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Louisiana Special Legislative Session

Final Report

July 2020

The Louisiana Legislature convened on March 9 for its Regular Session, recessed after a week of work due to COVID-19 related shutdown, reconvened on March 31 to accept some legislation, then adjourned on June 1. The Legislature then called themselves back into special session June 1, which adjourned June 30. The primary goal of the special session was to pass a state budget, which is constitutionally required to be done by the end of the fiscal year (June 30); they pulled it off under the wire.

The special session of the Louisiana Legislature ended on time on June 30, just in time. The Legislature was required to pass a state operating budget, which it failed to do in the regular session due to disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. It was an odd session; since the Capitol remained mostly empty, there was little time for the Capitol crowd to get to know the new legislators. Usually the Senate serves as a backstop for the governor, but this go-round, the Senate president and House speaker worked in lockstep to pass a budget and legal reform measures. 

The budget totaled $35.2 billion, including federal aid to make up for revenue lost by the pandemic. The plan is basically “standstill,” even with cuts of $24 million from state departments. It also did not end up spending $58 million originally slated for state employees’ pay raises, due to members’ concerns about handing out pay raises due to business interruption and unemployment, but retained spending for the TOPS program, K-12 education and social services. The plan did reflect nearly $25 million in business tax breaks and extensions of existing tax breaks for the (now current) fiscal year in an effort to restart the state’s stalled economy, according to financial estimates. But in some instances, the financial impact of the bills is not entirely clear, and some of the proposals are back-loaded, so they will cost more in later years. The tax breaks, with extensions included, are estimated to total at least $230 million in lost tax collections over five years, but could cost much more, according to fiscal analyses. Republicans disagreed with the financial estimates, suggesting the state will gain tax revenue through economic stimulus.

The Revenue Estimating Conference, the body tasked with determining the amount of money the state has to spend, estimated a $1 billion decrease due to the pandemic, but did not officially adjust the estimate. It will reconvene in the fall to adjust the revenue forecast. The Legislature is expected to go back into another special session in October to make necessary budget adjustments and possibly receive more federal aid. The budget includes $32.5 million in unclaimed property revenue, which has been in conflict since the state treasurer has been withholding the money from the state budget that the Legislature has fought to include. A constitutional amendment in November will decide the issue once and for all; it proposes a fund to earmark unclaimed property funds.

Gov. John Bel Edwards indicated in his post-session press conference that he, like many legislators, anticipates being back in session in October. At that time, it is fully expected they will be dealing with post-COVID economic difficulties, and cuts in state government will be necessary. Following is legislation of interest that passed the process (click the link provided to view all bill information):


HB 5 by Rep. Joseph Marino, I-Baton Rouge

Provides for the emergency suspension of time limitations in certain civil proceedings

The proposed law provides for the suspension of prescriptive, peremptive, and abandonment periods by the supreme court in the event of a declaration of emergency by the governor.

Status: Signed by the governor – ACT 3 

Click below to view full information on the bill:

https://legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?s=201ES&b=HB5&sbi=y

 

HB 55 by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Pineville

Provides relative to evidence of causation from nonuse of a safety belt

The proposed law authorizes the introduction of evidence for failure to wear a safety belt in order to establish comparative negligence or go mitigate damages.

Status: VETOED

Click below to view full information on the bill:

https://legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?s=201ES&b=HB55&sbi=y

 

HB 57 by Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales

Enacts the Civil Justice Reform Act of 2020

The proposed law creates the Civil Justice Reform Act of 2020 which reduces the threshold for a jury trial to $10,000, reforms direct action, repeals the seatbelt gag order and contains some collateral source language. It does not include changes to the prescriptive period or mandatory rate reductions. 

Status: Signed by the governor – ACT 57

Click below to view full information on the bill:

https://legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?s=201ES&b=HB57&sbi=y

 

HB 59 by Rep. Buddy Mincey, R-Denham Springs

Provides relative to limitations of liability for public school districts during declared states of emergency and public health emergencies

The proposed law provides relative to immunity from civil liability for public school systems during states of emergencies or public health emergencies for infectious disease. 

Status: Signed by the governor – ACT 9

Click below to view full information on the bill:

https://legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?s=201ES&b=HB59&sbi=y

 

SB 9 by Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell

Provides relative to safety belts.

The proposed law repeals present law that prohibits consideration of the failure to wear a safety belt in violation of law as evidence of comparative negligence in any action to recover damages arising out of the ownership, common maintenance, or operation of a motor vehicle.

Status: Signed by the governor – ACT 36

Click below to view full information on the bill:

https://legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?s=201ES&b=SB9&sbi=y

 

SCR 3 by Sen. Robert Mills, R-Minden

Creates the Task Force on Log Truck and Agriculture Vehicle Liability Insurance

The proposed resolution Creates the Task Force on Log Truck and Agriculture Vehicle Liability Insurance to study the imitations on insurance options and the impediments to affordable automobile liability insurance for log trucks and agriculture vehicles and to make recommendations with respect to reducing or eliminating those limitations and impediments to the legislature no later than February 15, 2021.

Status: Enrolled

Click below to view full information on the bill:

https://legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?s=201ES&b=SCR3&sbi=y

 

 

Louisiana Legislative Session

The final legislative track from the regular session includes the act numbers on the legislation the governor signed, as well as the notice of vetoes and mention of bills that did not make it through the process. 
 
The other report is the final results of the special session just completed. We will have a followup report from this session when the governor signs/vetoes or allows to become law this legislation. 
 
To say both sessions were unusual in these times of coronavirus would be an understatement. It would not be an exaggeration to say we have never seen this many pieces of legal reform legislation introduced in any session over the past 37 years of which we are aware. 
 
Most significantly, a number of liability protections in connection with COVID-19 and other emergencies were passed. Also, while we were less than completely successful in totally changing the complexion of the legal climate in Louisiana, there was definitely movement in the right direction. For that, we thank the Louisiana Legislature and all of you who made phone calls, wrote emails or otherwise contacted lawmakers to express the importance of these issues. 
 
There is more work to be done, and we look forward to working with you and the Legislature toward the next steps. 
 
Karen Eddlemon
Executive Director

Jim Harris
Communications Director

Louisiana Coalition for Common Sense
 

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