The ‘carcass’ session

The ‘carcass’ session

The Legislature still has four days of work left before it adjourns, but the verdict from those who’ve watched it up close is already in: This two-month lawmaking session will be remembered more for the ideas that died than for those that made it into law. Minimum wage, paid leave, insurance “reform,” sports betting, the Equal Rights Amendment, even a bid to make “Jambalaya on the Bayou” Louisiana’s official state song all foundered at the Capitol this year. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte surveys the wreckage, including several bills designed to unwind last year’s tax compromise.  

They ran into a roadblock of opposition in the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, the tax review panel. The committee shelved House GOP leader Lance Harris’ proposal for an early phaseout of the sales tax that formed the compromise’s centerpiece. Republican Rep. John Stefanski, of Crowley, pulled from consideration his legislation aimed at undoing cuts to a hefty tax break for businesses’ utility costs, knowing the bill faced certain defeat with the committee.

But as the Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports, some bills are never really dead until Sine Die, as lawmakers can try tacking them on to other legislation in the session’s final hours. The Speaker of the House has the final word on what bills can be resurrected and which stay in their graves.

The rules governing whether something is germane are found in Section 402 of the 700-plus-page Mason’s Rules of Legislative Procedure. Basically, the speaker must determine if an amendment is “relevant, appropriate, and in natural and logical sequence to the subject matter of the original proposal.” For example, a bill renaming a community college can’t be repurposed at the last minute to raise tuition at higher education institutions.


Big win for teachers and schools
A simmering dispute over teacher pay may finally have been resolved on Sunday when a pivotal House committee agreed unanimously to adopt a financing formula recommended by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The deal, which still awaits full House approval, gives public school teachers a $1,000 per year pay raise, with $500 for school support workers, and steers an additional $39 million to school districts to offset the rising cost of health insurance and other expenses. The Advocate’s Will Sentell:

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, one of the House leaders who has been skeptical of the governor’s plan, said Sunday doing so means the state could start its budget process for the Fiscal Year 2021 next year having to come up with between $23 million and $47 million in replacement revenue. “We all need to know this as we move forward,” Henry told the committee. “It is significant for members … to understand that we could start up next year a little bit in the hole, somewhere between $23 million and $47 million,” he said. … The issue has sparked a session-long split, with Edwards, the state Senate and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on one side and House leaders on the other. The governor has repeatedly said that, if House members have a chance, they would overwhelmingly support his bid to boost teacher pay by $1,000 and state aid for public schools by $39 million.


Medicaid expansion promotes work
From The New York Times’ Upshot blog comes some good news: Since 2015, single mothers in the United States have started entering the workforce at higher rates than before, with overall labor force participation up four percentage points, an uptick led by women without college degrees. As Claire Cain Miller and Ernie Tedeschi report, there is no single factor that is driving the change.

Instead, they seem to be responding to a patchwork of policies, both carrots and sticks. At the federal level, the safety net has become less reliable, so working for pay is increasingly their only option. But at the local one, new policies like paid leave and minimum wage increases have made it more feasible for single mothers to work. Together, these appear to have primed them to take advantage of the biggest driver of all: a highly competitive labor market.

Dylan Scott, writing for Vox, notes that the employment gains are bigger in states that elected to expand Medicaid compared to those that did not.

(I)t could very well be that Medicaid expansion has helped young mothers get and hold onto employment. There would be two likely reasons, Tedeschi said: Mothers can make more money while still keeping their Medicaid benefits (whereas a lower Medicaid eligibility might discourage them from working in order to maintain coverage) and they can afford to take a job with no or subpar health insurance because Medicaid is covering them.

Critics of the Medicaid expansion have claimed that providing basic health security might discourage people from working, and have touted work requirements as a solution. But it turns out that the opposite may be true, and that people are more likely to enter the workforce when they have health coverage.


A dead end for asylum-seekers
Political dissidents, people fleeing gang violence and other people seeking asylum in the United States are finding it increasingly difficult to gain parole while they await a formal hearing. As a result, thousands of migrants who come to the U.S. seeking shelter, as federal law allows, wind up imprisoned as they wait for their case to be heard. Nowhere is that more true than in Louisiana, where the New Orleans field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has become notorious for its harsh policies and where rural, for-profit prisons are rapidly filling up with immigrant detainees. Now, the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed suit to challenge those policies in court, as the Los Angeles Times’ Jenny Jarvie reports:

In addition to violating formal Department of Homeland Security guidelines, denying parole in the vast majority of asylum cases also violates the Immigration and Nationality Act and the due process clause of the 5th Amendment to the Constitution, lawyers for the SPLC argue.Under the Trump administration, the rate of parole granted to asylum seekers has dropped nationwide. But according to the complaint, asylum seekers face the most daunting odds of release in ICE’s New Orleans field district: The number of asylum seekers granted parole in the district plummeted from 75% in 2016 to 1.5% in 2018. Without parole, immigrants seeking asylum are forced to fight their legal cases from out-of-the-way jails, often without an attorney, translator or access to legal resources that can help them adequately prepare for their asylum hearing.


Number of the Day
144 – Number of asylum claims heard by Agnelis Reese, a Louisiana immigration judge, between 2013 and 2018. All were denied. Over the same period, immigrant judges around the country had a 57.6% denial rate on asylum claims. (Source: Los Angeles Times)