Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Senate health committee rejects health coverage for low-income adults
Legislation to provide critical health coverage for more than 240,000 low-income Louisiana adults was shot down by a Senate committee Wednesday on a party-line vote. The Health & Welfare Committee rejected Senate Bill 96, a constitutional amendment by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, which would have let voters decide whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program by using federal dollars to cover adults below 138 percent of the federal poverty line. The committee’s 6-2 vote came after more than four hours of testimony, most of it from doctors, public officials and others who noted the economic and health benefits that would come from taking advantage of the new coverage opportunity through the Affordable Care Act. Opposition came from tea party groups, a pair of Kansas billionaires and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.

The committee’s rejection also came despite new evidence that shows most Louisianans disagree with their governor’s insistence that the federal health care law be repealed. The poll by the New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that while Louisianans remain opposed to Obamacare, more than half of them – 52 percent – would like their federal representatives to work on improving the law rather than repealing it altogether.

Medicaid expansion is expected to bring in more than $16 billion over 10 years that would support 15,600 new Louisiana jobs. Find out more about the regional economic impact of Medicaid expansion by clicking here.

Who can afford a one-bedroom apartment?
Efforts to raise the minimum wage – an extreme long-shot after being rejected by a House committee earlier this month – comes to the Senate Labor Committee today with three bills that take slightly different approaches to the problem. Senate Bill 46 by Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, would set the state minimum wage at $10 per hour. Senate Bill 123 by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, is a constitutional amendment that would set the wage at $9.50 lan hour, but only for companies with 50 or more full-time workers. And Senate Bill 646 by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, would gradually raise the minimum wage to $10.25 per hour by 2017, but only for employees in companies with government contracts.

Louisiana is one of five states without a minimum wage law on its books, meaning we adhere to the federal $7.25 an hour.

Why is a higher minimum wage important? A report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition recently highlighted by the Washington Post shows what workers would need to earn in each state and municipality to afford a one-bedroom apartment at market rents. “The National Low Income Housing Coalition took those fair market rents and calculated how much a worker would have to earn per hour to cover such modest housing, if we assume a 40-hour work week and a 52-week year. They call this rate a “housing wage,” and it is, unsurprisingly, much higher than the minimum wage in much of the country. No single county in America has a one-bedroom housing wage below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 (several counties in Arkansas come in at $7.98).”

Payday lending reform efforts continue
Senate Bill 84 by Sen. Ben Nevers of Bogalusa, which would cap the number of payday loans an individual can take out per year at 10, passed unopposed out of Senate Finance Committee late Wednesday. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Supporters of the measure originally wanted a cap on the fees that could be charged on the short-term loans with high interest rates that critics say cause a cycle of debt. But they say Nevers’ rewritten bill still represents progress.”

Separate payday legislation, sponsored by the industry, also cleared a different committee on Wednesday. House Bill 766 by Rep. Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge, would require online lenders in Louisiana to adhere to the same licensing requirements as bricks-and- mortar storefronts.

Retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments may suffer due to bill
Labor union representatives are concerned about legislation up for debate this morning in the House Labor Committee that would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the four major state retirement systems to provide beneficiaries with cost-of-living increases in the future. House Bill 1225 by Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, would apply to theLouisiana State Employees Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana, Louisiana School Employees Retirement System and State Police Retirement System. The AFL-CIO’s Louis Reine says that if the bill passes, “our already vulnerable population of retirees will become poorer and poorer each year. That would be turning our back on former police officers, teachers and state employees who dedicated their careers to bettering our communities.”

Number of the Day
$15.45 – The hourly wage that would have to be earned by a full time employee in Louisiana in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment without paying more than 30 percent of their income (Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition)