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For years, Louisiana has carried the distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world, which unfortunately has not been met with corresponding low crime and recidivism rates. Something isn’t working and it isn’t good for the economy or for our communities. 

As a former Assistant District Attorney, Rep. Walt Leger passed a resolution establishing the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force in order to achieve the type of -- bipartisan, common sense, taxpayer-saving, public safety outcome-improving -- reforms that states like Texas, Georgia, Utah and others have produced over the past several years.

On March 16, 2017, the Task Force releases a repot recommending that Louisiana lawmakers adopt a comprehensive set of evidence-based reforms to improve the performance of its criminal justice system, lowering incarceration rates and increasing public safety.

Read the report here: http://gov.louisiana.gov/assets/docs/Issues/Criminal-Justice/Justice-Reinvestment-Task-Force-Report_2017.pdf

 

New Data on the Greater New Orleans Area Shows the Economic Impact of Immigrant Population

Today, local leaders showcased new research on the contributions of immigrants in the Greater New Orleans Area, specifically highlighting tax contributions, spending power, workforce composition and entrepreneurial characteristics. Spearheaded by New American Economy (NAE), the data release marks the launch of Map the Impact—a campaign to highlight the economic power of immigrants in communities across the country.

This effort arms business, civic, and cultural leaders with new data on immigrant populations in all 435 Congressional Districts and 50 metro areas. Featured in an interactive map that also includes state- and sector-specific data, NAE quantifies every locality’s foreign-born population, tax contributions, spending power, home ownership, and voting power, among other items. 

“The economic narrative surrounding the contributions of immigrant populations is particularly important to the people of New Orleans. Not only are we a global city by nature, but we are in an unprecedented period of growth that allows us to recognize new talent and opportunities to make our city as competitive as possible,” said Rep. Leger (D-New Orleans). “When you combine New Orleanians who have been here for decades with New Orleanians who have recently decided to make this city their home, then you have a formidable combination of strength and spirit that will usher us confidently into our next 300 years.”

In the Greater New Orleans Area, Map the Impact shows: 

  • There are 93,142 foreign-born residents who make up 7.4 percent of the area’s population. 
  • Immigrants paid $721.7M in state and local taxes and held $2.0B in spending power in 2014. 
  • Immigrants are 72.4% percent more likely to be entrepreneurs than the native population, and there are 10,329 immigrant entrepreneurs in the Greater New Orleans Area.
  • Immigrants own 18,804 homes and help to build the area’s housing wealth.  
  • Immigrants make up 25.3 percent of the Administrative Support industry, 22.1 percent of the Construction industry, and 15.5 percent in General Services, and more. 

At the Congressional District level, Map the Impact shows that in District 2:

  • There are 44,036 foreign-born residents who make up 5.7 percent of the area’s population. 
  • Immigrants paid $287.6M in state and local taxes and held $897.5M in spending power in 2014. 
  • Immigrants are 63 percent more likely to be entrepreneurs than the native population, and there are 2.085 immigrant entrepreneurs in Congressional District 2.
  • Immigrants own 8,427 homes and help to build the area’s housing wealth.  
  • Immigrants make up 22.7 percent of the Construction industry, 19.7 percent of the Agriculture industry, and 14.5 percent in General Services, and more. 

Visit Map the Impact for state, city, and district information that will help leaders grasp the influence of immigrants in America. 

More information can be found at www.NewAmericanEconomy.org

State Representative Walt Leger Partners with Local Community Organizations to Provide Tornado Relief for New Orleans East Residents

 State Representative Walt Leger (D- New Orleans) is partnering with local community organizations to support New Orleans East residents who were impacted by recent tornadoes. Rep. Leger will be working with groups like the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, the Louisiana State Bar Association and Louisiana Appleseed to offer legal assistance to New Orleans East residents.  

"I am committed to lending my time and talents to helping those impacted by the tornadoes. If one part of our city is suffering, we are all suffering. It is critical that we come together as a community to support our neighbors in New Orleans East. Just like we’ve done in the past, we will show the enduring strength of the people of New Orleans. I look forward to continuing the work that will heal this community and our city in the coming months both as a legislator and a proud citizen of New Orleans. I encourage all of us to contribute whatever we can to help our fellow New Orleanians.”

The FEMA Disaster Recovery Center is open on Monday through Saturday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Sunday from Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. FEMA has indicated that it is not necessary to visit the library in order to receive assistance. To register with FEMA, go online to DisasterAssistance.gov, call the FEMA Helpline (800-621-3362), or download the FEMA mobile app. Help is available in most languages and the FEMA Helpline is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, until further notice.

Rep. Leger will partner to assist those in need of legal assistance such as housing, insurance, contractor and government programs. Residents in need of legal assistance can call the Louisiana Civil Justice Center hotline at 1-800-310-7029 Monday – Friday from 9am to 2pm.

