Louisiana parishes make up half of the top 10 areas that are most vulnerable to climate change in the United States. The findings come from the Climate Vulnerability Index, a new tool from Texas A&M University and the Environmental Defense Fund that aims to direct resources to historically underserved communities. The EDF’s Grace Tee Lewis, who helped develop the index, spoke with Roshaun Higgins of The Times-Picayune |Baton Rouge Advocate: 

[if] a community is already struggling to meet their energy cost or rental needs, if their house gets flooded it might be more difficult to have the resources to respond to that event. With regard to the climate change impacts, those are the direct and indirect impacts on health, socio-economics, as well as extreme weather events. … Orleans Parish ranks ninth out of 64 counties in Louisiana, but ranks in the top 2% nationally. Things that rise to the top are mental health and deaths of despair, pollution sources, maternal and child health among the community baseline ones. In climate impacts, flooding leads that, followed closely by the cost of climate disasters and disaster-related deaths. 

A ‘something for nothing’ state
State lawmakers recently rejected a financing plan for a new bridge across the Calcasieu River in Lake Charles because of its reliance on tolls. The pushback largely came from trucking companies, which have influence at the Legislature and would pay as much as $12.50 when crossing the bridge (private motorists would pay about 50 cents). A Times-Picayune |Baton Rouge Advocate editorial explains how lawmakers’ opposition to tolls will jeopardize much-needed infrastructure improvements in Louisiana. 

Louisiana is a something-for-nothing state, as demonstrated by the fact that its taxes for roads and bridges and other forms of transportation are low; the main gasoline tax hasn’t been raised at all in more than 30 years. … Further, it was ostensibly pro-business Republican legislators who made up the opposition to a public-private partnership for the bridge, something traditional GOP ideology is supportive of. Maybe this can be worked out. But without a toll, we don’t see how.

Support pregnant mothers suffering from addiction
The nationwide opioid epidemic is making Louisiana’s maternal and infant mortality crisis even deadlier. The number of newborns exposed to illegal drugs has increased significantly in recent years and accidental overdoses are the top cause for deaths among new mothers in the state. Edward Carlson, chief executive officer at Odyssey House Louisiana, Inc., in a letter to the Times-Picayune |Baton Rouge Advocate, explains how a coordinated effort is needed to reduce addiction. 

 Treatment saves lives, keeps families whole and is proven to yield substantial savings in health care and criminal justice costs. Yet many women do not seek treatment for fear of child welfare involvement, and our state’s residential treatment capacity to serve pregnant and parenting women is a third of the size it once was at its peak. Only in orienting our statewide systems towards treatment, enacting policies that fund treatment robustly, creating networks that screen and refer mothers to treatment and investing in housing, case management, education and family reunification services will our state be able to help its most vulnerable citizens sustain recovery.

Payday lenders evade probes as borrowers suffer
Powerful financial firms that offer predatory loans are delaying investigations and penalties as they challenge the existence of a federal watchdog agency. Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in the aftermath of the Great Recession to protect consumers from predatory activity by financial institutions. But as the Washington Post’s Tony Romm explains, firms are using pending litigation before the Supreme Court to shield themselves from the current and possibly future consequences of preying on low-income borrowers: 

“They are moving in several ways at once to eliminate the cop on the beat — or the effectiveness of the cop on the beat — to keep people from being trapped in unaffordable debt,” said Ellen Harnick, an executive vice president at the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit that has advocated for the agency. … “The really big-picture implication is all of the rules of the last 12 years could be called into question,” said Lisa Gilbert, the executive vice president of Public Citizen, which filed a briefing with the Supreme Court in defense of the CFPB.

The Louisiana Legislature voted to expand predatory lending in 2022. Fortunately, Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed the legislation after pushback from advocates, including the Louisiana Budget Project and the Center for Responsible Lending.

Number of the Day
47% – Percentage increase in the average annual health insurance premium for family coverage since 2013.  (Source: KFF 2023 Employer Health Benefits Survey)