Louisiana Republicans – coming off an historic victory in the governor’s race and their first elected supermajority in the state Legislature – aimed to undo as much of former Gov. John Bel Edwards’ legacy as possible during the recently concluded legislative session. The state’s new leadership also faced a slew of critical challenges as they charted a hard-right turn in an already conservative state. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Clancy Dubos has the winners and losers from the 2024 legislative session. 

The governor didn’t win all his battles, but lawmakers approved enough of his ambitious agenda to make him the Big Winna this year. Landry also helped his key political backers get what they wanted. Social conservatives and theocrats got the nation’s strictest anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ laws, along with a law that requires posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms. He helped trial lawyers defeat or weaken some business-backed changes to Louisiana’s legal system, while supporters of educational savings accounts (ESAs) got a scaled-down version of Vouchers 2.0. …. And he’s just getting started.

DuBos explains how women, children and teachers were among the biggest losers:

Lawmakers also rejected bills creating rape and incest exceptions to the state’s anti-abortion statutes, cut about $9 million from early childhood education programs, and eliminated the state’s ability to seek, obtain or grant waivers from federal work requirements for families participating in the SNAP program. … K-12 teachers went without a pay raise again this year and had to fight to maintain the one-time $2,000 stipend that lawmakers gave them last year in lieu of a raise. Compounding their woes, the new ESA law, though watered down, would still divert money from public education year to year — and potentially undermine the long-term viability of the teachers’ retirement system.

America’s population is aging, with a record 4.1 million people turning 65 this year alone. Nearly a quarter of the nation’s population will be 65 years or older by 2054. Such a large number of elderly people will require more resources for health, long-term care and other services. Route Fifty’s Susan Miller reports on federal and state efforts to prepare for the impending silver tsunami: 

[Pennsylvania’s] 10-year plan, which was released the day after the federal strategic framework, has five priority areas that cover affordability, aging in place, safe and convenient transportation, caregiver support and navigation services that make it easier for older adults to find services they need. The plan also includes 36 strategies and 163 tactics. New Jersey also released its “age-friendly blueprint” last week. The Garden State and Pennsylvania are the fifth and sixth states to release its master plan on aging, joining California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

Many students and families are becoming disheartened with the rising cost of obtaining a college degree. Only a quarter of Americans believe taking out loans for a four-year bachelors’ degree, which has traditionally been seen as the pathway to a good-paying job, is worth the money. Stateline’s Elaine S. Povich explains how more schools are offering three-year undergraduate degrees to make college more attractive: 

More than a dozen public and private universities are participating in a pilot collaboration called the College-in-3 Exchange, to begin considering how they could offer three-year programs. …  Proponents of the three-year degree programs say they save students money and set them on a faster track to their working life. But detractors, including some faculty, say they shortchange students, particularly if they later change their minds on what career path they want to follow.

Drinking-water crises in Flint, Michigan, Jackson, Mississippi and most recently Atlanta highlight a nationwide pattern of failing infrastructure systems. Failing drinking-water systems have also become more common in Louisiana in recent years. Pew’s Stephanie Connolly & Aleena Oberthur explain how pandemic recovery funds are helping states upgrade these critical systems. 

Overall, states are spending $20 billion, or 10% of their recovery fund allocations, on water-related infrastructure projects, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Treasury. If local government spending is included, that number jumps to more than $25 billion. But spending ranges significantly among states—while some are directing funds to other priorities, 13 have budgeted an estimated 25% or more of their FRF allocations to investments in water infrastructure. That policymakers in these states are choosing to funnel such a significant percentage of discretionary ARPA dollars into water infrastructure indicates the importance to these governments of bolstering water utilities and water management systems.

Louisiana has spent 26% of its flexible pandemic recovery funds on investments in water infrastructure through September 2023. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the state will need $9 billion over the next 20 years to address its water-infrastructure needs.

$484 – Maximum monthly benefit level for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program for a single-parent family of three in Louisiana. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)