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tv   Louisiana Governor Delivers the State of the State Address  CSPAN  April 15, 2021 1:41pm-2:05pm EDT

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transportation secretary pete buttigieg testifies today on the president's 2022 budget request for his department before a house appropriations subcommittee. watch live at 2:00 p.m. eastern on c-span3, online at, or listen live on the free c-span radio app. louisiana governor john bel edwards gave his state of the state address in baton rouge, addressing his government's response to the coronavirus pandemic and vaccine distribution. >> good evening, everyone. mr. speaker, mr. president, lieutenant governor, and members of the legislature, distinguished guests, and all of my fellow louisianians. i am honored to be speaking to you today from the campus of southern university. and i want to thank you,
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president ray belton, for your hospitality and to your entire team for helping to put this event together following current covid-19 mitigation measures. i also want to thank you for sharing your campus with the public as a hub for a drive-through testing and vaccinations. your efforts have been nothing short of tremendous. and in fact, just this weekend, the southern university system administered over 1,000 vaccinations. thank you so much. [ applause ] you know, today the bleachers are bare. but one day soon, if more people continue to get vaccinated and we hold down the transmission of the virus, we are certainly going to fill this stadium once again. and i can't wait to be here with you, watching the human jukebox and the jaguars take the field. i am looking forward to that
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day. this is not how i would typical delivery my opening speech for session. but then again, this has not been a typical year. usually, as you know, i would be in front of a joint session of the legislature in the house chamber. but i spoke to speaker snyder and president cortez and decided to change the venue in order to keep everyone safe and adhere to current cdc guidelines. to the legislators who are here today following the opening of the 2021 regular session, thank you for your service. thank you for your presence. i look forward to working with you and all of the legislators this session. i know this hasn't been an easy year for you, for your families, for your businesses. covid has taken far too many of our friends and colleagues. earlier in the pandemic you even lost one of your own, representative reggie bagala.
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i lost a member of my own staff, april dunn. senator barrow, i want you to know how much i appreciate the work you're doing despite your heartache, to encourage people to get vaccinated. to everyone watching, thank you for continuing to tune in and work with us as we navigate these uncertain times. i want to especially acknowledge those who were impacted by hurricanes laura and delta. please know that we are working hard every day with your local leaders, our congressional delegation, the biden administration, to address the many needs that remain in southwest louisiana. i'm also joined today by a number of health care and front line workers. cynthia keller is the lead production supervisor for food and nutrition services for lane regional medical center in
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zachary. dr. aldo russo is the regional medical director in baton rouge. cynthia pitts is the environmental supervisor for baton rouge general medical center. eric sweir is a respiratory therapist. chef lonnie traveaux with citigroup hospitality knows firsthand how the pandemic has impacted the restaurant industry. and she also spent time cooking meals for people experiencing homelessness. and rakia galleon has helped prepare over 30,000 meals a day for the east baton rouge school system. please join me in welcoming these heroes this evening. [ applause ]
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these individuals, as well as thousands of others from across our state, are the reason that we're here today in a better place. and i am beyond grateful. at my last state of the state address on march 9, 2020, i announced the first confirmed case of covid-19 in louisiana. in that singular moment, everything changed. since that day, there have been nearly half a million confirmed cases in our state. on january the 7th, 2021, only a few months ago, more people were in the hospital with covid-19 than at any other time during the pandemic with 2,069 hospitalizations. today, we have 308 people in the hospital with covid. and then -- yes, we're doing better, thank you. [ applause ] and then there's the number that
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weighs the heaviest on all of us, the loved ones we've lost. 10,241 of our brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, and fellow louisianians are no longer with us. in 2020, covid was the third leading cause of death in louisiana, behind heart disease and cancer. the flu has never come close to holding that spot. one of our worst seasons for flu deaths was 2018 and '19 when 1,550 people died. we've lost over six times that number to covid. almost every day, for over a year now, you've heard these numbers, and you've seen them increase, number of new cases, number of hospitalizations, number of new deaths. but the numbers alone don't begin to tell the whole story. nothing can measure the pain of a family celebrating their first
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holiday with an empty seat at the dinner table. two numbers in the daily death count added just a few hours apart don't do justice to the 60 years of marriage these two people shared together. the numbers don't adequately convey how long the icu shifts have been or equally long hours of figuring out how to pay the bills after being laid off. unfortunately, covid is not the only burden that 2020 brought us. three devastating hurricanes made landfall in louisiana. two of them, delta and laura, came ashore just a few miles apart in southwestern louisiana. and laura was the strongest hurricane to hit the state since at least the 1850s. thousands of homes were destroyed and lives were turned upside down, again. as i said a moment ago, we are working every day to pick up the pieces and make communities whole again.
