Economy

Friday, June 8, 2018

Legislative forecast: mutually assured destruction?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 8, 2018 at 8:07 PM

State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, right, talks with state Rep. John Bagneris, D-New Orleans, during Monday’s debate on the Louisiana House floor. - TRYFON BOUKOUVIDIS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • TRYFON BOUKOUVIDIS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, right, talks with state Rep. John Bagneris, D-New Orleans, during Monday’s debate on the Louisiana House floor.

Here’s a political riddle worthy of a Las Vegas morning line: Will Gov. John Bel Edwards’ seventh special legislative session end with a solution to the state’s “fiscal cliff” — or will we see another example of mutually assured destruction?

History portends the latter, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

History matters. It’s a shame so many people in positions of responsibility — from voters to lawmakers — ignore it so often. In the case of the governor and the House Republicans who are determined to deny him a “win” at all costs (including great costs to Louisiana citizens), both sides should learn from their mistakes.

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Editorial: The nihilists in the Louisiana state legislature

Posted By on Thu, Jun 7, 2018 at 2:17 PM

State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, right, talks with state Rep. John Bagneris, D-New Orleans, during Monday’s debate on the Louisiana House floor. - TRYFON BOUKOUVIDIS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • TRYFON BOUKOUVIDIS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, right, talks with state Rep. John Bagneris, D-New Orleans, during Monday’s debate on the Louisiana House floor.

On June 4, the day the website WalletHub declared Louisiana to have the worst economy of all 50 states, the Republican-controlled Louisiana Legislature demonstrated that it’s a big part of the problem. In the regular legislative session, lawmakers failed to adopt a fully funded state budget, prompting Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to veto the spending plan. Legislators cut that session short so they could reconvene for a special session dedicated to fiscal matters. They had until midnight June 4 to get the job done. The result was a shameful exercise that, once again, failed to produce a fully funded budget.

Their second spending plan would drastically cut funding for TOPS college scholarships and public universities, yet the GOP-dominated House rejected two measures that could have solved the problem. The final minutes of the session, in fact, resembled The Jerry Springer Show, with House members literally jumping from their chairs and screaming at each other as Republican Rep. Alan Seabaugh deliberately dawdled at the mic to run out the clock.

Lawmakers now must gather in yet another special session (at a cost to taxpayers of about $60,000 per day) before the new fiscal year begins July 1. It will be the seventh special session in Edwards’ two-and-a-half years in office. Given the same cast of obstinate House Republicans, it’s not clear another special session will change anything — but hopefully voters are seeing clearly who’s responsible for the partisan gridlock.

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Down to the wire on the Louisiana budget — and the Louisiana Department of Health is in the crosshairs

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 4:24 PM

State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, proposed the House budget that would cut health programs and TOPS funding. - PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, proposed the House budget that would cut health programs and TOPS funding.

The Louisiana Senate Finance Committee today questioned a Republican budget passed by the House that would fully fund hospitals for the poor but slash funding for other health programs by $116 million.

Including federal matching dollars, the total cuts to the Louisiana Department of Health would amount to over half a billion dollars, compromising mental health services and substance abuse treatment programs when temporary revenue measures expire on July 1.

“We can’t continue to cut and appropriately meet the needs of the people of this state,” said Health Secretary Rebekah Gee.

The hearing illustrated the continuing divide between House Republicans, who are focused on cutting the size of state government, and many senators, who want to raise more revenue to avoid cuts in health care and the TOPS scholarship program.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Louisiana House Ways and Means committee frustrated over budget discussions

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 5:12 PM

Several of the 11 Republicans on the committee, which must initiate tax and budget bills, told Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne (pictured) they were upset that Edwards vetoed the budget passed by the Legislature that dealt with a $648 million shortfall solely through budget cuts. - PHOTO BY KAYLEE POCHE/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • PHOTO BY KAYLEE POCHE/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Several of the 11 Republicans on the committee, which must initiate tax and budget bills, told Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne (pictured) they were upset that Edwards vetoed the budget passed by the Legislature that dealt with a $648 million shortfall solely through budget cuts.


Members of the House Ways and Means Committee were notably frustrated when they met Wednesday to begin the special session’s budget discussions, a conversation they have been having in some form for over two years.

However, not all of the 18 members were frustrated for the same reason, and the meeting quickly turned into an airing of grievances, some with Gov. John Bel Edwards and others with their own colleagues.
Several of the 11 Republicans on the committee, which must initiate tax and budget bills, told Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne they were upset that Edwards vetoed the budget passed by the Legislature that dealt with a $648 million shortfall solely through budget cuts.

While that budget would have fully funded health care priorities, it would have decimated state agencies with 24 percent cuts across the board, slashed TOPS scholarships by 30 percent and left Louisiana as the only state without a food stamp program.

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Editorial: To our leges — when it comes to the budget, get it right this time

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 3:36 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards addressing a crowd at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, stressing the need for both parties to work together to find solutions to the “fiscal cliff,” which begins July 1 after several temporary taxes roll off the books. - PHOTO BY DEVON SANDERS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • PHOTO BY DEVON SANDERS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards addressing a crowd at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, stressing the need for both parties to work together to find solutions to the “fiscal cliff,” which begins July 1 after several temporary taxes roll off the books.

The first day of the Louisiana Legislature’s special session to address the state’s $648 million budget gap got off to a familiar start: It was rancorous and partisan. One noteworthy exception: Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, a Republican, addressed a crowd at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, stressing the need for both parties to work together to find solutions to the “fiscal cliff,” which begins July 1 after several temporary taxes roll off the books.