 

 

 

If there's anything we can appreciate in Louisiana - given our recent history - it's that voting matters.

We've seen how electing the right leaders can have direct effects on each citizen's quality of life -- from working through a budget crisis and responding to historic flooding to expanding quality healthcare to hundreds of thousands.

So make your voice heard. Early voting is open until Tuesday, Nov. 1., and Election Day is Nov. 8. If you have questions about where to vote, the Louisiana Democratic Party is available to answer them at (225) 336-4155.

Constitutional Amendments

There are a number of constitutional amendments - two that I sponsored - on the ballot. The Council for a Better Louisiana summarized them all here: tinyurl.com/zkt6n7k

Here are my recommendations:

  1. YES on # 1 - Create Hiring Qualifications for Registrars of Voters
  2. YES on #2 - Tuition Authority for Higher Education
  3. YES on #3 -  Reform Corporate Income Tax (My Legislation - endorsed by the Tax Foundation and many others.) 
  4. YES on #4 - Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses of Military and Public Safety Personnel
  5. YES on #5 - Create the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund (My Legislation - more below)
  6. NO on #6 - Allow Limited Access to Constitutionally Dedicated Funds

I also suggest you VOTE YES on the New Orleans Charter Amendment to split the inspector general and police monitor.

Resources:

Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund

For decades, Louisiana has been caught in the same cycle—when times are good, the state spends every dollar generated—and when times are bad, there isn’t enough revenue to pay for all of our obligations.

Without raising taxes, the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund can help fix this. 

Endorsed by The Advocate, The Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, Council for a Better Louisiana, Louisiana Budget Project, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, and Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. 

 

Thank You!

Thanks to everyone who came out to my fundraiser on Oct. 10, especially the Finance Committee and Hosts. I was overwhelmed and humbled by the full house. I am grateful to work with each of you to improve the lives of people in New Orleans and across Louisiana. 

Sincerely, 

Walt 

Where's Walt?

 

CVB luncheon

A champion for the tourism and hospitality workers who keep our economy humming, Walt gave the keynote at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau luncheon. 

Nuestra Voz listening tour

As part of an effort to breakdown existing institutional, cultural, and linguistic silos between families and schools, Walt participated in the Nuestra Voz listening tour.

 

United Way of SELA

Walt was honored by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana as a 2016 Louisiana Legislative Champion for supporting legislation that impacts our communities.

Angels in Adoption

Walt was recognized in Washington, D.C. as a 2016 Angels in Adoption® awardee for his outstanding advocacy of adoption and foster care issues. 

 

Ride New Orleans 

As an advocate for smart transportation and a new board member of Ride New Orleans, Walt moderated the organization's State of Transit panel. 

St. Bernard Chamber

Walt spoke at the St. Bernard Parish Chamber of Commerce luncheon to share why it's important to VOTE YES ON #5 for the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund. 

 

Jefferson Chamber

Walt spoke at the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce board meeting, and they endorsed constitutional amendment #5!

New Orleans Chamber

Walt spoke at the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce board meeting, and they endorsed constitutional amendment #5! 

 

Jesuit Mock Debate 

Walt returned to his alma mater for a mock presidential debate, representing Hillary Clinton. Rep. Cameron Henry also participated, representing Donald Trump.  

Louisiana Primary Care Association 

Walt offered the opening remarks at the LPCA's 33rd Annual Conference. The nonprofit promotes accessible, affordable, quality primary health care for the uninsured and medically underserved.

 

Historic Tax Credit Council 

Walt had the honor of speaking at the Historic Tax Credit Council's breakfast.

America's Wetland Foundation

A champion for our coast, Walt participated in America's WETLAND Foundation's roundtable discussions on the State's master plan. 

Metropolitan New Orleans Transportation Priorities


View the report here (23.9MB PDF) or click the thumbnail below. This is a large PDF file and may require some time to load.

Transportation report cover

This summer, I had the honor of personally working with change makers from the Urban Leaders Fellowship (ULF), and, on behalf of my constituency, I would like to thank them all for their diligent efforts to advance policy solutions for Louisiana. If you are unfamiliar with the organization’s mission, the ULF, with Executive Director Lani Young at the helm, recruits cadres of the nation’s most talented emerging leaders to spend seven weeks in eight metropolises across the country, including the ULF’s home base of Denver, Atlanta, Dallas, Indianapolis, Nashville, Washington, D.C., Oakland, and my own city, New Orleans.

