KRVS

Wallis Watkins

Wallis Watkins is a Baton Rouge native. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from Louisiana State University in 2013. Soon after, she joined WRKF as an intern and is now reporting on health and health policy for Louisiana's Prescription.

Louisiana is one of five states in the nation that doesn’t have a minimum wage law of its own. Instead, it sets the same rate as the federal government, $7.25 an hour. That rate hasn’t changed since 2009. And while democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has urged the Republican-controlled Legislature to set and raise the minimum wage in Louisiana, all efforts have failed. 

Once considered a long shot, the bill to approve a ballot initiative that could overturn Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury rule passed the legislature in May. The proposal needs a simple majority of voters to become law - but proponents of the measure face two challenges: educating voters, and breaching a partisan political divide.

State officials have called the duplication of benefits penalty one of the biggest hurdles to recovery from the 2016 floods. Thousands of Louisiana homeowners who flooded more than two years ago took out Small Business Administration loans to help pay for the damage, but doing so made accessing recovery grants from the state nearly impossible. 

The Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers works to protect rights guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions in criminal cases. When the organization decided to challenge Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury system, they turned to New Orleans Senator J.P. Morrell to sponsor the bill through the legislative process.

Louisiana currently allows a non-unanimous jury decision for felony convictions. That law is up for reconsideration this election day with a ballot initiative, which, if it passes, would change the state constitution to require unanimous juries.

But how did we get here? How did Louisiana become one of only two states in the nation that allows convictions by non-unanimous juries?

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