Louisiana Association of Business and Industry's Marie Centanni, director of public affairs, said more bad bills were killed than good ones passed during the recent legislative session.
Centanni told members of the West Calcasieu Chamber of Commerce this week that LABI functions as both the state's chamber of commerce and its manufacturing association. The organization, which is comprised of lobbyists and issue experts, was primarily focused on tort reform this past session. But, Centanni said, they had little hope that any would occur and those fears were validated.
The Omnibus Premium Reduction Act of 2019, HB 372, despite bipartisan support in the House, was deferred by the Judiciary A Committee — "where good bills go to die," Centanni said. She said the bill was aimed at changing how the state's court system handles car wreck lawsuits in an effort to lower auto insurance premiums.
Centanni said due to the "jackpot justice" system in Louisiana, insurers charge exorbitant rates to cover potentially high lawsuit payouts. She said she has heard from loggers in the state that the cost of insuring one of their trucks has jumped from nearly $4,000 per truck a month to as much as $35,000 monthly.
"Louisiana has the second-highest rate of auto insurance in the country," she said. "But we were successful in getting attention on the issue. We hope people are paying attention to the fact that what happens in the Capitol can hit you hard. It was a philosophical win."
Centanni said there is some urgency around a bill on Gov. John Bel Edward's desk. SB 198 would require the state's Department of Revenue to return collected tax dollars in the event a tax law is found unconstitutional. She said the only recourse now for an unconstitutional tax is if a taxpayer is proactive enough to file all their taxes under protest, which requires an attorney. But, even then, neither the state nor the taxpayer can touch the contested monies because they are put in escrow.
"We hope he signs it," Centanni said.
The passage of HB 578 is good news locally, Centanni said. The bill provides nearly $700 million in road projects throughout the state and will replace the Cameron Ferry. The projects will be funded through $53 million in compensation for the BP oil spill matched with federal dollars.
"And no taxes were passed to make it happen," she said.
Centanni said the passage of HB 575 is another win for the state. According to a statement issued by Edwards, the bill will create a statewide framework for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft that will benefit smaller and rural communities.
Centanni said LABI has 2,000 members who employ 320,000 residents — 16 percent of the state's workforce. She said LABI is non-partisan and is interested only in a candidate's policy positions and philosophies with regard to free enterprise.
She said the group is focused on recruiting residents to run for elected positions at all levels. They recently held a boot camp in Lake Charles where they trained 200 young leaders in how to run for public office, she said.
Centanni said LABI is also focused on educating voters about the complete turnover of legislators in the next statewide election.
"This is the first wave since term limits were enacted in 2007," she said.
Centanni said time's up for 40 percent of the state's legislators. She said term limits have resulted in 12-year terms for most legislators. She said potential candidates decide to wait a few years to run rather than face an incumbent.
No matter who wins this fall, those elected will have a major impact on crucial issues like redistricting in 2021 and 2031, Centanni said.