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we will not stop rebuilding. we will not stop making southwest louisiana stronger than ever. and for every story of loss, there has also been one of survival, because louisiana is a state full of unwavering faith and an enduring spirit. i wish i could stand here today and say that covid is completely behind us. we're not quite there yet. that's why we're still wearing masks and socially distancing and taking all the necessary precautions that we know work. even more so now that there are variants of the virus spreading in our communities. but i will tell you, there is hope. a couple of weeks ago, we opened up covid-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 or older. we have three extremely safe and effective vaccines that are the ticket to ending this pandemic. and on friday of this week, we'll open our first federally
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sponsored community vaccination center in baton rouge. what a difference a year makes. i know some of you have questions. [ applause ] i know some of you have about t and that's okay. most of us, myself included, didn't go to medical school. that's why i have joe cannon with me everywhere i go and he's at all of my press conferences. that's why you see doctors and nurses on the news reaching out to the public. so when you hear me say that the shots are safe and effective, that's not coming from me. that's coming from doctors and scientists and epidemiologists. like dr. jane martin, a physician specializing in maternal fetal medicine at oxnard. and she is with us here tonight. thank you so much, dr. martin. [ applause ]
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not only has she been educating patients and the public on the importance of getting vaccinated. dr. martin received both doses of the pfizer vaccine while pregnant with her third daughter. and she wants all patients to feel comfortable asking doctors about getting the vaccine so that they too are able to make informed decisions about their own health that are based on facts. over 28% of louisianans, more than 1.3 million, have already begun their vaccine series. we need as many people as possible to be in that number as soon as possible to put this pandemic behind us. we have a new vaccine hotline you can call to schedule your appointment or connect with a medical professional who can answer your questions. that number is 1-855-453-0774. again, it's 1-855-453-0774.
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so we're not out of the woods yet, but we are moving forward. and that's what i want to talk to you about now, what's next? over the past year we've been pushed to think outside the box, to work in new ways, learn in new ways, socialize in new ways. one thing is clear. we can absolutely do things differently. so this legislative session, let us challenge ourselves to envision new ways of making louisiana better for all of our citizens. tragedies like the ones we faced often remind us of our shared humanity. but then things start to get back to normal and we forget that for some the road to recovery is much longer and more difficult. like you, i want mardi gras parades to roll again, i want festivals to resume.
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i certainly don't want to have to wear a mask all the time. but i don't want post-pandemic louisiana to look completely like pre-pandemic louisiana, nor should it because we can do better. the pandemic has highlighted inequities that have persisted in our communities, especially when it comes to health outcomes. these inequities were not created overnight, nor will they be eliminated overnight. they're the culmination of years of policies and neglect that our communities of color and low-income populations have borne for generations. if we do not address these issues now, we are doing a great disservice to people who have already suffered so much. that is precisely why early in the pandemic i established the health equity task force. it's why we rolled out the bring back louisiana campaign, working to ensure that all communities have access to the vaccine. it's also why i created the resilient louisiana commission,
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to ensure the small businesses that have been devastated by this pandemic have a seat at the table and a path forward. through this work, we have safely reopened our economy and are quickly making up the ground we lost to the pandemic. it's why five years ago i expanded medicaid to the working poor in louisiana. because of that decision, many more people, hundreds of thousands, have had access to primary care physicians and the ability to afford prescription medication in order to treat or control underlying conditions that make them more vulkabl to covid. i know that we still have a lot of work to do in order to improve health outcomes. but i can't imagine how many more people would've died this past year if not for the medicaid expansion. another way we've established groundwork for a more resilient louisiana is through the creation of a climate initiatives task force last year. no state in our country is more
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adversely impacted by climate change than louisiana. but, at the same time, no state is better positioned to be a leader in reducing carbon emissions and bolstering coastal resiliency. by 2050 rur goal is to reduce carbon emission to net zero and to have invested $50 billion in rebuilding louisiana's coast. the reason i know we can get there is because we are working with, not against, the energy sector that sustains so much of louisiana's economy. oil and gas production in the gulf of mexico continues to be important to louisiana success. and working with these companies on a forward-thinking basis to find solutions like carbon capture, we are going to make louisiana more sustainable while also unlocking a whole new sector of economic and job opportunities. it's fitting that we're on the campus of southern university
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today. because economic diversification and access to opportunity starts with education. i have presented a budget that includes another pay increase for k-12 teachers and support staff. and it's not enough, i know that. but it is yet another step closer to bringing teacher pay back to the southern regional average. and i hope that in a few weeks our revenue estimate will look even better, and we will be able to increase that investment. another priority for additional funding is early childhood education. and i know that just about every legislator shares that goal with me. my budget also includes a faculty pay increase for higher education as well as $15.6 million towards higher education budget stabilization. it also fully funds the tops program, which is estimated to need and will receive another $13 million this year, and it includes an historic $11 million increase in funding for go
