1A Priority Bills Advance in Week Three

by | Apr 1, 2024 | Legislative Advocacy

Legislators pulled long hours ahead of the Easter holiday last week, approving multiple 1A priority measures through committee, including bills to provide for universal recognition of occupational licensing, streamline business workforce solutions, and bolster computer science education. 1A-supported bills to address Louisiana’s insurance crisis also cleared their chambers of origin and now head across the Capitol for consideration. Legislation continues to trickle in as we head toward the April 2 deadline to file any remaining legislation for the 2024 Regular Session.

Read on for a recap of week three and a look ahead at week four.

 

WEEK THREE RECAP

Insurance Reform
Key legislation to address Louisiana’s insurance crisis continued to advance through the Legislature last week, including a package supported by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). The following 1A-supported bills advanced:

  • HB 120 by Rep. Willard – would ensure continuation of the Louisiana Fortify Homes Program. The program authorizes the Commissioner of Insurance to make grants of up to $10,000 to homeowners to retrofit roofs to better withstand weather events. It will sunset in June 2025 unless extended by the Legislature. HB 120 passed the House by a vote of 87-17 on 3/26 and now heads to Senate Insurance.
  • HB 337 by Rep. McFarland – would repeal Louisiana’s direct action statute, which allows plaintiffs to sue an insurance company directly when someone the company insures is a defendant in a lawsuit. Louisiana is an outlier on this policy, as one of only three states that allows for direct action against an insurer. HB 337 prevents this practice except under very limited circumstances. HB 337 passed the House by a vote of 86-16 on 3/27 and now heads to Senate Insurance.
  • HB 423 by Rep. Melerine – would implement much-needed reform of Louisiana’s collateral source rule, which currently prevents evidence of medical expenses from being presented in court. HB 423 would allow judges and juries to review what a plaintiff actually paid for medical expenses, not just the “sticker price” of services, and limit the amount of medical expenses the plaintiff may recover to the amount actually paid rather than the amount billed. HB 423 passed the House by a vote of 88-10 on 3/25 and is pending a hearing in Senate Judiciary A.
  • SB 323 by Sen. Talbot – Insurance Commissioner Tim Temple has put forth legislation to promote good faith and fair dealing in the property insurance claims process in effort to make Louisiana a more attractive place for insurers to write policies. SB 323 would provide for clear rights and timelines for both the insured and the insurer, encouraging swift claims resolutions and reducing the possibility of litigation. SB 323 passed the Senate unanimously on 3/27 and now heads to House Insurance.

1A is monitoring dozens of additional bills related to insurance rates, policies, market participation, and more, and will prioritize supporting bills that increase availability, affordability, and reliability of property insurance and bring Louisiana’s legal environment more in line with other states.

 

Literacy and Numeracy
Two 1A-supported measures seeking to boost reading and math competency among K-12 students, HB 244 by Rep. Hughes and HB 267 by Rep. Carver, have been recommitted to House Appropriations following their initial approval by House Education. The authors testified as a team in support of their bills, which build on the success of the Steve Carter Literacy Tutoring Program and place a renewed focus on numeracy skills among Louisiana’s students.

HB 244 renames the Steve Carter Literacy Tutoring Program to the “Steve Carter Education Program,” and expands services provided to include math tutoring. The bill also extends the availability of the program, originally only open to students in grades K-5, to students through grade 12, and increases the per-student funding available from $1,000 to $1,500.

Under the expanded program, public school students whose reading or math skills are below grade level, who are at risk for reading or math difficulties, or who meet certain criteria identified by their educators or state assessments would be eligible for support services.

HB 267 requires the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) to develop or select and provide screeners in order to measure the foundational numeracy of K-3 public school students. Public schools would administer DOE’s screeners three times during the school year and provide interventions and support to students identified as having numeracy skills below grade level.

House Appropriations will meet to evaluate the bills’ costs and impacts on the state budget.

 

Workforce Readiness
One of 1A’s priority measures this session, SB 293 by Senator Edmonds, seeks to address Louisiana’s critical talent shortage by strategically aligning state workforce development programs and funding under a single point of contact, the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC). LWC Secretary Susana Schowen is a proven leader on business workforce solutions, and SB 293 will ensure Louisiana’s workforce strategies are best positioned to foster economic success for our citizens and industries. SB 293 was reported favorably as amended by Senate Labor and Industrial Relations on 3/27 and is scheduled to be considered in the full Senate on Tuesday, 4/2.

