‘Another blow’: 7,500 Louisiana oil and gas jobs lost during Covid-19 pandemic

Published: April 14, 2021

By: Brittney Forbes | LSU Manship News Service

BATON ROUGE — Employment in Louisiana’s oil and gas industry has been declining since 2014 and took another big hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, with layoffs of 7,500 more workers.

The high-paying jobs have not come back yet even though world oil prices have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. And as President Joe Biden pushes to accelerate a shift to renewable energy sources, oil and gas workers from Lafayette to Houma are feeling increasingly uneasy about the future.

Loren Scott, an economist who does consulting work for the industry, said Louisiana has about 27,000 jobs in oil and gas extraction, or 7,500 fewer than in January 2020. That number reflects those working in oil and gas exploration and production.

“The big hit that took place is a result of COVID just dealing another blow to the industry,” he said.

Economist Loren Scott said oil & gas employment took a hit during the COVID-19 shutdowns.
Economist Loren Scott said oil & gas employment took a hit during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Courtesy of Loren Scott

Even with the rebound in crude oil prices over the last few months, the South Louisiana oil patch remains “one of the few sectors of the economy that did not show any improvement” in jobs, Scott said.

Gary Wagner, an economics professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said that an array of businesses that support the oil and gas industry also have lost jobs, and adding these in brings the total job losses to at least 24,000 since the peak in 2014.

Crude oil prices plunged from $106 a barrel in 2014 to $27 in 2016 before bouncing to more than $60 in January 2020.

Patrick Courreges, the communications director at the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, said the industry suffered last year as Americans cut back on travel and worked from home. That’s because many of the refined products, like gasoline, are for transportation.

Read more at Daily Advertiser

This bill would allow sexual assault victims to end their leases early in Louisiana

Published: April 14, 2021

By: Kathleen Peppo | | LSU Manship School News Service

Sexual assault bill 041421
SU student Isabella Rovere, left, shared a personal experience with sexual assault during a House Civil Law & Procedure committee hearing on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, as she sat alongside fellow LSU student Angelina Cantelli, Co-President of Tigers Against Sexual Assault. LSU Manship School News Service photo by Kathleen Peppo

A bill to allow survivors of sexual assault to terminate housing leases early moved forward Wednesday.

State Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, who brought House Bill 375, said that she did so for the sake of all sexual assault survivors, but especially for college students who are victims of sexual assault.

“Of course, it’s way more relevant based on all the testimony that’s been happening in this Capitol, even though I started working on it before the stories on sexual assault and the coverup at LSU happened,” Freeman said, referring to criticism of the university’s handling of sexual assault complaints against football players.

Current law allows for survivors of domestic violence to abandon a lease early.

But if a survivor of sexual assault who is not in a relationship with the abuser asks to be released from his or her rental agreement, and a landlord refuses, the survivor has no choice but to continue paying rent until the lease ends.

Freeman’s HB375 would extend the right to abandon the lease to include survivors of abuse who are not in an intimate relationship with their abuser.

Freeman said that it is not only necessary for the safety of many survivors to terminate a lease early, as their abusers often know where they live, but also for their healing.

“Survivors often have flashbacks or nightmares,” Freeman said. “Sometimes it affects their ability to go to school or work.”

One LSU student, Isabella Rovere, who spoke before the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee in favor of the bill described a situation in which she was sexually assaulted and her parents lost rent money on a place where she no longer could bear to live.

Read more at The Advocate

Louisianans support taxes for childcare, early education

Published: April 16, 2021

BY: Emily Wood, LSU Manship School News Service

Early childhood education and childcare programs are popular among Louisiana residents even if it means raising taxes to support them, according to a recent report by LSU researchers.

The report states that three-fourths of the 781 residents surveyed support more spending on childcare for infants and toddlers from low-income families, and 69% support more state spending on childcare from all families regardless of income.

More than 50% of the respondents said they would be willing to pay more taxes to expand these programs.

