A veto session cometh

A veto session cometh

The Legislature will interrupt its regular business and gather for a special session this week in an attempt to overturn Gov. John Bel Edwards’ rejection of a new state congressional map. It comes after Edwards vetoed the map drawn by the Legislature, which failed to add a second majority-minority district in a state where one-third of residents are Black. It’s the second time in a year (and ever) that lawmakers have met for an override session, and it’s a session that comes with questions about its constitutionality. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports

Never before has the day of the veto session, which is dictated by the state Constitution and state law, fallen during another gathering of the Legislature. There is no legal framework to guide lawmakers. So, leadership would recess the current session, convene a short veto override session, which after the vote would adjourn, then the current regular session would reconvene. “I don’t think we have the authorization to do it. There is no procedure in the law,” said state Sen. Jay Luneau, a Democrat who also is a lawyer in Alexandria. 

Gannett’s Greg Hilburn reports that the fate of the override will be sealed in the House, where Republicans are two members shy of the 70 votes needed for a veto-proof supermajority.  

Three Republicans, among them GOP House Caucus Chair Blake Miguez of Erath, voted against the map during the Special Session, not because they wanted a second majority-Black district but because they were unhappy with splitting some parishes. Despite both being Republicans, (House Speaker Clay) Schexnayder and Miguez have a fractious relationship. 

Biden unveils budget plan
President Joe Biden unveiled a nearly $6 trillion budget plan on Monday that aims to reduce the deficit, support children and families and strengthen the economy. The plan includes a new “Billionaire Minimum Income Tax” that would levy a 20% minimum tax on the income of people with more than $100 million in wealth. Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, explains how the president’s budget plan would help our nation be consistent with its values. 

The U.S. has long underinvested in our families and children; the President’s call to reverse that trend is both good economics and consistent with our nation’s values. The policies presented in the budget would help households with the costs that stretch their budgets and would provide more children with the supports and education they need to thrive. It would pay for these policies and reduce the deficit by requiring well-off households and profitable corporations to pay a fairer amount of taxes, putting forward creative solutions to the long-standing problem that many of the wealthiest households who have gained the most from the nation’s economy pay very little taxes, and sometimes none at all.

Burdensome occupational licensing rules 
Louisiana has some of the strictest occupational licensing rules in the country.  This is a problem for a poor state, as restrictive occupational licensing is a significant barrier for many low-income entrepreneurs. The Advocate’s Sam Karlin reports on a renewed bipartisan effort to make occupational licensing less burdensome. 

Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, is sponsoring a bill this year that would overhaul how the Occupational Licensing Review Commission, which is chaired by Edwards’ administration, looks at licensing. The law would add legislators to the panel; make it easier for people to challenge occupational rules; and require occupational boards to justify their licenses and regulations, among other reforms. Freeman said Louisiana’s licensing system makes it hard for would-be small business owners to chase their dreams. “There’s just a lot of confusion about why you need to have these commissions,” she said. “In my heart of hearts, I want people to be successful in business and have the tools to be successful. When you have these commissions that don’t make any sense over-policing our entrepreneurs, you’re just holding back the growth of the economy, in my opinion.”

Bipartisan effort to close health gaps 
The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated persistent health gaps for people of color and drew new attention to public health inequities. In response, Sens. Bill Cassidy and Brian Schatz sponsored legislation, which drew bipartisan support, to give research institutions more resources to study and close these gaps. An Advocate editorial explains the importance of the John Lewis National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Endowment Revitalization Act.

The new law, named for the late U.S. Rep. and civil rights icon, makes sure that NIMHD’s Research Endowment Program funds health disparity research at institutions across the country, including Dillard University and Xavier University’s College of Pharmacy in New Orleans. The program will help these and other institutions that have had difficulty getting federal funding in recent years to enhance infrastructure, increase workforce diversity and recruit and retain people who have traditionally been underrepresented in health and science professions. That’ll be good for the health of our citizens, particularly in states like Louisiana with sizable Black populations and other populations of color. And with all that’s ailing Washington these days, the bipartisan effort isn’t bad for the health of our democracy. 

Number of the Day
22 – Number of U.S. metropolitan areas where women under 30 earn as much as or more than their male counterparts. The gender pay gap is narrowing, but women are still penalized later in life for common life events such as becoming a mother. (Source: Washington Post via Pew Research Center)