Budget Bills Front and Center in Final Weeks of Session

by | May 30, 2023 | Legislative Advocacy

Home » Budget Bills Front and Center in Final Weeks of Session

Legislators worked diligently last week to move bills through committees, as well as each chamber, clearing the calendar to make room for the budget battle in the last two weeks of session. Senators pulled especially long hours last week, gaveling in on Friday, and even Memorial Day Monday, in order to continue consideration of the House-passed budget bill. Legislators reportedly have come to an agreement on funding for teacher pay raises, but differences remain between the chambers on whether to bust the State’s constitutionally mandated spending cap.

Key economic development, tax, and workforce bills continued to move through the process, including legislation to improve student access to the MJ Foster Promise Program.

Read on for a recap of week seven and a look ahead at week eight.

Budget Update
With less than ten days to go in the Regular Session, the race for a budget agreement is on –

House lawmakers opted to direct more than $900 million toward paying down large portions of the State’s retirement debt in their version of the budget, in stark contrast to the plan favored by Senators and Governor Edwards to exceed the constitutionally mandated spending cap and infuse surplus funds on one-time investments, including road and bridge projects.

Big news last week came from Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, who explained that the House version of the budget exceeds the State’s constitutional spending cap by $193 million. House fiscal staff disagree, arguing that the spending laid out in HB 1 does come in under the cap. Senate Finance met last week to hash out who decides what constitutes an appropriation, where Senate President Page Cortez explained that State law designates the Commissioner of Administration as the final authority on what constitutes an appropriation.

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One point of contention that legislators may have reached an agreement on is teacher pay raises. House lawmakers have reportedly agreed to reduce the funding they have already voted to direct toward State retirement systems, and instead use some of those funds to provide a $2,000 pay raise for teachers and $1,000 pay raise for school support staff.

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Yesterday, May 29, the Senate voted unanimously in favor of SCR 3 by Senate President Page Cortez, which would allow the Legislature to exceed its constitutionally mandated spending cap and infuse surplus funds on one-time projects. Lawmakers are under pressure to come to an agreement by June 8, or they will have to enter a special session to pass a budget by the beginning of the State’s fiscal year on July 1.

Economic Development Toolkit
1A is supporting measures to protect and enhance Louisiana’s economic development toolkit, and two key measures advanced through committees last week, including:

  • SB 69 by Sen. Foil – would extend the sunset of the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit, which is designed to encourage existing businesses with operating facilities in Louisiana to establish or continue research and development activities within the state
  • HB 408 by Rep. Willard – would allow R&D recipients to also access grants from the state’s Small Business Innovation Retention Fund and Small Business Innovation Recruitment Fund, which were created in 2022 to bolster applications for the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) grant programs

SB 69 was reported favorably in House Ways and Means on 5/23 and now heads to the full House for consideration.

HB 408 was reported favorably by Senate Revenue & Fiscal Affairs on 5/25 and now heads to the full Senate.

1A joined with business and economic development partners across the State in opposition to one measure that would have harmed Louisiana’s economic development toolkit, HB 641 by Ways and Means Chairman Stuart Bishop. The bill would have terminated tax exemptions, exclusions, credits, and other tax incentives in 2027 unless legislators reauthorize each one. This includes programs that are critical to Louisiana’s economic competitiveness, such as the Angel Investor Tax Credit, the Digital Interactive Media and Software Program, the Research and Development Tax Credit, and more.

HB 641 was heard in the House on 5/23, after being returned to the calendar two weeks ago due to substantial opposition received from the statewide business community. Chairman Bishop expressed that his intention was to continue conversations about the need to simplify the State’s tax code, after which he returned HB 641 to the calendar for a second time, explaining that he would not force a vote on a bill that he knew was unlikely to pass.

Insurance Market Stability
Legislators are eyeing solutions to stabilize Louisiana’s property insurance market. More than 30 related measures have been filed this session, and 1A is supporting bills that increase availability, affordability, and reliability of property insurance, and help mitigate future storm damage. Related bills continue to move through the Legislature with strong support, including:

  • HB 110 by Rep. Firment – requires insurers to offer an endorsement to upgrade to a fortified roof in the event of roof damage that requires a replacement
  • HB 294 by Rep. Willard and SB 113 by Sen. Hewitt – require insurers to provide premium discounts to insureds who build or retrofit structures in compliance with fortified home or commercial standards

HB 110 passed the Legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Yesterday, 5/29, the Senate concurred in the House-passed amendments to SB 113, and that measure now heads to the Governor’s desk.

