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One Rouge Community Check -In - Week 150




We all know there is a connection between poverty and health, poverty and food insecurity, poverty and transportation, poverty and education, and well, poverty is connected to everything inequality related. Those of us on limited budgets notoriously choose between critical needs, like food, medication, and housing, regularly. And the rising costs of medications exacerbate the situation for those with chronic diseases. Is there something, anything our legislatures can do to help relieve the plight of its citizenry? YES! But if we don’t know what is being considered and never act upon the things we want to see changed, change never comes. Our featured speakers talked about law and policy initiatives being heard by La Leg this session:

  • Peter Robins-Brown – Policy and Advocacy Director

  • Mathilde Siverberg – Senior Program Coordinator for Policy and Equity

Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!


 

Notes

Peter Robins-Brown: Peter Robins Brown, Louisiana Progress Executive Director. And as I was saying when we were having a little discussion, one of my board members, Dr. Alfreda Buster is on. Always good to see her and be in community with her. Dr. Bell, also good friend and colleague. This session, as we always do in our organization, both out of our shop, I guess if you want to call it that. And through our partnerships, we are working on a wide range of bills across many different issue areas, but our focus as always is on anti-poverty measures. And this year we are continuing to drill into what we call decriminalizing poverty. So, what are all the ways that our state in particular, but these are things that happen around the country. Louisiana is just more of an acute example of these things. How do we sweep people up into the criminal justice system and then trap them there largely due to poverty because they don't have the resources to deal with a citation or a fine, or to hire a lawyer. And then they get those the fines and fees and penalties, the court appearances, these things start to really just add up and become a real barrier for them in many aspects of their life. And keep them in, keep both the people who are initially swept up and then their families, and even just their communities, and even just their communities writ large. How do we do that through the criminal justice system? I've been on with One Rouge before and I think if you were on those calls or if you've heard me speak before, sometimes I talk about one of the main ways we do that, which is. The war on drugs, and we have done a lot of work on marijuana decriminalization and what I would consider, again, some of those low-level offenses. This year we've shifted our focus a little bit and we are looking at first and foremost traffic enforcement reform. So, I think, again, when you look at some, how are the ways that folks, particularly poor folks and particularly poor Black and brown folks are targeted and swept up into the criminal justice system and trapped their larger due poverty. It has a lot to do with traffic enforcement and aggressive traffic enforcement. And part of that is over the past 20 to 25 years, not that this kind of stuff didn't happen before, but it's really exploded over the past 20 to 25 years, is that local governments, particularly local aspects of the criminal justice system, law enforcement court systems are funded. Through fines and fees and what's called the user pay system. And so, they are perversely incentivized to aggressively enforce these fineable offenses, particularly traffic offenses. And I think if any of you either live in or travel through central and northern Louisiana, again, this happens across the state, but happens a lot in those places. You'll be driving through these parts of the state and the speed limit goes from like 65 to 35 and about three feet, and there's a cop car parked like perpetually parked right behind the 35 mile an hour sign, or there is no sign or the sign it says it'll happen in a hundred feet, but then the actual sign isn't like until a thousand feet down or whatever all these different things. Or it feels like there's one person who lives in this town and that one person is the cop and they are just there pulling people over. There's a deeper systemic problem around how we fund local government. And so that's a whole other issue, although we do have a measure that we're working on to actually somewhat address that problem as much as we can. But a lot of these small towns, but even the bigger cities and parishes get a significant portion of their budget from this. And so they are, they're perversely incentivized to essentially run a predatory debt collection scheme. And doing a lot of things that in the private sector are actually illegal, but in the public sector are just standard operating procedures. So, I'm just going to run through really quickly some of the bills that we're focusing on to try to deal with. Part of this, and again, this is a huge system, a lot going on, the stuff I'm about to lay was not going to solve the whole thing. Even if we pass all of those bills this year, this is going to be a multi-year effort. And we are trying to look at the whole system from the way people get swept in, to the way people get trapped there through the fines and fees to the way that we do turn this into a massive debt collection scheme, which is through that debt collection system. Like what I would call the back end, right? So, we've got some bills at that front end. We want to require law enforcement to publish traffic stop data. There was a law passed about 20 years ago that requires this, but there was an exception in that bill that said that they don't actually have to do it if they do racial profiling training. And racial profiling training was not detailed as to what that is. And so, a lot of times what they do is just have a one pager that basically says, don't pull people over just cause they're Black. And by doing that, they are exempted from having to publish the traffic stop data. So, our bill with