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OneRouge Community Check-In: Week 196






On Monday March 11, LaLeg kicks off the Regular Session. But they didn't just start working. When Gov. Jeff Landry was sworn in on January 8, 2024, he issued two executive orders (one aiming to “maintain education standards,” and the second to formally establish the office of the First Lady) and called for a court-required special session to redraw the congressional districts of Louisiana. Then the Second Extraordinary Session was February 19 to February 29.


In between, there have been a slew of bills queuing from the Legislature, which consists of the 39-member Senate and the 105-member House of Representatives. As usual they cover a lot of ground from criminal justice reform and early childhood education to housing and equal pay. Which ones are important for us to keep an eye on? Well that is exactly the conversation we plan to have this Friday.



Join our featured speakers as we "Keep Your Eye on the Ball!"


 

Notes

Casey Phillips: What were you, what were you explaining to us, Tia?  


Tia Fields: Okay, so I'm, was explaining that Mercury is transitioning the the sign in Pisces, and Mercury rules over communication, travel war, things, electricity, office buildings, and things of that nature. Pisces is a water sign. If you're here in Baton Rouge or surrounding areas, it's wet outside. So I was just advising that anyone that is traveling today to take extreme caution plan a little bit ahead for any derails. And then there is something about going down a rabbit hole on information. So anything that y'all get today, be careful of spiraling. But it's good information. 


Pepper Roussel: And I love rabbit holes of information. 


Tia: That's me at two o'clock a.m. like here's 


Casey: That is just look, gravity is a real thing and it holds and moves the universe apart. Take Tia, I will take your warning, your advice to heart today. And as before we start getting into the policy side. I was looking, as a reminder to everybody, we have elections coming up, it's time to vote coming up, and as I looked on my GoVote app, it feels like maybe I saw, did I see Dr. Bell's name on there, or Dr. Bell, did I imagine, did I hallucinate that? Is your name on the ballot, or is that another Bell? 


Dr. Flitcher Bell: It has to be another bill. It's a pure hallucination. 


Casey: Pure hallucination. Okay just wanted to make sure. But I was just wondering. 


Pepper: Alright, but if you're passing out brownies, I just want to make sure that I am on the list to receive a brownie. What?  If we're hallucinating, if we are hallucinating, I want to hallucinate in the comfort of brownies and possibly,  ooh, we could do milk or bourbon. I'm open to both. Happy Friday, y'all. 


Casey: Happy Friday, everybody. That has to be the weirdest introduction for legislative talk ever. So thank you for everybody being here for it.


Pepper: Yeah. Okay. You say that. But have you seen some of the things that are coming up, which is why we've got the speakers that we've got today, because we can't keep an eye on everything. You cannot find everything yourself and keep an eye on what's going on at all. Fronts, but if we work together and share exactly what's going on in each one of our little worlds, then it'll be a lot easier to keep track of all of the things so that we know not only how to mobilize, but also where the information slash threats are. So that's the whole point  of a systems change and systems movement is really to understand what's going on in other silos. And to that end, we've got a couple of amazing folks who are already on, where is my timer? Who are already on the call of who are in transit trying to get to, I don't know, someplace to slay dragons. So we will start with. Frankie, our very own Frankie Robertson. I don't know whether you can come off chat, my love, but your five minutes starts now. Please let us know who you are, what you do, and what it is that you are paying attention to this legislative session.  Sure. 


