Redistricting heads back to the courts

Redistricting heads back to the courts

The battle to redraw Louisiana’s congressional lines in a way that is fair to Black people is back in the hands of a federal district judge after state lawmakers adjourned a special session on Saturday without taking action. Rep. Royce Duplessis, who sponsored one of the bills that sought to create a second Black-majority district, told the Baton Rouge Press Club that his colleagues never seriously tried to comply with Judge Shelly Dick’s order to have the process complete by June 20. The Advocate’s Will Sentell: 

“We didn’t even try, and that part was very obvious,” said Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans. “There was no intent, no effort, no desire, no will to try to draw a second Black district,” Duplessis told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. The lawmaker said GOP legislative leaders were content to let the issue be resolved by the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and possibly the U. S. Supreme Court.

As the session was wrapping up, Rep. Edmond Jordan took the House podium to address his colleagues, using the Hans Christian Andersen fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” to make his point. But anyone watching the proceedings online missed the speech, as House Speaker Clay Schexnayder had the feed cut off. The Illuminator’s Greg LaRose:  

(In the fable, the emperor’s) subjects go along with the ruse to avoid any upset, but a child can’t help blurt out when he sees the emperor is completely naked. The splendid garb turned out to be a product of his refusal to believe that what he wore was anything less than perfect. Jordan’s point was obvious. Just as that kid knew a butt-naked emperor when he saw one, the forces in favor of adding another Black-majority congressional district in Louisiana recognized the fruitless session for what it was.  

The “cliff” is here
The economic upheaval that accompanied the Covid-19 pandemic was leavened by strong federal aid – including cash payments, expanded food assistance and extra unemployment benefits – that helped millions of households make ends meet during hard times. But that aid has expired, and Congress has failed to renew vital programs such as the expanded Child Tax Credit, at a time when inflation is rampant and the Federal Reserve is taking aggressive action to slow down the economy. The New York Times’ Jeanna Smialek and Ben Casselman report that low-income households are already feeling the pinch: 

Now, as savings run dry and consumers struggle under the weight of higher prices and rising interest rates, early cracks are beginning to show — and are likely to widen from here. Pay gains have been falling behind inflation for months. Credit card balances, which fell early in the pandemic, are rising toward a record high. Subprime borrowers — those with weak credit scores — are increasingly falling behind on payments on car loans in particular, credit bureau data show. Measures of hunger are rising, even with unemployment still low and the overall economy still strong.

The president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Sharon Parrott, recently reminded Congress that the unprecedented Covid pandemic produced historic gains for people with low incomes: 

In 2020, poverty fell by the largest amount in five decades (using the most appropriate annual measure) as a result of direct relief measures like expanded jobless benefits, Economic Impact Payments, and expanded food assistance. And in 2021, relief measures reduced poverty markedly as well, helped people access health coverage, and reduced hardships like the inability to afford food or meet other basic needs based on a variety of data sources.

Edwards vetoes privatization scheme
Gov. John Bel Edwards has vetoed two bills from the regular session that sought to shift tax dollars from public schools into private hands. The bills would have created what supporters dubbed “education savings accounts” for public school students with exceptionalities, and students in second and third grade who struggle with reading. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports that the bills were among 17 measures that Edwards struck down: 

Edwards used the same language to veto both proposals. He said the bills do not set up accounts for parents to save money for education and that the change would potentially divert money from Louisiana’s $4 billion funding source for public schools, called the Minimum Foundation Program. … Critics called the accounts another form of vouchers, which allow students in low-income families attending troubled public schools to attend private schools at state expense.

The governor also vetoed bills sought by anti-vaccine advocates, and measures that would have toughened criminal penalties in the state that already leads the world in incarceration. 

Gas prices rise as refineries close
The Marathon Oil refinery in Garyville was the last new refinery to open in the United States in 1977. In the ensuing 45 years, more than half of the nation’s refineries have closed, including last year’s decision by Shell to close its unprofitable refinery in Convent. The Washington Post’s Evan Halper reports that this trend is unlikely to abate, even as gas prices rise to record levels and the White House tries to ramp up production. 

Even at this moment of windfall refinery earnings, when the profit margin on each barrel of oil processed has jumped from a dollar or two a year ago to as much as $18 today, investors are hardly jumping at the opportunity to enter the sector. They fear the profits are short lived. The administration’s environmental priorities — as well as rising public and corporate concern about climate change — would make many refineries obsolete in the not-too-distant future.

Number of the Day
– Number of people living in Louisiana nursing homes in the most hurricane-prone parishes. A new law requires a more thorough vetting of nursing home evacuation plans. (Source: The Times-Picayune).