Louisiana’s beleaguered child welfare agency has added 326 workers since July to help respond to the most serious cases of child abuse and neglect. Gov. John Bel Edwards’ 2023-24 executive budget calls for  adding another 73 full-time staff for the Department of Children and Family Services. The extra staff comes after agency leaders pleaded for years with lawmakers for more resources – often to deaf ears. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate, in a new editorial, hopes the Legislature will listen this time around. 

Hiring people is costly but no other response makes sense, certainly not neglect of the staffing requirements that should be based on national norms. And this year, unlike in the relatively recent past, there’s money in the coffers to do it. … Ultimately, more effective government remains elusive but vital in responding — whether through DCFS or police work, along with nonprofit organizations and faith communities — to what threatens our state’s most vulnerable residents, our young people.

Updating nation’s racial and ethnic categories
Who qualifies as African American – and should that term only apply to American descendants of slaves, or people who immigrated from Africa? Should people of East Asian heritage be classified differently from those of South Asian ancestry? And what about people of Middle Eastern and North African descent, who are now classified as white? Should “Negro” and “Far East” be stricken from the federal government’s official records? The AP’s Mike Schneider reports on the pubic comments that are streaming in as the White House works to update the federal government’s racial and ethnic categories for the first time since 1997:

[Byron] Haskins, a retired government worker from Lansing, Michigan, suggested eliminating race categories like “White” and “Black” since they perpetuate “deeply rooted unjust socio-political constructs.” Instead, he said people should be able to self-identify as they wish. When his sociologist daughter points out the difficulty of aggregating such data into something useful to address inequalities in housing or voting, or tailoring health or education programs to the needs of communities, he tells her, “Go crazy at it. That’s what you’re being paid for.” “You need to search for the truth and not just stay with the old categories because someone decided, ‘That is what we decided,’” Haskins said.

Cities and parishes can continue to ignore court judgments
Louisiana’s constitution allows cities and parishes to refuse to pay monetary judgments after they lose a lawsuit. That unusual provision will continue after state lawmakers on the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure declined to recommend any changes on Tuesday, despite pushback from one of their colleagues. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports: 

Rep. Robby Carter, D-Amite, said some government bodies in Louisiana have taken advantage of the situation.  “I know for a fact that some governmental bodies, including the City of New Orleans, lets these judgments pile up,” Carter said. “Then they’ll say, ‘Alright, who’s willing to take a percentage of their judgment to get paid? We’re going to pay some of these…We’ll pay those who are willing to take the biggest discount.’” Carter, an attorney, pressed his colleagues on the committee to consider changing the provision. Such a change would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature and approval from a majority of statewide voters.

Billions for EV charging infrastructure
The White House announced on Tuesday that states, local governments and tribes will receive $2.5 billion over the next five years to build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The new Charging and Fueling Infrastructure grant program, which was authorized by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is in addition to the $1.5 billion states received last year to build out EV charging stations. States Newsrooms’ Jacob Fischler reports: 

Biden has also set a goal of reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2030. Gas-powered vehicles account for about one-quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The grant funding will be evenly split between designated alternative-fuel corridors and public facilities like parking lots, schools and parks. “With today’s announcement, we are taking another big step forward in creating an EV future that is convenient, affordable, reliable, and accessible to all Americans,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a written statement. 

Reality check: Louisiana is the second-worst state in the nation for electric vehicle infrastructure. Texas, a favorite comparison for state policymakers, has more than double the amount of EV chargers per resident than Louisiana.

Number of the Day
9.5% – Percentage increase in the food prices in February compared to the previous year. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)