The findings were in the final report on a survey of state residents by the Public Policy Research Lab at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication.

childcare survey

On Monday, April 12, Gov. John Bel Edwards said early childhood education is a priority, but did not offer any amount he would allocate toward it. He made the comment in his State of the State Address as a new legislative session began.

Read more at The Drum

COVID-19 vaccine: Louisiana small pharmacies play crucial role

Published: April 13, 2021

By: Matthew Bennett | LSU Manship News Service

Independent pharmacies
Randy Creel administers a COVID-19 vaccine dose at Creel’s Family Pharmacy in Franklinton.

Constant phone calls and entering names onto growing lists, deleting old names and re-arranging others after cancellations and no-shows, juggling a varying number of COVID-19 vaccines from one period to the next – this is what mom-and-pop pharmacies around the state have been doing along with their regular services.

“You might have to make a list of a thousand phone numbers, and a hundred of those have probably already gotten the vaccine,” said Jimmy Taylor, lead pharmacist at Don Chaucer’s Pharmacy in Hammond. “We’ve never done anything like this. You can’t just walk in and get a COVID vaccine like the flu. It’s a learning curve for all of us.

“If we have a heavy day, we have to bring in nurses to give the shots for me so I can keep running the pharmacy,” he said.

Out of the 486 vaccine providers in the state, 102 independent pharmacies represent over a fifth of distribution sites, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. While distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines was a new and challenging task for all distributors, many of the independent pharmacies lacked the infrastructure of the drug-store chains and hospitals to be able to administer large quantities of shots daily.

Randy Creel, the owner of Creel’s Family Pharmacy in Franklinton, described the distribution process as “very hectic.” He said he has spent most of 2021 giving 20 vaccines a day while filling prescriptions and handling other duties.

“We were getting people from all over South Louisiana coming in,” Creel said. “It’s just an extra amount of work by the time you do the paperwork, get the patient’s information, get the insurance and put it in the computer. You do that 20 times a day on top of checking prescriptions [and] talking to doctors and customers.”

Despite these challenges, mom-and-pop pharmacies are a crucial piece of the vaccination puzzle, particularly in rural areas.

Rural Louisianans trail urban residents by 31% in COVID-19 vaccinations, according to a recent analysis by The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette.

With more than 2.5 million Louisianans living outside of urban areas, local pharmacies could help boost those rates by giving people a chance to receive the vaccine from familiar faces they trust.

That could become even more important with news Tuesday that federal regulators are pausing deliveries of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine to check into a rare blood clotting problem. There have not been any safety problems with the earlier and more widely distributed vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Read more at The Advertiser.com

Senators question LSU general counsel at hearing on school’s handling of sexual assaults

Published: April 8, 2021

By: Kathleen Peppo | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE–State senators on Thursday took turns blasting LSU for its failures on sexual assaults at a hearing at which not a single LSU official listed on the agenda was in attendance.

The Senate Select Committee on Women and Children had called for the testimony of nine LSU employees and one attorney at Taylor Porter, a Baton Rouge law firm that represents LSU, on how it has handled sexual assault complaints involving football players and others.

But the LSU officials, including Head Football Coach Ed Orgeron and Athletic Director Scott Woodward, opted to send written testimony instead, and only Winston DeCuir, LSU’s vice president for legal affairs and general counsel, showed up to testify in person.

DeCuir said he had advised the others not to attend after a former LSU football employee said she was bringing a $50 million suit against the university. The suit, filed Thursday, alleges that Les Miles, Orgeron’s predecessor as head coach, had sexually harassed her and that her superiors and coworkers retaliated against her after she reported it.

“Based on the announcement of threatened litigation, I have to be cautious in that circumstance,” DeCuir said. “The only prudent step was to caution the university they should not be giving testimony under oath on these issues with a threatened lawsuit coming down the pipe.”

But Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, was having none of that.

“Heads need to roll, and we’re not going to just believe people’s written statements,” Peterson said. She said the scandal “warrants dismissal of some of the players.”

