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Business association aims to draw attention to Louisiana lawmakers who support its pro-growth priorities

September 3, 2018
By Dave Lemery
Originally Posted on Louisiana Watchdog

When a bill comes through a Louisiana legislative committee that stands a fair chance of having an impact on the business community, it’s almost certain that someone will ask, “Where does LABI stand on this?”

LABI is the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, an influential group that advocates on behalf of business owners large and small. Where LABI stands on a proposed bill can make or break it as many lawmakers see it as their prime responsibility to enact legislation that benefits business owners and the economy.

But that’s not all. LABI annually makes known its opinions of not just legislation, but of the legislators themselves. The association recently released “The Scorecard,” a rating of Louisiana lawmakers in both the Senate and House of Representatives in three tiers – “MVP,” “All Stars” and “Honorable mentions.”

To earn MVP status, a lawmaker had to have adhered to LABI’s priorities 100 percent of the time. “All Stars” voted according to LABI’s preferences 90 percent of the time or more, and those in the honorable mention listings did so more than 80 percent of the time.

“For decades, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) has released an annual scorecard to offer a data-driven analysis of how each legislator voted on the issues most important to the economy and the business community,” wrote Stephen Waguespack, the president and CEO of the association. “This report follows that same model, using clear metrics to help explain the actions of lawmakers in the four legislative sessions of 2018.”

The scorecard names 24 MVPs, 21 All-Stars and 11 honorable mentions, which combined make up about 39 percent of the 144 seats in the Legislature. One independent lawmaker, Rep. Joseph Marino of Gretna, and one Democrat, Rep. Major Thibaut of New Roads, made the honorable mention list; the remaining LABI honorees were all Republicans.

Waguespack noted that many of the bills important to LABI did not pass in the 2018 sessions.

“Unlike previous editions, the 20th LABI Legislative Scorecard largely demonstrates the work left to be done, rather than proactive policies that became law,” he wrote. “As session after session broke down, major challenges facing the state were sidelined by the bureaucratic bubble of Baton Rouge. As a result, major votes in this year’s scorecard assess reforms that failed to pass.”

  • Among the 27 pieces of legislation that LABI prioritized for their scorecard were a number of bills that drew significant attention at the time they were introduced or debated:
  • Senate Bill 162, which would have increased the state’s minimum wage. LABI was against the legislation and it failed in the Senate.
  • Senate Bill 13 established the Louisiana Checkbook fiscal transparency website. LABI supported this bill, and it passed both chambers and was signed into law.
  • House Bill 564, which LABI was in favor of, would have eliminated occupational licensing rules for “natural hair braiding.” The bill was defeated in the House.
  • House Bill 541 would have allowed the introduction of five fiscal bills – meaning those that can raise taxes, fees or other revenue – during non fiscal sessions. LABI opposed the legislation and it failed to pass the House.
  • House Bill 500, supported by LABI, if passed would have established a process for calling a Constitutional Convention. The bill failed in the House.

“LABI worked with a large coalition to promote a Constitutional Convention to address challenges that have plagued the state for generations,” the scorecard notes. “Legislation ultimately failed on the House floor that would have called for a limited Constitutional Convention to create the reliable government, infrastructure, education system and economy our citizens need. LABI will continue to support a comprehensive set of reforms and solutions going forward.”

The senators who were named MVPs, all Republicans, were: Conrad Appel, Jack Donohue, Sharon Hewitt, Beth Mizell, Barrow Peacock, Mike Walsworth and Bodi White.

The House members who earned MVP status were: Mark Abraham, Berlly Amedee, Thomas Carmody, Patrick Connick, Phillip DeVillier, Rick Edmonds, Julie Emerson, Ray Garofalo, Dodie Horton, Nancy Landry, Tanner Magee, Jack McFarland, Blake Miguez, Scott Simon, John Stefanski, Kirk Talbot and Polly Thomas.

At the other end of the spectrum, some of the legislators who received the lowest scores from LABI included Rep. Denise Marcelle, 15 percent; Sen. Wesley Bishop, 18 percent; Sen. Troy Carter, 17 percent; Sen. Yvonne Colomb, 11 percent; Sen. Jay Luneau, 20 percent; Sen. J.P. Morell, 20 percent; Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, 10 percent; and Sen. Ed Price, 20 percent.

Senate President John Alario was given a 70 percent score, and House Speaker Taylor Barras scored at 94 percent.

Waguespack warned that Louisiana’s state government and economy are still far from secure and argued that policies favoring business are essential in the coming years.

“Our government must stop living crisis to crisis and holistically evolve to a new model that works for the future,” he wrote. “This transformation will be complicated and challenging. It will require patience, collaboration and bipartisanship. We at LABI stand ready to work with everyone to take that step. No political party owns all the answers or all the blame, and there is room for diverse perspectives to get this right.”