(The Center Square) — “The excitement and anticipation is palpable” as Louisiana prepares for a Republican trifecta that will align the political focus in Baton Rouge for the first time in eight years.
“As I talk with lawmakers, both newly elected and those reelected, the excitement and anticipation is palpable,” Daniel Erspamer, CEO of the Pelican Institute, told The Center Square. “I think lawmakers have a heavy lift ahead of them, but also a mandate from voters to do big things.”
That was evident with the election of hard-charging Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in October, along with an expanded Republican supermajority in both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature.
In addition, voters put Republicans at the helm of every statewide office for the first time since 2015, providing a unique chance to move toward policies that promote free enterprise, economic opportunities, and limited government.
“Big transformational ideas, ultimately that’s what we expect from this Legislature and this governor,” Erspamer said.
Louisiana’s Comeback Plan from the Pelican Institute, along with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s LA23 Strategic Plan and others center largely on education and workforce development, improvements for the state’s tax and business climate, and reducing regulatory barriers that have hindered the state’s growth for decades.
“We have been getting extremely positive … feedback, up to and including some (lawmakers) saying ‘Can I sponsor a bill, please?'” Jim Patterson, LABI’s VP of government relations, told The Center Square. “There’s clearly an enthusiasm to changing the direction of the state.”
Conversations with the incoming administration have been productive, as well, Patterson said.
“They’re clearly interested in where we’re wanting to take the state from a business and economic development standpoint,” he said.
LABI members are focused on issues like better aligning workforce needs with education programs, reworking business incentives to bolster economic development and attract businesses, improving public safety, enticing more insurers to state, and tax reforms designed to grow the economy.
“It’s going to require some pretty strong and aggressive changes. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing and expect there’s going to be … an impact,” Patterson said. In the past, “there’s never been the will to make it happen, and I think we’re finally there.”
While some of the bigger financial changes, such as potential tax reforms, will not come until the 2025 fiscal session, Erspamer suggests there’s plenty of ways lawmakers can lay the groundwork for a brighter future in 2024.
“Our number one priority (for the next session) is educational freedom, and ensuring through education savings or scholarship accounts every student has educational opportunities that are best for them,” he said. “Personalizing the education system is something that has the biggest impact now and for the future of our state.”
The Pelican Institute and others will also look to lawmakers to “evaluate the state’s safety net systems to ensure (they) engage with our workforce systems,” he said.
While enthusiasm is high among conservatives for 2024, translating that into policy wins will rest in part on lawmakers’ “willingness to go to constituents to make the case for changes that need to be made,” Patterson said.
The overarching message, he said, is simple: “It’s going to be good change that’s going to make your life better.”