Frankie Robertson: Good morning, everybody. This is Frankie Robertson. Of course, we all know each other. I am the founder and president of the Amandla Group. It's a social justice consulting term focused on addressing the social, political and structural determinants that impact the overall health of black and brown birthing people. So I have the privilege of representing several clients at the legislature in a lobbying capacity. I work with organizations like March of Dimes. Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies and RH Impact, formerly known as National Birth Equity Collaborative. Also, by way of my work with IWES work in partnership on some advocacy with Birthmark Doula Collective. Today, what I'm actually sharing is a specific That of legislation that is a product of the mama plus work group. It's a group consisting of the core members that I just shared who three years ago got together and they hired me to create a legislative agenda for them and to work it at the Capitol or at advanced it at the Capitol. And we've been really successful in. Having the doula private insurance coverage and other measures, perinatal mental health screening measures. So today I am presenting some of the bills, actually all of the bills, that we have secured sponsors for and wrote legislation for. And two, three pieces of legislation that we are co leading on that we worked in conjunction with partners who are leading the efforts and we are right there with them co leading the effort. First I will say we have legislation two pe two bills by Senator Barrow  and Representative Matt Willard. And these two bills basically are our efforts to create some uniformity in the Medicaid payment process for doula services. Right now Medicaid has an allure of policy where it provides coverage and each particular plan, each MCO has an opportunity to provide the type of coverage they want to. What we found in this is that each plan offered something different. Some plans had a really amazing package. Some plans really needed some support in creating equity for the real work that DULIS provides. And the positive outcomes to the birthing community. So we basically work with Representative Willard and Senator Barrow on two pieces of legislation that would increase the reimbursement rates for doulas. And then also  it would require the MCOs  to  create, provide like certain types of services. Let's say a minimum of five prenatal visits, a minimum of three postpartum visits and so on. House Bill 702 by Representative Matt Willard is the bill that does that. And then Senate Bill, let's see, 142, I just typed in the chat. Yeah, thank you. And I have the link. You're already on it. I can send you the link. Senate Bill 142 by Regina Barrow does that on the Senate side. And then we also have a bill by Senator Jason Hughes. And basically, that bill is House Bill 489. That bill also does some cleanup to Medicaid coverage for maternal and infant health. In quick summary it requires Medicaid to provide nutrition or a dietitian. Counseling services in the beginning of a pregnancy because right now on individuals who are insured by Medicaid and private insurance can only have their insurance plan cover. Critical nutritional counseling they need only after they get a diagnosis of gestational diabetes after the 27th week of pregnancy. And many of us on this call know that's too late and that birthing people and women could benefit greatly from support in learning how, not learning how, that's pretty presumptive presumptuous presumptuous, excuse me, it's early, of me to say it like that. But let me say this, for individuals who could use some support. And identifying healthy eating choices to manage a chronic condition, prevent a chronic condition, their insurance would cover that. And for those who don't need support, then that support is there if they determine that they need it. For any sort of new diagnosis that they're unfamiliar with managing during their pregnancy. So that. Also, that bill requires Medicaid to provide hospital grade breast pumps for moms in the NICU because they need additional support oftentimes when babies are born premature, more than a standard breast pump could provide. But then it also requires Medicaid to provide. A double electric breast pump for moms as early as the 20th week of pregnancy when moms go in for their anatomy scan because right now Medicaid won't provide a breast pumping job for the babies here, which is too late and it creates all sorts of problems for new moms. As I close, cause I want to be a Baptist preacher. Gerald Boudreau, Senator Boudreau authored a bill for us to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates. And for those who've heard us on calls, other calls, he talked about. We've been working on this for the past few years, and we are really happy to have a lot of partners working with us on this initiative, but Senate Bill 190 provides for Medicaid reimbursement rate increases for certain GYN and obstetric coverages, and then also certain primary care services, as well as substance use disorder and maternal mental health services screenings and services. If you look at the bill, know that there are several amendments that will be introduced next week because we're going in with more specificity on what specific GYN and obstetric codes we're looking at and what primary care services we're working with Primary Care Association and the Rural Association. Association to make sure we have the best codes because please keep in mind these are incremental steps. We'd love the whole shebang. We know that's not going to happen for budgetary reasons and political reasons, but we're identifying some small steps to introduce each year to move the needle on those increases. The last thing I'll say is that we're working in partnership with the Nurses Association. Some of you or all of you may know Anjul Burke. She is the Executive Director of the Nurses Association and also she was the head of the task force SDR 20 this past year, and they released a set of recommendations to end maternal mortality  and health disparities in black and brown communities. So what we did was we worked with Danielle to adopt several of their recommendations into the legislation we were introducing. And we also supported them in their development of. Bill author by Senator Jerry Carter. One would minimize some of the unnecessary licensing requirements that prohibited birthing centers from operating in certain ways or even being able to maintain their birthing centers, which we need. And then another provides for public education campaigns about the post birth warning signs that people need to know about that have been contributing to death in our state. I will drop those two links to those bills in the chat because I'm driving now, but what I will say is I will also drop a link in the chat on a few minutes to make sure everybody  has the registration link to participate in Black Maternal Health Advocacy Day. It too is an event hosted by. The Mama Plus work, Mama Plus policy work group, and it is on April 17th. We have a virtual town hall that starts at eight o'clock by Zoom, and then we have a press conference on the steps of the Capitol at 11:45, and then at right after the press conference, we're going to join Lyft Louisiana for a presentation at their Women on Wednesday event. And the last thing I'll say is that the bills that I presented today were the ones that but agencies, a lot of the abortion access and reproductive justice focus bills, as well as plenty of other pieces of legislation that we are supporting. And we would ask that everyone, be supportive of those measures. So thank you so much, and I'm happy to answer any questions anyone might have.


Pepper: We'll have to do that in a minute. We also have Gina Womack, who is in transit at the moment. Where'd you go, Gina? Where are you? Can't hear you. All right, Gina has already gone to slay her dragons. We will shift the conversation then to Peter, who is always at the Capitol learning and doing new things. So please tell us, Peter, who you are, what you do, and what you are paying attention to this legislative session. 


