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Edwards' Agenda Faces Obstacles In Legislature

Sarah Gamard/LSU Manship School News Service
Gov. John Bel Edwards and Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, urge an expansion of the Louisiana Equal Pay for Womens Act at a Senate hearing Thursday, March 15th.

Increasing the minimum wage, expanding equal pay for women, strengthening policies against sexual harassment — these are all goals Gov. John Bel Edwards wanted to achieve in the regular session. But last week, all three policies hit a wall. 

Pearson Cross is assistant dean and professor of politics at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Liberal Arts. He says one reason equal pay and minimum wage bills don't get enough support to pass is because of a lack of women in state government.

"Louisiana is one of the states with the fewest women in the state legislature. One thinks that more women in the Legislature would translate to more support," he explains.

And, he adds, both chambers have republican majorities.

"They've historically been against minimum wage laws," says Cross, "believing that they depress employment and force employers to do things they wouldn't otherwise do."

A third bill supported by Edwards failed in the House last week. It would have prevented employees from having to sign contracts that force sexual harassment claims to go through closed-door arbitration, rather than the court.

"I think all parts of the Edwards agenda from this point on are going to be facing severe criticism in the House and the Senate," he says, pointing to the strained relationship between the Governor and the Legislature.

"It's a contentious relationship.  The Governor has time and time again impelled the Legislature in not necessarily harsh terms, but in strong terms, and suggested they need to get their act together and pass some bills for the good of the people. This has ratcheted up the tension between the Legislature and the Governor," he explains.

And he doesn't see that letting up anytime soon.

"I think it's going to be a crescendo, frankly, all the way up to the 2019 gubernatorial election," says Cross.