The Louisiana Legislature will wrap up its pandemic-shortened regular session today, only to spring back into action just 60 seconds later for a month-long special lawmaking session that will focus on budget priorities and initiatives sought by business lobbyists. This marks just the second time that legislators have called themselves into session. Nola.com | The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports that the biggest sticking points on the regular session’s final day are over “tort reform” legislation and the distribution of $811 million in federal relief funds to local governments, part of which GOP leaders want to divert to small business.
Legislators failed to fulfill their main task during the regular session: pass the budget that will allow the state to pay teachers, provide health care to the poor, operate the state jails, operate the public colleges and universities — and fund thousands of other activities — during the next fiscal year that begins on July 1.
The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has a helpful rundown of the bills that passed during the abbreviated session, including bills making it easier to carry concealed weapons into church, easing restrictions on medical marijuana and re-balancing the current-year budget using federal relief funding.
(L)awmakers Sunday night put the finishing touches on a plan to rebalance this year’s budget, closing a shortfall caused by the virus’ hit to tax collections and a steep decline in oil prices. They used federal coronavirus aid to plug holes and to increase spending on certain areas, in a plan worked out with Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Also up for consideration is legislation that would subsidize 6% of payroll costs for anyone rehired in a hotel, restaurant or retail job – without a requirement that the jobs pay above minimum wage. Click here to read LBP’s written testimony on why House Bill 846 is a bad idea that creates the wrong incentives for employers.
The ‘policy violence’ that devalues black lives
The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police is only the latest example of the disproportionate rates at which black Americans are stopped, arrested and convicted in communities across the country. Brookings’ Andre M. Perry and Tawanna Black write that the same racial attitudes that feed police misconduct also serve to exclude black people from full participation in the economy.
The (Minneapolis-St. Paul) region’s Black-white homeownership gap of 46% to 79% is wider even than the national figures of 51% to 75%. This is the troubling result of a decades-long trend which saw Black homeownership across the country return to 1960s levels, before the Fair Housing Act outlawed housing discrimination in 1968. Furthermore, Black homeowners in MSP will not see the same returns on their investments, as homes in Black neighborhoods in the region are devalued by roughly 20%, or over $33,000 per home on average.
Transparency and the pandemic
When a cluster of Covid-19 cases emerged at a fruit company in Oregon, state health officials quickly developed a policy to inform the public about such outbreaks and to name the workplaces where they happen. That’s not the case in Louisiana, as Route Fifty’s Bill Lucia reports:
Oregon isn’t the only place that is disclosing this type of information. For instance, Los Angeles County posts information online about confirmed coronavirus cases at “non-residential” settings, including businesses and educational institutions. On the other hand, in Louisiana, the state this month disclosed that about 100 workers had tested positive for Covid-19 at three crawfish farms, but refused to name the businesses.
How to build a better child-care system
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention to the critical importance of child care in allowing parents to work. As Shantel Meek and Conor P. Williams write for The New York Times, the conversation has focused too much on access to care, while mostly ignoring the critical importance of quality care to ensure children are getting the support they need at a vital stage of brain development. That will require more funding from Congress, and a commitment by states to spend that money in ways that support quality.
The Covid-19 crisis has crystallized the fact that child care programs are essential to our way of life. But any infusion of resources now or in the future must be linked to a focus on supporting children’s mental health, development and learning, raising standards and tightening accountability at both the federal and state levels. Child care shouldn’t mean children roaming around while a babysitter sits idly by. It’s where children’s brains grow. We need to treat it as such.
Number of the Day
28 – Hours per week that children under 5 spend in the care of a non-family member (Source: U.S. Census Bureau via The New York Times)