Following are the priorities for which the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) is advocating during the 2016 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature. BRAC’s agenda can be organized in three broad categories: transportation infrastructure, the economy, and education and workforce.

Advance regional transportation infrastructure solutions, as proposed by CRISIS in the policy priorities outlined last year and the regional project prioritization analysis released earlier this year. While the non-fiscal legislative session limits the ability to devote the substantial amount of new funding and resources necessary to address the region’s full needs, BRAC will advocate for project progress through the capital outlay process and policies that maximize the use of the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) toward transportation infrastructure and that expenditures unrelated to transportation are removed from the TTF. BRAC strongly supports new revenue, including a gas tax, being included in any future special sessions to address the budget shortfall.

Defend Louisiana’s economic development toolkit by fighting measures that would further negatively impact the state’s critical incentive programs and economic competitiveness.  As the small business community adjusts to recent changes in state incentives such as Quality Jobs and the Competitive Payroll Projects Incentive, BRAC will continue to educate decision makers on the value that these and other programs provide. BRAC will oppose legislation that would restrict key economic development incentives. The organization supports continued and appropriate funding of LED, including preservation of its accounts for economic development (loan programs, small business assistance programs and funding for regional economic development marketing).

Protect PK-12 educational reforms and student achievement gains by opposing efforts that would weaken or dismantle school choice, higher achievement standards and the state’s teacher and school performance accountability system. Most concerning are legislative efforts to restrict future charter school expansion and to pull back on access to vouchers in low-performing, high poverty districts. For the Baton Rouge Area and other urban districts, these are key tools to improving public education, along with strong accountability and teacher performance review systems.

Lead the reestablishment and strengthening of the Research and Development Tax Credit to spur continued entrepreneurship and innovation in the state’s economy. In the late hours of the 2015 session, the legislature cut out small businesses from benefiting from the R&D program and their access and benefit should be restored immediately. The R&D tax credit has been heralded nationally as the best way to help companies build new technologies and products that can lead to rapid job growth.

The education-specific elements of BRAC’s legislative agenda will also be complemented by our continued engagement with the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), to support measures to encourage STEM education through the expansion of computer science courses into the state’s core curriculum requirements for high school students.

Support the transfer of full tuition and fee autonomy to the state’s higher education systems while demanding higher education funding stabilization and TOPS standards and funding reform. BRAC will support bills to increase the standards of TOPS, as well as decoupling program costs from tuition and fee increases.