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Legislative Bulletins

Legislative Update June 27

July 14, 2008

Reporting on the last week of the session 
 

The legislature, once again has adjourned “sine die” for this year, for the third session since the beginning of the year.  Many feel as though we’ve been in continuous political mode since before the elections last fall.  They aren’t wrong.  This regular session saw approximately 2200 introductions, and not counting possible vetoes, could see 700 enactments.  A lot of business has been conducted for the state during this time, though some in the press prefer to report on issues such as official local drinks, etc., over the more weighty issues that were addressed.  Hopefully, we won’t be seeing yet another special session in 2008, though it is rumored that another may be called in January 2009 to consider health care issues unaddressed in 2008, as well as considering of spending of surplus funds from 2008.


This report updates you on LAGC’s activities during the final two weeks of the session, and what transpired during that time.  We will provide you with a comprehensive “wrap up” of all legislative activities for the session as the time period for signature or veto by the governor expires.


We have worked hard to represent your interests in the state capitol and to keep you informed of issues of importance to you throughout the process.  We thank the Legislative Council for their leadership and counsel, reviewing legislation and providing insights into its impact on the industry.  And we thank you for your confidence in our relationship between Capital Partners and the LAGC.  If you have any questions about any of the legislation, or activities, please don’t hesitate to contact me at derrellc@lagc.org .  


 
Recent Action on LAGC Package  
HB 558, 563, Downs, standardizing and simplifying bid forms for public works projects and requiring that if (on public projects) the design estimate at the “design documents phase” determines that the amount budgeted for the project is insufficient to meet his construction estimate, the project will not be let for bid, have cleared their last legislative hurdle – House agreement in technical Senate amendments, is on their way to the governor’s desk for signature.

 

SB 414, Murray, prohibiting political subdivisions from requiring contractors licensed in the major category of municipal-utility construction, from having to have in their employ as a condition of bidding on sewer, water, and drainage work, a certified Class IV Operator, has been signed into law by Governor Jindal.  Act 421

 

SB 437, Walsworth, increasing the threshold under which change orders must be approved by the Legislative Joint Budget Committee, to $100,000, has been passed by the legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.
  


Licensing Board Addresses Local Licensing  
HB 556, Arnold, which was designed to address the issue of some local public bodies requiring electrical and mechanical workers put the sole responsibility for licensing same with the Licensing Board for Contractors, was amended by Senator Donahue, with language added to ensure that the law would not be construed to limit the authority of a general contractor, from being required to be licensed as a mechanical contractor.  Under the bill, statewide mechanical and electrical contractors performing work in excess of $10,000 (currently $50,000) will be licensed by the Board.  Passed both Houses and awaits the governor’s signature.
  


Read This If You're On ANY Board or Commission: Legislature Addresses Ethics "Unintended Consequences  
SB 718, Martiny, addressed “unintended consequences” of legislation enacted during the earlier “ethics” special session.  Under the prior legislation, every member of a board or commission would be required to file a disclosure statement each year, containing a broad range of financial information under Tier 2 (same as elected officials).  Concerns were made clear that many of these volunteers would resign their positions than be required to provide this sort of information.  SB 718, by conference committee report, moves MOST boards and commissions into a new tier 2.1, with less restrictive disclosure, though disclosure reports will still be required.  If you are on a board or commission that expends more than $10,000, whether of the state or the creation of any local governing body, there is a good chance that you are required to report..  YOU MUST MAKE YOUR DECISION BY JUNE 30, AND NOTIFY THE BOARD OFFICIALLY BY JUNE 30, or you will be required to file a report for 2008 regardless of your resignation.  Details:  all must report, on both themselves and on their spouses.  Financial information is only required if you or your spouse is the recipient of income from any public contract or source, or a business of which you or your spouse has a ten percent or more interest in a business.  In that instance you must report the source and amount of the income, and income is defined.  Please understand that this report is not a legal opinion, and you should consult with attorney if you have any legal questions.  Act 472

 

SB 499, Crowe, cures a serious “unintended consequence”, also of the prior “ethics” session.  Under the definition of lobbyist, as interpreted by the Board of Ethics, a businessman who contacts his legislator about legislation of concern would have to register as a lobbyist.  As a result of the ruling, LAGC didn’t initiate its “Grass Roots Network” during this just completed session, not wishing to have a member inadvertently violate the law.  A “lobbyist” is either a person who is employed or engaged for compensation to act in a representative capacity for the purpose of lobbying if lobbying constitutes one of the principal dues of employment; or a person who acts in a representative capacity and makes an expenditure.  The key is “principal duty” which is any duty which is expected to account for twenty percent or more of a person’s time in a given year in fulfilling the terms of his engagement in performing the responsibilities of his employment.  In other words if one is engaged and one of his duties is to lobby, and he expends twenty percent of his time fulfilling those duties, and/or if he expends money   


Money Bills Passed  
HB 1, Fannin, the much amended and negotiated general appropriations bill now awaits the governor’s signature, and possible line item vetoes of some allocations.  At the end of the session, the bottom line on the spending bill is that it amounted to $29.9 billion.  The House took the recommendations of the administration, which exceeded the budget of the Blanco administration, and pared it down by $119 million, cutting spending on enhancements added by the prior administration and this administration.  Their thinking was that though the state is “flush” with resources primarily from oil revenues, recovery, and corporate and personal income tax resources, now is the time to stop additional spending.  The Senate, and administration, however, restored much of the House cuts, primarily in highed ed and healthcare programs.


