Louisiana Association of Business and Industry
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, known as LABI, is the largest and most successful business-lobbying group in the U.S. state of Louisiana. LABI serves as the state chamber of commerce and manufacturing association. It was founded in Baton Rouge in 1976, when Louisiana adopted a new right-to-work law during the administration of Democratic Governor Edwin Edwards.
The founding director, Edward J. Steimel, often sparred with the Democrat Victor Bussie, long-term president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, who fought right-to-work legislation and sought its repeal. In 1976, Steimel supported U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., in the campaign against the Democrat Jimmy Carter, whom Steimel believed would work for the repeal of Section 14B of the Taft Hartley Act, which permits states to adopt right-to-work laws. More than twenty states have adopted such legislation.After Steimel's retirement, the LABI president was Daniel Juneau.
After its success with right-to-work, LABI quickly unified into a visible, well-financed, fully staffed organization to speak for business year-round as well as during state legislative sessions. Today, the organization has over 2,500 members. The LABI motto is, "One voice. Amplified."
- 1 Current Leadership
- 2 Focus
- 3 Councils
- 4 Legislative Session Resources
- 5 References
Stephen Michael Waguespack (born c. 1973), the current LABI president, previously served in the administration of Governor Bobby Jindal. He worked on Jindal's 2007 gubernatorial campaign, served as the governor's executive counsel and as chief of staff. He left the governor's office in 2012 to work as a lawyer for the Baton Rouge law firm, Jones Walker. Upon entering the position, Waguespack said his goal for LABI is "to unite the business community. If we can unite that community behind a strong, reform-minded agenda, that would be pretty powerful.”  Waguespack communicates his ideas for the organization and its members through meetings and articles posted to the "President's View" page on the LABI website.
LABI focuses on promoting a healthy Louisiana business environment for its member organizations. During the 2014 legislative session, LABI targeted four areas of concern. Civil justice reform has been a hot topic for LABI for years. Louisiana's current civil justice practices increase business expenses and insurance coverage costs. LABI has fought to reform these practices to make it easier on existing business and to make the state more attractive to new business ventures. The organization is also pushing for legislature that benefits women in business and small business. Small businesses account for 97 perdent of all employers in Louisiana and employ nearly 875,000 people. Louisiana is second in the nation for revenue increases in women-owned firms. Workforce Development is the final issue LABI will focus on this legislative session. Various companies have announced over $60 billion in new investments taking place in Louisiana in the coming year. New investments mean new jobs, and companies will need skilled workers to fill them. LABI has produced a four part plan to provide those workers with the help of legislators, educators and business owners. 
LABI divides the issues it advocates on behalf of into groups called councils. The councils are headed by a LABI lobbyist and a member of the LABI board.  The councils include: Civil Justice Reform; Employee Relations; Education & Workforce Development; Energy, Environmental Quality; Taxation & Finance; Governmental Reform; Technology Advocacy; Trade, Tourism & Transportation; Healthcare; and Small Business.
Civil Justice Reform
Justice Reform Council seeks to ensure a balance between the rights of plaintiffs and defendants in Louisiana's civil justice system. The council also works to improve the availability and affordability of liability insurance. Will Green is the director of the Civil Justice Reform Council.
The Employee Relations Council considers legislation to lower costs in the areas of unemployment and workers' compensation. The Unemployment Comp Task Force and Workers Comp Task Force make recommendations to the full council for action. The Council also deals with Right-to-Work, drug testing, collective bargaining, OSHA, EEO, and other labor-management issues. Will Green is the Director of the Civil Justice Reform Council.
Education & Workforce Development
LABI's Education and Workforce Development Council coordinates business' involvement in education reform issues; works to pass legislation to improve K-12, university and community college education; and is concerned with vocational education and workforce development. Brigitte Nieland is the Director of the Education & Workforce Development Council.
Energy Council is composed of energy producing, transporting and consuming businesses which promote adequate supplies of all forms of energy at competitive prices. It leads the opposition to increased taxes and fees on energy sources, encourages conservation of resources, and balances environmental concerns with energy production on usage. Brian Landry is the director of the Energy Council.
Environmental Quality Council concentrates on legislation and issues pertaining to environmental matters related to business. The council's goal seeks a balance between economic development and environmental protection. Jim Patterson is the Director of the Environmental Quality Council.
Taxation & Finance
The Taxation and Finance Council focuses on fiscal policy research and lobbies legislation dealing with taxation and finance. Jim Patterson is the director of the Taxation and Finance Council.
Governmental Reform Council focuses on issues such as ethics, campaign finance, elections and retirement, in order to pass legislation promoting integrity in governmental practice for the benefit of the state's businesses and citizens. Courtney Baker is the Director of the Governmental Reform Council.
The Technology Advocacy Council is dedicated to being the public policy champion for businesses that are creators and users of technology applications. Courtney Baker is the Director of the Technology Advocacy Council.
Trade, Tourism & Transportation
The Trade, Tourism & Transportation Council provides a unified, influential voice for the travel and tourism industry and promotes opportunities to expand international trade. Courtney Baker is the Director of the Trade, Tourism & Transportation Council.
Health Care Task Force works to ensure a cost-effective, competitive health care market as an incentive to encourage economic growth and development while assuring that consumers in Louisiana receive high-quality, accessible health care. Bridgette Jamison is the Director of the Healthcare Council.
Small Business Council deals with a variety of issues concerning small businesses. These include economic development issues, corporation contracts and regulations effecting business practices. Renee Amar is the Director of the Small Business Council.
Legislative Session Resources
LABI members are kept up to date during Louisiana State Legislature session via the LABI website. Member businesses can access daily updates about each Louisiana legislator, including a score that shows whether they vote for or against LABI. Legislators' voting records are also available to members, the site tells if a legislator voted for or against the interests of Louisiana businesses or if they were absent for the vote. Information about bills, committees and districts is also available to LABI members.