representative Denise Marcel, we'll just remove that exception. We also might have to do a couple minor language changes in the original thing just to clarify some stuff. But essentially what we're doing is removing that exception, which would then require law enforcement agencies to collect and publish the traffic stop data. And that way we could have a better understanding instead of saying, oh, we have this experience with Crowd Spring, or all these other places, we'd actually know who's doing it, where, how often we might all have a very clear understanding about who is more likely to get pulled over, but we would, it would be nice to actually have the data to say this is not just an anecdotal experiential story we're telling, but here is the data that backs up who is getting disproportionately pulled over and criminalized through our traffic enforcement system. So that's a key one. Another one is with representative Matt Willard, and that is to downgrade several traffic offenses to secondary offenses, so that they would not be the reason you could be pulled over. You would only be able to get a ticket. For instance, one of them is if you have one broken brake light if you have both broken brake lights, that is a serious road hazard, but one we think should not be the primary reason for a stop. Things like an inspection sticker or brake tag that is less than four months overdue right now you can't get pulled over. It's less than a month overdue. We want to extend that window a little bit again. Just to give people a little more leeway and not have it as an excuse; objects dangling from the rear view, mirror broken or like a loud exhaust system. Just these things that are often what I would also describe is the things that are used as a pretext for driving while Black. That we are trying to move to secondary offenses. Another one that is not strictly a traffic one, but that is included in there, is jaywalking. Although the word jaywalking is actually not in any Louisiana statute, and that is because the word jaywalking or the word Jay used to be a tantamount to the N word. And jay walking means walking while Black and so that's why it's not in there. The only problem with that and I'm glad it's not in the Louisiana statutes, is that it's very hard to technically describe. So, we've actually been going back and forth with some of the stakeholders trying to figure out how to write this in a way that makes sense. Without using the word jaywalking. So that's just a side note, that's been an interesting process over the past several weeks. How do you describe jaywalking without saying the word jaywalking. So that's just interesting. Side note, I would actually suggest, this is something that I did, is look up the history of jaywalk. It's a sad, but in an odd way, interesting backstory. And I think worth learning about, if we can, certainly, if we can include it into this bill. Another one we have is to require police to advise people of their fourth amendment right to refuse a search before initiating a search during a traffic stop. That's with Rep Rodney Lyons. Again, this is to try to disincentivize traffic stops in general. One of the excuses that law enforcement uses is that they supposedly bust a lot of big-time drug dealers. And again, so with the data we can understand that that happens very rarely, but this is something we want to make sure that people understand their rights. So that's one. Tangentially related to this is restricting police car chases. Rep Edmond Jordan, who we've been talking to about this issue, we were taking an approach of trying to put in some rules around when you could. It's an interesting approach he's taking. He's trying to make it a secret civil liability for it. And then I'll run through the rest quickly. We're looking at a couple of specific fines that are examples of how the system's grown out of control. We're creating some automatic automated expungement, which we've been working on with some of our partners for several years. I think we're actually going to get there this year. I really feel good about it this year. And then on the back end, we have in this state in the Department of Revenue, an office called the Office of Debt Recovery. It's about 10 years old. It was created specifically to recover debts. They charge a 25% collection fee. So, a debt that comes to them, somebody can't afford to pay it, they throw an extra 25% on. We've been working with them for a few months trying to figure out a way to bring that down. We were able to get them to agree to bring it down to 15%. That is still far from ideal. I don't think there should be any collection fee. In the private sector, you can't afford to pay a debt, the person you owe money to sells it to somebody else with pennies on the dollar so they can collect. We do the opposite in the public sector. But 15% was just what we could get to where they would agree to it and we knew we could get something passed. But relatedly, what we discovered through working with them and going after them for a couple years is that they don't have any data. When they get a debt reported to them, it just says, Peter Robbins Brown, $2,000. It doesn't say what was the original debt and how many fees and penalties have been added. Have I paid some money off and did that go toward paying the original debt or toward paying the fees and penalties? So, we're going to require that any agency that refers debt to ODR has to provide all that information so that we can understand whether the government is charging you serious collection rates. Essentially is the government adding fees and penalties on top of an original debt that exceeds the 36% cap that we have in the private sector. And to their credit, the Department of Revenue, which is where the ODR lives again, has been working with us on that and has agreed to support this. And we're hoping that by lowering that cap, creating some more transparency, we'll then in the future be able to have a better idea of how to go after. Again, this sort of predatory debt collection scheme that lives in our government, that our taxpayer dollars go toward funding.

