In Studio with Senator Hewitt: Lawsuits Are Running Business Out of Our State
Senator Sharon Hewitt joins Fred Childers in studio on This Week in Louisiana Politics TV show. Senator Hewitt discusses some of her recent legislation to solve some of the state's problems, such as her bill to hold elected officials to a higher standard, her continued work to eliminate dedicated funding and prioritize the budget, and the critical need to reduce lawsuits and lower car insurance rates. The Senator also debunks the Governor's claims of stabilizing the budget and discusses her work to recruit more qualified women to run for office.
When Fred asks about her legislation on sexual harassment, Senator Hewitt explains that she worked to pass sexual harassment legislation last year that established better policies in the state. Then she requested that the Legislative Auditor perform an audit to scope out the extent of the sexual harassment problem in the state of Louisiana. His audit determined that we had spent $10.4 million dollars of taxpayer funds over the last ten years on sexual harassment settlements and judgments. "My constituents were outraged that we were spending their tax dollars on the indiscretions of bad actors, when the needs of our state are so great," says the Senator. This year the Senator's legislation held elected officials to a higher standard. "Those guilty of sexual harassment should be held accountable for their actions," says the Senator.
Fred asks Senator Hewitt about the lack of women in the state legislature. Senator Hewitt explains that while women make up 53% of the registered voters, only 16% of Louisiana's legislature is made up of women, which is not very representative of our demographics. Senator Hewitt says that she actively recruited and is supporting a number of qualified women around the state who are running for office. "We are all a product of our own life experiences and bring a different perspective to solving problems."
Senator Hewitt also debunks the Governor's claim last year that he had cut $600M from the budget, which she says was proven to be false. The Governor's budget has increased every year and is the largest in the history of the state. "To me a cut is when you are spending less today than you were before," says Hewitt.
When asked about the Governor's TV commercial that claims he has stabilized the budget, Senator Hewitt explains that a "stabilized budget to one person is a tax increase to somebody else." She says that the Governor increased taxes by $300M last year with the sales tax hike and the state received a $500M increase in state sales taxes when Trump cut the Federal taxes. The $800M in new taxes was more than the state needed, resulting in a $300M surplus.
The Senator also discusses her continued work over the last three years to eliminate $120M in dedicated funding. "Half of the state's budget is wrapped up in dedicated funds, which prevents us from having all of the money on the table," says Hewitt. "We need to make everybody compete for funding and allow us to prioritize the needs of our state."
Senator Hewitt goes on to discuss how tort and insurance reform is one of the single biggest issues in our state right now. “Our society and our laws in Louisiana provide for a very litigious environment and it is running businesses out of our state. If we don't make a major course correction, we're going to be in a world of hurt,” says Hewitt. "We have the 2nd highest car insurance rates in the country, which every Louisiana citizen knows and experiences. And we have trucking companies that are having difficulty getting insurance because the big insurance companies don't want to write insurance for them." The Senator describes her seatbelt gag bill, which would allow a jury to be told if a person injured in a car accident was not wearing their seatbelt. "This is a common sense bill," says Hewitt. When asked what happened to the bill, Hewitt responds, "The trial lawyers killed it!"