The home stretch

The home stretch

The Louisiana Legislature enters the final few days before its June 6 adjournment with most of its major business already finished: The package of bills that make up the state budget are on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk, where the only questions are whether the governor will use his line-item veto authority and – if so – the Legislature will muster enough votes for an override. The Associated Press has a helpful rundown of what remains unresolved, including hot-button debates over abortion, vaccine requirements and guns: 

A House-passe bill doing away with the need for a permit to carry a concealed weapon awaits action in the Senate – as the national gun debate has been renewed after the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that killed 19 children. Edwards vetoed similar legislation last year after it passed despite opposition from many in law enforcement. It’s one of several bills filed by gun-control opponents awaiting action in the final days. 

Struggling to diversify in Caddo Parish
Local officials in the Shreveport area recently paid $300,000 to study the challenges faced by women- and minority-owned businesses when seeking government contracts. The results were disappointing, if not surprising: In the city of Shreveport, the parish of Caddo and the Port of Caddo-Bossier, government contracts and subcontracts continue to be awarded disproportionately to white-owned companies. The Shreveport Times’ Kendrick Dante reports that just 14.4% of $274 million in contracts went to minority and women-owned companies between 2016 and 2020 in a city that is 57% Black:

(Office of Fair Share Director Leon) Wheeler said the City’s current contract process is guided by an understanding of state law that says setting specific diversity benchmarks and goals for race and gender is discriminatory and therefore illegal. He said the city was hoping the Keen study would provide insight into loopholes that will help the city be more intentional about giving contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses. “Right now we’re running a race-neutral program and we wanted to know if there’s anything out there to turn this into a race-conscious program,” Wheeler said. 

Energy burdened in South Louisiana
As the summer heat bears down on South Louisiana, staying cool becomes a public health necessity – and a costly burden for people who struggle to make ends meet. An estimated 150,000 people in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge regions live in areas with a “high energy burden,” meaning more than 6% of their annual income goes to pay their energy bills. Halle Parker of WWNO-FM in New Orleans has more

Nationally, low-income households are more likely to grapple with a higher burden, according to the Department of Energy. New Orleans follows that trend. Across the city, 27% of the census tracts in Orleans Parish bear a high energy burden, and low-income people make up the majority of all but two of those tracts. East Baton Rouge Parish is no different, with low-income residents making up the majority of every overburdened census tract. Nearly a quarter of East Baton Rouge Parish deals with a high energy burden.

The kids are not alright
The New York Times recently surveyed 362 school counselors from around the country to learn how children have been affected by the pandemic-era disruptions. The results: Academic performance isn’t the only thing that suffered. Many kids remain “frozen,” socially and emotionally, at the age they were when schools shut their doors at the start of the pandemic. Claire Cain Miller and Bianca Pallaro report

Nearly all the counselors, 94 percent, said their students were showing more signs of anxiety and depression than before the pandemic. Eighty-eight percent said students were having more trouble regulating their emotions. And almost three-quarters said they were having more difficulty solving conflicts with friends. … And even though schools have, with brief exceptions, been open this year, students have not yet made up the losses. Seven in ten counselors said that they had seen some improvement in social and emotional skills but that there was still work to be done. Just 11 percent said there had been a lot of improvement since the fall, while 17 percent said there had been none.

Didja Know? Podcast
In the latest episode of LBP’s weekly podcast, executive director Jan Moller speaks with our safety-net director Danny Mintz about legislation to tackle hunger on college campuses and to ensure that public school students have enough food to eat during the summer months. Click here to listen

Number of the Day
$169,829 – Average annual amount of medical co-pays by incarcerated people collected over the past five years by the state Department of Corrections. Advocates say the co-pays discourage inmates from seeking medical care, but a bill to eliminate them has stalled in the Legislature (Source: The Advocate)