We’re one month into the 2021 Regular Session, with one month left to go. Last week, the House advanced the state budget, centralized sales tax collection continued to move forward, and 1A joined other Acadiana stakeholders at the Capitol to advocate on key issues.
Here is an update on the activities and legislation 1A is engaged on and monitoring:
Acadiana / Southwest LA Super-Region Day
In partnership with the Leadership Institute of Acadiana (LIA), Leadership SWLA, and SWLA Economic Development Alliance, 1A hosted Acadiana / Southwest LA Super-Region Day on May 4. Participants joined a virtual event featuring Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Sen. Sharon Hewitt, and House and Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Rep. John Stefanski, for a discussion on the upcoming redistricting process. 1A leaders then visited the State Capitol for lunch with the Acadiana Delegation, where they shared details on the Super-Region’s advocacy goal of keeping the 3rd Congressional District as unified as possible and discussed other economic development priorities.
LACCE Day at the Capitol
1A was proud to join partners for Louisiana Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (LACCE) Day at the Capitol on May 5. More than 70 business leaders from around the state visited the Capitol to meet with lawmakers and participate in discussions on tax reform, redistricting, and more.
Centralized Sales Tax Collection
HB 199 by Speaker Clay Schexnayder – This Constitutional Amendment establishes 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 will have equal representation from state and local governments and will administer sales tax collection, auditing, and dispute resolution. This common-sense reform puts Louisiana’s businesses on a level playing field with online retailers like Amazon and Wayfair. HB 199 passed the Senate Revenue & Fiscal Affairs Committee unanimously last week, and the bill is scheduled to be debated in the full Senate on Monday, 5/10.
House members passed the $36 billion state budget, HB 1 by Rep. Jerome Zeringue, last Thursday, after the House Appropriations Committee moved the bill forward earlier in the week. Additional appropriations bills were passed that address other funding for state and local governments (HB 516, HB 553, and HB 695) and determine how the first tranche of Louisiana’s federal American Rescue Plan Act funds will be spent (HB 642).
Key appropriations in these bills include:
$400 million to shore up the State’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund
$421 million to fully fund TOPS and provide for other financial aid programs to students
$90 million to expand broadband access in rural and disadvantaged areas
$800 teacher pay raises and $400 school support staff pay raises
$55 million for port relief efforts related to COVID-19
Rep. Jean-Paul Coussan brought a series of bills to exempt certain oil wells from the state severance tax before the House Ways and Means Committee last week. The first bill, HB 57, would exempt oil produced from orphaned wells, newly-drilled wells, and newly-completed wells that are undergoing or have undergone certain well enhancements from the state severance tax, similar to legislation Rep. Phillip DeVillier passed in 2020 that was eventually vetoed by the Governor (HB 29, 2020 Second Extraordinary Session). Three other bills would separately provide the severance tax exemption for each of the three types of wells provided for in HB 57. The bills were presented in this manner due to concerns raised by HB 57’s fiscal note.
All but one of these bills was voluntarily deferred:
HB 57 – Exempts orphaned wells, newly-drilled wells, and newly-completed wells that are undergoing or have undergone well enhancements (voluntarily deferred)
HB 658 – Exempts newly-completed wells that are undergoing or have undergone certain well enhancements (voluntarily deferred)
HB 661 – Exempts certain newly-drilled wells (voluntarily deferred)
HB 662 – Exempts certain orphaned wells (scheduled for House consideration 5/11)
SB 148 by Sen. Page Cortez – This bill creates the M.J. Foster Promise Program, a key priority of 1A’s 55 by 25 educational attainment initiative.Beginning in 2022, The M.J. Foster Promise Program would provide financial support for Louisiana adults to earn credentials that align with high-demand jobs in industries like construction, healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, and more. The program will serve as a “last dollar” award, open to Louisiana residents over the age of 21. SB 148 passed the Senate unanimously on 5/5 and now heads to the House.
HB 322 by Rep. Freeman – This bill would allow state agencies to share data on K-12 students in order to analyze and report on how the state’s educational initiatives impact student progression and success into postsecondary education and the workforce. The bill would only allow data-sharing between the state’s K-12 and higher education departments and is consistent with practices followed prior to restrictive data privacy legislation enacted in 2014. The bill was reported favorably by the House Education Committee and is scheduled for House consideration on 5/12.
HB 459 by Rep. Barbara Freiberg – This bill serves as a companion to HB 322, and would require the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) to report certain occupational and employment information to the Board of Regents for economic research and occupational forecasting. HB 459 was reported favorably by the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee on 5/6 and is now pending House consideration.
1A continues to monitor key transportation funding measures, including:
HB 511 by Rep. Jack McFarland – This bill phases in dedication of the sales and use tax for motor vehicles to the Construction Subfund of the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). By Fiscal Year 2030-2031, 100% of the revenue collected from the tax would be deposited into the Subfund, totaling nearly $500 million annually in new revenue for transportation projects throughout the state, without raising taxes. The legislation also mandates study and review of DOTD’s budget and expenditures. HB 511 passed the House by a vote of 69-29 and is now pending a Senate Finance Committee hearing.
HB 693 by Rep. Paula Davis – This bill phases in dedication of the temporary 0.45% state sales tax to the Construction Subfund of the TTF beginning in 2022. Directing these monies to the Subfund would ensure they are protected for project delivery, construction, and maintenance. The bill would also extend the sales tax at a reduced rate of 0.4% from July 1, 2025 to June 30, 2031. By FY 2030-2031, 100% of the collections would be deposited into the Subfund. The bill also requires DOTD to prioritize construction of certain megaprojects, including I-49 South. 1A supported this bill in the House Ways and Means Committee, where it was reported favorably. HB 693 is scheduled for House consideration on 5/11.
HB 615 by Rep. Barbara Freiberg – This bill was amended to levy a $400 annual tax on electric vehicles and a $275 annual tax on hybrid vehicles. Like HB 693, revenue from these taxes would be dedicated to the Construction Subfund. DOTD would also be required to prioritize construction of certain megaprojects, including I-49 South. 1A supported this bill in the House Ways and Means Committee, where it was reported favorably. The bill is scheduled for House consideration on 5/10.