A bid to give Louisiana legislators their first pay raise in 43 years cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday, advancing out of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee. Rep. Joe Marino’s House Bill 149 would raise legislators’ base pay from $16,800 to around $40,000 per year, in addition to an expense allowance and per-diem for every day they work at the Capitol. The Lafayette Daily Advertiser’s Greg Hilburn reports: 

Marino and others said the current salary is a barrier for the majority of Louisianans to serve. “It’s an access to democracy issue,” said Republican Speaker Pro-tem Tanner Magee of Houma, who said the low pay shuts out “the common man.” … But opponents like Republican Pineville Rep. Mike Johnson pushed back, saying, “Service is about sacrifice. We know that when we run.” … Johnson also said neither he nor his colleagues have earned a raise because Louisiana remains at or near the bottom of lists measuring education, teacher pay, infrastructure and other quality-of-life issues.

The legislators’ efforts to raise their own pay comes in the same week that House conservatives pushed back against including a $3,000 pay raise for teachers in the state budget. Minimum-wage workers have not received a pay raise since 2009, as Louisiana remains one of five states without a minimum wage law on its books. 

College leaders defend diversity programs
Higher education leaders and faculty members are pushing back against the Louisiana Republican Party’s efforts to ban the study of racist and “inglorious aspects” of our state and nation’s history. Last month, the state GOP passed a resolution urging the Legislature to remove departments for “diversity, equity and inclusion” in state colleges and universities. But as The Advocate’s James Wilkins explains, college leaders say targeting diversity programs would hurt their ability to compete for students and professors, and may put them in violation of national standards. 

“With a threat to academic freedom, you’re going to have the most talented faculty not wanting to come here because the research that they want to pursue can be suddenly stopped if it becomes an irritant to sources within or outside the institution,” [Tom] Miller said. “In terms of value to the public, that’s probably the one thing that’s most destructive and reduces the value of our efforts.” …  Kerii Landry-Thomas, associate vice chancellor for equity, inclusion and Title IX at Southern University Law Center, argued the tactics outlined in the state GOP resolution would jeopardize the school’s academic standing. 

Groups sue Secretary of State over voting rights for ex-convicts
Three advocacy groups are suing Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin over the refusal of some election officials to remove a barrier to voting for some formerly-incarcerated people. A 2019 law allowed felons still on supervision to have their voting rights restored five years after they were released. But the Department of Public Safety & Corrections had to send documentation to local registrar’s offices to prove they met the requirements. A 2021 amendment removed the paperwork requirement and eligible people were supposed to have their rights restored automatically. But Voice of the Experienced, or VOTE, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and the League of Women Voters of Louisiana claim that election officials are violating federal voting guidelines by still demanding the paperwork. The Advocate’s Matt Bruce reports: 

“Some people finished their sentences decades ago and are being told to see their parole officer and get paperwork,” VOTE deputy director Bruce Reilly said in a news release late Monday. “Others have only ever been on probation and should never have been suspended at all. Ultimately, it is a waste of everyone’s resources to try and help one person after another navigate a redundant requirement.” … “This discriminatory treatment is irrational, imposes unnecessary burdens on the right to vote, and allows the state to shirk its responsibility to verify voter registrations from new registrants,” the lawsuit asserts. “Louisiana’s felony disenfranchisement scheme is a vestige of Jim Crow, borne from efforts to use the criminal legal system to suppress the Black vote.”

Bills aim to regulate carbon capture 
Pushback from local officials on carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects has prompted a slew of bills aimed at regulating the unproven technology. While CCS is featured heavily in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Climate Action Plan, and a robust team of lobbyists have been assembled for the current legislative session to push back against attacks on the industry, some legislators are concerned with the harmful environmental effects and issues over revenue sharing for proposed projects in their districts. The Center Square’s Victor Skinner reports on the carbon capture debate and bills aimed at regulating the industry. 

HB 571 would increase notification requirements for carbon dioxide well permits to include parish governments, and would mandate public hearings in each parish affected. In addition, the bill would require companies to conduct an environmental analysis for permits, and to notify parishes of that activity, as well. … Other carbon capture bills introduced this session include HB 10, to prevent operators from using eminent domain to gain properties for wells; HB 35, to ban the projects in St. Helena Parish; HB 120, to prohibit structures from protruding above lakes Maurepas or Pontchartrain; HB 267, to impose a 10-year moratorium on projects beneath Lake Maurepas and the Maurepas swamp; 

Nola.com’s Bob Marshall explains how credits included in the federal Inflation Reduction Act will make CCS a taxpayer funded gusher for oil and gas.

You and I will be paying them to stop adding to the emissions responsible for larger hurricanes already wreaking greater economic disasters on us, ruinous rises in insurance rates and surging sea levels that could swallow our bottom third in the next 40 years. Best of all (for them), they can still make the fossil fuels that will produce even more carbon than will be captured at their refineries. All while continuing their fight against taxpayer grants to increase green energy. It’s like paying a thief to stop stealing just some of your money.

Number of the Day
$12.23 – The value of the federal minimum wage in 2022 if it had kept up with inflation since 1968. The minimum wage has not been raised since 2009, and remains stuck at $7.25 per hour. (Source: Economic Policy Institute via LBP’s State of Working Louisiana report)