(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Legislature approved a $6.2 billion multiyear construction budget as the 2021 regular session came to a close.
While in past years legislators have overstuffed House Bill 2 with more projects than the state could pay for, this year's capital outlay bill is under capacity for the second consecutive year, Franklin Republican Sen. Bret Allain said. That means projects in the two high-priority categories, usually called "P1" and "P2," will get funded, he said.
Other bills lawmakers approved Thursday and sent to the governor during the session’s frenetic final day include:
• House Bill 38: Would require school systems to post financial information on state government’s Louisiana Checkbook website;
• House Bill 498: Would prohibit government entities from distinguishing between people who have or have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 until the federal government grants full permanent approval to the vaccine. The bill contains an exception for health services;
• House Bill 149: Calls for changing the current law that allows either chamber of the Legislature to cancel an emergency order, which a district court has found unconstitutional, to require both chambers. Also would give the Legislature the power to amend an emergency order, a power it does not currently have.
Would become effective in 2024 after Gov. John Bel Edwards has left office;
• House Bill 597: Would prohibit any governmental entity from doing business with any company unless the contract stipulates the company does not "discriminate" against firearm sellers, manufacturers or trade associations, even if that company provides the best deal for taxpayers;
• House Bill 705: Increases penalties for companies that misclassify their employees as independent contractors and establishes criteria to distinguish employees from contractors, while allowing a company that gets compliant with the law within 60 days to escape penalties;
• House Bill 7: Calls for exempting diapers and feminine hygiene products from state sales tax. Would save consumers about $11 million per year that otherwise would go into the state general fund;
• House Bill 445: Would make the state's sound investor tax credit refundable. The program is capped at $2.16 million per year;
• House Bill 678: Establishes a tax credit for companies that hire former prisoners who are on work release. The Legislative Fiscal Office said the cost could be about $1.2 million the first year but more likely would be lower. Also extends the sunset on the existing Earned Income Tax Credit from 2025 to 2030.