2019 Legislative Priorities
The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce has established the following policy positions for the 2019 State Legislative Session that impact economic competitiveness and for our organization to further serve as the voice of business and promote a high quality of life for West Baton Rouge Parish. We will oppose and / or support legislation that impacts these policies.
SUPPORT HB 578 THAT DEDICATES FUNDS FOR LA 415 / LA 1 CONNECTOR
House Bill 578 would dedicate economic development proceeds from the Deepwater Horizon Economic Damages Collection Fund to the planning and construction of the La. 415 Bridge, as well as for other infrastructure projects. The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce recognizes the dire need to secure this critical funding for the long-planned La. 415 / La. 1 connector, which would bypass the congested La. 1 and provide another access point to Interstate 10 and the Mississippi River Bridge; and, the second phase of improvements to La. 1 between Golden Meadow and Leesville. Rep. Tanner Magee, who represents District 53, and Sen. Rick Ward, III, R-Port Allen, co-authored the bill to provide the means necessary for the near “shovel-ready” infrastructure project because of work by the Parish, which has provided for the La. 415 corridor study, and more recently the topography survey. The connector will provide an I-10 diversion to detour traffic across the river via the US 190 Bridge during peak traffic times and in the event of an incident on the Horace Wilkinson Bridge.
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 will advocate strongly for securing a new Mississippi River Bridge, including the necessary funding to complete site selection and environmental analyses, in support of the work of the new Capital Area Road and Bridge District (CARBD). The Chamber recognizes the need to secure the financial backing at a sufficient level to provide dedicated funding for a megaproject, specifically a new Mississippi River Bridge (as stated above), and new or upgraded connections easing congestion for residents and businesses located in West Baton Rouge. We will support the CARBD, which will seek to develop project-specific funding options, or a constitutional amendment that places funding approval with the voters. It is our belief that the CARBD would provide for a collaborative effort for 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.
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 other states. The Chamber encourages stabilization and protection of Louisiana’s economic development toolkit, and combatting measures that would additionally damage that state’s incentive programs. We support such programs as Quality Jobs, Enterprise Zone, FastStart and other critical instruments available, such as full funding for Tier 1 activities. Furthermore, we endorse a streamlined and less ambiguous process regarding the administration of the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), and protecting project confidentiality during the negotiation process. The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce also supports strengthening our local economic development devices by considering Stipulated Tax Payments (STP) agreements or Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT).
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.
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 and stabilized achievement standards, inclusive of a fair and balanced teacher and school performance accountability system.
INCREASE STANDARDS FOR TOPS AWARDS
The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce favors increased standards for TOPS Awards, and supports efforts that effectively track graduation rates 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 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.