Peter Robins-Brown: Good morning, everybody. Good to see a lot of friends, including my board member, mentor, compadre, partner in crime, Alfreda Tillman Bester on the call, as well as a lot of other good folks and friends. Hope everybody's having a good Friday morning so far.  My name is Peter Robins-Brown. I'm the executive director of an organization called Louisiana Progress. We do work on a lot of different things, but we focus primarily on labor issues criminal justice issues and environmental issues this session we will be very deep into the labor work We we work very closely with the unions in the state through mostly through the louisiana afl cio and this session is Set up To be a major attack on labor in this state particularly public sector unions, there are bills to prohibit public sector collective bargaining bills to eliminate dues deduction, which is just basically something you can do like for United Way or somebody else where you check off a box to have a donation or whatever go that goes to an organization. You can also check off on your payroll that you want your union dues to be deducted from your paycheck and just have it done automatically. When you eliminate that, it does just lead to fewer union members cause they just don't, or fewer union dues being paid which obviously hurts unions, whenever you make processes more difficult and cumbersome. There's just going to be a subset of people who don't take that extra step. We've seen that with voting, for instance. That's one of the reasons why there are always, attempts to put just, even if it seems like a small ish roadblock in front of people voting, you put enough of those small ish roadblocks in the way and there's, again, a subset of people that just either can't or won't clear that hurdle. There's a major attack on workers compensation. That's going on and coming this year workers, our workers compensation system has been largely left alone for about 30 years since it was established and this, the forum that it's in now it's been largely left alone. Cause one of the few things in the state that we have that works pretty well. It generally works pretty well for, Employers and employees. And we have, decent reimbursements. It's not overly costly to the employer. Claims have actually been going down pretty steadily for many years, but a group of lawyers who just happened to represent insurance companies in their private sector lives. While also being state legislators have decided that now is the time to try to blow up the workers compensation system. One might call that using your position of power for self enrichment. Might, maybe, call it that. I don't know. One might, note that those particular legislators are named Senator Alan Sebaugh and Representative Michael Mellorin, who work in the same law firm, actually doing the same kind of work as well as their their newly placed ally in the Senate, Adam Bass. If you or a friend or a family member or neighbor have ever been able to Make ends meet after suffering from a stroke of bad luck on the on the job. Note that you know that system that rug is going to be pulled out from underneath people if we don't stop. that workers comp system. Also, if you're in a public sector union or have benefited from that, also note that the person who's trying to attack public sector unions is a union member himself. Representative Raymond Cruz is a pilot who now granted, if you are a pilot, you're essentially compelled to be in the pilots union. I'm sure he would not be in the union if he had the choice. Nonetheless, he's in a union. He's trying to destroy unions for other people. So he and his family have been able to benefit from the higher wages and better job protections that come with and benefits that come with being in a union and apparently doesn't think that other people particularly those who work in the public sector should have those same benefits. There's quite a bit more on the labor side. We've got some good stuff too. We're trying to reform the regional transit authority in New Orleans and Jefferson parish based on a set of recommendations from union members who work at RTA.  We are working on a good workers comp bill to ensure that in cases of workers compensation, people who have a recommendation for medical marijuana are treated the same as somebody who has, say, a prescription for another controlled substance like an opioid. That bill has not been submitted yet, but we're going to get that in as a late file. Another good we've got bills to increase. Teacher and support staff compensation for work being done like outside of normal work hours. So there's a lot of good stuff. It's, we're working on probably about, 12 to 15 sort of positive bills across a number of different areas, including insurance reform. I think that, that's probably the number one issue in this state right now. Ways that insurance companies Can take advantage of people and essentially engage in discrimination, especially in auto insurance. So a lot of stuff we can cover it all later, but, looking at several different areas and I'll hand it back over to our next speaker. 


Pepper: Thank you, sir. Very much. Please. Oh yeah. Yeah. So if you, if there's anything that's already in the house or the Senate, if you want to drop those in the chat, happy to share those out with the notes. But next we've got Crystal Ellis. When you're ready, darling. Hi, Pepper. 


Crystal Ellis: Good morning, everyone. I apologize. I'm off camera and I'm driving at the moment. I am Crystal Ellis. I am the state manager for Save the Children Action Network. We're a political advocacy arm of Save the Children, and we are focused on early childhood. This past Saturday, we were joined by Tia Fields, who's also on the call for our  where we convene 70 plus community members from throughout the state and train them for this upcoming legislative session. I am not sitting in front of my tracker and there are a number of bills that we are tracking currently because kids, but our primary focus in support right now is HB 287 with representative Hughes and Freeman, where we are trying to get kids summer EBT reinstated. And we are trying to protect the 87 million that was allocated in the executive budget for ECE already coalition. Already Louisiana coalition ask is actually 115, but 87 is not that far off. So if we can preserve as much of that as possible, it would be great. And we will also be joining our partners at with Feeding Louisiana at the Capitol on March 20th for Anti Hunger Day and May 21st with Ready Louisiana Coalition for Early Childhood Education Day. And so I will also, once I have an opportunity to drop some more information in the chat, and please feel free to feel free to reach out to me via email, follow our website, or hit me on any social media platform where I'm really loud and disruptive. Thank you, Pepper. 


Pepper: Oh!  Loud and disruptive!  Yay! Sorry, I guess got carried away for a moment there.

I have dropped 287 in the chat, and I've got a question while you're driving. Tell me about The implications of not receiving the or opting into receiving federal funds by the state of Louisiana. Even if we do get this bill passed and we say that want money now, do we have a way to get The money that the feds were going to give us through the USDA, or are we now responsible?


Crystal: I don't have a definitive response in this moment because I don't believe we get it for this first year, but trying to legislate it in will make it available for future years, and I will update either in chat or via email with more detail once I get an opportunity.  


