One year in and a long way to go

One year in and a long way to go

The first year of Joe Biden’s presidency has seen mixed results. A Covid-19 stimulus package brought relief to millions of working families, and Congress – in a rare show of bipartisanship – made a massive downpayment on rebuilding America’s ailing infrastructure. But other parts of Biden’s domestic agenda have stalled amid unified opposition from Republicans and from Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. The Center for American Progress outlines why the president’s economic success is not nearly enough and where we should go from here:

The underlying structural problems that preceded the pandemic remain largely unaddressed. The United States still has historical levels of inequality, and major racial and gender disparities in income, opportunity, and wealth. Forging an era of shared prosperity where no one is left behind—including women, people of color, and people with disabilities—will require much more than simply restoring the pre-pandemic status quo. Rather, it will require shifting away from failed economic policies that favor those at the top and instead moving toward bold new investments in an economy that works for all.

Biden defended his record in a wide-ranging news conference, where he said that his Build Back Better agenda might be broken into smaller pieces that could garner enough support in the Senate to pass. Michael Shear of the New York Times:

He said he was confident that provisions on energy and the environment would get enough support to pass. Mr. Biden specifically noted that there was too much opposition among Democrats and Republicans to two of his key agenda items, which were central to the pledges he made on the campaign trail in 2020: an extension of the child tax credit and free community college for all Americans.

The unhoused are out in the cold
Cold weather is blowing into Louisiana today and is expected to last through the weekend. While forecasters don’t expect conditions to be as deadly as last year’s storm that killed five and knocked out power for tens of thousands, a lack of resources for unhoused citizens is a cause for concern in certain parts of the state as temperatures are expected to drop below freezing. Ellyn Couvillion of the Advocate reports on the challenges facing homeless service providers and the people they serve across Louisiana:

While resources for unhoused people are plentiful in Baton Rouge, homeless services providers in more suburban and rural parts of the surrounding area face a different kind of challenge. Amanda Stapleton, executive director of the Northlake Homeless Coalition that serves the Florida Parishes, said urban centers can quickly mobilize help during icy weather. But the region her organization serves lacks public transportation, and the few shelters available are already strained from Hurricane Ida. “We don’t have the capacity,” she said. “We rely very heavily on our churches and community members to place people in hotels, which is extremely expensive.”

A reignited cannabis debate
Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers Jr. is considered a longshot in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy this fall. But this week he drew national attention with a campaign ad that features him smoking marijuana. What some may see as a gimmick to gain attention also served to highlight the deep, longstanding racial disparities that underly cannabis prohibition. Tyler Bridges of the Advocate reports:

[In the ad], Chambers puffs on a rolled blunt of marijuana while in a voice-over he decries the impact of anti-drug laws and calls for the decriminalization of those who possess small amounts of pot. “Since 2010, state and local police have arrested an estimated 7.3 million Americans for violating marijuana laws, over half of all drug arrests,” Chambers, a Democrat, said in the online ad. “Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana laws than white people. States waste $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year.”

Louisiana has legalized medical cannabis and decriminalized low-level possession. However, a full recreational cannabis legalization bill failed to gain enough support in last year’s legislative session. 

Spotlight on redistricting
The Legislature will convene Feb. 1 for a three-week session aimed at redrawing district boundaries for the U.S. House, state legislature, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and other offices. While much of the focus will be on Congress – where civil rights leaders are demanding a second majority-minority district – Black Louisianans also are underrepresented in the state House and Senate. The ACLU of Louisiana, in a letter co-signed by LBP, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, the Urban League of Louisiana and other organizations, asks the Legislature to increase minority representation. 

It is critical that the State Legislature uses this session to remedy longstanding dilution of Black voting strength in Louisiana’s State Legislature. Failure to do so would likely further entrench and exacerbate vote dilution over the next 10 years given the State’s steadily growing Black population. … As noted, Black individuals are currently underrepresented in the Louisiana State Legislature. Currently just 37 out of the 144 (25.69%) members of the Louisiana Legislature are Black and there are no other members of color. According to the 2020 census data, Black people make-up 33.1% of the total population in Louisiana. 

Number of the Day:
$2.7 billion – Amount of money Louisiana will be receiving for levee, flood control and other infrastructure projects thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Hurricane Ida Disaster Supplemental Appropriations bill (Source: