The Louisiana Senate on Tuesday struck down a proposal to give nearly 200,000 Louisiana workers and their families a small but meaningful pay raise by establishing an $8.50 per hour minimum wage starting in 2020. Senate Bill 162 by Sen. Troy Carter would have had Louisiana join 29 states in increasing the statewide minimum wage rate above the federal rate of $7.25. The bill fell three votes shy of the minimum 20 needed for passage, which means Louisiana will continue to be one of five states without a minimum wage law. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte:
“What I’m asking today is a very modest increase, $1.25 over two years,” Carter told his colleagues. He added: “How could you possibly keep up when the cost of living is escalating but your wage level is stagnant?” No one spoke against the proposal during the evening debate, but the measure was opposed by business groups who say it could force them to shrink their workforces or discourage expansions. Carter tweaked the measure to strip the civil penalties and to apply the wage increase only to businesses with 25 or more employees, but the changes didn’t pick up enough votes for passage.
A recent blog post by LBP intern Caroline Blatt of Tulane University’s Newcomb College Institute illustrates how this increase would have benefited women and children in Louisiana.
Women were also snubbed again by the Senate, which rejected a proposal to extend equal pay laws to state contractors and prohibit retaliation against workers for talking about their pay. Both proposals were sponsored by Sen. J.P. Morrell. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp explains:
The Senate voted 18-20 against Senate Bill 117, which would require any company that contracts with the state to comply with the Equal Pay Law that currently applies to state workers.The chamber then quickly voted down a separate bill also aimed at equitable pay that would have protected employees from being fired just because they discuss pay. That vote was 15-23.
Louisiana SNAP waiver is critical to recovery
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps more than 400,000 families in Louisiana afford groceries and put food on the table. Since 1998, Louisiana has applied for a waiver to the three-month SNAP time limit, which allows able-bodied adults without dependents to continue receive benefits beyond the three months if unemployment is higher than the national average. House Bill 128 by Rep. Jay Morris would have removed the authority to apply for that waiver from the executive branch and allowed the Legislature to to end the waiver. LBP Policy Director Jeanie Donovan why HB 128 was problematic:
SNAP benefits are paid for entirely by the federal government, so reducing the number of people eligible for SNAP by reinstating the three-month time limit would not save the state any money. Instead, it would increase the number of hungry people in Louisiana, while taking federal dollars away from local food retailers and increasing strain on local food banks and pantries.
Fortunately, the House Health and Welfare Committee rejected by the measure on Wednesday morning.
Long-term care reform rejected by Senate committee
The Senate Health and Welfare committee rejected a proposal that would have put Medicaid managed care insurance companies in charge of determining whether an elderly person should be in a nursing home or in lower-cost, home-based care. Many of the opponents, including the powerful nursing home lobby, argued that the bill would not save the state money and that the shift to the care management model is too risky for Louisiana’s seniors. The Advocate’s Rebekah Allen explains:
The elderly and disabled Medicaid population makes up the majority of the state’s Medicaid costs, which in large part is paid out to nursing homes. SB357 attempted to move the Medicaid population in nursing homes under a managed care model, which means the state hires private insurance companies to make decisions about whether people should be cared for in nursing homes or at their own home with supports and staffing. Home- and community-based care is both less expensive and overwhelmingly preferred by elderly people, AARP surveys claim. The home-based providers equip elderly or disabled people with medical support in their own home. They also provide staff who help clean, cook, dress and run errands for those in need of daily assistance. There’s 28,000 people on a waiting list for these home-based services
Costly child care keeps people from working
The rising cost of child care is have a detrimental impact on low wage and part time workers. It also affects workplace productivity, as parents often are forced to take time off to care for their child. In the third installment of a three part series confronting the American workforce and access to child care, Aakash Kumar, a contributor to Forbes, outlines the challenges of finding high quality child care. He stresses how we must look beyond increased funding and look at better tools to provide access to all of American families.
A recent study in Louisiana found that the state economy alone loses $1.1 billion annually due to childcare issues, and $84 million in tax revenue from lost productivity. Spread out across the country – this is a multi-billion-dollar productivity and economic problem that only gets addressed via calls for increased funding. There are easier options that exist. Beyond further funding for early childhood programs, government and communities could, or should, open up existing real estate such as unemployment offices, churches and community centers for center-based care.
New TOPS Awards advance
The popular TOPS scholarship program may see some changes in the near future. While the program is being threatened with cuts by the looming fiscal crisis, the Senate Education Committee voted for three proposals to expand the program. A proposal by Senate Education Committee chairman Dan “Blade” Morrish, however, would raise the GPA requirement for TOPS and save up to $30 million was defeated in the committee. Wilborn Nobles of Nola.com/Times Picayune has an overview of the proposed changes:
The TOPS program is currently threatened with cuts in the 2018-19 school year as the state faces a $1 billion budget shortfall. Today, the program continues to cover tuition at a four-year school if a high school graduate earns a 2.5 GPA and an ACT score of 20.With this in mind, two more bills passed the committee Tuesday that could also provide aid to future community college students, as well as students who failed to score a 20 on the ACT.
Number of the Day
$42,865 – The cost per day of holding the first special session of the Legislature in mid-February (Source: Nola.com/Times Picayune)