The Louisiana Legislature appears on track to reach a budget agreement after the state House overwhelmingly agreed on Wednesday to raise a constitutional spending limit. Senate Concurrent Resolution 3 allows more than $1.6 billion to be divided among state and local projects, and was the final sticking point in weeks of discussions between House and Senate leaders and Gov. John Bel Edwards. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue explains how it unfolded: 

 Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate leadership were able to lure enough House Republicans to go along with busting the cap — in part by promising a significant portion of the state’s extra funding would go toward transportation needs, hospitals, college campuses and other projects in those lawmakers’ districts.  The 19 conservatives who voted against raising the cap are likely to see funding to their areas slashed as retribution. 

The Advocate’s James Finn and Tyler Bridges explain where budget negotiations stand as the Legislature heads toward adjournment. 

The Legislature has until 6 p.m. Thursday to finalize House Bill 1, the main budget bill; House Bill 2, the state’s construction budget; House Bill 560, the supplemental spending bill that allocates available portions of $2.2 billion in excess and surplus tax dollars; and a number of other bills dealing with both fiscal and non-fiscal matters. Lawmakers on Wednesday were hashing out those bills behind closed doors in conference committees, where legislative leaders will make changes, and potentially punish lawmakers who did not side with leadership.

Lawmakers ban gender-affirming care for minors 
Louisiana on Wednesday became the latest state to ban access to gender-affirming care for children. The state House advanced House Bill 648 by Gabe Firment with enough votes to override a potential veto from Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has voiced opposition to the legislation. The New York Times’ Rick Rojas explains how lawmakers revived a harmful bill that goes against the advice of medical professionals and seeks to address a problem that doesn’t exist. 

Republican lawmakers resuscitated the bill after a previous attempt failed at the committee level. Last month, in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, Fred Mills, a Republican, cast the deciding vote that stopped the bill from advancing, for which he faced considerable backlash from right-wing activists. “I relied on science and data and not political or societal pressures,” Mr. Mills, who is a pharmacist, said, according to The Associated Press. … And a report by the Louisiana Department of Health found that there had been no gender-transition surgeries performed on minors in the past several years. 

The Louisiana NAACP urged caution to Black and LGBTQ+ people visiting Louisiana in response to the slew of harmful bills that passed during the current legislative session. 

Lawmakers buck locals on carbon capture
Louisiana lawmakers have sided with the state’s powerful petrochemical industry to beat back efforts to reign in carbon capture projects during the 2023 legislative session. While efforts to limit the unproven technology had support from environmentalists, local residents and Republican legislators from areas of proposed projects, it also drew heavy opposition from industry groups and Gov. John Bel Edwards. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Claire Sullivan reports: 

Two Republican lawmakers with districts adjacent to Lake Maurepas, which is just west of Lake Pontchartrain, sponsored proposals to halt the Air Products project. Both died in the House House Bill 267 by Rep. William “Bill” Wheat Jr. of Ponchatoula, would have placed a 10-year moratorium on carbon sequestration on or below Lake Maurepas and the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area. His bill aimed to protect the area from what it called “new and untested industries.” The Wheat proposal noted the ecological importance of the area as recognized by the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which has planned a $200 million river reintroduction project to revitalize the Maurepas Swamp.

Federal investments for working-class women
Working-class women – defined as those without bachelor’s degrees – had the largest drop in employment during the Covid-induced recession. While these women saw significant improvements in both employment and wage growth over the past two years as the economy recovered, opportunities still remain to break down existing barriers and expand employment opportunities. The Center for American Progress’ Beth Almeida explains how ongoing federal investments can sustain the gains that working-class women have experienced. 

Too many working-class women continue to be hampered by structural inequalities that interfere with their ability to obtain quality jobs, fair compensation, and equitable treatment at work. Sustaining the economic recovery will require policymakers to think more broadly and inclusively when it comes to supporting women’s employment. Fortunately, there are effective policy levers available to tackle some of the primary obstacles hindering working-class women—occupational segregation, job quality, caregiving responsibilities, and others—all of which must be addressed to meet the challenge of building a strong and growing economy in which no one is left behind.

Number of the Day
317,000 – Number of residents that Louisiana’s largest population centers lost from 2005 to 2020. Data shows that many of these people were young and college educated. (Source: University of Louisiana at Lafayette via LSU Manship News Service