Most Louisiana state workers will have access to six weeks of fully paid parental leave starting on Jan. 1 under a pair of actions announced Thursday by Gov. John Bel Edwards. A new state Civil Service rule covers rank-and-file classified employees, while an executive order covers unclassified employees and appointees. Louisiana becomes the 33rd state with such a policy, which will cover about 70,000 state employees. The Time Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Robert Stewart reports

“It’s something that we’ve known was the right thing to do for a while, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy or quick,” Edwards said. Edwards touted the “modest but very, very meaningful step” as a way for state employees to avoid sacrificing their income while maintaining productivity.  “This is all about promoting bonding with that new child, getting off to a great start,” Edwards said. “And by the way, the parent is less than productive at work if they have to work if their mind is on that child anyway.”

David Jacobs of the Baton Rouge Business Report notes that 13 states have paid leave laws that cover private-sector workers, but that an effort to pass a similar law in Louisiana failed to gain traction earlier this year.     

The new policy could indirectly affect the private sector. State government now has a new tool to compete for workers, and when a major, high-profile employer enacts such a policy, other businesses may consider following suit.  “It’s certainly a nudge in that direction,” Edwards says. 

The announcement came after years of work by the Louisiana Paid Family Medical Leave Coalition, a group of more than two dozen community leaders and advocacy organizations: 

In that number is the Louisiana Budget Project, which also noted that Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas have adopted similar policies in recent years. “Paid parental leave reduces turnover costs, increases workforce productivity and promotes economic stability for families,” said Stacey Roussel, the organization’s deputy executive director.

The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue notes that the policy won’t apply to people who work for the Legislature or state courts, and unclassified higher education employees such as college faculty. And Gov.-elect Jeff Landry can use his executive authority to rescind the policy for unclassified employees after he takes the reins of state government on Jan. 8. 

Nearly $3 million for each permanent job 
Plaquemines Parish will pay more than $2.8 million for every permanent job that is created from a new LNG gas-export terminal. The hefty price tag stems from Venture Global’s use of Louisiana’s generous Industrial Tax Exemption Program, which forgives 80% of property taxes for manufacturing corporations over 10 years. While thousands of short-term jobs are often produced for the construction phase of these massive projects, Venture is using a strategy that minimizes the number of domestic workers. Sara Sneath, writing for the Lens, explains how the company is taking more than it gets from Plaquemines Parish. 

Instead, it built parts of its facilities in Italy and shipped them to the United States. Because of that, Venture Global is building its LNG terminals in Louisiana at a break-neck speed, shattering the timelines set by other, similar terminals constructed in this country. In August, barges arrived to Louisiana’s shore carrying pre-constructed pieces of the Plaquemines terminal — liquefaction modules that look like giant sets of laboratory vials. To carry the gigantic objects off barges required specialized equipment: self-propelled transporters, vehicles that resemble platforms with wheels.

Congress must protect WIC 
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) finances healthy foods and other support for women who are either pregnant, breastfeeding, or have children younger than six months old. But funding for this crucial federal program, which supports more than 100,000 Louisianans, is caught up in congressional budget debates. Frankie Robertson, founder and president of the Amandla Group, in a letter to the Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate, lays out the consequences if Congress fails to act. 

Current proposals in Congress fail to adequately fund WIC: Without additional funding, 8,100 low-income Louisianans — primarily new moms and preschoolers — would be turned away from WIC, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Under the House’s funding proposal, another 63,400 Louisianans would see their benefits slashed. … Last year, Louisiana had the fourth-highest rate of food insecurity in the country: 15.2% of households in our state didn’t have access to enough food at some point in 2022. Policymakers don’t have to put nutrition benefits for families at risk.

Criminalizing the unhoused in Livingston Parish
Livingston Parish in suburban Baton Rouge has seen a recent increase in the number of unhoused people sleeping overnight in commercial corridors near Interstate 12. Instead of creating shelter space and connecting people with services they need, the Parish Council voted Thursday to ban camping on public property. Violators face a fine or community service. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Jacqueline DeRobertis reports

Advocates with the Northlake Homeless Coalition, which serves a five-parish region that includes Livingston, said the new ordinance stands to create further barriers to housing by processing people into the criminal justice system. In a parish with limited homelessness services and a dearth of emergency shelter beds, executive director Amanda Stapleton characterized the law as “inhumane.” 

Number of the Day
279,287 – Number of veterans in Louisiana. Approximately 6.5% of Louisiana’s adult population had served in the armed forces as of Sept. 30, 2019, compared to 6.8% of the U.S. adult population. (Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs