27 May 2009

Committee action, May 27: HB 470, HCR 1, HB 194

HB 470 by Rep. Neil Abramson would empower a commission to report pursuant to a constitutional convention. It would report for next year’s session that would occur prior to fall elections where delegates could be elected (one per House district), although some (18) would be appointed. If the commission concluded only minor changes were needed, the next session could call off the convention. The product itself would be voted on by the people. Abramson said the fiscal difficulties of the current year and an overall questioning about the proper revenue mix prompted his action.

House and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Rick Gallot invited questions but said then HCR 1 by Rep. Franklin Foil would be discussed, since it was a similar bill, and then the committee could decide how to proceed. Rep. Mert Smiley asked about cost, which he said could be several times the last one n 1974. Abramson said his bill was more about process, but allowed it might have to go to the Appropriations for its nontrivial fiscal action. Smiley wondered whether this plan needed judicial pre-clearance; Abramson said the similar plan of 1974 was challenged and upheld.

Foil cited similar concerns laying behind his proposal, but thought there were too many unanswered questions to go all the way to a convention for sure. HCR 1 would set up an 11-member commission to make a recommendation about whether there should be one, alternatives to that, and if one what should be part of it. Abramson said he thought his approach was better because it forced the Legislature to make a decision on the opportunity to form a promised product, rather than to empower a convention to meet with a set agenda.

Smiley asked about the flexibility in models for it. Foil argued his bill was better because it allowed more leeway that way, but Abramson said because few states had had a convention recently, many actually looked to Louisiana’s 1974 one as a model.

All sorts of local government associations registered opposition. After technical amendments were adopted onto HB 470, Gallot said they would deal first with HCR 1 with Gallot offering amendments taking the commission from HB 470 and making it the one for HCR 1, which was adopted without objection along with a technical amendment. Rep. Rosalind Jones thought having two members nominated by Tulane and Loyola universities were one too many, and offered an amendment that the Independent Schools and Small Colleges Board send one the representative. Gallot objected, and the amendment was withdrawn. He moved to report the bill, and there were no objections.

Back to HB 470, Abramson closed saying passing both bills would give maximum flexibility for options for the entire House. There was an objection, and the bill failed 7-7 with all support coming from Orleans and Jefferson legislators and Rep. Wayne Waddell.

HB 194 by Rep. Herbert Dixon would deal with providing access to voting registration when other unforeseen circumstances delay it. The bill, if something like this would happen, would allow any registrations submitted after the set deadline to be processed at the next available opportunity that was not a legal holiday and still count for the next election cycle even if the deadline had passed. It would allow state or parish executives (such as police jury presidents) to declare states of emergency to allow it to take affect. After some amendments cleared up some matters, Dixon moved favorably, and it passed without objection.

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