29 April 2009

Committee action, Apr. 29: HB 243, HB 84

HB 243 would require officeholders who appoint people to report how much those appointees gave to their campaigns. Author Rep. Neil Abramson said this was a good government measure that would create more transparency, that would only be an addition to reports already being filed.

Rep. Tony Ligi saw problems with the bill. He said the intentions seemed good, but he brought up some scenarios about how the bill could be entrapping, such as corporate contributions, and how it would be a tremendous amount of administrative work for the authorities. Abramson said he thought it should be an obligation of an elected official to do this and did not see it entrapping. Rep. Erich Ponti asked about how the bill was different, and pointed out that this bill was not similar to the previous amended version had been vetoed. Abramson said he objected to having the appointees and officeholders, and so left the former out in this year’s version. Ponti said the advantage of the appointees declaring was that that could be done more quickly than having an appointing authority having to go through many more records to report.

The governor’s executive counsel Jimmy Faircloth brought up that this bill would allow a “hidden” contribution – the governor has an appointment, a legislator recommends a person who has contributed to the legislator, but not the governor, and the governor appoints, by way of example. He also argued there already was transparency in that appointees were public knowledge, and contributors were public knowledge, so the bill would not make for any more transparency. He added that the veto on the previous bill because it created a dual reporting requirement that he believed had ethical problems.

Abramson said one way to fix the “hidden” problem would be to make all officials report if they recommended somebody, but offered no suggestions on how to do this. He said the current decentralized system was too great for a typical person to do, it would need an “investigative reporter” to do so.

Rep. Karen Peterson then engaged in an obtuse discussion with Faircloth where she said couldn’t understand where the transparency of the alternative was. Faircloth pointed out it was much easier and quicker for appointees to report than to have government on behalf of elected officials do it. Rep. Rosalind Jones asked why not make contributions to recommenders part of the vetting process for appointees, but Faircloth pointed out the vetting process was not public information and the current bill still did not cover this.

Rep. Patrick Connick asked how the “loopholes” could be corrected, and saw the bill would not do this. He said already the media put together appointees and contributions, so he did not see this bill as any improvement.

Rep. Merton Smiley asked for voluntary deferment, and there was no objection, but Peterson asked for a substitute to pass. That was defeated 7-11. Smiley then removed his motion. Peterson asked what was the procedure was in this case, which was one of the 11 who voted against the motion to bring it back up. Abramson asked if he could bring it back as amended, which then he allowed to be voluntarily deferred.

HB 84 would place term limits of no more than three on all elected officials. Rep. Simone Champagne extolled the virtues of the bill, but said it had created a lot of discussion and concern and some divisiveness, and thought the better part of discretion was to turn this into a study resolution, and asked to voluntarily defer this bill.

“Let’s not use ‘Smith’ … How about ‘Jones’ … oh, sorry Rosalind.”
Rep. Jane Smith, in trying to come up with a fictitious name as an example.

26 April 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- Senate prefiled bills through Apr. 24, 2009

Finally, we have the remaining Senate prefiled bills to review before the session opens on Monday.

THE GOOD: (SB 59 has been withdrawn but essentially replaced by SB 203) SB 100 by Sen. Julie Quinn would remove the income restriction on the special assessment on property taxes that goes to the elderly (similar bills: SB 180, SB 181); SB 161 by Sen. Rob Marionneaux would alter a legal obstruction to allow parents of children not in public school to take advantage of legal deductions (similar bill: SB 163); SB 195 by Sen. Bob Kostelka would require larger contributors to candidates that received appointments to certain state positions to disclose their contributions; SB 223 by Sen. Dan Claitor would strengthen school discipline and create a better learning environment; SB 232 by Sen. Nick Gautreaux would eliminate over 10 years incomes taxes but delay a reduction every year that the state has a deficit forecast.

(Similar bills to those introduced: HB 327 – SB 141, SB 142, SB 200; HB 511 – SB 183; HB 844 – SB 186; HB 765 – SB 210; SB 1 – SB 267)

THE BAD: SB 101 by Sen. Troy Hebert would allow likely annual increases in the homestead exemption to further skew the burden onto fewer; SB 220 by Sen. J.P. Morrell would discriminate against Recovery School District students in New Orleans; SB 248 by Sen. Lydia Jackson would make parole easier to attain without justification; SB 256 by Sen. Edwin Murray could increase taxes on owners in New Orleans’ French Quarter of Fauborg Marigny; SB 259 by Kostelka would water down academic accountability standards by providing less rigorous curricula options for students (similar bill: SB 316); SB 295 by Gautreaux would socialize casualty risk through creation of a ratepayer-subsidized catastrophic fund; SB 314 by Sen. Robert Adley would strengthen individual political organizations at the expense of political parties by removing closed primaries from selecting federal congressional candidates.