Pepper Roussel: Yeah, I've got some very strong feelings about break tags and the streets. I don't know why my brakes matter if I'm driving on the surface of the moon, but just so that I'm not changing the tone. I would suggest that Peter, when you go to look at the consumer debt issues, most of those debt collectors do not have all of the documentation for the debt itself. And the laws are not in the debtor's favor, but the evidentiary rules are in support of the actual business not sharing the information and allowing the purchaser of the debt to step into the shoes of the original debtor. And so, getting over that 36% hump, which is absurd, and obscene in and of itself is something that's already happening.

Mathilde Silverberg: I work for the Louisiana Public Health Institute. We are a statewide nonprofit serving the public health of our state. We've been around for over 25 years and have employees working all across the state. I'm currently on our policy and equity team, which is one of the newer teams at LPHI alongside my boss and Jays, who I'll track for information in the chat after this, if anyone wants to connect around the policy work. We both started last year and paved the way for building out the formal policy shop at LPHI. Historically, LPHI has engaged at the legislature, but not in a very clear way, and on support letters, things like that. But since we didn't have dedicated staff working on it, never really had the time and capacity to really get our hands into things, basically. So, we're really excited this year to have Ian, she'll be there a lot working on the priorities that we care about, that our partners care about, and obviously everything we're really working at is connected to public health, which is a pretty big umbrella. So, I'll share with y'all today some of the four things that we're anticipating working on this session. LPI's top five priorities and they are pretty general and big purposefully, of course since we are a nonprofit, have to get board approval around all that good stuff. So, the top five things we're looking at are reproductive justice, access to care, economic opportunity, behavioral health, mental health, and environmental justice. So, within that, I've pulled up our policy tracker this morning that Anne's been working on. There's a lot on here around reproductive rights abortion. There is unfortunately a lot of anti LGBTQIA+ legislation this session. There is one positive bill that we are looking at, but there are nine anti ones. There are a couple bills around telehealth that we're going to be engaging in healthcare for people who are incarcerated. There's a couple around vaping, tobacco and smoking. LPHI has a large tobacco-free living team. So that will always be a priority for us. Things around vaccines. Those are some four buckets we're already looking at. One main thing we're looking at that I have not mentioned is LPHI has joined a statewide paid leave coalition this year, the Louisiana Budget Project, and others have been working this for four years. And LPHI is joining on the tail to hopefully help get it across the finish line. This year there are two paid family and met police bills that will be up at session. There are house Bill 596 with Rep Freeman and House Bill 360 6 with Rep Jenkins in Shreveport. A few years ago, Rep Jenkins got put in the budget for an actuarial study to actually do modeling and all that jazz and create a nice support to show what a paid family and medical leave program could look like in our state. Over the past couple of months, LPHI has been hosting legislative breakfasts across the state with coalition partners to educate our legislators about what this program could be. So, we're really excited to see that two bills were filed connected to this. Why a public health group is interested in paid family medical leave is for a variety of reasons. Mental health benefits, people having time after welcoming a child into the family, whether that is through birth, through the adoption process, having time to bond as a family, heal as a family. People having time when they have life-changing surgeries, cancer diagnosis, unexpected car accidents, you name it. The United States is the only developed country in the world without a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program. This should be a standard thing that everyone should have access to. 75% of Louisiana workers do not qualify for FMLA and FMLA is not paid. It only secures your job. So, we are really excited to see for this goes this session. I would say that is the main thing that my boss, Ann, will be working on. But I also mentioned there's a lot around reproductive rights and reproductive justice that we definitely are going to be engaging in and watching. How you can engage with us. I'm going to put Ann's contact information in the chat because, bittersweet, I am transitioning to a new team at LPHI so won't be as involved in the session as we were originally anticipating. But Ann will be there. Our CEO, Sheena Davis, who's amazing, will be engaging. Hopefully we'll have some more internal staff engaging, but we're super excited. Ann was able to file the H election, which is really important as a nonprofit to actually be a registered lobbyist with LPHI. So we'll be able to advocate and come out and support and improve things. Which is new for LPHI this year, we have not been able to do that previously. So, we're really excited to be able to have hopefully more of a presence at session this year around issues that are impacting the public health of our state, because we really feel like that is our role to do that.

Pepper Roussel: Awesome. I do have one quick question before we start diving into it, and that is about legislative days, whether it be whatever the issue happens to be, there are some legislative lobby days where folks and community is asked to come and just sit in on things. Do y'all have any legislative days? Are you asking for the community to come and help to support on a particular day? And this is for both of you both.

Mathilde Silverberg: So I narrowed off the bat and there might be folks on the call who are involved with these groups. 10,000 Women of Louisiana and Louisiana I network together and these other partners, I believe, who are associated with this. And there's about, I think almost every Wednesday session. I can drop that information in the chat, cause I was just looking at that. I know that there is a Black maternal health day coming up. I believe it's next week. Those are the two that are sticking out to me right off the bat, so I'll find information for you.

Peter Robins-Brown: We partner very closely with 10,000 women. They actually started out as Louisiana Progress under our umbrella, but now moved out in their own thing every Wednesday. And I'm going to drop the link to their website here in the chat. And I recommend that anybody, and you don't have to be a woman, even though it is women on Wednesday, if the issues that they're working on are important to you, and I think honest, frankly, they, they should be because they impact all of us regardless of gender age, race, all these anything. These are issues that really impact everybody and impact our state. They and they do a great job. It's really run by people who have a lot of experience in the capitol. They make it fun. They help you. If you are not experienced at the capitol or you're a little intimidated. I know that it took me about a year and a half, two years of going there regularly before I got over a lot of that intimidation. So just saying that is very common and understandable. They really help with a lot of that. So, I just really recommend Wednesdays for them. And there's so many legislative days.

