Louisiana's largest business group will push for lawsuit reform and lower car insurance rates during this year's legislative session, said Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.
Waguespack believes the high number of new lawmakers in the Legislature makes this legislative session one of the best opportunities to promote lawsuit reform, he told the Acadian Home Builders Association, the Realtor Association of Acadiana, and the Acadiana Mortgage Lenders Association.
“Across the state, you've got a whole lot of other people who are coming in with new ideas,” Waguespack said. “They're going to that capitol as change agents.”
Waguespack touched on the state's slow rate of economic growth, even as the country experiences a boom. He said lawsuit reform — and the way it relates to Louisiana's high car insurance rates — could be a way to encourage more businesses to move into the area and would lift a burden off its existing businesses and residents.
Specifically, Waguespack addressed the state's high requirement for a jury in lawsuits and gag orders — limits on what can be said and introduced in the course of the lawsuit. In Louisiana, the damages sought must exceed $50,000 for the defendant to request a jury.
These laws, Waguespack said, lead to a lot of settlements, which results in higher car insurance rates across the state. Car insurance rates were a talking point during the 2019 gubernatorial race, as President Donald Trump criticized the state's high rates.
“We'll be bringing bills this year to try to change all that,” Waguespack said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, who spoke during LABI's annual meeting, said he will seek common ground on legal reform legislation. But Edwards has not said what specific measures he will support or oppose.
Some Democratic lawmakers and a new political action committee, Real Reform Louisiana, have argued the bills LABI supports won't lower car insurance and would help industry and car insurance companies.
LABI outlines several other priorities for the legislative session in its Program of Work, including workforce development and early childhood education. On Thursday, Waguespack will be speaking at a luncheon with One Acadiana.