As Speaker Pro Tempore of the Louisiana House of Representatives and representative for New Orleans’ District 91, I asked my cohort of fellows to focus on six different policy areas: Early Childhood Care and Development, Community Policing, Criminal Justice Reform, Immigration, Transportation, and Equitable Development. Each fellow then collaborated with a partner organization, such as the Louisiana Department of Education or Tulane University’s Cowen Institute, to conduct research and stakeholder interviews. During the months of June and July, the fellows produced a weekly memorandum addressing specific questions as well as a culminating presentation with final policy proposals and supporting data analysis.

As my staff and I combed through the reports, we were repeatedly impressed with the thoughtfulness and creativity of the proposed innovations, as well as the attention to detail displayed by the data analytics. The work of the Urban Leaders Fellows will have a direct impact on the legislation I put forward to the Louisiana House of Representatives next session, and I appreciate having had the opportunity to interact with a group of such intelligent and civic-minded individuals.

Though I have said my farewells to the 2016 fellows, I have no doubt that I will be hearing several of their names again in the coming years and decades as they leave their respective marks on society. I offer my warmest wishes to these young leaders and encourage them to keep the fiery passion for progress alive in whatever careers they ultimately pursue.

Today, Louisiana House of Representatives Speaker Pro Tempore State Representative Walter “Walt” Leger III (D-New Orleans) convened a meeting that gathered business and community leaders to discuss a new report released by the Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE). The Louisiana-specific research includes data on the foreign-born population in Louisiana, their tax contributions, their spending power, and their role in Louisiana’s key industries as leaders and job creators. 
 
“As we look to grow the economy and create jobs for Louisianians, it is important that we consider all of the variables, like economic stimuli provided by immigrants,” said Rep. Leger (D-New Orleans). “Today’s roundtable provided a forum for public officials and the business community to discuss how we can strengthen our economy, expand job opportunities, and become more competitive.”
 
The report states that immigrants make up four percent of the state’s population and contributed $1.4 billion in taxes, or close to 5 percent of the total share in 2014. That same year, immigrants earned $5 billion, or 4.6 percent of all income earned by Louisiana residents.
 
According to the report, immigrants in Louisiana contribute to crucial industries, such as agriculture and health care. They make up 9.1 percent of all entrepreneurs in the state, and play a large role in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, a major component of U.S. economic growth. These and other key statistics on immigrants in Louisiana can be found in the PNAE report.
 
The roundtable coincided with the NAE’s launch of the Reason for Reform campaign in all 50 states today. 

 

VIEW THE REPORT HERE: http://www.renewoureconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/nae-la-report.pdf

 
Call me an optimist

Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Well, the historically long stretch of consecutive legislative sessions that ended last week has been ‘difficult’ — to put it mildly.

At the outset, we faced a mid-year shortfall of $954 million and a $2.1 billion deficit for 2017. It’s been widely reported how Jindal’s failed policies led us into dire straits and falsely reported the actual budget allocations for previous years, so I won’t rehash it here. In the end, we are left with a budget that still falls $337 million short of what was necessary in order to maintain services provided last year. The somehow still standing vocal minority that some refer to as the Jindal caucus refused to vote to fund these vital services and declined to close tax loopholes for the wealthy and big business. Unfortunately, these decisions will affect all Louisianians.

In this difficulty, though, I see opportunities. We have a new Governor. We have a chance to unite behind sound policies. We can create innovative systems to ensure Louisiana never ends up in this dreadful predicament again.

We didn’t win them all. And some legislators, blinded by ideology or driven by political motivation, failed us. But we seized some major opportunities - like the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund and other legislation described below.

On a personal note, I can’t thank you enough for your support and guidance these past several months. There were times when I was frustrated and fed up - but knowing what I’m fighting for and that you’re there with me gave me the strength to persist.

And while we will surely continue to encounter difficulties, I’m going to continue seizing opportunities. Call me an optimist - you can count on it.

Best,
Walt 

Speaker Pro Tempore, Louisiana House of Representatives
State Representative, District 91, New Orleans

Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund

During years of high revenue collection, the State invests in education, healthcare, infrastructure and other priorities; but historically, lawmakers have ignored the inconsistency of these excess revenues, especially in volatile markets such as the oil and gas industry. So when there’s been a downturn in revenue, government has been forced to raise taxes or find some other saving grace. This boom and bust cycle has once again reared its ugly head as we have seen historically low mineral and corporate income revenues. It’s time we take this problem head on, and that’s why I sponsored legislation to create the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund.  

This represents the most significant opportunity created during the sessions of 2016 for long-term fiscal reform that addresses the cycle of ups and downs our State has faced for generations. It will be up for a vote this fall, and I urge you to VOTE FOR OUR FUTURE

Riverfront Development

My legislation passed to give the Convention Center flexibility within its own district to boost commercial development along the New Orleans riverfront. The Convention Center plans to spend as much as $175 million of their bond capacity on infrastructure and improvements along Convention Center Boulevard with the hopes of attracting up to $1 billion in private investment for a mixed-use development that will include a 1,200-room hotel and entertainment district. This is primed to be one of the most transformative projects in decades and will reshape our riverfront into a true destination for visitors and residents alike, with the added bonus of diminishing the pressure imposed by masses of tourists on other major tourist destinations in our great City. 

