Baton Rouge, La. (June 10, 2019) — The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) is tallying the laudable and lamentable work done by the Louisiana Legislature during the 2019 legislative session, which ended on June 6. Ultimately, the organization finds more wins for the Capital Region than losses.
“BRAC’s legislative agenda for 2019 focused the organization’s advocacy efforts on transportation, quality of place, comprehensive tax reform, economic competitiveness, educational reforms, and expanding access to early childhood education,” said Jeff Koonce, chair of BRAC’s Legislative Committee and general counsel for Bernhard Capital. “On nearly every issue, our efforts yielded positive results.”
Some key wins for the Capital Region include:
- Transportation: $140 million in funding for the LA 415 bridge at the Intracoastal Canal and the widening of Hooper Road (HB578 Rep. Magee);
- Quality of Place: changes to notice requirements in tax sales to help clear the number of blighted properties languishing on the unpaid property tax rolls (HB466 Rep. Davis);
- Economic Competitiveness: creating a statewide framework for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft (HB575 Rep. Magee), opening up of new agricultural business opportunities by allowing the growing and processing of hemp (HB491 Rep. Schexnayder), and defeat of employer mandates that would have increased operational costs for small businesses (HB422 Rep. Duplessis, SB155 Sen. T Carter, among others);
- Education Reforms: increased equity in access to tax-exempt bonds for charter school facilities (HB225 Rep. Edmonds); and,
- Early Childhood Education: $15M+ additional funding for early childhood education (HB395 Rep. S. Carter, HB560 Rep. Abramson, and HB105 Rep. Abramson).
A key bill outside these categories for which BRAC advocated was HB438 by Rep. James, which injects a merit-based step into the seniority-based promotion system at the Baton Rouge Police Department. This is a significant good-government change that BRAC believes will have a constructive impact on community-police relations in East Baton Rouge.
“Many of this year’s legislative outcomes will open up opportunities for new economic development and improved economic competitiveness throughout the region,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC. “Despite these positive outcomes, however, many long-standing and critical concerns experienced no progress.”
Several key economic development issues were either ignored or killed during the process. This included every effort to create recurring revenue for transportation infrastructure, but also any serious attempt at comprehensive tax reform, a constitutional convention, tort reform, or strengthening of the economic development toolkit. Efforts to extend the sunset on or enhance details of existing incentives like the Research and Development, Angel Investor, and Historic tax credits were defeated. Common-sense changes to the state’s draconian occupational licensing regulations also died during the process. Ultimately, this leaves the door open for these failures to become campaign season issues, as their importance to the Capital Region’s economy only grows with each passing year.
About the Baton Rouge Area Chamber
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) leads economic development in the nine-parish Baton Rouge Area, working to grow jobs and wealth and to improve the business climate and competitiveness in the region. Today, BRAC investors include more than 1,500 small businesses, midsize firms, large industry and entrepreneurial startups, as well as individuals and organizations that support business and economic development. In this capacity, BRAC serves as the voice of the business community, providing knowledge, access, services and advocacy. More information is available at brac.org.