Louisiana Update –
May 16, 2022
The 2022 Regular Legislative Session must adjourn sine die by 6pm on June 6th, and with slightly over three weeks left on the clock there’s still plenty to fight over.
But wait! There’s More!!!!! Tax revenue…that is
Louisiana’s Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) last week officially adopted projections of $350 million in increased revenue for the state’s current fiscal year (FY21-22) general fund budget; the fiscal year ends June 30th. The REC also recognized $104 million in projected new revenue for FY22-23, which begins July 1st. Increased sales tax rates over the last five years paired with federal pandemic recovery dollars are setting up a showdown between the legislature and the governor over the last few weeks of session over how all the money will be allocated. Fights over whether “temporary” sales tax rates should be phased out sooner or if teachers should be given permanent raises based off of one-time (non-recurring) revenue are on the table. A state can only handle so many goat shows and lawnmower races, so let the games begin…
ITEP CA Fails to Pass
Changes to the Industrial Property Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) drew the attention of Gov. John Bel Edwards immediately after he was sworn in for his first term as the state’s top executive seven years ago. He drew up executive orders paring down the program and making broad changes to what heavy industry long considered the state’s most important recruiting tool for maintaining and attracting capital investment. ITEP has become a political football pitting business vs local government officials over the last several years. Sen. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, decided this year he would propose a Constitutional Amendment that would essentially place Gov. Edwards’s executive order changes into the constitution. Sen. Pope has a lengthy tenure in local government and is not expected to seek re-election—a few factors into why he might run such a lightning rod bill. After hours and hours of testimony and debate over his C.A. (SB 151) the bill finally died on the Senate floor last week on a vote of 14-21 (two-thirds, or 26 votes, were required for passage).
Big Win for Letlow, Louisiana
Louisiana’s premier political columnist Jeremy Alford wrote the following about a big win for Louisiana’s federal delegation late last week plus a quick update on where other members are serving (a separate article is included below): Congresswoman Julia Letlow, who first took office roughly a year ago, has managed to land the only open seat on the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. Her appointment will be a massive win for the Louisiana delegation, which continues to punch above its weight on the Hill. U.S. Sen. John Kennedy already sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which means the Bayou State will have one of its own on both panels. There won’t be much of a transition for Letlow, who will be seated on the committee tomorrow.
A whole new political world is about to open up for the Start politico, from having a hand in how earmarks are managed to the fundraising opportunities that accompany such committee gigs. Elsewhere in the delegation, Congressman Steve Scalise is the House minority whip, Congressman Mike Johnson is the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, Congressman Garret Graves is the Aviation Subcommittee's ranking member and Congressman Clay Higgins is the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations.
Additionally, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy sits on the tax-writing Finance Committee and Congressman Troy Carter is making a name for himself on the House Transportation Committee.
Redistricting Battle in Court
You may recall the legislature passed new maps for their own districts plus those for congress and other elected offices earlier this year. Gov. Edwards vetoed the congressional maps, saying the new district lines violated the Voting Rights Act, but the legislature subsequently voted to override his veto. Shortly after the veto override session adjourned a few civil rights groups filed suit claiming the new maps do not reflect the racial makeup of Louisiana and, instead, should’ve created a second majority-minority district in the state’s six-member federal delegation. The matter kicked off in court last week; see article below for more information.
A few of the bills AIA LA is currently keeping a close watch on (some favorable; some of concern, so please feel free to email the office should you have questions, concerns, or specific insight into any that you wish to share):
Multiple Historic Preservation bills in various areas of the state.
HB 305 | Gadberry, Foy(R) | Relative to LAPELS. Up for final passage.
HB 555 | Owen, Charles(R) | Relative to occupational licenses. In Senate committee.
HB 571 | Gadberry, Foy(R) | Relative to the State Uniform Construction Code. Up for
HB 597 | Freeman, Aimee(D) | Relative to occupational licensing. Substitute bill; now
HB 1062; in committee.