HB 294 was signed by the Governor and officially became Act 1 of the 2023 Regular Session.

Simplifying Sales Tax Remittance
1A is also supporting HB 558 by Rep. Beaullieu, legislation intended to move the State one step closer to a more streamlined sales tax system for Louisiana’s brick and mortar businesses. HB 558 would transfer management and supervision authority for the electronic local return and remittance system from the Department of Revenue to the Uniform Local Sales Tax Board (ULSTB) and require the ULSTB to design and implement a single remittance system.

HB 558 was reported favorably, as amended, in Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs on 5/22 and was recommitted to Senate Finance where it awaits a hearing.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
HB 571 by Speaker Schexnayder would create a comprehensive legal framework for carbon capture projects in Louisiana, including provisions for permitting, revenue sharing, public notice and reporting requirements, and more. HB 571 was reported favorably by Senate Finance yesterday, 5/29. The bill will now head to the full Senate for consideration.

MJ Foster Promise Program
1A-supported SB 204 by Sen. Hewitt continued to advance last week – the bill makes eligibility changes to the MJ Foster Promise Program, which provides financial support for Louisiana adults to earn credentials that align with high-demand jobs. Currently, only about 10% of program funds have been utilized, and SB 204 would make the program accessible to more students by tweaking some of the provisions, including the requirement that students complete the FAFSA, which was not designed with adult learners in mind.

SB 204 was reported favorably by House Education on 5/23 and is now pending consideration in the full House.

In Lighter News…
New Iberia’s own Jady Regard, Chief Nut Officer (CNO) of 1A-member Cane River Pecan Company, testified at the Capitol last week in support of HB 368 by Rep. Lance Harris, which would establish the pecan as the official state nut. Click the link below to watch Regard’s testimony to the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee last Wednesday, 5/24.

Skip to 51:00 to hear the testimony.

Watch the hearing >>

HB 368 passed Senate and Governmental Affairs unanimously on 5/24 and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Besides the budget, there are still several bills 1A is supporting or monitoring that are scheduled to be considered this week, with a few on tap today, 5/30:

In Committee…
One of 1A’s priority bills, SB 108 by Sen. Jimmy Harris, is scheduled to be considered in House Ways and Means today. The bill would extend the sunset of the Angel Investor Tax Credit, which encourages investment in early stage, small wealth-creating Louisiana businesses that are seeking startup and expansion capital.

House Appropriations will take up another 1A-supported bill today, SB 205 by Senate President Page Cortez, which would create the Louisiana Foundational Integrated Research System for Transformation (LA FIRST) program, to be housed at the Blanco Public Policy Center at UL Lafayette. This legislation enables the Blanco Center to enter into data-sharing agreements with several state agencies so that career readiness and criminal justice programs can be better evaluated for their effectiveness and return on public investment.

On the House Floor…
SB 42 by Sen. Fred Mills would establish a statutory framework for the Louisiana Watershed Initiative (LWI), launched by Governor Edwards in 2018 to coordinate floodplain management responsibilities across all levels of government and develop long-term solutions for sustainability and resilience. Since 2018, the program has been operating under an Executive Order. SB 42 would authorize LWI under state law as an entity within the Division of Administration, creating a permanent statutory framework to carry out program initiatives.

1A is supporting related legislation by Sen. Fred Mills, SB 102, which would establish the Acadiana Watershed District within the LWI, and provide for its governance authorities and duties. This legislation would provide for the Acadiana Watershed District to lead efforts to promote drainage and flood-risk reduction within the bounds of its 15-parish region.

SB 42 and SB 102 are scheduled to be considered by the full House today, 5/30.

Click here to view 1A’s 2023 Legislative Priorities, which cover the following issue areas:

  • Tax competitiveness
  • Industry growth
  • Insurance market stability
  • Infrastructure investment
  • Talent development

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