BATON ROUGE, LA (July 22, 2019) – Today the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) released its 21st Legislative Scorecard, highlighting legislative leaders who consistently voted in support of pro-business legislation on behalf of Louisiana’s employers and workforce both during the 2019 Legislative Session and over the past four-year term.
“While the 2019 scores are a helpful indicator of which lawmakers are focused on pro-growth, job-creating solutions, the real story is the cumulative term total,” said Stephen Waguespack, LABI President and CEO. “Legislators had to navigate an especially anti-business environment at the Capitol over the past four years, with tough battles, unique challenges and votes requiring particular courage on behalf of free enterprise. We’re proud to recognize those legislative leaders who rose to the challenge, especially as a critical election season kicks off what could be a turning point – or a point of no return.”
During the 2019 Session, LABI led the way with a proactive effort to enact comprehensive tort reform, seek taxpayer fairness, and improve the economy. Although opposed by the administration throughout the legislative process, a bill to require simple refunds of unconstitutional state taxes was signed into law by the governor. A major infrastructure funding package is now law that repurposes settlement funds from the Deepwater Horizon incident, and a statewide ridesharing bill passed after years of defeat in the Senate Judiciary A Committee. However, a package of bills to enact common-sense legal reforms to begin to lower high auto insurance rates flew through the House and once again met its fate in that same Senate committee.
2018 was perhaps the year of the most opportunities lost this term, as bills died in the regular session to reform the state’s pension system, enact statewide ridesharing, repeal the seat belt gag order, seek more accountability in Medicaid spending, and take steps toward a Constitutional Convention. Three special sessions were called by the governor to secure the extension of sales tax increases passed in 2016. After asking for $1.2 billion to continue government programs and services at record levels, the administration settled for roughly half that amount when federal tax changes largely filled the gap and when it became clear the legislature was not willing to raise the rate as high as the governor hoped.
In 2017, LABI joined a diverse bipartisan coalition to pass criminal justice reforms intended to improve Louisiana’s ability to protect the public and provide education and treatment to improve re-entry and job readiness for these individuals. The major focus of this year, however, was “comprehensive tax reform”, where the governor’s main proposal was a $900 million Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) to replace the temporary one percent state sales tax. The CAT was a stark departure from the recommendations of the state’s blue-ribbon task force and would have proved a disaster for the Louisiana economy. LABI led a chorus of voices that contributed to this proposal’s bipartisan demise in a legislative committee.
When the new governor and legislature took office in 2016, the singular focus was to fill a deficit in the state budget by whatever means possible. Ultimately, a temporary one percent sales tax was enacted along with a bevy of tax changes on Louisiana businesses that led to the state’s #1 rank for growth in state and local business taxes in the nation from Fiscal Year 2016 to Fiscal Year 2017 at an alarming rate of 12.5 percent compared to two percent nationally. Within days of adjourning the third session of 2016, the governor released an Executive Order with seismic changes to the Industrial Tax Exemption Program as well. This approach to funding government with little regard for the impact on the state’s economy is an avoidable factor in the state’s current poor performance.
“This term was long on battles and short on accomplishments,” Waguespack continued. “With a few notable exceptions, the primary achievement has been defined by our leaders as full funding for government programs that are currently running surpluses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. However, this ‘win’ came at a steep price – higher taxes on individuals and employers across the state but also the resounding message to the nation that Louisiana stands ready to tax and sue the private sector to ensure government services can continue at record levels.
“But it is not too late to right the ship. Dozens of legislators worked diligently to prioritize the state’s economy throughout the past four years, and the state’s employers are grateful for their hard work and dedication. In this scorecard, LABI is proud to recognize lawmakers who took courageous stands to defend free enterprise and to promote common-sense reforms to improve the Louisiana economy both in 2019 and throughout this difficult term.”
Each year LABI works with an engaged membership to determine the issues most important to Louisiana’s economy and subsequently develop an annual Program of Work that guides policy development and advocacy efforts in Baton Rouge. The criteria outlined in the Program of Work determines the weight each piece of legislation carries throughout the session and guides the final votes selected for the annual analysis.
Overall, 24 legislators earned the ranking “All-Stars,” scoring 90 percent or higher on legislation important to LABI and the state’s employers during the past four-year term. Those term All-Stars are House Speaker Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia), Sens. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie), Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville), Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell), Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton), Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), and Reps. Beryl Amedee (R-Houma), Tony Bacala (R-Prairieville), Raymond Crews (R-Bossier City), Paula Davis (R-Baton Rouge), Phillip DeVillier (R-Eunice), Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge), Julie Emerson (R-Carencro), Raymond Garofalo (R-Chalmete), Dodie Horton (R-Haughton), Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge), Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette), Blake Miguez (R-Erath), Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport), John Stefanski (R-Crowley), Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge), Polly Thomas (R-Metairie), Mark Wright (R-Covington) and Jerome Zeringue (R-Houma).
Legislators named as “Honorable Mentions,” scoring 80 percent or higher on legislation important to LABI and its members during the past four years are Sens. Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City), Neil Riser (R-Columbia), Bodi White (R-Baton Rouge), and Reps. Johnny Berthelot (R-Gonzales), Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette), Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport), Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge), Jean-Paul Coussan (R-Lafayette), Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs), Mike Huval (R-Breaux Bridge), Chris Leopold (R-Belle Chasse), Sherman Mack (R- Albany), Tanner Magee (R-Houma), Jack McFarland (R-Jonesboro), Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), Steve Pugh (R-Ponchatoula), Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales), Scott Simon (R-Abita Springs) and Julie Stokes (R-Kenner).
2019 SESSION CHAMPIONS
LABI’s Legislative Scorecard named 29 legislators as “Most Valuable Policymakers,” (MVPs), scoring 100 percent on legislation important to the state’s job creators during the 2019 Legislative Session. In addition, nine legislators scoring 90 percent or higher were named All-Stars for the 2019 Session, and 29 legislators scoring 80 percent or higher earned Honorable Mentions. This year’s LABI MVPs, All-Stars and Honorable Mentions will be honored by LABI members on September 5, 2019 at the fourth annual LABI Free Enterprise Awards reception alongside other businesses and individuals who have proven their exemplary commitment and contributions to their local communities and the state’s business climate. More information on the LABI Free Enterprise Awards reception can be found at https://labi.org/events/free-enterprise-program.
LABI encourages all Louisiana residents to visit labi.org/score-card to review this year’s report explaining LABI’s 2019 priorities, the outcomes of the recent fiscal session, descriptions of the bills used in the Scorecard analysis, the individual legislative scores and the detailed methodology behind the scores. Printable posters of legislative scores are also available by region and can be downloaded on the LABI website.
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About the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry was organized in 1975 to represent Louisiana businesses, serving as both the state chamber of commerce and state manufacturers association. LABI’s primary goal is to foster a climate for economic growth by championing the principles of the free enterprise system and representing the general interest of the business community through active involvement in the political, legislative, judicial and regulatory processes. Find out more at http://www.labi.org.