A SCOTUS setback for fair districts

A SCOTUS setback for fair districts

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday unceremoniously halted the effort to redraw Louisiana’s congressional districts in a way that accurately reflects the state’s racial diversity. In a one-page ruling, the nation’s high court blocked a federal court from drawing a new map that includes a second Black-majority district. This means the map drawn by the Legislature last winter – and upheld after the Legislature overturned a veto by Gov. John Bel Edwards, will stand for the November elections. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard

Edwards said in a statement he was disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling, saying (U.S. District Judge Shelly) Dick’s “well-reasoned 157-page decision clearly demonstrated that the maps passed by the Legislature do not comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. … Black Louisianans make up one-third of our population, and one-third of our districts should be majority Black when such a map can be drawn and, as has been clearly demonstrated, that map is more compact, better adheres to the legal principles governing redistricting, and will perform,” he said.

The Illuminator’s Wesley Muller writes that the Court’s conservative majority did not rule on the merits of Louisiana’s case, which appeared stronger than a similar case (with a similar outcome) involving Alabama’s redistricting. 

Although the Supreme Court did not combine the Louisiana case with Alabama’s, the two are very similar. The prevailing justices reasoned that there was too little time — three months — for Alabama officials to plan their primary election under a new map. (Jared) Evans (of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund) and many voting rights activists were confident in Louisiana’s case, which appeared stronger on many points, including the fact that Louisiana’s election is not until the end of the year, precluding justices from giving the “too little time” reason. 

No public funds for company schools
Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a bill this week that would have allowed charter school applicants with corporate backers to bypass local school boards and seek approval directly from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. It’s the third bill that Edwards has vetoed this session that would have made it easier to divert tax dollars from public schools to private interests. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports that it’s only the latest skirmish in a long-running debate: 

In his veto message, Edwards said the local board can decide whether the charter school is in the best interest of the community, how schools would cope with the loss of state school aid and whether the proposal is educationally sound. …  Edwards said he has never backed the use of public dollars to attend private schools.

The bills had strong backing from corporate lobbying groups and conservative policy organizations. 

New rules don’t apply to most existing solar farms 
Louisiana legislators this year passed a law that positions Louisiana to receive $200 million from the new federal infrastructure law to clean up the approximately 4,600 abandoned “orphan” oil and gas wells on state lands. They also took steps to ensure that taxpayers don’t have to pick up the bill for taking solar equipment out of service if solar or wind farm owners decide to walk away. But the Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports that the legislation contains a “carve out” for most of the current solar farm projects in the state.

One provision of the new law that has some solar industry professionals asking questions exempts any solar projects that utility companies such as Entergy and Cleco own, giving them an additional financial advantage over smaller, independent companies. All five solar plants currently in Louisiana and most currently in the planning stage will be exempt from the law, which takes effect Aug. 2. Sen. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales, voiced concern with the bill during debate in the Senate Natural Resources Committee on May 17. “It looks like we’re treating people differently,” Lambert said.

How inflation is altering peoples’ lives
Many Americans are having difficulty paying their usual household bills as they face higher prices on everything from housing to food to gasoline. Inflation has increased by 8.6% from last year, and many consumers are bracing for the worst as the Federal Reserve continues to increase interest rates to try to combat runaway prices. The New York Times’ Tara Siegel Bernard takes a look at how inflation is changing the behaviors of five U.S. households, including Tobias Pratt of Atlanta: 

“I can afford maybe two-thirds of what I could afford last year,” Mr. Pratt said, adding that the monthly mortgage payment could be as much as $700 higher, depending on the size of the loan. “But with housing prices still soaring, the inventory is limited.” He also noticed that his grocery bill, which reliably cost about $225 for an online order placed every two weeks, had jumped to $300 in mid-March. “I was like, ‘Whoa, back up a minute,’” he said. “I looked at my last bill and I ordered pretty much the same groceries.”

Number of the Day
– Percentage increase in overall price of groceries from last year. This is the largest year-over-year increase since 1979. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)