FILE - Louisiana State Capitol (House of Representatives)

The Louisiana House of Representatives in the state capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

House gives final passage to $700 million infrastructure bill

The House of Representatives on Tuesday sent the governor a bill that redirects nearly $700 million in anticipated state settlement money to roads and bridges. Rep. Tanner Magee, the bill’s sponsor, said the funding stream would allow the state to acquire more than $1 billion in federal and local matching funds.

The bill funds several major “shovel-ready” projects, including some that have been stalled for decades, along with $40 million for rural roads and bridges. Under current law, the $53.3 million annual payment from the state’s Deepwater Horizon litigation settlement goes to the state’s “rainy day” fund and trust funds dedicated to health care and the elderly.

Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, complained about a lack of major projects in northeast Louisiana, and Belle Chasse Republican Rep. Chris Leopold questioned funding for a ferry in southwest Louisiana, saying he thought the state was “out of the ferry business.” But when the House voted 90-11 to adopt the Senate’s amendments, many members applauded.

Final food identification bill sent to the governor

Concurrence on House amendments gave senators their last chance to argue about Senate Bill 152, Delhi Democratic Sen. Francis Thompson’s bill that seeks to regulate labeling of alternative versions of common foods. Cauliflower rice or plant-based burgers could not legally be labeled as rice or beef, for example.

Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, at first confused it with Thompson’s Senate Bill 39, a similar measure targeting milk alternatives both bodies already have approved. Lawmakers also have approved a bill requiring restaurants to inform diners when serving foreign shrimp and crawfish.  

“This seems like an undue burden on manufacturers in a competitive market,” Morrell said. Food producers are more likely to ignore Louisiana than create special labels for the state and the handful of others with similar laws, he said, meaning constituents could have trouble finding products they want.

“This is about truth in labeling,” Thompson said. “Every [agriculture industry] interest in the state agrees with this.”

The Senate voted 31-7 to concur with the House amendments and approve the bill.

House votes to study their studies

Louisiana lawmakers frequently call for studies of various issues. Critics say most of those reports end up gathering dust on a shelf.

But what is the taxpayer cost of all those studies? The House on Tuesday voted to ask the legislative fiscal office to find out.

Rep. Morris joked about offering an amendment to House Resolution 227 to study the cost of the study of studies. Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, tacked on a real amendment seeking to examine the accuracy of the fiscal projections attached to legislation over the past four years.

The House and Senate have approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 96 urging the Revenue Estimating Conference to include fees and statutory dedications in its long-range forecast, much like the REC already does with general-fund revenue.

Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.