HB 598 | Selders, Larry(D) | Prohibits a building inspector from using his discretion in
determining the applicability of building codes. In Senate.
HB 710 | Stefanski, John(R) | Relative to the provisions of CMAR method of delivery.
Up for final passage.
HB 803 | Gadberry, Foy(R) | Relative to the Building Energy Code for State Owned Bldgs. Up for final passage.
SB 382 | Peacock, Barrow(R) | Prohibits requiring construction of a storm shelter during
the construction or renovation of a public school. Still in Committee on Education.
SB 483 | Cathey, Stewart (R) | Provides relative to occupational licenses.
SB 474 | Womack, Glen (R) | Provides relative to change orders on public works contracts. Returned to the calendar; in discussions.
Articles of Interest:
Revenue Estimating Conference projects higher tax revenue for Louisiana
Associated Press via Baton Rouge Business Report
May 9, 2022
Higher tax revenue is helping add $350 million to Louisiana’s general fund budget for the fiscal year that ends at the end of next month and $104 million in projected revenue for the year that starts July 1.
The state Revenue Estimating Conference adopted those projections today during a meeting at the Capitol. The higher revenue projections will renew debates between Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Republican-dominated Legislature over budget priorities.
For instance, the proposed 2022-2023 budget moving through the Legislature already raises teacher pay by about $1,500 a year. Edwards has said he’d like to see the raises pushed up to $2,000. Edwards has called for an increase in state supplemental pay for local law enforcement officers.
Underlying today’s projections and the budget debates are uncertainties over the future of the national economy. Deborah Vivien of the state Legislative Fiscal Office and Manfred Dix of the Division of Administration under the governor, both say they are being cautious.
Vivien says her projections take into account slower growth. However, she’s not predicting a recession, citing signs of peaking inflation and Federal Reserve efforts to curb inflation without tipping the economy into recession. “I’m predicting a soft landing,” she says.
Dix, whose somewhat more conservative estimate of $104 million for next year was adopted by the panel, agrees but adds, “The question is how soft.”
Aside from numerous economic uncertainties cited by Vivien and Dix, including the Federal Reserve’s effort to curb inflation and the crisis in Ukraine, there is concern among lawmakers over the impending end of a 0.45% sales tax. The tax was approved in 2018 and currently brings in $420 million a year.
The tax is set to expire in mid-2025—the beginning of the state’s 2025-26 fiscal year. There has been little talk of trying to win renewal of the tax. There are competing proposals on how to deal with its looming demise.
One bill, which was tentatively set for debate today, would start phasing the tax out next year.
Another would dedicate the revenue from the tax through the next three years to a new Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge, an Interstate 10 bridge in Lake Charles and expansion of the Interstate 49 South corridor and, possibly, other road projects.
Letlow named to Appropriations Committee
By Brooke Thorington
Baton Rouge, LA - www.louisianaradionetwork.com
May 12, 2022
Congresswoman Julia Letlow has been chosen to fill an empty seat on the House Committee on Appropriations. The committee is responsible for funding the Federal government’s vital programs. Letlow said it’s an honor to be chosen for such a powerful committee and to help the Bayou State.
“And I want to bring our tax dollars from Washington and make sure that we’re investing in the priorities that Louisiana desperately needs,” said Letlow.
Letlow said the committee seat will help her fulfill campaign promises for her district, which include increasing broadband access to rural areas of the state and supporting the needs of Louisiana farmers.
“Agriculture is the backbone of my district and I want to make sure that we’re investing in those programs that make a difference for our farmers who are quite frankly hurting right now,” said Letlow.
Letlow, a former teacher, said the appointment will allow her the ability to see that education is properly funded. While teaching she said she’s witnessed firsthand how education can take someone from poverty to prosperity.
“And on the Appropriations Committee, I will fight to prioritize our K-12 schools, our community and technical colleges, and our four-year institutions and also protect funding for charter schools and school choice,” said Letlow.
Letlow is the first Louisianan to serve on House Appropriations since 2013.