Black Caucus, faith leaders share concerns about 2021 session

Concerns included bills impacting water quality and the release of 1,500 inmates

black caucus ted james

During a press conference, June 8, on the steps of the state capital, members of the Legislative Black Caucus were joined by faith community leaders to share disappointment and concerns about several measures during this year’s session.

State Representative Edward C. “Ted” James II, who chairs the caucus, said, “There are so many troubling legislative instruments being pushed through statehouses across this nation with Louisiana being no different, but we guess fairness is in the eye of the beholder or not.”

Freeing 1,500 inmates

For starters, Rep. Randal L. Gaines bill HB 346 sought to remedy a more than 100-year-old wrong with the non-unanimous jury, where the Supreme Court in Ramos vs Louisiana ruled that the Sixth Amendment establishes a right to a unanimous jury that applies in both federal and state courts. Last week, the Court issued a decision saying their ruling was not retroactive. For our state, that means that 1,500 incarcerated persons were not eligible for new trials.  “Given the outcome of HB 346, one would think legislators were not in a forgiving mood,” said State Rep. Tammy Phelps of Shreveport, “However, that is not the case.”

Regulating ground water

Take for instance, the groundwater commission was created to establish a board whose mission is to regulate usage of the Southern Hills Aquifer that supplies drinking water to the Baton Rouge region.   Water from the aquifer is depleting and we are told it is because industry is using more water than their allotment, while they have successfully appointed their own employees to the board that votes in the interest of their respective companies. Fair, no, but not just that, the Attorney General’s office, the State Auditors and the State Ethics Board have all said these appointments were in violation of ethics laws.

“In this climate, who cares, rhetorically, those who are not in charge. So when we talk about morals, values, fairness and equity, we see our legislators approving SB 203 in both chambers ignoring its violations and making the bill legal and retroactive with penalties, basically being charged off. These and other ideological priorities only serves to impugn our state’s character plus continues to make the economic, education, health care, justice and family values divide gulf even larger,” the Legislative Black Caucus shared in a written statement.