It was a relatively quiet final week of session at the Capitol, as the state operating and capital outlay budgets, two items that are typically debated through the last minutes of the session, were sent to the Governor’s desk last month. Several 1A-supported priority bills also made it to the finish line earlier in session, though a few key measures still on 1A’s radar were finalized last week or are still pending action. Legislators worked through the weekend to take action on remaining bills as they approach final adjournment at 6:00 PM today.
Read on below for a recap of last week’s action and be on the lookout for 1A’s full 2022 Legislative Recap report later this week.
Streamlined Sales Tax Collection
A top 1A legislative priority is HB 681 by Speaker Clay Schexnayder. This Constitutional Amendment would establish the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission to modernize and simplify our tax system for Louisiana’s small businesses. This new 8-member Commission would have equal representation from state and local government and would administer sales tax collection, auditing, and dispute resolution. This common-sense reform will put Louisiana’s businesses on a level playing field with online retailers like Amazon and Wayfair.
If the House concurs in the Senate amendments to the bill today, HB 681 will be on the statewide ballot on November 8, 2022.
Two 1A-supported bills providing critical infrastructure funding are still on our radar on the final day of session – SB 266 by Sen. Ward and SB 277 by Senate President Page Cortez. Under current law, a portion of Louisiana’s vehicle sales tax revenue is dedicated to roads and bridges, with the requirement that 75% of the dedicated funds be used to prioritize completion of four megaprojects: (1) I-49 South from Lafayette to New Orleans, (2) a new I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge, (3) a new Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge, and (4) I-49 North in Shreveport.
SB 266 and SB 277 require the vehicle sales tax funding to be directed to a new Megaprojects Leverage Fund, where it will be divided equally among each project. The bills also allow for the funds to be used to draw down federal dollars so that the prioritized projects can be completed more quickly. SB 266 has been sent to the Governor and SB 277 awaits House consideration of the Conference Committee report.
Small Business Innovation
1A also supported a series of bills by Rep. Willard and Rep. Pressly, HB 786, HB 795, and HB 796, which aim to foster greater entrepreneurship and economic diversification in Louisiana by providing state grants to small businesses that are applying for, or have received, certain federal grants: the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The proposal would also provide funding to recruit out-of-state businesses that have successfully utilized SBIR and STTR grants to encourage them to come and innovate in Louisiana. All three bills have been sent to the Governor’s desk.
Career Readiness Data Sharing
Another 1A-supported bill advanced to the Governor last week is HB 470 by Rep. McKnight, which would support the improvement of high school career training and the Jump Start program in Louisiana. The legislation would require the Louisiana Department of Education and the Louisiana Workforce Commission, if given permission by a parent or legal guardian, to share and analyze student wage data to better evaluate the effectiveness of these programs, including whether the student was hired, remained employed, and advanced to higher-level roles within their field of study. This outcomes data will support continuous improvement to ensure our high school training programs are providing the best career preparation possible.
Atchafalaya Basin Bridge Speeding Fines
Senate President Page Cortez has authored SB 435 in effort to reduce speeding on the 18-mile Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. The bill designates the bridge as a “highway safety corridor” because of its high number of accidents and fatalities and would provide for installation of cameras so police can monitor whether drivers are speeding. The new safety designation would also mean that fines for violating the speed limit would be doubled – first-time violators would face fines of up to $350 and repeat offenders would face fines of up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
SB 435 passed the House unanimously last week and now heads to the Governor.
1A is supporting legislation to reform Louisiana’s overly burdensome occupational licensing laws. The following measures have been sent to the Governor’s desk:
- HB 639 by Rep. Pressly – would allow job seekers reentering society from the justice system to petition a licensing board to determine if their record would disqualify them from receiving a license before enrolling in any required education or training
- HB 1062 by Rep. Freeman – would require occupational licensing boards to implement the least restrictive regulation necessary to accomplish fiduciary, public health, safety, or welfare objectives. The bill would also create a standardized process for individuals to challenge regulations they believe do not achieve these objectives
The following measures are still pending final action:
- HB 555 by Rep. Charles Owen – requires professional or occupational licensing boards to publish certain information on their website and to renew the information annually
- SB 483 by Sen. Cathey – would streamline the process for individuals who are licensed in certain occupations in other states to receive an occupational license when they move to Louisiana, provided they prove residency and that both states have licenses in that occupation