Pepper: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And I've got a question for Peter, while you're dropping some things in the chat, help me understand if we're talking about particularly medical marijuana for those folks who do have not only a documented need, but also a card, what is the current stance on odor? So it used to be that the smell of marijuana was probable cause. Is that still the case?  


Peter: Yeah, so let me just pop back for a second. We don't, we actually are the only state that has a medical marijuana program where you don't get a card. So you, nobody has a card. There have been some efforts to change that, but just that's not the case. The other issue to note is with medical marijuana, and this is true at all states because medical, because marijuana is still a schedule one drug at the federal level, meaning that it's treated that it's  The way it's treated is if it has no medicinal purpose whatsoever. So the way the federal and the state laws are just incongruous like that is that in every state where it's legal is or where you have a medical marijuana program, you get a recommendation, not a prescription. And so when we talk about how it's dealt with legally, There is really no like you are have, you don't have any protections. And so even like I said, with a prescription for a controlled substance, like a, an opioid, which is, I think most would agree a much, heavier, harder drug than marijuana. You have a lot of different protections, particularly around workplace issues. And so really what we're looking at is again, trying to make sure that the medical marijuana, at least for workers comp aligns with that in terms of odor. We had a bill a couple of years ago that passed to make it so that you can no longer use marijuana odor as a pretext to search somebody's home. But in terms of say, your car or like personal belongings that can still be used as a pretext odor is for the most part, other than just somebody's home, still something that can be used as a pretext, whether you're a medical marijuana patient or not to initiate a search or, maybe even other legal action. I'll just remind folks that you are, if you're carrying 14 grams or less, which is a half an ounce or less, That has been decriminalized and you are only eligible for a ticket on that. So if you are carrying and you smell like it and you get stopped, make sure that you're carrying less than a half an ounce. 


Pepper: Sorry, that caught me off guard. So there's  SK, if you want to jump in, if you know anything about Oh, sorry, the alarm is stopping. Anyway, fantastic. Thank you to all of our speakers for dropping these things. And thank you, Frankie, particularly for the Black Maternal Health Advocacy Day, because I did not have that dropped in the chat already. SK, if you want to come off mute and share anything that you might know about the HIV decriminalization bill, HB 436, I'd appreciate it. For those of you who have any questions, please drop them in the chat. Again, this is about making sure That we are working across the silos, that we are letting you know what is coming down the horn,  pipe, whatever. It's coming down to us some way  so that we are no longer working in our own little echo chambers that we are sharing information. 

All right. And on TV,  just for the record, pretextual stops are not legal. They might, use odor as probable cause which For those of you non policy nerds and legal scholars in the audience, the reason that some folks have been how should I say, stopped and searched illegally or legally? With what's out there that they could be selling. We're not sure, but we do know that they smell it could be many. We're not sure that they smell like marijuana now that does not in any way, shape or form, give anybody give the person who might stop them any sort of context around whether they have a medical, a documented medical need. It also does not share whether they have any sort of, documented capacity any sort of documented capacity to have or to use whether that be through a card, a recommendation or a prescription or some sort of, I say, legacy means, but it does say that there are some ways that we will continue to a single out and focus on folks who may have that. The propensity as a coping mechanism. All right. S. K. What you got going on?  


SK Groll: Oh, yeah. So this is really I'm speaking more on behalf of colleagues and community collaborators that work with, louisiana criminalization coalition against the criminalization of health care. So they've been working on an HIV decrim bill and I know Marcella, I see you coming on. I know that there's an event at Lori tonight that is going to talk all about this. So I'll throw it to you to talk about that event after this but HIV decrim is a really important issue in our state. Obviously, like many of the criminalization laws, disproportionately affects black and brown folks and poor folks and is particularly one of the ways that health status is used as a threat against people, so that we know that criminalizing people's health status doesn't promote public health on an individual level or community level and so it's in our best interest for folks to be aware of that. broadly to know their HIV status. But in Louisiana, with the laws that are currently on the books, that means that folks are under that there are concerns legally for if somebody has a known HIV status and then that transmission occurs to another person. There, there are a lot of those scare tactics that kind of exist around this law. And also terrifying language in the law. HB 436 is one of those good bills that is going to be up in the House criminal justice this session and it's something that we can support. It does not fully take the law that exists now off the books, but it does severely limit the scope of how this law can be applied so that in the incredibly rare instances that we have almost no documentation of actual intentional HIV transmission. If that were to ever occur, there is still legal recourse on the books for somebody, but the law has been narrowed in scope in such a way that it limits its misapplication and it limits broad application in a way that could be disproportionately applied to otherwise marginalized peoples. So it's a really great bill to course correct on this. And something important that I learned from the folks at LCCH is that in other states where they have fully removed HIV criminalization laws the powers that be legislatively and in law enforcement have used in other statutes, have used other statutes to continue to criminalize people with HIV. And so that one of the reasons why we're keeping this one on the books but narrowing its scope is like a harm reduction measure and then learning from, HIV work nationally. So I'll throw it over to Marcella to talk about


Pepper:  Wait, I have a question before you move on. For those who have never worked in HIV or healthcare, help me understand, what do you mean when you say criminalization? So are you saying that if I am a person who dates somebody who has HIV, and if I get mad after the breakup that I can press charges against them for exposing me? Are you saying that if I am a person who is Forced to engage in some sort of income based crime that I can be prosecuted just because I, additionally, just because I happen to have HIV. Are you saying that I don't, what are you saying when you say criminalization of folks who have HIV? 


