A long-overdue apology

A long-overdue apology

Calvin Johnson rose to the heights of the legal profession as a law professor at Loyola University College of Law and a criminal judge in New Orleans. But in 1963 he was a 16-year-old civil rights activist marching with other Black teens to desegregate Iberville Parish schools when he was met with hostile opposition from the local white community and eventually convicted on charges of inciting a riot. Nearly 60 years later, Johnson received what he has been seeking for years: a formal apology from the state of Louisiana. Gov. John Bel Edwards issued it last week, after prodding from Loyola Law School Dean Madeleine Landrieu, the Advocate writes in an editorial:  

As a judge, (Johnson) said he always remembered what it was like to sit, frightened, at the defense table. “It had a profound impact on me,” he said. “I was a child, and so that is a traumatic experience, and so the trauma of that lives with you.” Now 75, Johnson has earned widespread admiration for his work and his lifelong commitment. And as of this month, he’s also earned a well-deserved apology on behalf of the State of Louisiana for that long ago arrest. … “I want an apology,” Johnson wrote in 2008. “I want someone who was present that day in Plaquemine and someone who was present at all of those violent incidents that proliferated in our state from the greater Ark-La-Tex area to the marshes of Plaquemines Parish to tell me and those similarly situated that they are sorry. It is the right thing to do.”

Tax giveaway reforms have worked
When Gov. John Bel Edwards leaves office in early 2024, his successor will have the authority to reverse, with the stroke of a pen, an historic set of reforms that gave local governments control of property taxes paid by manufacturing corporations. Earlier this month the state Senate rejected a proposed constitutional amendment – Senate Bill 151 – that would have preserved local control over the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, so parish officials and school boards could decide for themselves whether local needs should take priority over corporate profits. Ron Perritt expressed his disappointments with the vote in a letter to The Advocate

Prior to his reforms, local property tax revenue was routinely given away by an unelected state board to big businesses without any local input. Literally billions of dollars that could have improved education, infrastructure and community services were given away without any opportunity for local input. To me, this is a convoluted form of taxation without representation since to make up for the losses, local communities had to raise other taxes. Louisiana is the only state in the country that does this.

Lawmakers will have one more chance to codify Edwards’ 2016 reforms, which were made via executive order, when they meet for next year’s fiscal session. 

Flexibility in school meal delivery
School meal programs play a critical role in making sure children get enough food to eat during the school year and in the summers – and proved especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic as family routines were shattered and educators were forced to improvise. A new report by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) found that waivers issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the national school lunch program, helped reduce child hunger during the pandemic by giving local school districts more flexibility in how they distribute lunch and breakfast to families in need.

Even with most students returning to the classroom for the 2021-2022 school year, schools continued to face a variety of challenges, including supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, low participation in school meal programs, serving meals safely, and rising food prices. These waivers have been critical this school year and are needed through the 2022-2023 school year to support school nutrition as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic. School nutrition staff have served as frontline workers during the pandemic, supporting students access to healthy meals and playing a critical role in combating childhood hunger. They developed creative strategies for dealing with supply chain issues and new serving models to accommodate remote learning and social distancing.

With those waivers set to expire as the challenges of supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and the ongoing pandemic continue, it’s up to Congress to provide authority for those waivers to continue. WIthout the waivers, school nutritionists face significant challenges feeding kids in America’s schools.

Cornering the market on EV charging
Electric vehicles are taking over the automotive industry, and a race is on to see who gets to profit in Louisiana from keeping them charged up. The Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports that regulated public utilities are the only ones currently allowed to sell electricity to consumers in Louisiana, and that Energy Corp. has teamed up with other major utilities in an attempt to corner the market on charging stations. But Senate Bill 460 by Sen. Rick Ward is an attempt to democratize the process by setting up a regulatory framework for charging stations that would allow others to compete: 

If Louisiana does not amend its definition of a public utility, vehicle charging stations will become a product utility companies Entergy and Cleco. Public utilities often finance capital construction costs by tacking fees onto their customers’ bills. Thus, all Entergy and Cleco customers could end up paying for the construction of the charging stations whether they drive an electric vehicle or not. … Ward’s bill seeks to open up investment opportunities to other companies by “urging” the Public Service Commission to exclude vehicle charging stations from the definition of a public utility. Doing so would allow small companies, like those that own convenience stores and gas stations, to enter the vehicle charging market and make a profit off of charging stations. 

Number of the Day
88% – Percentage of 63 large school districts surveyed by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) that reported rising food prices as a challenge in providing school meals to all students (Source: FRAC)