The Senate Committee on Environmental Quality advanced legislation on Tuesday that requires industrial plants to install public air monitoring systems. Sen. Cleo Fields’ Senate Bill 35 would require facilities to install systems that measure and record pollution and alert nearby residents when leaks occur. The effort comes after failed attempts to pass similar measures in recent years and as harmful chemical leaks continue to negatively affect communities. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports: 

The committee’s bipartisan support for the bill came as a surprise to proponents who have been trying for years to get lawmakers to adopt it. The vote tally drew applause from many residents of the Mississippi River corridor known as Cancer Alley — most of them Black — who gathered after the meeting to thank Fields and take photos. Many of Cancer Alley’s industrial facilities are located in Black communities. … [Sen. Cleo] Fields said it should be a basic human right for people to know what’s in the air they’re breathing.  “As you know, people are dying from cancer in this state every day at a rate higher than any other,” Fields said. “It’s a simple bill. You should have the right to know what you breathe.”

A bright future requires a reckoning with the past 
For more than a century, the Colfax Massacre – considered the bloodiest incident of Reconstruction – was labeled a “riot” by racist state leaders who blamed the Black men who were killed defending their freedom for the tragedy. A marker was even erected labeling the slaughter the “end of carpetbag misrule in the South.” But earlier this month, a new memorial was dedicated to the victims of that massacre. While Louisiana’s Republican Party wants to ban the study of racist and “inglorious aspects” of our state and nation’s history, an Advocate editorial explains that being honest about our past and righting historical wrongs should not be divisive issues.  

The story of the new monument is greater than a 7-foot granite memorial. It reflects erstwhile efforts of people of goodwill, Black and White, to both determine and to acknowledge that a great wrong had been committed in this small town. That wrong needed to be corrected. Those efforts were embodied in the persons of Avery Hamilton, a local pastor and descendant of the first Black man killed in the massacre, and Charles Dean Woods, a White man from Texas whose ancestors played a role in carrying out the atrocities. The two men, who each came to learn about the tragic event on their own, have worked together in the Colfax Memorial Organization to sweep away some dust from Colfax’s tragic and bitter past and replace it with honest hope for the future.

Lawmakers weaken nursing home rules
Last November, Louisiana released new rules for nursing homes after disastrous evacuations during Hurricane Ida laid bare the state’s weak authority to protect elderly citizens in these facilities. But less than six months later, state lawmakers advanced legislation that allows facilities to continue operating even if they don’t meet the new state standards. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue reports on a potential reason why legislators reversed course, even as the horrific stories of the evacuation of Bob Dean’s nursing homes are still fresh.

Critics of the nursing home industry are always skeptical that the state health department will be tough and exacting on nursing homes, however. Nursing home owners are big political campaign contributors to governors and state lawmakers. Nursing home owners contributed about $400,000 to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ first gubernatorial campaign, according to The Advocate. Dean alone gave the governor’s reelection campaign $42,000 in 2019. Two lawmakers also have financial interests in nursing homes. Sens. Fred Mills, R-Parks, and Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, are partial owners in different facilities and sit on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that considers legislation dealing with nursing homes. The Louisiana Nursing Home Association, which represents the owners, also backs Stagni’s bill.

U.S. House to vote on GOP debt-ceiling bill
The U.S. House will vote on the GOP’s debt-ceiling bill on Wednesday after late-night negotiations to assuage concerns of Republican lawmakers. The harmful bill aims to enact massive spending cuts while imposing irresponsible and ineffective new work requirements for recipients of federal food assistance and Medicaid. It also repeals programs important to combating the threats of climate change, and much more. The Washington Post reports: 

With a vote expected as soon as this afternoon, top GOP lawmakers have expressed a measure of confidence even as they acknowledge they have little room for error, since their slim advantage — and persistent ideological schisms — could easily frustrate their plans. … As they prepared their bill for the House floor, Republicans ignored a veto threat from the White House, which emphasized Tuesday that the bill would hamstring key government services. That included “food safety inspections, rail safety, healthy meals for seniors, research on cancer and other diseases, border security, public safety, and veterans’ medical care,” the administration said in a statement. 

An analysis from Moody’s Analytics shows the disastrous effects of the GOP’s plan on the U.S. economy. 

The timing of the government spending cuts in the Limit, Save, Grow Act is thus especially inopportune as it would meaningfully increase the likelihood of such a downturn. Indeed, under the legislation, GDP growth is so weak that employment declines in the first three quarter of 2024, and the unemployment rate rises by more than a percentage point to 4.6% by the fourth quarter of 2024. Compared with the Clean Debt Limit scenario, by year-end 2024, employment is 780,000 jobs lower, and the unemployment rate is 0.36 percentage point higher

Footnote: In the event that the bill advances out of the House, the plan will not pass the Senate. 

Number of the Day
78,000 – Number of Louisiana students with disabilities that would face a reduction in support if the GOP debt-ceiling bill becomes law. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)