Latest on the special session

Latest on the special session

The Legislature will gavel in at noon Wednesday for a special session aimed at redrawing Louisiana’s congressional boundaries to accurately reflect the state’s racial makeup. It comes as legislative leaders plan to beg U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick for more time as they hope for a higher court to preserve the current maps. The Advocate’s Will Sentell and Mark Ballard report that legislators are looking for any excuse to avoid complying with Dick’s order to have new maps completed by June 20 : 

“Knowing the Republicans, I don’t think they’re willing to surrender this early on the judicial process,” said House Majority Leader Blake Miguez, R-Erath. “They’ll want to wait for appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.” Legislative leaders said in their request that bills typically take multiple days before being reported out of committee, and the Senate might get them on the fourth day and start a multiday process of its own.

The Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports that legislators might simply pass a map similar to the ones currently in place while they wait for an appeal to be heard. But that, in turn, could result in the lower court taking over the process: 

According to the 5th Circuit’s order issued Sunday, the next available merits panel is scheduled to hear cases the week of July 4, though the case is being expedited and could be heard before that date.  But by that time, the district court might have already drawn a new map and forced it upon the Legislature if lawmakers fail to adopt one that has two majority-Black districts, said NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney Jared Evans, who filed the lawsuit.

Houston helps the homeless
The city of Houston – America’s fourth-largest – has seen a 63% drop in the number of people experiencing homelessness over the past decade. Since 2011, more than 25,000 people have been moved off the streets and into permanent housing, and the vast majority of them have remained housed after two years. The New York Times’ Michael Kimmelman and Lucy Hopkins explain how it happened:  

Houston has gotten this far by teaming with county agencies and persuading scores of local service providers, corporations and charitable nonprofits — organizations that often bicker and compete with one another — to row in unison. Together, they’ve gone all in on “housing first,” a practice, supported by decades of research, that moves the most vulnerable people straight from the streets into apartments, not into shelters, and without first requiring them to wean themselves off drugs or complete a 12-step program or find God or a job.

Local governments can stand up for workers
It’s been 12 years since the last federal minimum wage increase, and America remains the only industrialized country where workers have no guarantee of paid leave. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon, given the stalemate in Congress. But some state and local governments are taking it upon themselves to take action on behalf of working people. A new report from the Economic Policy Institute examines some of these policies: 

  • Some localities have established dedicated local labor standards offices that enforce workers’ rights laws; educate employers, workers, and the public about these laws; and in some cases help formulate or inform municipal policy in this area.
  • Localities have established ongoing worker boards or councils to provide workers with a formal role in local government and/or access to local officials and agencies.
  • Other localities have focused on passing local worker protection laws, including ordinances regarding minimum wages, paid sick leave, and fair scheduling; industry-specific protections for sectors with high violation rates or specific vulnerability (such as the domestic worker, gig, hotel, retail, fast-food and freelance industries); broader anti-discrimination protections; and specific laws responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But many states, including Louisiana, have laws that preempt local authorities from passing their own laws on minimum wage or worker rights. 

Federal—and in some cases state—preemption creates some limitations on what localities can do to expand and protect workers’ rights. Preemption occurs when federal or state law prevents subordinate levels of government (in this case, municipalities) from legislating or acting on a given issue. Still, local governments have considerable opportunity to take meaningful action on behalf of the working people within their jurisdictions.

Investigating the State Police
The problems at the Louisiana State Police, most famously documented in the killing of Black motorist Ronald Greene and subsequent coverup, have drawn the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice. The department announced that it plans a thorough investigation into whether Louisiana’s top cops use excessive force and engage in racially discriminatory policing. The Times-Picayune’s Will Sutton zeroes in on the word “systemic” in describing the police force that has come under so much fire:  

Justice Department investigations aren’t launched unless there’s a wealth of evidence that there are significant problems. The department’s civil rights division has been looking into law enforcement agencies with problems since 1994. … For some reason, some of us have an issue with the word “systemic.” In more common language, it means something is common, ongoing and regular. … We have a State Police problem that is systemic; it must be fixed.

Number of the Day
26% – Percentage of American adults age 50-64 (about 16 million people) who said they or a member of their household had a health problem in the last three months but did not seek treatment due to cost concerns. (Source: Gallup poll via Axios)