Take the lead, Louisiana

Take the lead, Louisiana

The historic expansion of the federal child tax credit included in the new American Rescue Plan could help cut child poverty in half this year, while providing nearly every family with children in America with additional help to afford the costs of raising kids. Unfortunately, this expansion is only temporary, and is due to expire at the end of the year. The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities’ Chuck Marr makes the case for why the national child tax credit should be permanent and distributed monthly. But Louisiana doesn’t have to wait for Washington to take the lead. Our state legislature has the opportunity to create a child tax credit for our own children: the Strong Families Tax Credit proposed in House Bill 659 by state Rep. Matthew Willard. Willard’s bill would provide tax credits of $200-500 per child for low- and middle-income parents. Willard has more in a guest column for The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate

The Louisiana Budget Project estimates that the Strong Families Tax Credit would flow to 473,000 low and middle-income households in Louisiana, benefiting nearly 900,000 children. Though it may cost the state up to $150 million, this refundable credit would provide resources that families could use to pay bills, purchase healthier foods, get their car fixed, and buy uniforms, school supplies and other necessities.

Fixing pretrial detention
Current Louisiana law allows people to be locked in jail for up to 45 days for misdemeanors, 60 days for felonies and 120 days for capital offenses, even before a jury hears their case. Extended jail time can have devastating impacts on people’s lives and cause them to lose their job, home, or custody of their children — upending lives of people who have not been convicted of a crime. House Bill 46 by Rep. Ted James would shorten this pre-trial detention period to five days for misdemeanors and 30 days for more serious charges. While supporters of the bill focused on the impacts jail time has on the lives of those affected, opponents argued the change would pose on the underfunded and understaffed criminal justice system. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Blake Patterson was the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice, which passed the bill this week: 

Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, said it’s fundamentally wrong to keep innocent people in jail simply because the state hasn’t allocated enough money to the criminal justice system. He said that tightening the deadlines will push the Legislature toward having conversations about what an adequate level of funding looks like. “The truth is: the state has the money. We spend it on other things, but we don’t give it to you.” Nelson said. “We can’t keep putting this on the backs of innocent people.”

Expanding voting in the South
When Covid-19 upended our daily routines, state governments instituted many changes — including how people vote — to keep society functioning while slowing the spread of the virus. Those changes to voting practices, combined with a heated national election, resulted in record-high turnout in 2020. Now, states are debating new voting laws, including many that would restrict access to the polls, particularly for voters of color. But while some statehouses are trying to suppress voter turnout, others are pushing back. Benjamin Barber of Facing South reports from Kentucky, where the Republican-led legislature and Democratic governor found common ground in protecting voter rights: 

“When much of the country has put in more restrictive laws, Kentucky legislators, Kentucky leaders were able to come together to stand up for democracy and to expand the opportunity for people to vote,” (Gov. Andy) Beshear said at the signing ceremony. Republican lawmakers endorsed the new law, bucking the trend of GOP-led legislatures working to undermine voting access. Jennifer Decker, a first-term Republican legislator who sponsored the new law, has said that changes made to Kentucky’s elections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic helped build bipartisan support for her proposal.

No degree, no job
Americans without a college degree are struggling to find work while their peers with degrees get back into the workforce. While more jobs have been available for women, those positions tend to be in higher-skilled work, leaving behind many — including many workers of color — who have been held back from educational opportunities by disinvestment in and discrimination against their communities. Many of the jobs available to people without college degrees disappeared with the pandemic, and have left many women without a higher education credential struggling to find their next paycheck. Heather Long with the Washington Post reports

Nearly 4 million adult workers without college degrees have not found work again after losing their jobs in the pandemic. Only 199,000 adult workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher are in the same situation. (About 2.4 million adults over 25 with associate’s degrees had a job in February 2020 and have not returned to work a year later.)…In March, for example, the overall economy added back 916,000 jobs. Only 7,000 went to workers with high school diplomas but no college degree.

Number of the Day
13.5% – Percentage of America’s total household income that went to the richest 1% of households in 2017 – nearly double the 7.4% on income that went to the richest 1% in 1979 (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)