Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Wednesday the signing a $4.3 billion, multiyear state construction budget into law.
The capital outlay budget funds projects across the state, including road improvements and building construction.
However, the borrowing portion of House Bill 2, the capital outlay legislation, is overbudgeted by $120 million. Legislators will not learn until this fall which projects will be advanced by the governor for borrowing.
Initial year project funding is in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The governor also signed a pair of bills — House Bill 618 and Senate Bill 555 — that will change the complex legal process for dealing with so-called “legacy lawsuits” that seek millions of dollars in damage claims and that the oil and gas companies claim are stymieing energy exploration in the state.
At issue is the state’s procedures for cleaning up environmental damage to property caused years ago when energy companies searched, developed and exploited oil and natural gas fields. Following acceptable procedures of the time, the energy companies often left messes on-site, then sold the leases to others, usually smaller oil companies.
Landowners contend that litigation, which carries the threat of an expensive verdict, seems the only motivation to get the oil companies to clean up.
Big oil companies counter that agreeing to a cleanup opens them to much larger verdicts for less documented damages, such as financial losses from being unable to use the land.
In order to accelerate cleanup, the compromise outlined in SB555 and HB618 would allow a party to admit responsibility for environmental damage and to clean it to the regulatory standard.
The changes would set certain benchmarks and timelines in handling cases.
Once the oil company admits responsibility, the Department of Natural Resources would draft a feasible cleanup plan, according to the two bills. Two other agencies, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Agriculture, would also weigh in on the cleanup plan.
Other bills signed by the governor include:
- Senate Bill 284 to merge certain Louisiana Technical College campuses with South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette. The merger would occur July 1 or at a time thereafter determined by the Louisiana Community and Technical College System board.
Technical colleges involved are Acadian, Charles B. Coreil, Evangeline, Gulf Area, Lafayette, T. H. Harris, and Teche Area campuses.
- Senate Bill 256 to limit the use of restraints when a pregnant inmate is in labor.