Capitol Views: Big business’ ‘bill of the session’ deferred

    Legislation that would have revamped the state’s jury system as a means to lowering auto insurance rates was involuntarily deferred Tuesday by a Senate committee, dashing hopes for a proposal described by business and industry advocates as “the bill of the session.” It was the fourth time such a proposal failed before the Legislature, and it was also the final shot of the term for supporters.

    The Senate Judiciary A Committee was the last hearing for HB 372 by Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, which would have allowed victims of wrecks to file lawsuits within two years of their accidents, rather than one year. The measure would have likewise reduced the state’s jury trial threshold, among other mechanisms.

    Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, put the force of his organization behind Talbot’s bill. Before the regular session even convened, Waguespack predicted that HB 372 would emerge as one of the more compelling stories of this policymaking gathering.

    “It is no longer just an important issue to a few specific industries, it has become the most universally supported topic in Louisiana,” Waguespack said. “Truckers, farmers, timber and small businesses are now just as tired of predatory lawsuits as the energy industry has been for years.”

    Before he made the motion to involuntarily defer the bill, Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, said consumers would have less of an opportunity to sue insurance companies under the bill, and that the legislation’s intended impact would turn out to be the opposite. “Everyone believed this bill would reduce rates,” he said. “I disagree with that.”

    Jeremy Alford will publish Capitol Views each afternoon on Daily Report PM through the end of the legislative session. The report is also available to subscribers at LaPolitics.com.    

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