Attorney General Jeff Landry won the first round in his legal skirmish with Gov. John Bel Edwards over a non-discrimination order, as a Baton Rouge judge said Landry cannot be ordered to approve contracts that include language protecting gays, lesbians and transgendered people from discrimination. But The Advocate’s Joe Gyan reports that the ruling is likely to be appealed.
Edwards’ spokesman, Richard Carbo, said in a statement that the judge’s decision was not a ruling on the merits of the governor’s executive order banning firms contracting with the state from discriminating against any employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. … The governor’s executive counsel, Matthew Block, told Johnson he will ask the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to review the judge’s decision.
Julia O’Donoghue of NOLA.com says the ruling, if it stands, could alter the balance of power between the attorney general and governor’s office.
If the ruling stays in place, it gives Landry authority to turn away state legal contracts for a variety of reasons — not just because they contain language to prevent discrimination against LGBT people. That is a power that few people — outside of Landry’s office — thought the attorney general had over the governor. The court’s decision could also lead to more gridlock in state government. Landry and Edwards don’t agree on much, and Landry’s ability to block more of the governor’s decisions could make state government functions difficult. No attorney general and governor in recent memory have been at such odds.
But O’Donoghue also notes that Edwards’ non-discrimination order, which applies to state agencies and contractors, has been a good economic development tool.
Louisiana business leaders have said the governor’s executive order was one of the reasons the NBA decided to move its 2017 All-Star game to New Orleans, which is expected to bring millions of dollars to the local economy. The NBA pulled the game from Charlotte, after that state passed a law restricting transgender people. Several other large companies are also refusing to do business in North Carolina because of the restrictions on the transgender community.
So far, Landry’s efforts have support from just 17 lawmakers in the 144-member Louisiana Legislature.
Preparing for TOPS cut
The Legislature’s decision to backload the cuts to the TOPS scholarship program means Louisiana students and their families won’t be feeling the pinch until the upcoming spring semester. The popular scholarships are only 47.6 percent funded for the spring, which means thousands of students across the state will soon be getting a tuition bill they haven’t seen before. The Business Report’s Stephanie Riegel interviews LSU’s Jason Droddy, who says the university doesn’t know whether the change will affect enrollment.
LSU officials are working on some sort of solution that could possibly help students and their families offset the cost of next semester’s higher tuition. Droddy says he cannot yet discuss specifics of the plan, though he hopes to make an announcement soon. “We are not quite ready to talk about that yet, but we are going to ensure that working families have access to a national-caliber education and the lowest price possible,” he says. “We’re working on a number of options and trying to figure this out as quickly as we can.”
Wal-Mart invests in people… and wins
When Wal-Mart – America’s largest private employer – found itself in a slump a few years ago, it tried something different. Instead of trying to cut costs by keeping wages as low as possible, it decided to invest more in its employees by raising pay to at least $10 per hour – a big lift for workers who were previously making minimum wage. The result? Increased productivity, stores are cleaner, customers are happier, and product displays are better organized. Neil Irwin of The New York Times details how the increase came about, and how it’s going.
But while Walmart’s changes aren’t as extensive as advocates would prefer, the company has shifted up the industry’s pay scale. In early 2014, Walmart’s self-reported average full-time pay was 3.7 percent higher than the average hourly earnings for nonmanagerial workers at general merchandise stores calculated by the Labor Department. Now, it is 13.7 percent higher. At the store level, managers describe a big shift in the kind of workers they can bring in. “We’re attracting a different type of associate,” said Tina Budnaitis, the manager of Walmart No. 5260 in Rogers. “We get more people coming in who want a career instead of a job.”
Change D.C. by starting at the bottom
Getting ahead in the nation’s capital typically means starting at the bottom. And that means taking an unpaid internship – the kind that’s much easier to handle if you have wealthy parents to cover your living expenses. As The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck reports, a new campaign is aiming to change this by demanding that the incoming administration pay its interns at least $10.10 per hour.
One key goal is challenging the left to put its money where its mouth is. “We see Democrats talking about a ‘living’ wage, $15 an hour, while not paying their interns,” Carlos Vera, the group’s founder, wrote in an email. “Meanwhile, Republicans haven’t made labor a center point of their agenda, yet they in fact pay their interns at a higher rate than Democrats do. Frankly, it’s time for Democrats to practice what they preach.” The campaign is gradually building a following on social media, which has proven an effective venue to amplify debates over internship compensation and diversity.
Number of the Day
5– States, including Louisiana, where residents pay a lower tax on cell phone usage than they do on other purchases. (Source: Business Report)