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grants. [ applause ] tonight, we are all joined by brandon jones. he's a senior at lsu majoring in electrical engineering. i took a few electrical engineering classes and didn't do so well. brandon, i'm very, very envious of you. brandon graduated high school from scotlandville. he works to give back to his community through volunteer efforts. and brandon has received a go grant every year. and he credits that scholarship with the ability to stay in school and complete his degree. so, brandon, i have an idea of how hard you've had to study in order to earn this degree. and by increasing funding for go grants, we can help many more
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students like brandon to achieve their goals. let's give brandon a round of applause tonight. [ applause ] i want every student who walks on any campus in this state to have the opportunity to thrive. i also want them to go on to succeed in the workplace. and, simply put, we can't accomplish this if we aren't investing in higher education. we also can't accomplish this if students aren't safe on their own campuses. my administration's worked closely with members of the louisiana women's legislative caucus to propose house bill 409, which would ensure faculty and staff are properly reporting title ix violations per their university and system policies. [ applause ] i know there are other bills that could be beneficial, and i'm committed to working with legislators on this issue. the key is that we have to get
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this right and we have to do it now. this isn't the only way we are striving to make louisiana a more just and inclusive place to live. we're also introducing legislation to ensure that pregnant or postpartum workers are able to promote the health of mom and baby. i've seen businesses, we all have. they've pivoted to address health and safety measures quickly because of the pandemic. and i applaud them for doing that. but if they can do that, there's no reason a company can't accommodate a worker during or after pregnancy. louisiana, unfortunately, continues to be one of the worst states in the nation for maternal and newborn health outcomes. but we've already made significant progress. last year we met our goal of reducing maternal mortality related to hemorrhaging and hypertension by 20%. and therefore i am more than confident that working with both
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healthcare partners and employers we can reduce even more preventible complications for mom and for baby. [ applause ] louisiana also continues to have one of the largest gender wage gaps in the country. my legislative package includes paid transparency bills that are simple ways to address pay equity. you've heard me talk about this before, and you're going to keep hearing me talk about it until we actually do something. it is beyond time. frankly, it's embarrassing because we all know that when women succeed, louisiana succeeds, period. [ applause ] speaking of paying people what they're worth, at the beginning of this speech, i introduced you to some people who have been working on the front lines of this pandemic. and there are so many more front line workers all across our
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state in various occupations like grocery stores, schools, and restaurants. and some of them, many of them, make the minimum wage. which, in case you need a reminder, is just $7.25 per hour in our state. and it has been since 2009. we call essential workers heroes for continuing to work throughout this pandemic. yet, even when they work full time, we don't pay them enough to cover their essential needs. i am one of the overwhelming majority of louisianans who want a meaningful increase to the minimum wage that will help workers support their families and enjoy a better quality of life. this year instead of including a specific minimum wage bill in my package, because i've tried that before, about five times, i am supporting any and all efforts to raise the minimum wage. the my message to the
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legislature is simple. pass that bill, get it on my desk, i'll sign it. [ applause ] three additional bills in my package are aimed at improving advocacy for those most vulnerable. the first is establishing a statewide americans with disabilities act coordinator within the division of administration. the ada coordinator will provide educational and technical support for state and local agencies. my administration has made disability rights a cornerstone of our time in office. and i hope the legislature will join us in making sure every louisianan knows they belong. second, we will create an office of human trafficking prevention within the office of the governor. ending human trafficking is an issue that both my wife donna and i are very passionate about. i want to pause just for a
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moment. to thank you, donna, for all that you've done on this critical issue for our state. [ applause ] thank you, sweetie. we have certainly made progress when it comes to identifying trafficking cases and supporting survivors. but creating a designated office will allow us to place an even more concentrated effort on ending these horrific crimes that are tantamount to modern-day slavery. third, we will be introducing legislation to create a foster youth beneficial rights. it was written by and for young people who have gone through our foster care system. i am thrilled to be able to introduce you to some of them today. antonica frazier, aliya, jarvis spearman, and tet rogers. thank you all for being here.
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[ applause ] your advocacy is going to continue to help so many young people. and they should know that their voices and their experiences are important. finally, i want to take a moment to discuss some other items that will be widely debated this session. as you all know, this is a fiscal session. with that comes a tendency to throw a lot of bills. >> transportation secretary pete buttigieg is preparing to testify on president biden's 2022 budget request for his department. live coverage here on c-span3. >> designated by the chair may mute participants' microphones when they are not under recognition for the purpose of eliminating inadvertent background noise. members are responsible for muting and unmuting themselves. if i notice that you have not unmuted yourself, i'll ask you if you would like the staff to unmute you. if you indica


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