The Legislature is rushing to overhaul the state’s criminal justice system without knowing how much it will cost taxpayers. The fiscal notes attached to bills that affect the state budget are usually an important factor during the lawmaking process, and the lack of a note often halts a bill’s journey until costs can be determined. But as the Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue reports, some bills are moving so fast that the Legislative Fiscal Office hasn’t had enough time to conduct analysis. 

Lawmakers are moving the governor’s public safety bills so fast that the fiscal analyses of proposals haven’t even been completed. Legislative staff are still waiting on information from the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, the Louisiana Sheriffs Association and the Louisiana District Attorneys Association to finish financial impact reports for nine bills, according to their notes. 

Louisiana’s looming fiscal cliff has been used to justify standstill or reduced spending on key state priorities, such as permanent teacher pay raises. But as O’Donoghue explains, Landry and legislative leadership are using austerity calls selectively:

“I haven’t seen that [cash] machine yet, but we’ve got some money coming from somewhere,” Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette, joked last week during a discussion of the financial impact of Landry’s crime legislation. “I don’t want to get to the point where we ignore the fiscal part of these plans.”

The Legislative Fiscal Office has provided fiscal notes for two bills – House Bill 9 and House Bill 10 – that would end parole and gut good-time credits. As BRProud’s Shannon Heckt explains, the bills’ author, Rep. Debbie Villio, simply dismissed analysis showing her efforts to keep people in jail longer will increase costs to taxpayers. 

The Department of Corrections could see an estimated increase of $11.2 million for state facilities and $2.9 million in local facilities per year to house people longer. … “This fiscal note it’s just wrong. I could say it’s disingenuous at best. I could say that it’s with a lack of understanding of what goes on. I don’t know what goes behind it, but it’s certaintly inconsistent,” Villio said.

Feds tell states to speed up SNAP approvals 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has sent warning letters to 32 states, including Louisiana, that have fallen behind on approving applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP benefits, more commonly known as food stamps, are funded by the federal government, but administered by states. Stateline’s Alex Brown reports

Stacy Dean, the federal agency’s deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, said the letters were intended to draw governors’ attention to the problem. “We know state legislatures are in [session] right now and governors are pursuing their budgets,” she said. “This is a moment where legislatures can offer the support that states might need for necessary investments in terms of staffing or technology.”

Child care industry on the brink
More than half of child care owners or directors who responded to a recent survey said they are enrolling fewer children than they are legally allowed. Staffing shortages were cited as the main reason for this decline. Federal pandemic relief dollars that supported the child care industry expired in September. But making up for the revenue loss by raising tuition could push out families who are already struggling to afford care. The Upshot’s Claire Cain Miller reports

Half of the providers said they had raised tuition. Of a broader group of more than 10,000 child care workers surveyed, 55 percent said they knew of at least one program in their community that had shut down since the expiration of federal funds. Many parents are feeling the stress of rising costs and shrinking availability. On average, a recent survey by found, they spend one-quarter of their income on child care; the Department of Health and Human Services says that for child care to be affordable, it should cost no more than 7 percent of a family’s income. 

Older adults in college
People who complete their college degrees after their mid-twenties are making up a larger portion of college and university student bodies. New research from Brookings explains the benefits that these “late bloomers” obtain when they receive their degree – and additional support that can help them along the way. 

Late bloomers also benefit from a substantial college premium upon graduation, and they have the steepest return to experience among college graduates. While the results do not lend themselves to quantifying the exact gain from late education, they suggest that later-in-life education does increase earnings, especially for disadvantaged populations for whom it can be more difficult to complete college earlier in life. This suggests an argument in favor of educational subsidies targeted for these populations.

Number of the Day
$14.2 million – Total cost to state and local correctional facilities per year to house people in jail that are no longer eligible for parole. Legislation advancing through the special legislative session would end parole for people who committed crimes after Aug. 2024. (Source: Legislative Fiscal Office)