The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Alabama’s last-ditch effort to implement a racially gerrymandered congressional map. The ruling came after Alabama’s state legislature refused to comply with an order from a lower federal court to redraw the boundaries to accurately reflect the state’s racial makeup. Lawmakers from the Yellowhammer state were asking the Supreme Court to freeze the ruling by the lower court. A Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate editorial urgest Louisiana lawmakers to do the right thing:
So now, Louisiana officials — we’re looking at you, Legislature — have little excuse to continue their efforts to keep Black voters down through manipulation of the political lines established after the population count of the last U.S. Census. … Ultimately, do our legislators want to have Louisiana’s districts redrawn without their input? Because the fastest way to get to that result is to continue defying the Alabama precedents and the federal District Court in Baton Rouge. The path forward seems clear: a new plan to attain a second majority-Black district in Louisiana, or something very close to it. And if the Legislature won’t do that, the court will be obligated — and right — to direct the legally binding result, no matter what Louisiana politicos want.
Education > incarceration
Five of the major candidates for governor think Louisiana needs to invest more in early childhood education and public safety over the next four years. But only some of them have realistic ideas about how to fund those investments, as the candidates differ on whether to renew a temporary state sales tax that rolls off the books in 2025 and generates more than $400 million per year to support such programs. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports from the latest gubernatorial forum:
[Former Secretary of DOTD Shawn] Wilson and [former president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry Stephen] Waguespack also took different stances on whether to renew a .45-cent sales tax that is scheduled to expire in mid-2025. Waguespack said the tax revenue isn’t needed because the state has been running a budget surplus, while Wilson said the money should be used to make necessary investments in health care and education. The .45-cent sales tax raises about $450 million per year and costs households that earn $50,000 or less about $65 per year, according to LSU economist Jim Richardson.
Attorney General Jeff Landry, the front-runner in the race according to polling, skipped the forum.
Hope for reducing excessive sentences
The Louisiana Supreme Court recently struck down a law that allowed prosecutors to revisit and reduce excessively harsh sentences. The move was a blow for thousands for inmates who were hoping to receive new sentences in the wake of the historic – and bipartisan – criminal justice reforms that state lawmakers and voters approved in 2017. As Verite News’ Richard A. Webster explains, the reversal doesn’t completely end efforts to reduce excessive sentences.
The justices said the new law was unconstitutional because it didn’t require prosecutors or judges to identify a specific legal problem with a prisoner’s sentence before granting relief. The ability to adjust a sentence without a specific legal basis, they said, amounted to an “act of grace,” like a pardon, which is considered the domain of the governor. If the decision stopped there, it could have been extremely damaging, [attorney Nick] Trenticosta said. But the justices went on to uphold the “absolute discretion” of prosecutors to provide such post-conviction relief, emphasizing it was the duty of prosecutors to “see that no innocent man suffers.” According to Trenticosta, the decision affirmed, for the first time explicitly, the right of prosecutors and defense attorneys to cooperatively reach post-conviction deals.
A blueprint for federal tax reform
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law by former President Donald Trump, cut taxes for wealthy people and corporations and will add as much as $2 trillion to the federal deficit. But most of the law’s provisions expire in 2025, giving federal policymakers an historic opportunity to stabilize the federal budget and raise as much as $3.5 trillion for much-needed investments. Kimberly Clausing and Natasha Sarin, writing for Brookings, explain:
The TCJA sunsets necessitate a policy conversation. At a bare minimum, Clausing and Sarin argue that policymakers should aim for a revenue-neutral reform. However, given the significant fiscal needs facing the United States, aspirations should ideally be far loftier. They argue that policymakers should set ambitious revenue-raising targets and offer a menu of policy reforms that, if taken together, could raise $3.5 trillion over the course of the next decade and be a substantial downpayment on our long-term fiscal sustainability. These reforms would also create a more progressive tax system and reduce preferences in the code that enable high-earners and profitable multinational corporations to avoid tax liabilities.
Number of the Day
-33% – Average monthly benefit percentage change per SNAP beneficiary in Louisiana because of the end of pandemic-related benefits. The average monthly SNAP benefit amount in Louisiana has decreased from $274 to $185 per month. (Source: United States Department of Agriculture via Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)