big box retailer Wal-Mart had an epic Twitter exchange Tuesday over the low wages Wal-Mart pays its workers. The exchange began after Wal-Mart held an employee-to-employee food charity collection for workers who can’t afford Thanksgiving dinner. Kutcher replied, “Walmart is your profit margin so important you can’t Pay Your Employees enough to be above the poverty line?” That set off a back-and-forth between the world’s largest retailer and billion-dollar Hollywood star.

Upcoming LBP Events
LBP and PolicyLink are hosting a Twitter chat on “Protecting Your Paycheck: The Pitfalls of Payday Lending” 1 p.m. Dec. 12 using the hashtag #protecturpay. 

35 – The number of states with stronger corporate campaign contribution limits than Louisiana (Source: NOLA.com and WVUE Fox 8 News)

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