 

Occupational Licensing
Another of 1A’s priority measures this session, HB 716 by Rep. Owen, was reported favorably by House Commerce last week. Entitled the “Welcome Home Act,” HB 716 would provide for universal recognition of occupational licenses for individuals moving into our state from elsewhere in the country. HB 716 provides for a recognition process that would grant an occupational license or certification to an individual moving to Louisiana if certain criteria are met, including that the individual is in good standing with the state they’re coming from.

The Institute for Justice reports that nearly one in five American workers are affected by occupational licensing and 20 other states have enacted their own version of universal license recognition, including neighboring Mississippi. 1A supports HB 716 to reduce barriers to employment and make it easier for professionals to relocate to Louisiana or for those who have left to come back home.

HB 716 was reported favorably as amended by House Commerce on 3/25 and is scheduled for debate in the full House on 4/2.

 

Computer Science Education
House Education unanimously approved another of 1A’s priority bills last week, HB 264 by Rep. Hughes, entitled the “Computer Science Education Advancement Act of 2024.” HB 264 would make computer science a high school graduation requirement, as well as a qualification requirement for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), to be fully implemented by the graduating class of 2031. Computer science is changing every industry, and computing jobs are among the highest-wage and highest-demand careers nationally. Louisiana currently lags behind our southern neighbors with only 35% of our high schools offering computer science courses, compared to 78% in Mississippi, 95% in Alabama, and 99% in Arkansas.

HB 264 will better align Louisiana’s high school curricula with our peers and set students up for success in high-wage, high-demand computing occupations. The bill was reported favorably as amended on 3/27 and now awaits consideration in the full House.

Check out more state-specific computer science education statistics at Code.org.

 

M.J. Foster Promise Program
Rep. Davis has introduced HB 728, legislation changing eligibility rules for the M.J. Foster Promise Program, which provides financial aid for Louisianans to earn credentials that align with high-demand jobs in industries like healthcare, information technology, and manufacturing. HB 728 would lower the qualifying age for the program from 21 to 17 and allow individuals convicted of violent crimes to access the program. The bill garnered widespread support in its initial committee hearing last week, where it was lauded for providing an avenue for ex-offenders to access tools to help them succeed as they re-enter society. HB 728 was approved unanimously by House Education on 3/27 and now heads to the full House.

 

Education Savings Accounts
House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Julie Emerson has introduced legislation, HB 745, to create the LA GATOR Scholarship Program, a universal education scholarship account (ESA) program for K-12 students. HB 745 creates state-supervised savings accounts that allow parents to direct state per-pupil funding to a variety of educational services, including tutoring, private school tuition, online programs, and more. Parents participating in the program must agree to provide instruction in English language arts, math, social studies, and science, at minimum. The bill also specifies that higher amounts of funding be directed toward low-income families.

HB 745 was approved unanimously as amended by House Education on Tuesday, 3/26 and is scheduled to be considered by the full House on Tuesday, 4/2.

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Constitutional Convention
Rep. Beaullieu has introduced HB 800, legislation calling for a Constitutional Convention to rewrite Louisiana’s overly complex governing document. The bill calls for a Convention of 171 delegates, comprised of the 144 members of the Legislature and 27 delegates appointed by the Governor, to convene on May 20, 2024 to begin framing a new Constitution for the State.

Delegates shall have authority to frame a new constitution, subject to the following limitations:

  • Determining the provisions of the constitution that constitute the fundamental and foundational law of the state that should remain in the constitution, including the basic principles of the state, the structure of government, and the fundamental rights of citizens
  • Determining the provisions of the constitution that do not constitute the fundamental or foundational law of the state that should be transitioned out of the constitution and made statutory
  • Determining the language in the constitution that is outdated or transitional in nature which can be removed or updated without affecting the effect of the constitutional provisions
  • Proposing a new constitution based upon the determinations made pursuant to these guidelines

Delegates would have until July 15, 2024 to submit the new draft constitution to the Governor. The proposal would then be submitted for ratification by voters on November 5, 2024. HB 800 is awaiting its initial committee hearing.

 

LED Restructure Bill Expected Early This Week
Legislation is still expected to be filed prior to the April 2 deadline to implement a reorganization of Louisiana Economic Development (LED) based on a study of best practices from other states. 1A will be closely monitoring this legislation, and we stand in support of efforts to strengthen LED as a business-first, best-in-class economic development agency.

1A is tracking key legislation across three priority areas outlined in our 2024 Legislative Priorities:

  • Economic competitiveness
  • Talent development
  • Infrastructure investment

Be on the lookout for 1A legislative updates on these issues, and more, every Monday morning.