Thursday, April 7, 2016

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Raise the age; TOPS bill advances; Louisiana last in equal pay for women and; Medicaid co-pays plan is crumbling

Raise the age
Louisiana is one of only nine states that automatically  treats 17 year olds as adults in the criminal justice system.  That means if you’re a 17-year-old child who commits a crime – even if it’s non-violent – you are automatically tried as an adult and held in an adult correctional facility. Sen. J.P. Morrell of New Orleans has legislation that would bring Louisiana in line with other states. His Senate Bill 324 would allow prosecutors to decide whether or not to try 17 year olds as adults, and let judges decide whether child convicts should serve their time in  adult prisons. Gov. John Bel Edwards announced his support for the bill at a rally on the Capitol steps Wednesday. Kevin Litten of Times Picayune was also there.


“It’s better for public safety because research conclusively shows that consistently the juvenile justice system does a better job preventing recidivism than the adult correction system,” Edwards said in a speech during the rally. “This means in the future, we will have fewer crime victims and less money spent on incarceration.”…”These arrests are public record and can and often do impede their ability to finish their education and get a job,” Edwards said. “Raising the age means holding young people accountable in age-appropriate settings.” All nine of the states, including Louisiana, that treat 17-year-olds as an adult for all crimes have pending legislation to raise the age, Edwards said. Nearby states that already treat 17-year-olds are juveniles include Alabama and Mississippi, the governor said. Edwards went on to frame the “raise the age” legislation as a “down payment” on the comprehensive criminal justice reform package he wants to pass next year. “Branding 17-year-olds hardened criminals destroys their chances of turning their lives around and building a better future,” said Jasmine Jeffs, an 18-year-old high school student. “The juvenile system works to rehabilitate youth in our state. And we believe we should do what other states have done: Make 18 the official age for adulthood in all circumstances.”


TOPS bill advances

Several bills that would make changes to the TOPS scholarship program were heard in the House Education Committee Wednesday, but only one made it out. House Bill 438 by Rep. Barry Ivey of Central would create another level of TOPS and steer some students into the Community and Technical College System as opposed to a four-year university. Mark Ballard and Rebekah Allen of The Advocate explain.


House Bill 438 would create another level of TOPS, called TOPS Tech Transfer, that carves out the students who are barely qualifying for the typical TOPS Opportunity award with an ACT score of 20 and a 2.5 GPA. They would have to attend a two-year technical school or community college. If the students do well enough, they could transfer to a four-year institution while continuing to receive TOPS. The change would bump the academic requirements for the typical TOPS awards up a notch. The minimum ACT score would go from a 20 to 21, and the GPA would go from a 2.5 to a 3.0. There are roughly 55,000 students on TOPS, and according to the state’s fiscal office, only 1,041 students would fall into the narrow category created by the bill.


Louisiana last in equal pay for women

If you’re a woman working in the United States, gender inequality in the workplace will cost you more than $430,000 over the course of your career. Sarah McGregor of Bloomberg’s Benchmark says a new study by the National Women’s Law Center shows that race also plays a factor and that women in Louisiana fare the worst nationally.


For the working women in America, race is also a factor in pay disparity, and to a lesser extent where they live. The gap is widest for African-American and Latino women in the nation’s capital, Washington, where the gap is $1.6 million to $1.8 million over a four-decade career, compared with a white, non-Hispanic male wage-earner. “They are dealing with the double barriers of race and gender discrimination,” Graves said. ”And some of it is the concentration of women of color in some of the lowest-paid fields. They still make up a tiny percentage of workers in some of the higher-paid fields.” By state, female workers in Louisiana face the highest Discrepancy—$671,840—while those in Florida are the least worse-off with losses of $248,120, according to the study. On average across the country, the wage gap “hasn’t budged for nearly a decade,” according to a statement from NWLC. The study was released ahead of Equal Pay Day on April 12.


Senate Bill 254  by Rep. J.P. Morrell of New Orleans would require men and women engaged in the same work be paid equally. It will be heard on the Senate Floor today.


Medicaid co-pays plan is crumbling

A plan by Gov. John Bel Edwards to require co-pays from some Medicaid recipients appears to be crumbling at the Legislature amid opposition from health-care providers who say it would create financial and administrative hassles. As Times-Picayune’s Kevin Litten reports, the plan was designed to discourage Medicaid recipients from using costly emergeny rooms for non-emergency care.


“I think it makes everyone feel good, but at the end of the day these people are working people,” Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, said. “I just don’t think it’s needed, and it affects hospitals.” Edwards endorsed charging Medicaid recipients for a portion of their health care during his speech to open the legislative session last month, saying, “we can improve our Medicaid program and require personal responsibility for health by charging copays.” But opposition is mounting from hospitals, who would be tasked with collecting the copays and would having the money deducted from their Medicaid reimbursement if they’re unable to collect. With that opposition and questions about whether the copays would be effective in stopping Medicaid recipients from seeking unnecessary care in emergency rooms, legislators are balking.


Number of the Day

$671,840 – the cost of gender inequality to a working woman in Louisiana over the course of her career. (Source: Bloomberg Benchmark)