Several 1A-priority bills were sent to the Governor’s desk last week, including workforce development measures 1A is supporting as part of our 55 by 25 initiative, and bills extending key economic development programs in the state. Legislators also made progress on advancing 1A-supported occupational licensing and small business innovation bills.
Read on below for a full recap of week 11.
Workforce Development Bills Head to Governor’s Desk
Four 1A-supported workforce development measures were unanimously approved by the Senate and sent to the Governor’s desk last week. 1A supports the measures as part of our 55 by 25 initiative, which aims to increase the proportion of working-age adults in Acadiana with postsecondary degrees, certificates, or other high-value credentials to 55 percent by 2025:
Reverse Transfer – HB 231 by Rep. Brass allows students who have transferred from a community college to a four-year institution to be awarded an associate degree upon completion of those requirements, while continuing to work toward their bachelor’s degree
Dual Enrollment Counseling – HB 333 by Rep. Brass requires the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to provide information on dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and more to counselors who are advising parents and students about early college opportunities
Computer Science Education – SB 190 by Sen. Hewitt 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 courses in computer science, a field that is changing every industry and boasts the highest-wage and highest-demand careers nationally. Developing a state action plan will ensure our students are prepared to enter the current and future workforce
Universal Transferability – SB 261 by Sen. Fieldsestablishes 60-hour “transfer pathways” for high-demand disciplines in the public post-secondary system so there is a clear understanding of what credits can be applied toward a degree. Today’s students are more likely to attend more than one college or university, or earn postsecondary learning outside of a traditional setting, including through dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and military training. However, many students find out after they’ve taken a course that it doesn’t count toward their degree. Transfer pathways will ensure students know what credits count no matter where those credits are earned
One 1A-supported workforce bill unfortunately failed Senate Education last week – HB 183 by Rep. Hughes, also known as the #FreeTheTranscript bill. HB 183 would have removed a major barrier for adult learners to return to school and complete their degree by prohibiting postsecondary institutions from withholding their academic transcript due to outstanding debt with the institution.Removing this barrier would allow adult learners to return to school to reskill or upskill in order to qualify for a different or higher-paying job. Additionally, higher credentials leading to better employment will also help students be able to repay their debt.
1A supported a similar bill enacted following the 2020 Regular Session, which enabled the public postsecondary management boards to voluntarily adopt policies allowing students with debt to still access their transcripts, policies which the UL System and LCTCS have adopted. HB 183 would have required adoption of such policies by all four of the public higher ed systems, a language change that drew opposition.
Economic Development Bills Head to Governor’s Desk
Two measures providing stability for Louisiana’s economic development toolkit were sent to the Governor’s desk last week:
SB 12 by Sen. Reese would extend the Competitive Projects Payroll Incentive (CPPI)through 2026. CPPI provides payroll and capital expenditure rebates for businesses that create net new jobs in Louisiana while demonstrating significant out-of-state sales
SB 41 by Sen. Reese would extend the Quality Jobs (QJ) program through 2026. QJ helps Louisiana attract diverse industries by offering payroll rebates of up to 6% to companies that create high-quality, full-time jobs. To qualify for the program, jobs created must pay at least $18 per hour and offer health benefits
Last week, the Senate passed HB 287 by Rep. Willard, which would require that occupational license taxes levied annually on computer programming businesses be set at a flat rate. Current law – last updated in the 1980s – does not appropriately classify these companies. In practice, computer programming services are being taxed at the same rate as retailers, which are subject to a $6,200 minimum annual tax, whereas other companies designated as “Professional Services,” such as accountants and engineers, are charged a flat fee based on revenue, at a maximum of $2,000. The House unanimously concurred in the Senate amendments.
1A is supporting additional bills to improve Louisiana’s overly burdensome occupational licensing laws. Two key measures were reported favorably by Senate Commerce last week:
HB 639 by Rep. Pressly – would allow job seekers reentering society from the justice system to petition a licensing board to determine if their record would disqualify them from receiving a license before enrolling in any required education or training
HB 1062 by Rep. Freeman – would require occupational licensing boards to implement the least restrictive regulation necessary to accomplish fiduciary, public health, safety, or welfare objectives. The bill would also create a standardized process for individuals to challenge regulations they believe do not achieve these objectives
Both bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.
Another occupational licensing measure cleared the House Commerce Committee last week:
SB 483 by Sen. Cathey – would streamline the process for individuals who are licensed in certain occupations in other states to receive an occupational license when they move to Louisiana, provided that they prove residency and that both states have licenses in that occupation
SB 483 is now pending House final passage.
Small Business Innovation
1A is also supporting a series of bills by Rep. Willard and Rep. Pressly, HB 786, HB 795, and HB 796, which aim to foster greater entrepreneurship and economic diversification in Louisiana by providing state grants to small businesses that are applying for, or have received, certain federal grants: the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The proposal would also provide funding to recruit out-of-state businesses that have successfully utilized SBIR and STTR grants to encourage them to come and innovate in Louisiana.
All three bills were reported favorably by Senate Commerce on 5/24 and now head to the Senate floor.
Two 1A-supported bills related to funding for key transportation megaprojects are likely to come up for House final passage this week – SB 266 by Sen. Ward and SB 277 by Senate President Page Cortez. Under current law, a portion of Louisiana’s vehicle sales tax revenue is dedicated to roads and bridges, with the requirement that 75% of the dedicated funds be used to prioritize completion of four specific megaprojects, including I-49 South. SB 266 and SB 277 require that funding to be directed to a new Megaprojects Leverage Fund, where the money will be divided equally among each project. These bills also allow for the funds to be used to draw down federal dollars so that the prioritized megaprojects can be completed more quickly.