Legislators Advance Economic Development Priorities in Busy Week Seven
Both the House and Senate logged long hours last week, as each chamber advanced priority economic development measures, including efforts to streamline sales tax collection and create a statewide action plan to increase the availability of computer science education in Louisiana. A bill that would have harmed the state’s critical Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) also stalled in the Senate. Read on for a breakdown of week seven of the Regular Session.
Centralized Sales Tax Collection
A top 1A legislative priority is HB 681 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 government 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 681 passed the House unanimously on 4/27 and now heads to the Senate.
Computer Science Education
Among 1A’s top priorities this session is SB 190 by Sen. Hewitt, also known as the Computer Science Education Act. This legislation creates a commission to develop a state action plan for increasing the availability of K-12 computer science education. Louisiana lags behind our southern neighbors, with only 29% of high schools offering computer science courses. Computer science is changing every industry, and computing jobs are among the highest-wage and highest-demand careers nationally. Developing a state action plan will ensure that Louisiana’s students are prepared to enter the current and future workforce.
SB 190 passed the Senate unanimously on 4/28 and heads to the House for consideration.
Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP)
1A is opposing SB 151 by Sen. Pope, a Constitutional Amendment that would weaken ITEP by locking cumbersome rules for the program into the State Constitution. ITEP is one of the most effective economic development tools at Louisiana’s disposal, supporting direct and indirect job creation in our state for the last 60 years. Weakening ITEP would drive away business and harm Louisiana’s economic competitiveness. After a heated debate, and knowing he didn’t have the votes to advance the bill, Sen. Pope voluntarily returned SB 151 to the calendar on 4/27.
Career Readiness Data Sharing
Another bill 1A supported last week was 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 with 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.
HB 470 passed the House unanimously on 4/25 and now heads to Senate Education.
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 Senate unanimously on 4/28 and now heads to the House.
Louisiana Watershed Initiative
Last Thursday, SB 414 by Sen. Fred Mills was heard in the Senate Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee. This legislation 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 414 would authorize LWI under state law as an entity within the Division of Administration, allowing for a permanent statutory framework to carry out program initiatives.
SB 414 was voluntarily deferred in Senate Finance on 4/25 to allow more time for discussions with local stakeholders. The bill may be back in committee as early as this week.
Lawmakers in the House are expected to take up debate this week on how to plan for the .45-cent temporary state sales tax that is set to expire in 2025. May 2-5 is also National Small Business Week. The House Appropriations Committee will consider legislation to boost small business innovation, and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is hosting a week of virtual events to provide expert insight on taking your business and your team to the next level.