While it often seems like Congress can’t get anything done, that wasn’t the case last week when the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly, in bipartisan fashion, for a bill that would extend and expand the federal Child Tax Credit. As the Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Mark Ballard explains, the $78 billion tax package was pushed across the finish line with help from anti-abortion lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Johnson of Benton. 

Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, said the pandemic version of the credit “was absolutely transformative. It is the main reason why the child poverty rate was cut in half.” … The child tax credit also is important to the pro-life movement – where Johnson made his political bones as a young lawyer – and is an important force on Capitol Hill. Americans for Life and the National Right to Life Committee back the child tax credit expansion.

Landry changes tune on Blue Cross sale
The Senate’s insurance and health committees will meet jointly on Monday to review the proposed sale of the nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana to a for-profit insurance conglomerate. The hearing comes as doctors, hospitals, state lawmakers and the Louisiana Budget Project have raised questions about the deal, and its effect on consumers. As the Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Stephanie Riegel reports, Elevance Health might have won over its most important critic, Gov. Jeff Landry, who has changed his tone since the deal was revised to give him and Insurance Commissioner Tim Temple more control over a charitable foundation that would be created as part of the sale: 

Landry’s comments (in a recent speech) echoed arguments used by Blue Cross executives over the past year to justify why the Baton Rouge-based nonprofit — which has more than 60 percent of the commercially insured customers in the state — should sell to a much larger, for-profit company. … Though Landry did not officially take a position on the sale in his speech, the tone of his remarks could make it harder for lawmakers and hospitals to speak out against the sale and could ease the way for the deal to get final approval.

With friends like Brumley, who needs enemies?
Dr. Cade Brumley has outlined his priorities for his second stint as the state’s top education chief. Ironically, the person charged with leading Louisiana’s public school system is supporting a policy – Education Savings Accounts – that could dismantle public education in the state. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Patrick Wall explains Brumley’s support for a policy that forces state taxpayers to underwrite private school tuition: 

If Louisiana follows states such as Arizona, Arkansas and Utah that make every student eligible for ESAs, the program’s cost would almost certainly soar as families who previously paid for private school themselves start to receive public subsidies. About 15% of Louisiana students attend private schools — one of the highest rates in the nation. An ESA program could also draw more students away from public schools, which already face declining enrollments and the threat of closure. And it risks funneling tax dollars into failing private schools, as Louisiana’s voucher program has done.

Arizona’s ESA program has significantly contributed to a nearly $1 billion budget deficit and could lead to school closures and teacher layoffs.

Pollution is driving Black Americans to the South
More than one million Black Americans have migrated to the South over the past three decades. While most of the research into this phenomenon has focused on taxes and economic mobility, pollution is also playing a role in the moves. Adam Mahoney, writing in a guest essay for the New York Times, explains how many Black people are encountering the same problems – and entirely new ones.

The South has long been one of the most vulnerable parts of the country to extreme weather, and it has gotten worse in recent years. As the effects of global warming have intensified, Southern states have been slow to upgrade and weatherize their power grids and have paid the price — for instance, when hundreds of people died during Texas’ 2021 winter storm blackout.. … Across the region, from Houston to Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., homes have been built on flood plains, in neighborhoods where concrete has replaced greenery. Dallas, the city with the second most new Black residents nationwide from 2015 to 2020, is struggling to procure enough water to meet growing demand. 

Number of the Day
$320 million – Estimated cost of Ohio’s universal school voucher program for the current school year. While analysts could not provide a total amount because the state is still processing and accepting applications until June, the cost will certainly increase as more families – even ones that can afford tuition – apply. (Source: ProPublica)