by Sarah Harbison, general counsel & director, Pelican Center for Justice

Ursula Newell-Davis lives in New Orleans and cares deeply about the well-being of her community. Through her work as a social worker and as a mother to her own special needs son, Ursula has seen first-hand that children with disabilities and their families need support, especially those who come from poorer backgrounds.

Believing that she could make a difference, she set out to open a business to teach at-risk children basic life skills for a few hours a week while their parents are away at work. Despite being fully qualified to provide such services, however, the state will not let her do so until she obtains what is known as “Facility Need Review” approval.

Louisiana requires certain social service providers to submit to this review process before they may open their doors to the public. This process forces providers to accomplish the nearly impossible task of proving that they are needed, which is why Ursula and countless others who applied for Facility Need Review approval in 2019 were rejected.

Ursula Newell-Davis

And just like so many other bureaucratic hoops Louisiana entrepreneurs must jump through, Facility Need Review isn’t about health or safety. Rather, it’s about benefitting the status quo by insulating existing service providers from competition. Limiting this competition not only harms those like Ursula, it also raises prices on all Louisianans and decreases the number of service offerings for themselves, their friends, and their families.

Today, the Pelican Center for Justice joined Ursula and our friends at the Pacific Legal Foundation in filing a federal lawsuit to challenge a Louisiana state law that prevents her from helping families with special needs children.

Far too often, Louisiana’s government is in the game of picking winners and losers through arbitrary processes like this. This year has certainly proven that now, more than ever, we need our government to be removing barriers to opportunity, not setting up more hurdles.

Stay tuned for more updates in this important case.