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Will the Legislature pass a budget?

Posted on March 13, 2018

The Legislature’s most important task during its annual regular session is passing a budget. But many predict the Legislature won’t accomplish that task during the regular session this year, because doing so would require cutting more than $700 million, mostly from critical health and education programs. In his session-opening address on Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards called on lawmakers to finish their work early, so they can convene for a special session that would be devoted to raising needed revenues and passing a budget. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports:

Edwards has repeatedly said that he doesn’t believe that the Legislature will pass a budget during its regular session because the fiscal cliff would require deep cuts to higher education and health care. “I think what many of you will find is that it is much harder than it seems because when you cut funding you cut a service that someone in this state relies on,” he said in his speech. “But, if that’s what you truly believe, now is your opportunity. To those that say we can cut our way out of this, it’s your time to step up to the plate and make the specific cuts that you insist can be made.”

 

Regular session priorities

While the regular session may be cut short, lawmakers still have a long list of items to consider over the next several months. More than 1,100 pieces of legislation have been filed, and Edwards shared the list of items that he hopes lawmakers will send to his desk for signature. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte:

Among his agenda items, Edwards wants to reduce the list of careers requiring occupational licenses, add new protections against elderly abuse, rewrite teacher tenure laws and prohibit schools from punishing students who owe lunch money. He’ll again push to boost Louisiana’s minimum wage and enact an equal pay law, proposals that have repeatedly failed.

Drew White and Tryfon Boukouvidis with LSU’s Manship School News Service report on the governor’s (and the public’s) support for legislation that would reduce wage inequities between male and female workers in the state:

Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, said he also supports the Louisiana Equal Pay Act, which would promote wage equity between genders. Currently, Louisiana “has the highest wage inequity in the country,” he said.  A female earns 66 cents for every dollar a male earns. But “she doesn’t get charged any less when she’s buying groceries for her family, and she shouldn’t get paid any less when she’s working the same job as a man every day,” Edwards added. Ninety-one percent of Louisianans believe that an employer should pay men and women equally when they are doing the same job, according to LSU’s 2017 Louisiana Survey. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents believed that women still face more obstacles than men on their path to success.   

A slate of minimum wage and equal pay bills are scheduled to be heard in House and Senate Labor committees on Thursday morning.

 

Rolling back sunshine laws for mortgage lenders

Detailed data on mortgage loan applications are necessary for regulators to root out discriminatory practices by banks and other lending institutions. Unfortunately, Congress is poised to reverse a little known part of the 2008 Dodd-Frank Act that tightened mortgage lending reporting requirements for banks and credit unions. The new requirements, which took effect in January, built on data reporting requirements enacted in 1975 in response to red-lining against African American families. Tracy Jan writes for The Washington Post’s WonkBlog:


The bipartisan plan, which is expected to pass, would exempt 85 percent of banks and credit unions from the new requirement, according to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau analysis of 2013 data. The mortgage industry says the expanded data requirements are onerous and costly, especially for small lenders. But civil rights and consumer advocates say the information is critical to identifying troubling patterns that warrant further investigation by regulators. “The data operates as a canary in the coal mine, functioning as a check on banks’ practices,” said Catherine Lhamon, chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. “The loss of that sunlight allows discrimination to proliferate undetected.”

 

An arranged marriage with the ACA

After Republican leaders in Congress failed at wholesale repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it seems they and President Donald Trump have settled for making changes to the law to limit its effectiveness. Trump has set a series of administrative changes in motion to undermine the ACA’s consumer protections. Congress also managed to repeal the individual mandate that kept premiums down by ensuring young, healthy consumers enrolled in the individual health insurance marketplaces. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Peter Suderman details what we can expect as a result of this uncomfortable arrangement:

Having failed in their repeal effort, Republicans are now in something of an arranged marriage with the health care law. These alterations are being made in a predictably haphazard fashion, with little in the way of guiding theory, but the cumulative effect is to turn Obamacare into a law that they can, if not love, at least learn to live with. …The end result of this process is likely to be a system that offers cheaper insurance for many but is more fractured, more frustrating and perhaps more expensive for taxpayers — more of a safety net than a support system.

 

Number of the Day
105,000 – Number of children in Louisiana whose parents would earn more if the Legislature increased the statewide minimum wage to $8.50. (Source: LBP analysis)

 

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