Louisiana legislators make hundreds of votes on dozens of issues each spring when they come to Baton Rouge. Their votes affect the taxes we pay, the educational opportunities our children receive, the quality of the air we breathe and the fairness of our criminal legal system. But how do these votes add up? And how well are our legislators responding to the needs of their constituents? The new How They Vote legislative scorecard, developed by Together Louisiana, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, the Louisiana Budget Project and the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy aims to answer those questions. As Caitie Burkes explains in the Baton Rouge Business Report, the scorecard gives a clear look at which of Louisiana’s legislators are prioritizing corporate interests over the health and wellbeing of ordinary people – and which are standing up for the needs of everyday constituents:
Specifically, the scorecard tracks how lawmakers voted on 60 instruments across seven issue areas: jobs and workplace; fair taxes; crime and criminal justice; clean air, land and water; children and families; corporate welfare; and democratic rights. Overall, legislators scored the lowest on issues involving clean air, land and water and corporate welfare. They scored higher on crime and criminal justice, where they passed bills to increase good time allowances, reduce fees, strengthen police accountability and reduce penalties for marijuana possession.
Summer food aid is essential for Louisiana kids
The summer months can be a precarious time for children from low-income families, as they no longer have access to the nutritious meals they get served at school. But this year, thanks to legislation by Rep. Aimee Freeman, families across the state have easier access to food assistance through the Pandemic-EBT program. LBP’s director of safety net policy, Danny Mintz, in a letter to The Advocate, explains the recent changes to the program:
As P-EBT cards arrive in families’ mailboxes, there are a few things parents should know: Every child will receive an individual card. Some households may receive cards for different children on different days. Cards are sent to the address on file at each child’s school. If your address isn’t up to date, you should call the school to make sure your child’s card is sent to the right place. More benefits will be loaded onto cards throughout the summer, and P-EBT will operate again next year. Hold on to your cards to make sure you can access all the benefits available to your family. If you receive a P-EBT card and don’t want the benefit, you can use it to buy groceries for donation to a food bank or pantry.
Kids Count (cont …)
The annual Kids Count Data Book contained predictably bad news for Louisiana’s children. The Pelican State ranked 48th for child well-being, and has never finished higher than 46th in the three decades since the Annie E. Casey Foundation began publishing the rankings. At the root of Louisiana’s low ranking is the endemic poverty that affects too many families – particularly families of color. An Advocate editorial says the key to reversing this dismal outlook is to start investing in our state’s youngest residents.
We know what to do. We can start by looking at the states with the best rankings. Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Minnesota topped the state results at the first-, second- and third-ranked states. It’s no secret why they’re doing so much better than us. These states invest more in their children, and they’ve done so for many years. … Louisiana child advocates like Libbie Sonnier, executive director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, and Charmaine Caccioppi, executive vice-president for United Way of Southeast Louisiana, are disappointed with our poor ranking. They’re nevertheless excited to see some recent legislative action to address this matter.
The persistent racial pay gap
The median earnings for a Black man in America are 56% of what a white man is paid. And this racial income gap has remained essentially unchanged for the past 40 years, even as differences in educational attainment have narrowed. That has led some economists to conclude that persistent racism best accounts for this disparity. Eduardo Porter of The New York Times has more:
“I’m not in denial that education matters, but I am pushing back on the extent that it matters,” said Darrick Hamilton, a professor of economics at the New School in New York. “The fact is there are a limited number of jobs and we sort them based on power. Race is a deciding factor.” Consider information technology, which offers some of the best-paid jobs in the country. African Americans earn around one in 10 bachelor’s degrees in computer science nationwide. By contrast, they account for only 2.6 of every 100 computer workers in the region around San Francisco, including Silicon Valley. Even with the credentials that many African Americans have in the field, Dr. Spriggs said in an interview, “Silicon Valley says, ‘Yeah, but they are not skilled.’”
Number of the Day
27% – Proportion of Louisiana children who are growing up in poverty, the second-highest rate in the country. (Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation via The Advocate)