(Similar bills to those introduced: HB 142 – SB 199, SB 245, SB 277; HB 802 – SB 283, SB 300; HB 795 – SB 286; HB 579 – SB 296: HB 610 – SB 311)

THE UGLY: SB 117, 118, and 119 by Sen. Dale Erdey would increase a slew of per diems for local, low-impact special districts; what’s so demanding about these positions?

19 April 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- House prefiled bills through Apr. 17, 2009

Pre-fling now has ceased so for this week the blog will take a look at what’s been introduced on the House side, and next week will turn its attention to the Senate’s latest introductions prior to the session.

THE GOOD: HB 314 by Rep. Hunter Greene would end double-taxation at the state level of dividends (similar bill: HB 315); HB 327 by Greene would phase out the corporate franchise tax over 10 years; HB 340 by Rep. Cameron Henry would expand religious freedoms constitutionally (related bill: HB 517); HB 471 by Rep. Hollis Downs would increase citizen control over property tax increases (companion bill: HB 472); HB 480 by Rep. Cedric Richmond would negate constitutional concerns by prohibiting the use of cameras at red lights; HB 511 by Rep. Joe Harrison would introduce greater flexibility in establishing tuition and fees for service provision in higher education; HB 642 by Rep. Regina Barrow would make into law some current standards regarding appropriations to nongovernmental organizations; HB 664 by Rep. Stephen Carter would put term limits on all school boards; HB 738 by Rep. Joel Robideaux would place sunset restrictions on special funds that would provide better matching of purpose to need; HB 765 by Rep. Rick Gallot would better distribute money for infrastructural uses by parishes in proportion to the mineral extraction occurring in them; HB 770 by Rep. Joe Lopinto would make into law other current standards regarding appropriations to nongovernmental organizations; HB 788 by Rep. Rick Nowlin would begin to make more rational and efficient long-term health care spending; HB 805 by Rep. John Schroder would create greater flexibility in dealing with budget deficits; HB 808 by Carter would change school board salaries from fixed to per diem; HB 830 by Speaker Jim Tucker would put the Medical Center of Louisiana-New Orleans under independent control and away from the LSU System; HB 844 by Rep. Gary Smith would prohibit smoking in bars.

(Similar bills to those previously introduced: for SB 37 – HB 375, HB 377; SB 1 – HB 742;

THE BAD: HB 304 by Rep. Neil Abramson would increase government subsidization of unemployment and thereby encourage it; HB 313 by Rep. Jack Montoucet would allow for greater politicization of public safety forces (companion bill: HB 318); HB 325 by Abramson would increase government’s ability to raise property taxes without citizen approval (similar bill: HB 632, HB 634); HB 387 by Richmond would curtail Second Amendment rights and do little to keep “assault weapons” out of the hands of criminals; HB 456 by Downs would allow for tax increases on fuels to occur without legislative approval; HB 497 by Rep. Nita Hutter would constrain too much the use of the Budget Stabilization Fund; HB 538 by Rep. Billy Chandler expands the venture capital opportunities of the Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority when the opposite is needed; HB 571 by Rep. Barbara Norton would prohibit corporal punishment from schools; HB 579 by Robideaux would allow the state to delay even further making its retirement systems actuarially sound (similar bill: HB 722); HB 591 by Rep. Noble Ellington would create an unwarranted loophole in ethics law to increase opportunities for lobbyists to give food and drink gifts to elected officials; HB 610 by Richmond would uselessly expand unemployment benefits just to take advantage of short-term federal grants that will have to be taken up by the state in a couple of years (similar bill: HB 615); HB 614 by Rep. Nickie Monica would reintroduce corporate welfare to movie producers wishing to building infrastructure; HB 677 by Gary Smith would create corporate welfare for the race car industry; HB 680 by Tucker would allow a new local tax on motor fuel (companion bill: HB 679); HB 705 by Norton would allow the flawed “comparable worth” standard to be used in defining employment discrimination; HB 730 by Rep. Roy Burrell would reduce flexibility in handling deficits and create an inefficient mechanism by which to apportion higher education cuts; HB 748 by Richmond would remove legislator accountability for the setting of their salaries; HB 754 by Richmond would give smaller businesses an income tax break but levy them on corporations’ out-of-state income thereby discouraging their economic activities in the state; HB 795 by Rep. Rosalind Jones provides a stealth raise by tax credit for new college entrants into the state civil service system; HB 802 by Rep. Jim Fannin would increase the use of the Mega-Projects Fund to hand out corporate welfare;; HB 839 by Rep. Patricia Smith would unduly restrict qualification to serve as the state’s superintendent of schools and stifle creativity in the job; HB 855 by Rep. Reed Henderson would create an unenforceable standard about usage of left lanes on highways.

