In the past few months, like all of us, our state’s businesses have been forced to confront the uncertainties of a pandemic and a public health emergency, as well as an unprecedented economic crisis. It’s abundantly clear that we’re facing an enormous challenge, if you look at the data, you see that Louisiana’s unemployment is at the highest since the Great Depression, with massive retractions in the hospitality and oil & gas industries, two of the largest sectors of our state’s economy.
It is also clear that if we don’t also break down the persistent barriers to business growth, our state’s economy will not fully recover. We have to embrace new ideas and solutions to get Louisiana working again. We’ve heard talk from some politicians that all the Legislature needs to do is pass a budget and go home. They couldn’t be more wrong. Simply doing the bare minimum is not enough.
One area where we can see immediate action is through common-sense legal reform. Around the country, Louisiana is known as the “sue somebody state” and companies avoid doing business here, afraid of being preyed upon by overzealous litigators seeking a payout. We’re all disgusted by the billboards on the interstate and the commercials on TV. Just think how that looks to a company that is considering an investment in Louisiana. Not only does our toxic legal climate create a barrier for businesses wanting to come here, it actively drives people out. Long before covid, Houma-Terrebonne, Lafayette, and Shreveport, once centers for mom and pop investment in oil and gas, had been abandoned for much less litigious places like Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.
Those infamous ads make it seem like it’s the big corporations who bear the cost of litigation, that’s not true either. Individual Louisianans like you and I pay. Studies show that on average, Louisiana families pay $4,000 more per year through costs associated with our legal climate. These are things such as auto insurance rates driven sky-high by lawsuits, as well as increased prices associated with goods such as food, medicine, lumber and other items that have to be transported by commercial trucks.
With more and more of our people out of work, why should citizens continue to bear this cost? While we work to rebuild our shattered economy and help reopen the businesses that are the backbone of our economy, why should we keep funding the trial lawyers extravagant helipads, billboards, and commercials? It’s time that we quit footing the bill for them. Enough is enough.
Right now, there is legislation on the move in the State Capitol that will help us begin to fix Louisiana’s broken legal climate and bring down our auto insurance rates. HB 57 by Speaker Clay Schexnayder is an important first step in addressing our abusive legal climate, will help bring down auto insurance rates for people across the state and will send a signal loud and clear that Louisiana is open for business.
Gifford Briggs is president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association