Louisiana currently spends no state general fund dollars to subsidize the cost of early childhood education for low-income parents, even though thousands of families are languishing on a state waiting list. But that could change under House Bill 513 by Rep. Steve Carter of Baton Rouge, which cleared the House Appropriations Committee on Monday with support from a broad coalition of children’s advocates. Susan Nelson, executive director of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families, shares an update:
The bill moves $10 million from excess funds in the State Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Fund to the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund with the sole purpose of reducing the wait list for those awaiting Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) grants. The CCAP grants are available to low-income families who work or are in school so that they can afford high-quality child care. Today’s movement out of Appropriations without objection underscores the fact that legislators are demonstrating their understanding of the role that child care plays in economic development.
To sign up for the Partnership’s email updates on all things relating to Louisiana children, click here.
Skimpy health plans could disrupt marketplace
If you’re young and healthy, a cheap, bare-bones health insurance plan might sound appealing. Skimpy, short-term plans would be more widely available under a proposed Trump administration rule for which the comment period closes this week. Health policy experts expect the expansion of short-term plans to create real problems for those who need or want comprehensive health coverage, especially those with pre-existing conditions. Carolyn Y. Johnson with the Washington Post’s Wonkblog reports:
Short-term plans are not required to provide comprehensive coverage of medical needs and can exclude people with preexisting conditions. Some health policy experts say they fear the expansion of these skimpy plans will encourage healthy people to abandon the ACA-compliant markets, which would raise prices for those who remain. Middle-class people who make too much money to qualify for generous federal subsidies that defray the cost of monthly premiums would be hit hardest by those price increases. The Urban Institute projects that 4.3 million people will join short-term plans in 2019 — about half of them by abandoning the ACA-compliant plans, which would see premiums increase 18 percent on average.
In addition to an increase in premiums for comprehensive health plans, another concern among health policy advocates is that consumers might not understand just how skimpy the short-term plans really are:
Health policy specialists said that it’s completely understandable why people might find short-term plans attractive, particularly those who don’t qualify for government subsidies. But they aren’t sure consumers will understand the long list of exclusions that typically come with such plans, ranging from injuries during mountain climbing to maternity care. “These short-term policy brochures read like an obstacle course of exclusions,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
A time for big economic ideas
For families in the middle class and below, income and wealth have been stagnant for a generation. In metro New Orleans, median household income is actually lower today than in 1979, after adjusting for inflation. The New York Times’ David Leonhardt writes that this economic despair is the defining issue of our time, and that the conventional policy ideas offered by politicians in Washington don’t measure up to the challenge.
Most voters don’t share the centrist preferences of Washington’s comfortable pundit class. Most voters want to raise taxes on the rich and corporations. They favor generous Medicare and Social Security, expanded Medicaid, more financial aid for college, a higher minimum wage and a bigger government role in job creation. Remember, Trump won the Republican nomination as a populist. A clear majority of Americans wants the government to respond aggressively to our economic problems. I think they’re right about that, too. Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary, has a nice framing. He says that the late 1960s and the 1970s should have moved a reasonable person to the right on economic policy, in response to rampant inflation, rising crime, sky-high top tax rates and breakdowns in Europe. The last 15 years — with “widening inequality, financial crisis, zero interest rates, rising gaps in life expectancy and opportunity,” as Summers notes — should move that same person to the left. Different eras require different solutions.
More insight on the 10-2 jury rule
The Advocate’s extensive reporting on Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury rule has revealed the racist history and inequitable outcomes of the policy. More people in Louisiana are convicted of felony crimes by a jury because of the lower threshold for a guilty verdict, but as Gordon Russell, John Simerman, and Jeff Adelson report, the split-jury rule discourages many defendants in the state from ever going to trial, because they feel the odds are stacked against them:
The 10-2 rule causes some defendants that might not otherwise plead to consider a plea,” said Ralph Capitelli, a longtime defense lawyer who once served as top deputy to former Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. “As a prosecutor, you have the luxury of saying, even if you have one or two jurors who you believe are problematic, well, you can still get the conviction. It gives you a little bit of margin.” Ed Tarpley, the former Grant Parish district attorney who has become a leading advocate for changing the split-verdict law, says the force exerted by the law is hard to overstate. He describes its effect as hidden but heavy, an “unseen hand” stirring the pot.
Number of the Day:
75 – percentage of TOPS recipients who are white. Only 55 percent of students at Louisiana public colleges and universities are white. (Source: The Century Foundation)