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‘LaPolitics’: LABI hints at battle over contingency fee bill during legislative session

February 3, 2017
By Jeremy Alford
Originally Posted on Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

In this week’s episode of The LaPolitics Report podcast, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Stephen Waguespack hinted at a possible legislative legal battle for the regular session that convenes in April. Waguespack said his organization believes a bill could be introduced to ease some of the limitations on contingency fee legal contracts.

The debates over contingency fee deals inked by the state have caught fire in recent years, pulling in governors, attorneys general, lawmakers, private attorneys and lobbyists. The arrangement, in broad strokes, usually involves a private law firm representing the state or a political body in exchange for part of a settlement presumably to be awarded later.

State law prohibits any such payout unless it is authorized by the Legislature.

“We hear that there is a strong likelihood that there will be legislation filed, either overtly or covertly, to make it much easier to hire contingency fee attorneys without going through any kind of public bid or transparency, so that they can come on and sue industry in the state,” Waguespack said during the interview. “We heard those bills are coming. So we’re going to be looking out for them and will engage on them. Obviously we think that’s problematic policy.”

—Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority Director Kyle Ruckert said LCRM’s board is looking closely at the three open state House seats that will be decided in special elections this year. LCRM’s leadership will soon decide how involved it wants to be in those contests, he said. The group was originally founded by former U.S. Sen. David Vitter and was credited with helping the GOP take control of the majority in both chambers in Louisiana. LCRM is also still firming up its plans for this year’s sessions, which at the very least will include a scorecard for how lawmakers voted. But it could include more forms of outreach as well. Additionally, the regional political action committees for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry started conducting interviews for its endorsement process last week for the three legislative races.

—They said it: “Absolutely not. I think I should get a plaque, actually.” —Former Angola Warden Burl Cain, to Leo Honeycutt upon being asked if he was guilty of any crimes, on The Jim Engster Show