24 April 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Prefiled bills -- Week of Apr. 15, 2005 (House only)

THE GOOD: Since there are so many house bills, many can be put into categories because they address substantially the same things:

  • Changes in the homestead exemption and property taxes: Tim Burns' HB 237 would provide property tax payers with more protections against arbitrariness in assessments. Peppi Bruneau's HB 248 would prevent property taxes from increasing faster than the Consumer Price Index, with Mike Strain's HB 539 being similar. Also limiting increases is Jeff Arnold's HB 273 and Ken Odinet's HB 555. Pete Schneider's HB 335 and John Alario's HB 557 and HB 712 would prevent property tax roll-forwards entirely, with a fall-back to his HB 585 trying to limit assessment increases (but see below).
  • Changes in income taxes for individuals: Billy Montgomery's HB 229 undoes the damage from the Stelly Plan by returning individual rates to thier prior levels while his HB 246 would cap them there. Taylor Townsend's HB 328 restores "excess" federal deductions from counting against income on state income tax, as does Rick Farrar's HB 421, and Gary Beard's HB 656 does something similar; while Steve Scalise's HB 495 concerns deductibility of all deductions; Hunter Greene does everybody better with his HB 545 that lowers rates back and restores deductions, with his HB 546 repealing the gift tax to boot.
  • Changes in corporate income taxes: Burns' HB 456 stops the double-taxation of corporations, dividends and interest, while his HB 622 removes them from computation of Louisiana's onerous, additional franchise tax.
  • Funding for I-49: Montgomery's HB 654 carries the water to use unclaimed funds to back funding of I-49; Mike Powell's HB 676 carves out funding for I-49 completion out of the Transportation Trust Fund (without raising taxes; see below).

Among others, Shirley Bowler's HB 232 would amend the Constitution to much more narrowly define the powers of the Secretary of Agriculture while Kay Katz's HB 435 would force him to follow administrtaive law in adjudications; Wayne Waddell's HB 259 prohibits bond request approvals for projects under litigation except by unanimous agreement (which would have saved Shreveport citizens some grief); Bobby Fauchuex's HB 691 would discourage use of emergency medical servives as a primary health care provider; his HB 337 would change the election of state officials to the same time as presidential elections, while Charlie Lancaster's HB 358 would change the nature of congressional primaries to closed, and Powell's HB 415 saves the state and local governments money while encouraging more voter participation by getting rid of the January election date; less government is better government and Mert Smiley's HB 386 fits the bill as it abolishes state boards, commissions, authorities, and districts; Schneider's HB 311 would make the retirement system for most state employees more effiient; Greene also wants to get rid of registration fees for many vehicles with HB 568 (but see below); Burns' HB 613 will provide some relief to students trapped in failing schools with vouchers; and Yvonne Dorsey's HB 694 would tighten ethics reporting for state legislators, while Robby Carter's HB 728 would do the same for officials of retirement systems.

Yet the standout bill out of all of these, some very fine pieces of legislation, is A.G. Crowe's HB 242 which tries to discourage the use of abortion as birth control by requiring counseling whenever it is soought. There's no more fundamental freedom than the right to life, and any legislation that prevents further deaths is essential to pass this session.

THE BAD: Same thing here, let's start off with some categories before getting to some others:

  • Changes in the homestead exemption: Alario's HB 582 would amend the Constitution to double the homestead exemption to make the state's tax structure even less efficient while his HB 583 would amend the Constitution to allow it to rise every year.
  • Changes in sales and use taxes and fees: Montgomery's HB 292 increases the retail gas tax a penny and dedicates it to funding I-49 with his HB 191 chipping it into the Transportation Trust Fund. Arnold's HB 219 allows increases in fees charged by the Motor Vehicles Office, while Greene's HB 553 simply amends the Constitution to raise registration fees on vehicles. Bryan Hammett's HB 436 and HB 437 raise taxes on liquor and cigarettes, respectively, his HB 608 tosses in other forms of tobacco, and his HB 502 does it on video poker machines. Not content with this, Hammett also wants to raise taxes on certain motor fuels with HB 599. Karen Carter joins him with HB 810 on tobacco. Alario's HB 590 asks to amend the Constitution to allow the state to raise sales on food and utilities taxes to dedicate to teacher pay. Sydnie Mae Durand's HB 802 would raise taxes on health care providers who would then naturally pass them on to consumers
  • Tax credits and breaks for certain entertainment-related activities: Scalise's HB 250 continues corporate welfare for movie makers past this fiscal year, and his HB 291 continues their prefential sales tax treatment. And he wants to expand it; his HB 603 and HB 604 do that for digital interactive media. And why not add electronics manufacturers with his HB 632. Scalise isn't done with corporate welfare: if you love the Saints' deal with the state, you'll like his HB 441 which gives tax breaks to the New Orleans Zephyrs AAA baseball club. Not to be outdone, Carter joins him with HB 673 and adds HB 631 for sound recording companies. Joel Robideaux's HB 649 isn't quite as obnoxious as Scalise's altogether for movie makers, but it still allows the porgram to continue. Even Hammett jumps in with his version, HB 731.
  • Employment practices regulation: Charmaine Marchand's HB 275 asks us to amend the Consitution to stick in a job-killing state minimum wage. Juan LaFonta's HB 317 wants us to put into place a law primarily aimed at duplicating Constitutional and state civil service protections dealing with state employment, while Derrick Shepherd's HB 571 does the same for the private sector. Willie Hunter's HB 444 manages to both claim some form of employment discrimination (against women) is going on and to force some kind of monetary remumeration.

Among bills outside of these categories, Dorsey's HB 360 exempts teachers from state income taxes even though they remain adequately compensated for their level of performance; Alario's HB 560 takes a step backwards by requiring less public information be made available on the executive budget; Marchand's HB 575 would destroy Louisiana's education accountability measures by making graduate exit exams useless; Powell's HB 588 is the right idea done in the wrong way by amending the Constitution to increase teachers' salaries from "excess" funds but takes budgetary flexibility away from the state by locking these in if Louisiana salaries are below the regional average; Gil Pinac's HB 690 tries to prevent consumers from getting lower prices on motor fuels, while Townsend's HB 763 threatens to do the same; Cedric Richmond's HB 799 makes Armstrong Airport a mini-McCarran International with gambling; and Rick Gallot's HB 678 very arrogantly tries to raise state officials' salaries at a time of big budgetary shortfalls, abill that many weeks would have won the award as the worst on chutzpah alone.

But the worst bill of the week is Richmond's HB 688. Not only does it promise to create a 2 percent excise tax on telecommunications services that taxpayers will foot, but it creates a whole new statewide commission with significant powers and bureaucracy to boot, removing much local oversight of telecommunications. Whereas most legislators were content merely to raise our taxes, he throws in bigger government as well.

THE UGLY: Just like with the Senate, this bill wins for picky reasons. HB 401 comes from Jim Tucker and actually is fairly noncontroversial. It garner this dubious distinction because in part its reason for filing is to correct typographical errors in the Revised Statutes.

SCORECARD: 810 House prefiles (including 3 budget bills), 22 withdrawals; 330 Senate prefiles, 17 withdrawals.

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