Allegations of rape and sexual violence by former LSU football star Derrius Guice and others have surfaced, sparking criticism that LSU has ignored or mishandled reports of sexual misconduct.

Peterson and other lawmakers have been upset that LSU has only suspended two athletic employees temporarily in response to the revelations. Meanwhile, former LSU president F. King Alexander has had to resign from Oregon State University and the University of Kansas has fired Miles as its football coach over other harassment allegations from his days at LSU.

Read more at KATC3

Survey: Louisiana residents disagree on role of racial discrimination plays in society

Published: April 9, 2021

By: Mahogani Counts | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — An LSU survey shows that Louisiana residents disagree on the role that racial discrimination plays in our society, with 84% of Black residents believing more changes are needed to achieve racial equality.

Only 39% of whites agree. Twenty-six percent of whites think the country has made the necessary changes to achieve equal rights, and 30% of whites think that it has gone too far in making changes for the rights of Black people.

This study was conducted by researchers in the Public Policy Research Lab at the LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. The researchers polled 781 adults throughout Louisiana to understand their views on race and class.

Respondents also differed on the extent of racial discrimination in several socioeconomic areas. Blacks and whites in Louisiana staunchly disagree on the degree to which racial discrimination plays a part in the job market, the service industry, applications for loans or mortgages, voting and healthcare.

Eighty-six percent of Black people in the state say police treat Blacks less fairly, while only 42% of white respondents agreed.
Eighty-six percent of Black people in the state say police treat Blacks less fairly, while only 42% of white respondents agreed. LSU Manship News Service

A majority of all Louisiana’s residents — 55% — believe that Black people are treated less fairly than white people in interactions with the police. But when the responses are broken down by race, 86% of Black people say police treat Blacks less fairly, while only 42% of white respondents agreed.

This finding comes as the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin looms over the American public. Chauvin is on trial for second-degree murder after a Black Minneapolis resident, George Floyd, died in his custody. Investigators say that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes after officers placed him on the ground.

Read more at Shreveport Times

Have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Louisiana’s hotline is live.

Published: April 9, 2021

By: Emily Wood | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Thursday that state residents will be able to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations by calling a hotline at 855-453-0774.

The hotline also will connect residents with medical professionals so they can ask questions about the vaccines.

It will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

“This is a smart solution, it is timely, and it comes at no additional cost,” Edwards said when he announced last week that the Louisiana Health Department would create the hotline.

Edwards lifted capacity limits on bars, restaurants and casinos last week. But unlike the governors in Texas and Mississippi, he kept a mask mandate in place for people who cannot socially distance. The aim is to guard against the rise in cases that many other states are experiencing.

Edwards said helping residents to get vaccinated remains the best solution. He said the hotline will address two barriers: Lack of access to the Internet and “tech-savviness,” or the time it takes to navigate the scheduling platforms, as well as a lack of access to medical professionals to ask specific questions.

Difficulty in accessing vaccines due to a lack of computer access has been a problem for many poor people and some people living in rural areas.

More than 2.15 million total doses of vaccines have been administered in Louisiana. The Health Department said Thursday that more than 1.3 million people have received at least one dose and 898,262 people have been fully vaccinated. More than 10,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the state.

Read more at Leesville Daily Leader

Lawmaker mulls cutting funding to pressure LSU after sexual assault scandals

One thing that legislators can do this session is to press LSU officials about the assault issue when they come up to the Capitol seeking money for the school.

Published: April 6, 2021

By: Kathleen Peppo, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. — The second-ranking Republican in the House said lawmakers may consider requiring university officials to be terminated if they fail to report allegations of sexual assault.

Tanner Magee, the speaker pro tempore, also said the Legislature will push LSU hard to improve its handling of the complaints as it seeks more funding from the state and from COVID-19 relief bills.

“There are a whole lot of things that are going to make it difficult for LSU to get what they want this year if they don’t take some better steps internally to address the problem,” Magee said in an interview.

“I’m deeply concerned, and I think part of the problem is that there seems to be a hesitancy within LSU’s administration to fully address it in a way that most legislators are comfortable with,” Magee said.