SK: All of those things, right? And so this is then something that can really affect folks status. It, really it creates an incredible environment of fear around folks who do test positive for HIV, and then the consequences of them engaging in Both, income based work around sexual activity, as well as dating and relationships in general, right? Intimate relationships that have an enormous stakes of any intimate interaction with somebody could result in your criminalization if that person was to say that you intentionally transmitted to them, whether or not you had disclosed that status before. And we also know right now with, within our public health knowledge undetectable means untransmissible. HIV prognosis and treatment is very different than it was. decades ago or even years ago, but there's a lot of fear that prevents from people from both knowing their status and then being in active management of their care which increases the likelihood that community transmission of HIV occurs, right? And so if folks are afraid to get tested. If folks are afraid to engage in an HIV related health care, then there's also a real community level risk that increases  in addition to the fact that this is disproportionately applied to keep people in jail or to be a scare tactic in child custody cases and so on and so forth. 


Pepper: Okay, so now to Marcella in particular, is there some sort of disproportionate risk for folks who particularly women or women identifying people who may not have the same sort of power and relationships to demand protection particularly in immigrant communities that may have higher risks of HIV? Is it still true that there are a lot of Women who are new to the States, new to Baton Rouge, who develop or to contract HIV once they once they arrive. 


Marcela Hernandez: Okay. Thank you so much. And thank you, SK for bringing that up. That is such an important topic that we've been pushing since last year as well, Because This is the thing,  ignoring or looking to the opposite way does not, it does not mean that it does not exist. If we have a problem, as much as we in general in society want to ignore it, that does not have the problem go away. And that's the situation with the criminalization of HIV. Now, if you bring into the picture, the issues, the barriers.  There are immigrant and refugee community faces in terms of health care provisions and health care access that's it creates an either even a greater issue. So this is stigmatization of HIV, we already carry it we already have it in our countries we already have it in our cultures, this is something that we don't talk. To be honest last year when I first brought the word HIV  here into my office was already a big deal because people are not used to talk about these things. When we started delivering the HIV testings, because we have we have free HIV testings that you can take home and do your test at home. People in the community freaked out when we started talking about it. But this is the thing, we started realizing that more and more people were willing to take this test and were willing to have these conversations because we literally de stigmatized the word of HIV.  And now being able to link Individuals that we're identifying with HIV, link them to resources, free resources in the community, and not only women, I mean we're talking about men and women, couples that are coming here and because of that lack of access to healthcare, they're not getting tested.


And if you add, the stigmatization and all of the different barriers that our immigrant community faces that makes everything much harder. Tonight, we are going to have this event. Really to promote an environment free of stigma. We're going to be having a lot of speakers that are going to be educating our community members and really to embrace a problem that has been part of this community for many years, but people have been looking the opposite way. So tonight is going to be a historical event because we're going to be combining Our immigrant community with a current issue that we're facing here, we're going to have free food and we're going to have  dances from different countries representing different countries, but also a blend of those different societies. If you want to come and learn a little bit more about this criminalization of HIV. And if you want to learn really the wording behind the legislative. Please come tonight at 5 p. m. And, we're going to have some really good testimonies as well. So  please just come in and get to know a little bit more about this. 


Pepper: Thank you very much. So I do have a question for clarity and to be can you tell me what exactly is a pretextual stop? You dropped that in the chat, just for the record, pretextual stops are not legal. What does that mean? And how is that distinguished from probable cause? 


Alfreda Tillman Bester: It just means that you can't make up something to stop somebody, right?Like you can't just 


Pepper: Lies!  Lies! You can't lie. 


Alfreda: That's all you can't lie. And, and you know that happens, right? So I'm not saying something that people don't know it happens, but they, if they, if there's an actual scent. Of marijuana and they can prove that there was an actual scent of marijuana, then they could use this as probable cause for them having made the stop  and Dr. Bell can explain that a whole lot better than me since he was an actual criminal prosecutor. This is just me from, just a cursory knowledge of criminal law because I was all civil.  


Pepper: An innocent bystander, you say? Is that what you're saying? Okay. All right, Flitcher Bell, what you know? What you know good? Tell me, what is the difference between a pretextual stop and probable cause? And how do I know if what you are smelling like is not marijuana? Because I think it smells like marijuana. 


Dr. Bell: That's where the question comes in play pepper. A lot of times.  I want to say probably 95 percent of the police reports that I read when I was prosecuting, I always said a strong scent of marijuana over emitting from the vehicle. And they use that as pretty  well saying as a way to Do further searches and get into further see if there's any further criminal activity going on, but it's not supposed, as Peter was saying it's supposed to be used only in, in situations where, is imminent or there's other imminent things going on, but a lot of times Some of these cases are, as I say, thrown out from the beginning and other ones people with good lawyers seem to get them put aside, but you're not supposed to be able to just say that because of the fact that as you said, would My set and your set may be all different terms. And so there's supposed to be some other corroborating evidence to go on if you're going to make an arrest. 


