No drinking water for too many Louisianans

No drinking water for too many Louisianans

A week after a historic ice storm pummeled the state, about 1 in 4 Louisianans remain without drinking water. Power outages, increased water use from dripping faucets and burst pipes from frigid temperatures caused boil water advisories for 1.1 million people as of Monday. The Advocate’s Sam Karlin reports on the dire situation of many across the state, including those in Lake Charles who are still recovering from the impact of two hurricanes. 

More than 100 people — including city employees, outside contractors and even postal service workers — scoured the city in the wake of the winter weather to look for leaks at private properties, said Katie Harrington, a spokesperson for Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter. That effort revealed more than 2,000 leaks, she said. That’s about the same number of leaks the city’s crews had to address in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that tore the city apart in August. “This recent severe winter weather in many ways was as impactful to the city as a major hurricane,” Hunter said in a Facebook video Sunday.

Farther north, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins expressed his frustration that his city and the state of Louisiana as a whole were being overshadowed by our neighbors to the west. 

“Louisiana has been treated like the stepchild of the nation during this disaster, and Shreveport has been treated like the stepchild of Louisiana,” Perkins said. “It’s frustrating.” … “Texas desperately needs the help, but so do we,” Perkins said. The good news, Perkins said, “is local residents have stepped up here to help their neighbors. Our citizens are an inspiration for me to do everything I can to secure help to maximize their individual efforts,” he said.

Dismantling protections for bad police officers
On Tuesday, a state House subcommittee will review a recommendation from a legislature’s Police Training, Screening and De-escalation Task Force to end a policy that shields officers from lawsuits when they commit misconduct, violate someone’s rights or break the law. Advocates for social justice say that ‘qualified immunity’ protects bad officers from accountability. If adopted, police officers in Louisiana could be held accountable for their actions under civil law. The Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports

[Bill] Quigley said the recommendation, if adopted by legislators and signed into law, could be a game changer by ensuring that no one — not even police officers — are above the law, he said. “This is a movement that is going on across the country,” Quigley said in a phone interview Monday. “The way it stands right now is police have ‘super protection’ under the law. They have more than any bus driver, airplane pilot, teacher, doctor, or anyone else. The result is there is very rarely any accountability for law enforcement in civil courts.”

Racial disparities persist in vaccine distribution 
Black Louisianans are being vaccinated for Covid-19 at a much slower rate than other groups in the state, despite dying at relatively higher rates, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The numbers show that the Pelican State has one of the largest gaps in percentage-point difference between the share of Covid-19 deaths that are Black people (39%) and the share of vaccinations that have gone to Black people (21%). Dr. Algernon Austin explains how this data offers the latest example of the need for racial equity in vaccine distribution: 

Black people’s share of COVID-19 deaths in a state provides an indication of how much at risk the black population is. However, in most states for which we have data, black people make up a smaller share of the vaccinations distributed in the state than their share of the state population that has died from COVID-19. In nearly all states, the reverse is true for the white population — their vaccination share exceeds their share of deaths.

Getting to yes on minimum wage increase
Democrats face two main hurdles in their quest to include a $15 minimum wage increase in the next round of Covid relief. One is the ‘Byrd rule,’ a parliamentary rule that restricts what can be included in a budget reconciliation bill. The other is opposition from senators of their own party who feel the increase is too high. While some Democratic lawmakers have proposed decreasing the hike to $11 an hour to solve both problems, others are getting more creative. Politico’s Caitlin Emma and Aaron Lorenzo explain

But to ensure that the $15 wage hike officially checks off all the right boxes, progressives have another idea. They’re pushing the possibility of a small business tax relief plan that could be paired with the minimum wage increase in order to alleviate any burdens on businesses required to increase their pay, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide. Separately, Democrats are exploring other options from the Senate Finance Committee that could include closing “some loopholes that benefit the rich or large corporations,” the Democratic aide said. Democrats “could certainly repeal” some tax provisions, including one added to last year’s pandemic relief measure, “that benefit wealthy real estate owners,” the aide added. 

Number of the Day
18 – Percentage-point difference between the share of deaths from Covid-19 and the share of vaccinations for Black Louisianans. Louisiana is tied with Mississippi for the second-largest gap among the 34 states with Covid-19 vaccination data by race. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation