Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

Study finds in-home workers at increased risk for exploitation; State Treasurer wants NGO funding placed in separate budget; Supreme Court will review contraceptive coverage mandate in health care law; Former governor Edwards, 86, wants to return to politics; and States eagerly await sales tax receipts from holiday shoppers. 26 percent – The percent of Louisiana children living in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $22,350 for a family of four (Source: National Center for Children in Poverty)

Editor’s note: December is a month of transition at the Louisiana Budget Project, so the Daily Dime is taking a brief sabbatical. Director Jan Moller will be going on family leave starting today, and the staff will be busy with conferences, workshops and holiday vacation time. So we’re taking a break until the first week of January. We will continue blogging through December and working on projects and reports that will be published next year. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading the Dime in 2013 and look forward to bringing it back in January.

Study finds in-home workers at increased risk for exploitation
Many jobs performed by in-home workers – including maids, nannies, personal care aides and home health aides – are explicitly excluded from the protections of federal labor and employment laws such as the National Labor Relations Act. As a result, the typical in-home worker earns significantly lower wages and receives drastically fewer benefits than workers in other occupations. According to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, the hourly wage for a typical in-home worker is $10.21, compared to $17.55 for workers in other occupations. Less than 13 percent of in-home workers receive health insurance and only 7 percent are covered by a pension plan through their job. These factors result in nearly a quarter of in-home workers living below the official poverty line and more than half living below twice the official poverty threshold. EPI says policymakers can reverse these trends by extending labor protections to in-home workers, increasing the minimum wage, mandating sick days and building stronger social safety net programs.

State Treasurer wants NGO funding placed in separate budget
The Louisiana Legislature appropriates millions of dollars in funding each year to non-profit organizations and nongovernmental organizations. These funding allocations are usually buried deep within the state budget. But that will change if State Treasurer John Kennedy has his way. Kennedy laid out his proposal for future NGO funding in a recent op-ed: The new rule should be: an NGO can receive taxpayer money only through a separate bill sponsored by a named legislator that the legislature, in public session, passes with a 2/3 vote, after which the NGO, if successful in receiving funding, will be required to provide quarterly public accountings and be subject to automatic periodic audit by the Legislative Auditor. Kennedy’s proposal follows his recent request for the Louisiana Office of Debt Recovery and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office to attempt to recoup more than $2 million in state funds from 21 NGOs that haven’t provided proper accounting for how that money was used.

Supreme Court will review contraceptive coverage mandate in health care law
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide whether employers with religious objections may refuse to provide their workers with insurance coverage for contraceptives, which is mandated by the Affordable Care Act. As The Washington Post writes, [This case offers] complex questions about religious freedom and equality for female workers, along with an issue the court has not yet confronted: whether secular, for-profit corporations are excepted by the Constitution or federal statute from complying with a law because of their owners’ religious beliefs. The case is a combination of two lower court decisions that ended with opposite results. In the first case, an appeals court ruled the contraceptive mandate violated Hobby Lobby’s constitutional protection for religious expression. In the second case, a separate appeals court ruled that Conestoga Wood Specialties must comply with the mandate due to a “total absence of case law” to support the argument that corporations are protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion.

Former governor Edwards, 86, wants to return to politics
Former governor Edwin Edwards has no plans to retire. During an interview with Soledad O’Brien, the four-term governor who served a stint in jail for racketeering and mail fraud says he wants to return to politics – hopefully returning to Baton Rouge as the state’s governor. When O’Brien asked Edwards about a state law barring convicted felons from entering a gubernatorial election until 15 years after the end of their prison term, Edwards simply responded, “I’ve got people working on that.” Edwards has only been out of prison for two years, yet he remains largely popular with Louisiana voters following his criminal conviction. A 2011 poll conducted for WWL-TV in New Orleans found that 30 percent of likely voters considered him the state’s best governor in 40 years. Large blocks of support came from older voters, African-Americans and women.

States eagerly await sales tax receipts from holiday shoppers
States that levy sales taxes are eagerly awaiting tax receipts from purchases made by holiday shoppers, especially those who knock out their holiday lists on big shopping days like Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. According to Stateline by PEW, the holiday shopping season typically provides a slight increase in tax collections for state coffers. About 10 percent of annual state sales taxes are collected in January from holiday season sales, compared to 7 percent or 8 percent in other months. The holiday tax revenues flowing into state coffers would be higher if Congress passed the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” which would allow states to require out-of-state companies to collect state sales taxes on online purchases just like stores with a physical presence. State officials say passage of the bill could generate another $23 billion annually in lost revenue, while also leveling the playing field between Internet-based companies and brick-and-mortar retailers.

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. 
26 percent – The percent of Louisiana children living in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $22,350 for a family of four (Source: National Center for Children in Poverty)