Legislative Report

Louisiana Legislature Early Update, Feb 9 2016, Sign up for Legislative Action List

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Friends of the environment and public health in Louisiana are looking forward to another eventful year in the Louisiana legislature. The election of John Bel Edwards as governor was a very hopeful sign but his loss of the speakership of the house means potentially hostile chairs and members in many legislative committees that are important to our progress. So we will have to work for good bills and work against some bad bills that we expect to see. The regular session of the 2016 legislature is where we will see bills of concern to us. That session starts Monday, March 14.

Sierra Club Delta Chapter will be working with the Green Army to push bills to protect clean air, clean water and public health, especially from industrial facilities located near Louisiana communities. And we will support good bills like the one already introduced by Rep Gene Reynolds that prohibits the open burning of munitions and waste explosives.

At the same time we will have to play defense against bills generated by lobbyists for big industry and by out of state groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which are aggressive and industry friendly. They seek to remove our protections for clean air, clean water and public health. Examples of such bills pushed in other states that we will have to watch for are 1) bills hostile to limiting carbon emissions from industries and electric generation facilities, 2) state level prohibitions on the freedom of local communities to ban fracking, 3) further cutbacks in tax rebates for clean energy and residential solar installations, and 4) bills that limit our ability to challenge pollutant discharge permits issued by state agencies.

Louisiana Election for Governor - Comparison of Records on the Environment

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Sierra Club Delta Chapter in Louisiana would like for members and friends to know what a comparison of records on the environment between the two candidates for governor looks like. So we have put together this brief description of recent performance.

David Vitter scored 0% on the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) National Environmental Scorecard for 2014. His lifetime score is 5%. In the LCV Senate Special Edition, Feb 2015, David Vitter voted wrong on every legislative issue including Requiring Tar Sands Companies to Pay for Spills, Regulation of Toxic Tar Sands Byproducts, Clean Air Protections for communities living downwind of coal fired power plants, Recognition of Climate Science, Drilling on Public Lands, Exemption of Fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and Reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. http://www.lcv.org/assets/pdf/special-edition-scorecard.pdf

And on issues specific to Louisiana, a few examples:

Louisiana Legislative Update, Status of Environmental Bills from the 2015 Session

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Here is a rundown on some of the bills on environmental issues that were considered during the Louisiana legislative session that ended on June 11, 2015. Despite this being a "fiscal" session and all the attention given to the state's fiscal deficit there were these notable efforts on the environmental front. Sierra Club and allies were actively working for the environment and public health on these issues.

HB 180 by Rep Joe Bouie of New Orleans is a Green Army supported bill that would have prohibited the construction of any pre-K through 12th grade school on property formerly used for the disposal, storage, or deposition of sewage sludge, solid waste, hazardous waste, or oilfield waste. The bill sponsors hoped the bill would become law in time to stop the planned construction of a school on the old Clio Street/Silver City Dump in New Orleans. Monique Harden and with technical help from Wilma Subra of LEAN did a great job of shepherding the bill through successful votes in House Education Committee and the House floor. The bill stalled in Senate Education Committee over concerns that the bill would apply too broadly statewide. The bill was opposed by the New Orleans Recovery School District, Louisiana contractors and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Update On Oct 21, 2015 it was announced that the Recovery School District (RSD) has cancelled its controversial plan to land bank the Cohen High School building and relocate the students, teachers, and staff to a proposed new school on a portion of the Clio Street/Silver City Dump, where the Booker T. Washington School (BTW) was built
in the 1940s. This is a 180 degree turn of events which was forced by the opposition of Walter L Cohen school alumni and many local citizens groups including Sierra Club. This was the reason for proposing HB 180 and represents a victory of citizens over an unresponsive school system bureaucracy. See the full statement attached to this legislative report.

La. Green Army Legislative Wrap Up with Russel Honore - New Orleans Group of the Sierra Club June Meeting

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Orleans Sierra Club presents: Lt. General Russel Honore will speak about the Louisiana state legislative session, what it means for the environment and how we can continue to build a stronger, more interconnected movement here in Louisiana.

Lt. Gen. Honore is famous for his service to New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and now for spearheading the Green ARMY that is working to fight for the environment in Louisiana.

This month we are in a new location, the First Unitarian Universalist Church on 4903 Jefferson Avenue, New Orleans. (corner of Claiborne and Jefferson.)