House Speaker Taylor Barras, a Republican, called the governor’s speech “political theater.” Richard Carbo, one of Edwards’ top aides, replied, “Makes you wonder if he listened to the speech or if he just let their consultant write it in a crayon. Seems childish and petty.”

Things have degenerated so badly that some Republicans are sniping at one another. State Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, wondered on social media, “Did Billy Nungesser just endorsed [sic] the Governor tax and spend policies on the hardworking taxpayers of Louisiana? What a disappointment to the Republican Party of Louisiana!” To which Nungesser replied, “No, Billy Nungesser wants the state to come together and fix the problem. … Blake Miguez is a liar and the people of Louisiana know better.”

No wonder the Legislature is in its sixth special session to tackle a problem that it could — and should — have solved two years ago. Legislative comity, trust and decorum have hit rock bottom.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gov. Edwards appeals for public support in budget process as special session of the legislature begins

Posted By and on Tue, May 22, 2018 at 4:55 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards appealed for public support Tuesday in solving the state’s budget problems. - PHOTO BY DEVON SANDERS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • PHOTO BY DEVON SANDERS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards appealed for public support Tuesday in solving the state’s budget problems.

Gov. John Bel Edwards appealed directly to the public in a speech in Lafayette today for help in passing his plan to solve the state’s $648 budget shortfall.

The governor has proposed a half-cent sales tax, the reduction of some tax exemptions for businesses and the elimination of a provision that lets individuals deduct state income taxes in one year from the next year’s returns.

Edwards spoke at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette three hours before the Legislature began its sixth special session in the last three years to try solve the state’s budget problems.

“My hope is that we can shake the divisive partisanship that’s begun to take root, put aside our differences and put in place the solutions the people of Louisiana deserve,” Edwards said. “Now is the time to be Louisianans first and foremost.”

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Report: Black unemployment rate almost twice that of rate for whites in Louisiana

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 10:50 AM

PHOTO BY EZS / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • PHOTO BY EZS / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

The unemployment rate for black Louisianans is almost twice the unemployment rate for white job-seekers in the state, according to a new analysis by left-leaning think tank Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

In the first quarter of 2018, the black unemployment rate was 6.4 percent in the state, compared to the white unemployment rate of 3.4 percent. This falls slightly below the unemployment rate for black workers nationally (7.2 percent) but is more than two points above the national unemployment rate (4.1 percent).

According to EPI's report, Louisiana joins many other states showing a meaningful disparity between unemployment rates for black and white job-seekers. In 14 states and Washington, D.C. the black unemployment rate is more than twice that of the white rate. Washington, D.C. had the nation's largest gap, where a 12.9 percent black unemployment rate is compared to a 1.5 percent unemployment rate for white workers.

Economists offer a number of explanations for the cause of racial disparities in unemployment rates, some of which are rooted in discrimination in hiring, lack of access to recruiting networks for people of color and other indicators of systemic bias — especially in economies that otherwise appear strong. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced a 1.2 percent drop in Louisiana's overall unemployment rate as compared to spring of last year. 

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Hospitality workers crash tourism board meeting, call for expanded health care options

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 6:42 PM

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At a May 15 board meeting for economic development group New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, a boisterous group of hospitality workers and their supporters staged a demonstration and called for better treatment of workers in the city's powerful hospitality and tourism sector.

Around 30 demonstrators, including members of New Orleans Hospitality Workers Committee (NOHWC), New Orleans Workers Group and the People's Assembly, assembled at the public meeting held in a coolly anonymous meeting room upstairs at Manning's Eat-Drink-Cheer. Via a series of short statements to the board, they outlined the story of a restaurant worker who now is critically ill because she couldn't afford health insurance.

Organizers called for the retirement of that worker's medical debt and for the creation of a free health care clinic for industry workers, paid for by the city's 13 percent hotel occupancy tax.

"How dare you justify that with all these millions that you're taking ... [workers have] no sick days, no vacations, no pensions?" New Orleans Workers Group organizer Gavrielle Gemma said. "This is the beginning of a movement that's going to hold this city accountable."

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Advocate report: Legislative session to end Friday; special session to address budget to begin May 22

Posted By on Mon, May 14, 2018 at 4:07 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards at a press conference this afternoon, announcing the sixth special legislative session under his administration will begin May 22.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards at a press conference this afternoon, announcing the sixth special legislative session under his administration will begin May 22.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said today at a news conference that the regular session of the Louisiana legislature will wrap up this week so a special session can begin May 22 to address the budget, according to a report from The Advocate:
"The budget proposal that was passed does not reflect the priorities of our state. It's not worthy of the people of Louisiana," Edwards said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
The special session will conclude no later than June 4.
At stake: $648 million in temporary taxes, which will disappear July 1 unless the legislature and Edwards come to an agreement.

Read the whole report here.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Another equal pay bill goes down in House committee

Posted By on Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 10:55 AM

MATHIEU TURLE / UNSPLASH
  • MATHIEU TURLE / UNSPLASH

After a dispiriting exchange between a representative who did not expect her bill to pass and the Louisiana House Labor & Industrial Relations Committee, committee members voted 7-4 to involuntarily defer, or shelve, a bill that would have addressed chronic pay inequity between men and women in Louisiana.

House Bill 605 by Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, would have expanded existing equal pay protections from the public to the private sector and expanded the jurisdictions in which individuals may bring pay equity lawsuits. But Norton, who estimated she had brought similar legislation before the committee as many as eight times, said she had no expectation of the bill advancing but would keep bringing similar bills until pay disparity in the state is meaningfully addressed.

"I will never stop coming. I will continue to bring this legislation until we get it back to the floor," she said.

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