Legislators continued moving bills through committee last week, advancing several 1A priority measures, including legislation to provide for more affordable property insurance in the State and to streamline student access to MJ Foster Promise Program funds. Later in the week, however, all eyes were on the House as the full chamber considered the $43 billion state budget over the course of a nearly 8-hour debate. House lawmakers fought over the education funding the Appropriations Committee removed from the bill earlier in the week, but ultimately voted to send the budget to the Senate.
Read on for a recap of week four and a look ahead at week five.
State Budget Clears House
Late last week, the House of Representatives advanced the $43 billion state budget – HB 1 by Chairman Zeringue and other supplemental funding legislation – in preparation for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1. Several of Governor Edwards’ priorities were stripped from the budget by House Appropriations earlier in the week, including $196 million in funding for K-12 teacher pay raises, $57 million for higher education, and $52 million for early childhood education programs.
House lawmakers opted to direct more than $900 million toward paying down large portions of the State’s retirement debt, arguing that the move would free up money that state agencies and K-12 and higher education systems would have otherwise had to use to pay retirement obligations, instead allowing them to address funding needs on their own.
After nearly 8 hours of debate, House members voted 72-33 to send HB 1 to the Senate, setting up a showdown between the chambers in the coming weeks, as Senators favor a plan put forward by Senate President Cortez (SCR 3). SCR 3 would allow the Legislature to exceed its constitutionally mandated spending cap and infuse surplus funds on one-time investments including road and bridge projects. Stay tuned as the budget debate evolves…
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. Several related bills continue to move through the Legislature with strong support:
- 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 and HB 294 were reported favorably by Senate Insurance on 5/3 and are pending review in the Legislative Bureau before moving on to the Senate floor. SB 113 is pending consideration by House Insurance.
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 passed the House unanimously on 5/1 and is pending consideration by Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs.
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, taxation, revenue sharing, public notice and reporting requirements, and more. HB 571 cleared both House Natural Resources (4/20) and House Appropriations (5/1) unanimously and is scheduled to be considered by the full House this Thursday, 5/11.
MJ Foster Promise Program
Senate Education considered another 1A-supported bill last week, SB 204 by Sen. Hewitt, to make 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 more easily accessible to students by removing several burdensome rules, including the requirement that students complete the federal FAFSA application, which was not designed with adult learners in mind.
SB 204 was reported favorably by Senate Education on 5/4 and now heads to the full Senate.
Career Readiness Data Sharing
Another 1A-supported bill is SB 205 by Senate President Page Cortez. This legislation 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.
SB 205 was reported favorably, as amended, by Senate Education and will be considered by Senate Finance this morning, 5/8.
1A supported HB 637 by Rep. Mincey in the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this week. HB 637 would have established a tax credit for businesses to employ eligible students as interns in work-based learning programs designed to incorporate on-the-job training in high-wage, high-demand industry sectors. Unfortunately, the bill did not advance due to concerns surrounding the costs of the program, which were deemed indeterminable in the bill’s current form. 1A will monitor whether the bill is brought back before the Committee later in the Session.
Louisiana Watershed Initiative
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. SB 42 passed the Senate and is scheduled to be considered by House Transportation, Highways, and Public Works on 5/8.
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 102 is also scheduled to be considered by House Transportation, Highways, and Public Works this morning, 5/8.
Another bill supporting Louisiana’s economic development toolkit will be considered this week, HB 408 by Rep. Willard, which would extend the Research and Development Tax Credit Program. 1A is supporting this bill, scheduled for House Ways and Means this morning, 5/8.
As we near the halfway point of session, legislators will begin to narrow their priorities, providing a clearer picture of which bills stand a chance of making it to the finish line by the end of session on June 8. Expect the budget debate between the House and Senate to take center stage in the coming weeks.
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.