Foster Campbell tells it like it is - Best Louisiana legislative update

FOSTER CAMPBELL
LOUISIANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER
27 May 2015

Letters to the Editor
The Baton Rouge Advocate

Louisiana will suffer chronic financial problems until we break the grip of the major oil companies on the Legislature and Governor.

An umbilical cord connects our legislators and Governor to Big Oil. That cord may feed the politicians, but Louisiana continues to rank poorly in educational, environmental and economic wellbeing.

Week Six Legislative Update

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Week six of the 2015 regular legislative session begins with one bit of great news on the environmental front. HB 597 (Bishop, regarding environmental self audit privileges) was likely the worst environmental bill of the session. At last week's hearing of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, Bishop withdrew his bill from the agenda. Given the late stage of the session and the pounding Bishop has taken from the Green Army, LEAN, the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, the bill is likely dead for the session.

Legislative Alert – Please help to stop House Bill 597, the Louisiana Regulatory Compliance Escape Act

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May 18, 2015 Update - HB 597 appears to be dead for the 2015 legislative session. Congratulations and thanks to everyone for your help to keep this bad bill from going anywhere.

The Louisiana Regulatory Compliance Escape Act (our name for it) is the stinker bill of the 2015 legislative session. HB 597 by Representative Stuart Bishop of Lafayette is the latest attempt by industry to get around monitoring and enforcement of environmental standards. The bill would allow an industry to conduct a voluntary audit of compliance with environmental laws and regulations and would protect the industry from having to disclose any information during the audit. The proposed law further provides that no penalty can be imposed by a state entity for violations discovered during a voluntary environmental audit.

HB 597 prevents public agencies or citizens from finding out anything once a facility decides to conduct a voluntary audit and provides extended exemption from compliance with regulations or imposition of penalties.

Invitation to GreenArmy Lobby Day, Thursday, May 14, 2015

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All are invited to Green Army Legislative Lobby Day on Thursday, May 14. We will be at the Louisiana State Capitol on that day starting at 9:00 am. Green Army organizations will be doing table displays, will be presenting information on important legislation, and will be coordinating meetings with legislators. We will have copies of the GreenArmy legislative report card and bullet points on important bills that GreenArmy is supporting for this legislative session. We will be providing opportunities for Louisiana residents to meet with legislators at the State Capitol. All are invited to contact GreenArmy in advance to arrange meetings with legislators, or to just show up and show support.

Legislative Update Apr 26, 2015

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NOTES FROM THE SESSION:

In more than 30 years of lobbying I have never seen a legislative session quite like the one that began on April 13th. It is an odd year, 2015, which means a shortened fiscal session limited to a sixty day time span during which the legislature cannot convene more than 45 days. This session must end no later than June 13th.

Louisiana’s constitution allows legislators to introduce up to five bills on any topic, but given the state’s dire fiscal situation—surely the worst since 1987 and possibly, with a $1.6-$1.8 billion deficit to be closed, the worst in modern times—money issues are clearly foremost in the minds of legislators. Further complicating matters, Louisiana legislators, except for those who are term limited, face reelection this fall.

And finally, with more power and authority vested in him than the governor of any other state, Governor Jindal has all but checked out to focus his attention on a presumed bid for the White House. Jindal’s parting words to legislators on the opening day of the session were, “Good Luck.” As if his absence were not problematic enough, Jindal has made it clear that he will veto any measure that is not revenue neutral. The legislature, then, can raise taxes or fees, but they must be offset with tax and/or fee reductions elsewhere. If this holds it can only mean further cuts in government programs that many people believe cannot sustain further cuts, especially in the fields of higher education and health care.

The Attack on Residential Solar in the 2015 Louisiana Legislative Session

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The attack on tax credits for residential solar installations in Louisiana continues in earnest with the 2015 legislative session which started on April 13. Armed with the State’s self inflicted $1.6B budget crisis in addition to the usual arguments, the foes of solar have come up with a litany of bills to be heard in this coming legislative session. No mercy is shown the Louisiana solar industry which pushed for passage of a bill in the 2013 legislative session that provided an orderly phase out of solar tax credits by end of 2017. The solar industry in Louisiana was the only industry to push a bill for voluntary phase out of tax credits. The industry put forward an orderly phase out that would allow time for manufacturers, suppliers and installers to adjust to doing business without State tax credits. The legislation was passed but you don’t hear the solar industry getting any credit for trying to do it the right way.

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