Tuesday, Sept. 17

Tuesday, Sept. 17

Poverty data: National rate stays flat; Louisiana’s goes up; Many states look to raise the minimum wage; State agency fails to collect $1.4 million since 2008; and End mandatory juvenile life sentences 68 percent – The decline in Louisiana’s juvenile incarceration numbers between 1997 and 2011. (Source: The PEW Charitable Trusts via The News-Star)

Poverty data: National rate stays flat; Louisiana’s goes up
The national poverty rate remained unchanged last year at 15 percent, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data released today. But the story in Louisiana is not nearly as rosy, as the Pelican State is among a handful of states that saw a statistically significant increase in its poverty rate in 2012 from the previous year. More detailed, state-specific figures will be available Thursday; today’s numbers show the South remains the poorest region of the country, with 16.5 percent of the population below the federal poverty threshold. The percentage of people without health insurance dipped slightly last year, though 48 million Americans remain uninsured. More details are available from the Census Bureau here.

Many states look to raise the minimum wage
Ten states are considering bills that would raise the minimum wage above the federal minimum — an action that could lift thousands of workers in those states above the poverty line. A full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour makes $15,080 annually, well below the poverty threshold for a family of four ($22,283). As Stateline reports, “states cannot set a minimum wage that is lower than the federal standard, but they are free to establish a higher one.” By the end of the year, 20 states and the District of Columbia will have minimum wages that are higher than the federal minimum. The Pelican State has the fourth-highest rate of minimum wage earners in the nation, and as LBP reported in State of Working Louisiana 2013, Louisiana’s minimum wage would be $10.74 today — or 48 percent higher — if it had kept up with inflation since 1968.

State agency fails to collect $1.4 million since 2008
The Louisiana Office of Mineral Resources failed to collect $1.4 million in royalty payments between 2008 and 2012, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. The state fined companies $12.8 million over the past five years for failing to make on-time mineral royalty payments, but the OMR board waived nearly 45 percent of these fines, often without explanation.

Juvenile incarceration down 68 percent between 1997 and 2011
Louisiana is one of 18 states that have seen at least a 50 percent decline in juvenile confinement between 1997 and 2011. The News-Star reports on a new study by Pew Research that found juvenile incarceration in Louisiana dropped 68 percent over 15 years. University of Louisiana-Monroe criminal justice professor Robert Hanser said programs run by many nonprofit organizations and the state Department of Children and Family Services “give parents the skills and abilities to cope with and help their children.” Still, Hanser warns that the state’s juvenile population suffers from a lack of adequate mental health services.

End mandatory juvenile life sentences
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled twice in recent history that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles are a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. But one issue the Supreme Court didn’t settle is whether the ruling applies retroactively to more than 2,000 inmates nationwide. If so, these people would be eligible for new sentencing hearings. Some state legislatures and courts have applied the court’s decision retroactively, but the standards are not uniform across all jurisdictions. The New York Times makes the case for why the law should be applied regardless of the date of conviction.

68 percent – The decline in Louisiana’s juvenile incarceration numbers between 1997 and 2011. (Source: The PEW Charitable Trusts via The News-Star)