Pepper Roussel: All right, so jumping into the nitty gritty, especially for those who are not familiar with the capitol and maybe going there, help me understand, what is the advantage to working with lawmakers and changing the laws that are written for the state as opposed to focusing directly on what is happening to individuals, say, in a court system? Why go there and not go to the judges? Why not? What's the advantage? Talk to me.

Peter Robins-Brown: First of all, I would say that I think that it's important that we do both. And that's really what your role, right? I have found personally that I am more effective making policy, whether it's in local government or state government. I know a lot of people who are more effective to your point, Pepper, going into a courtroom or working with judges in a local area. The reason that I personally prefer the legislative approach is that it deals more with the systemic issue that would then need to be applied across the state in most cases. And then hopefully those of my friends who are better at going into the court won't have to deal with the same problem over and over again. Or they can deal with a different problem and we learn from that and then we do a state law based on that and try to make it a blanket, but they both go hand in hand because I, as somebody who doesn't go into court and work on those specific issues, don't know it from an impacted person standpoint. And so, the people I know who are impacted are the ones who can come to me and say, here's a problem that we're running into over and over again, and we need to fix this so that I don't have to deal with this same thing over and over. So, they go hand in hand. And I think it's just a matter of where do you feel most comfortable and where are you most effective as an advocate? And Alfreda makes a really good point in the chat. Policy has the potential to affect the population overall, right? Everybody. Court system usually affects one person or one situation. I think that's a good way to sum up.

Pepper Roussel: I asked the question mainly because we spend a lot of time talking broadly about what does it mean to change people's lives. We spend very little time talking about and thinking about the judges who actually have the capacity to make decisions on a regular basis, which does then change the trajectory of how we interpret the laws, that every year we try to get changed and every year we try to get written so that we can make these systemic changes. Arching towards justice is one thing, but trying to get there is sometimes a bit of a hard slog.

Peter Robins-Brown: Different judges are political. As much as we want to think and pretend that they're like above that phrase. And they respond to political incentives and disincentives the same way that a legislator or a parish council member does. And if you're a judge in Grant Parish, you're probably going to apply the law in a different way than a judge in East Baton Rouge or Orleans's. And that's where we run into, if we can change the state law and make that Grant Parish judge and that Orleans Parish judge apply the law the same way and hopefully in a more truly just way, that's where I think that state policy approach is important and truly differs from that going into the courtroom on a case-by-case basis.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: One of the basic tenants of our laws is that we have equal protection. And so, we want to make sure that we have policy in place to protect as many people as possible. The thing about going into court is that the process is almost endless. Yes, you go in with a case that you think that I may have to go to a few motion days, we'll get a court date, we litigate it and it's done. No sir. Five years later, we're still talking about that one book case where it was clear who owned the property and someone has filed endless motions for us and people don't have the money. And I can tell you that I've probably bought at least one floor at the 19th JDC with just filing. It's really difficult to litigate. And I know people see it on TV and they think it's all sexy. It ain't. It is tedious. It is unending. And oftentimes, it's like Peter was saying, it's not always that people are interested in assuring that justice is served. So, we need to make sure that we have policy in place. Clearly the judge, the courts are always going to say what the law is, but at the same time, if there is something that allows us to have clearly what should be, most times people are not going to want to litigate when they could be sanctioned or bring frivolous matters before the court.

Flitcher Bell: I just want to re reiterate what Peter was saying. It takes both. When you go in, you hear the judges say, oh, my hands are tied because of, and so you want to change that, but you also want to affect the person's case, which is going on today. So, it takes both. It takes people who are advocates. People who are sometimes in the same political arenas with the judges to sometimes change their mindset, change their spirit, change the way they think, but they have to have the avenue to do it. And to have that avenue, that's where you work on the policy, where you work on laws and where you work on the things at the legislative.

Peter Robins-Brown: I dropped a link in the chat that we've developed. I'm going to go ahead and admit it is not the most user friendly, but I think it's important if you are interested in this, to play around with it. There was a law passed a couple years ago that finally required local jurisdictions to report how much money they're bringing in through fines and fees and where that money is going. The reports were a mess. And even the legislative auditor admitted that a lot of the data was not properly reported, but it's all we have. And so, what we did is we created a scraping tool to go through these reports and take the data and try to turn it into something that is somewhat readable and usable. And that's what that link is. And one of the interesting things is in East Baton Rouge, the 19th is having such high filing fees, when you look at this tool, if you want to go in and look at where the fines and fees and are the highest and lowest East Baton Rouge is like, you can, there's a tool where you can see all the parishes and there's a bar graph that shows who's collecting the most. And one of the things that you'll notice first is that East Baton Rouge is by far the highest. And that is because; number one, if you want to sue the state, you have to do it in Baton Rouge, so there's just a certain number of cases that go to Baton Rouge that don't go anywhere else. But really it's also because the filing fees there are so high that Baton Rouge is off the charts. There are some other interesting things in there. You'll see Caddo and Bossier right next to each other alphabetically, but they're also, geographically, Caddo has more people than Bossier but Bossier has way more fines and fees, money. And if you know the history of Caddo and Bossier and white flight from Caddo to Bossier and the way that Bossier the reputation that Bossier has in terms of its policing, I think you actually would not be surprised to find that Bossier. So a lot of interesting things in there. And it really helps people understand this user pay, user play system, to Reverend Anderson's point in the chat. So, if this is something you're interested in, check that out and play around with it. And I think it provides about as much insight into this issue on a statewide level as you're going to find anywhere. So, I just recommend that as an interesting tool.

