2008 Session Highlights
By: Mary O'Brien
2008 REGULAR SESSION
REDESIGN OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
According to officials at the Louisiana Department of Labor, Louisiana
currently has approximately 100,000 jobs that are unfilled, while nearly 75,000
Louisianians who could, with training, enter the workforce remain chronically
unemployed. This disconnect is the focus of the Jindal administration's efforts
to redesign the Department of Labor. The Department is to be renamed the
Louisiana Workforce Investment Council in an effort to focus the mission of the
department on the development and training of a large and well-trained workforce
to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. During the 2008 Regular Session, the
legislature passed significant legislation designed to accomplish the goal of a
large and well-trained workforce in Louisiana.
House bill 1104 by Representative Tucker (Act 743) - (duplicate of SB 612
by Senator Chaisson) provides for the change of the name of the Department
of Labor to the Louisiana Workforce Investment Council, provides that the
secretary shall have the title of "executive director", and changes the name of
the current workforce commission to the Louisiana Workforce Investment Council.
The legislation is a comprehensive redesign of the department and an attempt to
re-focus the efforts at the state level on serving the needs of employers,
employees, and potential
employees in Louisiana. The goal is to develop integrated programs, including
programs in other state departments and federally-funded programs, into a
seamless system designed to serve business and industry, as well as employees
and those seeking to enter the workforce. The more than eighty page bill has
five main areas of focus, as follows:
(1) To align the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS)
funding with the priority workforce needs. These needs will be determined by
regional and state workforce demands and anticipated economic opportunities.
(2) To enhance capacity to rapidly address major workforce-related
opportunities and challenges. The Workforce Investment Council will
establish the "Louisiana Fast-Start Program" which will provide turn-key
workforce training solutions designed for an individual business or
industry. This effort will be in collaboration with both the Louisiana
Department of Economic Development and the LCTCS to provide training
solutions for business expansion and recruitment
3) To enhance business and industry engagement to establish demand-driven
priorities and measure impact at the regional level. The Workforce Council
will work through the regional Workforce Investment Boards (WIB's) to
develop a de-centralized system which will more efficiently serve the
employment needs in each region. The commission will integrate all key
workforce development programs and support services from various state and
federal agencies into local "One Stop" centers.
(4) To work toward the realignment of junior high, high school, and
post-secondary education systems to address market demands. The council is
charged to work with state and local educational institutions to promote
dual-enrollment initiatives and other alternatives to address career options
that do not require four-year degrees, but do require some post-secondary
(5) To dramatically increase workforce participation. The council will
work with the Louisiana Department of Economic Development to recruit
job-ready workers in high-demand areas from other states. The commission
will also implement an aggressive marketing campaign to recruit targeted
populations into "entry level" workforce development programs to increase
the general workforce.
Senate bill 168 by Senator Murray (Act 510) deals with nonprofit and
government entities who pay their unemployment compensation benefits on a
reimbursement basis. Employers pay for unemployment benefits owed to employees
in two ways: (1) most employers pay a monthly premium, much like an insurance
premium and (2) nonprofit organizations and government entities reimburse the
state dollar-for-dollar for benefits that have been paid to their employees.
After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, several executive orders suspended the
criteria required of an employee in order to receive unemployment compensation
benefits. After the hurricanes, the federal government gave monies to Louisiana
to cover the costs of unemployment benefits paid. In an earlier session, the
legislature forgave any premiums owed for benefits paid as a result of these
executive orders. At that time, the nonprofits and governments received only a
postponement. This bill forgives the payments for those who pay by
reimbursement, putting all employers on an even basis. The bill will produce
savings for state and local governments, school boards, and many nonprofit
House bill 1165 by Representative Honey (Act 169) provides for an
increase in the maximum unemployment benefit allowed by Louisiana law.
Drug-testing of the workforce. House bill 514 by Representative
Ponti (Act 150) provides that those engaged in construction, maintenance, or
manufacturing at any refining or chemical manufacturing facility may be subject
to a reduced cut-off level of marijuana in one's bloodstream.
Modification of employment for minors. House bill 738 by
Representative Baldone (Act 364) provides that minors who are 12 or 13 years
of age may be employed in a business in which the minor's parents are owners or
partners. The legislation further provides that the minor is to work only under
the supervision of the parent and that all protections afforded to minors aged
14 and 15 shall be afforded to those who are employed as a result of this
legislation. These minors shall obtain an employment certificate prior to
Non-compete agreements between franchisers and the employees of its
franchisees. Current law contains no provision allowing non-compete
agreements between those who sell franchises and the employees working for the
franchises sold. Non-compete agreements are specifically prohibited by Louisiana
law, unless specifically provided for. House bill 968 by Representative
Edwards (Act 711) provides for such non-compete agreements to be entered
into by franchisers and the employees of their franchisees.
Despite considerable efforts on the part of Senator Cassidy, the Department
of Labor, and many others, the disparate parties who have an interest in whether
or not preferred provider organization agreements are allowed in the workers'
compensation arena were unable to reach a compromise acceptable to most parties.
Without reform, the costs at issue in litigation regarding these types of
agreements in Louisiana increase by millions of dollars per year. Because of
this extraordinary cost, the parties will continue to work toward a compromise
bill for introduction in the 2009 Regular Session.