Legislative Turnover’s Impact in address to the Livingston Chamber

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February 22, 2019
Business owners, stakeholders and legislative candidates attended the kickoff to LABI’s annual legislative tour, with a presentation by Stephen Waguespack, LABI President and CEO. The tour’s first stop was in Livingston Parish on Tuesday, February 19th. This event of the state chamber of commerce was hosted by our parish wide chamber, the Livingston Parish Chamber.
The presentation, entitled “the Economy and Elections,” focused on the upcoming elections and the role they will play in the direction of Louisiana. There are sixty-four open seats between the house and senate due to term limits. Some will seek the higher house, including Livingston Parish State Representative, Rogers Pope, who will vie for Senator Erdey’s position, who is termed out this year.  
Those elected now have a chance of being in office for twelve years putting them in a position to redraw district lines for not one, but two census cycles. Among those parishes facing 
double-digit growth and the opportunity for additional representatives are Livingston Parish with 11%, Tangipahoa with 13% and St. Tammany with 14%, setting the I-12 corridor for a key representative area.  Ascension Parish also has double-digit growth with 21%. 
According to the LSU Public Policy Survey, economic issues are 
the top concern for Louisiana respondents with budget, education and political corruption following. In another survey outlining the states with the adult participation in the workforce, Louisiana ranks in the bottom 10 with only 58.7% of adults in the workforce. 
Waguespack spoke about a constitutional convention as one of the tasks state government needs to accomplish to make the Louisiana economy competitive. Additionally, Waguespack said ITEP needs a simpler process, judicial reform and healthcare 
and tax reforms need to be taken seriously. If these problems are not addressed, Waguespack reminded the crowd, it could be 12 years before a new wave of political leaders is elected into the capitol.
For ITEP, the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, Louisiana requires industry moving to or expanding in the state to navigate a series of state and local processes. LABI offers their suggestions to keep the state competitive with our largest competitor, Texas, by either keeping the decisions at the local level or state level, but not both.
Louisiana is ranked by the US Chamber as one of the “Top Ten Judicial Hell Holes” in the country.  Judicial reform, which Waguespack pointed out, impacts everyone in the room.  Auto insurance rates in Louisiana have always been a sore subject in household budgets and the judicial climate in Louisiana is one of the key factors in those rates according to Waguespack.  Louisiana rates are 56% above the national average. 

Solutions offered by LABI include giving citizens a right to a jury trial, the current threshold is $50,000. Another is allowing jurors to hear all evidence in a trial. LABI introduced legislation last year that would allow jurors to know whether those involved in an accident were wearing a seat belt and the legislation failed. 
Waguespack urged business owners to become involved in local and state policy. “This year will be a huge year and if 
business isn’t involved in policy it will be huge in a bad way.”
Waguespack said there are several reasons that businesses are uniquely positioned to create positive change, further urging them to get involved in their local chamber’s governmental affairs program. Real world examples of how problems affect their constituents resonate with politicians. “Some elected officials have told me that the issues I was warning them about for years became real to them when business owners from their own district met with them and explained the problem from their perspective,” said Waguespack.
Through LABI’s PACs and Free Enterprise Institute, LABI is recruiting and offering candidate boot camps to learn more about the process. 
Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce President & CEO April Wehrs told attendees that the Chamber can be a tool to begin to influence policy and collaborate with our lawmakers. “One of the purposes of the advocacy program of the chamber is to provide a collective voice to local businesses.”
About the Chamber: The Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce is the largest and longest standing business organization in Livingston Parish. We represent the business community and coordinate community initiatives and programs which make Livingston Parish better. The chamber is 501C6 nonprofit association serving Livingston Parish and each of its municipalities and communities.
April Wehrs, President | CEO