(Similar bills to those previously introduced: for HB 271 – HB 331, HB 457, HB 458, HB 792, HB 811; HB 159 – HB 440; SB 47 – HB 485

THE UGLY: HB 309 by Gallot would create a new division in how judges to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals are selected; why go to all the trouble? HB 475 by Rep. Herbert Dixon would exempt a single high school from takeover for accountability purposes; what makes this school so special as to allow it to evade this measure?

12 April 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- Prefiled bills through Apr. 10, 2009

Pre-filed bills continue to mount up. Let’s see what good, bad, and ugly out there:

THE GOOD: HB 210 by Rep. Kirk Talbot would increase the tax credit for families paying tuition for schooling or for home schooling expenses; HB 230 by Rep. Jeff Arnold would consolidate the four major retirement system boards into one; HB 252 by Rep. Kevin Pearson would move the homestead exemption to the first $10,001 to $85,000 of value.

THE BAD: HB 209 by Rep. Patrick Williams would exempt many developmentally disabled students from having to pass standardized tests in order to be promoted a grade level; HB 224 by Rep. John Bel Edwards would increase malpractice liability and thus insurance rates and medical costs; HB 243 by Rep, Neil Abramson would duplicate existing campaign finance reporting; HB 271 by Rep. Cedric Richmond would continue corporate welfare for the digital sound recording industry; SB 47 by Sen. John Alario would double the homestead exemption to shift even a higher tax burden onto fewer people (similar bill: HB 259).

THE UGLY: HB 199 by Rep. Karen St. Germain would ban the sale of “novelty” lighters with several exceptions; is their use even by children such a problem that the state has to interfere in the marketplace this way.

04 April 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly -- Prefiled bills through Apr. 3, 2009

Welcome to the fifth anniversary of the Louisiana Legislature Log. To remind or inform readers, this space tracks what I consider to be important legislation (budget bills aside) that, at the end, are instrumental in calculating voting ratings for legislators and the governor. Prefiling began over a month ago, so here’s what has built up in the meantime, as far as the good, bad, and ugly ones:

THE GOOD: HB 15 by Rep. Joel Robideaux would increase the annual retirement income tax credit from $6,000 to $13,000 and index it; HB 26 by Rep. Eddie Lambert would remove the provision that diverts transportation-related revenues from being used for transportation infrastructure expenses when a budget deficit is projected; HB 28 by Rep. Ernest Wooton would allow people with concealed carry permits to have firearms on college campuses; HB 47 by Rep. Ricky Hardy would raise minimum academic standards to allow students to participate in extracurricular activities; HB 60 by Rep. Jonathan Perry would clarify listing of adoptive parents on Louisiana birth certificates to be consistent with Louisiana law allowing one parent or a married couple as defined by the state to be listed; HB 77 by Rep. Christopher Roy would index tax brackets, credits, and deductions; HB 84 by Rep, Simone Champagne would put terms limits of every elected or appointive office; HB 137 by Rep. John LaBruzzo would institute medical drug testing of welfare applicants and recipients; HB 148 by interim Rep. Greg Stiaes would consolidate criminal and civil functions in Orleans Parish ahead of schedule; SB1 by Pres. Joel Chaisson would bring greater flexibility to budget decisions; SB 2 by Chaisson would do the same for mid-year budget cuts; SB 34 by Chaisson would do the same; SB 37 by Sen. Jack Donahue would require public approval of increases in property tax revenues collected if greater than 2.5 percent a year

THE BAD: HB 31 by Rep. Joe Lopinto would allow continued corporate welfare for the film industry for infrastructure; HB 75 by Rep. Karen Peterson would raise taxes on tobacco products without committing it to health care uses; HB 101 by Rep. Dee Richard would allow state retirement income of a spouse to be excluded from elected official financial disclosure; HB 142 by Rep. Cameron Henry would continue corporate welfare for film industry production costs; HB 156 by Rep. Harold Ritchie will force teachers in charter schools into the state’s retirement system; HB 179 by Stiaes would weaken education accountability by allowing grade progression to student who fail tests that measure adequacy in learning; SB 3 by Sen. Robert Adley would force the state to adopt policy decisions of the federal government outside its jurisdiction; SB 43 by Sen. Edwin Murray would continue the extra charge Orleans Parish residents must pay for emergency communications.

THE UGLY: HB 116 by Rep. Billy Guinn would allow $100 per diems to members of two small, obscure boards in Jefferson Parish; HB 121 by Guinn would increase them to that for another one in Calcasieu Parish.