Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014

Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014

State legislature to debate TOPS cap proposal again; Congressional Budget Office report actually praises the Affordable Care Act; Farm Bill headed to president’s desk; Jindal’s point person on costal protection resigns; and Free “Inequality for All” screening tomorrow. 23 — The percentage of Louisiana fourth graders reading proficiently (Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation)

State legislature to debate TOPS cap proposal again
The Legislature is gearing up for another debate on capping funding for the TOPS program, the state’s generous “merit based” program that pays full in-state tuition to any Louisiana high school graduate who finishes with at least a 2.5 grade-point average and scores at or above the state average on the ACT. This program, where 40 percent of recipients come from households with incomes above $100,000, has nearly doubled in cost since 2008 (mainly because of increases in tuition). State Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings, filed legislation Tuesday that would cap scholarship award increases at 10 percent per year per student and, beginning next academic year, would also require the program to be aligned with a national price index for higher education in an effort to keep cost increases low. A fiscal note accompanying the bill estimates the law would save the state $186.8 million over five years.

Congressional Budget Office report actually praises the Affordable Care Act
A new report from the Congressional Budget Office highlights the fact that the Affordable Care Act is cheaper than expected and will “markedly increase” the number of Americans with health insurance. Despite initial news reports that the CBO said the federal health care law would kill jobs, the federal report actually says the new law will have a beneficial effect on the labor market. As the Los Angeles Times explains, The CBO projects that the act will reduce the supply of labor, not the availability of jobs. There’s a big difference. In fact, it suggests that aggregate demand for labor (that is, the number of jobs) will increase, not decrease; but that many workers or would-be workers will be prompted by the ACA to leave the labor force, many of them voluntarily. … [T]his is, in fact, a beneficial effect of the law, and a sign that it will achieve an important goal. It helps “older workers with serious health conditions who are working now because this is the only way to get health insurance. And (one for the family-values crowd) many young mothers who return to work earlier than they would like because they need health insurance. This is a huge plus.”

Farm Bill headed to president’s desk
The U.S. Senate voted 68-32 Tuesday to send a bipartisan Farm Bill to President Barack Obama’s desk, ending a lengthy stalemate. The bill reduces spending by $16.5 billion over the next 10 years, with the largest cuts ($14 billion) coming from farm subsidies and commodity programs like direct payments to farmers. The bill also reduces food stamp spending by $8 billion over the next 10 years — a move that will shrink benefits for about 850,000 American households in 17 states by an average of $90 a month. Most Louisiana families that receive food stamps are headed by a working adult and have at least one child under 18. The bi-partisan bill does include a major boost for crop insurance popular in the Midwest, higher subsidies for Southern rice and peanut farmers, and land payments for Western states.

Jindal’s point person on costal protection resigns
After six years leading Louisiana’s costal restoration efforts, the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities director Garret Graves is resigning his post effective Feb. 17. The resignation took many coastal restoration proponents by surprise. Graves is best known in recent days for his vocal opposition to a lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — East against nearly 100 oil and gas companies for costal erosion. But Graves’s career is also punctuated with other accomplishments, such as implementing costal protection concepts that were drafted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Graves says he would also volunteer with a nonprofit that educates political, business and community leaders around the country about the importance of taking action on coastal restoration and protection.

Free “Inequality for All” screening tomorrow
LBP invites you to attend a free screening of the film “Inequality for All” on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Baton Rouge Kress Gallery (447 3rd St., Baton Rouge). The film (you can view the trailer here) is narrated by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and discusses how the massive consolidation of wealth by a few has a devastating impact on our economy and on the foundation of American democracy itself. With the 2014 legislative session fast approaching, this is a unique opportunity to discuss solutions to one of the most pressing issues of our time. Light refreshments will be served at 5 p.m., and the film will start promptly at 5:30 p.m., followed by a post-screening Q&A. Seating is limited and available on a first come first serve basis. Please RSVP here so we can provide an adequate amount of refreshments. Note that an RSVP does not ensure a seat at the event.

23 — The percentage of Louisiana fourth graders reading proficiently (Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation)