The do-nothing special session

The do-nothing special session

Louisiana legislators called themselves into a special session last month with the aim of curbing Gov. John Bel Edwards’ coronavirus restrictions. They adjourned on Friday, four days ahead of schedule, having sent one such bill to the governor’s desk that is almost certain to be vetoed. Not wanting to go home empty-handed, 65 House members signed a petition that lifts Edwards’ emergency order for a week. The AP’s Melinda Delatte sums things up: 

It took legislators nearly four weeks in a session that cost taxpayers an estimated $1 million to end up right where they started — focused on a petition that a group of conservative House GOP lawmakers had been circulating for months.

Nola.com | The Advocate’s Sam Karlin reports that the partisan power struggle that sparked the special session is now likely headed to court. 

A day after Louisiana Republican lawmakers sent the governor a petition to cancel all virus restrictions – from the mask mandate to rules requiring social distancing at bars and restaurants – the governor showed no indication he would play along and end his emergency proclamation. … Edwards hasn’t spoken since receiving the petition about whether he intends to go to court to defend his restrictions or simply ignore the petition. His spokeswoman declined to comment Saturday.

Other high(low)lights of the session include: 

  • A spending bill that steers $85 million to the bankrupt unemployment trust fund, $30 million to providers of home- and community-based services and more than $20 million to legislators’ pet projects. 
  • Suspensions of state laws that would have aimed to shore up the unemployment trust fund by increasing employers’ contributions to the fund and cutting benefits to unemployed workers. 

One notable bright spot: House Bill 96 by Rep. Aimee Freeman of New Orleans, which passed in the final moments before adjournment. This data-sharing bill allows the Department of Children and Family Services to get the information they need to issue federal food benefits directly to eligible children without the need for an application. It puts Louisiana in line with every other state in the country. 

 

Amendment 5 is a boondoggle
Louisiana has long been the national leader in exempting manufacturing corporations from their property taxes. As a result, local communities often struggle to afford basic services, even as petrochemical plants generate massive profits for out-of-state investors. Constitutional Amendment 5 on the Nov. 3 ballot would make this problem worse, by giving companies the right to negotiate even bigger tax breaks at the local level. Nola.com | The Advocate’s Andrea Gallo reports

Like seasoned partyers who turn to hair of the dog to cure a hangover, Louisiana legislators are asking voters this fall whether the solution to revenue shortages caused by major corporate giveaways is yet another tax break. … “This is one of those issues that, it’s so in the weeds, most people don’t realize how profoundly it could impact them,” said Brian Eddington, the general counsel for the Louisiana Assessors’ Association, which strongly opposes the proposal.

 

50,000 kids lack health insurance
More than 11,000 Louisiana children lost health care coverage in 2019 – echoing a national trend that saw health coverage erode in a pre-pandemic time when the economy was strong and the unemployment rate was near a record low. Health reporter Emily Woodruff of Nola.com | The Baton Rouge Advocate looks at LBP’s analysis of the latest U.S. Census data and searches for answers: 

Providers searching for a rationale for the decline in insured patients point to complicated paperwork and threats to the Affordable Care Act as possible issues. … “Even in some of my patients who have Medicaid, to have to renew is a huge process,” said Dr. Kimberly Mukerjee, Tulane pediatrician and medical director of the New Orleans Children’s Health Project, a clinic that provides care to children without access to insurance, many of whom come from immigrant families. “We’re seeing this cumulative effect of all these different policies playing a role, and children are taking the brunt.”

 

Our cratering economy
The Covid-19 pandemic is about to enter its ninth month, and tens of millions of Americans remain unemployed. Congress’ failure to pass much-needed relief legislation means many households that were comfortably middle class very recently have now exhausted their savings and are wondering what comes next. Buzzfeed’s Venessa Wong reports:

Working people who cautiously adhered to advice to save enough to cover three to six months of living expenses, a so-called emergency fund, are being decimated by a crisis that is dragging on far longer than that. Some have lost their homes. They face the unsettling reality that no matter how hard they try, their ability to make it out of this is mostly out of their hands. There’s a belief that people can achieve financial security if they just work hard enough, that being poor is a kind of moral failing. But the crisis has shown that this is a myth. People are realizing now what those in precarious situations have long known: that so much of it is out of your control. 

 

Programming Note:
Join us on Thursday for the launch of A Portrait of Louisiana 2020, the latest human development report by Measure of America, a program of the Social Science Research Council, presented in partnership with the Louisiana Budget Project and the LSU Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs! A presentation of the report’s key findings by Measure of America’s Director Kristen Lewis will be followed by a panel discussion on the report’s implications for the state’s road to recovery, moderated by Jan Moller, Executive Director, Louisiana Budget Project. Register here

 

Number of the Day
58.6 million – Number of votes cast in advance of the Nov. 3 elections, either by mail or at early-voting sites. That eclipses the 58 million people who voted early in 2016, with eight days remaining before Election Day. (Source: Associated Press)