Nathan Stubbs

LABI issues low legislative grades

by Nathan Stubbs

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry has given the legislature low marks for its three sessions in 2008. Last week, LABI issued its 2008 state legislative report cards . Grades were down significantly from recent years, and only three Acadiana lawmakers received passing marks from the influential state business lobby.

“I wouldn’t say that we were disasppointed,” says LABI Vice President of Political Action Ginger Sawyer. “I think the grades were probably down to more of an average of what it would be over multiple years because we had such a variety of issues this year. We had issues that were things that we were advancing, working with the governor on, and then we had some defensive positions."

Notably, LABI took stands against three insurance measures that the legislature passed overwhelmingly. The bills mandated health insurance cover both prothetic devices and services and medical services for children with autism. Despite the low scores, Sawyer notes the legislature passed some of LABI's top priorities, including expiditing sales tax eliminations on business and the new labor department overhaul.

LABI’s Political Action Committee automatically endorses legislators with four year ratings of 75 or higher, that is, those legislators who vote with the LABI agenda at least 75 percent of the time. For 2008, only 25 of 105 reps and 9 of 39 senators had at least a 75 percent rating. LABI’s two highest rated senators were New Orleans’ Ann Duplesis, a Democrat, and Lafayette Republican Mike Michot, both of whom received an 89. (LABI did not take a stance on the widely unpopular legislative pay raise issue, of which Michot was a leading proponent). Sawyer says LABI plans to double down on efforts to school legislators, particularly the many newly-elected members, with failing grades.

“One of the things I told my board last week,” Sawyer says. “was these legislators came in in January, they had session in February, they had session in March, then they started again in the regular session and we didn’t have the opportunity to work with some of these people, particularly the freshmen, on helping them to understand the historical importance of some of these issues and some of the things that go into making some of these decisions."

"So i think it’s going to be incumbent upon us," Sawyer continues, "and on our members and the public at large to try to help these people who don’t have any experience in some of the issues and we’re going to have to take up the slack between now and the next regular session to work with them to help straighten out that learning curve a little bit.”