The decidedly lean HB 2, Greene, the state capital outlay bill, was passed and amounts to $4.9 billion for 08-09.  A concerted effort was made to hold the line and cull projects because of the over-extension (by $1.4 billion) of the prior year.  It would take four years to erase the backlog of projects authorized under Priority 5, but for the legislature and Facility Planning culling some of the projects from this year’s wish list.  Still, many are talking about utilizing some of the anticipated surplus at the end of the year, to further reduce the backlog.  Now the governor may line-item veto individual projects from the passed bill.


SB 808, Marioneaux, an effort to bring some sanity to the broken capital outlay system, after it was learned that the prior administration and legislature had over-committed cash lines of credit to the tune of $1.4 billion (with loads of local projects), was passed in the last moments of the session.  It is a “compromise” between the administration and the House, which wanted more independence over which projects were sent to the Bond Commission.  The administration wanted to maintain its current control.  At the end of the day, the Joint Capitol Outlay Committee will make recommendations to the Division of Administration, which will then send its lists of projects on to the Bond Commission.  The Office of Facility Planning is charged with developing a priority system, and rules for feasibility of projects, and the four “money” legislative committees have oversight on the rules.  Local projects are limited to twenty-five percent of bond capacity, unless there is a match by the non-state entity of twenty-five percent, or the DOA commissioner determines it to be an emergency, or the projects of a non-state entity has demonstrated its inability to provide a local match.  Muddled; more work to be done.
  

Let's Look At Workforce Training Once Again  
Several years ago, I learned that Louisiana was spending a total of $700 million on workforce training.  I was asking myself "where".  HB 1104, Tucker, the administration’s revamp of workforce training service delivery system and Department of Labor, has been passed and awaits the governor’s signature. All job training, educational programs will fall under the “Louisiana Workforce Commission”.  The eighteen existing local workforce boards around the state are charged with addressing workforce issues in their regions.  If you have an issue or needs regarding workforce training, you will go to the local board.  This is going to take real involvement in local areas by business people to make it work.  Stay tuned.
  
 
Infastructure Funding Plays Waiting Game  
After the administration decided that it would "stay neutral" on the WHIP legislation shifting one-time surplus oil revenue money into transporation (after amending the bill to provide for more match on coastal restoration), Senator Dupre's SB 21 was dead for the session.  At the same time, the administration said "nyet to shifting DOTD employee health care and retirement benefits to the general fund.  However, they did continue to fund state police traffic control through the general fund, rather than TTF.  We are going to have to continue in our efforts to convince the administration to provide long-term, sustaining funding for the state's transportation needs.  In the meantime, we will work hard to ensure that at the end of the year, there will be a hefty surplus and that transportation needs will be at the forefront of one-time funding.

In the meantime, two road-related funding issues did advance.  They are the following:

HB 420, Gallot, a constitutional amendment that re-allocates severance taxes  on oil and natural gas, to increase the allocation to parishes where the oil and gas is extracted, to $2.85 million (currently $850,000).  The argument by the author for the legislation is to increase the sharing of severance taxes to offset the increased traffic and destruction of roads in the areas.  At least half of the increase, under the amendment will have to go to transportation needs in those areas.   Revenues resulting from extraction in the Atchafalaya Basin, in the amount of 50% shall be reserved for basin projects.  Thirty parishes benefit from the severance tax sharing plan, though it is anticipated that only the top 18 producing parishes will see the full benefit of the increase.  It will be phased in beginning in 2009.  The bill has passed both Houses, and will go to the voters in November.


SB 367, Dupre, et al., providing for the comprehensive coastal protection plan, and the powers and duties of the CPRA.  In each year, no more than ten percent of the federal revenues generated from OCS revenues may be used for infrastructure directly impacted by coastal wetlands losses, however.  In other words other infrastructure issues, such as LA 1 would qualify for funding.  This has caused some rift within the coastal restoration community, some of whom wish to apply ALL monies to restoration, when indeed, transportation grid issues play a serious role in mitigation also.  There is a design-build authorization component in the legislation.  The bill awaits the governor’s signature.
  
 
Other Last Minute Issues  
SB 386, Hebert, Military – which would give additional rights to active military personnel, was opposed by LAGC initially because it reduced the legal drinking age to 18.  That would have resulted in Louisiana losing $27 million in federal highway funds.  Senator Hebert agreed to remove the drinking provision, and the bill was passed.


HB 1151, Gisclair, double fines for speeding in safety zones, has passed both houses and has been signed by the governor.  LAGC supported the legislation.  Act 168.
 

HB 1387, P. Smith, which would impose hefty fines on any business that knowingly, intentionally misclassifies employees to avoid unemployment taxes, payroll taxes, etc., though much watered down throughout its legislative trail, was killed by the Senate Finance Committee.