Louisiana’s Medicaid program provides life-sustaining health coverage to millions of people with low incomes, and essential financial protection from debilitating medical expenses. The program was critical to helping Louisiana families through the health and financial challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. To better understand how Medicaid impacts people’s lives, LBP conducted in-depth interviews with people enrolled in the program from across Louisiana during the Covid-19 pandemic. The interviews are compiled in our new report, Medicaid Works. Let’s Keep it Strong

“Medicaid is an example of how a social safety-net program creates deep, lasting and beneficial impacts for both the people enrolled in the program and the communities where they live,” said Charlotte Willcox, who led the research. “In the state with the highest poverty rate in the nation, Medicaid coverage means people with low incomes don’t have to choose between paying rent and getting the medical care they need.”

Interviewees emphasized that Medicaid provides financial stability while they work to meet other basic needs and strive to reach their goals. 

Crime is top issue for voters
Crime is the most important issue for Louisiana voters heading into the 2023 election cycle, according to a new statewide poll. But the results from JMC Analytics also show that the same voters favor the aims of the 2017 bipartisan criminal justice reforms, such as serving lighter sentences and having easier access to employment upon release. The Advocate’s James Finn reports:

Eighty-two percent of voters responded that people with mental health or substance issues should receive treatment instead of going to jail. Eighty-three percent said that those who have previously served time in prison should be able to more easily obtain a job. Over 70% of voters also agreed that non-violent offenders who have served their time and stayed out of trouble should have their records expunged or sealed. And 77% said those charged with minor crimes should not be jailed while awaiting trial. Voters also reported frustrations with the current state of Louisiana’s criminal justice institutions, with 75% saying the system needs major improvement.

Some legislators, looking to take a “tough on crime” stance in an election year, are proposing to repeal or water down the reforms that reduced Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate by reducing the number of non-violent offenders in jails. 

Higher education bills to watch
Louisiana’s budget and tax structure will be the main topic of discussion when lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday for a two-month “fiscal” session. But there is also a slew of higher education bills that could have serious implications for faculty tenure, sports gambling partnerships with colleges and universities and affirmative action. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Piper Hutchinson breaks down the important higher education bills for the 2023 legislative session. 

While the current version of the bill [Senate Bill 174] does not make major changes to tenure practices in Louisiana, it’s worth following. Cathey said he still wants to abolish tenure, and higher education leaders are concerned about the effect his bill will have on recruitment efforts. … Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, filed a bill that would prohibit colleges and universities from entering into sports gambling partnerships. … Senate Bill 128, filed by Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, would prohibit public colleges and universities from using a student’s race, sex or national origin as criteria for offering admission. 

Child care support for construction workers 
There are currently not enough trained tradespeople to fill the estimated 800,000 construction jobs the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and CHIPS and Science Act are estimated to create over the next decade. Companies will need to recruit new workers to fill these jobs, but America’s child care crisis could severely hamper this effort. As Route Fifty’s Kery Murakami explains, an Oregon program is trying to solve this problem by providing child care support for construction workers. 

In 2016, the Oregon Legislature passed a law requiring the transportation department to spend .5% of federal funds–up to $2.1 million every biennium—on an apprenticeship program to train people to become highway construction workers. The department allocated a small amount for child care. Between July 2019 and December 2022, the department spent $340,027 on child care services for 75 apprentices so that they did not have to pay more than 7% of their income on child care, [Workforce management director for the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Office of Civil Rights Cye Fink said. … The money has had an impact. In the last two years, apprentices who received the help were, depending on their trade, 10% to 20% more likely to complete their apprenticeships, Fink said. The impacts are even higher among women doing apprenticeships to work in highway construction.

Number of the Day
– Percentage of Louisiana voters that believe non-violent offenders should serve shorter sentences because they are less likely to reoffend after completing their time served. (Source: JMC Analytics)