BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The legislative session kicks off the second week with advocates pushing against legislators to pass voting access and to offer more support to incarcerated people.
As the fiscal session ramps up, advocacy groups want to make sure the state is investing in bills that will expand voting access, criminal justice reform and community resources.
The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice is partnering with the Voice of the Experienced to push bills that create access to mental health services for incarcerated people, as well as create more early voting locations in each parish.
“As we move into this fiscal session, we are going to be fighting for voting rights. We’re going to be fighting for our children. We’re going to be fighting to maintain and uphold the criminal justice winds that we’ve had in the past and we’re going to continue to address criminal justice issues in our state,” said Ashley Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice.
They call the state’s budget a reflection of what Louisiana really cares about.
“But it’s our moral documents that reflect what we care about and reflect what it is that we want to invest in. And I think that as we go through this process over the next several months, we have to really push back,” Shelton said.
There is also a renewed push to lower the age at that a juvenile can be tried as an adult. Years ago there was a battle to raise it to 18, now some legislators want it back down to 17.
“We cannot just continue to incarcerate our kids. We’ve got to be doing more before that opportunity gets there,” State Rep. Pat Moore, D-Monroe, said.
The groups say they don’t want to lose any of the progress they have already made while advancing investments into more resources.
“November is right around the corner. So it’s kind of like you can pay me now or we’ll pay you later,” said Norris Henderson, VOTE executive director.
The groups also showed support for the governor’s executive agenda items such as paid family leave, increasing the minimum wage and teacher pay raises.