June 21, 2021 6:00am

Report card for Louisiana Legislature

Here's how The Times-Picayune Power Poll grades the 2021 session

Photo of Drew Broach
New Orleans, LA Correspondent
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For its 60 days of lawmaking this spring, the Louisiana Legislature earned a better-than-average grade, according to The Times-Picayune Power Poll. More than 90% of the survey respondents gave the Legislature a B or C, and none awarded an A or F.

Respondents were slightly more impressed with their individual legislators, whether the ones for their voting districts or the ones for their organization’s interests. More than 15% gave their legislators an A, and 80 percent awarded a B or C.

Conducted online Monday through Thursday, The Times-Picayune Power Poll survey is not a scientific inquiry. But because it asks questions of the top Jefferson and Orleans parish influencers in business, politics, arts, media, nonprofits and community affairs, it does afford a fascinating and non-partisan insight into the thoughts and opinions of those who steer the region. Of 354 Power Poll members surveyed this week, 45 voted for participation rate of 13%.

The Legislature offered a practiced if mundane regular session 2021, with no huge fights over Louisiana’s $38 billion operating budget and few over any other issue.

On the back side of the COVID-19 pandemic, some businesses pressed to end Louisiana’s acceptance of a $300 weekly supplement from the federal government for unemployed people, in exchange for increasing the state benefit by $28. Business owners said the federal help was making it hard to find workers.

Power Poll respondents applauded the tradeoff, with almost half saying it was good for business, workers and taxpayers. One third said it was good for business but not so good for others.

In dissent, Allison Plyer, chief demographer at The Data Center, said: “The turmoil in the labor market will not be resolved by Louisiana cutting off $300 per week in unemployment benefits for one month. Moreover, unemployment benefits in Louisiana are so measly, even with $300 extra unemployed Louisiana workers receive a max of only $547 per week, the equivalent of $28,444 annually or $13.68 per hour. 

“To help employers, the state should focus on available and affordable child care, rental support to stabilize families and workers and high-quality, readily available job training.”

Lawmakers also scheduled an Oct. 9 referendum on a tax swap: Should Louisiana lower corporate and individual income tax rates in exchanging for giving up the right to deduct federal tax payments on state tax returns?

About 44% of survey respondents said yes. But almost 38% are not yet sure.

Lastly, the Legislature decided to split revenue from future sports gambling into five pots:

  • 12% to the parishes that approved sports betting
  • 2%, to a maximum of $500,000, to the Behavioral Health and Wellness Fund
  • 20%, to a maximum of $10 million, to Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund
  • 2.5% to increase horse racing purses
  • The rest to the state general fund to be distributed as legislators wish.

That’s too many pots to make much of a difference, said 40% of the survey respondents.

But Danny Martiny of Kenner, a lawyer who spent 25 years in the Legislature, understood why the pie was sliced so thinly.

“That was the only way to generate the necessary votes to pass the legislation,” he said. “Otherwise, the funds would go into the general fund where the fight over the revenue would take place.”

By the way, our participation rate was low this month, barely half of normal. If you have suggestions to future Power Poll topics and questions, please email correspondent Drew Broach at neworleans@powerpoll.com.

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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