Pepper Roussel: We've talked a bit about litigation and there was after changes in access to types of internal health, there was great discussion that there would be a lot of litigation coming. But it seems that possibly the best way to address lack of healthcare is through policy. Talk to me about how it is that y'all come to the things that you that you do, that you represent, that you advocate for and how is it that we can make sure that we that we get it across the finish line?

Mathilde Silverberg: That's a good question. I mentioned LPI historically has done things at the Capitol, but this year, having a more like formalized process public health, as I think a lot of people on this call know, really intersects with every of our lives. I think that is evident by the COVID 19 pandemic. So rather than saying, yeah, we're going to touch everything that touches public health, because that would be everything, we decided to approach it from creating some priorities as an organization for things we will engage in more directly. And how we prioritize that this past year was engaging our board, our staff in some of our key community partners and stakeholders by literally asking people, what do you care about? We crafted a survey, sent that out, had way more responses than we ever thought we would get, and did some qualitative analysis to figure out what kind of core buckets things fell under. So that's how we approached it this year. What that looks like in terms of getting it across the finish line in terms of access to care, specifically when it comes to things around reproductive rights and reproductive health is knowing your role. A lot at the talk I just heard about a couple weeks ago is when is it your time to step up and be the partner to share your expertise and engage and when is it your time to empower those around you to engage in the policy? So, LPI's role in this, is bringing that public health perspective and sharing what public health implications are at risk, when things are in place and when things are in place, and really driving that message home. And that's why we're engaging, to share that perspective and sharing data around that and sharing our beliefs around that and what our morals are and what we believe in how to get it across the finish line. Like I said, this is our kind of first year heavily engaging. So, it's unclear what some of that's going to look like for LPHI in terms of call to actions with partner. But I think holistically with the session, it's like with any other bill. Whenever partners call on you to call your legislators or if they're asking you to come testify in a committee do it, or if you have expertise around something and have data related to a bill, being willing to share that information and be bold. Peter was talking a lot about how it can feel really intimidating going to session and going to a committee meeting, and I felt that way last year whenever I started and before the end of session, my boss took me there and after that I wasn't scared anymore. I was like, this isn't scary. I felt this overwhelming confidence hearing them talk about vaccination bills and thinking. I actually know what they're talking about, and I have things to share and information to share about what this actually means in the public health world. And so, I think really demystifying that process is a really empowering thing to do and not being scared to go and see what it looks like. So, I would just encourage everyone, if you haven't been to the Capitol during session, go with a buddy. If there's someone who you know, who you trust, who you look up to, go with them to a committee meeting, see what it's about. Because I think just that sense of empowerment in numbers is impactful. Just engaging, period. Knowing who your personal representatives are, and knowing how to get hold of them, what their emails are, what their phone numbers are, what committees they sit on, and just feeling empowered to engage. So my representative is Barbara Friberg and she came to our baton Rouge's legislative practice, and I immediately introduced myself and said, I live in Kenilworth neighborhood, you're my representative, I'm so glad you're here, let her know what I cared about, and I said, I'm going to be on your office's voicemail during session. So just being intentional and being confident. And I would've never claimed to have been a policy expert last year, but this year I know that I'm confident in what I know in relations to public health, and I'm not scared to share that. So I would encourage whatever your deemed expertise is, whatever you care about, not being scared to share it, because Pepper, it's your question of what's going to get it across the finish line. I think it's advocating for what you believe in. And of course, Peter mentioned it is political. And so, looking for the people who are those experts in that space and who are savvy and looking to them and seeing what's needed, what needs to be said on strategy.

Pepper Roussel: This is true. And so, to your point, I just want to let y'all know I'm available. I make a good witness. Let me know what you want to say, and I am happy to sit at a table and say it. Besides that, as we discuss and hear that these legislators are just people who walk around the capitol sometimes confused about what it is that they're supposed to be remembering to do. And every now and again, confused about who they represent reminding them that you are their constituent and that you do cast vote is super helpful. But how do you get fearless and bold. But what happens if you're a little on the shy side and you don't have that wherewithal? Like how do you get an audience with folk? Do you just stop them in the hallway if you're grabbing a coffee in the cafeteria behind them? Do you strike up a conversation? How do you let folks let these legislators know that there is a bill that was submitted by somebody that is working on traffic issues this session? And I just want to make sure that you hear and that it should be passed. What do I do?

