A 25-member panel of experts spent a full year developing new age-appropriate guidelines for what children should be learning before they start kindergarten. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the new benchmarks in an 8-2 vote in August. But conservative extremists have attacked the new standards as “political and un-American,” and their complaints prompted BESE to hold another public hearing on Monday. As The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports, supporters of the standards vastly outnumbered the critics:
Jan Moller, executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project and the father of two children, said he read the revised guidelines. “There is no ideological agenda in there,” Moller said. “Everything that is in these standards I hope my kids were taught at an age-appropriate time,” he said. “There is nothing nefarious.” … They were recommended by a 25-member committee after a one-year study, with specific guidelines outlined for each age. “I think the standards were developed by the best of the best of this state,” said Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge and a former educator.
LABI dictates medical marijuana workplace policy
Louisiana workers are protected from failed drug tests if they have a prescription for the drug in question, but this law doesn’t apply to workers using medical marijuana. A state task force has looked to other states for examples of how to protect marijuana patients from the consequence of failed drug tests, and its recommendations are due in three weeks. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports that the biggest obstacle is the power of Louisiana’s powerful business lobby:
Task force members have conceded that most of the lawmaking power, when it comes to commerce or labor issues, exists not with the elected lawmakers but with Baton Rouge lobbyist Jim Patterson, vice president of government relations of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. … Thus far, Patterson has not attended their meetings, and it’s unclear what position he might take. … Landry said it would be impossible to approve legislation affecting the private business sector without Patterson’s support. “I don’t think we can touch private business without LABI on board, and I don’t see that happening,” Landry said in a text message. “They’re too powerful.”
How will Louisiana spend opioid settlement dollars?
State and local governments have won more than $50 billion in judgments against opioid makers. Now policymakers must decide how to use the money – whether settlement dollars should pay for more incarceration and punishment, or more rehabilitation, mental health services and other resources to combat addiction. Kaiser Health News’ Aneri Pattani reports on how Louisiana plans to spend the $325 million it is set to receive.
The state’s written plan says it will create a five-person task force to recommend how to spend the money. Kevin Cobb, president of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, said the group had appointed its representative to the task force, but he didn’t know if other members had been selected or when they would meet. One decision Louisiana has made so far is to give 20% of the settlement funds directly to sheriffs — a move that has made some people nervous. “This plays into an increase in support for an authoritarian response to what are public health issues,” said Nadia Eskildsen, who has worked for syringe service programs and other such groups in New Orleans. She worries that money will be funneled toward increasing arrests, rather than helping people find housing, work, or health care.
Paid sick days could help avert rail strike
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on a bill designed to avert a national rail strike that threatens to disrupt supply chains and stall the economy. The bill would codify a tentative agreement that rail carriers and union leaders reached in September, which was rejected by some unions because it failed to guarantee paid sick days for workers. Late Tuesday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she will offer a separate vote to give union members seven paid sick days. The Washington Post’s Leigh Ann Caldwell and Theodoric Meyer report:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he would block quick passage of the legislation in the Senate if he didn’t receive a vote on his proposal to provide rail workers with seven paid sick days. But if the House paid sick leave bill passes and receives a vote in the Senate, Sanders would probably drop his amendment if he agreed with the House legislation, his spokesman said. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) predicted an amendment or separate bill giving workers paid sick days could pass the Senate with 60 votes. “I think there will be a lot of sympathy for providing sick leave for workers,” Cornyn said.
Number of the Day
20% – Percentage of opioid settlement dollars that Louisiana is allocating directly to sheriffs. (Source: Verite)