Magee, who is from Houma, made his comments in advance of a Senate hearing on Thursday on LSU’s mishandling of sexual assault and rape allegations against former football players and the university’s failure to adequately fund an office that investigates such complaints across the campus.

An outside law firm hired by LSU documented the failures, and its report prompted other universities to replace LSU’s former president, F. King Alexander, and former head football coach Les Miles. But LSU’s only disciplinary action was to temporarily suspend two athletic officials who had known about the allegations.

Many of the women in the Legislature have expressed concern about LSU’s handling of the problem, and other lawmakers have criticized the university as well.

Magee has three degrees from LSU and refers to his time there as one of the most “impactful” periods of his life.  

“Clearly, I’m concerned for the students who attend there,” he said. “Their safety and health should top priorities.”

Read more at 4WWL

Louisiana residents on both sides of the aisle think they are paying too much in sales taxes


Published: April 6, 2021

By: Samantha Beekman | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Wire) – In 2018, it was only one-sixth of a penny that divided legislators over how much of an expiring penny of sales tax to extend before they compromised on 0.45%.

Now, Louisiana residents on both sides of the aisle think they are paying too much in sales taxes, as indicated by new data from the LSU Public Policy Research Lab.

(Source: LSU Manship School News Wire)

According to a survey that the lab released Tuesday, 61% of Republicans and 53% of Democrats think that the state sales tax is too high – a bipartisan majority of Louisiana residents.

Since July 2018, the state sales tax rate has been 4.45%, a decrease from 5% the state had levied for the two years before that. That 0.45% portion was extended until 2025, and parishes add their own sales taxes to purchases.

Combining state and local sales tax rates, Louisiana has the second-highest average sales tax rate in the nation at an average of 9.55%, according to data from the Tax Foundation.

Despite widespread grievances with sales taxes, 52% of Louisiana residents say they pay about the right amount in overall state taxes. Half of the survey respondents think that upper-income people pay less than their fair share of state taxes, and a majority – 56% – say the same about large businesses.

Read more at KALB

Louisiana GOP loses almost 8,000 registered voters after riot at US Capitol

Published: Sarah Procopio | LSU Manship School News Service

April 5, 2021

BATON ROUGE — Party registration data from the secretary of state’s office reveals that roughly 7,800 Louisiana voters have left the Republican Party since the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Dips in registrants for the party have been seen around the country. A report fromThe New York Times found more than 100,000 Republicans left the party in a number of states in the weeks after the U.S. Capitol riots, and Louisiana’s voter registration numbers mirror that trend.

Tanner Magee, the second-ranking Republican in the Louisiana House as its speaker pro tempore, cited the challenges national politics creates for public officials at home.

“I’m not sure there’s anything that I can do on a state level other than try to be the best legislator I can and do the best for the state of Louisiana, and hopefully, if you have some people out there that are more state-focused in their thoughts, that might mean something to them,” said Magee.

Tanner Magee, the No. 2 Republican in the Louisiana House, said party registration totals can be affected by national politics.
Tanner Magee, the No. 2 Republican in the Louisiana House, said party registration totals can be affected by national politics. Courtesy of Tanner Magee

The Republican Party lost 5,503 registrants in January, 1,709 in February and 598 in March. The three months of losses came after more than 12 months of steady increases in Republican registrations

Democrats lost over 8,000 voter registrations in Louisiana between January and April. But unlike the Republican Party, Democrats saw losses in most months in 2020 and 2021.

The recent drop in Republican registrations also stood out because the party has had an increase of roughly 37% increase in registrants in Louisiana over the last 10 years while Democratic registrations have dropped by about 12%.

The size of the decrease of 7,810 Republican Party registrations so far this year has not been seen in the months after other recent presidential election cycles. From January through March in 2017, the Republican Party in Louisiana gained 2,206 registrants. In 2013, there was a 1,171 decrease of Republican registrants during the same months.

Read more at Daily Advertiser