Despite defeats, legislative fight to alter ITEP not done

    Multiple attempts by Baton Rouge-area legislators to change the ITEP approval process fell flat this legislative session, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up in their quest.

    This morning, on the last day of the session, the Senate adopted a conference committee report on Senate Concurrent Resolution 129, which requests that Louisiana Economic Development develop uniform local review and approval standards for ITEP. The House of Representatives must also approve the proposal by the close of the regular session later today. (Update: the measure was defeated in the House.)

    The Senate previously approved a similar resolution—SR 259—that doesn’t require House approval. Bodi White, R-Central, authored both proposals, which are nonbinding.

    In short, the goal is to muster enough lawmaker backing to prompt LED to revisit the local approval process.

    White was among a handful of local GOP lawmakers who proposed bills this year to streamline the ITEP approval process, which industry leaders say has become chaotic and unpredictable after Gov. John Bel Edwards’ 2016 executive order gave locals a say in approving the tax breaks.

    But the four proposals—one sponsored by White and the others by Baton Rouge area Reps. Franklin Foil, Rick Edmonds and Barry Ivey—all failed.

    So White has now focused his efforts on the remaining resolutions, which business and industry leaders support.

    “This resolution tries to find middle ground going forward,” says LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack. “Right now the process is quite chaotic, and it’s hard to encourage companies to invest here because they view this as a minefield.”

    ITEP critics, however, have rallied against proposed ITEP reforms that, they say, would dilute local input in the approval process. Together Baton Rouge leader Edgar Cage says the group also does not support the proposed resolution.

    The conference committee report on SCR 129 includes similar language as HCR 3, Cage says, which was the ITEP bill by Edmonds that was defeated twice in the House. The bill would have created a centralized local review board for approving ITEP applications.

    “It’s an attempt to take control over ITEP from the local taxing entities,” Cage says.

    He adds that Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, is working to defeat the resolution on the House floor this afternoon.

    LED, meanwhile, has yet to take a position on the effort.

    “LED will review the resolution and make a determination of the best path forward,” says LED Secretary Don Pierson, “while continuing to support and advise local governments on best practices for ITEP review.”

    (Editor’s note: The story has been update since its original publication to 1) correct the number on the Senate resolution and 2) update that the measure ultimately failed in the House.)

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