Hotel definition bill fails to reach finish
Despite months of work, HB 339 did not make it to the finish line this session. Our hotel definition bill, which sought to capture occupancy tax from short-term rentals statewide, garnered zero opposition from short-term rental proponents. However, concerns from the business and agricultural communities ultimately led to an impasse.
As a pro-business industry, we along with the bill’s author, Rep. Stephen Dwight, set ourselves at odds with those concerned about workforce housing. Although workforce housing was unrelated to the original intent of the bill, this issue garnered opposition from LABI, oil & gas, the Farm Bureau Federation and others.
The opposition was able to successfully pass an unfavorable amendment on the bill in the House, exempting “man camps,” or what can be referred to as “pop-up hotels,” and placing our bill in the throws of an on-going lawsuit in Calcasieu Parish. This exemption for big business and industry would have hurt Louisiana hoteliers who are collecting, remitting and paying all of their taxes. With no possibility of achieving the original intent of the bill without hurting our industry, we worked with the author to voluntarily defer the bill.
Final occupancy tax bill updates
- River Parishes – 2 percent occupancy tax addition successful
- Iberia Parish – occupancy tax bill withdrawn
- St. Bernard Parish - $3 occupancy tax hike successful, but funds will benefit fire protection
Uber/Lyft approved statewide
After multiple attempts over the last few years, a bill creating statewide regulations for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft has passed. With its successful passage, Uber and Lyft are expected to expand their services into smaller, more rural areas of the state. Louisiana has been one of only a handful of states that had not yet created a clear framework for Transportation Network Companies to operate statewide. Inconsistent local regulations created an unstable market throughout the state, whereas statewide regulations will boost local tourism and provide an expected service for visitors.
Historic preservation bill fails
An effort to extend the state’s historic building tax credit program through 2026
failed late in the session
. An amendment in the House that would have capped the total amount of credits the state can issue in a single year at $150 million proved controversial and ultimately led to the bill’s demise in the Senate. The program is currently set to expire in 2021 and technically cannot be considered during the 2020 session because it is not a fiscal session.
$700 million directed to investment in roads and bridges
Under the bill, $150 million will pay for improvements to LA Highway 1 in Lafourche Parish, a highway that leads to the critical oil and gas hub of Port Fourchon. Another $125 million will fast-track an LA Highway 415 road project in West Baton Rouge Parish aimed at alleviating traffic snarls. Projects in both north and south Louisiana on I-49 will receive $100 million and $150 million, respectively.
Legislators expect some of the projects to be matched with local, federal and private dollars, boosting the investment to $1 billion.
While HB 578 only makes a small dent in the state’s nearly $14 billion backlog of road, bridge and other transportation work, the tourism industry benefits from all infrastructure improvements, traffic alleviation and efforts to improve access to rural areas.
New Orleans reaches tourism funding compromise
New Orleans’ tourism leadership has reached a tentative agreement with the City of New Orleans, offering aid to the city’s infrastructure needs through funds that are traditionally dedicated to tourism marketing and development.
As we understand in the current agreement, the city will receive about $26 million from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, $16 million federal community development block grants and other one-time funding totaling $48 million. About $27 million of recurring revenue has been agreed upon, including three types of funding: a new short-term rental tax that could increase up to 6.75 percent, a hotel tax of 1 percent and a reallocation of revenue that currently goes to the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.
Revenue from the short-term rental tax will be split, with 75 percent going to infrastructure and 25 percent going to promote tourism. The city will resume collecting the hotel tax, sometimes referred to as the “
”, that was halted in 1966 so a state tax could capture the same amount to fund construction of the Superdome.
The legislative proposals would be funded through
. The redirection of funding from the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. will need the New Orleans City Council’s approval to go into effect. The final piece of the bill package, HB 617, will allow the convention center to use its reserve funding for a new hotel complex.
Harrah’s contract extended
In other New Orleans tourism news from the session, the legislature extended Harrah’s contract to operate Louisiana’s land-based casino in New Orleans for 30 years. Support for the contract extension was a turnaround from last year, when the initial 30-year proposal failed. Harrah’s will manage the casino until 2054, in exchange for adding new restaurants, a second hotel and more entertainment space. Meanwhile, the state will get millions more dollars from the contractual arrangement than it receives today.