It’s hard to find a Louisiana legislator who doesn’t claim that investing in our state’s children is a top priority. But year after year, lawmakers prioritize other spending even when the state is relatively flush with resources. Despite billions in federal assistance, legislators failed to adequately fund early care and education, prenatal services, mental health and other services families need. Susan East Nelson, executive director of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families (and an LBP Board member), writes in The Advocate that this was never about the money:
Fast forward to this year. Billions of dollars in recovery money. Hundreds of millions in untapped revenue that we just realized. An incredible opportunity to invest in the mental health of our youngest citizens, create bold new plans for the Family First Prevention Services Act, and shore up the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund to spur local investment in early care and education. And we’ve missed it. … As we enter the final days of this legislative session, it’s time for us to face the truth. It was never about the lack of funds. Louisiana simply does not want to invest in its children and the past-due bills of our negligence will continue to pile up while we pay usurious interest on our shameful outcomes. When will we ever change?
Pregnant workers deserve protection
Louisiana has among the highest maternal mortality rates and infant mortality rates in the nation, with Black and brown women experiencing pregnancy- related death at three times the rate of white women. Current state law fails to require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, such as providing a stool to sit on in occupations where standing for a full shift is the norm. Changing that policy would be an important step toward addressing our state’s epidemic of preventable maternal and infant deaths. LBP’s Stacey Roussel explains how Senate Bill 215 by Senator Regina Barrow, up for final debate in the Louisiana House on Monday, would help pregnant workers stay healthier as they carry their babies to term.
Gaps in current law leave Louisiana workers vulnerable. Louisiana has been a leader in protecting the rights of pregnant workers. Louisiana was ahead of most states when it passed the current pregnancy-related anti-discrimination law in 1997. However, best practices have evolved, and our state has now fallen behind. Current law only provides for job transfers, not accommodations. … Senate Bill 215 requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant and postpartum workers with medical needs – such as a stool to sit on, a water bottle to stay hydrated or temporary relief from heavy lifting – unless it creates an undue hardship for the employer as defined by established law under the ADA.
Recovery legislation must prioritize racial equity
The recovery bills Congress enacted after the Great Recession didn’t account for existing racial inequities, and as a result, they left white communities recovering much faster than communities of color. Now, as the Covid-19 pandemic again sheds light on racial disparities in health coverage, access to health care, quality of jobs, wages and more, lawmakers should not make the same mistake twice. Danilo Triso, Sarah Lueck, Javier Balmaceda and Alicia Mazzara of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities lay out the case for making racial equity an explicit priority of our Covid recovery:
The recovery legislation that policymakers will consider this year marks a historic opportunity to help drive an equitable recovery in which (1) all children can reach their full potential; (2) workers in low-paid jobs or facing weak labor market prospects have the supports they need; and (3) we take large strides toward universal health coverage. Achieving these goals requires dismantling our nation’s long-standing racial disparities, deeply rooted in racism and discrimination, that have driven starkly unequal opportunities and outcomes in education, employment, health, and housing. As a result, the nation now needs to make investments in children, workers, and health care that will enable more people to reach their full potential.
The U.S. is a minimum wage outlier
While raising the federal minimum wage by statute may seem normal to Americans, other nations don’t leave workers at the bottom of the pay scale at the mercy of their legislative bodies. Instead, as Drew DeSilver of the Pew Research Center explains, many nations take proactive measures to ensure their own minimum wages don’t lose ground over time by default.
The U.S. is one of a handful of countries where the legislature has primary responsibility for setting minimum wages. Only 17 countries (about 10% of those with minimum-wage systems) set their rates by statute, which (as U.S. experience demonstrates) can make them more difficult to update. In at least 115 countries, the central government (or an official such as a labor minister) sets minimum wages by regulation, order or decree, typically pursuant to some authorizing law. In about three-quarters of those countries, government action is supposed to come only after input from workers’ and employers’ organizations – ranging from unspecified “consultations” to formal recommendations from structured minimum wage boards or commissions.
Number of the Day
9,800 – Number of moms that lose their Medicaid health insurance coverage after giving birth. House Bill 468 would have extended their coverage for an additional year. The bill died in committee (Source: Nola.com)