The Legislature should look like Louisiana

The Legislature should look like Louisiana

Louisiana’s Black population has grown and its white population has shrunk in the decade since the Legislature last redrew the state’s political boundaries. But a new legislative map proposed by Senate President Page Cortez fails to reflect those changes. While 33% of the state’s population is Black, Cortez’s proposed map draws majority-Black districts for only 28% of Senate seats. Blake Paterson reports in The Advocate that state Sen. Ed Price has an alternative plan that would bring the number of majority-Black Senate districts in line with Louisiana’s Black population, setting up a possible legal challenge if the state’s final Senate map fails to reflect Louisiana’s changing demographics.

Under Senate Bill 17, sponsored by Price, the Senate map would be redrawn to include 13 majority-Black districts, boosting Black representation in the upper chamber by two seats and bringing it in line with the state’s racial makeup. The debate over Black political representation that unfolded Wednesday in the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee is the first of many that are expected to place over the next three weeks, as state lawmakers use updated census data to craft new district lines for 105 state representatives, 39 state senators, 11 state school board members, five state utility regulators, and, perhaps, seven state Supreme Court justices.

Bail reform in Baton Rouge
People accused of crimes – but not convicted – in Louisiana’s capital city routinely languished in jail for weeks or months for the simple reason that they could not afford to post bail. A legal settlement announced Wednesday aims to change that, as judges will now consider a defendant’s financial situation when setting bonds. The Advocate’s Jacqueline DeRobertis reports

According to the settlement terms, judges will now consider a detainee’s financial situation when setting bond. And they will explain on the record why the conditions were set. It will apply to all judges in the 19th JDC. … The courts will also be required to obtain financial information to determine if a detainee needs a public defender and grant their attorneys access to the information used to set bond. Those who are not released must have a hearing within 48 hours of their arrest, where a judge or commissioner will ensure they are represented by a lawyer, the settlement says. At that hearing, attorneys can argue whether the conditions for release should change.

Firing the whistleblower
To date, none of the Louisiana State Police officers involved in the death of Ronald Greene on a highway outside of Monroe have lost their jobs. But Trooper Carl Cavalier, who helped bring Greene’s killing and its possible coverup to public attention, was fired on Monday. WBRZ’s Chris Nakamoto has the story: 

Last June, Cavalier sat down with the WBRZ Investigative Unit to talk about what was going on at his place of employment. During the interview, Cavalier brought a portion of Trooper Albert Paxton’s notes which detailed a cover-up tied to the death of Ronald Greene. Greene led troopers on a high-speed chase through the Monroe area before he was stopped. When he exited his vehicle, he was alive and apologizing. That’s when body camera videos, which leaked two years after his death, show he was brutally beaten. Cavalier was fired Monday. State Police cited the WBRZ interview, his lack of “loyalty” to the department, making public statements and dissemination of information.

Spend broadband dollars wisely
The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will send states more than $42 billion to build out broadband infrastructure in underserved areas. This is a big deal for Louisiana, where the vast majority of residents in more than half of all parishes have no access to high-speed internet at home. But as Greg Weiner and Ryan Oakes argue in Route-Fifty, it matters how we spend that money, and state grant administrators may need to beef up their expertise to make good use of this funding:

Although many states are adept at grant administration, IIJA-funded broadband infrastructure program execution requires deep capabilities beyond what most states have in areas such as telecom network architecture, broadband technologies (e.g., fiber to the home, fixed wireless access, satellite), mapping, data analytics and network economics. Traditional state grant management programs will fall well short of meeting the program goals if they’re not appropriately augmented with such capabilities.

Number of the Day
28% – The percentage of majority-Black Louisiana Senate districts in the map proposed by Senate President Page Cortez in Senate Bill 1. Thirty-three percent of Louisiana residents are Black (Source: The Advocate)