Through the years, Walt has been able to pass many notable bills through the use and analysis of data, best practices and bipartisanship. Here are some highlights below:
Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund: In the 2016 session, Walt drafted legislation, ushered it unopposed through the Legislature, and then campaigned for and helped pass a popular vote to adopt a Constitutional Amendment to create the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund. The Fund aims to introduce more predictability and stability in the amount of revenue available for expenditure in a given year by imposing caps on the state’s two most volatile revenue streams: severance taxes and corporate income taxes. Once the cap is reached, excess money flows into the Fund and creates an asset. Once the Fund reaches $5 billion, 10% of the Fund can be used in general appropriations for transportation infrastructure and construction projects. In addition, 30% of the Fund will go towards paying down the unfunded state retirement debt. The Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund finally introduces long term fiscal reform to Louisiana budgeting practices.
Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund: This bill creates a state match fund, which rewards local governments for investing in high quality early childhood education and expanding access to low-income families. Science has shown us that the first five years of a child’s life are crucial to their development. Care and education received during this time sets a foundation for the rest of their lives. Happier children translate into more capable, productive adults.
Walt has also worked on Common Core compromises under the previous administration, anti-bullying laws, and the reduction of high suspension rates especially for minority children. Though there are numerous laws of consequence that Walt has won passage of, one of the most important was the enactment of The School Facilities Maintenance and Repair Fund for Orleans Parish schools to make sure that the nearly $2 billion worth of new schools that have been built since Hurricane Katrina are properly maintained for future generations of New Orleans students.
Criminal Justice Reinvestment Program and Task Force: For years, Louisiana was the nation’s most incarcerated state at a high cost to its taxpayers while yielding low public safety returns. Walt created the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Task Force in 2014 to study our inefficiencies and try and fix them. The Task Force released its recommendations in 2016, resulting in the passage of ten bills that focused on lowering the incarceration rate, reducing recidivism, fortifying victim services, and reinvesting money in reentry programs. Walt’s bill is the reinvestment piece-the most important piece. It mandates that 70% of all money saved by reforms will be reinvested back into public safety in the form of prison alternatives, drug courts, victim services, counseling programs, juvenile justice, substance abuse and mental health treatment. Walt also served as the Chairman of the Juvenile Justice Reform Implementation Commission for several years, leading efforts to reform Louisiana’s Juvenile Justice laws and work toward implementation of the “Missouri Model,” which calls for therapeutic treatment for children and works towards reduction of recidivism.
Coastal Restoration Mitigation Banking Program: Walt passed legislation allowing the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to create large-scale restoration projects and provide corresponding credits available for purchase by Responsible Parties in minor oil spills as fulfillment of their obligation to restoration. Due to this bill, private investors can develop and fund wetland projects that are already part of the existing $90 billion Master Plan in coastal restoration. These private projects will have a direct and immediate impact on coastal restoration and protection at a quicker pace and a much lower cost than would be incurred by the government. In addition, Walt currently co-chairs the Coastal Protection and Restoration Leadership task force in conjunction with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and America’s Wetlands Association. He is widely regarded and has been officially recognized as a Champion for Coastal Restoration and hurricane protection. His Louisiana First Hiring Act and Green Jobs Tax Credits were recognized as trying to create coastal restoration jobs in communities where the economy is being disrupted because of climate change and land loss.
Historic Tax Credits: Walt has helped to pass legislation that renewed the state historic rehabilitation tax credits and protected them in subsequent years from getting cut. These tax credits have led to enormous economic gains. There are comparable Federal Historic Tax Credits that create a formidable environment for significant investment when combined with the State Tax Credit. This investment has been critical to rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, stimulating development of new structures in surrounding areas. In some of the most recent data available, for State FY 15-16, there were 92 Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit projects completed in LA for a total of $318.1 M in investment leveraged. Through 2010, projects facilitated by the historic credit generated more than 11,000 construction jobs and more than 5,700 permanent jobs statewide. The most recent statistics show that 691 projects from 30 towns and cities across Louisiana have been completed with the assistance of the state historic credit. For Federal FY15, LA ranked 1st in the number of buildings certified as historic, 1st in the number of proposed rehabilitation projects approved, and 1st in the number of certified historic rehabilitation projects completed. Additionally, LA was ranked 7th nationwide in the amount of dollars invested in Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit projects. This effort has led to a significant ROI of $3-to-$1 and has propelled Louisiana into a leadership role in the area of economic development through historic rehabilitation, which is something to be truly proud of.
Neonatal Opiate Withdrawal Syndrome Pilot Project: In addition to affecting the lives of those who are addicted, the opioid epidemic also has long-lasting neonatal effects as a result of a mother’s dependence on opioids. Walt created this pilot program, which will be an evidence-based program that give our mothers and our babies the best chance of recovery, promoting safe alternatives and prioritizing that mother and child be treated together.