The Legislature at midpoint

The Legislature at midpoint

The Louisiana Legislature reaches the midpoint of its annual session this week, and so far no bills have made it to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk for a signature or veto. And while the push to streamline the collection of sales taxes – a top priority for the business lobby – appears on track to pass, the broader effort to reform Louisiana’s inadequate and unstable tax structure appears to be teetering. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports that the tax overhaul package is stuck in the House in part because of disagreements over other issues.

Getting support from two-thirds of the House membership to pass a tax overhaul has been further complicated by an ongoing dispute over the chairman of the House Education Committee, Republican Rep. Ray Garofalo, of St. Bernard Parish. The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus has called for Garofalo’s removal as chairman because of the Republican lawmaker’s bill to prohibit teaching of “divisive concepts” about racism and sexism. Black lawmakers said the legislation itself is divisive and includes racist elements, and they said they were given the impression the bill wouldn’t even get a hearing because of their concerns. Instead, Garofalo’s committee held an acrimonious five-hour discussion of the measure — and Garofalo has refused to say he’s shelving the bill. Rather, he and some other conservative lawmakers have doubled down on the issue.

The power of Pre-K
In the late 1990s, Boston used a lottery system to distribute new slots in a pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds. Because the chances of winning the lottery were random, it created an opportunity for researchers to study the long-term effects of pre-k programs on developing minds. The results come at an especially opportune time, as President Joe Biden is proposing to invest $20 billion in universal pre-k for 3- and 4-year-olds. The New York Times’ David Leonhardt has the scoop

Let’s start with the negative results: The Boston students who won the lottery did not do noticeably better on standardized tests in elementary school, middle school or high school, according to the three researchers, Guthrie Gray-Lobe, Parag Pathak and Christopher Walters. … But test scores are mostly a means, not an end. More important than the scores are concrete measures of a student’s well-being. And by those measures, the students who won the lottery fared substantially better than those who lost it. The winners were less likely to be suspended in high school and less likely to be sentenced to juvenile incarceration. Nearly 70 percent of lottery winners graduated from high school, compared with 64 percent of lottery losers, which is a substantial difference for two otherwise similar groups.

Medicaid for new moms
More than 60% of births in Louisiana are to mothers who receive free health insurance coverage through Medicaid. But while newborn babies automatically have their medical costs covered for at least their first year, new moms can lose their coverage after 60 days under current law. As The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Emily Woodruff reports, state Rep. Mandie Landry has a bill moving through the House that would extend the postpartum coverage to a full year, which could help reduce Louisiana’s shamefully high rate of maternal deaths. 

Research shows many life-threatening complications that hurt moms and interfere with caring for an infant occur up to a year after birth. House Bill 468 aims to ensure that postpartum women continuously receive coverage. … The bill would keep about 9,800 Louisiana moms on insurance who would otherwise go without, according to Landry, who said that about 15% to 20% of new Louisiana moms on Medicaid drop off after 60 days. 

LBP’s Stacey Roussel wrote about the importance of postpartum coverage in a recent blog.

Closing the door to home care
When Louisiana legislators don’t have the votes to get their bills through the process, a common fallback position is to pass a “study resolution” as a way to save face. Study resolutions typically glide through the Legislature with little notice, and the reports that follow often end up gathering dust. But when the study being proposed conflicts with the wishes of the powerful Louisiana Nursing Home Association, even the most benign ideas can be killed in the cradle. That’s what happened to Sen. Kirk Talbot last week when he asked the Senate Health & Welfare Committee to study the expansion of home- and community-based care for seniors who don’t want to end up in a nursing home. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports:  

Home- and community-based services would help family members by providing home visits from nurses and physical therapists; access to medical equipment; support for hygiene, clothing, eating; guidance on how to turn the bedridden; and other personal needs, such as transportation. Families annually spend about $7,000 of their own money to help their loved ones at home, according to AARP. … Twenty-five states, as of November 2020, offer home-based care on a par with nursing homes. Talbot wants Louisiana to be No. 26. But facing withering opposition, he turned his bill into a resolution asking the Louisiana Department of Health to look into what it would take to adopt such a plan.

Number of the Day
69.6% – High school graduation rate for children in Boston who attended public preschool under a lottery system; the graduation rate for children who applied for pre-k but did not win the lottery was 63.6%. (Source: School Effectiveness & Inequality Initiative)