Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TOPS is key bargaining chip; Sanctuary bill torpedoed in Senate; Inflation hits the poor harder; and “Ban the box” in college admissions

TOPS is key bargaining chip

The success of the upcoming special session appears to hinge on one item both Republicans and Democrats alike would prefer to see fully funded: TOPS scholarships. As the 2016-17 budget makes its way through the Senate, TOPS is short $72 million of what’s needed to provide scholarships to all qualified applicants – complicating arguments by House GOP leaders that the Legislature should wait until the fall to address budget shortfalls. The Advocate’s Stephanie Grace looks at the politics:


If protecting the immensely popular TOPS is a priority for everyone, so is the desire to settle the program’s finances as quickly as possible. Under current law governing what happens in case of a shortfall, the highest-performing students would still have their full tuition covered, while those below the cutoff would be left out in the cold. Under a proposal that has Edwards’ support, the money would be spread evenly so that everyone now eligible would get a partial award. In either case, though, it’s awfully late for students and their families to be left waiting for crucial information for the next academic year. And from all appearances, those families — including the many middle- and upper-middle class constituents who benefit from TOPS and who reside in Republican districts — are speaking out.


Sanctuary bill torpedoed in Senate

The Senate Judiciary B Committee deadlocked 2-2 this morning on the so-called “sanctuary city” legislation, effectively killing it for the session. The bill drew heavy opposition from Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand and others, who saw it as unnecessary state interference in local law enforcement. Writing in The Advocate New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the legislation represented a threat to public safety.


Let me be perfectly clear: Any person in the city of New Orleans who commits a crime will be held accountable by our criminal justice system, regardless of their immigration status. If you break the law, you will face consequences, whether you are in this country legally or not. NOPD will always work with federal immigration officials when there is a criminal warrant. Contrary to what politicians in Baton Rouge say, the NOPD’s policy does not make the city of New Orleans a “sanctuary city.” NOPD’s immigration policy is aimed at making our city safer by giving immigrants more opportunities to cooperate with law enforcement so that we can arrest and punish the violent criminals in our community, immigrant or otherwise. NOPD’s policy means we are going after violent criminals, not raiding churches and markets to apprehend people for civil immigration violations.


Inflation hits the poor harder

New research by a Harvard University graduate student suggests that disparities in what low- and moderate-income households pay for basic goods are growing due to previously unidentified market trends. Using Nielsen data on retail prices and household incomes,  Xavier Jaravel measured the price for identical retail products from one year to the next. Items purchased mainly by the poor increased by more than 2 percent a year for households making $30,000 or less, and 1.4 percent for households with incomes over $100,000. Jaravel attributes this to more affluent consumers buying premium brands, which have more stable prices over time due to competition from new entrants into the market. Max Ehrenfreund, writing for The Washington Post, has more:


He [Jaravel] argues that as society becomes wealthier in general, and as the rich in particular become wealthier because of increasing inequality, the market for premium retail goods expands. Manufacturers compete with one another to sway consumers’ preferences in this segment, busily inventing new ways for the affluent to dispose of their income. By contrast, there is less new territory up for grabs in the market for bargain goods. Innovation is not a priority for manufacturers, resulting in increased prices for the poorer consumers who shop in this segment.


Jaravel believes this work helps make the case for food assistance.


By expanding the market for inexpensive goods at groceries, food stamps likely encourage manufacturers to devote more resources toward innovation in this segment in this market, reducing inflation and creating additional benefits beyond the food stamps themselves that will accrue over time for poor families.


“Ban the box” in college admissions

The Obama administration is working on a number of fronts to reduce incarceration in the United States and make it easier for ex-offenders to re-enter society. The administration is encouraging colleges and universities to avoid asking about criminal records in college applications. The New York Times editorial board lends its support, citing research that shows colleges that fail to ask about criminal histories are no less safe than those that do – and that application questions about criminal convictions discourages applicants:


A study last year by the Center for Community Alternatives, a nonprofit group that focuses on alternatives to imprisonment, showed clearly that the criminal-conviction question discourages people from attending college. The study, which looked at 60 of the 64 campuses of the State University of New York, found that nearly two-thirds of applicants who answered “yes” to the felony question never completed the application process. The City University of New York, with 24 campuses, does not ask the question, and says this approach has posed no safety problem.


Number of the Day

2 percent – Average increase in prices for goods purchased by households making $30,000 or less compared to 1.4 percent for households with incomes over $100,000. (Source: The Washington Post)