Peter Robins-Brown: Okay. Yeah, I think there's a lot of different ways and part of it depends on who you are, right? What is your personality and what is a comfortable approach for you? I am there all the time and I know all of them now because I've been doing this for several years. For me, grabbing somebody when I see them in the hall and having a very brief 30 second one minute conversation with them where I'm like, Hey, did you know if you looked at HB 123 house Bill 123, it's in your committee or it's going to come up for a floor vote. And having that very brief discussion with them, that, that's very comfortable for me. And they also expect that from me at this point but if you are new to this or you aren't comfortable with that, there are so many ways to engage. You could start with calling their office or emailing their office, right? And yes, some of them are very responsive, even ones who disagree with you, some of them are not. And so, then you might want to find them in a public setting whether it's at the Capitol or some other event. One thing I would talk about on this issue is how you approach them when you do talk to them. Like I said, a lot of different ways, call, email at the capitol, at a public event, wherever you might find them. I think it's important though that sometimes, especially I know I used to be like this until I started engaging with them a lot, was I thought they know my issue and they're choosing to vote against it, and they're making this decision in and so like I would approach them in this very confrontational you're terrible because you're not doing this thing. And I wouldn't say it that way, but that was my attitude. And so just if somebody approached you like that in your daily life, their response was whoa, who is this person? And I do not want to talk to you. And what I learned a lot of times was that, and that's also you must vote I don't want to lift up Frida in the chat. Is a way to, that's an important way to engage with it. That is, they might not know they don't know exactly who you vote for, but if you're a voter especially in their district, that carries a little bit more weight and Thank you. Yeah. Until you learn more about your legislators just in general. And not just your legislators, but other legislators so that if you go to the House and Senate website, they have the members, you can see who they are. So, you can have a picture and know where they're from. And if you are at the capitol and it's not your legislator, but you want to talk to somebody else, go talk to them, right? But one, one thing that I always think about, and I don't know why I am always good at this, is the example, but like most of these, all these legislators are human beings. And they are not, they don't know everything. In fact, they tend to usually know very little they were the, they're a real estate lawyer or whatever they are, whatever job they have, or had some, a bunch of our retirees maybe had and they were just like they're a popular person in their area they're a member of the Rotary club or whatever, and they decide oh, I'm going to run for office. People know who I am and I'm a good real estate lawyer and I'm going to run for office. And they run for office, and they get elected. And they might come into the building thinking that they know a bunch of stuff about a bunch of stuff, but they quickly find out if they have any self-awareness whatsoever that they, it turns out all they know about is real estate law or whatever it is that they already know about. And so, a lot of times your issue, they have never thought about it or encountered it ever in their lives. And again, if they have any sort of, self-awareness or openness, and some of them don't, right? I don't want to pretend that there aren't some of them that are just like locked in. It's true. But a lot of them, if you go and talk to them and just approach them as another human being, be nice. Don't go and say I need you to vote yes on this thing. No, on this thing. Go and say have you taken a look at HB 123? Do you know about this? Do you have any questions or concerns? Ask them questions. Have a conversation. Get them their elected official. They love to talk. Get them talking about it. They'll tell you all the things you want to know without you pressing on them. They'll just start telling you all this stuff. And just have a conversation with them like you would anybody else. So, if you want to talk about paid family and medical leave, talk to your legislator the same way you would talk to Matilda if you saw her. At a cafe in the cafeteria and just ask questions and get them to open up and talk. And I just want to answer Alfredo's question in the chat if I could quickly, can you speak about role of legislative staff in Louisiana and if they can be conduits for advocates? Alfredo to your point, I was just doing a field trip to the Capitol and a bunch of environmental advocates, most of whom had never been to the capitol before. We did this last week; we were doing a tour and we did a mock committee hearing. And while we were doing it, we ran into a bunch of legislative staffers, including one who I have a very good relationship with. And I stopped and I made this point about how Especially when I used to do a lot of voting and election law I would the, there's a woman named Trish Lowry who runs the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, she's been doing for about 25 years, and she knows everything there is to know about Louisiana voting and election law. And she and I have become close, and I have her phone number and I call her and used to call her a lot more when I was doing this. And she would, and she would answer all of my questions. She knew everything. And then I, people would ask me like these questions about voting and election law, I'd always have the answer. They'd be like, Peter, how do you know all this stuff? You're not a lawyer. And I was like, I don't know all this stuff. Trish Lowry knows all this stuff. All I know is Trish Lawry's phone number and how to ask her these questions. And so, like how the legislative staff are the ones who really make the government run. And or make the legislative branch or the government run. These they don't have to run for election. They basically all just want to make things work. They do also tend to be personally let's say more open-minded than your average legislator. And they are a resource. Building relationships with them can be just as important if not more so than building relationships with the legislators themselves. And especially if you do want to write a bill like a lot of times writing a bill is writing out what you want in a bill. You get a legislator to submit it, they submit it, and then you work with the legislative staff to actually write the bill. So again, having that relationship is key. You don't necessarily need to write RS 12794 change this, that you write, this is what I want. The legislative staff knows how to do that, and then you go back and forth with them. So, it's a great Relationship to have, and Alfredo also, can you say something about fiscal impact analysis that travels with bills? That's, wow, that's a whole other that's one where Yes. Have a relationship with staff. That's one where I, the only time I ever get into contentious relationship interactions with staff is over often fiscal impact. They make a fiscal note on a bill if they think it warrants one. I often disagree with their fiscal notes. Their fiscal notes can be somewhat arbitrary in certain instances. If you have a, if you're working on a bill that has a fiscal impact that it has a fiscal impact if you can do your own fiscal analysis, which is not easy. And so that requires if you're not, if you don't have that skill yourself working with others who do it, it's the fiscal impact analysis, the fiscal note which is what I think you're referring to. Is a complicated process. The legislators do tend to just default agree with the fiscal note unless it's their bill and they don't agree with it. It helps to have an alter if you think the fiscal note is wrong. Being able to explain how and why you think it's wrong is important because that fiscal note does often have a major impact on the likelihood of a bill passing and how it moves through the process.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Pepper, I just want, want to emphasize the importance of personal relationships. You have to start it with your legislators, your council people, and before an issue comes up that you're going to be involved in. Make sure that before the legislative session starts, that you've already introduced yourself to your legislator, your house member, your senator, and get to know the staff in their offices. As well, so that they know who you are when you're, when you call. I used to be very optimistic in fact, excited when the legislative session would start because it was an opportunity for us to do something good for the citizens of Louisiana. Now, my blood pressure elevates, and I get sweaty palms and all of those things because it's not generally something that's good for people. And so, because I can't get there every day. I have a job and my husband likes to eat. And so, I am good at sending an email. And making sure that it gets on the record. Make sure that your position is on the record. Make sure that your legislator knows. Make sure that the committee that's considering the bill that you have an interest in knows. And honestly, I think that oftentimes it's even better that you have something in the record, especially if you have a friend that's going to be there who can read what you're sending, read it into the record, and then have it filed into the record. And if ever, even if it doesn't pass, there's a history there that shows you some of the things that should have been considered during the legislative session. And it can feel depressing and overwhelming. Especially when you look at it in totality, but to free this point, like what we can do as individuals or as organizations is just go in and continue to chip away a testimony, a conversation with a legislator or a staffer every little bit. It's sometimes in a one of the ways is like you keep banging your head against the wall until the wall starts to crumble, crumble, and you don't know how many times you're going to have to bang your head against the wall, and it hurts a lot of times. But if you keep doing it does add up. And I think that's something that you got to keep in mind when you, especially when you don't see the change you want to see in rapid fashion, is that you are part of a bigger process of change and there is usually some sort of payoff in the long run.

