2018 Legislative Priorities

The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce has announced its Legislative Agenda for the 2018 Louisiana State Regular Legislative Session being held March 12 through June 4; it will also serve as a working guide for the remainder of the year when national issues arise as well as for the state's Special Legislative Session(s). The goal of the agenda is very simple: to promote and protect a pro-business environment in our parish. Our priorities were officially adopted by the Board of Directors Wednesday, March 21, 2018 and can be found below.

Secure funding for local and regional infrastructure
The funding shortfall for critical transportation and infrastructure projects has been unaddressed for far too long creating a transportation crisis and impeding full economic development potential both locally and regionally. The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce recognizes the need to secure the vital funding at a sufficient level to provide dedicated funding for a megaproject, specifically a new Mississippi River bridge, and new or upgraded connections easing congestion for residents and businesses located in West Baton Rouge. We will support the creation of a multi-parish regional authority (will be referenced as “regional authority” for the purposes of this document) that provides project-specific funding options, or a constitutional amendment that places funding approval with the voters. It is our belief that this regional authority would provide for a collaborative referendum funding the aforementioned megaproject and other projects. All potential funding measures will be examined by the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce. Moreover, we believe this regional authority would allow the Capital Region to follow the will of the people providing a public election for projects should federal and toll funding become options, in addition to dedicated gas, sales, and property taxes.

Increased public transparency of government spending
The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce endorses the “Louisiana Checkbook” initiative, a publicly accessible government spending website, which will lead to greater transparency of government spending. Increased accountability measures can improve the public’s perception of officials and institutions responsible for spending nearly $30 billion annually by allowing individuals to easily monitor government expenditures. We support Louisiana Checkbook being housed and maintained by either the state’s Division of Administration or in the Office of the State Treasurer.

Support pro-growth approach to structural tax reform
Structural fiscal reforms are essential to maintain Louisiana’s economic vitality, provide industry long-term stability, recognize the repetitious concern for steady higher education and healthcare financial support, and restore confidence for businesses to grow. The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce supports a call for a limited Constitutional Convention that will address comprehensive fiscal reforms resolving our state’s recurring budget issues.

Protect and expand Louisiana’s economic development toolkit
The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce opposes any measure that further harms our incentive programs and ability to be competitive with our states. In addition to supporting the Quality Jobs program and other critical tools available, the chamber backs the reinstatement of full funding for Tier 1 activities. Furthermore, we support a streamlined and less ambiguous process regarding the administration of the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), protecting project confidentiality during negotiations, and restructuring the role the Board of Industry and Commerce in the approval process. The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce also supports strengthening our local economic development toolkit by considering Stipulated Tax Payments (STP) agreements.

Defend k-12 education reform and gains in student achievement
The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce will promote and support expanded access to affordable, reliable, high-quality early childhood education as a means to improve the foundation of our students and encourage lifelong education. The chamber will advocate for higher achievement standards, inclusive of a fair and balanced teacher and school performance accountability system.

Support statewide efforts to increase teacher recruitment & retention
The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce will consider any means to address Louisiana’s significant shortage of teachers. The chamber supports efforts that strengthen teacher quality, teacher recruitment and retention in areas of critical shortage such as STEM and Special Education, and will look for avenues to increase the number of teachers entering the classroom.

Increase standards for tops awards
The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce favors increased standards for TOPS Awards such that the award will be conferred only upon students with higher GPA and ACT attainment. The chamber supports any and all efforts that effectively track employment and job placement for TOPS recipients.

Keep Capital Area Ground Water Conservation Commission Makeup
The Capital Area Ground Water Conservation Commission (CAGWCC) is charged with managing water withdrawals from the Southern Hills Aquifer in Baton Rouge and the surrounding area. The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce supports the CAGWCC’s aquifer management efforts. However, the Chamber opposes any changes to the Commission's membership, especially any proposed changes (as currently written in HB 180 of the 2018 Regular Session on this specific date) that would remove or hinder stakeholder input into CAGWCC’s decision-making process. The Chamber believes that the Commission should be scientifically guided to ensure the best outcomes for all concerned.
Support air emission standard stability and fairness
West Baton Rouge Parish is industrious by nature, employing a large percentage of the population. The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce supports efforts to make Louisiana’s air quality programs equivalent to and no more restrictive than the 1990 amendments to the federal Clean Air Act and will support legislation and rules that equitably distribute the responsibility for meeting air quality requirements among all emission sources. Lastly, we will back the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) efforts to promote federal acceptance of reasonable state air quality programs and strongly encourage DEQ to promptly update the State Implementation Plan (SIP) to incorporate EPA’s favorable changes to federal rules and support additional regulatory reform.