With the federal government gridlocked, states across the country have adopted paid family leave policies to ensure that workers – particularly ones with low incomes – are able to take time off from work after a child is born or to care for an ailing relative. Research shows such policies strengthen families, improve health outcomes and support businesses by making workers more productive. In a new policy brief, LBP Intern & DukeEngage Fellow Jessica Marlow explains that it’s time for Louisiana to follow suit:
Workers in Louisiana have especially low access to paid family leave. A statewide survey found that only 35 percent of new moms in Louisiana were able to take any length of paid leave (including paid sick, vacation, or family leave) following childbirth, compared to the national average of 55 percent. That’s because Louisiana doesn’t have a statewide paid family leave policy and is home to a disproportionate share of low-wage workers. Louisiana has the highest percentage of workers earning the minimum wage in the nation, and the median weekly wage is 9 percent below the national average.
The conversation surrounding statewide paid family leave typically focuses on maternal and child health, as it allows women to have time to recover and bond with their infants post-partum. But there are numerous other benefits:
A state paid family leave policy in Louisiana would not only improve the health and economic security of workers and their families, it would also make businesses and workers more productive. Statewide paid family leave policies create certainty for employers and employees, and take the burden of providing paid leave off employers. An evaluation of the effect of the state’s paid family leave policy on businesses in California revealed that 90 percent of employers said the policy had a “positive” or “no noticeable effect” on productivity, performance, and profitability in their organizations. Small business owners in California reported the highest level of support for the state paid family leave policy of all businesses surveyed.
ALEC comes to NOLA
The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is holding its annual meeting this week, and Gov. John Bel Edwards is one of the keynote speakers along with several members of President Donald Trump’s administration. The group brings together deep-pocket corporate donors, right-wing think tanks and state legislators from around the country, often resulting in “model” business-friendly legislation in statehouses. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Tim Morris is pleased with the arrangement:
I don’t endorse every position, but the ideas are worth engaging. And while critics point to the access and influence of corporations, the proposed legislation still has to be passed by the state legislatures and signed into law by the state governors. Whatever the methods of creating the model bills, the legislation still goes through the regular democratic process. The proof is in the results. There are plenty of people who prefer limited government, free markets and living life as they choose.
Actor Lorraine LeBlanc, writing in The Advocate, is not so sanguine:
Lawmakers will convene in task forces where corporate reps and legislators have equal voting privileges on “model laws.” They will draft legislation on issues ranging from incarceration, environment and voting rights to education, free speech, health, trade and everything else affecting Americans. Legislators return to their home states to push through legislation designed by corporations for their own benefit. … State legislators dump these “model laws” on their home states, whether or not the laws reflect the majority will of the local electorate. In return, lawmakers look to ALEC’s corporate membership for campaign support in addition to lavish annual gatherings and other junkets, paid for by ALEC’s “scholarship fund.” ALEC‘s corrosive impact on American democracy should be offensive to all citizens, no matter what your political party or ideology.
Housing supply and demand
Lack-of housing is often cited as the primary contributor to sky-high rent in large cities, but a new report from the Federal Reserve suggests that building more homes may not be the end-all solution. Erik Sherman, a contributor at Forbes, discusses the report further:
There are products where changing the price doesn’t necessarily result in big shifts of demand. Look at the Apple iPhone X: $1,000 for the device and tens of millions purchased it. The Fed report suggests that housing will be much the same: “The implication of this finding is that even if a city were able to ease some supply constraints to achieve a marginal increase in its housing stock, the city will not experience a meaningful reduction in rental burdens.” … The Federal Reserve study suggested alternative approaches to housing affordability be explored, such as improving the actual quality of low-income neighborhoods that are further from the city center through access to public transit and other amenities. But there are concerns that higher-income individuals would begin gentrifying these affordable neighborhoods as they become more attractive, leaving guaranteed reserved and mixed-income housing as the last solution.
What’s in a ranking?
There are few things that elected officials love more than citing statistics or rankings that show their state in a good light. And as the Baton Rouge Business Report’s Stephanie Riegel reports, Louisiana has had some things to brag about recently: a growing economy, new manufacturing investments and continued praise for Louisiana Economic Development’s FastStart worker training program. But Riegel notes that the Pelican State continues to fare poorly on a range of quality-of-life measures.
“You shouldn’t read too much into it,” [LSU economist Jim] Richardson told me. “One quarter doesn’t tell you very much at all. …What you really want to see is sustainability. It’s encouraging to be going up rather than going down but we should be cautious until we see long term trends.” Unfortunately, where we see long term and consistent trends are in such rankings as our poverty rate, 49th; population health, 49th; level of educational attainment, 47th; and infrastructure, 44th. And let us not forget that U.S. News and World Report, for what it’s worth, ranked us dead last earlier this year as the worst state in the country. So while we’re celebrating certain economic development and economic wins—however legitimate they may be—let’s remember that we’re a long way from topping the lists that count the most.
Number of the Day
$250,000 – Total fines assessed by the Louisiana Department of Health to the five private insurers that oversee care for most of the state’s Medicaid enrollees. The companies were cited for sloppy record-keeping. (Source: The Associated Press)