Friday, June 21, 2024

LABI celebrates Legislative Session wins

by BIZ Magazine

BATON ROUGE – As the 2023 Regular Legislative Session concluded on Thursday night, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) noted specific wins for Louisiana job creators. 

“I want to thank our friends in the Legislature for their hard work and determination at the Capitol over the last two months,” said LABI Interim President and CEO Jim Patterson. “While this session was not without its challenges, we are overall pleased with the outcome and look forward to continuing work with our legislative partners, and a new administration in 2024, to move our state forward.” 

The Louisiana business community should take note of the following bills passed this session: 

JUDICIAL MODERNIZATION & TRANSPARENCY 

SB 196 by Sen. Barrow Peacock provides for the disclosure of litigation financing agreements, which come in many forms, but at their core consist of an outside third party investing in a lawsuit in exchange for a stake in the financial outcome of the lawsuit. Given their prevalence, there are concerns these arrangements complicate the ability to fairly resolve a dispute and hide conflicts of interest or potentially unethical or illegal conduct. This legislation would ensure all parties are aware when a third party has a particular financial interest in the outcome of a case.  

“The passing of SB 196 was a big win for transparency,” said Lauren Hadden, LABI’s general counsel. “Whether the governor signs this legislation remains to be seen, but LABI will continue to advocate for a more transparent, fair and accountable legal system in all steps of the judicial process.” 

Another important step forward in modernizing Louisiana’s judicial system was the passage of HB 305 by Rep. Chad Brown, which allows for electronic signatures by judges. 

ENERGY 

One of LABI’s main concerns this session was anti-carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) legislation. All of the measures failed either in committee or on the House Floor. These bills would have, in various ways, limited or prohibited carbon capture in Louisiana, sending the message to the rest of the world that Louisiana is not open to the green energy industry. Those bills were HBs 10, 35 and 312 by Rep. Robby Carter; HBs 453 and 454 by Rep. Sherman Mack, HB 120 by Rep. Nicholas Muscarello, 267 and 308 by Rep. Bill Wheat. Only HB 120 and HB 308 made it to the House floor.  

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder authored HB 571, which sets up a framework for CCS projects, including a revenue sharing arrangement for local governments, which passed both chambers and now awaits the governor’s signature.  

EDUCATION 

LABI-supported education bills made it through the process and are now on the governor’s desk—some of these bills were killed last year or stalled in the final days of session. HB 12 by Rep. Richard Nelson prohibits the promotion of third-graders to the fourth grade whose reading deficiencies have not been remedied by the end of the third grade, providing multiple opportunities to take the reading assessment and targeted resources to bring the student up to speed.

HB 462 by Rep. Rick Edmonds requires public school governing authorities to post financial information on their websites, making it easily accessible for taxpayers.  

Aiming to address the learning loss because of the pandemic, SB 177 by Sen. Patrick McMath targets unspent federal COVID relief funding to accelerated tutoring for students who fail to meet statewide assessment standards in reading and math.  

Also of note, SCR 25 by Sen. Sharon Hewitt urges and requests BESE to prepare for implementation of “education savings account” programs, a critical education reform effort supported by LABI. ESAs would provide parents with the opportunity to find the best educational option for their children, and LABI will continue to advocate for maximum choice for parents and families. This resolution heads to the Secretary of State’s office. 

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES 

While we are celebrating these wins, it is important to note the missed opportunities of this session: 

  • Unfortunately, two critical LABI-supported Education Savings Account (ESA) bills were shelved. HB 9 by Rep. Rhonda Butler, which creates ESAs for students with exceptionalities, and HB 98 by Rep. Lance Harris, which creates a universal ESA, both died this session. However, we are hopeful that both will be brought back in 2024 under a new administration that prioritizes parental choice for their child’s education. 
  • HB 601 by Rep. Mike Huval would have made several changes to the bad faith statute for property insurance, making critical clarifications for policyholders and insurers on their obligations and the timeframe to execute those obligations to ensure swift resolution of the claims process. The bill was shelved following significant amendments in the Senate. 
  • A major effort to modernize Louisiana’s court system hit a roadblock this session after significant opposition from the Clerks of Court regarding the creation of a unified electronic filing system for the state. HB 229 by Rep. Tanner Magee would have required the Louisiana Clerks’ Remote Access Authority (LCRAA) to develop a universal electronic filing  — eight years after Rep. Magee first authored a resolution requesting the clerks be directed do so. We applaud Rep. Magee for his dedication to  unify and modernize our court system.  
  • Finally, while this was a fiscal session and tax reform was a hot-button issue early on, there was not much of an appetite in the Legislature for any major reforms given the dynamics of an election year. 

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