 

Protecting the Coast

My legislation passed allowing the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to create large-scale restoration projects and provide corresponding credits available for purchase by Responsible Parties in minor oil spills as fulfillment of their obligation to restoration. The exciting part of this bill is that private investors can develop and fund wetland projectsthat are already part of the existing $90 billion Master Plan in coastal restoration. These private projects will have a direct and immediate impact on coastal restoration and protection at a quicker pace and a much lower cost than would be incurred by the government. 

 

Healthcare

Throughout this extraordinary year of budget negotiations, I made healthcare a top priority. I fought to fully fund Louisiana's safety-net hospitals, medical school system, and the University Medical Center, which are all critical for the health of our citizens and the health of our economy.  I'm proud to report that we finally expanded Medicaid in Louisiana. Healthy Louisiana goes into effect on July 1 and will extend healthcare coverage to almost 375,000 eligible Louisianans. I sponsored two bills that did not advance but that I will continue to champion: one to provide for Medicaid-managed long-term care and support systems, which would save valuable state funds, and another to require wellness exams for students entering kindergarten and sixth grade, which would help catch health problems early and improve overall well-being of school-age children.  If the child isn’t healthy, success in the classroom is that much more difficult.  

 

Internet Sales Tax

Before our government looks to collect revenue through new taxes, I thought it prudent to collect revenues already due to the State.  That is why I sponsored legislation to even the playing field between brick and mortar small businesses right here in Louisiana and their online competitors -- who often don’t remit and collect taxes that our small businesses must already collect.  This legislation will begin the process of ensuring that taxes currently due from online purchases are remitted to the state and local governments. It is estimated that between $80 and $400 million in lawfully due taxes are uncollected. These collections can have major impact on improvement to our local roads and infrastructure, as well as to the provision of vital services for the people of Louisiana.   

 

Criminal Justice Reform Task Force

For years, Louisiana has carried the distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world, which unfortunately has not been met with corresponding low crime and recidivism rates. Something isn’t working and it isn’t good for the economy or for our communities. Last year, I passed a resolution establishing the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force in order to achieve the type of -- bipartisan, common sense, taxpayer-saving, public safety outcome-improving -- reforms that states like Texas, Georgia, Utah and others have produced over the past several years. The Task Force was extended this year and has the goal of producing evidence-based legislation for 2017 that will lower incarceration rates and increase public safety. As a former Assistant District Attorney who has seen the system from the inside, criminal justice reform was one of my original motivations for offering myself for public service.  Now, with this task force of highly qualified and experienced people, we have a chance to get on the right path.  With the support of Governor Edwards, conservative think tanks, progressive and conservative advocacy organizations, the faith-based community and democratic and republican lawmakers, the time is now to push for meaningful reforms.

At the end of the legislative sessions of 2016, we are left with a budget that still falls $337 million short of what was necessary in order to maintain services provided last year, which means underfunding our safety-net hospitals and state aid for public schools and only funding TOPS at 70%, and continuing the short-sighted practice of investing the minimum amount in higher education just to stay afloat. This is what we are left with after 19 weeks of the somehow still standing vocal minority that some refer to as the Jindal caucus, who refuse to vote to fund these vital services and decline to partially close loopholes for the wealthiest taxpayers and for big business.

Unfortunately, these decisions and nondecisions will affect all Louisianians. It will affect our children, our young families and our elderly. And it will affect our students. A last-minute amendment was added that front-loaded TOPS awards, which will cover full tuition costs in the fall, but will leave our students with only 40% coverage in the spring without the ability to apply for more financial aid. This means that students at LSU will have to find an additional $2,133.30 halfway through the school year to continue their education, students at other colleges across the State will likewise have to find additional dollars to fund the TOPS shortfall. This amendment, along with the provision that one third of any new revenue must go to TOPS, higher education and DHH, leaves us with a budget that, although honest, is deeply flawed. This also strips the executive branch of its constitutional authority to spend funds as necessary throughout the fiscal year to carry out the appropriations made by the legislative branch.

This is a budget that ties our hands and is neglectful of so many other important considerations such as our children, families, youth services, and public safety. To further complicate matters, as we work through a Justice Reinvestment Task Force, these handcuffs will make investment and reform even more difficult to achieve in meaningful corrections activities like drug courts, re-entry programs, job training and education opportunities, as well as alternatives to incarceration.