PM LRN Newscall April 9

House Democrats release their Come Back Stronger Louisiana agenda for the upcoming legislative session. Don Molino has more.

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There’s a clause in the state constitution that allows prisoners to be treated as slaves, but legislation has been filed to change that.  Brooke Thorington explains.

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Senator John Kenney calls on all Louisiana residents to get vaccinated. He says he can’t sing very well but he has taken the vaccine and it works.

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If you’re interested in getting vaccinated call the COVID Hotline at 855-453-0774 for a local appointment.

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After finishing his rendition of Born Free Kennedy closed with a message to Louisianans…

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Over 28 percent of Louisianans have received at least one dose of a vaccine so far.

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COVID numbers continue to stay low in Louisiana despite spikes in other parts of the country driven by new viral variants.

State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter says percent positivity this week was only 2.3 percent, the lowest since the pandemic began, and only 301 people are in Louisiana hospitals with COVID symptoms…

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Despite this good news Kanter is concerned the more deadly and contagious UK variant could cause us problems. The CDC estimates a minimum of 13 percent of Louisiana COVID cases is UK variant.

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But our 13.4 percent of UK variant cases is much better than the rest of the county. The nationwide average is 27.2 percent, Florida is at 34.5 percent, Texas is at 25.2 percent.

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Kanter also warns the CDC variant tracking data has a several-week lag time and that unverified but likely accurate data suggests the nationwide share of UK variant is now above half of all new cases.

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House Democrats release their Come Back Stronger Louisiana agenda for the upcoming legislative session. House Democratic Caucus Chair Representative Sam Jenkins says assisting those who’ve lost employment as a result of the pandemic is a priority.

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Jenkins says investing in education to grow the state’s economy is also on their agenda. He says that begins with pay raises for educators and makes good on a promise to increase salaries towards the southern regional average.

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The House Democratic Caucus also plans to address criminal justice reform. Jenkins says the caucus will file follow-up legislation for those impacted by non-unanimous jury verdicts and how to review those cases.

Jenkins says they also want to see federal funds from COVID relief awarded to frontline workers in the form of hazard pay.

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The session begins on Monday.

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Prison reform advocates pursue changes to the way prison labor is handled, targeting a provision of the state constitution called the “slavery exception” that relates to the nearly unpaid forced labor of Louisiana inmates. Executive Director of Decarcerate Louisiana Curtis Davis, who spent 25 years at Angola, is working to change that. He says prisoners are paid pennies for their work.

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Jenkins received $12,000 from prison labor during his sentence.

Legislation has been filed to remove the slavery exception for prisoners in Louisiana.

Davis says the 13th Amendment didn’t end slavery it codified it with a loophole allowing prison slave labor. He says if you refuse to work guards can use force against you.

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In addition to being treated like slaves while incarcerated Davis says as a society, we also don’t understand the mental trauma that forced servitude has on prisoners.

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If passed a constitutional amendment could be added to the fall 2022 ballot.