Casey Phillips: Great conversation. So many funny jokes did one to deter from the momentum that was happening. Thank you all. One of the questions I wanted to ask, but we're at time and we're about to ship to community announcements. Just briefly, anybody on the call, there's stuff that you're working on, right? But then you're also catching wind of other bills that are coming down the pipe. Is there anything, just one, one Bill. Each of you want a name of oh my God, I hope I get to be in the committee meeting to watch that conversation and, oh my God, if it makes it to the floor, it's going to be in, on this is going to be great for the state. Any, anything that you're, is outside your purview that you've caught with.

Peter Robins-Brown: Oh my God, it's so hard to narrow it down. Cause I do look at so many different things. There's a lot of, there's a lot of legislation around carbon capture and sequestration. I am personally in the anti CCS camp with a lot of environmental advocates. It's a time where I, one of the many times I guess, but generally I'm in line with our governor. This is one where I'm not. I think that carbon capture and sequestration. Technology at this point is largely magic magical thinking. It's similar to Clean Coal, which was the last time we tried to pretend that we had some sort of solution that worked for both industry and the environment, and that failed. This seems to just be the latest iteration of magical thinking around yeah, we can spew all this stuff out, but then we're also going to somehow like, grab it and clean it. I just don't get how that works. And I'm not an engineer maybe I'm missing it, but I've also talked to people who are a lot smarter than I am when it comes to that kind of stuff. And they also don't get how it works. And so that's going to be a big battle this year where you have and it's not like a usual, just, oh, Democrats are here, and Republicans are there. It's a very wide mix where you, it's really not a partisan thing right now. It has a lot more to do with geography and who's more impacted and less impacted by this. So, I think that's not a specific bill. There's 25 bills dealing with it in some way, shape, or form. I would keep an eye on that. I think it's really interesting and it has a will have a big impact on the energy future of Louisiana and the country and the world, because we're really at the tip of the spear on this kind thing. Awesome. Thank you, Peter.

