The following interview was published in LaPolitics on Thursday, October 12, 2023
In a brief Q&A with LaPolitics Weekly's Jeremy Alford, Stan Harris, President and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, discusses key industry issues. Covering topics from the proposed U.S. Department of Labor overtime pay threshold to members' concerns about insurance costs and state income tax legislation, Harris provides succinct insights. The conversation also touches on the 2024 session and the association's efforts to educate the new Legislature. Harris, drawing on his 30-year leadership in the restaurant industry, briefly reflects on personal connections. This interview offers a concise snapshot of policy, industry concerns, and Harris's professional journey.
JA: The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing a new threshold for overtime pay, so there are a lot of folks in the restaurant or hospitality industries trying to figure out how this fits into current operational structures. What are you hearing from your members?
SH: Stan Harris, president and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association: Obviously this proposed new rule would impact a significant number of restaurants, bars and others in our industry. At present, we are encouraging them to submit their comments or questions during the comment period. Doubtful it will have much impact, but feedback is always important.
JA: What were some of the issues your members were hoping to hear about from candidates this cycle?
SH: Statewide, the cost and availability of commercial insurance, especially property and also flood, are top of mind. The same goes for crime and public safety. And the last is how do we create legislation that would eliminate the state income tax. As most small businesses, like LRA members, are pass-thru enterprises, this could provide a great benefit to them.
JA: What’s at the top of your membership’s to-do list for the 2024 regular session?
SH: Working with the new Legislature to educate them on the challenges of operating a restaurant, bar or catering business as well as how important our industry is to providing first jobs and second chances. We also need an update to our workers comp system’s medical fee schedule, which is a hidden cost. We missed that opportunity the last term.
JA: When it comes to association management, what are your expectations for next term? There will be plenty of new elected personalities to meet and work with in the coming months…
SH: Relationships in politics are valuable. Our goal is to provide clarity and accuracy in our information on issues we engage on. Being truthful is the best currency.
JA: Most folks reading this probably know you from your public policy work, but you actually spent 30 years in leadership roles in the restaurant industry, including with TJM Restaurant Management. You’re still working in the same arena, so to speak, but what do you miss most about that direct connection to the hospitality industry?
SH: I miss a great deal of our team members. I hear from and see a lot of them across the country. Congressman Mike Johnson was one of our team members, as was Representative Laurie Schlegel. I made great friendships with many of our guests, and keeping those connections are important to me.