Alfreda: So you can't you can't have a floral sense of potpourri coming from the car. And you use that as a pretext to arrest somebody for marijuana possession and distribution.  


Pepper: Yeah so I also have not never practiced and crime, but I have heard tell we'll call them fairy tales that, once you actually have somebody stopped and you and that there is a claim that they smell like marijuana, that there might be by a discovery. Of other things in the car, maybe drugs, maybe weapons, maybe outdated plates, lack of insurance driving without a driver's license, all sorts of things. So it feels very much like a gateway drug!  Get it? You see what I did there? You see what I did? Alright, fine. So there is a  Thank you, Jen. There is a question in the chat. What about the other side of the equation? Proving driving while high as compared to DWI?


Peter: I can take that one. There is a lot of work being done on developing essentially a breathalyzer for marijuana. They get closer every day. Whoever figures it out is going to make a lot of money. So there are a lot of people working on it because it would really be a game changer when we talk about legalization. That is one of the big issues that law enforcement in particular brings up is we can't figure out when you know people, whether people are, currently intoxicated with marijuana or not. When we talk about workers compensation, marijuana stays in your body a lot longer than pretty much all other drugs. And if you're involved in an accident on the job and you get tested, you might. You might come back positive, but you might have last used marijuana five days ago. That sort of a real time breathalyzer is it depends. Sometimes I read a thing that makes it sound like it's going to happen tomorrow. Sometimes then the next week I'll see something that makes it feel like it's 10 years away. Usually when you see those kinds of wide ranges, I tend to just land like somewhere in the middle, it'll have, like you, you have that. So it feels like we would have something on the market that's actually workable and trustworthy in a few years, like I would guess three to five years really feels like. Something where they have tested it. We know that it works. We know that it's consistent and reliable and it's being relatively widely used. But until we get there, we've got all sorts of problems across both like the criminal side and the kind of just how we go about daily life side.  


Dr. Bell: And as Peter was saying if you're involved in an accident, whether you're at fault or not at fault they do test you. And in some cases they can't even draw blood if necessary. 


Pepper: Wait, so can you repeat that for me? They can't draw blood. That's a new one. Okay. 


Dr. Bell: Yes. If you're involved in an accident, especially where there's injury involved, and if you refuse to test or to refuse to give the consent, then they can get a court order  to draw blood. 


Alfreda: That's the key. Oh, the court order is the key? Yes. Yes. Oh, okay. Yes, they can't just take you down to the doctor's office and hold you down and take blood out of your body. They have to get a court order. They have to get a subpoena. 

Pepper: I'm going to learn how to, I'm going to learn how to cross stitch just to put that on a cross stitch, come back with a court order. Anyway the, are there any other questions that we have neglected in the chat? And I want to be sure because there are a lot of flyers and things that are going on. There's a lot of links to there are a lot of links to bills that have been discussed already, and there are several events that have already popped up. Oh, Hey, I missed this. Hey, Keena. Yes. So many terrible bills, but apparently there are. Yeah, apparently are some good things that are coming out. Thank you, Manny's hair. Come back with a court order. Is there anything that we have not discussed by our speakers?  And in fact, is there anything that we haven't brought up that y'all might be paying attention to? We haven't mentioned, or that isn't on the radar for all of us. 


Peter: Just for a moment wanted to circle back on the insurance stuff since that is really something that when you look at pulling in the state, I think when you know all of us look at our bills at the you know every month whether it's homeowners insurance, auto insurance. Even if you're renting, your landlord might have raised your rent because they are now paying, higher rates on these things. And, what we're seeing is an insurance commissioner whose solution, a new insurance commissioner, whose solutions to these problems seem to be to just give. Insurance companies, everything they want as, that's always right. A solution that we see from people is like, Oh the problem is that the businesses that are profiting just don't have more freedom and leeway to do whatever they want. And that will solve it for the consumer. And we've heard this, I think for 15 of my whole lifetime, And I have yet to see that actually work. It's just a different way of saying trickle down economics. That's what we're seeing from the new insurance commissioner, from the folks who are unfortunately leading the insurance committees in the house and the Senate. For the most part, there are some of these good bills I linked or included some of them earlier in the chat around, like actually trying to, at the very least increase transparency or. Disallow prohibit these companies from discriminating in cases like, women pay higher auto insurance rates than men for no reason other than gender. They rely on credit report, your credit history, more than your driving history. So a poor person with a poor credit history, but a great driving history, will pay more than a wealthier person With a good credit history, but a poor driving history which I think, when we're talking about auto insurance.

I would hope seems pretty contradictory to a lot of people. Given the current environment, I'll admit that, a lot of those bills don't have the best chance of getting to the governor's desk and getting signed. But I think it's important that people are aware of and, for whatever they can do, lift up the fact that there are some people trying to solve, or at least mitigate this insurance crisis from the consumer side, not just giving everything away to the insurance companies. And again, I think this is an issue that everybody, is Involved in, cares about, affected by, in some way, shape, or form. And it's important that people know that there are folks trying to fight for the consumers. Because I think that sometimes people feel a little bit hopeless. The insurance companies just dominate everything and who's doing anything for us. So it's important that people know that there are some people trying to fight for you, the consumer. 


