The world of politics is dominated by catch phrases, sound bites and talking points intended to promote a candidate and convince the electorate of a certain cause. No party or candidate is immune to this infliction and everyone running for office these days unfortunately genuflects at this sacred altar of spin. Polls and focus groups are used to craft persuasive messages that are turned into speeches, commercials and handouts.
All of this machinery is used to make life easier for the candidate, but rarely makes it easier for the electorate to know where the truth lies and what candidate best reflects their views.
In order to make life easier for a voter simply looking for some hard facts, we released our annual legislative scorecard this week to explain the bills we pushed this session, why those bills are important to protect free enterprise and how your legislator voted on those issues. You can find this straightforward, easy-to-understand document at labi.org/scorecard. Feel free to check it out and see for yourself how your legislator voted this session.
This truth in advertising is needed now more than ever thanks to the importance of our upcoming election season. The leaders we next elect will directly determine whether this pending boom is followed by an economic bust similar to what we saw in the 1980s, or if it finally becomes the boom that turns into the type of sustainable growth that will change the face of our state for generations.
The Louisiana business community has made significant and nationally recognized economic strides thus far in 2014, even as opponents to free enterprise fight for traction. Our 2,500 member businesses continue to fight every day on the front lines of the economy and numerous credible sources confirm they are winning this battle on multiple fronts. For the first time in our state’s history, over 2 million Louisianans are employed and we lead the nation in per capita income, export and manufacturing growth.
At LABI, we are 100 percent focused on proposing and advancing an agenda that will help us achieve the type of sustainable growth we have long sought in Louisiana. In order to do so, we must make the smart and bold decisions needed to elevate our economy to new heights.
This past session, we identified three critical steps to ensuring a more competitive business climate and more prosperous future for Louisianans:
Reform a legal climate that has inhibited investment and preyed on our economy for too long;
Improve our ability to provide an educated and trained workforce; and
Guard against new governmental mandates and restrictions that prioritize bureaucratic control over private sector job growth.
This session, the LABI team successfully championed legislation to decrease excessive litigation by delivering a compromise proposal to increase property cleanups and decrease legacy lawsuits; cracking down on runaway contingency fee contracts by state government to make legal contracts more transparent to taxpayers; and slamming the door on efforts by one rogue local levee board to undermine the state’s scientific plan for coastal restoration through a massive lawsuit against employers throughout the state.
We also led the charge on actions to improve our workforce delivery efforts by holding the line on attacks by opponents that would lower educational standards and undermine the accountability system; supporting efforts to improve the relevance and quality of career education programs in high schools; enhancing appropriate technical training opportunities for deserving former offenders; and implementing new partnerships between colleges and industry to develop quality curriculum and graduate more students that meet regional employer demand.
Lastly, we fought against new mandates and burdensome regulations that serve as a disincentive to investment by defeating the creation of state mandated minimum wage bills that would detrimentally impact small businesses and drive up the price of goods and services; unlocking the union stronghold on the state plumbing code thereby bringing competition to the market; and defeating efforts to amend the public bid law in ways that would discourage small business participation.
These victories are part of a longer list of wins accomplished by the business community this year, yet there is still much more work to be done.
While we fought for Louisiana’s business community alongside our members and the employers and families they represent, the Legislature failed to hit the mark on a few points this year. They did not pass sensible lawsuit reforms that would have given citizens a right to a jury trial, halt judge shopping practices prohibited in other states, or put Louisiana regulations on national lawsuit lenders invading our state. These issues must be addressed. Legislators must also stay vigilant on demanding improvement from our educational systems, reducing burdensome mandates and red tape, and ensuring that Louisiana has a tax code and regulatory system that encourages investment.
We know next year will bring new challenges, as well as new opportunities. We are already preparing our agenda for next session and it will once again be focused on one clear and concise goal: to create a competitive market that will help Louisiana achieve the type of sustainable economic growth that will benefit all of our citizens.
Too many people in our state simply assume that boom or bust economic cycles are just a part of Louisiana’s destiny. They confuse the path we have taken in our rear view mirror as the path we must take as we look through our windshield. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our future rests solely in our hands and if we make smart decisions today, we can reap the benefits for years to come.
Check out our LABI scorecard, reflect upon the importance of these issues, and see if your elected officials actually vote when no one is looking as well as they spin when everyone is listening.
Get the facts, learn the issues and help drive the direction we take as a state. We simply can’t get to where we need to go without you.
Stephen Waguespack is the president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.