“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
The clock is ticking down until the Regular Session must adjourn on June 1, but the end of the Regular Session will signal the beginning of a Special Session, as Louisiana’s Legislature has issued a call for a Special Session to begin one minute after the Regular Session ends. The call, available at this link, includes 41 items ranging from the State’s operating budget and capital outlay budget, to tax reforms, to incentive programs, to the appropriation of CARES Act funding, and other matters.
As the Regular Session approaches its June 1 deadline, here is some of the priority legislation 1A is engaged on:
Tort Reform to Lower Auto Insurance Rates
SB 418 by Sen. Kirk Talbot – This bill would make common-sense reforms to Louisiana’s legal system to help lower auto insurance rates, including:
Lowering Louisiana’s jury trial threshold from $50,000 to $5,000
Ending the collateral source rule
Removing the direct action statute
Extending the prescription period for delictual actions (torts) from 1 year to 2 years for motor vehicle accidents
Eliminating the seat belt gag order
Requiring a mandatory 10% rate reduction for personal auto insurance
The bill is up for debate in the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee TODAY (Tuesday), and 1A has been communicating our support to legislators.
COVID-19 Liability Protections
HB 826 by Rep. Thomas Pressly – This is one of several bills that would help protect employers, healthcare workers, and others who operate in good faith from lawsuits and liability claims by employees, customers, or others who contract the coronavirus. The protections would not apply in the case of “gross negligence” or willful misconduct. The bill passed on the House floor by a unanimous vote on Friday, and it is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary A Committee on Wednesday. Related measures – SB 491 by Sen. Sharon Hewitt and SB 508 by Sen. Patrick McMath – both cleared the Senate and are up for debate in the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee today (Tuesday).
Oil & Gas Industry Support
SB 359 by Sen. Bob Hensgens – This bill would limit the ability of local authorities to file lawsuits against oil & gas companies on matters related to State-issued Coastal Use Permits. After a procedural ruling made it apparent the bill would not have time to make it through the legislative process by June 1, Sen. Hensgens decided to pull the bill from consideration.
SCR 7 by Sen. Sharon Hewitt – Similar to SB 359, this resolution would urge and request certain officials and local governments to dismiss coastal lawsuits against the oil & gas industry. It passed on the Senate floor by a 20-15 vote last Wednesday and will be taken up by the House Natural Resources Committee this Wednesday. You can express your support by clicking here to sign a petition asking Louisiana lawmakers to help the energy industry grow and recover.
Centralized Sales Tax Collection
HB 791 by Rep. Tanner Magee – This bill, related to improving Louisiana’s sales tax collection system, was amended on the House floor on Friday to address feedback from local government. The compromise solution would leverage technology to streamline sales and use tax registration, filing, and remittance. The amended bill passed unanimously in the House and is now awaiting a hearing in the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee.
Economic Development Incentives
HCR 4 by Rep. Beau Beaullieu – This measure would allow individual parishes to elect to be designated as “ITEP Ready” through a majority vote of each of the local taxing authorities who weigh in on ITEP applications. The designation would communicate that a parish provides automatic local approval of ITEP applications that have been approved by the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry. This 1A-supported resolution passed in both chambers and is now pending House concurrence of Senate amendments.
HB 846 by Rep. Mark Wright – The aim of this bill is to encourage companies who were forced to close their doors due to COVID-19 to rehire their workers and create new jobs. The bill applies to restaurants, retailers, and hotels that were impacted by the Stay-at-Home Order. To the extent that they rehire employees, they will be eligible to receive assistance of up to 6 percent for payroll related to new hires. The business must create a minimum of five new jobs and a minimum of $40,000 in new payroll between May 15 - Dec. 31 of this year. The bill passed unanimously in the House and is now awaiting a hearing in the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee.
HB 850 by Rep. Barry Ivey – This bill, pertaining to Economic Development Districts (EDDs), would erode one of the key tools in Louisiana’s economic development toolkit by imposing new requirements that will make EDDs much more difficult to establish and invest in. The bill stalled following strong opposition by the economic development community.
SB 191 by Sen. Bodi White – 1A is joining other regional economic development organizations in support of SB 191, which would protect personal employee data submitted to LED from public records requests. These privacy protections are already afforded to other State government agencies. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and will be taken up by the House and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
Early Care and Education
HB 105 (Zeringue) – As part of the Ready Louisiana Coalition, 1A is asking legislators to sufficiently fund early care and education. Part of the ask requests an additional $25.1 million in the State budget bill (HB 105) in order to expand access to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) for 4,000 more Louisiana children. This funding is critical for working parents to access quality child care and be able to return to work.
HB 676 by Rep. Julie Emerson – This “Free the Transcript” bill is a key priority of 1A’s 55 by 25 educational attainment initiative this year. It would mitigate a major barrier for adult learners to return to school by prohibiting postsecondary institutions from withholding their academic transcript due to outstanding debt with the institution. This bill has become even more critical, as workers who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 public health emergency may need to return to school to reskill or upskill to qualify for a different or better job.
The bill passed in the House and is now awaiting a second hearing in the Senate Education Committee, after a Senator requested an amendment that would allow for the student to be put on a payment plan. Please continue to express your support to Senators by responding to our call-to-action.