Local lawmakers assess recently completed special session

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Louisiana lawmakers ended their 30-day special legislative session June 30 after sending Gov. John Bel Edwards a $34 billion-plus state budget and legislation aimed at lowering car insurance rates.

The spending plan approved unanimously by the House and Senate uses federal coronavirus aid to stop cuts. 

Members of the legislature’s Republican majority argued that the budget and business tax breaks passed will help the state with the ongoing pandemic.

“While COVID-19 created a challenge for individuals, businesses, and governments on every level, the legislature worked tirelessly to help move Louisiana forward,” said Thomas Pressly, Louisiana State Representative, District 6. “During session, the legislature passed bills to, among other things, balance the budget, create a reserve in case more money is needed in the upcoming fiscal year, create liability protections so our economy and schools can open again, and create a fund for businesses to apply for grants to obtain CARES Act funding.” 

Lawmakers were also able to avoid serious budget battles due to the influx of federal dollars. 

“We still managed to cut our State General Fund by roughly $600 million. That is something that no one is talking about,” said Dodie Horton, State Representative, District 9.

“The State General Fund is the pot of money that the legislature has the most control over. This proves that we can cut our spending without throwing seniors out of nursing homes or causing major disruptions in the lives of our citizens.” 

Horton also noted projects in the Capital Outlay Bill.

“For the 1st time in history, no projects in our Capital Outlay Bill were vetoed. By only focusing on roads and bridges, clean water, levees, and flood mitigation; we were able to save $105 million dollars in Capital Outlay. We then took that $105 million and established a savings fund for future Capital Outlay projects or to help us plug future budget holes,” Horton said.

“We’ve finally gotten funding to improve the infrastructure in Haughton around the development across from the Pilot Station. The road improvements will allow that development to begin growing again. Between that development and the Barksdale/I-20 connection, Haughton is ready to start leveraging it’s growth potential!,” she added.

Lawmakers also considered multiple proposals to reduce insurance  premiums by making it harder to sue for car accidents, saving insurance companies money. Supporters of tort reform have long argued that Louisiana’s litigious climate has fueled the state’s second-highest-in-the-nation auto insurance premiums.

“The 2020 legislative session and the special session which followed immediately thereafter was a success for Louisiana. Our number one issue going into the session was tort reform and working to lower insurance rates,” Pressly said. “The legislature worked to create a collaborative, bipartisan bill which addresses that issue. I am happy to hear that Governor Edwards has agreed to sign Speaker Clay Schnexneyder’s HB 57, which is a common sense bill that will help improve Louisiana’s legal climate.”

One bill that did not make it on this session’s Senate floor, but was successfully transformed into a Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, was SB 471. SB 471 created a task force to study Log Truck and Agricultural Vehicle Liability Insurance.

“I authored and co-authored a number of bills to help my district but none more important than SB 471, The Louisiana Timber Transportation and Safety Act. This bill didn’t make it to the floor of the Senate but we successfully transformed it into Senate Concurrent Resolution 3 which created a task force to study Log Truck and Agricultural Vehicle Liability Insurance and report to the full Senate next session. Liability insurance for commercial trucks is at a crisis point and my task force will try to contribute to a solution,” said Senator Robert M. Mills, District 36.

The special session began June 1, immediately after lawmakers adjourned a regular session shortened by the coronavirus outbreak.