Don’t turn your back on the unemployed

Don’t turn your back on the unemployed

Nearly a dozen states have decided to strip $300 per week in federal benefits from people who are unemployed, believing (falsely) that the money is keeping recipients from applying for jobs. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) wants Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards to follow suit. But as The Advocate’s Blake Paterson reports, Edwards has no plans to do so. 

Jan Moller, the executive director of the left-leaning Louisiana Budget Project, said it would be “absolutely horrible policy to take unemployment benefits away from people who have suffered the most during this pandemic.” Moller noted that Louisiana’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism and energy extraction — industries that have been disproportionately hurt by the pandemic and have yet to fully recover. He added that the pandemic still isn’t over and said many people still face issues with finding childcare. “A healthy economy is not measured by an unlimited availability of people willing to work at or near the minimum wage,” Moller said.  

NFIB’s Louisiana Director Dawn Starnes McVea told the Advocate that the issue is likely to come up today in the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. 

The Legislature keeps meddling in school curriculum
The political battles over public school curriculum – which caused a massive rift last month when a bill sought to ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” involving racism and sexism – flared up again Wednesday in the House Education Committee. This time it was House Bill 352 by Rep. Valarie Hodges, pushed by a Texas evangelical with a dubious grasp of U.S. history, which would require Louisiana schools to teach about “American exceptionalism” and “globalism and the United Nations.” Hodges proposed an amendment to her bill that lifted some of the language about racism that was included in an earlier bill by Rep. Ray Garofalo, causing tempers to flare. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports:

Rep. Ken Brass, D-Vacherie and a member of the committee, said the amendment was a bid to revive Garofalo’s bill, which was shelved and considered dead for the session. “This is his bill in disguise,” Brass said of the amendment, a reference to the Garofalo legislation. … State Rep. Tammy Phelps, D-Shreveport, a committee member, said she was so taken aback by the language in the amendment that she had to compose herself. … Phelps also questioned whether the push dealing with racial issues was being imposed on lawmakers without regard to them or their constituents.

Hodges’ amendment failed, but her bill cleared the committee on an 8-5 vote and now moves to the House floor. 

Clearing the air on cannabis 
The Louisiana Legislature took a major step Tuesday toward decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The House approved House Bill 652 on a 68-25 vote, sending the Senate a bill that could end a practice that has led to more than 20,000 arrests each year. Decriminalization would take jail time off the table for those caught with small amounts of cannabis and would be an important step toward legalization and lowering incarceration rates in Louisiana. Sam Karlin of The Advocate reports:

The state Senate has generally been more opposed to loosening pot laws in the past, but opinions in the Legislature appear to be changing around marijuana. While influential law enforcement groups like the Louisiana Sheriffs Association and the Louisiana District Attorneys Association are fighting against (Rep. Richard) Nelson’s bill to legalize the drug, they haven’t taken a stance on (Rep. Cedric) Glover’s bill to decriminalize it.

Kindergarten for all 
Louisiana children would be required to attend kindergarten starting at age 5 under legislation by Sen. Cleo Fields that cleared the Senate by a 34-1 vote on Wednesday. Senate Bill 10 is an important step toward ensuring that Louisiana kids are ready for school in first grade, and supporters framed it as part of ongoing efforts to increase investments in early childhood education. JC Canicosa gives a brief rundown of the bill at the LA Illuminator.

Experts say that about 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed between birth and 5-years-old, Fields said to the committee. He said about 2,800 Louisiana children don’t participate in kindergarten a year. “For every dollar we spend on childhood education, we receive a return of 7 percent,” Fields said. “Investing in early childhood education just makes good business sense.”

Tell your legislators you support Louisiana families!
This legislative session, our state representatives have the opportunity to invest in Louisiana families by strengthening our Earned Income Tax Credit and by creating a new tax credit for low- and middle-income families with young children. These are small investments that will make a big difference for the people of our state. Take action now. Let your representatives know that now is the time to invest in the people of Louisiana!

Number of the Day: 
52,018 – Continuing unemployment claims in Louisiana for the week ending May 1 (Source: Louisiana Workforce Commission)