Louisiana lawmakers advance bills addressing profit for college athletes, employee misclassification

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

The Louisiana Senate has voted to let college athletes profit from their name, image or likeness.

“It’s going to be life-changing for a lot of folks,” said Sen. Patrick Connick, the Marrero Republican who authored Senate Bill 60.

Connick said 15 states have passed similar legislation and about 25 are considering doing so. A “name, image and likeness” bill also is pending in Congress and the NCAA is considering setting up a national framework.

In general, to maintain NCAA eligibility, Division I student-athletes may not promote or endorse a commercial product or service, even if they are not paid to participate in the activity. The NCAA’s Division I Council reportedly is scheduled to meet Wednesday and is expected to discuss its plans for name, image and likeness rule changes.

Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-Monroe, suggested Louisiana schools would be at risk of falling behind competitors in other states without the change. The bill was amended Monday to say the change would not go into effect until a school’s governing body has created rules to govern the details. The Senate voted, 32-0, on Monday to send SB 6 to the House.

The House voted, 99-0, Monday for House Bill 705 by Rep. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, to clarify state policy regarding how to deal with employers who misclassify their employees as independent contractors. Lawmakers and labor advocates say misclassification allows employers to get out of paying certain taxes and gain a competitive advantage by lowering their costs, leaving companies that play by the rules to shoulder more of the tax burden.

The bill lays out a 12-point business-approved test to guide assessments of whether a worker counts as an employee or not. A worker who meets at least seven of the criteria would be presumed, in most cases, to be a contractor.

Louisiana is the only state with a misclassification statute that lets employers off with a warning on a first-time offense. HB 705 would subject those employers to a $500 fine per worker with escalating penalties for future offenses.

However, employers would be able to avoid being penalized for a first offense if they get compliant with the law within 60 days. That provision is supposed to protect employers who make an honest mistake, and a proposed amendment to require fines be paid regardless was soundly defeated.

The House agreed with House Speaker Clay Schexnayder’s request not to approve Senate changes to his House Bill 199, which calls for centralized statewide oversight of sales tax collection. The proposed state constitutional amendment is meant to simplify a decentralized system that business advocates say is too complicated. The current system, where local officials control collection of local taxes, may also be unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wayfair decision.

Schexnayder didn’t raise objections to any specific amendment. He said he wanted to fulfill a commitment to let advocates for local government see any changes before final passage.