Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne is confident that Louisiana can afford a new paid parental leave policy for state employees. But the outgoing state budget chief told the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday that it will take some time to determine the full cost. Gov.-elect Jeff Landry has said he wants more information before committing to maintaining the benefits. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue reports:

“There’s been some concern expressed about whether we could afford it or not,” Dardenne said. “The fact is, it has been built into the budget. We are going to be able to afford it.” …  Dardenne’s comments Monday could be considered a response to Landry’s skepticism. “There’s not going to be an ability for Gov. Landry or the new legislature to come and say ‘We’ve got to ask the Civil Service Commission to undo this because we can’t afford it,’” Dardenne said. In spite of the optimism, Dardenne said there are state agencies that could face additional pressures with the policy in place.

O’Donoghue reported last week that incoming legislative leaders are also non-committal on the new policy. 

Legislative redistricting battle begins 
A trial to determine whether the Legislature’s new political boundaries violate the Voting Rights Act – and must be redrawn – began on Monday. U.S. District Chief Judge Shelly Dick will hear arguments over the next week from civil rights groups that are suing for more majority-Black districts in the state legislative map and Gov.-elect Jeff Landry, who opposes the move. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Meghan Friedmann reports

According to the lawsuit, the redistricting created only one additional majority-Black district, when it should have created six to nine more majority-Black districts in the House and three more in the Senate. While White voters make up 58% of the voting age population, they control outcomes for 70% of seats, the lawsuit says. It argues that the redistricting continued Louisiana’s “shameful record” of “denying Black Louisianans a meaningful opportunity to participate in the State’s political life through the election of candidates of their choice.”

Helping moms breastfeed when care, policies fall short
Breastfeeding has proven benefits for newborns and their mothers. But Louisiana has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Emily Woodruff reports on Dr. Lisa Credo, whose practice is trying to fill the void left by inadequate state policies. 

“A team-based approach really works best,” said Credo. Credo, a New Orleans native, is unique in her specialty. She is one of just four physicians in Louisiana who are members of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. … “You’re not going to breastfeed if you have no leave from your job,” said Dr. Rebekah Gee, an OB-GYN, former health secretary of Louisiana and founder and CEO of Nest Health. Louisiana hospitals have worked to introduce breastfeeding, but women are up against many roadblocks: they make less money, struggle to find affordable childcare and often don’t have reliable transportation, said Gee.

Medicaid expansion and cardiovascular disease
The expansion of Medicaid (by some states) to low-income individuals has provided greater access to outpatient cardiovascular care, according to a new report from Health Affairs. The report’s authors examined Medicaid data of low-income, non-elderly adults in two states that expanded Medicaid  – New Jersey and Minnesota – and two that chose not to – Georgia and Tennessee. 

There was a 38.1 percent greater increase in expansion states in the rate of beneficiaries with outpatient visits for cardiovascular disease management associated with Medicaid expansion relative to nonexpansion states. This was accompanied by a 42.9 percent greater increase in the prescription rate for cardiovascular disease management agents. These results suggest that expansion of Medicaid eligibility was associated with an increase in cardiovascular care use among low-income nonelderly adults in expansion states.

Number of the Day
9% – Percentage increase in a typical home’s value in Louisiana since Feb. 2020. This was the lowest increase of any state and just ahead of the District of Columbia. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau via The Washington Post)