Insights

Policy Watch #2

June 17, 2020

Local Power Denied

House Bill 797, also known as the Unleash Local bill, died in the House Municipal Committee on May 14. It was the second bill heard by the House regarding leave policies, would have provided local municipalities the power to set their own leave policies. Eight favorable votes were needed for the bill to move out of the committee. However, only 6 of the 15 votes supported the bill.

A bill like HB 797 would have been an asset to the city of New Orleans, whose hospitality and tourism industries significantly the local and state economy. Representative Royce Duplessis (D) presented a strong case, emphasizing the freedom local governments would have in making the best leave policies for businesses and their constituents. Given the power, Mayor Cantrell would have had the ability to create a policy to protect workers and residents of New Orleans. In the absence of paid leave policies, many low-wage and hospitality workers are faced with the difficult decision of choosing between health and finances; finances usually taking precedence.

Single households in New Orleans are overwhelmingly female-led1. Caregivers are forced to make the decisions for themselves and their children, who may be sent to school or daycare with a contagious illness. These are the hard choices that the passage of HB 797 would’ve removed if local municipalities could implement a leave policy. It would have applied to general doctor appointments, prenatal and postpartum visits, too. A quarter of women go back to work earlier than they should after giving birth2.

Much of the bill’s opposition surrounded the impact of leave policies on businesses and a patchwork system. Although the bill would not mandate any local leave policies, it would have allowed local municipalities the opportunity to decide. Representative Mary DuBuisson (R) agreed that the bill would create a burden for business owners. However, she also suggested that Rep. Duplessis make a New Orleans-specific leave policy since he knows that is what his community desires. Rep. Duplessis explained he was prohibited due to the preemptive law that HB 797 sought to remove. Even with her suggestion, Rep. DuBuisson voted against the bill.

Below is the list of Committee Members and their votes to pass HB 797:

Nay (Oppose HB 797)

  • Huval, Mike (R)
  • Gadberry, Foy Bryan (R)
  • DuBuisson, Mary (R)
  • Kerner, Timothy P (R)
  • Edmonds, Rick (R)
  • McKnight, Markham Scott (R)
  • Farnum, Les (R)
  • Schamerhorn, Rodney (R)
  • Freiberg, Barbara Reich (R)

Yea (Support HB 797)

  • Green Jr., Kyle M (D)
  • Willard, Matthew (D)
  • Lyons, Rodney (D)
  • Marcelle, C. Denise (D)
  • Newell, Candace N. (D)
  • Stagni, Joseph A. (R)

Health encompasses the health of workers and others; leave policies will reduce the number of sick individuals who may put others at risk, while on the clock. The ability to set mandated leave policies would be protective for all. In addition to residents and workers, leave policies would protect tourists and provide the reassurance that sick workers would most likely be home. Assured leave for workers would support a strong tourism industry, like New Orleans, which was an early COVID “hotspot” in the U.S. Leave policies are protective against spread of illnesses, i.e. COVID-19, as well as, a way for individuals to receive proper recovery time from childbirth, illness, or health procedures.

1American Community Survey, 2019: https://www.towncharts.com/Louisiana/Demographics/New-Orleans-city-LA-Demographics-data.html
2Paid Leave for the United States, 2020: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HZ3LKmTDhkRFVG7zTkHVt53Wwi2dyrAd/view