Pepper: Here Here. And for those of you who are not Articulating, but may have questions about how does this work? What does this mean for people who are in poverty? I work with, I don't know, parks and this doesn't matter to me. The whole idea is that these things are. inextricably linked to each other, right? So if I am a person whose homeowner's insurance has been raised and I'm barely making ends meet to begin with, that's going to be problematic. Or worse, if there are only two carriers in the state and one of them drops me then the other can charge me whatever they want. And I don't really get a whole lot of choices. If I am in, if I am a person who is without car insurance or a driver's license for the myriad of reasons that could happen and I need to utilize public transportation, but it's non existent. Then that puts me in a situation where either I cannot get to school or work, or I am spending a lot of time trying to do both of those things. And maybe my kids can't get to where they need to go either. Marijuana, in particular cannabis. I have my own views on that, but. The short version, long story is that if you are renting a space and you cannot smoke, for instance, inside of your apartment or your condo and you are then smoking in your car, which is yours, but then you can be picked up and arrested for that sort of thing. Because, overwhelming odor. Then that puts you on the path to are well in the crosshairs of the carceral system, which has its own series of  unfortunate events. As we have these talks. Yes, please. Listen and hear what other folks are doing, but also  try to figure out if you would not mind a call to action, how it is that your organization and the things that you do intersect with those things so that we can all bite at the apple from our independent sides and maybe get to the core a little bit faster. Thank you, Camila. Yes, incremental progress is still progress. I'm all about it. Do we have any more questions?  Besides the request for me not to sing on a Friday morning. Casey, we are coming to the end. Do you have any last words or input to share? Any questions? 


Casey: Yes, I will sing with you that is as much singing as I will be doing now I want to as always i'd like to thank all the speakers and everybody in the chat. The intersectionality of all this work really like I don't think it's really lost on this group at this point, right? We're approaching four years together, folks. I don't know if y'all like actually internalize that, but we are approaching four years. And I feel like we all understand how all these things are linked together.  I think that at this moment it is very easy to feel like it's overwhelming because this has been a long time coming with the triple axle of Republican control over our branches of government. And they are pressing that is being pressed from all sides. And I'm not trying to pit this as an us versus them thing. What I'm saying is this agenda is being very clearly telegraphed and you have to pick up the sword of your neighbor's fight if you want them to fight with you. So whether you're someone who shows up at the Capitol just for your thing that's cool.It's awesome that you're doing it. But if you can fight for others, other people on this calls fights, then they will fight with you. And if you fight, you win. You may not win today, but you will win. And that is how this works. So I would just like to just say thank you to everybody that works on policy and practice reform in the state of Louisiana, where sometimes it can be a challenge. It can be challenging work, and I hold you up with great respect. So thank you all.  Beautiful.


Pepper: Thanks to all of you came off mute and shared today. So genuinely appreciate the work that you do and for your being here, right? So if it were not for you, there are so many things that I would not have known on this fine Friday. And so thank you for being here. That said, yes, there are some things that have been dropped into the chat. Thank you for letting us know that you are slow on the clicking fingers, but. You are welcome to come off mute and share what is going on except for early voting because Alfredo Tillman Bester has already said that.


Where are you, Reverend Anderson? 


Reverend Anderson: Good morning,  Pepper! Say it again, Reverend! Say it again! Good morning, Pepper! Oh my God, I have, I can't even stop laughing because I knew she was going to judge me, but I still went there. First of all, I just want to say thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Everybody knows I'm a giddy data nerd. And I just wanted to say, first of all, to SK and to Marcella, thank you for the work, because for people who don't know, if you go to jail and there's any kind of interaction, even a fight or pushing or that kind of thing, and somebody has already been diagnosed, it matters. It matters. And so I just wanted to put that out there. But if you can grace me with just a moment, I put in the chat that we celebrated the second anniversary of the 19th JDC First Appearance Family Support Center. And that was so important to me because  it is  clearly what happens when citizens decide this is their government It is not a building. It is not any of that. It is a huge partnership, but it allows people to get information. And so one of the people on this call, and I wanted to point him out because I don't know that everybody knows Larry Williams. Larry Williams is on this call. He runs outreach for the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs,  and he's a major player in helping this new veterans treatment court  do what it's supposed to do. And we were lucky enough because we were talking to our neighbors to be able to have a relationship with him. The other person we honored on this past Tuesday was Genevieve Robeshaw  activism, who is known in this community as the traffic whisper.  I got more texts and emails from people who panic because she's no longer the traffic department coordinator, but she is still volunteering in the community to help people learn how to navigate traffic. And  this was not a government agency. This was not some huge group.  This was a bunch of partners who just decided.  We needed to help our friends, family, and neighbors learn how to navigate a mammoth system that is not friendly to either the public or the people who are most at risk in it. And I just wanted people to know  if you get a chance on Tuesday at 12 o'clock, anytime between 12 and 1 PM on a Tuesday, and you're at the river center library downtown, stop by, see us, get a piece of candy, chit chat with us. And find out what happens when the we the people part of we the people  kicks in. And so I wanted to thank you again for giving me that moment. There's a bunch of stuff going on. We put the ministerial equity form really important on Saturday. I'm not touching voting because I know who's in charge of vote,  but things matter. Voting matters. Engagement matters. But can I also add this? And this is Casey for you because it matters so much to me in our relationship. Listening matters.  If there's only one lesson I think everybody needs to take out of this  mammoth, the bad things that are happening, we got to start listening to one another. Because I firmly believe with everything in my heart, we have more in common than we have separating us. And so Pepper, thank you. Don't judge me. I'm having a good day. But thank you all so much. 


