Gov. Jeff Landry tried to ease concerns that his proposed constitutional convention is a power grab by his administration and its allies. In a news conference on Thursday morning, the governor pushed back on criticism that the process has been secretive and is being rushed (which it is). But as the Louisiana Illuminator’s Piper Hutchinson explains, there are still no details about what Landry wants to change in the constitution and why: 

Transparency isn’t an issue, Landry said, because he had a transition council on constitutional reform. Critics merely need to check out the council’s public report — which totaled 250 words on how to reform one of the world’s longest constitutions — and take a look at the members of the council, who he said came from diverse backgrounds. The names of those individuals were not made public until a reporter asked about them at Thursday’s press conference. 

Landry also praised the efforts of the last rewrite of Louisiana’s constitution, which bears little resemblance to this plan: 

The constitutional convention of 1973 — referred to by many as CC73 — was composed primarily of elected delegates. Some were state lawmakers, but many were other officeholders or simply interested citizens who put themselves forward as candidates. In Landry’s proposal, House Bill 800, carried by Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, the Legislature appoints its members as the delegates, bypassing popular elections. … While House Bill 800 only gives delegates two weeks to complete its work — leading many to believe the new constitution is already written — CC73 met for the better part of a year, often spending weeks at a time on individual articles. 

The next step for the convention’s enabling legislation comes Monday in the House Appropriations Committee, which will review the anticipated cost of the plan

The Louisiana House advanced a budget package on Thursday that cuts teacher pay and funding for early childhood education but increases funding for police and prisons. While lawmakers restored some money for public school teacher stipends, it still leaves educators without a permanent pay raise and short of the $2,000 stipends they received in the current budget cycle. Moreover, the stipends wouldn’t be applied universally to all teachers. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue reports:

School districts would have the flexibility to decide whether to give some teachers more money than others within their own systems, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, said. McFarland, who oversees the House budget-writing process, said Gov. Jeff Landry did not want the school districts to be locked into a system where the teacher stipend had to be given out evenly. …  If money for teacher and school support staff stipends was distributed evenly to teachers across the board, it would mean teachers would get an almost $1,700 stipend next academic year – less than the $2,000 they received this year.

The spending plan restores funding for domestic violence shelters and a federal program to feed kids during summer that Gov. Jeff Landry sought to cut. But the governor’s political games on the Summer EBT program could have serious consequences for hungry kids:

Department of Children and Family Services Secretary David Matlock said Louisiana’s delay in participating in the program will mean that food assistance might not reach families until next year. News of a potential delay to the summer food program for several months angered legislators. McFarland called it “hogwash” and said he would make every effort to get the program up and running for this year’s summer instead.

The budget bills now head to the Senate, which could have more money to work with after the Revenue Estimating Conference meets next month to update the official revenue forecast. 

The House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee advanced proposals on Thursday that would make it harder to form and operate unions and make it illegal to picket or strike for collective bargaining efforts. Public sector employees could be barred from collective bargaining under a proposal that is also expected to advance. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s James Finn reports on conservative lawmakers’ broad assault on public sector unions:

(D)ozens of union representatives and members — and a total of 93 people who submitted cards in opposition to Crews’ HB956 compared to six who filed support cards — lambasted the legislation as part of an anti-worker push by national interest groups. They said the bills would further reduce unions’ already-limited policymaking clout at the Capitol while eroding their ability to advocate for things like worker wages, vacation and health care benefits.

Union members are frustrated that lawmakers are pushing bills that favor corporations over workers, and the lobbying advantage these special interests hold at the Capitol. 

Stephen Delie, a Michigan-based lobbyist for conservative labor policy group Workers for Opportunity, stumped for both bills. His presence drew the ire of Chad Major, president of the Professional Firefighters Association of Louisiana. “This guy from Michigan shows up and he’s paid by the Koch brothers and gives to the Pelican Institute and y’all listen to whatever garbage they spew out,” Major said. “The gentleman from Michigan can get on a plane and go back up north.” 

While it has been a bad week for workers in Louisiana, it has been a good time for U.S. workers as a whole. This week the Federal Trade Commission issued a ban on the use of noncompete clauses and the Labor Department expanded the number of workers who qualify for overtime pay. The Economic Policy Institute’s Samantha Sanders and Heidi Shierholz break down the new rule and explain why the current overtime salary threshold is too low:

The pay threshold determining which salaried workers are automatically eligible for overtime pay has been eroded both by not being updated using a proper methodology, and by inflation. Currently, workers earning $684 per week (the equivalent of $35,568 per year for a full-time, full-year employee) can be forced to work 60-70 hours a week for no more pay than if they worked 40 hours. The extra 20-30 hours are completely free to the employer, allowing employers to exploit workers with no consequences.

4.3 million – Number of workers that will benefit from new federal rules to expand overtime. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)