BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (KALB) – While the Legislature and Governor John Bel Edwards aren’t always on the same page when it comes to legislative priorities each session, it seems that two years of challenges like natural disasters and COVID-19 have exposed common ground.
A statewide legislative focus point is providing better protection for residents after natural disasters and the insurance struggles that follow.
One of the points of focus statewide is providing better protection for residents after natural disasters and the insurance fights that follow.
“It’s not like Louisiana gets a storm once every hundred years,” said Senator Louie Bernard. “We go through this every year. So by now we should have a lot of these things remedied.”
Many Louisiana residents are still rebuilding two years after Hurricane Laura and nine months after Hurricane Ida. With no additional federal disaster aid in the 2022 Federal Appropriations Bill, there is still an estimated $2 billion in unmet need for the 2020-2022 storms, including the February 2021 ice storm, which devastated multiple daycare centers from central Louisiana. So far, the state has only received $600 million in aid for Hurricane Laura recovery efforts.
Regardless of party lines, lawmakers want to hold insurance companies accountable.
District 29 Senator Jay Luneau introduced a bill targeting insurance adjusters. Luneau recalled a case where his client had 22 different adjusters from across the country for a claim. Therefore, if a person wishes to file a claim in court, it can be a very expensive process.
“I have a bill that says, ‘If an insurance company uses an adjuster out of state, they must provide that person in Louisiana to testify and testify at trial,’” Luneau said. “So, it’s a fairness issue. So if the insurance company, I’m not saying you can’t use adjusters from out of state. We would prefer that you use people who are employed within the state of Louisiana. They did that for decades and suddenly they don’t do it anymore. But hopefully this bill will encourage them to do that, and if not, then they, the person making the claim on your home, won’t have to bear the cost of doing all of that.”
District 19 Senator Gary Smith introduced a bill to require that an insurance claim be handled by a maximum of three adjusters.
However, there is concern that implementing too many regulations on insurance companies will deter them from doing business in the state. So the legislature will have to strike the right balance to ensure that doesn’t happen.
In addition to insurance reform, legislators in every region of the state are fighting to receive funding for infrastructure projects in their districts.
Legislators from every region of the state are scrambling to allocate funds for infrastructure projects in their districts.
The state has received $1.1 billion in federal infrastructure funding, including $500 million dedicated to water and sewer improvements. Those funds will have to be distributed among thousands of local governments.
The need for broadband expansion is felt throughout rural central Louisiana. The passage of HB648 in the 2021 session established an opportunity for change in those areas. The bill, authored by District 28 Representative Daryl Deshotel, provides one-time money through the Underserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO) program.
The first $90 million in prizes will go out at the end of this month, followed by another round of applications later in the year.
“We had 200,000 children who did not participate in distance learning due to lack of broadband access,” Deshotel said. “We have communities that want to participate in our digital economy here in Louisiana that can’t participate in the digital economy because they don’t have access. So I think it’s a foundation for us to build a better Louisiana by having this infrastructure in place.”
The Central Louisiana delegation hopes that some money will go toward repairs to parish roads.
That was also a focus last session when representatives passed a bill that would redirect tax money collected on cars to road improvements.
Highway 28 East is already linked to that bill. It’s also in the funding bill for this year, and District 27 Rep. Mike Johnson says they’re looking to widen the road from Libuse to Holloway, making it a four-lane road. Johnson said that effort will help in the national effort to expand Interstate 14.
“By making the improvements to 28 now, we increase our chances of achieving full and faster development of I-14 as an interstate,” Johnson said. “So not only does it help our people right now, or as soon as we can get it built, but it also helps us in planning for I-14 in the future 10 years from now.”
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