“Unprecedented” is one of 2020’s buzzwords and a fitting description for the 2020 Louisiana Legislative Session. In all my years of experience, I’ve never experienced anything quite like the roller coaster of this year’s sessions – and there’s still likely more to come.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the legislative session in many ways – proceedings were suspended five days in to help stem community spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19 related bills took priority on the floor, and constituent engagement in committee meetings was limited due to safety concerns.
Despite the new challenges, United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Public Policy team stood firm in our fight for legislation that creates opportunities for families living in poverty and ALICE and supports the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community.
We provided testimony on the impacts of COVID-19 on ALICE women and children, mobilized advocates to communicate with legislators on key bills, submitted written testimony and research for committee meetings, and worked closely with statewide coalitions to expand our impact.
Below are highlights of wins from our 2020 Legislative Agenda, “United for a Safe and Prosperous Community.” I encourage you to read the full recap of our progress in this legislative wrap-up and sign up for future action alerts here.
- While we did not secure $25.1 million in new state funding to expand access to quality, affordable child care for 4,000 children as hoped, as part of the Ready Louisiana Coalition we:
- Protected the $18.8 million in additional state funding received last year for families in the Child Care Assistance Program;
- Saw widespread support for HB 251 to continue the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Commission and create a task force to study sustainable funding streams for early care and education;
- Supported the passage of HB 64, which dedicates a portion of sports-betting tax revenue to the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund and moves on to the Governor’s desk for signature; and
- Ensured that family child care policies centered around the health and safety of children, in line with national best practices.
- ACT 16, authored by Sen. Beth Mizell, will help bring broadband internet access to rural communities and allow more Louisianans to access online opportunities for education, health care, and more.
- ACT 272, authored by Rep. Aimee Freeman, requires teachers and school staff to complete a simple online training annually on mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse and neglect. The training will help keep our children safe while also protecting teachers by keeping them up-to-date on their responsibilities as mandatory reporters.
- We worked closely with Rep. Freeman to support a bipartisan bill that allows local municipalities to exempt children’s and adult diapers, as well as feminine hygiene products from local sales taxes. Former State Senator JP Morrell put years of effort into similar legislation, and this new law will provide some financial relief on essential products.
- We supported one-time hazard rebates of $250 to front-line workers who earn less than $50,000. The rebates will provide a measure of support to essential ALICE workers, who keep our community running during COVID-19 and year-round.
- We mobilized advocates to support legislation to close a loophole that allowed some insurance providers to agree they must cover the reconstruction of a breast that has been preventatively or prophylactically removed, but NOT the actual preventative or prophylactic mastectomy.
- ACT 101 provides specific penalties for the crimes of domestic abuse battery or battery of a dating partner and advances our historic progress for domestic violence survivors.
This session was also notable as it marked Kim Sport’s last year as UWSELA’s Public Policy Committee Chair, a role she has held since the committee’s founding in 2013. I’ll share more in a proper tribute in the coming days, but Kim’s impact in our community as a champion for the most vulnerable is immeasurable. We are forever grateful, Kim.
While session is adjourned for now, our work isn’t over. We continue to advocate at the federal level for the next COVID-19 relief package and are preparing for an anticipated second special state legislative session in October.
I always find myself saying, “We don’t do any of this work alone.” Thank you to our legislative champions, Board of Trustees, Public Policy Committee, Women United, staff, volunteers, collaborative partners, and advocates for fighting with us for a stronger, more equitable Southeast Louisiana.
Executive Vice President & COO
United Way of Southeast Louisiana