This week, Republicans in the state Senate are seeking to strike down an innovative policy that could help city leaders connect local residents to career-track jobs on public works projects.
The Senate Committee on Transportation and Public Works will vote Monday on Senate Bill 288 — a bill that is an overt attempt to usurp power from city leaders across the state by preventing them from maximizing the economic return of city public contracts. As a member of the House representing East Baton Rouge, I strongly oppose this pre-emption of local government authority.
Though the bill would affect all jurisdictions in the state, it was written to overturn Hire NOLA, a local-hire policy passed last fall that requires contractors on city projects to make a “good-faith effort” to ensure that some jobs go to Orleans Parish residents, particularly those who traditionally face barriers to employment, including low-income workers, military veterans, single parents and other disadvantaged workers. New Orleans has consistently faced disproportionately high unemployment rates, particularly for the city’s black men, 52 percent of whom are out of work.
This widespread unemployment exacerbates already-high levels of poverty and crime in the city and thwarts economic growth at the local level. Though city projects represent a crucial opportunity to connect well-paid, career-track jobs to those who need them most, currently only a small percentage of the work is being performed by local workers. That is why local-hire provisions such as Hire NOLA pose such a powerful opportunity — one that has positive ripple effects for the local economy, public safety and community well-being.
Local hire policies have been used by city leaders throughout the country to drive economic development and lower unemployment, but Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, is trying to pre-emptively strike down this policy in New Orleans and throughout the state before local leaders can explore its potential impact.
Having served the people of East Baton Rouge for seven years, I firmly believe it is wrong for state government to attempt to apply blanket bans that prevent local government from doing what it was designed to do — respond to the values, needs and well-being of its residents. With an unemployment rate that is 2 percent higher than the national average, Louisiana cannot afford to tie the hands of local government from using cost-effective measures to solve local economic challenges.
Local-hire provisions are a common-sense policy that will help ensure that local dollars for local projects employ local workers. The Senate Committee on Transportation and Public Works must vote no on SB 288 and preserve the right for leaders throughout the state to decide if local-hire policies are right for their jurisdictions.
state representative, District 61