Lafayette chamber reveals legislative priorities

Jason El Koubi
Jason El Koubi

The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce announced its priorities Thursday for this legislative session, a list that includes support for higher education funding, Common Core education standards, tort reform and completing Interstate 49 South.

The chamber’s board of directors adopted the list of legislative priorities this week, based on input from the local business community, according to a news release from the group.

The chamber did not identify any particular legislative bills but rather listed eight issues, six of which related in some way to education.

“This set of legislative priorities addresses key issues for Acadiana’s business community and allows us to focus our energy on actively pursuing initiatives that make our region more attractive from a business standpoint,” Chamber President and CEO Jason El Koubi said in a written statement.

He said the chamber’s staff and board members look forward to working closely with Lafayette-area legislators and will meet with the delegation early next week to discuss the chamber’s legislative priorities.

The Chamber expressed support for higher education in general and, in particular, for the proposed Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy fund.

The WISE plan by Gov. Bobby Jindal calls for schools to compete for a share of $40 million in higher education funding based on how well they turn out graduates who can fill high-growth jobs, such as engineering, finance and accounting, computer science, data analysis, industrial production and construction crafts.

On the K-12 public education front, the Chamber is backing school choice and charter schools, Common Core standards, and accountability for schools and teachers.

“We support pay for performance initiatives in preK-12 education and a consistent system of rigorous and robust professional standards applicable to all teachers,” the Chamber said in a statement on the priorities.

The Chamber also expressed support for Act 1 of 2012 and called for “clearly defined roles for school boards and superintendents, whereby school boards focus on systemic vision and policy making, and superintendents focus on the management and operations of the school system.”

Act 1, among other things, removed some of the job protections for teachers and shifted final approval of hiring and firing decisions in public school systems from school boards to superintendents

Parts of the law are mired in litigation, and two state judges have ruled sections of it unconstitutional. It remains in effect, pending an appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court pending.

Outside of education issues, the Chamber noted two other priorities — funding for regional infrastructure, including the completion of I-49 South, and tort reform to create a more business-friendly legal environment in the state.

“We are supporting a truly diverse list of priorities that touch multiple sectors. We feel confident that addressing these issues will accelerate the development and growth of our region’s economy,” 2014 Chamber Chairman Julie Dronet of Cox Acadiana said in a written statement.