Mathilde Silverberg: I'm interested to see how the mini bills that are touching reproductive rights kind of pan out. There's a couple yeah, really interesting to see how those pan out. And then there's a few as well around guns and firearms. So those are the two personal ones that I will be really looking at are relations to reproductive price funds.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Casey, I'm very interested in the one bill, and I guess it's a personhood bill that Senator Jackson, Senator Katrina Jackson has put forth giving persons the right to claim their embryos on their taxes. I think that we, that that would, listen, let me tell Katrina Jackson is a friend. Most things, she and I are aligned on reproductive health. We are not, and I'm concerned that women are dying, and I don't see enough effort being placed toward addressing those issues. The performance part has to stop. And I think that I'm hopeful that some of the bills will be amended so that they will address the jeopardy, jeopardy that these bills place. On the lives of women in Louisiana. So that's going to be one of the things that I will personally be watching because not only does it, I mean it impacts our lives. We lost Ashley Carter a couple of years ago, having her very first baby. And all of you Caitlin Ashley was a young lawyer at the at the Capitol and we all know Caitlin and the challenge that she went through trying to have a baby in Louisiana and that kind of trauma should never be visited upon women in a civil society, on any person in a civil society. The other thing that I'm watching, too, is to deal with anything that has to do with providing safe, affordable housing. Or people in Louisiana can't have healthy people if they don't have a place to live.

Flitcher Bell: one of the bills that I'm interested in is the one where they're trying to, you get rid of the good time for people who are incarcerated, which makes absolutely, positively, ideally, in no sense. We know how a lot of people don't realize that we are spending 53 cents out of every dollar that goes taxation on some type of incarcerated care. We know that Louisiana as I continue to say, leads the world in incarceration per capital. And so, we have a problem, we have a situation and. We're going to add on to that problem by saying, okay, you can't come home after you completed, after you've gone to the system, after taking up measures to make yourself better after taking up measures to do well, to become back of society. No, we're not going to give you credit for that. We want to leave behind bars this, lock them up and throw away the keys mentality. Has to get out of our system. We, there is better ways. It's much more productive ways than better for society, as our weak must figure those out as they do.

Casey Phillips: Yeah. And the fact that Reverend Anderson's been lifting this up for years now in these Friday calls about the amount of people who are touched by the prison industry in this state, either directly or indirectly. It's it absolutely lures me that that we're still chanting that, lock it up lock up and throw away a key and. But it is interesting, the twist of irony. As we've watched in the news this week when someone's Channing lock her up, it's interesting how the tables turn. And it said, and just be careful what you wish for and you manifest. And it was like Don Johnson said when he was on a panel down, I was moderating the time.

Flitcher Bell: All these people running on the campaign, I'm going to be tough on crime. What's tough on crime? The laws are what they are. Back to what Peter was saying earlier and the policy, the laws are what they are. And what do you mean you're going to be tough on crime? You're not the defendant, you're not the person permitted it. You can only follow the rules that are in place. Nobody can find what tough on crime is where everybody. And when they know we're right Wednesday, we know death was going to get some of the votes out for them by just making that mantra, oh, we going to be tough on crime. But instead of saying, we're going to be tough on policy, we're going to be tough on what's going to make our society better.

Casey Phillips: Yep. And last thing selfish request and because of these facts that these notes are transcribed and I get so many emails and consistently when I'm out and about people who don't even come to the calls, how many people read these notes, folks? Like we see the backend metrics of it. I said, ain't no judgment. We so I have something that I'm not ready to announce, but I do need there's several people on here who will be, that are on this call today, will be getting an email from me with the request during legislative session. So, if I was, our office is downtown about six blocks away from the from the Capitol, right? During the month of April in May, if I was to have. 20 bottles of wine and some Jamaican food from royal taste from down the street sitting in the middle of our conference room. To be able to pick your brains on a concept that is going to be applied for young people beginning the work that y'all are doing and going to finish. What would be a good time during the legislative session between Tuesday and Thursday? Like a Tuesday and Thursday after session? What's a good time to schedule something? Is that three o'clock, four o'clock, five o'clock for six o'clock? Ooh, that sounded like happy days, but what? I What would be a good time? Just say it.

Mathilde Silverberg: Sorry if y'all see me looking, I just, my husband and I just adopted up, up and he is currently using my shirt as a tool. I would say probably closer to what Peter said, based off just with committees and things of that nature, probably like after four. Revenue. Oh yeah. And we have free parking in the back of our building.

Casey Phillips: So that's the other thing, I did want to open up to everybody on this call that our office can be utilized for base of operations for any of you that you would all ever like to set up in the conference room during session. And need an offsite place. And you don't necessarily want to go to the city club for whatever reason to have a meeting. You are welcome to cruise on by to the Wall's office. And that is open to you. Manny has used it as his base of operations before. And thank y the feedback and look forward and look for an invitation for something that we have up our sleeves in the city of Baton Rouge. But thank y'all for your time today.

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