Business Report

The Louisiana Legislature’s 2016 regular session was in many ways “a clash of reform visions,” the Baton Rouge Area Chamber says in a new analysis released today on how its agenda fared during the session that adjourned June 6.

There were many more wins than losses, says BRAC, which released its agenda of priorities before the start of the regular session.

The chamber counts the passage of Senate Bill 201, a constitutional amendment that provides for greater budget flexibility regarding statutorily and constitutionally protected funds, as a success. Voters will have their say on the measure in the fall.

In the loss column is the passage of House Bill 92, which effectively repealed warrant recall fees established in all the courts in East Baton rouge Parish dedicated to funding a misdemeanor jail. BRAC had championed legislation establishing such fees in 2014.

Adam Knapp, BRAC’s CEO and president, says the chamber’s agenda for the 2016 regular session sought to balance Louisiana’s critical needs such health care and education with safeguarding economic competitiveness and the Capital Region.

Transportation is a key issue for the chamber, which is working with the Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions, or CRISIS, coalition to get more funding for the Capital Region’s transportation infrastructure needs.

“Working with the Senate, $11 million for the Pecue Lane project that had been removed in the House was restored,” BRAC’s analysis says.

The chamber had lobbied for projects to progress through the state’s construction process and for policies that would maximize the use of the Transportation Trust Fund toward infrastructure.

A bill—deemed a success—allowing the Department of Transportation and Development to enter into public-private partnerships is awaiting Gov. John Bel Edwards’ signature. But the session ended without the passage of the state’s capital outlay bill.

BRAC also had joined a coalition of economic development groups and business leaders in opposing a bill that subjected incentives to the appropriation and budget process.

“BRAC and others stressed the case that making important economic development projects dependent on such political uncertainty would be disastrous for future job creation. Fortunately, none of these bills made it out of their respective committee of jurisdiction,” the chamber says.

And while a bill establishing a rebate for research activity undertaken by small businesses receiving the federal Small Business and Innovation Research grant passed two House committees, it failed to pass the full House.

BRAC says it will continue to push the issue during the 2017 fiscal session.