Pepper: Oh, I'm judging. Judging! One of my amen.


Casey: Amen, Reverend. And I have to say one more time, one of the most old, one of the oldest truths that still holds true. God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. 


Pepper: Says a man who had to have grown up in Catholic schools. Same time for absolutely.  , alright. So thank you so much. Yes. I, so Larry Williams, if you would like to come off mute and say anything since you've gotten that amazing introduction from Reverend Anderson, we are happy to have your voice. And in the interim, Marcella, what you got going on babe?  


Marcella: No, I just wanna say, okay, so we have tonight that event with the criminalization of HIV, but tomorrow is also Holy Fest in Baton Rouge Holy Fest is a festival the Festival of Colors and it's a festival celebrated by Indians and it's a really fun fun festival. So if you wanna go and have fun and enjoy and dance and and just come out of some, your routine come tomorrow, I think it's. from 2 to 5 p. m. At the river center, right in front of the river center at the Independence Park, I believe, no Repentance something Park. It's right in front of the river center. I just put it in there. So have fun and I'm going to be there. So if you're there, call me and we dance together. 


Pepper: Wait, which kind of Indians are we talking about? I need to, what sort of food shall I expect? That's all I really want to know.


Marcella: No, unfortunately this one, so we're not partnering with them, but this is my second year coming and it's really fun. It's it's it's actually a religious event that Indians celebrate and what they do is they have a music and performance and they have this powder, this and you do have to buy it. It's 1 or 2 a pack. You have to go in white. That's the whole thing. You go in white and then you throw the potter against other people while you dance some like Indian music. And then at the end of the party, you're all filled with different color powder. It's fun. It's fun. And then they do sell food. And I know they have also those Henna tattoos. It's just fun. It's just fun. So I went last year and it was fun. It was fun.  


Pepper: Ooh, a Hindu festival says Tia Morgan says the food's amazing and Manny's hair.

Has put some information in the chat about the holy festival southeast asia. Thank you. Kina. Hannah. Yeah  Do we have any other announcements what's going on this weekend y'all besides the things that are in the chat and things you've already said  


Helena Williams: Raise my hand, but The Futures Fund is hosting a cybersecurity workshop at the Carver Library on tomorrow between 12 and 2. And so if you're interested in learning about the pathways of cybersecurity and what it takes to be a cybersecurity individual you can attend for free. And I'll put it in the chat.  


Pepper: Woohoo! Nichola Hall! 


Nichola Hall: Good morning, my cyber family. I just want to share out, and I'm singing to Pepper, it's contagious, a couple of things that are happening in EBR tomorrow Empower Your Career, so we're going to be at Southern Cafe over there by Scotlandville. 10 a. m. to 1 p. m. Wake your folks up. Tell them that we are hiring bus operators, teachers, etc.


We got spots and we have stipends and we will help them to fill out their application and they'll be able to leave that site with an intent to hire pending a background check. So that is huge happening tomorrow. And then we have summer feeding that is coming up.  April 1st is the deadline for us to receive applications from city agencies, Y.M. C. A. S. Whatever organizations exists in the community who have and they have students. My phone is ringing. I'm trying to Tone it out so I can do this. Fill out the application. There's a PDF in there. There's a link in there. There's a bunch of flies in there. Check us out. Come hang out with us.Let's do this for summer. Feed it. Thank you. 


Pepper: Thank you all so much. Oh yeah. Nichola, before you leave, do you hire non English speaking individuals?


Nichola: Absolutely.  Cause English.  Oh yeah, girl. We hire. We want you. This is an inclusive environment. So we will help find a location where you could fit in. But you have to come see us. So anyone is welcome. Everyone is welcome. Bring your stuff with us. Check us out on our website. And you guys have my contact information. I'll drop my cell phone number in the chat and email. Share it out. Doesn't matter. Put it on the billboard. Even better. So I could fill these vacancies. 


Pepper: All right, y'all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Oh, hey, I didn't know Vida was doing another program for anyways,  please check out the notes. We will have those available. If you see  any of our speakers or even any of our partners around town, say hi, ask how you can be involved, get in where you fit in folks. And until we meet again, I will see you back here next Friday hopefully. Same bat time, same bat channel. Thanks for being here. Thanks again to all of our speakers. See y'all around. Thanks, y'all. 


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